A Winning Combination for Shade
Cornus kousa—Korean Dogwood, cv. Wolf Eyes
This is a terrific small variegated Dogwood that makes a perfect focal point in a shady garden. The variegation holds up well and doesn’t burn or darken. The white edges actually turn pinkish in the fall, giving the whole tree a lovely glow. The flowers are numerous, but small and creamy. They last a long time, but are not as noticeable as some of the recent hybrids. This is a tree to grow for its variegated leaves, which really light up a dark corner.
Asarum europaeum—European Ginger
If you are looking for an elegant, well behaved, low evergreen groundcover for full shade, this is a good one to try. It grows 4-6” tall with glossy dark green leaves, and spreads very slowly from rhizomes. It likes moist soils high in organic matter, but once established it can withstand dry conditions. In early spring it has a globular brownish flower that hangs down underneath the leaves, but you have to get down on your hands and knees to see it. This is a great plant to place at the feet of rhododendrons and azaleas, or any shrubs in the woodland garden.
Astilbe chinensis—Chinese Astilbe
I have grown the original A. chinensis cv. ‘Visions’ (a strong dark pink with upright flower stalks) for many years and give it highest marks. It seems sturdier than most of the A. arendsii hybrids on the market. Mine is sited in moist, organic soils in part shade. If it gets too much sun or dries out, the edges will burn, like most astilbes. My clumps have been growing gradually larger over the years. I divided some and moved them to the edge of a woodland garden, where they make a dramatic focal point when they’re in bloom. The very attractive foliage starts out with a bronze tint in the spring, and then turns greener in the summer. I look forward to trying the pale pink and white versions of this outstanding plant.