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Brighten up your shady landscape

This beautiful hosta named Paradigm is notable for the bright green markings on the foliage that help it stand out in a shady landscape.
This beautiful hosta named Paradigm is notable for the bright green markings on the foliage that help it stand out in a shady landscape. Observer file photo

With the trees in full leaf, shade is the dominant characteristic of many landscapes throughout the Piedmont. Adding color to this newly green vista is not a huge challenge and can be fun to do this spring. You can do it with such popular annuals as begonias, flowering tobacco and impatiens, and with shrubs such as hydrangeas.

And you can also do it with more green.

This is because not all greens are the same. Green includes bright greens and the palest green that is almost white, as well as chartreuse, lemon and lime, which perform great service in lightening up a landscape.

They do this with their own natural color, as it contrasts with the darker greens. And they also achieve it by catching and reflecting golden sunbeams that filter through the tree canopy. That is a sight that makes any summer evening worth staying home for.

There are darker tones of green that can be bluish and some so deep they look almost purple or black. That makes for great contrast, but keep in mind these deep tones tend to disappear as the day ebbs.

Hostas and ferns

Hostas and ferns rank among the top choices to achieve a range of good greens. These are good summer plants but they will be with you for many years as they have real staying power.

Hostas, however, are attractive to deer; keep that in mind if deer are a problem where you live.

Look for hostas and ferns with the lighter, brighter green foliage. They stand out in collections in garden centers. Some hostas have white or cream stripes, another means to brighten up the shady landscape.

Caladiums and coral bells

Caladiums, too, offer a great range of color, including many good combinations. This is an easy-to-grow bulb that should be planted now in warm soil. Some may be all green, but with a range of choices. Others have cream, pink or red markings, or centers with the green – always a lovely combination through the summer.

A fourth shady perennial often chosen largely for its foliage is heuchera, also called coral bells for their pretty flowers. The foliage choices are huge these days, but I particularly love the choices in chartreuse that really stand out in the landscape.

Heuchera are particular about well-drained soil.

Foam flower is another good choice that performs well, but requires well-drained soil. The foliage is quite beautiful – pale green with some darker markings of red or burgundy along the veins of the leaves. The white flowers are quite beautiful, appearing in late spring and different enough to make room for as ground cover or edger.

Ask Nancy

Q: I want to grow eggplants this summer. How do I get started?

A: Choose young plants at a garden center. Select a spot in your sunny vegetable garden with space for them to develop fully. The typical spacing is 18 to 24 inches apart. Eggplants demand warm weather and even watering. Don’t let the soil dry out. Plant them now that the daytime temperature is above 70 degrees. They like hot weather, and I have seen some fantastic eggplants produced in our hot summers.