Plant a Shade and Sun Border

Iris sibirica ‘Butter and Sugar’; right: Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’; left: Hosta ‘Minuteman’

Iris sibirica ‘Butter and Sugar’; right: Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’; left: Hosta ‘Minuteman’

This design incorporates interesting foliage and colourful blooms – all while meeting the challenge posed by partially shady growing conditions. This garden would make a delightful border in a location lacking full sun, but not heavily shaded either. With the taller plants at the back, this design works well on a property boundary or against a fence that allows light through. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and the tall, bushy Persicaria polymorpha (white fleeceflower) are the visual anchors and benefit from more direct light than those smaller plants at the front. The fleeceflower’s spikes of creamy-white flowers are complemented by the white-and-butter-yellow blooms of Iris sibirica ‘Butter and Sugar’ and the silvery-white-striped leaves of Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’ (variegated Dalmatian iris).

Persicaria polymorpha; front: Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’

Toward the front, the Dicentra formosa ‘Aurora’ (white Pacific bleedingheart) produces clusters of white blooms and the Saxifraga fortunei ‘Variegata’s’ star-shaped flowers pull the white colour through to the front of the bed. Lovely shades of purple and blue, and the yellow Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ adds splashes of colour. Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ introduces purple tones, while Hosta ‘Minuteman’ contributes interesting white-edged leaves and mauve flower spikes. Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’ thrives in part shade and produces lavender-blue blooms, and the heavy-blooming, compact Veronica spicata ‘Royal Candles’ produces bright blue flowers over its bushy mound of leaves.

Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’; centre: Veronica spicata ‘Royal Candles’; sides: Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’; front: Saxifraga fortunei ‘Variegata’

Most of the plants have noteworthy foliage so that even when they are not in bloom they provide interest. The Iris, Epimedium and Saxifraga are evergreen and provide some appeal during winter. Most of the plants have good winter tolerance, however in cooler parts of the province P. ‘Sour Grapes’ could be substituted with Scabiosa caucasica (zone 2). The Saxifraga fortunei ‘Variegata’ could be replaced with Saxifraga x urbium (zone 4), although it isn’t as bright.
Perennial Shade BorderIris sibirica ‘Butter and Sugar’; Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’; Persicaria polymorpha; Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’; Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’; Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’; Veronica spicata ‘Royal Candles’; Saxifraga fortunei ‘Variegata’; Dicentra formosa ‘Aurora’; Hosta ‘Minuteman’; Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’; Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’