Northern Shade Gardening

Fern and Heuchera Foliage Combination

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 Category: Garden Design

Here’s a fern and Heuchera foliage combination I planted a while ago in a shady corner that I’m really enjoying. At the back is an Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern), and in front are two different coral bells, Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ and Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’. I love the silver, purple and green colour scheme to these three plants.

At smaller resolutions, you have to click to see the full photo, since the photo overflow is hidden.

Athyrium fern Heuchera coral bells

Athyrium fern Heuchera coral bells

This is across the walkway from the garden under the evergreens, that I wrote about earlier. This section of garden is extra shady, since it is on the north side of my house with tall conifers. I rearranged this part of the garden bed, and added new Heuchera and the Athyrium ‘Ghost’ at the back in the corner. I’ve planted this fern in a few shady garden areas, since it brightens the bed up with the reflective silvery green fronds.

Heuchera 'Cinnabar Silver' coral bells

Heuchera 'Cinnabar Silver' coral bells

To one side in front are three Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’ (coral bells). There are another three of these Heuchera across the walkway. This cultivar will stay fairly short, including the flower stalks. ‘Cinnabar Silver’ has a wonderful silver sheen, with purple tones on the leaves. The veins are a dark contrast to the metallic leaf. I admire the way this foliage looks with the silver fern.

Heuchera 'Green Spice' 'Eco-improved' coral bells

Heuchera 'Green Spice' 'Eco-improved' coral bells

On the other side in front are three Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ (also called ‘Eco-improved’). These coral bells have slightly silver green leaves with purple running along the veins, making beautiful patterns. The newest leaves have a red colouring along the veins. Around the edge of each scalloped leaf is a medium green band. The foliage of ‘Green Spice’ is fantastic, coordinating well with the woodland plants across the walkway, yet having a little extra dazzle.

Athyrium 'Ghost' fern next to Heuchera

Athyrium 'Ghost' fern next to Heuchera

The Athyrium ‘Ghost’ fern produces a good number of these light green and silver fronds. They develop a very lush look over the season, since they send up new fronds throughout the summer. It grows about 45 cm (18 inches) to 60 cm (2 feet) tall in my garden. This cross between Athrium filix-femina (lady fern) and Athyrium niponicum (Japanese painted fern) is a real winner, both beautiful and hardy.

Athyrium 'Ghost' fern Heuchera 'Green Spice' 'Cinnabar Silver'

Athyrium 'Ghost' fern Heuchera 'Green Spice' 'Cinnabar Silver'

I like the green, silver and purple colour scheme in this garden area now, and it coordinates nicely with the green, silver and white scheme on the other side of the walkway. The green and silver fern, green, silver and purple ‘Green Spice’ and silver and purple ‘Cinnabar Silver’ make an attractive trio. This fern and Heuchera combination can handle the shade cast by the house and trees, and provide beautiful colour with their foliage all season.

Here are some more photos and information about coral bells in my garden, including Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’, and Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’. You can see the flowers of ‘Cinnabar Silver’ in this article, and here is a comparison of the different Heuchera foliage.

26 Responses to “Fern and Heuchera Foliage Combination” »

  1. Jeff :
    July 27, 2010 at 7:44 am

    That Green Spice is cool and you know I like your Ghost fern. Are you very familiar with heuchera? I have two that were labelled as “assorted heuchera” and I sure would like to know their names.

  2. Northern Shade :
    July 27, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Jeff, I like how these two Heuchera pick up the silver tones with the fern, and add a little purple. I’ve been planting more and more Heuchera, because of their attractive leaves, and since they have such a long season here, right up until covered with snow. I have been reading more about them, and just read a good book, Heuchera and Heucherella by Dan Heims and Graham Ware. It is a very comprehensive look at the history, breeding, varieties and cultivars of them. Unfortunately, it was published in 2005, so it doesn’t include the newest from the last 5 years. It would be great if it was updated. If you can get it from your library, it has excellent descriptions and photos.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow :
    July 27, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Ghost is the only painted fern that I have been able to grow in my garden. It is a trooper. I divided the one I have this spring. I got 4 large plants from it. I left a piece of it where it originally was growing and moved the other three to a new spot. I don’t know why I have had trouble with these painted ferns. I was pleased to find that Ghost likes it here.

  4. Northern Shade :
    July 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Lisa, Athyrium ‘Ghost’ has performed the best for me, too. The other painted ferns, Athyrium niponicum, are smaller, with only a few fronds in my garden. ‘Ghost’ is a cross with the lady fern, Athyrium Filix-femina, and it seems to have inherited the vigour of this hardy fern.

    Rebecca, I am attracted to silver foliage, especially in the darker areas of the garden. I like all the shade of green, but some silver breaks up the mass, your eye rests on it as you look along, and it pops out of the recesses. In the evening, the silver leaves are some of the last plants I see out the window as twilight darkens.

  5. Rebecca @ In The Garden :
    July 27, 2010 at 8:47 am

    They really make a wonderful grouping, silvery foliage is so beautiful.

  6. Kathleen :
    July 27, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Your shade beds all look so great NS. I caught up on a few of your back posts and your garden looks really happy and healthy. Love the fern & heuchera together. I am getting more shade as my trees get bigger so sooner or later, I’ll be planting more shade plants too (then I’ll really be back here for inspiration!).
    ps. I have fields behind my house so there are always plenty of mice to feed snakes like the one I found in my window well.

  7. Northern Shade :
    July 27, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Kathleen, I like the finely cut fern texture with the more solid Heuchera leaves. My shady areas have spread too over the last years as the trees have grown. I love the atmosphere mature trees give a garden, the cool shade and the wildlife they attract.

  8. The Garden Ms. S :
    July 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Northern Shade, this combination is lovely. It must make that area just glow, especially in the evenings. Very nice!

  9. Northern Shade :
    July 27, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    The Garden Ms. S, I’ve been adding more Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella this summer, and really enjoying their foliage, and for some of them their flowers.

  10. Laura :
    July 28, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Now that’s some lovely shade interest you have going there. Love the contrast of colour & textures!

  11. Northern Shade :
    July 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Laura, this spot gets extra shady on the north side of my house, with an extension blocking another side, and tall trees on another. The fern and Heuchera should do well in this site though, and provide some pretty foliage.

  12. Marit :
    July 28, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I am very fond of Heuchera and Heucherella. They are lovely plants in sun and shade. I have much sun in my garden, but they thrive in the sun too. Your ferns are so beautiful!

  13. Northern Shade :
    July 29, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Marit, I have especially enjoyed the Heuchera, because in a short season climate, their evergreen leaves make the garden look good in very early spring and very late fall, when there is not much else. I’ve started appreciating the Heucherella and Tiarella this year, too.

  14. easygardener :
    July 29, 2010 at 8:52 am

    They do look well together, very complementary. My Athyrium seems to have disappeared this year which is a bit of a mystery.

  15. Northern Shade :
    July 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Easygardener, my Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern) are the hardiest of my ferns, and produce lots of lush fronds throughout the summer and have gradually spread into good sized clumps, but my Athrium niponicum (painted fern) are always small, with only a few late fronds. The Athyrium ‘Ghost’ seems closest to the lady fern in vigour.

  16. Marit :
    July 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I have loved heuchera for many years. I think I have almost 20 of them here in my garden. It is nice that you like them too. As you said, they are evergreen and look nice early in the spring. With our similar climate, it is nice that something looks great in spring. I hope you understand my bad grammar and english, but here in Norway we do not write that much english :)

  17. Northern Shade :
    July 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Marit, some of my favourite other Heuchera are the wonderfully silver purple ‘Plum Pudding’, and the silver green ‘Mint Frost’. This spring I added some Heucherella ‘Tapestry’, which are becoming a favourite, for the handsome leaves, and the longing blooming thick pink flowers.

    When the snow starts melting, after a long winter, I like to search for the first coloured leaves, like Helleborus and Heuchera. They really boost my spirits to see the garden pop into life so soon.

    Your English is great.

  18. waltraud :
    July 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm


    A great color combination, I like it very much.

    Wish you a nice weekend.

    LG Waltraud

  19. Northern Shade :
    July 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Waltraud, I like the silver, green and purple in that section. It looks good even without blooms.

    Guild-rez, around here most of the Heuchera at a greenhouse are around $8 to $20, depending on the size and newness of cultivar. I’ve seen them for less at stores with gardening sections. Perhaps you will find some in the fall, when there are more deals.

  20. guild-rez :
    July 30, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Love your combination of Ferns and Heuchera.
    Ideal for the shady garden in front of our house. Just returned from Sheridan Nursery and looked at some Heuchera plants. But with a price tag of over $10.00 I resisted any purchases:)
    Wonder how much you pay in your area?
    Have a wonderful weekend,

  21. Barbara :
    August 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Your heuchera and fern combination is so beautiful. Actually I am planing a small garden in the mountains (1450m altitude) with a large shadow part. Fern and heucheras were on my list…but I was told that not all sorts of heucheras will survive the long and cold winters up there. As we only stay there for weekends and holidays I need easy growing plants…and fern and heucheras I’m considering as such ones.

  22. Northern Shade :
    August 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Barbara, the ghost fern survives the -40 ºC weather we have here in winter. My other Heuchera, ‘Mint Frost’ and ‘Plum Pudding’ have survived the winter just fine, too. ‘Cinnabar Silver’ and Green Spice’ are new to my garden this year, and I think they’ll do fine, but I’ll know for sure next spring. I do give the ferns extra water, if there hasn’t been any rain.

    Have fun planning your new garden.

  23. Kate-daisygirl_io :
    August 23, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Hi there – I found your site via blotanical. I love seeing contrasting foliage like the fern and the coral bells together. Like oil and water, they mix together to make a delightful treat in the garden. a lovely post! Looking forward to reading more…

  24. Northern Shade :
    August 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Kate-daisygirl_io, the Ghost fern and Heuchera are doing really well in deep shade. They’ve grown even more since these photos, and look great overlapping at the edges. I like the way the solid Heuchera leaves set off the lacy fronds.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  25. dennis :
    September 13, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Beautiful color combination.

  26. Northern Shade :
    September 13, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Dennis, this foliage combination is still looking great in September, and I’m pleased with the green, silver and purple colours together. I recently added an Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern) to one side, and it adds some more light, feathery texture to show up the more solid Heuchera leaves.

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