01 of 09
Using White and Silver Flowers and Foliage to Light Up a Shady Nook
The garden design plan outlined here features plants with white flowers and foliage that will stand out in a partial shade garden. A nice seasonal intro to this white perennial shade garden would be drifts of white tulips. Tulip 'Albion Star', 'Best White', 'Evita', 'Ice Princess' or 'Purissima' would start the season off right. Or perhaps 'Spring Green', with its green streaked white petals?
White flowers and foliage seem to glow in shade. Add some silvery shimmer and gray feathery foliage and a... shady spot in the garden becomes a bright highlight. Use the following design plant as is or as inspiration for designing your own white shade garden. Every year new variegated plants are introduced that make it easier and easier to have a glint of white in your garden design, the entire growing season.
The plants used in this garden design plan are discussed on successive pages. If a plant isn't suited to your area, there are alternatives listed. Quantities are just suggestions and depend on the size of the plants you purchase and how those plants behave in your soil. For the first year of any perennial garden, filling in with annual flowers is a good way to make the garden look mature, while still leaving room for the new perennial plants to spread.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
A Focal Point for the White Shade Garden
#1 - Large, towering plants can make wonderful focal points in a garden. Sometimes when designing a shade garden, you can get too caught up in all the woodland beauties and forget your design plan needs some substance to it. Goat's Beard is a very easy growing plant and makes a wonderful choice, providing your garden isn't in full shade. It will probably not grow as large as it would in full sun, but it should still be imposing and will flower just fine.
Shown here in the foreground: Aruncus... dioicus (Goat's Beard): Zones 3 - 7 (5' x 5') Bloom Period: May - July
White flowering Astilbe can be used as an alternative. Two good choices are:
Continue to 3 of 9 below.
- Astilbe japonica 'Deutschland' Zones 3 - 9 (2' x 3'), Bloom Period: July - August
- Astilbe 'White Gloria' Zones 4 - 8 (3' x 2'), Bloom Period: July - August
03 of 09
Speckled and Splashed Pulmonarias (Lungwort) Add Light and Interest
#2 - Pulmonaria is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in spring, in brilliant shades of azure blue and hot pink. But it's Pulmonaria's foliage that makes it so welcome in a shade garden design. Breeders have taken old fashioned 'Mrs. Moon' and expanded both her spots and her leaves, so that pinwheels of white and frosted silver glint throughout the growing season. Pulmonaria also spread, in a controlled way, making a tidy blanket along the front edge of a shade garden.
Good choices include:... Pulmonaria saccharata 'Moonshine', 'Excaliber' and 'British Sterling'. (Zones 3 - 8, blooming April - May.)
A good alternative to Pulmonaria would be Brunnera macrophylla - False Forget-me-not 'Jack Frost' (Zones 3 - 8, Bloom Period: May June, 12" x 15")
For more information, check out the full growing profile of Pulmonaria.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Carpets of Texture Topped with Repeat Flushes of White Blooms
#3 - Perennial geraniums have long been an English garden staple, but they haven't really established themselves in North American gardens until recently. 'Johnson's Blue', Rozanne' and Geranium sanguinium have been grabbing all the attention with their flashy colors. For a white garden, Clark's Geranium or Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White' is a perfect choice. Again, you may get a few less blooms in partial shade, but you'll notice them even more. And hardy... geraniums require little attention, as they spread a bit further every year. They are also extremely easy to divide and transplant, to fill in any bare spots as your garden matures.
My favorite choice is Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White': Zones 4 - 8 (20" x 15"), Bloom Period: May - July
But a lovely alternative with a similar season of bloom would be Meadow Anemone (Anemone canadensis): Zones 2 - 6 (18" x 12"), Bloom Period: May - JulyContinue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
No Shade Garden is Complete without a Bleeding Heart
Romantic and delicate looking, Bleeding Hearts are actually hardy plants that make themselves right at home in partial shade, particularly if the soil is rich and moist. The white flowered form, usually called 'Alba', is a perfect feature for a white garden. One specimen of the larger Dicentra spectabilis is enough to grab your attention. However S. spectabilis can be ephemeral and disappear once the weather warms. If that's the case in your garden, one of the fringed-leaf varieties,... S. eximia (shown here) or S. formosa, might be a better choice.
Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' (Bleeding Heart): Zones 3 - 9 (30" x 36") Bloom Period: April - May
Good alternatives include:
Continue to 6 of 9 below.
- D. eximia 'Alba' (Eastern Fringed Bleeding Heart) Zones 3 - 9 (18" x 9") Repeat Bloomer
- D. formosa 'Alba' (Western Fringed Bleeding Heart) Zones 4 - 10 (18" x 24") Bloom Period May - June
06 of 09
Soft, Woolly Foliage with a White Sheen
# 5 - Lamb's Ears make wonderful edging plants. They won't bloom profusely in partial shade, but it's the foliage we're accenting here and the fuzzy texture will catch whatever light makes its way through to the garden, as well as holding rain drops that will act as prisms. A good choice for a partial shade garden is Stachys byzantina 'Helen Von Stein' (Zones 4 - 9), because it doesn't usually flower. Instead it puts its energy into larger foliage. Plants grow to... about 12" x 15". An alternative to Lamb's Ear is Woolly Thyme (Thymus praecox / Thymus serpyllum var. lanuginosus): Zones 6 - 8, (6" x 12") For more information, check out the full growing profile of Lamb's Ear.
Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Variegated Ornamenatl Grasses and Sedges Provide Levels of Interest
#6 - Ornamental grasses bring a triple treat to garden design: visual appeal, movement and sound. There are plenty of variegated grasses that will grow well in partial shade, but don't overlook the sedges (Carex). True, some sedge varieties can grow a bit too agressively, as is also true of some oranmental grasses. But the partial shade conditions help to keep most of these spreaders in check. If you do find your choice has grown significantly in just one season, don't wait to see what... happens. Replace it sooner, rather than later.
The grass shown here is a variegated ribbon grass. This is a variety that has to be watched closely. Dry shade is the best growing condition to prevent ribbon grass from becoming invasive. Better choices include:
Continue to 8 of 9 below.
- Carex siderosticha 'Variegata' (Variegated Broad Leaf Sedge): Zones 4 - 9 (8" x 18")
- Hakonachloa macra 'Albo-Striata'" Zones 5 - 8 (24" x 18")
08 of 09
Feathery Foliage as a Foil for Bold Plants
#7 - Artemisia is an herb plant that has become popular for its lacy, often feathery foliage. It makes a wonderful contrast to plants with large leaves, like the Hostas planted in front of it in this design. Artemia is also used in flower arrangements, fresh or dried. Many varieties are fragrant, although not everyone agrees that the fragrance is pleasant.
Good choices for tall growing artemisia include:
- Artemisia 'Powis Castle' (Wormwood): Zones 6 - 9, (3' x 2')
- Artemisia... 'Valerie Finnis' (Western Mugwort): Zones 3 - 10 (2' x 18")
Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
So Many Choices, So Little Shade
#8 - It would be hard to imagine shade gardening being so popular without the abundance of wonderful Hosta varieties on the market. If only the deer would learn to appreciate the beauty and function of hostas, instead of their flavor. However, if you don't have a deer problem or if you are willing to spray in order to enjoy these choices, every shade garden should include at least one or two contrasting and complementing Hosta.
The large white-edged Hosta pictured here is Hosta ventricosa... 'Aureomarginata'. But there are so many extraordinary variegated varieties out there, you can just pick the one that catches your eye at the nursery. Some good choices to look for include:
- Hosta 'Patriot' Zones 3 - 8 (18" x 36")
- Hosta 'American Sweetheart' Zones 3 - 8, (20" x 24")
- Hosta 'Center of Attention' Zones 3 - 8, (10" x 18")
And if Hosta just isn't going to make it in your garden, an alternative to try is
Acoris calumnus (Variegated Sweet Flag): Zones 5 - 9 (3' x 2')