Falling in Love with Shady Characters

I haven’t been the luckiest in human love, but plant love, well that’s another story.  I am totally in love with a few shady characters who have been there for me year after year.  Some of them even give me flowers on a regular basis!  Since I believe love should be shared, in today’s blog post, I’ll disclose some of my favorite “loves” for the shade garden. 

First on the list is Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Hakone Grass).  This wonderful, shade-loving grass really brightens up a part sun border, adding a chartreuse color and a waterfall-like texture that can’t be beat. 

Hakone Grass steals the show

Next on my list is Trochodendron aralioides (Wheel Tree), a plant I learned about in class at Longwood Gardens. My friend Nancy gave me one as a gift.  I was skeptical at first, but this small tree has thrived in my garden.  It’s evergreen, deer-resistant and has a unique flower.  Everyone who visits my garden says, “What’s that? It’s so cool.”

My Wheel Tree in the middle of winter

Another shady character I’m in love with is Helleborus orientalis.  While some might find the self-seeding annoying, I enjoy the free plants my hellebores provide, enabling me to fill in empty spots in the garden with more of these amazing specimens.  The only maintenance needed is to trim off the failing leaves in late fall or mid-winter.  I appreciate the striking floral display that occurs in late winter, when not many other things are blooming.  The vibrant blooms fade to a pale, but attractive tone, which extends the interest well into spring.

A bouquet of flowers from my hellebore – love him!

Arum italicum is yet another amazing plant that has an incredible, variegated leaf.  This plant takes some time to become established, but once it does, it will reward you with white flowers that turn into showy red fruit.
Arum italicum – looking handsome
Pieris japonica is the last “love” that I’ll share with you today.  Pieris is another deer resistant wonder that is evergreen and a great, large shrub, suitable for screening.  I adore the drooping clusters of lily-of-the-valley-like white flowers in early spring and the new leaf growth that emerges red and fades to a glossy dark green.
Pieris starts its show in the winter
I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my love affair with some exciting shady characters.  Happy Valentine’s Day.  Here’s hoping you too find love in the shade garden!

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