By Jodi Torpey
Take a quick look around any forest in the Mountain region and it’s easy to see plants growing in dry, shady areas. So why is it so difficult to get the same results at home?
Planting in shade doesn’t have to be a challenge. Instead of shying away from planting in the shade of shrubs, under towering trees, or along the north side of the house, embrace it. Just look for plants that like well-drained soil and can grow with three hours of sun in either the morning or afternoon.
Professional landscape designers make the most of low-light areas by layering combinations of plants in contrasting colors, heights, and shapes. One example of adding different textures to your garden is to plant the long, thin, shimmery leaves of Silver Blade evening primrose (Oenothera macropcarpa), with the short, spiky foliage of Blue Spruce stonecrop (Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’).
Silver Blade blooms in late spring with simple yellow flowers. This evening primrose is one of the many lovely and hardy plants of Plant Select, the cooperative plant introduction program of the Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University, and the landscape and nursery industry.
A plant that provides its own contrast is spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum). ‘White Nancy’ is an especially nice choice because this groundcover features bright-white flowers and green and white foliage.
Gardeners may be surprised to find that beneath its delicate exterior, yellow columbine is a tough plant. ‘Denver Gold’ columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Denver Gold’) is another Plant Select introduction that can grow in one of the toughest garden spots imaginable: under dense pine trees.
Plant ‘Denver Gold’ among other dry shade perennials in groups of three, or simply fill a garden full of these gorgeous blooms.
Sandia coral-bells (Heuchera pulchella) is a new plant introduced by the Plant Select Petites program. This pint-size plant is similar to larger coral-bells, but it’s perfect for rock gardens, containers, and troughs. In late spring spikes of small, pink bells float above the tidy foliage. The flowers attract hummingbirds and bees, but the best thing about this little plant is how it tolerates dry shade.
Do you have a favorite plant in your dry shade garden?
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