Entries in plants for shade (2)


Heuchera, Tiarella, or Heucherella: Which is Best For You?

In recent years there has been an explosion of brilliantly colored heucheras and heucherellas available to fit the fancy of any foliage lover, especially those who garden in shadier areas where many flowers bloom briefly or not at all (except for some time-consuming and often expensive annuals). With evergreen heucheras and heucherellas, gardeners can enjoy splashes of rich color through the seasons. Then there are tiarellas, which look very similar, although their leaves are primarily green. All are in the family Saxifragaceae. Which is what, and how do you know which is best for you?

Heuchera - also called Coral Bells and Alumroot

Heucheras are North American natives whose maple-leaf shaped foliage comes in hundreds of colors, often with ruffled edges and deep veining. In spring through summer, depending on the cultivar, they send up short to tall stems with spikes of bell-shaped flowers.
A small selection of heucheras.

Heucheras like semi-shade. They do need a bit of sun - morning sun is ideal; they won't do well in heavy shade. Heucheras with lighter foliage are likely to suffer leaf burn from hot summer sun. They are fairly drought-tolerant. All of them require well-drained soil, and they are likely to perish if their crowns are planted too deep or if they are over-watered. Heavy clay soil and wet winters may spell doom, my conditions exactly! Clay soil should be amended with lots of organic matter to increase drainage, or else grow heucheras in raised beds or containers with a good potting mix.

Heucheras are hardy from USDA hardiness zones 3-4 to 9. Some don't care for heat and humidity (my summer conditions!), though some are more tolerant than others. In hot, humid climates summer die-back due to fungus sclerotina may be a problem, and some heucheras suffer from rust. Over the years I have planted many heucheras in my semi-tropical climate, and few have flourished. 

Tiarella - Also called Foamflower

Tiarella cordifolia is a classic woodland plant. Native from eastern to mid-western North America, it is a clump-forming perennial that spreads by underground runners. It likes more shade than its cousin heuchera, and it also will tolerate more moisture, though it too does best in humusy, organically rich soil. Its evergreen to semi-evergreen leaves are heart-shaped, and it produces profuse clusters of star-shaped blooms on wiry stems. Its common name comes from the appearance of its blooms. Sometimes the leaves have striking, dark veins. Tiarellas do better in hot, humid climates than many heucheras, and they are not as prone to disease. 

Heucherella - also called Foamy Bells

Heucherellas are a cross between heucheras and tiarellas, and one gets the best of both worlds with these plants. They combine the disease resistance of tiarellas with the colorful foliage of heucheras. They also are more shade and moisture tolerant than heucheras. I have had much more success in my humid climate with heucherellas than with heucheras.Assorted heucherellasAbout all three: Heucheras, tiarellas, and heucherellas should all be planted in well-draining soil, and they should be divided every 3-4 years to maintain vigor. Heucheras especially tend to be short-lived unless divided. 

Although a hungry animal may eat anything, these plants, especially tiarellas, have an astringent taste and do not attract deer or rabbits. And just as good, their flowers do appeal to hummingbirds and butterflies.

Read the label when you buy one of these plants for information on shade and sun tolerance and climate requirements. You are sure to find some beautiful selections that will fill your garden with color and airy, attractive blooms.

Happy gardening!  Deb


The Woodland Garden: Spring, 2011

Spring has come to the Woodland Garden. It is an ethereal garden where light plays around trees and spreads itself across layers of greenery. By mid March, beneath a canopy of native oaks, hickory, and pines, understory trees began to bloom, including redbuds, dogwoods, and a 'Jane' magnolia:

By the first week of April, the planting beds were bursting with new growth:

Beneath the trees are many shrubs, which offer a variety of textures, color and form:1st row: Pieris japonica; Variegated hydrangea. 2nd row: Fothergilla gardenii; Indian hawthorn. 3rd row: Nandina 'Firepower', a non fruiting, non-invasive variety; Spreading japanese plum yew. 4th row: Oakleaf hydrangea 'Snowflake'; ''Saybrook Gold'' spreading juniperr.

A garden in the woodlands is a shady place, and that means green, but green is not boring! Deep forest green, olive green, chartreuse, jade, and turquoise blend and contrast to create a colorful, but refreshing palette.Sunlight shines through the bright foliage of a 'Waterfall' Japanese maple.

Every woodland garden needs some sort of seat. The concrete bench on the far left was originally painted a darker blue-green but has faded to a soft gray-green.

The Deodar Cedar 'Feelin' Blue' is one of my favorite woodland trees.
When I was painting it, I thought the color of the bridge might be too much, but once I placed it in its woodland setting, it was perfect. I love the way it looks with the lime green moss path.

This spring I added some camellias to the Woodland Garden. They provide an occasional pop of color to the greenery:
Top row: Camellia 'Red Candles'; 'Something Beautiful'. 2nd row: 'Gunsmoke'. 3rd row: 'Taylor's Perfection'.

A path through the woodlands unites various spaces and adds form to the garden. A path should make sense, curving around interesting trees and providing views of plantings. A path can be bare or covered with mulch, gravel, flagstones, pavers, or just about anything that fits a gardener's fancy, as long as one can walk on it. The main path through my garden is covered in moss. The soft texture creates a hushed, peaceful atmosphere, and I think it is the one element that defines my particular woodland space. I began several years ago when I noticed moss growing naturally in the bare trail. I dug up additional moss from other places in the woods and transplanted it into the path. I kept the path weeded and raked fallen leaves away. Now the moss has almost completely filled in, and my weeding chores are far fewer.This is the moss path near the entrance to the Woodland Garden.Last year I added a side path when I found some trilliums growing near an old trail created by dogs and children. I cleaned up and widened the trail. I planted spring bulbs, hostas, heuchera, and ferns to add importance to this new path. Pine trees shower the path with a nice straw cover which is easy to walk on and has a delightful smell. There always should be some wilderness left in a woodland garden. I cleared underbrush and obnoxious weeds but left some muscadine vines and other wild elements.  

Many plants on the forest floor provide interest beside the paths of the Woodland Garden. Heucheras are wonderful for their foliage. Airy flowers that come later in the season will be a bonus:

Top: Heuchera 'Tiramisu'; 'Autumn Bride'. 2nd row: 'Blackout'; "Stormy Seas'. 3rd row: 'Snow Angel'; 'Green Spice'.

I also added some tiarellas to the garden. These plants are similar to heucheras:'Pirates Patch', on the left, and 'Dark star' Tiarella

The  Woodland Garden would not be complete without hostas, as snails and other munching critters would agree. These are a few hostas which are just beginning to emerge:Top: Hosta 'June'; 'Elegans'. 2nd row: 'Francis Williams'; 'Groundmaster'.Here are more plants along the woodland paths with great foliage and textures:Top: Holly fern; Autumn fern. 2nd row: Great Solomon Seal, variegated; Dwarf Solomon seal. 3rd row: Ginger; Pulmonaria. 4th row: Tricyrtis hirta 'Variegata'; Tricyrtis affinis 'Lunar Landing. These toad lilies will have beautiful blooms in early fall.

While foliage is the star of a woodland garden, there are plenty of flowers, often in white and soft shade of blue and pink. One has to stop and bend over to appreciate some of them. It is worth the effort!1st row: A late blooming, tazetta (bunch flowering) type daffodil which is nicely fragrant; Native trillium. 2nd row: Variegated phlox divaricata; wild violets. 3rd row: Pink and white bleeding heart; 4th row: A wildflower which blooms in the moss path; Tiarella 'Dark Star'.

A walk in the woodland garden should appeal to all the senses. Smell is important. I love the aroma of fresh earth and pine straw, but I also have planted some fragrant shrubs:

Top: Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' sweet shrub smells like ripe bananas; Bottlebrush flowers of Fothergilla major smell like honey. Bottom: Viburnum carlesii has a wonderful spicy fragrance which carries in the air; Viburnum trilobum, American highbush cranberry, has a smell which has been compared to wet dog but mine smells like cake batter!

No garden is complete without sound. A bubbling stream or fountain would be perfect, but I have neither — yet! I do have wind chimes. I have them all over the place, and Lou says our yard sounds like a fortune teller's with all the tinkling chimes. But I love them, and I enjoy the music they make in the Woodland Garden.

Even more beautiful than the chimes is the sound of wild life. My quiet woodlands can be a pretty noisy place! The plants provide shelter and nourishment to many species, including this fat robin who let me take his photo:

A friend gave the highest complement when she visited me recently. 

"The birds are so happy!" she said. 

That makes me very happy, too.