Brunnera, Helleborus and Athyrium ‘Ghost’ make a great foliage combination in the garden. I especially like these three shade plants together, as their leaves look good all season, even when they are not flowering. This group of perennials is flourishing in a shady garden area with about an hour or two of direct sun a day, a bit of dappled light, and some extra light in spring before the leaves come out on the willow. You can click the pictures to see the whole photo, if you’re viewing at a smaller resolution.
The Brunnera macropylla ‘Looking Glass’ (Siberian bugloss) leaves start off with more green in the spring, but by summer the foliage develops a mainly silver colour, with small green lines along the leaf veins. This colour is very eye-catching, especially in the shadows of the shade garden. In spring this perennial has a bonus of very beautiful light blue flowers above the leaves, which last for 6 weeks or more. The Brunnera add pretty heart shaped leaves and a frosty silver colour to this foliage combination for the rest of the season.
The Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ has very dark green, stiff leaves, with faint light green markings on the veins. I really like the contrast next to the Brunnera leaves, with the inverse colouring. The beautiful green leaves are displayed very early in the spring, when most everything else is still underground or brown. I would plant another group of ‘Ivory Prince’ in another shady garden area, but I can’t find any around locally this year, so I’ll have to wait for this group to expand. This is a great shade plant for its long season of interest, and I especially like the thick, dark green foliage next to the other perennials in this combination.
I’m pleased with how long the Helleborus has held onto the colourful bracts for the flowers. In early spring these had rose pink buds, that opened to cream, pink and green flowers. The bracts which hold the flowers have a greenish yellow colour and are still holding up, looking like flowers three months later.
The Athyrium ‘Ghost’ fern has very silvery fronds, even when they don’t have shafts of sunlight highlighting them, as they do in the first photo. The dark purple axis down the middle of the frond really sets off those silvery pinna. The silver fronds stand out when surrounded by darker leaves in the shade. The feathery texture of the foliage contrasts nicely with the other solid leaves in this combination. The ghost fern comes up later in spring than the other two perennials, but by mid summer the plant is taller than the Helleborus or Brunnera.
This trio of perennials is one of my favourite foliage combinations in the shade garden right now. Are you enjoying any particular combinations in your garden?