Shade plants

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(HOST) Most plants require lots of sun, but commentator Charlie Nardozzi says that there are quite a few that do just fine in the shade.

(NARDOZZI) Like our children, gardens keep changing from year to year. Just when you think you’ve got the sun, water and plant selection figured out, something happens to alter the mix. One these factors is shade. Shade is something that creeps up on a sunny garden. How often have you noticed that a perennial border that once was in full sun all season long now gets only part sun due to a tree or a new building?

Instead of breaking out the chainsaw to clear the forest, try working with the shade to provide beauty, color and interest all summer long. The first area to tackle is right under the tree. If you have a large evergreen such as pine or hemlock that cast heavy shade, mulch the trees and be done with it. Trying to grow any plants, including grass, under there is a losing battle.

If you have a large deciduous tree such as maple, ash or oak, there are some alternatives. If the branch structure is high and the ground under the tree receives dappled light, try tucking in some ground- covers such as sedum, lamium and sweet woodruff. Plant these in areas between the roots where there’s ample soil. Even though the tree will suck most of the moisture from the soil, these groundcovers are tough enough to survive amongst the roots.

You can even slip in some spring flowering bulbs such as scilla and snowdrops to add early season color. However, don’t bring in new soil to cover the roots. The roots will suffocate and the tree will decline. Make a clear line where the lawn begins and the groundcovers end and install edging so your groundcover doesn’t become the next weed to invade your lawn.

For a shady nook area around the house, there are many shade-loving plants that feature beautiful flowers and interesting foliage. While most gardeners know about growing astilbe and hosta in the shade, here are some others to try. Ferns are a standard shade garden plant. There are hundreds of types to choose from, but the Japanese painted fern featuring silvery foliage is one of my favorites. If you like fiddle- heads, try growing the taller, more statuesque ostrich fern.

Heuchera, or coral bells, are trendy. There are many new varieties on the market that feature, not only bright, airy flowers that float above the leaves, but also unusually colored foliage ranging from silvery white to burgundy brown. For annual plants, try coleus. Depending on the variety, the leaf size is tiny to huge, and the color ranges from yellow to pink to red. Caladiums are also a popular shade plant, even in the north. Although not hardy here, they make a great annual groundcover. Like coleus, their showy, colorful leaves can brighten a dark corner.

So whatever shade conditions nature throws at you, work with the environment instead of against it. You and your yard will be much happier.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.

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