Keeping It Green
Our climate and soils allow trees to grow bigger and faster than in most other parts of the state. Shade can be a mixed blessing in the landscape, however, as many plants that are sun-loving struggle, stretching for more light to meet their photosynthetic needs.
I want to introduce you to some shady characters for those empty, shady spots of your garden. Several weeks ago I wrote about Helleborus or Lenten and Christmas Rose, which are easy-to-grow, evergreen perennials that bloom in the dead of winter. I have several that are blooming now, including a couple of newer Christmas Rose introductions named “HGC Josef Lemper” with pure white, upward facing blooms, and “HGC Cinnamon Snow” with an abundance of off-white blooms with a touch of cinnamon coloring.
Hellebore blooms slowly fade in the spring, but remain attractive for several months, often throwing seed and producing many offspring to slowly fill in those shaded spots where little else will grow.
Another plant that will grow right along with Lenten or Christmas Roses is Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum). In particular, the Variegated Solomon’s Seal (P. odoratum Variegatum or Striped Solomon’s Seal) is a favorite perennial of many shade gardeners. Shoots emerge from the ground in spring, bearing green leaves rimmed in white, progressing ladder, like up an 18-inch to 24-inch stem.
In about May, small, bell-shaped white flowers daintily hang from the base of every leaf, lasting for a few weeks. The flowers are sweetly fragrant, hence another common name for this plant — Fragrant Solomon’s Seal. In the fall, the leaves turn an attractive yellow before the plant goes dormant for the winter. If your patch is large enough, you might use the foliage for their unique architecture in flower arrangements.
The Perennial Plant Association recently named Variegated Solomon’s Seal as the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2013, which testifies to its good looks and hardiness. The criteria to be selected for this designation includes suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions, low-maintenance requirements, relative pest and disease resistance, ready availability in the year of promotion and multiple seasons of ornamental interest.
Variegated Solomon’s Seal grows in average soil as long as it is not droughty, and does best in soils that remain evenly moist. Partial to full shade light conditions are ideal for this attractive perennial.