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GardenSMART :: Brighten Your Early Fall Shade Garden

Brighten Your Early Fall Shade Garden

By Kate Karam for Monrovia
Photographs courtesy of Monrovia

Early fall is the ideal time to take stock of various garden spaces and see what's lacking. Maybe your shade gardens are rocking the color early in the season, but by late August, the show's pretty much over. Don't settle for sleepy spaces that you're just tempted to ignore as you walk the garden. Plant some of these fall-blooming beauties for color right through the season.

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Honorine Jobert Japanese Anemone
Zone: 4 – 8
While there are plenty of Japanese anemones from which to choose, if we had to pick one, it would be this charmer. Why? Three reasons: the snowstorm of pure-white blooms; the long season of bloom; and the long stems that are ideal for cutting and making arrangements. So many fall bloomers are in rich yellows and oranges—sometimes a vase of white flowers is a palate cleanser of sorts. Plant them in a woodland setting, as a highlight of a wild rock garden, or in a container with hostas or coral bells.

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Pink Elf® Saxifrage
Zone: 6 – 9
Saxifrages, as a family of plants, are criminally underused. These little plants not only produce crazy sprays of flowers, but bloom in late fall when other plants are shutting down for the season. They can tolerate some cold (they're adapted to sub-arctic and alpine conditions), can be overwintered indoors in colder northern climates, and thrive in bright to deep shade. This particular one has rich (almost hot) pink sprays of flowers and leaves that are tinged bronze on the underside. Use them in a low border, mass under a tree for a bright bolt of color, or pot them up solo or mixed with ferns and hostas.

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Hot Lips Turtlehead
Zone: 3 – 8
A tough, hardy, happy North American native that's a tumble of cheerful spikes of pink snapdragon-like flowers over densely spreading 2 ft. tall plants. Turtlehead is a valuable problem solver for poorly drained sites, and is excellent around bogs and water gardens where soils may be perennially moist from splash and spray. But it's also plenty happy in perennial borders and blended into mixed plantings with rushes, Japanese water iris, spiderwort, and dappled willow. Or just mass in irregular groupings for bright, bold foliage and flowers.

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Black Negligee Snakeroot
Zone: 3 – 9
Bring on the drama with fernlike, deep-purple foliage and arching wands of scented pink-tinged white bottlebrush flowers that stand up to 5 feet high in full autumn bloom. If you've never seen this plant in action, you are in for a treat. It forms a clump that spreads but is not invasive, and thrives in bright shade where it receives up to 6 hours of direct sun, with four or more of those hours being in the morning, and the rest of the day being in shadow. If that weren't enough, it's also notably deer and rabbit resistant! Use in borders, containers, and woodland gardens behind smaller chartreuse or golden-leafed specimens. Be sure to cut a few bloom to add to fall arrangements.

For much more about gardening, plants, solutions, and ideas, visit our very popular blog, Grow Beautifully. While you're there, be sure to sign up for our award-winning monthly newsletter, Plant Savvy.


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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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