New Woodland Perennials for the Shade

I recently bought some new shade plants for an expansion to the shade garden, Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady In Red’ (lady in red lady fern), Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ (Samourai lungwort) and Asarum europaeum ( European ginger). This area is under a maple tree and behind the area is a Philadelphus virginalis (mockorange) that is about 2 metres tall (6 feet). Last year I had some double flowering impatiens in front of the shrub, but there was a big jump between the two in height. This year I’m digging it out a little wider and adding some woodland perennials. These are still in their pots. You can see more woodland flowers in my garden here, as well as Sanguinaria canadensis.

Athyrium filix-femina \'Lady In Red\' (lady in red lady fern)I’m planting this Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady In Red’ (lady in red lady fern) in front of the P. virginalis. You can see how it got the variety name by the striking red stems. They make a rich contrast to the lush green fronds. I find my other regular lady ferns, which volunteered in the cracks of my old patio, to be very hardy. Last year I was moving them in the spring and they accidentally landed upside down, breaking many of their fronds. While they were upside down, I just whacked them in half with the shovel and replanted both mangled pieces. By the middle of summer they were lush and full. You have to love a plant that thrives in the shade, survives a severely cold winter, and bounces back from mishaps.

Pulmonaria \'Samourai\' (Samourai lungwort)

I also bought some Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ (Samourai lungwort), which is a cross between P. ‘Majeste’ (Majeste lungwort) and another Pulmonaria. I was actually looking for P. ‘Majeste’, when I saw these. They are very similar, except the ‘Samourai’ leaves are longer and thinner, which I found appealing. These have a stronger silver colour to the leaves than this photo shows. You can see how the new baby leaves and leaves on the flower stalk have the typical spotted pattern of Pulmonaria, before developing the silver cast of the mature leaves. They also have the typical pretty blue flowers of Pulmonaria, but start off pinkish.

Asarum europaeum ( European wild ginger)

I have been waiting to get some Asarum europaeum ( European ginger) for awhile. I have seen A. canadensis (wild ginger) around, but I was looking for A. europaeum, because the leaves are much glossier, as you can see in this photo of one of my new ones. The dark green, shiny, heart shaped leaves of this perennial should contrast nicely with the matte, elongated silver leaves of the Pulmonaria.

I’ll need to dig and reshape the bed in order to plant these perennials. I’ll post pictures later of how the new plantings looks. I think they should do well under the maple shade, and the foliage should look interesting together. You can see some other shade perennials in my garden in this post.

12 thoughts on “New Woodland Perennials for the Shade”

  1. Don’t you just love ferns? I have some natives growing that I need to transplant into my DD’s shade garden.


  2. Sam, yes, I love their lush green fronds, and the colour variations in many of the Athyrium such as the ‘Lady In Red’, Japanese painted and ‘Ghost’ ferns add variety.

  3. Well, that is a nice fern and pulmonaria! I have long loved the Asarum europaeum and, this year, I think I am spying tons of little seedlings! I didn’t get to clean out the bed and that was a good thing. I will have to look for those treasures as I am always trying to add new woodland plants to the garden. Plant addicts unite!

  4. Layanee, I hope my Asarum eventually self seeds too. I must remember not to tidy around it too much. Do the seedlings have the distinctive heart shaped, easily recognizable leaves after their initial leaves?

  5. Did you know that slugs also like Pulmonarias? I didn’t and planted them a week ago. The day after my plant action, they were dissapeared. I guess the slugs came and were hungry ;-) !!

  6. Barbara, I’ll have to keep an eye on the Pulmonaria, though we’re fortunate that we don’t have a big slug problem here. The climate tends to be drier, which might help control them. I would be disappointed if anything ate these beauties up.

  7. Hi northern shade .. we have that love of ferns in common .. my Ghost is really looking good right now .. before that horrendous heat hits .. and Lady-in-Red is as well .. I have two babies she threw last year, in the wings. Don’t you just love that when it happens .. free plants that you know where they came from ? haha
    You have me almost convinced to get a lungwort with Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ .. now that is a handsome devil !

  8. Joy, I love the texture and atmosphere that ferns bring to the garden. I like the silver Pulmonaria like ‘Samourai’ and ‘Majeste’ more than the spotted versions.

  9. Just found your site and have so enjoyed seeing your wonderful shade garden. I am trying to create a similar feeling in my woodland garden. I have seen Asarum Canadensis available here in Canada, but cannot find Asarum Europaeum. Do you know of a Canadian supplier? You have opened my eyes to the beauty of Brunnera…thank you.

    1. Jane, I purchased my Asarum europeaum at a few local suppliers here in Edmonton. They don’t always have them in, but I have gotten some over the years as I see them, and have added them to new garden beds.

      You can order them from Fraser’s Thimble Farms. I have ordered other plants from them, and have always been pleased. The link goes to their “A’ section, where you can see a number of other Asarum, too. Although some of their wild gingers are rated for warmer zones than my zone 3 garden, I have successfully grown the Asarum canadensis, A. europeaum and A. arifolium, which is very nice, too.

      They all make great shady groundcovers, with their attractive leaves and tolerance for growing under trees. The glossy texture of A. europaeum is particularly appealing, since it adds some shine to the shade.

      Have fun designing your woodland garden. If you’re browsing Northern Shade and have any other questions about the plants, feel free to ask.

  10. Thanks for the note and information regarding Asarum availability. I have found great inspiration from your site and cannot wait for our Nova Scotian spring to start so I can once again “play in the garden”. Another interesting site I have found is “Moss Acres”….a beautiful moss garden designed and planted by Dave Benner over 40 years ago in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I have many little mossy nooks and crannies so was very interested to read about this landscaping alternative. Rather then trying to get rid of moss he..and now his son…are finding ways to encourage its growth. Is your climate too dry for a “mossy glade”? I think it makes another wonderful texture in a shade garden. Thanks again.

    1. Jane, I’m very fond of the look of a mossy garden, and enjoy the texture and serenity it adds to a shady area. Our climate is very dry, but I have been trying to encourage the moss to grow, especially under the tall evergreens in my front garden. It has been slowly spreading under the branches and around the perennials in the bed there, but it will take a while before I get a moss blanket.

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