Are you looking for a glorious new shade perennial option? This hardy geranium is nosing out of the ground now (above photo of foliage taken yesterday), already showing off its fanciful foliage in lush green with burgundy splash. Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’ prefers shade to part shade with a clumping, bushy habit. The nodding blooms in sultry deep maroon, to match the splotched foliage, are clustered atop erect stems in late spring. Those brooding, dark blooms give this perennial its common names of mourning widow, black window or dusky cranesbill. It does like to self-seed, but the seedlings are easy to transplant or pot up to give away.
Technical stuff – Mourning widow/Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’, hardy perennial to zone 5, height and spread of about 24”, part shade to shade, prefers moist soil, blooms late spring.
These lovelies are now stirring in the ground, and I watch dutifully as they can go quickly from ‘not much of anything’ to upright clusters of enchanting pink and purple blooms. Pulmonaria (commonly called many names – lungwort, Bethlehem or Jerusalem sage, or spotted dog) is refuted for its dashing foliage. Stiff, hairy leaves can range from lime to olive green with silver spots or splotches or sheen, depending on the species. This perennial offers a striking mix with hosta, coral bells, hellebore and other shade/part shade champions. And though they are not long bloomers, when the dainty bells in varying shades of pink, mauve or white are twinkling atop the rich foliage, it is a spritely addition to the spring show.
Technical stuff – Lungwort/Pulmonaria, hardy perennial to zone 4, height of 8”-18” and spread of 12”-24”, part shade to shade, prefers well drained, moist soil, blooms early to mid-spring, slug resistant.
The enchanting and elegant blooms of hellebore are a highly anticipated part of early spring. To see those nodding, fairy blooms when the snow is still melting lifts your heart. Helleborus is commonly called hellebore, latent rose, Christmas rose or winter rose. This shade lover craves a woodland setting and blooms in an abundance of colours including shades of white, cream, yellow, green, pink, purple and red. The cupped blooms may be solid, blushed, or bedazzled with speckles, stripes or tints. Several of the long lasting blooms age from one colour to another. Hellebores have become popular in the last few years with tempting new offerings. My favourite addition to my garden last year was ‘Red Racer’ – a saturated scarlet red bloomer. The handsome evergreen foliage is glossy deep green, mixing wonderfully with hostas, coral bells, brunnera and other shade charmers. This is a perennial I could not do without in my garden!
See hellebore buds by clicking here.
Technical stuff – Hellebore/Helleborus, hardy perennial most to zone 5, most with height and spread of 12”-18”, full to part shade, blooms early spring.
Looking to add some sparkle to your shade garden? Foamflower (Tiarella) grows contentedly in part to full shade, with the perk of twinkling flowers in late spring. The blooms start as spikes of pearly baubles that open to a shimmering cloud of delicate starry white. Even better is the mounding foliage of lobed leaves with dramatic burgundy veins – a satisfying colour combination with various purple shaded coral bells (Heuchera). Foamflower has been crossed with coral bells to create foamy bells (Heucherella), which is also an enchanting option for shade. Being a woodland native, foamflower thrives in rich moist soil, but has adapted to drier conditions in my garden. Though it spreads by runners, it is not aggressive, so easy to snip back if you’d rather. This is also a useful perennial for hiding browning bulb foliage.
Technical stuff – Foamflower/Tiarella, hardy perennial to zone 3-5 depending on cultivar, height of 6-12”, spread of 12-24”, part to full shade, blooms late spring, most popular Tiarella cordifolia.
An unfortunate name for a friendly, sweet perennial, but don’t let it deter you. Bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum) has enchanting pale blooms resembling snapdragons or orchids. The cultivar ‘Royal Velvet Distinction’, has white puffs with a pinkish mauve splotch on the bottom skirt. The bloom is reminiscent of a hooded angel with white wings and a fancy violet patterned dress. The foliage is bushy vivid green with opposing veined leaves on robust hairy stems. Bastard balm is a wildflower in the UK, but an unusual find in nurseries here. A common request is for a plant that is happy in an average soil and part shade siting, with blooms as a bonus - bastard balm fits this request.
Technical stuff – Bastard balm/ Melittis melissophyllum, hardy perennial to zone 5, height and spread of 12”-18”, prefers moist but thrives in most soils, full to part sun, blooms late spring into summer, comes in white, pale pink or white with pink/mauve markings.