When I design gardens in shady areas I depend more on the texture of plants than on flowers to create visual interest. The play of dappled light on a variety of leaf colors and textures is as dazzling as a bed full of flowers. One plant I look to for the shade garden is leatherleaf mahonia. I often used this plant in garden designs, planting a drift among an evergreen groundcover with a small contrasting leaf such as Asian jasmine or variegated winter creeper. It’s an effective combination especially with a group of twiggy trees in the background. Birch trees with their exfoliating light colored bark, is always a nice choice.

This shrub is a winter blooming, evergreen that produces a beautiful berry set in mid-spring. These slightly oval, blue berries covered in a frost-like dust are spectacular to me, but in winter it’s the fragrant yellow flowers and handsome foliage that catch your eye.