Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday: Wildflowers for Shade

There is more to shade gardening than hostas! In fact there are a number of North American native flowers for shady areas. On this Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone, I would like to share some shade wildflower successes from my zone 5 garden.

This is woodland phlox (P. divaricata). These have been blooming their heads off for a couple weeks now and they absolutely light up this shady border. They haven't spread to groundcover status as much as I would have hoped, but the flowers are so pretty I'm thinking of planting more to help connect the blobs I currently have. If you have shade that is at least sort of reliably moist, you should not miss out on these lovelies!

Heucheras are like the designer clothes of the plant world. Every season there is a new color and pattern that's all the rage. Now don't get me wrong, I like designer heucheras just as much as everyone else! I'm looking to add some 'Citronelle' or 'Lime Rickey' to this border. But I've also discovered the pleasures of native H. richardsonii.

You can see the foliage here; the words I think of are ruffly and textured. They're pure green and so mix well with everything. Their flower spikes get to about 2 feet tall with white flowers. Sorry for the blurry picture...I always struggle to photograph heuchera flower stalks. They like soil on the moist side so mine have struggled occasionally in this dry shade (nothing has stayed dry this spring so that's not a problem this year). Here they are co-mingling with columbine and lily of the valley.

Native columbines (Aquilegia canadensis) are a stalwart of the part sun/part shade garden. I cannot get enough of these plants. After they've flowered I really enjoy the bobbing seedheads and clover-like foliage too.

What are these little cloudlets of yellow? They're yellow pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima). These are some of the most underrated, unknown natives but you can see in the above photo that they play nice with spring classics like bleeding hearts...

...and with other natives like shooting starts (Dodecatheon meadia). Unlike ephemerals, taenidia keeps its foliage all year and its flowers last for months at a time. It's a member of the carrot family so I would assume it's a host plant for swallowtail butterflies (although I've never seen any on my plants). It's dealt with deep shade and extremely dry conditions and my plants have gotten better every year (in fact this year I added three more).

Since the flowers are so delicate and small I think they look best in drifts and definitely need to mixed with other more robust plants to fill in around them. The past few years my mix of taenidia and big-leaved aster (Eurybia macrophylla) has worked really well. The large aster leaves are a backdrop for the taenidia flowers, and once they're done the asters start blooming. If you have shade in zones 4 to 8 I have two words for you: grow taenidia!

Fore more wildflowers check out Clay and Limestone! This is a wonderful time to see the last of the ephemerals and early season wildflowers all around the country!


Rose said...

Thanks for some excellent tips on shade-lovers, Rose. Most of my natives and almost-wildflowers are sun-lovers, so I appreciate the suggestions for the shade. The yellow pimpernel is so delicate; those airy yellow blooms make a lovely statement in the mix of hostas and other green foliage.

garden girl said...

Taenidia is new to me - thanks for the tip Rose!

I may have to move my woodland phlox. The soil is dry here, but with the wet spring I was hoping for some blooms. The phlox keeps coming back and has even spread a bit, but hasn't bloomed in years.

Racquel said...

Great shade lovers! I have to add that native Heuchera to my garden asap. The Shooting Stars are so pretty. :)

Marguerite said...

I've never heard of taenidia before but I'm glad to hear of it now. those small yellow sprays remind me of dill. I love how so many wildflowers are delicate and require attention to notice them.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

I have Heuchera Villosa Puperea which is an old variety of Villosa and it still is one of my favorites. It is not a flashy color but produces the most beautiful flowers all summer.


Gail said...

Rose, You've introduced me to a new flower~Taenidia integerrima~I love it, too. Those picky heucheras! They want it moist but, well draining. I think that Autumn Bride with it's big Heuchera villosa maple shaped leaves would look good in your garden~gail

Sissy said...

Oh my, those shooting stars are tremendous!! I have zero shade. I wish my trees would grow faster!!!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I've never heard of taenida. I like those little blooms. I have some plants in the garden across the street I need to post to see if anyone knows what they are. Some of them have little wisps of blooms, too.

I like that heuchera. I have trouble getting clear photos of the blooms, too.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I finally got my woodland phlox protected from the rabbits, but they haven't bloomed. I wonder if they will this year.

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