Sycamore trees are among the most distinctive trees in the American landscape. Whether you know the name or not, you have no doubt noticed beautifully mottled gray and tan and white bark on a giant of a tree in a park or a forest or driving along the highway. For me, it was one of the first trees I learned to identify growing up as a budding plant nerd.
Ferns don’t typically make me think of Christmas, but this semi-evergreen fern keeps going strong into December. Its foliage remains green into mid to late winter. It is not the most delicate and dainty fern, but its tough, large leaflets are a good addition to shade gardens when evergreen massing is called for.
For most of the year, it can be easy to overlook shade trees as exciting plants. But once fall arrives, we can't look away from the colors. Sweetgum trees are some of the most stunning you'll find. With pale yellow, rich gold, vibrant orange, scarlet, and deep maroon - sometimes all at once on the same tree - they deserve at least as much attention as everyone's favorite maple.
There are many kinds of hydrangeas, and we love all of them for the landscape. Yet it seems like the blue and pink mopheads and the dramatic Annabelle hydrangeas seem to take the spotlight when we think of hydrangeas. Possibly the least well-known, but still very widely used, is the panicle hydrangea, known for its excellent winter hardiness, strong branches, and mid-to-late summer cone-shaped flowers.
If you're looking for an adaptable, colorful, varied, and space-filling family of plant, cranesbill (also known as geranium or hardy geranium) may be what you're looking for. There are cranesbills adapted to sun or partial shade, ones that form tidy little mounds or sweeping masses, bright and vibrant flowers or cool shades. Some are even semi-evergreen! Read on to learn more.
Most grasses do not do well in shade, as anyone who has tried to grow a dense lawn on a wooded lot can confirm. There are, however, a few ornamental grasses and relatives of grasses that love the low light conditions of a wood edge or an airy forest. Japanese forest grass is one of these. It doesn't like dense shade, but in filtered light conditions it brings gorgeous texture and movement to the landscape.