Assuming the quote, “Happiness is not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have,” is true, what I have is shade and I better get on with making the best of it. It really does me no good to pine for showy, brightly-hued flowers, does it? By and large, my lot is foliage. And the trick to adding interest and variety to my shady space is foliage plants with color and texture. Though I’m still adapting to this method of gardening, I have two grand champions, both ferns.
The first is ‘Ghost’, a cross between our lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’), a stunner with gray-green foliage and an upright form that combines the vigor of the native with the beauty of its Asian cousin. This fern mixes well with nearly any plant and is especially useful in dark corners that need a bit of sparkle. It even looks good under the bird feeders, where it tolerates marauding pigeons and chipmunks. There, it rubs elbows with hosta ‘Warwick Comet’, an eye-popper with cupped and corrugated round leaves featuring a shiny gloss and stunning variegation.
I’m equally enthusiastic about autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora), not only for the bold copper tint that graces new foliage, but also because it tolerates drier soil than most of its kin. In my garden, I’ve used this to advantage by planting it under moisture-greedy hardwood trees and as a groundcover at the base of a Japanese maple.
Under the maple, the autumn fern’s glossy fronds stand out against dark blades of mondo grass, which is used as a lawn substitute to soften the expanse of asphalt driveway that dominates the front garden.
To see more plants with exceptional foliage, including those that bask in sunshine, follow Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day, which is sponsored by Christina at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides. Just click the link!