As new perennial foliage unfurls in the spring, the tiny, perfect leaves always look so attractive. Here are some of my emerging perennials with especially nice looking leaves. Some of the early spring bulbs are still lingering, so they make colourful combinations with the new leaves. These perennials thrive in the shadiest parts of my garden. The foliage looks appealing both before and after the flowers.
The Pulmonaria ‘Samourai‘ (lungwort) has developed many silver leaves, and those fat buds promising future blue flowers.
Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ has lovely fresh green leaves. They get the most light of any of these perennials, and develop a good number of flowers in a part shade location. The Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ flowers behind have lasted a long time, and look great next to the Geranium. With the cool weather, the Yellow Mammoth have been blooming for over a month, the longest of any of the crocus.
Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ (white bleeding heart) has narrow shoots still, rising up through the debris from the pine tree. In hotter zones these seem to die back for the summer, but they keep their leaves in my garden up until the first frosts.
Most of the Asarum europaeum (European ginger) keep their leaves over the winter. The new leaves are shiny, light green, making perfect little hearts. This is one of my favourite groundcovers in the shade. The only improvement I could make on these plants, would be for them to spread a little faster. Of course, planting them next to tree trunks in the deepest shade, with lots of root competition, might slow down their growth a bit.
Aruncus aethusifolius (dwarf Korean goatsbeard) shoots up these small, fluffy leaves in a tight mound. The foliage remains appealing all season. I don’t remember planting the Galanthus bulbs that close to these plants, but the white snowdrops looked good over top of the Aruncus leaves.
Actaea ramosa ‘Atropurpurea’ (bugbane) has a purple edge to each leaf when they emerge. The newest shoot in front is quite distinct, with a pattern of fuzzy looking white on the tightly curled ball.
Actaea racemosa (bugbane) has a bluish green cast when new, with purple stems and leaf edges. This foliage, which will reach 2 m (6 ft) makes a terrific backdrop for other perennials, long before the tall flower wands bloom in Fall.
The new Epimedium ‘Lilafee’ foliage has a reddish purple border when it firsts pops up, too. The foliage is particularly attractive with the asymmetrical heart shapes. You can see one tiny pink flower bud in the centre. The flowers will develop quickly now, and should be blooming in a few weeks. The plants will develop many more leaves, and make a great groundcover in the shade.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss) has a few blue buds opening over top of the beautifully patterned silver leaves . This plant is such a winner, for the gorgeous flowers and leaves, as well as its willingness to grow anywhere, but never get out of control.
The Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’ (Siberian bugloss) leaves are already developing their silver colour, with faint green markings on the leaves. You can just see the white Chionodox ‘Alba’ bulbs blooming behind them at the back of the photo.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr Morse’ (Siberian bugloss) is another winning shade plant . Although the leaves are splashed with a little dirt right now, they are as attractive as Jack Frost.
Here is Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ (lungwort) with the blue striped Puschkinia (striped squills) flowers behind. Majeste is supposed to have an overall silver gray colour, and did last year, but this year it is showing the more typical spotted lungwort leaves. I don’t know if it will go back to the overall silver colour, or if it will keep the spots. I actually prefer the all silver look of Samourai, but spots can be cute, too.
On the other side of the Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ are some white Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) flowers, and you can see the edge of the blue Scilla on the upper right.
Some perennial leaves deteriorate rapidly through the summer, but I’ve found that these shade plants keep their good looks, and make good companions for other plants with or without their flowers.
Do you have any favourite foliage popping up?