Garden Colours in the Shade

Here are some of my favourite colours of the shade garden in late May. I love the combination of blue and white flowers in spring, with silver leaves to showcase them. If the overflow of the photos are hidden at a smaller resolution, just click them to see the full picture.

blue flowers of late May
blue flowers of late May

Above are some of the blue perennial flowers of spring, bringing a bit of the sky into the garden and making the beds a little more serene. On the upper left is the beautiful sky blue of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss). Three established, large plants of these can produce a square metre (around a square yard) of airy blue flowers. On the upper right are the pretty light blue flowers of Muscari azureum (grape hyacinth) bulbs.  The flowers over the spotted leaves are Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ (lungwort). They emerge pink, but quickly turn this bright blue shade. The fern fronds behind make a good background for them.

silver leaves of May
silver leaves of May

Silver leaves are my favourite with blue and white flowers. The steely tones pull together the cooler coloured blooms, and show them off . The top left picture is of Athyrium niponicum (Japanese painted fern), with its first silvery green frond. These ferns are slow to come up in my garden in spring. On the top right is the silver grey foliage of Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’. The bottom of the picture shows the king of shade foliage, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. The exquisite silver and green pattern make this my favourite leaf. The silver colours of these perennials add an extra glow in the shady areas of the garden.

white flowers of late May
white flowers of late May

White flowers are a stand out in the darker areas of the garden. On the upper left of the above picture are the white flowers of Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’ when they first open. As the flowers of these bulbs age, they turn pink. These are in a part shade location, so I’m not sure how they’ll return next year.  On the upper right are the sweetest smelling Conavallaria majalis (lily of the valley) flower bells. The garden is full of this wonderful scent right now. Along the bottom of the photo are the pure white flowers of Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot). This perennials bloomed briefly, but shone while they were out. Another white woodland flower coming out now is the Trillium grandiflorum (great white trillium).

Purple leaves and flowers in May
Purple leaves and flowers in May

This image shows some purple leaves and flowers. On the upper left are the newly opening Syringa vulgaris ‘Wedgewood Blue’ (lilac) flowers. These blooms get more blue as they develop. If you’re wondering why the lilac flowers are drooping, it’s because I had just shook off the wet snow that bent the branches over. The top right perennial is Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’, which has green and silver leaves for most of the summer, but includes lots of purple and red shades in the cold. With our colder late May temperatures, they have lots of colour in them still. On the bottom of the picture is the intense silvery purple foliage of Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’. It is another super foliage plant.

My favourite colours are repeated in groups around the different shady garden beds. What are your favourite garden colours for late spring?

18 thoughts on “Garden Colours in the Shade”

  1. Love those misty blue blooms against the lush green backgrounds. I added a bloodroot this spring. Was surprised to see how large the leaves have gotten.

    1. Marnie, I love the clouds of blue look, too. The bloodroot leaves are very attractive, and mine don’t die back over the summer like some spring-blooming woodland plants.

  2. Wow Northern, so many beautiful blooms so early in the season. Lovely arrangements of colours, the plants you chose are so pleasing together. Some of my trees are still drooping from the snow, I hope they straighten up soon. The little bells of Convallaria are adorable.

    1. Rebecca, after the barrens of winter, I look forward to the spring flowers, so I end up with a lot of them. Plus, many of the woodland plants bloom early. Most of the perennials seem to have straightened up after the wet snowfall, but the lilac is still cascading.

      Laura, thanks, the silver of Jack Frost is so attractive with those green lines along the veins making such a terrific pattern through them. They always remind me of a stained glass painting.

      Marit, the Athyrium niponicum is not as vigorous as my other ferns. The other Athyrium ferns grow larger and have many more fronds, but Athyrium niponicum just sends up a few fronds, and they don’t get as big. I found Athyrium ‘Ghost’, which is a taller silver version does really well, though. It is hardier, like Athyrium filix-femina. I’m trying the Athyrium niponicum ‘Regal Red’ this year, to see is grows larger.

      Diane, the lungworts bloom for a while in spring, too. My favourites are the ones with mostly silver grey leaves, but the spotted ones are growing on me.

      Shady Gardener, I added a Heucherella ‘Tapestry’ this spring. It has very nicely patterned leaves, and pretty pink flowers.

      Lisa, it’s too bad that the Pulmonaria don’t do well for you. They seem very hardy here. Some of the leaves even overwinter under the snow. Is it the heat of summer that does them in for you?

  3. You have so many beautiful plants! I have ‘Jack Frost’ here too, but that Athyrium niponicum have I tried here twice. I do not know why they died, maybe wet and cold winter has something to do with it. Last week I bought light pink pulmonaria. The plants had small grey leaves. I am very fond of heuchera, and I love the purple/pink/silver color of the leaves now in spring.

  4. Lovely way to showcase your flowers, with the mosaics. The lungwort is really pretty (I must get some). Your photograph of your lilies-of-the-valley is particularily pretty as well.

  5. Northern Shade, We share so many of the same plants! I guess that makes sense, as we share a similar amount of shade! :-) You have shown beautiful flowers… couldn’t top those at all!! :-) Do you have tiarella (and heucherella)? If not, you’d love them. Those are also some early Spring favorites of mine. Have a great day!!

  6. I love all shades of blue. I have tried to grow pulmonaria so many times. I got one to last 3 years. That was it. All failures. This makes me so sad. Do we always want what we can’t have?? Sigh~~

  7. I love the colors of the Lilac flowers, and Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ is such a lovely plant. Blue and white are always a big part of the color palette in the garden here.

    1. Sweet Bay, the buds of ‘Wedgewood Blue’ lilac are purple, and when they open fully, they are a lavender blue, very pretty. Blue and white flowers always look very fresh.

  8. You show just how beautiful shade plants are. I used to think shade plants were so boring, that was before I started seeing the pretty choices there are. I was just given some ‘Jack Frost’ seeds to try, I sure hope they end up as pretty as yours. Beautiful pictures!

  9. Blue, white, and silver is one of my favorite color combinations for the woodlands. Those colors are so refreshing and light up a shady space. All of your flowers are so beautiful. The heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ is fabulous!

    1. Debsgarden, Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ looks good all season, too. The evergreen leaves show as soon as the snow melts, and the new leaves last until covered up again next winter. In mid summer it is mostly silver and green.

      The Garden Ms. S, I don’t have any forget-me-nots right now. The little blue flowers in the top photo are the Brunnera, but the flowers are similar, both create a lovely mist of blue. I have grown them in the past, and they are supposed to reseed well, but I was probably overeager with the weeding.

  10. Lovely combinations of colour and texture – so fresh and cheery!

    I am being wowed by all the forget-me-nots in gardens and back lanes in my neighbourhood right now. By the looks of some of the locations they are showing up in, I think they must readily self-seed. The blooms seem to be lasting a long time as well. Have you had any problems with this plant or is it pretty easy maintenance?

  11. I’ve missed so many post during my break. And now I’ve chosen this post to answer. It’s always astonishing how colourful a place in the shadow can be. White makes it bright and blue a little misterious. But I definitely love both colors…and for all seasons, though in summer I have other colours too. In my shadowy parts of the garden I also use these silver foliages of the brunneras and some heucheras (plum pudding too!) in red and even orange.

    1. Barbara, the white and blue flowers with silver foliage give the garden a calm feeling. I added more Brunnera to my front garden under some evergreens, and the silver really show up well. It is nice to hear from you again.

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