August 15, 2011

GBBD: It’s not easy being green

Shade gardens are cool and comfortable hideaways during the heat of the summer. But they can be challenging in many ways. One of the most frustrating challenges for me is finding colorful perennials that bloom from late July through August.

No problem adding color on the sunny west side of the house:

Zinnia elegans and Rudbeckia hirta

But the perennial shade garden is green, green, and more green:

I’m not really complaining, but I’d like just a little more color. The garden has plenty of vibrant hues from late April through mid-July. But then everything goes green.

I just can’t seem to get Foxgloves going—I imagine they would be beautiful in waving swaths of color. Maybe I’ll try again next year. My Astilbes died off. I added another Astilbe this year, but it didn’t flower much. Again, there’s always next year. The purple Hosta flowers were lovely as always. But they’re done for this season.

So, I can spend all my time on the sunny side of the house, or plopped next to the potted annuals. Or I can look closer and appreciate the green—in blooms, former blooms, seeds, and berries.

Spiraea blooms were bright pink at their peak. But the seed heads are just as fascinating—even though they’re green.

Spiraea japonica

Sedum was a more dramatic bright yellow in full bloom, but it still holds a touch of chartreuse in its star flower/seed capsules.

Sedum kamtschaticum

Hydrangea was a pretty blush pink just a few weeks ago. Although I think the paper-white/greenish hue is just as fascinating, again it’s—green.

Hydrangea macrophylla

Jack-in-the-Pulpit’s berries are bright and shiny, and soon will be bright red. But now they’re bright…green.

Arisaema triphyllum

Lamium’s showing a bit of pinkish purple—surrounded by plentiful shades of green.

Lamium maculatum

I don’t have long to wait for color, though. Summer is waxing and waning now, and pigment is showing in Maple leaves, Sumac, Burning Bush, and many others. But before the autumn color takes over, I have one more beauty to look forward to. In a couple of days, the Lycoris will transform from buds on a stick:

Lycoris squamigera

To the stars of the late summer stage:

(Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.)


  1. I get sick of all the green here. So many ferns, palms and green-leaved shrubs! People think it looks so lush, but to me it can be rather boring. Of course I don't have the luxury of all the green changing colour in the autumn. It's just green all year round. I'll have to try and appreciate it more.

    I can't really recommend plants as your climate and conditions are so different. What about Heucheras? I've seen photos of those in the most fabulous colours.

  2. I love colour in my garden too. Your greens look fresh and healthy. How about some variegated and coloured foliage plants in the shade garden?

  3. It is frustrating when plants fade. If it is part sun and not full shade, I can push the envelope with Susans, ligularia. Toadlily and chelone also bloom in the fall shade garden

  4. I have a lot of green right now in my shady areas, too. Have you thought of adding impatiens? They like a bit of filtered shade and bloom all summer. I think all your green is pretty!

  5. @Bernie: Heucheras are great. I need to find some taller ones, though, because the ones I've planted in the past seemed to get overgrown by surrounding ground covers.

    @Autumn Belle: Yes, I think that is the route I'm going to have to take. Or maybe plant a few annuals among the perennials. Or colorful, tall perennials. So many options!

    @Donna: Toad Lily worked for a couple of years--I should try it again. And I do have Ligularia, but they have faded now, too. I think it might be to shady for black-eyed Susans. But I will check out Chelone. Thanks! The fall seems to have enough color, it's just this bit of summer that is boring.

    @TS: Thanks! Yeah, I have lots of Impatiens in pots. I've been trying to stick with perennials in the main formal garden out back. But I might add some kind of planter with annuals to keep the color going all summer.

  6. There is a lot of beauty in your shade garden, and green has so many hues that it can be interesting on its own.

  7. love your blooms especially the charteuse hydrangea. beautiful!

    tip: for color in your shade garden, try growing variegated plants. coleus also has interesting colors and patterns.

    happy GBBD!


  8. I can see how that would be frustrating...but agree with the commenter on the Heucheras...and many some of the dark-leaved Ligularias...or many even some Rodgersia (though they need a lot of water).

  9. well, I love green plants as I love
    those beautiful colorful flowers. It's good if I have both.

    Great shots! Thanks for sharing.

    Cassy from Beginner Free Guitar Lessons

  10. @Masha: Yes, I agree. Sometimes I just have to be patient and appreciate all the stages--colorful and monochrome.

    @Angel: Thank you! Yes, I love Coleus, and I have lots of them in pots on my porch. I've been trying to keep the main garden bed perennials only, but I might have to break down and add a planter with annuals.

    @Scott: I'll try again Heucheras because I love them! I need to find a taller variety, though.

    @Cassy: Thanks! I agree--it's great to have a mix. And to have patience. :)

  11. We always yearn for what we can't have...y'know, the grass is greener on the other side, haha. I yearn for more colour too, Donna.
    I see what you mean when the berry is also green.Pretty glossy green, though!

  12. If its not total shade then Japanese anenomes should bloom, as should some Phlox, and if you have room, Lysimachia cletheroides has beautiful white plumes and flowers for ages, and then the leaves go a deep vivid orange... On the other hand, maybe you should just enjoy having a cool shady place to escape from the sun to?

  13. Although I love color, too, like your bright zinnias, I appreciate the coolness of green during the heat of summer. All your green looks like the perfect shady retreat. I've never had much luck with foxgloves or astilbes either; I wish I knew the trick to keep them alive.