Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shade garden plants

 Doodia aspera, Prickly Rasp Fern
The photos on this post are of some of the plants growing in part to full shade at the Illawarra Rhododendron garden. I have left out the cliche plants like Hellebores and Bergenia ,both of which were flowering, and have included some of the more subtle ones.
The little Doodia fern advertises itself by producing bright pink new fronds though is equally as attractive when the fronds wither for they turn ash grey and match the lichen growing on surrounding rocks.

 Cyathea australis, Rough Treefern
Treeferns need lots of space around them to be seen at their best and always seem to do better when growing near a good supply of water. These ones grow beside a brick rill and are bordered with tight clipped Kurume Azaleas.

 Melianthus major, Honey Flower
With ice blue crimped leaves and arching red flower bud this perennial is hard to beat for adding structure and elegance to a garden scene. Not often available in the nurseries as it is usually too large to grow well in a pot and seed is often not very viable.
 Buxus sempervirens 'Variegata'
Naturally compact and rounded as a shrub ,this variety, though slow growing, is worth including in a shady garden as it brings much needed light and foliage colour contrast. It also helps to formalize a garden picture of floppy or lax perennials or of bulbs which go through the process of dieing off and looking untidy.
 Plectranthus x 'Cape Angel'
Most Plectranthus go through a down time over winter and either cease to flower or lose their leaf quality. My eye was drawn to this snow white flower form as the more popular variety is the dark foliaged purple flowering one which would be "lost" in a too shady part of the garden.
 Aspidistra elatior 'Variegata'
So easily suffers from leaf scorch when given any sun, this is a perfect tough plant for dry shade though is slower to grow than the plain green form.
 Arum italicum 'Pictum'
At its best in mid winter this marble leafed Arum is seldom seen these days, perhaps not popular because it disappears underground over summer like so many of its cousins.The tightly rolled new leaves which resemble cigars poke through the ground in early autumn and can be accompanied by stalks of bright red seeds which are given the common name of 'lords and ladies', though here on the coast I am not sure whether this seed sets or even appears as it needs a chill factor to get it into action.
 Ligularia tussilaginea  'Argentea'
Like many white variegated plants this is tricky to grow. I have tried and failed. This one is growing pond side and I suspect it may like to dangle its toes in water to stay fresh and healthy. Slow to increase and not readily available.
 Snowdrops need no introduction. They are an essential part of the winter garden scene, being easy to grow and long lived. They can even be moved when in flower apparently. The trick is not allowing another plant to take its place during summer and grow over the soil while it is resting below ground.
Ligularia tussilaginea 'Aureomaculata' Leopard plant
This is a bit more vigorous then the 'Argentea' form and is always in demand from designers and landscapers, because of the vibrant uniquely spotted leaves, though it is slow to increase and seed is not always reliable. If only I could wave a magic wand I could probably sell one hundred plants of it tomorrow. A tough plant and able to cope with low water, it will nonetheless flourish in rich moist soil and look its best under those conditions. Must have good shade in the hottest time of the day or the little yellow spots will burn out.


  1. All beautiful, Ian. I love the fern, thanks for the name. I have a photo of my own taken on my last big bushwalk out Scenic Rim way. The red new leaves caught my eye too. And tree ferns are quite prolific around here too. Some are absolutely huge.

  2. Just went back to find my photo of the fern and discovered I'd also taken one of the same grey lichen!