Shade hardy plants for front beds

Collection by Joshua Robinson

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Ophiopogon japonicus 'Gyoku Ryu'

Ophiopogon japonicus Gyoku Ryu

"Simply irresistible" is the best way to describe Ophiopogon 'Gyoku Ryu', a dwarf mondo grass cultivar with thick, dark green, grass-like foliage that eventually makes a tight mat in even the worst garden conditions. Plant dwarf mondo on 6-12" centers for a wonderful evergreen groundcover. Ophiopogon 'Gyoku Ryu' could best be described as looking like a lush lawn of pre-mowed grass...what a great idea! If that's not enough, the rhizomes of Ophiopogon japonicus have long been used in…

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex'

Sanguinaria canadensis Multiplex

What can we say about the splendid double-flowered bloodroot that hasn't already been said? One sight of the perfectly formed balls of pure white held atop the magically unfolding leaves in early spring, and you simply can't resist. After the April flowering, you can enjoy the unique, grey-green, mitt-like foliage of Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex' until it goes dormant in late summer...perfect for a special place in the woodland garden! This US native was selected by the UK's RHS as one…

Aspidistra elatior 'Asahi' Morning Sun Cast Iron Plant

Aspidistra elatior Asahi

"Asahi" means "morning sun"...a descriptive name for this dramatic cast iron plant that always stops visitors in their tracks. The unique evergreen leaves, to 30" long x 5" wide, are set off when the upper third of the leaves develops a dramatic white variegation as the season progresses. The color holds all winter, making a dramatic winter feature in the shade garden. For dry, deep shade, there isn't a better choice for a tough-as-nails perennial! Note: Aspidistra 'Asahi' will not display…

Veronica umbrosa

Veronica umbrosa Georgia Blue

(aka: Veronica peduncularis) This exciting groundcover veronica was discovered in 1979 in the Republic of Georgia by England's Roy Lancaster. It was misidentified as Veronica peduncularis due to an incorrectly identified Kew Gardens herbarium sheet. So, now you know the rest of the story. Veronica umbrosa 'Georgia Blue' features very small, dark green, rounded foliage (glossy purple in winter) that lays flat on the ground, making a nice mat...not weedy. In late winter and early spring…

Dryopteris x celsa

Dryopteris celsa

Dryopteris x celsa is a rare North American native fern with a scattered distribution, usually occurring in wet sites from New York to Louisiana. DNA has shown Dryopteris x celsa to actually be a naturally-occurring hybrid between Dryopteris ludoviciana and Dryopteris goldiana. The growth habit of log fern is upright and rotund (like many rural Southeast natives), composed of large, coarse, dark green, 1' wide, semi-evergreen fronds. Although Dryopteris x celsa is very easy-to-grow and…

Amsonia tabernaemontana 'Storm Cloud'

Amsonia tabernaemontana Storm Cloud

In 2011, plant breeder Hans Hansen and Tony were botanizing along a woodland stream in a remote Bibb County, Alabama forest when we spotted several clumps of amsonia flowering in the wet, deep shade. We collected divisions of a few clones and after trialing them in both NC and Michigan, we selected one we both agreed was the best amsonia we'd ever grown. Amsonia tabernaemontana 'Storm Cloud' forms a compact 2' tall x 3' wide clump that emerges with black stems, which contrast nicely with the…

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Kokuryu'

Ophiopogon planiscapus Kokuryu

(aka: Ophiopogon 'Nigrescens', O. 'Arabicus', O. 'Ebony Knight') Black mondo grass has long been one of the stars in our NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored Plants) garden...actually, I think this black garden thing is catching on. Originally introduced to the US in 1960 by both California's Oakhurst Gardens and the USDA, Ophiopogon 'Kokuryu' (translated to Black Dragon) is the true name of this wonderful groundcover (Thanks to Larry Hatch and Barry Yinger for…

Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'

Ajuga reptans Black Scallop PP 15815

Ajuga 'Black Scallop' is a superb and colorful evergreen groundcover that exists thanks to UK nurseryman Mike Tristam, who found it as a tissue culture mutation in a batch of Ajuga reptans 'Braunherz'. Ajuga 'Black Scallop' acts like a typical ploidy mutant (additional sets of chromosomes) with larger, darker purple leaves and flowers than its parent, as well as better disease tolerance. The heat-tolerant dense mat of crinkled, glossy purple foliage is topped in late spring with stunning…

Carex oshimensis 'Everillo'

Carex oshimensis Everillo PP 21002

Carex oshimensis 'Everillo' is the magnificent follow-up to Carex 'Everest' from Ireland's Pat Fitzgerald. The solid golden foliage of Carex 'Everillo' makes an incredible 1' tall x 2' wide, elegantly weeping, evergreen clump of bright golden foliage that energy-efficiently lights up the woodland garden. A morning sun location helps hold the brightest color, which fades to chartreuse in more shade. Carex 'Everillo' is great among hostas and ferns, but it's also fantastic in mixed color bowl…

Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium

Who could not help but love these delightful little cormous perennials? From the tops of these grey, pumpkin-shaped corms, which sit just below ground level, emerge the striking green and silver mottled foliage in early October, making 6-12" wide mounds. Starting in July and continuing through October, just prior to the emerging foliage, the tiny pink dodecatheon-like flowers poke through the ground. By late spring, the foliage dies down and does something many of us wish we could do...go to…

Brunnera macrophylla 'Alexander's Great'

Brunnera macrophylla Alexanders Great PP 25789

Brunnera 'Alexander's Great' is the latest look-alike of Brunnera 'Jack Frost'...this one, a giant version from Belarus (that's part of the former USSR for those who flunked geography) plantsman Alexander Zukeivich, who found it as a seedling in his garden. Brunnera 'Alexander's Great' forms a large, bushel basket-sized 15" tall x 28" wide clump of lovely silver foliage...each fuzzy leaf highlighted by contrasting green veins and a narrow green edge. Clumps of Brunnera 'Alexander's Great'…

Arum italicum 'Marmoratum'

Arum italicum Marmoratum

In late summer, the tropical-looking foliage of Arum italicum emerges from dormancy and remains attractive all winter. Each glossy green, arrowhead-shaped leaf features dramatic silver patterning, usually following the veins. In late spring, 12" white peace lily-like flowers appear, followed by an attractive stalk of red berries. At this point, Arum italicum 'Marmoratum' goes to sleep for the summer, emerging again in late August. Italian arum will naturalize slowly in woodland areas unless…

Carex cumberlandensis 'Jacksboro'

Carex cumberlandensis Jacksboro

We first met East coast native (Pennsylvania south to Alabama) Carex cumberlandensis on our 2013 botanizing expedition to eastern Tennessee. In the wild it can be found in moist deciduous forests, growing on both acidic and alkaline soils. Back in our NC garden, Carex cumberlandensis 'Jacksboro' has formed a tight 10" tall x 2' wide evergreen clump that looks so similar to liriope you'll do a double take...great in mass or as a solitary specimen. We think you'll really enjoy this amazing but…

Ajuga pyramidalis 'Metallica Crispa Purpurea'

Ajuga pyramidalis Metallica Crispa Purpurea

(aka: Ajuga 'Mini Crisp Red') This very cute, slow-growing ajuga forms tight rosettes of deep purple, crinkled, spinach-like leaves, eventually making a 3" tall x 1' wide patch in 3 years. Ajuga 'Metallica Crispa Purpurea' is great used in masses in a well-drained rockery or in a special sunny spot in the garden where, in late spring, the patches are topped with 6" stalks of tiny purple-blue flowers. Ajuga 'Metallica Crispa Purpurea' is one of a small handful of bugleweeds that thrive in our…

Polystichum setiferum 'Bevis'

Polystichum setiferum Bevis

Polystichum setiferum 'Bevis' (no association with the sidekick Butt-Head) is one of the largest clones of the European soft shield fern we've seen, forming 30" tall x 4' wide symmetrical clumps of very soft, delicately-textured, evergreen fronds...quite stunning! Slightly moist, rich, organic soil grows the best plants.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost PP 13859

Brunnera 'Jack Frost' is one of those rare occasions when a plant comes along that has the "WOW" factor. Brunnera 'Jack Frost' is a truly stunning Walters Gardens discovery...a sport of Brunnera 'Langtrees' that makes a brilliant, 18" wide, deer-resistant clump of round, frosty silver leaves. Each leaf of Brunnera 'Jack Frost' is highlighted by a dramatic green border as well as narrow green vein lines running through the solid silver leaf. As if you needed more, the clump is topped with…