In my last article, I presented my favorite perennials for sunny borders. Now I'd like to share my real passion: shade! I love shady gardens and I love plants for the shade.

So many people think if they can't grow a rose bush in their yard, nothing will grow, That's just not true. Look at all those great pictures in the garden magazines. You'll find the pictures that jump out and say, 'Look at me! I'm beautiful!' all seem to be lush shade gardens. The most challenging part about designing a shade garden is providing color all year round. Most shade plants flower in the spring. However, I've got a few favorite plants that help keep the color coming.

Hosta - Hostas are my favorite shade-loving perennials. They brighten up dark spots, as well as add color and texture to an area. They range from one to four feet across and come in shades of gold, green, gray and white. Many are variegated. Some can take full sun but they all do great in dappled shade. My favorite varieties are Gold standard, Francis William and Patriot. They like moist soil and don't like slugs.

Astilbe - When I think of Astilbes, I think of soft plumes of color floating above finely textured foliage. They are cotton candy for the shady garden. They bloom in early summer. Some varieties even have bronze foliage which is a plus in my book. All varieties like part shade and moist soil.

Hydrangea - Some people might not call a Hydrangea a perennial, but it fits the bill. It's a soft woody plant that can die down to the ground and return the following season. I love Hydrangeas because they provide color to the shade garden in the summer and autumn. I can think of nothing more spectacular in a shady yard than those big blue or pink blooms.

Geranium - Soft texture and color in late spring and early summer are what you get with hardy Geraniums. Many are fragrant. Johnson's Blue Geranium is a personal favorite. It blooms a deep purple in June and July.

Heuchera - The list of the latest and greatest perennials has been sprinkled with various coral bells for the past decade. We have new varieties in purple, bronze, gold, lime green, chartreuse and silver. Each year the growers have topped the previous year's offerings. My favorites are Purple Petticoat, Marmalade and Lime Ricky.

Mukdenia Rossii 'Crimson Fans' - Its leaves are like green fans tipped with crimson red in the summer. The fans turn gold and burgundy in the fall. Mukdenia is only a foot tall and is a slow spreader. Just to ice the cake, they have white bell-shaped flowers in April and May.

All these perennials desire moist, well draining soil. That means we must add plenty of compost to our wretched clay and water it consistently, but not too often.

Ann Nickerson has lived and practiced landscape design in the Tualatin Valley since 1993. You can contact her at

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