Here is a foliage combination that is one of my favourites right now in the garden. The fern is Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern) and the ground cover is Asarum europaeum (European ginger). I particularly enjoy leaf combinations that have a good contrast, and these two perennials play off each other with different weights, leaf shapes, plant shapes and reflective qualities. They make a terrific pair in the shade garden.
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I have a group of Adiantum pedatum ferns behind a group of Asarum europaeum plants. These perennials are under the shade of a deciduous tree. When a breeze blows, the delicate looking fronds of the maidenhair fern sway back and forth above the sturdy ginger. It’s a delightful foliage combination that I enjoy immensely.
Adiantum pedatum is such an ethereal looking fern, because the thin supporting stems are wiry and black, so they blend in with the soil. This makes the fronds appear to be delicately floating above the ground. The fronds radiate out, with the leaflets forming a circular pattern. The leaflets are a light green colour, turning blue green when they’re older, and making a good contrast to the black stems. Each subleaflet has a scalloped side, that looks like its been carefully cut into with a number of snips. The maidenhair ferns are about 45 cm (1.5 feet) tall, so they rise above the ginger.
In contrast, The Asarum europaeum ginger has solid, thick leaves with a circular shape. The foliage is held very close to the ground, covering the soil. This European ginger grows about 15 cm (6 inches) tall in my garden. The leaves are highly reflective of the small amounts of light that make it under the tree canopy. The foliage of these perennials looks rich and attractive in dappled light with their shiny leaves. Although they have the low growing decorative leaves of a typical groundcover plant, they don’t have the fast spread of other groundcovers.
In the shade, I like to plant ferns next to plants with heavy, thick or solid leaves. The contrast adds some excitement to the plantings. The maidenhair fern and European ginger make an especially nice foliage combination.
There are some closeup photos of the foliage of other shade plants in this previous post.
Do you have any particular plant combinations that you are enjoying?