June 20, 2013
Perennial shade garden design

Approximately 4 m x 7 m
A Hosta 'Frances Williams' or other large hosta
B Ostrich fern
C Astilbe (red, pink or white, June/July)
D Variegated hosta
E Astilbe 'Sprite' (pink, July)
F Cimicifuga racemosa or simplex (white, July/August)
G Bleeding heart Dicentra spectabilis (pink, May/June)
H Brunnera as underplanting (blue, May/June)
I Foam flower Tiarella (pink/white, April/May)
J Hosta 'Halcyon' or other blue hosta
K Dicentra 'Luxuriant' (pink, May to October)
L Japanese painted fern

The shape and size of this design may not be precisely suitable to your garden. We hope that it can at least be helpful as a point of departure.

Perennials in shade
An important point must be made straight away. We are speaking of moist shade. The many plants that do so well in shade are seeking moist conditions. If constant moisture is ensured many plants can, in fact, be grown in full sun.

The plants in our shade garden design have been chosen for their lovely foliage and varied textures, although with the exception of the ferns, they are all beautifully flowering plants.

Given the relatively short bloom time of most perennials it is always important to look for good foliage and in shade-loving plants this is not hard to find.

There is a type of flowering shade-loving perennial of which you should be aware. The sort that goes dormant in summer and retreat underground to disappear entirely. Some examples of these are trilliums, bloodroot and Virginia bluebells.

We have used only one such plant in our design. The old-fashioned bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis. A lovely May-June flowering plant with locket-like pendulous pink and white flowers. This easy-care, fool-proof perennial eventually dies down in the summer heat.

In our design, we used Brunneras' forget-me-not blue flowers that are stunning with the pink and white bleeding hearts. By the time the bleeding heart dies down, the Brunnera will have produced its large-sized summer foliage to fill the void.

We must now explain the great difference between bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis, (which incidentally comes in a pure white form) and Dicentra 'Luxuriant.' Dicentra eximia, Dicentra formosa and hybrids such as 'Luxuriant' do not die down in summer. They have lovely ferny foliage and, in the case of 'Luxuriant,' are everblooming from June to October.

There is a remarkable number of perennials for shade, many so lovely that shade need not be looked on as a problem situation but rather as a very desirable garden location.