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Shade plants offer much more color and variety than most of us imagine. Your best bet is to stick with plants that note full or part shade. We find good definitions to be 0-2 hours of sun for shade and 2-4 for part shade, and like some light and bright tones to punctuate shade.

Almost all spring bulbs work in areas around trees, since they will bloom before the tree leafs out. 

For lots of color in shade plants through the season, consider bright annual Impatiens. They’re especially great in two or three rows to create a vivid band of color on the front border. Begonias love shade, too.

Variegated Leaf Shade Plants

A great way to achieve long color in shade gardens is plants with variegated leaves. Mix in some Hostas with large areas of white in their leaves – there are some lovely limes, too. A large blue-green elegans is beloved as a great focal point. Other bright leaves include some ferns, especially the Japanese varieties. The delicacy of ferns’ leaves add beauty in shade plants, and Solomon Seal fills and spreads nicely (great with Dicentra, which dies back in heat). There are probably more varieties than you know – do some searching. One grass, Hakonechloa macra aureola, in gold, grows in shade, as does variegated Lamium and Brunnera with striking leaves and small blue flowers. Caladiums are always stunning – try them with dragon-wing begonia for drama –and most Coleus prefer part-shade.

Spring and Summer Shade Plants that Flower

In the spring, Dicentra, pink or white bleeding heart, tiny flowers on arching stems, are gorgeous and seed freely. Primroses may bloom all summer in cooler areas, and do a spring and fall show in others – they’re small, so plan them at the front. Lily of the Valley has graced gardens for hundreds of years, Pulmonaria has patterned leaves and lovely spring flowers and  Cordyalis brings in yellow accented by ferny leaves.

In early summer, Huechera (coral bells) steal hearts. Older varieties flower in pinks to reds, and newer ones offer purple, orange and lime foliage (but tend to have rather non-descript white flowers). Heucherella and Tiarella (foam flower) are smaller versions of Heuchera with vivid leaves.

Astilbes follow in many pinks plus white, red and lavender, love part shade and provide tall foamy flowers – fertilize them throughout the season and leave the dried flowers on for great winter accent. Aruncus (goat’s beard) is a tall display of foamy white flowers in June and July. Many varieties of Hemerocallis will grow in quite a bit of shade, and Tiger, Oriental, and Asian lilies do well as partial shade plants.

Fall and Winter Shade Plants

Hostas bloom in purple or white, and tall scarlet lobelias are a great accent at the back of the garden.  Sedum Autumn Joy is great in partial shade.

Helleborus, or Lenten Rose, blooms between February and April depending on your Zone.

Shrubs

Kerria Japonica is a true shade plant. Many Hydrangeas, some small decorative maples and Summersweet (needs lots of water) thrive in part-shade.

It’s fun to discover how much you can do in shade, and shade gardens look cool and inviting whatever the temperature.

Lured by the gorgeous new offerings each season in glossy garden catalogues and magazines, you might be tempted to choose plants not well suited to your area – an expensive and time-consuming error. High-maintenance plants, artificially kept going by herculean efforts and costly fertilizers, can also be discouraging as they often do not survive.

More and more, amateur and professional gardeners are turning to native plants to enhance their outdoor spaces.

But just what is a native plant? A native plant is defined as one that exists naturally in a given area and is indigenous to that specific region or ecosystem – one that has not been introduced by humans.These can include trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, mosses and groundcovers. For example, in the Pacific Northwest, the Douglas-fir tree is a native plant. English holly, which can be found extensively there also, is not native to the region because it was introduced by humans. It is, however, native to England!

Incorporating native plants in a gardening scheme does not require ripping out existing plantings. Natives can be gently introduced to a thriving garden, with benefits all around:

  • As they are adapted to the region’s soil conditions and climate changes, natives are
    much lower maintenance
  • They require much less water
  • Natives generally do not become invasive
  • They encourage wildlife to visit and provide a safe habitat for birds and butterflies
  • Natives thrive without fertilizers and chemical pesticides.

CHOOSING NATIVE PLANTS

Here are a few tips to get you started with native plants:

  • Consult nature. What is growing in your local parks and wild areas? If you need to, get help with identification from books, a knowledgeable friend or your area’s Master Gardener program.
  • Connect up with local native plant societies. Nearly every region has one and they offer a wealth of information and tips. Most have extensive websites with plant lists, photographs and planting instructions.
  • Cultivate a relationship with a reputable nursery. Many specialty nurseries now are dedicated to native plants and will welcome your inquiries into what plants they recommend.

Once you have an understanding of what the native plants in your area are, you can begin to plan where they will best be utilized in your own environment.

Remember, trees and shrubs form the basic structure in any garden plan. Are there natives you can use to define a new garden space or create a needed privacy barrier? What about colorful wildflowers? Is there a section of your garden where the sight of gaily swaying columbines will brighten the view? Do you have children that would delight in avian and insect visitors?

Consider the locations and then choose plants based on which soil conditions, light and water availability you have which most duplicate their natural environment. Then sit back and let them take over.

Soon, you’ll hardly remember how your garden was before you decided to “go native”!

Butterfly gardens provide food and sanctuary for many vibrant species of Lepidoptera. This type of garden can be planted in even the busiest urban location. Offering even a small habitat can help support the butterfly population in your area. A container garden consisting of a few carefully selected bushes and flowering plants may be all it takes to attract these winged visitors to your home. If you have more space available, you can plan a butterfly garden complete with a walking path and outdoor seating for maximum enjoyment.

Selecting & Caring For Host Plants

Indigenous plants are often the best choice for butterfly gardens. These shrubs and flowers are simple to grow since they are already compatible with the soil type, texture, and pH in your area. This means you will only have to worry about ensuring adequate sunlight, water, and drainage for your plants. You may also consider adding compost once a year to replace any lost nutrients. Don’t use pesticides.

Visit your neighborhood garden center for advice on nectar producing plants that do well in your zone. Bear in mind that some are perennials in the Southern U.S. but must be replanted each year in colder parts of the continent. Here are some frequently suggested plant/flower species (both native and imported) that grow well in many different zones:

Aster

Bee Balm

Burning Bush

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Weed

Chrysanthemum

Clover

Columbine

Dandelion

Goldenrod

Honeysuckle

Joe-Pye Weed

Marigold

Purple Coneflower

Shasta Daisy

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Verbena

Wild Violet

Yarrow

Zinnia

Some of these plants, such as clover, double as food plants for caterpillars. You can also deliberately grow hosts for specific butterfly larvae. Use milkweed to supply a breeding ground for monarchs. Dill, parsley, and other members of the carrot family will attract female swallowtails that are ready to lay their eggs. Watching caterpillars grow and change is one of the most interesting experiences provided by a home butterfly garden.

Common Butterfly Species

Expect to see both local and migrating species of butterflies pass through your garden depending on the time of year and your location. The larger and more varied your plant selection is, the greater number and variety of Lepidoptera you will see. However, some plants (like the aptly named butterfly bush) will attract many different types of butterflies at one time. Here are some of the species that frequent North American butterfly gardens:

Alfalfas

Buckeyes

Cabbage Whites

Fritillaries

Goatweeds

Hackberries

Hairstreaks

Monarchs

Morning Cloak

Nymphs

Painted Ladies

Pearl Crescents

Question Marks

Red Admirals

Skippers

Snout Noses

Sulphurs

Swallowtails

Tawny Emperors

Viceroys

Special Considerations

This type of garden will attract much more than just butterflies. Hummingbirds are welcome visitors as well. Bees and wasps will also come to drink from your ready supply of nectar. When this happens, move slowly and remain calm. These insects are foraging far away from their home nests and unlikely to sting humans. They help pollinate flowers and are a natural feature of all butterfly gardens.

Fragrant gardens are becoming very popular with home owners. Human beings are very sensitive to smells, both pleasant ones and unpleasant ones. We use all kinds of means to dispel the smells from our bathrooms from using spray scents to deodorants to ceiling exhaust fans. At the same time, the number of fragrances available in perfumes is enormous, not just for women anymore, but also for men.

You can also enjoy a fragrant garden all year long, and you can vary the fragrances to your own taste. If you want to bring flowers into your house, you may scent the house with roses one day, lilies the next, and lilacs the next, as you please. Besides, you can grow artemesia or lemon thyme whose pungency and tang provide a counterpoint for the fragrance of the flowers.

We plant vegetables in our gardens to help meet our needs for food; in the same manner, a fragrant garden can be food for the soul. When we smell the first viburnum in the spring, it fills our hearts not only with joy but with hope: summer is on the way. Consider planting a fragrant garden. It will make your life better.

Planning Your Fragrant Garden

You’ll want to place your fragrant garden as close to the house as possible so you can enjoy the fragrance inside the house as well as out. If you can plant near a wall or a patio, the reflected heat will intensify the fragrance of many plants, which will increase your enjoyment. If you put your garden in the open yard, the wind will be likely to blow the scent away from you. An enclosed place will permit the fragrance to collect and intensify.

Bugs, etc.

The more fragrant your fragrant garden, the more insects it will attract. If you have someone in your family who has serious allergies, you’ll need to put the garden in a place where this person can avoid the insects. You need to factor in that there will be more bees and bugs around scented plants.

Seasons

You need to take into account when the flowers will bloom in your fragrant garden. For example, a clematis will be likely to bloom in early spring as will daffodils and tulips. If you’re planting a fragrant garden at a summer house, you may completely miss these. On the other hand, if you plant only summer-blooming flowers around the house you live in year-round, you’ll be missing some fragrant seasons. If you plan carefully, your fragrance season can last from frost to frost.

Planting for Your Own Region

Before planning your fragrant garden, talk to a gardener in a local gardening store. He will be able to help you choose those plants that will grow best in your own area. You might consider flowering trees like magnolia as well as shrubs like mock-orange that bring their own fragrance. Then there are vines like wisteria and perennials like primroses. In addition, look at annuals and bulbs such as hyacinths, Irises, Freesias, and paper whites for spring fragrance. For summer, consider lavender, lilies, nicotiana, to name only a few. A visit to your gardening store will inspire you!

You’ve decided to add color to your garden. And you’d like to do it now. But where to begin?

A good first step in choosing a garden’s color palette is to establish mood and emotion. Do you envision it as a serene and peaceful haven, where you and your family can be rejuvenated and unwind? Or does a lively and energizing space for entertaining and outdoor activities have more appeal? Do your tastes lean to the traditional, or are you more attracted to modern, trendy environments? Whatever you see as your ideal garden space, give initial attention to how you want yourself and others to feel when they are in it. You can create a desired emotional response just with color! Hot hues – reds, oranges and yellows – are dramatic, stimulating and energizing, and lift the spirits on cloudy days. Cool tones – blues, aquas, greens and purples, as well as most pastels – are soothing and relaxing.

Next, use an artist’s color wheel to help you decide on a scheme: monochromatic (based on a single color), harmonious (based on colors adjacent on the wheel, such as yellow and orange or blue and violet), or complimentary (based on contrasting colors, such as blue and orange, red and green). 

Of course, researching appropriate plants, purchasing them, planting and growing all take time, and it may be months or even a year before your vision becomes a reality. But there’s no need to wait to introduce desired colors into your landscape. Here are three proven ways to get color in an instant:

Mix it up! Use plenty of different sized containers filled with annuals in your chosen colors for fast, easy and moveable bursts of color. Just as you can quickly change or improve the look of an interior with throw pillows, cushions and slip covers, you can also rapidly color up your outdoor space by utilizing pots and planters of bright and cheery annuals. Fill up a variety of planters with pleasing combinations of these abundant bloomers and place strategically where you most need and want color. You may find such a perfect combination for a given area, that you’ll feel confident in permanently placing perennials and shrubs in the location in similar color combinations.

Use garden decor for lively bursts of color! Plants and flowers are the obvious and first choice of color for the gardener. But garden decor should be included in any comprehensive plan in order to echo and enhance the natural plantings, to create a counterpoint of complimentary color or even to brighten up an otherwise dark corner. Brightly-hued and decorated metal sculptures, mosaic stepping stones, enamel ornaments, ceramic bird baths, tiled fountains, painted planters and decorated bird feeders and houses can be vital elements in any garden color scheme. And they have the added benefit of remaining colorful throughout the winter months. Use them as focal points on patios, hang them from arches or tuck them among lush beds of flowering plants. 

Furnish with style! Garden benches, patio sets, chairs, chaises, tables and stools are available in a full spectrum of colors and motifs. How about a purple Adirondack chair made out of recycled materials for an instant jolt of joyful color? Or an antiqued blue rustic iron bistro table with matching chairs? Weatherproof fabrics are another colorful option for outdoor cushions and cloths.

Whatever mood you want to create in your garden, you can create it fast with color!

You hear the words in the media, you see the products in the stores and you may even know a neighbor who practices it.

But what exactly is organic gardening?

Simply put, it means using only fertilizers or pesticides that are strictly of animal or vegetable, and not synthetic or chemical, origin.

And, although the term organic gardening has recently become a trendy buzzword, in fact, it is a concept and practice that has been in use since cultivation of land first began thousands of years ago. It is, essentially, the way it has always been done.

It was only when scientists in the mid-1800s began developing chemical fertilizers and pesticides that the collective mindset shifted toward accelerated growth of crops, more thorough and faster destruction of pests and weeds, and an increasing disregard for the environment.

But that trend is turning back, with numerous benefits, for agriculture and for the individual.

The average homeowner, with lawns and flower gardens to maintain, may feel mystified as to how or why he should implement organic practices, hindered in part by common misconceptions that have arisen:

Organic gardening is time consuming. In truth, organic methods needn’t take any more out of a busy schedule than non-organic methods. It may require a bit of research into the best products and techniques to use for a given set of problems, whether it be weeds, insect pests or just keeping a lawn bright green. But once established, an organic maintenance routine can be fast and efficient. Returning an environment to a more natural state can, before long, require less care and attention.

Organic gardening is expensive. As it has and continues to become more mainstream, the number of excellent organic products available has increased to offer a wide range of choices in soil enrichment, weed and moss control, and insecticides. More competition in the marketplace results in lower costs. But, in honesty, what price can be put on eliminating chemicals from one’s environment that are known to be harmful to the health and welfare of humans, pets and wildlife?

Organic gardening won’t make much difference. Perhaps results won’t be apparent at first, but breaking the synthetic and chemical gardening product habit brings a wealth of positive results. Switch to organic lawn care and soon see an increase in the number of songbirds stopping by, feeding and possibly nesting. The organic gardening concept also encourages introducing more native plants into the garden, which provide food sources for other wildlife, such as bees and butterflies and amphibians. Improving soil conditions, contributing to a safer water supply and the sense of satisfaction in living more responsibly toward the environment and mankind are all benefits to the individual who makes the commitment to garden organically.

A turning back toward organic gardening is as much philosophical as practical. It embraces ideals of simple living, healthy choices and a closeness to nature. And those are three truths everyone can benefit from.

Where to start? Your local garden center or nursery is a perfect place, where professionals familiar with organic materials and methods will gladly assist you to choose products to suit your needs. Just tell them you are ready to “go organic!”

Understanding the possibilities.

Garden designers are known to focus on texture as a key feature in aesthetically pleasing outdoor spaces. Texture is an element that may not be as obvious as color or structure, but it is a vital component that would be much missed if neglected in planning and creating a home or public garden.

The word texture comes from the Latin texere meaning to weave. In gardening, it applies usually to the surface characteristics of a given plant but can also describe the overall impression or feel of a plant grouping, area or an entire landscape.

How all the different parts of a garden relate to one another and create a harmonious, unified and interesting whole depends a great deal on the use of texture. The play of light across a series of plantings will accentuate different textures at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. Breezes affect plant movement and should be taken into account when positioning trees, shrubs and plants to take advantage of it.

What are some of the ways that texture can be introduced into the garden? One of the easiest is by a careful consideration of plant foliage and structure. Even a monochromatic garden scheme can be alive and exciting simply by clever variations of foliage, shape and structure.

Consider the following when purchasing and placing plants or creating plant combinations. Remember that contrast equals interest.

Density. Is the plant’s shape open and light? Or condensed and closed. Is the foliage fine or course? Very dense foliage can overpower a finely foliated plant if careful attention is not paid to proportion and scale. Does the plant look airy and show its background behind it, or does it present a solid facade, with no light coming through? Ferns are primarily floaty and feathery, while hedging plants such as laurels are used to create barriers.

Structure. It is tightly branched? Bunched together? Or billowy and graceful?

Movement. Are there aspects of the plant that are fluid and graceful, that change in a breeze or wind, or does it remain rigid and firm?

Shape. Analyze the shape of the leaves. Are they mostly round, oval or heart-shaped. Are they pointy, such as the needles of evergreens or the spiky fronds of cordyline? Instant contrast can be achieved through combining plants with dramatically different leaf shapes, even if they are similar shades of green.

Surface texture. Is it fuzzy, smooth, hard, bumpy, rubbery, waxy, hairy or heavily veined? Light striking smooth surfaces is reflected differently than rougher surfaces. Fuzzy plants, such as Lamb’s Ears, soften an area and invite closer inspection and touching. The glossy, smooth surface of succulent leaves are also highly attractive, but for different reasons. Don’t overlook the tactile qualities of the plant. Peeling bark is another element that adds interest and creates beautiful patterns in a variety of lighting situations.

Height. At maturity, will the plant remain short, or continue to gain height each year without proper pruning?

Evergreen or deciduous. Evergreens provide a stable texture, whereas deciduous plants, trees and shrubs provide seasonal variations. Even bare branches are an important textural element to consider.

Understanding these few basics will enable even beginning gardeners to successfully employ texture in their environment. A visit to a local nursery, where it is convenient to place pots of differently textured plants next to each other on a large cart, is an easy first step in experimenting with different plant combinations.

HOW THE PLANT OF THE YEAR IS SELECTED

Candidates for the Proven Winners’ Plant of the Year are judged stringently by growers, retailers and home gardeners against the five criteria: Easy to Grow, Iconic, Readily Available, Perfect for Baskets or Containers and Outstanding Landscape Performance. Plants are selected that are easy for everyone to grow and deliver a clearly exceptional garden performance.

After several rounds of voting, the winners are announced to growers across North America one year in advance to ensure they have plenty of time to grow the millions of plants needed to satisfy the demand at retail. As a result, home gardeners can easily find a retailer who carries the winning Plants of the Year.


ANNUAL OF THE YEAR: Supertunia® Bordeaux™ Petunia hybrid

Supertunia® Bordeaux™ will quickly grow into a blanket of sparkling purple flowers in your landscape. Since it is so vigorous, you won’t need many plants to make an impact. You’ll love how they look when you grow them in hanging baskets and upright containers. Supertunia® Bordeaux™ play well with others if you’re into playing matchmaker.

  • Masses of vibrant color
  • Non-stop bloom from spring to frost
  • Self-cleaning flowers—NO deadheading needed
  • Versatility of use in containers and landscapes
  • Broad color range to suit every style
  • Remarkable vigor and disease resistance

Supertunia petunias are vigorous with slightly mounded habits that function as both fillers and spillers in containers.  They are also excellent landscape plants, best suited to be placed near the front of beds.  They have medium to large sized flowers. Whether you’re looking to add a mass of color to your garden beds or create impressive containers with curb appeal, Supertunia® Petunias are the best choice for your sunny landscape. You’ll be amazed how green your thumbs are when you grow these vigorous, reliable flowers.


PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR: Primo™ ‘Black Pearl’ Heuchera

Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ tend to grow best and have the prettiest coloration when grown in part sun, meaning 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. In very warm climates, full shade may be necessary. In cooler zones, it will grow in full sun if given adequate moisture. Primo ‘Black Pearl’ will keep its dark coloration even in full sun conditions.

  • Jet black, glossy, ruffled foliage
  • Long lasting, light pink cut flowers
  • Attracts pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Vigorous, densely mounding shape
  • Versatile – grows in landscapes and containers
  • Naturally heat and humidity tolerant
  • Measures 8-10” tall x 26-30” wide
  • Native perennial for zones 4-9

Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ can be grown in containers, but keep in mind that it grows notably larger than standard varieties, so give it plenty of room to show off. If growing it on its own, choose a container that is at least 10” in diameter and 8” deep. If you plan to pair Primo ‘Black Pearl’ with other plants in a combination recipe, you’ll need a much larger pot, at least 18” in diameter.


LANDSCAPE PLANT OF THE YEAR: Spilled Wine® Weigelia

Rich, velvety foliage forms a sumptuous textural backdrop for a bright floral bouquet of magenta pink blossoms that sing every spring. An updated, more petite look for weigelia, it’s the perfect choice for foundation plantings, edging landscape beds and planting en masse. Full-bodied looks and an easy constitution—that’s Spilled Wine® weigelia.

  • Dark wine red foliage all season
  • Loads of vibrant magenta pink flowers in spring
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Not preferred by deer
  • Low mounding shape
  • Adaptable to most soil types
  • Grows in large containers and landscape beds
  • Grows 2-3’ tall x 2-4’ wide
  • Reliably hardy in zones 4-8

Like a complex wine, Spilled Wine Weigelia embodies a certain richness and intensity that may look complicated, but there’s really nothing to it. It even adapts to most soil types, including clay. Giving it 6+ hours of sunlight, average water (about an inch per week), and a bit of slow release tree and shrub fertilizer in early spring will do the trick.


Learn more about our National Plant of the Year program at www.nationalplantoftheyear.com.