My back patio is on the west side of the house and is additionally shaded by the garage and a large tree. The patio garden cannot be considered anything but a shade garden. Unfortunately, some of the plants planted on the patio are not meant to be in such heavy shade. I have a feeling the perennials in the garden were planted prior to the large shade tree's establishment. So, this spring I have been working in the garden to move out the sun loving perennials and redesign the gardens with some shade plants.
One of the most common shade plants found in the garden is the hosta (which I love), but there are many more shade tolerant perennials one can add to the garden that will add beautiful foliage and or flowers. Here are just a few that you might want to try in your shade garden:
Monkshood (aconitum) is worth a place in the garden because it blooms in late summer, when most other shade bloomers have finished. Plus, it's deer- and rabbit-resistant. Named for its drooping blue flowers that resemble the hood on a monk's robe, this lovely flower is an easy, under-used plant. It is hardy to zone 3 and some varieties can grow up to 6 feet tall!
Hellebore (helleborus), also called Christmas rose, is one of the earliest bloomers in shady gardens. Look for its burgundy, pink, cream, green, or white flowers in late winter or early spring. Although it looks delicate, the Christmas rose is quite sturdy once it gets established. And, it's deer- and rabbit-resistant. This 12-inch plant is hardy to zone 4.
A plant that has an unfortunate name, but wonderful foliage is lungwort (pulmonaria). Lungwort has earned its name from the silvery, lung-shaped spots that dot the foliage. The variegated foliage looks great all season long, and nicely accents the plant's clusters of pink, white, or blue flowers in the spring. The leaves are low growing and the flowers can reach up to one foot in height. Lungwort is hardy to zone 4.
These are just three examples of the many shade plants one can use to brighten up a darker area of the garden. While many of these plants may not look as impressive as their sun-loving counterparts at the garden center or nursery, they and many other shade plants are definitely worth a gardener's attention.
Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.