By Donita Mitchell
Western Oklahoma is not known for shady landscape. We treasure those shady spots under the trees planted in years past and make plans to plant new ones near the spot of that tree we love so much, but years have taken its toll.
For those few shady places it is a challenge, but quite fun, to design and plant gardens. If you have tried to plant shade grass, such as tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass combinations, and have repeatedly failed in the shade over a three-year period even with the best of management, it is time to consider an alternative shaded landscape strategy that may include shade-tolerant ground covers and ornamentals.
This article will not include shady turfgrass, but information is available on the website at: http://osufacts.oksta tel.edu, especially Fact Sheet HLA-6608.
Oklahoma Proven shade plants include: helleborus (lenten rose), athyrium nipponicum (Japanese painted fern), tricyrtis hirta (toad lily), hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea).
The lenten rose is a favorite. It belongs to a genus of mostly evergreen herbaceous plants that are prized for their ability to flower in late-winter. You will see the flower stalks rise out of the leaf litter to display flowers that range in color from green to white, yellow and even purple.
Lenten rose are tough plants requiring little care but will give you many months of enjoyment year after year.
The Japanese painted fern is a beautiful, easy-to-grow, low-maintenance, dwarf fern and one of the showiest ferns for shade gardens. Emerging fronds have burgundy stems with metallic gray and a reddish/bluish blush.
Clumps can grow up to two feet wide and need to be divided in early spring every three to four years. This fern provides a nice contrast to shade loving perennials, such as hosta, astilbe and coral bells.
The toad lily has a unique flower. These pale lilac flowers with dark purple spots that appear on upright arching stems will appear in late-summer and early fall when other plants are beginning to fade. This is a great shade flower.
The oakleaf hydrangea produces beautiful creamy white, cone-shaped flowers in early summer. It can grow 6-8 feet high and broad and has year-round interest. The oak-shaped leaves turn purple and red in the fall.
In winter, the exfoliating bark is exposed. The cinnamon-colored bud will open as flowers in spring and early summer.
Variegated is the word for many shade plants, and hosta are among these varieties. The hosta combines well with hardy fern, colorful heuchera, hydrangea, hellebores and shade groundcover. Heuchera Rave On is the heaviest blooming coral bell ever and will provide months of blooms.
This hardy shade plant has highly silver foliage in spring that is then topped with dozens of flower spikes bearing dark pink blooms for weeks. It is great for cut flower arrangements since the flowers last seven to 12 days.
Plan your shade garden today and it will be your favorite place during those hot summer days ahead.
Mitchell is a member of Garfield County Master Gardeners.