Throughout the garden, and especially along its outer perimeter, mature trees cast pockets of the Chen and Linda's magnificent garden called 'Garden Canadensis' into shade and part shade.
What I think will surprise and delight you is just how vibrant shady areas in a garden can be.
Here then are some of the many wonderful plant parings from Garden Canadensis for shade/part shade, with a brief explanation of why each combination works, as well as a bit of information on a key perennial in each grouping.
Plant combination: Dicentra 'Stuart Boothman' and Hosta 'Dancing in the Rain'
What's nice about this mix is the combination of fern-like foliage and the large, broad leaves of the hosta.
"I like all Dicentras, the fern-like leaves and the dainty flowers, and would like to have all varieties if I can, eventually. Ideally, I try to plant them in the shade of some trees with enough sunlight for decent blooms, but not so much that their leaves deteriorate too quickly into summer."
Dicentra 'Stuart Boothman' which is pictured above and has pale pink flowers and greyish foliage.
Dicentra 'Aurora' A good reliable creamy white dwarf Dicentra.
Dicenta 'Bleeding Hearts' Chen writes, "This is probably the most showy Dicentra, although it is not vigorous in my garden. I have lost 2 trials mostly because of vole problems."
Plant Combination: Brunnera 'Jack Frost' (left) with Heuchera 'Silver Scroll' (in the foreground) and Hosta 'Fire and Ice' (in the upper right).
What's nice about this combination: Both the Brunnera and the Heuchera have silver foliage, but they couldn't be more different or more complimentary. The cream of the hosta's foliage adds that all important element of contrast.
Plant Combination: On the right is Pulmonaria longifolia 'Diana Clare' and to the bottom left is a deciduous rhododendron: Rhododendron schlippenbach which the "rabbits like to chew on". Above them is a hosta with a lots of cream trough the centre of its dark green foliage.
What's nice about this combination: I would particularly like to draw to your attention to the silvered-grey-green Pulmonaria. Chen notes that:
"The quiet beauty of Pulmonarias is indispensable for the shady parts of my garden. The flowers may be early and brief, but their foliage is highly ornamental from early spring into late fall. In mid-summer they typically go through a decline, but this can easily be taken care of by removing their foliage. New foliage will emerge, and be ready, as the weather is cooling off.
They appear to self-sow readily (but not wildly) in my garden. This presents a problem for keeping the named cultivars intact after a few years. I suspect that many Pulmonarias on the market are just derivative seedlings of some kind. For the same reason, many name cultivars are not that distinct from each other."
Just a few of Chen's Pulmonarias that caught my eye are :
Pulmonaria 'Diane Clare' shown above has pale blue flowers:"Its foliage is highly ornamental for the whole season. It is a very vigorous Pulmonaria."
Pulmonaria 'Opal' which has white flowers. Chen describes this variety as a "must have".
Pulmonaria 'Raspberry Splash' which is a vigourous plant with showy red flowers and is "one of the best Pulmonarias".
Plant Combination: Chen tells me that the neat green mound at the front of this planting is Buxus microphylla 'Kingsville'. It is "probably the most dwarf form of boxwood, and is popular to use in bonsai."
The large golden Heuchera in the centre of the picture is Heuchera 'Carmel'. In front of 'Carmel' is what Chen describes as a"very weak, but pretty" Heuchera 'Autumn Leaves' (with reddish foliage).
In the lower left corner is Heuchera 'Christa'. Behind 'Caramel' and to the right with the purplish-green foliage is Heuchera 'Petite Pearl Fairy'. Peaking out from behind it is the green foliage of Heuchera 'Silver Scroll'.
What is interesting about this planting is how multi-colored it is despite the shade conditions and minimal flowers.
Planting Combination: On the top left is Hosta 'Sagae'. Below it is lime colored Hosta ' Blaze of Glory'.
With tiny white flowers in the centre is Corydallis ochroleuca. Peaking out from the lower right is Heuchera 'Delta Dawn'. Bending over the whole group is a Japanese Maple Acer palmatum 'Peaches and Cream'.
It may be primarily one color: green, but what makes this combination work is contrast. There are the cut leaves of the Japanese maple, the large leaves of the hosta and the small, dainty fern-like leaves of the Corydallis ochroleuca. Each green is distinct and mixed together they are actually quite colorful.
An excerpt from Chen's notes on Corydallis:
"This is a delicate and elegant class of perennials like their relative, Dicentra. The blue flowered varieties are particularly precious, but they are not the easiest to grow here. I like Corydallis enough that I tolerate some of them that tend to self-sow wildly, bordering on weedy. Fortunately, they are relatively easy to weed...
Corydallis ochroleuca is an important filler plant for me; both for the foliage and the flowers...."
Another beautiful Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum 'Shigitasu sawa' which Chen
says is one of his favourite maples.
When I was going through my pictures, I came across this planting and was surprised to see hostas and conifers grouped together. I had always thought that most conifers needed sun. So I asked Chen about it.
"I would estimate that this part of the bed is at least in 50% shade, if not more. Those conifers are not afraid of shade at all, especially the Alberta Spruce (I have some in very dense shade). The blue conifer in the front and the bright green conifer behind it are the common Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard' and Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Gracilis' respectively. They can take full sun to a fair amount of shade.", Chen tells me.
What's nice about this combination: I love the way Chen has echoed the bluish-green color of the Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard' with the frosty, blue-green Hosta 'Regal Splendor'. The lime colored hosta in foreground is Hosta 'Silk Kimono'.
The maroon foliage of the Japanese Maple makes a perfect counterpoint to all the cool greens.
I am embarrassed to admit that I used to think hostas were kind of boring! In truth, I just hadn't seen anyone use them quite so imaginatively.
Plant combination: Hosta 'Sum and Substance' (upper right) and Hosta 'Smooth Sailing' (in the foreground) light up in contrast with the deep, dark plum leaves of Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford'. Not only is this color combination sublime, this mix of perennials offers an interesting variety of leaf shapes and sizes as well.
Chen speaks highly of the contribution hostas make to any garden, particularly a northern one:
"I would think hosta is an essential perennial for the northern garden...They add an element of large leaf texture that is not prevalent in northern vegetation (in comparison with tropical environments).
Depending on the variety, hosta can take full sun to full shade, and are hardy and (practically) maintenance free (except for the HVX virus). Unfortunately, it is often relatively expensive for a fair sized specimen, and takes years to develop into a nice size clump...Although I am not a Hosta addict by any means, I do like to acquire a few each year since they are so useful, elegant and take care of themselves."
Here is another combination that includes conifers in shade conditions. Chen tells me that this area, "... only sees sunlight very early in the morning, and for a very short time at noon, when the sun passes between the large conifer, and the cover of a forty plus year old crabapple tree. I would estimate that this part of the garden has 60% shade or more."
Plant combination: The light green conifer in the back is Juniperus rigida. As well as several hosta, there is a Japanese maple on the left: Acer shirasawanum 'Jordan' and the lime colored maple on the right: Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'. In the foreground with tall red flower spikes is Rheum palmatum 'Atrosanguineum'.
Why this combination works: Each and every plant contributes something new and appealing to the grouping. Every green is distinct and the deep maroon of the maple adds a nice punch of warm color. The mixture of scale and texture makes an area that is largely green anything, but boring.
A few more examples from Chen's hosta collection. On the left is Hosta 'Gypsy Rose' and on the lower right is Hosta 'Orange Marmalade'. The lime colored hosta behind it is Hosta 'Ogon Amagi'.
In the foreground of the righthand picture you can see a very unique hosta cultivar that has upright foliage. In the picture on the right you can see Chen's photograph of it in flower. This is Hosta 'Praying Hands'.
This paring is quite stunning don't you think?
Plant Combination: The vivid chartreuse of Hosta 'Sun Power' practically glows in contrast with the deep maroon of the Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum 'Tamuke yama'.
Up next will be perennials and plant combinations from 'Garden Canadensis' for sun.