Some terrific “shady” plants will return every year

Marianne Binetti will be making the following appearances:

  • Tuesday, April 21, 2009 1:12pm
  • Life

The Compleat

Home Gardner

Marianne Binetti will be making the following appearances:

• 10 a.m., Saturday, Kent Sustainable Living Fair, “Green Roofs, Rain Gardens and Living Walls” at the Kentwood Performing Arts Center.

• Noon, Saturday, Spring Garden Fair, Redmond City Hall, “Contain Yourself.” Practical ways to grow almost anything in pots. Book signing to follow.

• 1 p.m., Sunday, Nisqually Valley Home and Garden Show, “Fresh Ideas for Gardeners”

• 7 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, “Hot Plants for Dry Spots,” gardening with less water. Green River Community College Enumclaw campus. Register by phoning 253-288-3400

• 7 p.m., April 29, Natural Yard Care. Free seminar at a location to be announced.

The end of April is a great time to add the best new perennials to your garden. Perennials are plants that come back year after year and many of the new offerings have not just flowers but beautiful foliage as well. Lazy or laid back gardeners should remember that flowers may be fleeting but foliage lasts forever.

Here are my favorite perennials for shade:

Hosta: I like to call handsome hosta the “Prince of Darkness” because these shade-loving perennials adapt like gentlemen to different soils, can handle some sun and deep shade without complaining and never have a drinking problem, although they do need water. Hostas that get plenty of water will reward you with huge and beautiful leaves. Chose hosta plants with white or gold in the foliage to light up your dark corners.

Garden gossip: hostas attract slimy creatures, so protect from slugs.

Pulmonaria or Lungwort: ugly name for a beautiful plant that blooms early with pink fading to blue flowers and boasts lovely spotted leaves that are shaped like the lobe of a lung. (This explains the ugly name.) Plant with daffodils and other woodland flowers under trees and large shrubs. Pulmonaria are slug and deer resistant because the foliage is a bit hairy.

Garden gossip: does not age with dignity. Once summer arrives the foliage becomes rather skanky and the whole plant lets herself go. Prune everything ugly right to ground level around June and you’ll see fresh new growth and an encore appearance late in the summer.

Heuchera: here’s a hard worker that also looks great. Star-like lobed leaves that come in rainbow shades of purple, green, spotted and striped, the heucheras are related to our native woodland coral bells so they love our acid soil and light to deep shade. Some heucheras can take full sun, some love more shade so buy several varieties and test them out. These are great foliage plants for containers or as groundcovers under trees and shrubs.

Garden gossip: don’t plant these perennials too deep or they’ll rot. Keep mulch away from their skinny necks. If your heuchera from last year are looking like giraffes with lanky, bare stems just cut off the top growth and place the cut end back into the moist soil. New plants root easily. Divide up crowded heuchera clumps now and celebrate a crop of new plants.

Brunnera: talk about your well-behaved plant. Brunnera is beautiful, it blooms and is slug, drought and deer resistant. The variety called “Jack Frost” has silvery white leaves with delicate green etchings that grab the spotlight in any shady spot. Then to keep things interesting, in spring wands of baby blue blooms that look like forget-me-nots rise above the tidy mounded leaves for long-lasting color. This woodland plant loves organic matter and light shade and I grow it under the skirts of mature rhododendrons.

Garden gossip: no bad habits to gossip about here. Brunnera plants may be more expensive than other perennials as this is still a new introduction but they are worth the price. If you want more plants (and once you meet this perennial you will) the time to divide brunnera is in the fall.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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