The Q&A Archives: Shade Garden

Question: I want to plant shade tolerant plants under two trees but want some contrast and color. the radius of bed will be about 6 feet in diamter. from all my shade garden books etc. i orginally was going to use the krossa regal hosta, the japanese painted fern and some sort of pulmonaria for color. not having seen any of these up close, I think the regal is too tall. the painted ferns look unkept and i like the pulmonaria. any suggestions.

Answer: If you think that particular hosta will be too tall, look into some of the medium sized blue hostas instead, there are thousands of hostas to chose between in a multitude of heights and widths (and colors/patterns). Some additional plants to consider would include bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia is a tidier plant), heuchera (such as "Palace Purple" for a dark toned foliage perhaps), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis), and of course annuals such as impatiens and caladiums for additional color accents during the summer. Do keep in mind that perennials can be transplanted easily enough for fine tuning the look, and remember that they only bloom for a few short weeks so the foliage and overall shape can be used to add variety or contrast. You might want to visit some public or display gardens to get more of a feel for how things look when they are growing in the garden as opposed to in a book or in the pot at the nursery. Enjoy your new planting!

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