Planting for colour in the shade, especially dry shade, can be a challenge, which is why experienced gardeners feature texture and interesting foliage in their gardens rather than rely solely on flowers.
This excellent advice can be illustrated with coral bells (Heuchera), with their broad spectrum of coloured leaves, as well as Japanese maples with their sizzling reds and dramatic, cut-leaf shapes.
Hostas are also a must-have in the shady garden and provide thousands of shapes, sizes and leaf variegation. Consider the pop of colour from the new ‘Designer Genes’ from Loblaws, a chartreuse hosta with rhubarb-coloured stems that spreads up to 60 centimetres.
Pairing a variety of white and green variegated hostas can lighten up the darkest shade. Although they produce blooms, many flowers are insignificant compared to the foliage. Our quest was a little harder: to find plants whose flowers, not foliage, brighten the shade.
To start, we followed Paul Zammit, the Nancy Eaton director of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden, as he previewed gardens on the Through the Garden Gate tour held the weekend of June 8.
Further to the customary astilbes and hydrangeas, Zammit noted the following:
Yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata)
An exotic looking mound of maple-shaped leaves with oval-shaped buds developing at the top of the upright stems, growing into late-blooming trumpet-shaped yellow flowers August through September.
Image courtesy of Phoenix Perennials
Hellebore ‘Anna’s Red’
This a new variety of Lenten Rose. The red flowers face up instead of downward like the old-fashioned varieties. For multi-season interest, the plant has mottled foliage, which provides appeal long after the flowers have faded.
Image courtesy of Ellen Novack
Fothergilla (Fothergilla major ‘Mount Airy’)
We walked by a brightly flowering fothergilla (Fothergilla major ‘Mount Airy’), which has fragrant white bottlebrush flowers and blue-green foliage. The plant grows to 1.5 metres. Zammit warned that in his garden, the fothergilla likes bright shade, meaning shade that is not too dense.
Image courtesy of Monrovia