Northern Shade Gardening

Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ in a Border

Saturday, October 3, 2009 Category: Garden Design

Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ (coral bells), with its shiny purple leaves, can really catch your eye in a shady border. Here is a garden bed that I’ve rearranged, including some perennials with purple foliage. This garden area is in shade, so the perennials have to thrive with just an hour or two of sunlight.

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' foliage

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' foliage

The most eye catching purple foliage is from the Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’. I particularly like this shade of purple as it has a metallic silver tinge to it. You can see in the above photo how the silvery overlay reflects the light in this darker area. Dark colours can fade into the background in the shade, but the silver highlights brighten up the foliage. The leaves are very vivid, and I like the way they add a little drama  here.

One of the advantages of Heuchera is that their leaves stay fresh looking through the mild frosts. In fact, the frost often brings out the colors in Heuchera. In the short growing season of zone 3, it really extends the gardening season when plants can look good into October and November. Heuchera keep many of their leaves under the snow, so they also look great in early spring, before other  perennials have risen. Here is some information about Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’, which has silvery green leaves.

The foliage of the Heuchera make a great ground cover, since they produce many overlapping broad leaves. Smaller plants can’t grow through, so there is less weeding. However, the 2 m (6 ft) tall Actaea has no trouble growing over the 25 cm (10 in) tall Heuchera, so they make a good combination. The group of three Heuchera make a nice clump in front of the Actaea.

Actaea racemosa 'Atropurpurea' leaves

Actaea racemosa 'Atropurpurea' leaves

The tall perennnial behind is Actaea racemosa ‘Atropurpurea’ (Cimicifuga, bugbane). This plant has purple tinges to the edges of its leaves, and reddish purple stems. It grows a couple of metres tall (around 6ft). The leaves will make a good backdrop to the other plants. My other Actaea racemosa have tall white flower wands, above my head. These plants will flowers with a minimal amount of light.

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' and Astilbe

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' and Astilbe

The purple Heuchera is planted next to some Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Hennies Graafland’. I dug up and divided the Astilbe, which had too many lily of the valley closing in on them. Now these short astilbe are towards the front of the bed, where they can be seen better, and have more space. I like the shiny Astilbe leaves next to the glossy metallic purple leaves of the Heuchera. The glossy leaves of A. simplicifolia are highly reflective in the shade. They still have their faded flower plumes on them, with fall colours now. I think the bright pink flowers of summer will look good with the dark purple leaves, but I’ll see when they flower fresh next year.

This section of the border is going to have mostly purple highlights on the leaves. I saw a nice Tiarella that had dark purple centres on its leaves that I might add too. To the south of this section, the plants have more silver highlights. The Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’, with both purple and silver colours, will make a nice transition between them. I love fall gardening, redesigning the beds, transplanting, dividing the perennials, and adding new plants. Then you wait over the winter, picturing it in your mind. I’m eager to see how this garden border will look next year, as the plants grow in.

There is more information and photos of different Heuchera in this updated post.

15 Responses to “Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ in a Border” »

  1. Rebecca :
    October 3, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Very attractive leaves, in a lovely shade of purple with interesting silver highlights. The stems seem to really stand out too. If I could only have one colour of foliage in my garden, it would definitely be purple, fortunately, there are no such restrictions. :)

  2. Northern Shade :
    October 3, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Rebecca, I decided to use more purple foliage in this section of the border, and I like how it looks so far. When you move the plants in fall, they usually look a little rumpled, until the new leaves of spring, but the Heuchera still look fresh here. The colours of Plum Pudding are very intense.

  3. gittan :
    October 4, 2009 at 2:39 am

    You’ve got a few of my favorites there. Heucheras in all different colourse are planted all over my garden. Ithink they fit with any other plant. Actaea and Astilbe as company, I haven’t tried that, yeat ;) But I grow them to in my garden. I think Heucheras are wonderful and just as you say they keep the leafes and colour during the winter and that gives us a good reason to plant them in our gardens.

  4. easygardener :
    October 4, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I do appreciate their foliage but everybody’s Heucheras look better than mine – perhaps that’s why I can’t decide if I really like them. I suspect mine dry out to much which is probably why they never look their best. I think a change of position is called for.

  5. Northern Shade :
    October 4, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Gittan, the beautiful Heuchera leaves do combine well with other plants. I have some ‘Mint Frost’ planted with some Campanula, and some planted with Pulmonaria. I also like how they look with ferns, since they have a nice contrast.

    Easygardener, I have my Heuchera all in fairly shady areas, with only an hour or two of sun, and they do well. They do get some extra water, but they don’t seem to get crispy leaves. So far, nothing seems to eat the leaves here either. In my garden, the Heuchera, along with Brunnera and Pulmonaria have the longest season of good looking leaves.

  6. Joanne :
    October 6, 2009 at 7:33 am

    I do so love this plant and many other Heucaras but they must get too dry in our summers because they never last long in my garden.

  7. Northern Shade :
    October 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Joanne, mine get some supplemental water, but they seem to do okay if they don’t get it. They get leaf cover for the winter, and a layer of snow over that. I haven’t had mine heave out of the ground like they sometimes do.

  8. Deborah at Kilbourne Grove :
    October 7, 2009 at 7:08 am

    I picked up two Plum Puddings earlier in the season $4.00 each, and planted them in my urns with maidenhair fern,Kimberley fern and white caladiums for the season. They looked so great, I am reluctant to pull them out, but I must plant them for the winter. I am already thinking of what I can put them with for the next year.

  9. Northern Shade :
    October 7, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Deborah, the combination of Heuchera and ferns sounds great. They would look beautiful featured in an urn. I love the delicate look of maidenhair fern next to bold leaves. I’ve put some astilbe to the right of the Plum Pudding, but maybe I’ll put some maidenhair ferns to their left next season.

  10. ChrisND :
    October 15, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    I really like our Heuchera for the benefits you mention. The foliage lasts the entire season and come spring last years leaves still look nice once the snow melts. I like how the shade and colors change from spring through fall. Ours performs well in a shady area — clay soil helps retain some moisture as we don’t water.

  11. Northern Shade :
    October 16, 2009 at 7:40 am

    ChrisND, the foliage does have a long season of interest. I have some Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ which is green and silver in summer, but has a great fall transformation to red and orange, without losing the leaves.

  12. Val :
    December 29, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I’m growing purple palace & stormy seas Heuchera. It seems like every year they come back a little weaker and a little smaller. Is there a secret to keeping them producing well? I like the idea of them with ferns and astilbe as I have lot’s of them in my garden. Havn’t tried them all together yet, but will put that on my list for next summer planting. My Brunnera’s began to look a little ragged as slugs seem to really love them. Is that a problem to you?

  13. Northern Shade :
    December 30, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Val, I haven’t had much of a problem with slugs, just a few at the end of last summer. I’m not sure if the cold winters and dry climate discourage them, or if I’ve just been lucky.

    Some gardeners find that their Heuchera heave out of the ground over winter, and they replant them deeper. I cover my garden with leaves in fall, and they get good snow cover too for the winter which helps insulate them. You must have good leaf cover with all of your oaks.So far, mine seem to be doing well, and come back with lots of foliage. I’ve found Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ to be very hardy, with no problems.

  14. dennis :
    September 13, 2010 at 6:42 am

    I love the venation pattern on this cultivar

  15. Northern Shade :
    September 13, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Dennis, the silver and purple colours on this Heuchera change subtly, depending on the light and season. It is a delight all season long. I just recently got a darker purple Actaea to put behind it, and this Actaea is moving a bit down the border.

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