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Invite Some “Shady Characters” To Your Garden

Invite Some “Shady Characters” To Your Garden

By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

As I walk through my garden, I marvel at the perseverance of plants in the mostly-shaded landscape. Living on the north side of a forested hill, the sunlight “shuts off” around 4:00 p.m., relieving the late afternoon stress of torrid sun. A forest of Japanese maples planted 40 years ago provide a soft, dappled light that provides plants with a lessened need for water and protection from the east wind that kicks up in my Portland, Oregon, neighborhood. Many Terra Nova Nurseries’ perennials originally began in my garden due to its lack of sunlight. Heuchera, pulmonaria, brunnera, and later, podophyllum, loved the site and procreated naturally, providing a nucleus of breeding stock that lives on in the genetics of today’s Terra Nova plant offerings.

Pulmonaria are loved for the silvery splash they can bring to a shady location. They were a mess 40 years ago, with so many mildewed forms! Careful selection from thousands of seedlings yielded the mildew-resistant strains on the market today. Brunnera were boring; great plants, as they tolerate just about any soil, light and temperature with scads of forget-me-not flowers, but they had just a few silver spots. Thanks to Belorussian plantsman Alexander Zukeivich and Terra Nova’s breeders, Brunnera ‘Alexandria’ has come to the fore with thick, highly silvered, large leaves. Begonia and podophyllum stun garden-viewers in the deepest shade, and heuchera offers another world of texture and color to a shady garden.

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Begonia T REX ‘Ruby Slippers’

A houseplant that can be used as a summer annual, Begonia T REX ‘Ruby Slippers’ is one of the most fantastic begonias Terra Nova’s breeders have ever seen! Huge, deep-ruby red leaves are super glossy with a saucy black stripe on the mid rib. This is an excellent plant for a cooler climate, but it performs just as well with heat. Begonia T REX ‘Ruby Slippers’ was elected as 'Best Novelty' in the 2019 Annual Trial at Colorado State University (CSU) based on its vigor, uniformity, floriferousness, and tolerance to environmental and biotic stresses. This gem gets to 16” tall and wide in the first year, and the plant does not tolerate full-sun exposure. Begonia T REX ‘Ruby Slippers’ produces pink flowers in June for a long period.

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/begonia-t-rex-ruby-slippers/

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Brunnera ‘Alexandria’

Brunnera 'Alexander's Great' has finally met its match! Brunnera 'Alexandria' is the perfect companion to our favorite Siberian Brunnera. This variety features brilliant, mirror-silver leaves with the classic 'Alexander's Great' size and vigor. Used in containers or as a specimen in the shade border, Brunnera ‘Alexandria’ nearly illuminates a dark spot. In the first year, you can expect a 14” tall plant with an eventual spread to 30”. In April to May, this variety blooms clouds of tiny sky-blue flowers that float above the foliage as it emerges. Happy in the USDA Hardiness Zones of 4-9, this is a truly refreshing garden addition with early flowers for the pollinators. Thankfully, this bugloss is resistant to deer and rabbits.

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/brunnera-alexandria/

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Heuchera 'Midnight Rose'

This award-winning plant has shiny, pink-spotted black leaves and a vigorous rounded habit. Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’ is a sport of Heuchera 'Obsidian' that was discovered at Behnke Nursery in Maryland. Hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9, this medium-sized alum root will get 10” tall (24” in bloom) and spread to 16” wide. The variegated-splashed leaves enlarge and brighten before the spots lighten to cream as the season progresses. Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’ is bold, black and beautiful for partial shade to sunny locations. Its flowers are typical of first generation heuchera; not so showy, but with plenty of pollen for the smaller pollinators. This plant does well… everywhere!

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/heuchera-midnight-rose/

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Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’

Few plants offered by Terra Nova Nurseries evoke such an “OMG!” response as this stoic woodlander from China. This brilliant hybrid of several Asian Mayapples boasts large, vigorous, lobed umbrella-like leaves. The plant’s new leaves are chartreuse with dramatic chocolate-brown spotting and they will eventually grow to 18” tall. Large, garnet-red flowers are found under the leaves in clusters of five or more from April to August. All podophyllum prefer shade and cool, moist, organic soils, where they can spread to 24” wide. These plants can tolerate some morning sun and protect from hard frosts in spring. If temperatures go into the low 20s, some sheets of Remay™ can keep the cold at bay. 

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/podophyllum-spotty-dotty/

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Pulmonaria 'Raspberry Splash'

This sun- or shade-tolerant hybrid can feature very profuse flowering from April to May. Dusky raspberry-coral flowers arrive in early spring to herald the strongly silver-marked, sharply pointed, very upright foliage. Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ is from P. longifolia breeding, and it has a bigger habit than many, with spear-like spotted leaves. This plant is great in mass on sunny banks with partial shade, where it will get 13” high and spread to a 25” clump. This variety can tolerate quite cold temperatures and is rated as hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones of 4-9. Other pulmonaria with P. longifolia breeding, like ‘Trevi Fountain’ or ‘Raspberry Splash’, are more tolerant of summer heat and humidity than others.

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/pulmonaria-raspberry-splash/

Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He was recently honored by The American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit, and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding. You may contact Dan at [email protected]


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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By Kelsey Minalga, Ball Ingenuity
Photographs courtesy of Ball Ingenuity

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