Sunny borders can be wonderfully colorful, but when the heat of summer settles in, it is the comfort of the shade garden that I am drawn to. Hosta is now excluded from so many gardens due to its “appetizer for deer” reputation, so you might want to consider this short list of shade-tolerant plants that shine in August.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas Halo’... This lace cap selection of Smooth Aster boasts sturdy stems that can bear the weight of the large white blossoms. This native shrub is a favorite of pollinators and grows 3-5′ tall and wide. Hardy in zones 3-9.
Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’.…. It’s hard not to be impressed by a glowing golden specimen of Sun King Spikenard. This Aralia grows 4-6′ tall and we have 6-year-old clumps that are easily 6′ across. (It might take a few years, but be ready…). In late summer white “Sputnik” flowers top the tall stems, followed by showy black fruit. Pollinators love this plant and the deer don’t. Hardy in zones 4-9.
Kirengeshoma palmata… I remember the first time I saw Korean waxbells, looking very shrub-like in front of an antique farmhouse, fresh and in flower in August. Bold Maple like leaves are its main feature, but it does have soft yellow somewhat bell shaped flowers. Slow growing at first, but in about 4-5 years you will have a clump 4′ tall and 5′ wide. Oh, and yes, it is deer resistant. Hardy in zones 5-9.
Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’ Toad lilies tend to get resentful if the soil isn’t evenly moist, but I have found ‘Autumn Glow’ more forgiving than most. The extra-large foliage has a wider band of gold than the other variegated forms, and the purplish orchid-like flowers are produced in profusion during August and September. Hardy in zones 5-9.
Hakonechloa macra aureola Japanese Forest Grass is simply rewarding. It clumps up, not too quickly, to healthy expanses 2-4′ across and its yellow and green variegated leaves brightens up shady corners and adds contrast to other bold foliage plants. The deer are not fond of Hakonechloa, but we are learning that the bunnies like to nibble its young shoots in the spring, so an application of repellent is in order by those who are being pestered. Hardy in zones 5-10.
Do you have a favorite late-summer plant that tolerates some shade? I’d love to hear your comments.