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Shade gardens most often are placed in a wooded setting where ornamental plants are subject to varying degrees of moisture, but also root competition. The tree in your yard did not get as large as it is now without competing against other plants. Deeply rooted oaks can accommodate quite a number of woodland garden plants planted below, but with shallow fibrous roots, maples are notorious nutrient and water “hogs.”Ferns are a wonderful addition to a shade garden. Their dense, fibrous roots will co-mingle with most tree roots and still be able to thrive. Take cues from nature when it comes to choosing ferns. Look around in the woodland areas where you reside to see what plants naturally adapt to the growing conditions of your soil and site. Many ferns prefer a damp woodland environment, but some will also tolerate a drier site.
Ferns are a wonderful addition to a shade garden. Their dense, fibrous roots will co-mingle with most tree roots and still be able to thrive. Take cues from nature when it comes to choosing ferns. Look around in the woodland areas where you reside to see what plants naturally adapt to the growing conditions of your soil and site. Many ferns prefer a damp woodland environment, but some will also tolerate a drier site.The delicate and graceful maidenhair fern (Adiantum) will tolerate the densest of shade, but it prefers more moisture than ‘Autumn Brilliance’ wood fern (Dryopteris). With hues of burgundy and jade, the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium) can certainly light up a dark landscape and when the garden gets dry, this fern just goes dormant. Late-summer rains bring it back to life, making it a very adaptabAnother great plant group for dry shade is the foam flower or Tiarella. This group sports a dazzling, frothy display of blooms in early spring followed by interesting foliage that can be multi-colored. Tiarella ‘Jade Peacock’ has a tidy, clumping habit comprised of jade green leaves featuring deep purple centers. Other foamflowers such as Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’ and Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ have the added benefit of being lightly scented. (Source:le plant. (Source:
A Michigan native, wild Ginger (Asarum) also provides bold texture in a shaded site. This moisture lover has plate-sized, round, green leaves that form a colony in a dense mass. A low maintenance plant, it is great for erosion control in a shady, moist site too. While the flowers are not seen by us, a quick investigation right at soil level reveals a bloom resembling a little, brown “jug” that will entice a ground beetle into a pollination service. European Gingers are also bold textured, but have shiny leaves that are very striking.For more information on plants that are known to tolerate garden conditions that many of us struggle with in our home landscape, see the following articles from this series.Debra LaGattuta is a gardening expert with three decades of experience in perennial and flowering plants, container gardening, and raised bed vegetable gardening. She is a Master Gardener and lead gardener in a Plant-A-Row, which is a program that offers thousands of pounds of organically-grown vegetables to local food banks. Debra is a member of The Spruce Gardening and Plant Care Review Board. (Source: www.thespruce.com)