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Plants that have it made in the shade


January is when one of the biggest gardening industry get-togethers for Ohio is held in Columbus.

The Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association’s CENTS show is a great trade show for people in the industry to meet with vendors, rekindle relationships and place any final order for the season. It’s held in conjunction with one of the best educational programs for the green industry, the Ohio State University Nursery Short Course.

The program is filled with educational sessions for the green industry in order to increase knowledge and help with profitability. We all benefit when our industry pays attention to the latest trends in plants, planting methods, pest management techniques and more.

I attend one session on shade perennials, which was really useful to me, as I don’t have a lot of shade in which to plant. I have a small area of trees that I want to develop this coming year, and the presentation by Dr. Chris Hansen of Great Garden Plants gave me some great ideas that I’ll share with you.

One of the most underused plants for the shade is Corydalis. The species of this plant thrives in any type of shade that is well-drained. If you don’t have well-drained soil and shade, the plant won’t be long-lived. It is hardy to our area and shows good deer resistance.

Corydalis gets around 1 1/2 foot tall and about as wide and has great fernlike foliage. It has yellowish cream-colored tubular flowers that start in early summer and last for most of the season.

One of the cultivars that Chris shared as a top performer is ‘Berry Exciting,’ with its chartreuse foliage and bluish flowers. Another one is ‘Purple,’ with large purplish flowers.

One of the plants that he mentioned that is great for shade has also done quite well in our full sun garden is Thalictrum ‘Black Stockings’. I love this plant for both its tough but frilly, soft foliage and the beautiful feathery purple flowers that smell like grape soda.

It can get up to around 4 feet tall when in bloom in the summer, but once it finishes blooming, cut the flower stalks back and the foliage looks great. In the fall, it has a good yellow color.

Chris also talked about some combinations of shade perennials that work great in containers. You have probably noticed the explosion in the different varieties of coral bells recently.

Because there are such great colors on bold plants, we can use them to mix with other perennials to create a different kind of container.

One of his great combinations was Heucheras ‘Amethyst Mist’, ‘Lime Marmalade’ and ‘Southern Comfort’ together with Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’ in one container.

With containers of perennials, if you don’t want to bother trying to overwinter them, take them out and place in your flower beds. Then you can experiment with new ones next season.


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