New Shade Beds

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' Brunnera 'Jack Frost' Adiantum pedatum 'Pictum'
Helleborus 'Ivory Prince', Adiantum pedatum, Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

Here are the new shade perennials tucked into their beds. Many already have a colourful quilt of leaves snuggled around them, courtesy of the trees. I liked the look of these shade combinations as I planted, so it was hard to stop digging and adding more. I had the greatest urge to plant the whole yard. It’s a good thing the more seasonal cold weather is returning to my Northern garden, putting an end to my additions.

This photo shows the new Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ (Lenten rose) next to the Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern), and in front of The Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (Jack Frost Siberian bugloss).  I like the look of these 3 leaf types together, the fine textured fern, large heart shaped Brunnera and stiff, scalloped Helleborus. They look great in the shade, even without any flowers yet. When I saw the Helleborus in the ground under the tree, I was smitten, and went back to the nursery for more.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' Athyrium 'Ghost' Brunnera 'Looking Glass'
Helleborus 'Ivory Prince', Athyrium 'Ghost', Brunnera

Here is a picture of the Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ with Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern) and Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’ (Looking Glass Siberian bugloss) in the shade under a tree. Right now the fern and Looking Glass are fading to brown, and dying down for the  year. The Helleborus have a subtle decorative pattern around the veins. I think they will look good next year with the silver tones of the fern and B. ‘Looking Glass’ when the new foliage comes in the spring. The pretty blue flower of the Brunnera, and white flowers of the Helleborus will be a bonus. The bloom times should overlap, but I’ll find out next year.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' Brunnera 'Jack Frost'
Helleborus 'Ivory Prince', Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

This shot is a closeup of the Helleborus and Brunnera together. The Helleborus leaves looks perfect, even though they have been hanging out in a pot all season. The Jack Frost foliage looks better and better every month, right up until October.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort)
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy)

Here is an unexpected glimpse of spring. When I bought these plants at the end of the season, I thought they would die back rapidly. I was pleasantly surprised that this Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ (lilac fairy barrenwort) developed a flower after I brought it home, and here it is blooming, as if it was spring. We have had incredibly warm weather for the past 2 weeks, but the frost that is supposed to come in a few days should show the Epimedium what season it really is. When I saw how pretty the bloom on ‘Lilafee’ looked, I went back to get more, but they were all gone. If these overwinter well, I will be adding more next year.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) Athyrium niponicum 'pictum' (Japanese painted fern)
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy)

Here is the Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ behind Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese painted fern). There are four painted ferns paired with the Epimedium in the shade.

Geranium 'Rozanne' (Rozanne cranesbill)
Geranium 'Rozanne'

The Geranium ‘Rozanne’ are in a grouping under a lilac. I rate them an ‘Excellent’ for effort, putting up new blooms at the end of fall after just being planted. These perennials are good sports, and very accommodating. I hope they prove to be good sports about the winter cold too.

Cimicifuga ramosa 'atropurpurea' (bugbane)
Cimicifuga ramosa 'Atropurpurea' (bugbane)

These Cimicifuga ramosa ‘Atropurpurea’ (bugbane) (now classified as Actaea) look very small, even though they came out of large pots with well developed roots. The tall stems had already been cut back in their pots, and these were the new leaves developing. The Cimicifuaga I planted last year grew 1.2 m (4 feet) tall this year, with their unopened flower wands towering up to 1.5 m (5 feet). I hope these are equally tall next year for the back of the border, while displaying their purple tinged leaves.

Heuchera 'Mint Frost'
Heuchera 'Mint Frost'

The bed along the north fence used to have gentle curves to it. Each time I added to the bed, I redesigned the curves. After redoing the edges last spring, the curves were no longer sweeping, but too scalloped. This fall I dug a straight line across, instead, and I planted a group of Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ in a bare area in front. I also moved some Campanula carpatica (Carpathian bellflower) forward that were getting squished by some developing phlox.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger)
Asarum europaeum (European ginger)

I expanded this patch of Asarum europaeum (European ginger), digging out more grass near the tree trunk. I adore the glossy perfection of these round leaves. They glisten, whether it’s been raining or not. The original patch seems to have no trouble handling shade or tree roots. They are a terrific shady ground cover, and should fill in over the next few seasons.

Hydrangea paniculata 'DV Pinky' (Pinky Winky hydrangea)
Hydrangea paniculata 'DV PInky' (Pinky Winky)

Here is Hydrangea paniculata ‘DV Pinky’ (Pinky Winky hydrangea), planted at one end of my front bed. I transplanted numerous Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) underneath it. They look a little worse for wear now, but the hydrangea is fresh and perky. I put a layer of fallen pine needles around it for mulch. The pine tree is right next to the shrub, so I just brushed the needles off of the the sidewalk into the bed, and called it mulch. Being a new shrub, it has some buds that are out of step with the season. I wonder if they will fully open, or be nipped by the frost?

A few of the plants seem a little oddly spaced, because of the tree roots. The trees and I came to a compromise. They kept their large roots exactly where they wanted them, and I planted in between.

Since it gets dark so early now, some nights I was planting by the glow of the motion security lights. When I went behind the willow to plant the Polygonatum commutatum ‘Giganteum’ (giant solomon’s seal), the light went out. I dropped one of them, and its stem broke off. In the dim light, I picked it up, guessed which way was up, and put it in the ground. I may have broken gardening rule # 1, Green Side Up. That’s when you know it’s time to go inside.

Planting in the fall means I have to wait until next year to see how the new beds will look, as they fill in and mature. This is normally late for planting in my zone, but some warm weather and good sales got me in the digging mood. Here is a previous post I wrote describing these new shade perennials. Do you plant more in spring or in the fall?

28 thoughts on “New Shade Beds”

  1. I think your combinations look perfect. I love Jack Frost but it requires too much moisture for my gardens. The white foliage shows up so well in shady places.

    I can’t wait to see some photos of helleborus blooming. That is another plant I have never tried.

    Saw the Pinky Winky hydrangea on the cover of a recent catalog. The flowers are very deep pink for a hydrangea.

  2. Glad to see all your plants are settled in safe before the winter comes. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is such a good plant – mine has been flowering since May and is still going strong. The colours make the large flowers very distinctive at this time of year, which is an added bonus.

  3. Hi Shade, everything looks wonderful but that is pretty funny about planting the wrong end up! That is a good time to stop and go inside. You are a dedicated gardener to work by motion light. ;-> Like Marnie, I am in love with Jack Frost but our drought would be the end of it here, for now anyway. I see our last pulmonaria just bit the dust, literally, sigh. I do think we can do the ivory prince though. I have so many hellebores, and lots of white ones, but the foliage on that is unique and would look good as a specimen away from the other coarser hellies. Thanks for showing us.

  4. I cant stop feeling a litle bit sad when I see around in my garden and see that the fall has taken its place.
    And that the spring is far far away.
    But when I see your pictures and read your text, I get glad again and get some insperation to get out in the garden and do something new, who I can dream of until the next spring when I can see it real.

  5. Marnie, the light coloured Jack Frost does show up well in the shadows. Maybe you can fit one in right next to a rain barrel. I imagine when dealing with limited moisture, you have to be careful about how many plants you are willing to coddle.
    I’m anxious to see the Helleborus flowering too. It’s supposed to have a long blooming time.
    The Pinky Winky came with some buds, but we are supposed to have frost over the next couple of nights, so I don’t think they’ll get to the pink stage this year.

  6. Frances, I miss the long daylight hours of summer. Dusk comes so early now, that I don’t have many planting hours left after supper. Someone had to call out from the house, “The Earth has turned. It’s time to come in.”
    It is too bad that your rain level eliminates Jack Frost and Pulmonaria. They are two that are still looking good in my garden in October.
    The ‘Ivory Prince’ really stood out on the table of mixed Helleborus at the nursery. It was easy to pick them out without looking at the tags. The leaf shape, scalloped edges, veining pattern of the foliage and red stems were distinct.

  7. Easygardener, the maple tree has already dropped a good layer of leaves over the ‘Rozanne’, but they are still sticking their heads above the leaves and flowering. It’s an endearing trait. I can’t wait to see what the clump looks like next year when it fills in the space.

  8. You have been a busy and productive gardener! My favorite part of gardening is all the digging and moving plants in and out! Don’t you love how you feel at the end of a day in the garden? ~~~ Is the European ginger evergreen for you? It really is a nice plant…the leaf shape and evergreen would be a boon in the garden. I too admire Jack Frost, he is the perfect looking plant for my shade garden, except, the weather extremes we have; dry in the summers and wet in the winters. Northern Shade, your gardens looks delightful!


  9. Gail, I love digging too, plus the planning, moving things around and experimenting. Transforming the land is immensely satisfying. The fact that the full effect is not seen at once, but develops over time, keeps me eagerly anticipating. I always feel that something wonderful is about to happen in the garden, although sometimes it requires a little nudging.
    Any evergreen leaves shorter than 0.5 m (1.5 feet) are going to get buried for the next 5 months. However, I appreciate anything that still looks green in October. The foliage of evergreen leaves look worn when the snow melts in the Spring, but it is still nice to see some early green, even if it’s raggedy.
    It is too bad that you, Frances and Marnie cannot grow Brunnera. Your lack of water closes some doors, but your warm weather opens many others.

  10. Northern Shade,

    Your garden is so beautiful! Especially given your zone 3 challenges. I love the combination of Hellebores and Adiantum. I’ve tried that particular combination in my zone 10 garden, and although they ‘survive’ they do not thrive.

    Thank you for stopping by Garden Grit – I am so enjoying ‘meeting’ all the fellow gardeners and exploring the differences in the gardens. And yes, there is something very healing about digging!


  11. Thank you, Chloe. Helleborus and Adiantum play off each other nicely. It is too bad they don’t relish your zone.
    Yes, a good dig is great for stress relief. I was splattered with mud, with recently dug transplants piling up around me in boxes, waiting for their turn to move to the next bed over, and I was very content. I come in from the garden looking a little dishevelled, but with a feeling of immense satisfaction, and the conviction that the world is really a very good place.

  12. Wonderful plants! One doesnt miss the flowers with such pretty foliage. I think I should start working on the areas under my cashew trees which are always in deep shade. I’ve always kept it clear fearing snakes but your photos are too tempting.

  13. Sunita, we are fortunate not to have any poisonous snakes here, just the odd little squirrel who is currently storing away spruce cones for winter. The worst he does is scold me, if I get too close to his little piles under the trees.

  14. Racquel, for the Brunnera, I really like ‘Jack Frost’, ‘Mr. Morse’, and ‘Looking Glass’. I am entranced by my new Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’. The mature leaves come in distinct groups of 5, held up by deep red stems.

  15. Hello Northern Shade, greetings from Vermont!

    A week of fine fall weather will draw to a close tonight with rain and cooler temperatures. In my lifetime the foliage has never been so special with the peak colors the end of September at our house but continuing in southern Vermont right now. Tourists from around the world abound.

    Your pictures of epimedium help let others know what a great plant this is. There is a great site named The Epimedium Page which has a picture collection of epimediums. We have half a dozen and always get a second, though smaller, bloom around Labor Day.

    Your picture of Cimicifuga atropurpurea (now Actea as you mention) reminds me that I caution gardeners to understand how tall this plant grows over time. I have a couple that are at ten feet over 5 years so clearly this is something that needs a special placement. The bottle brush-like flower scapes waving in the fall breezes make for interesting garden architecture.

    Good gardening wishes,

    George Africa
    The Vermont Gardener

  16. George Africa, I saw the fall colours on your site, and some others from Eastern Canada and New England, and they look spectacular this Autumn. In Alberta, we don’t get as many of the strong fiery red colours. I’m originally from Ontario, and get nostalgic when I see the mixed maple forests in Fall display.

    It’s good to know that the Epimedium get a second round of blooms in the fall. I will look forward to even more beauty next year. Their leaves and overall shape look good, even after the frost, while their flower was charming. I’m picturing a carpet of these next year. Which is your favourite of the Epimedium?

    I’m anticipating some tall Cimicifuga for the back of the shade border, but even more, I’m looking forward to the tall wands of flowers. My Cimicifuga simplex ‘White Pearl’ blooms too late in the fall to display here in zone 3, and their flowers get caught by the frost before fully opening. The ‘Atropurpurea’ is supposed to bloom earlier, but I’ll have to wait until next year to see if it can outrace the frost.

  17. You have me thinking very seriously about extending my shade beds because of the plants you have that I don’t have at the moment .. you are one heck of a ‘salesperson” girl !
    I don’t have pulmanaria for some reason but your cultivar looks very attractive to me .. so that is on my list .. and I don’t have epimedium either … another list plant ! I have the “oriental hellebore’ standard and it simply amazes me with drought tolerance in a raised bed .. now I want more for the new shade garden you have talked me into ! LOL

  18. You’re lucky to have a nursery close by with such a great assortment of perennials. Fall is a good time to pick up some bargains! I hope they all do well for you. I’ll look forward to seeing how they fared over winter when spring rolls around next year.
    We’ve greatly enjoyed a couple of weeks of beautiful weather too, but today is cool and rainy…much needed actually, because the ground was very dry. I’m sad to see the end of the sunshine and warmth though.

  19. Joy, the Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ has looked great all season. Now, after a number of frosts this week, the leaves still look the same. I like the all silver sheen, and the way they arch out from the centre.
    I am hoping that the Helleborus and Epimedium overwinter successfully, since they look quite nice under the trees.

  20. Kerri, I will be making my early spring garden inspection with even more interest next year, as I look for all the new greenery. I enjoy pulling back the leaf cover, and looking for little signs of hope.
    It’s good to hear that you are getting the moisture your garden needs, even though the sunny warmth is fading.

  21. Kendra, I’m always reading about new additions to try, or seeing a perennial that looks interesting. Then, I get a brainstorm, and want to enlarge the bed, or move things around. In the spring there are all the new perennials calling out, and, yes, those fall discounts are tempting. I’m looking forward to seeing how things look when they emerge this spring.

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