Nancy Brachey

Liven up your green landscape

Jack Frost brunnera is lovely in spring when it blooms but the foliage remains lovely through the summer and will brighten a bed that is mostly green.
Jack Frost brunnera is lovely in spring when it blooms but the foliage remains lovely through the summer and will brighten a bed that is mostly green. File photo

This time of year, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by green. The dominant color of nature in the Piedmont is everywhere from under our feet to way over our heads. Shady areas in landscapes are often the most green of all. Brightening them up is a worthy goal for many gardeners.

Often this is done in flower beds with such seasonal bedding plants as begonias and impatiens, which will bring good color to the landscape from spring to autumn.

But some gardeners prefer permanent plantings that stay with them year after year and develop into nice-sized plants.

You can look to foliage for this. Silver, gray or white foliage or green foliage with such markings actually add color to a bed, though it is more subtle than what you get from impatiens and begonias in summer.

Some fine choices are out there, reasonably easy to find and not difficult to grow well in lightly shaded flowerbeds or even as edging plants in front of shrubs that bloomed colorfully in spring but now have gone green..

Some choices to add silver, white or gray to your green garden:

I would start with the Japanese painted fern. This is one of the most beautiful of all hardy plants. The foliage is silvery-gray with a purplish-red midrib. It can stand out as a single specimen set between solid green hardy ferns or hostas. Just plant it where it can be seen easily as it rises to about 12 inches tall.

An old garden favorite is lamb's ears, best used as an edging plant in part shade and set away from automatic irrigation where the plant may become too wet and the lower foliage deteriorate. The soft, fuzzy foliage is especially liked by children. I have seen them rub the soft leaves against their face with delight.

The plant looks OK through the winter but fresh silver foliage in spring is wonderful and sets the plant up for a long season.

A third one to consider is fairly new in the market place. It is Jack Frost brunnera, a pretty perennial with heart-shaped silver leaves that have delicate veins of mint green. It was the Perennial Plant Associations Perennial Plant of the year in 2012. Well-suited to a woodland garden with partial to full shade, it will not prosper in the open, afternoon sun in our area. It blooms in mid-to-late spring with pretty blue flowers that resemble forget-me-nots.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com

Ask Nancy

Q. I want to take a piece of my beautiful hosta to a relative when we visit. Will there be any harm to the plant?

A. This is not the best time to dig and divide hostas but your desire to share it prevails. Dig up the entire plant as close to your departure time as possible. Take off a section by pulling or cutting it away gently. Plant it in a pot with soil and water it. You can probably slip the pot into a plastic bag, with the leaves rising above the bag while you travel. Replant and water the main hosta in your bed immediately.

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