Fifty Shades of Green
Tony and Sylvia Marden from Shadyplants.com on what to plant in "that awkward bit of shade" - 15 May 2015
Asarums are a really useful evergreen ground cover for that deeply shaded spot.
We have seen Asarum europaeum growing really well under the dense shade of a holm oak in the Oxford Botanic Gardens. It has glossy green leaves which reflect the light in the shade with a small brown flower hidden underneath.
Asarum caudatum has a very creeping rootstock and would do well in a dryish shaded area. It has a brown flower the size of a 50 pence piece. It has pale green hairy leaves, and grows to about 25cm.
Asarum splendens is often mistaken for a giant cyclamen and the leaves do look like a large beautifully marked cyclamen leaf and the flower is brown and cream.
Asarum maximum 'Silver Panda' is an attractive evergreen with glossy deep-green, silver marked leaves and prolific clusters of large white-eyed black trilobed flowers Feb-Jun, 25cm. Easy in shade. it is good ground cover and just that little bit different.
We have a large range of ferns, some are deciduous and some evergreen. Polystichum polybleperum is a particularly good evergreen example. It has glossy green fronds which hold well in the winter. Asplenium scolopendrum cultivars are also handsome evergreen ferns.
For a damp shady area, Matteucia struthiopteris is a large, fully hardy deciduous fern with stiffly upright fronds that will in time produce the classic 'shuttlecock' shape. Fronds are up to 1.2m in length. It prefers partial shade and a moist or heavily mulched soil, where it will start to spread.
If you would like a bit of colour the Athyrium nipponicum cultivars are worth looking at. They are commonly called Japanese painted ferns. One of the best is Athyrium nipponicum var. pictum; the newly emerging fronds of this beautiful fern has rich purple-bronze tones, which look like they have been sprinkled with silver dust. This two-tone effect creates a striking foliage contrast for mixed shaded borders or woodland gardens.
Arisaema is a large and diverse genus of the flowering plant family Araceae. The largest concentration of species is in China and Japan, but a lot of our plants originate in India and the Himalayas. They grow from tubers and most are hardy garden plants. Good draining soil is the key to growing these unusual plants successfully. Some of the ones we grow are as follows.
Arisaema tortuosum is, we find, one of the easiest to grow and is capable of making a four to five foot plant. It has a spathe which is pale green but the spadix can be green to purple. It can look very sinister like a serpents tongue.
Arisaema consanguineum is another easy variety which grows to 3-4 feet high. It has a spathe that can be green or purple striped. The leaves are interesting, decorative and the leaflets radiate like an umbrella. Some also have long tails at the end of the leaves that look beautiful when they hold a bead of dew or rain on the tip, making quite a talking point in the garden.
Arisaemas have an unusual sex life in that they are male when they are small plants but change to female when they are stronger. If they have a poor growing season they will revert to being male. What a life!
Shadyplants.com grow unusual shade-loving plants, including Arisaemas, Podophyllums, Arisarums, polygonatums, Hostas, ferns. They sell from specialist plant fairs and the full list of events they attending can be found on the "events" page of their website www.shadyplants.com.
Article and all photos © the authors.