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Four unusual shade perennials to try

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Courtesy of Genevieve Schmidt

(Read caption) Chatham Island forget-me-not is an excellent perennial for the shade gardener who wants something different. Its huge, glossy leaves with deeply impressed, crinkled veins make it a stand-out.

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Shade gardening can be tough enough without trying to deviate from the standard hostas-and-ferns mix that generally works anywhere. Yet the whole experience of gardening makes us want to try new things, and there’s little more exciting than poring over oddities in plant catalogs, wondering, “Will this grow for me?”

Here are four shade-loving plants that are both beautiful and undemanding.

Narrow-leaved lungwort

Lungwort’s ample blooms and easygoing habit have made it a favorite among shade gardeners, and narrow-leaved lungwort (Pulmonaria longifolia ssp. cevennensis; hardy to Zone 4) offers a twist on the original. It has long, slender leaves so heavily spotted that they are almost completely white. The brightness of the leaves shows up beautifully in a shaded understory planting, and it has vibrant purple blossoms. See second photo above; click on the arrow at the right base of the first photo to see additional photos.]

Hardy impatiens

Most gardeners are familiar with the annual impatiens which are grown for their bold, tropical-looking blooms, but hardy impatiens (Impatiens omeiana; hardy to Zone 6) flips this equasion on its head by showing off gorgeous foliage (and ho-hum blooms, not that you’ll notice). The gold veins and crenellated edges give this slowly-spreading shade perennial a classy, modern look. It goes well with black-flowered plants, and the burgundy undersides of each leaf are lovely when backlit by the sun. You can purchase it at Heronswood. [See photo at left.]

Spiny bear’s breeches


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