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Skaggs: Native plants mean less water use

POSTED: February 12, 2008 5:03 a.m.

In last week’s article, I discussed the plight of those lawn and garden enthusiasts who have, some for many years, tried to grow grass in the shade. If you’ve attempted to establish a lawn in a shady location, you understand where I’m coming from.

If you fall into this category, you may be interested in the following list that was compiled by the Georgia Perennial Plant Association a few years ago — Top Ten Shade Perennials. And while this list is by no means conclusive, I hope it will give you a few options to consider.

1. Helleborus (lenten rose)

This perennial offers low maintenance and sumptuous winter and spring flowers. Lenten rose can provide marvelously attractive flowers of dark maroon to pink and cream, white or even green from winter through early spring. In the Piedmont of Georgia, Lenten rose may begin to bloom in late December and continue until April.

2, 3. Hosta, fern

Tied for second place were the families of hostas and ferns, often grown together in shade gardens for their contrasting leaf forms. Both families of plants offer a diversity of forms, sizes and colors to please any gardener and fit any site.

4. Heuchera (coral bells)

Heuchera experienced a wave of popularity years ago with the introduction of "Palace Purple." The native Heuchera Americana, or alumroot, doesn’t need much improvement. Favorite varieties noted for their performance in our area included H. "amethyst mist" and H. villosa "autumn bride."

5. Polyganatum odoratum "variegatum," (Solomon’s seal)

Another native, Polygonatum, was noted by many in its variegated form P. odoratum "variegatum," which displays wide ivory stripes on the edges of soft green leaves. It looks best mixed with solid green foliage of other shade lovers so that it’s distinctive variegation is not lost among the hosta.

6. Tiarella (foam flower)

Tiarella is one of the native joys of spring recognized by many gardeners. This denizen of deep, moist shade is decorated with stalks of pink flowers in early spring and then holds it’s beautiful foliage throughout the summer as long as it does not have to deal with hot and dry conditions.

7. Epimedium (fairy wings)

The mostly evergreen perennials form well-controlled clumps. Given a shearing in late winter, the flowers pop up quickly, before the new foliage arrives, looking like beautiful small orchids on the wiry stems. New foliage, much of it marked with burgundy edges, takes over when the flowers fade and forms a reliable ground cover.

8. Aster divaricatus (the white woods aster)

A Georgia native, the small white flowers are not impressive in themselves, but cover the cascading branches in masses of flowers in late autumn. Morning light is recommended for this plant, which flowers better if it is placed at the edge of shady areas, rather than in deep shade.

9. Asarum (wild ginger)

Another native, these beautiful ground covers are grown for their foliage, some deciduous and some evergreen, but also have little brown jug-shaped flowers beneath the leaves.

10. Arisaemas (Jack-in-the-pulpits)

A. triphyllum is the wildflower often seen in Georgia woodlands. Many beautifully colored and complex Arisaemas have been discovered and are being propagated for garden use.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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