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Tiarella, or foamflower, does double duty in the shade garden

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Courtesy of Gene Bush

(Read caption) The creeping types of Tiarella or foamflower, such as Running Tapestry, shown, spread to cover woodland gardens without crowding out other plants.

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Gardeners will want to know that foamflowers fall into two divisions. There is a species, with its forms and cultivars, which all form tight clumps over time. Most of these will have some Tiarella wherryi in their parentage. Tiarella cordifolia, which has both rhizomatus stems and is stoloniferous, creates ground covers.

Each -- creeping ground cover or clumping -- has its place in the garden. As I learn how best to use foamflowers in my garden, ground-covering forms have become my favorites. I find it easy to use ground covers with companion plants. In fact, foamflower is so versatile that it's difficult to choose a less than ideal companion plants for them.

For example, while flowing outward, they offer no competition for other plants to grow up through. I enjoy being able to use the same space in my garden more than once, providing several seasons of interest in the same location.

Ground-covering plants are more than just another pretty face for the gardener. They also serve to hold down weeds by occupying space so seeds cannot germinate. While covering an area, foliage provides constant shade to keep the roots of other plants cooler and more moist. 

Try Running Tapestry foamflower

Of all the foamflower cultivars that have come and gone over the years, my favorite is T. cordifolia ‘Running Tapestry’. [See photo, above.] Mature leaves are about 4 inches across and 4-1/2 to 5 inches long, softly hairy, with gracefully scalloped edges. The veins are heavily marked as though ink-stained in brown-black with concentrated patterns or blotches of color in the center of each leaf. In winter the foliage takes on additional colors of pink, tan, and maroon-red over the dark, rich, green. 

Running Tapestry is one of the heaviest bloomers of all foamflowers grown here at my garden in southern Indiana. Almost every one of the plants that have matured on runners will have clumps of bloom stems with white frothy flowers on display. 


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