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.
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.
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.
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.