Once a bridesmaid and now often a bride, astilbes (Astilbe spp.) Have become more and more prominent in shade gardens. The loyalty of George Arends along with other hybridizers have transformed these Asian natives bloomers from delicate Victorian woodland bloomers to sturdy manufacturers of rich, vibrant plumes. Enhance the color and texture that these hardy perennials bring about the summer garden using plants that share astilbe’s love of shade.
At the Astilbe Garden
With varieties suited to gardens from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, astilbe has got its position in the summer shade bed. Provide well-draining, loamy soil rich in organic matter, similar to the forest floor. Astilbe does best with constant moisture, though it cannot tolerate water. Short periods of early morning or daylong dappled shade may intensify blossom colour. Expect three or more weeks of vibrant blooming. Arendsii Sensors (Astilbe x arendsii) blossom in May or June, though other varieties (Astilbe japonica, Astilbe chinensis) blossom mid- to late-summer, based on variety. Blossoms and leaf fade to tan after booming.
Because woodland natives, members of the rhododendron family (Rhododendron spp.) Share a tolerance for acid soil conditions with astilbe, in addition to the ability to blossom in dappled or partial shade. Astilbes develop in a variety of shapes, from 12- to 18-inch “Sprite” (Astilbe simlicifolia “Sprite”) and also 12-inch-tall “Punila” (Astilbe chinensis “Punila”) to “Superba” (Astilbe chinensis var. Taquetii “Superba”), which can grow to 4 to 5 feet tall, offering a variety of methods to mix astilbes using rhododendrons or azaleas, extending your season of color from late spring through mid-summer. The requirement to transplant astilbe every few years enhances your lodging of rhododendron or azalea growth to mature size. Many azaleas and rhododendrons grow in USDA zones 4 through 9, based on species and cultivar.
Take a new look in the traditional mixture of hostas (Hosta spp.) with astilbes. Generally based on their common shade conditions, the blend can be visually exciting for several other reasons. Hosta leaf is at its fullest in midsummer, when astilbe foliage fades and withers, making the blues, greens, golds and whites of hostas a specific advantage to a formerly vibrant bed. Hosta flowers also tend to look as astilbe stops blooming, including a new layer of floral spires into the bed. Blue hostas develop specific thickness of color in shade, whilst gold varieties may require some sun to flip leaves from chartreuse to gold. The flowers vary from dark to light lavender and white, some of them ornate and fragrant. Hostas generally grow in USDA zones 3 through 9.
Several varieties of shade-loving fern additionally tackle the fading foliage and flower plumes left behind when astilbe finishes thriving. Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum “Rodfordianum”) needs that the constant moisture favored by astilbes and creates a profusion of dark green, glossy leaves in USDA zones 6 through 10. At two to three feet tall and 18 inches wide, holly fern functions as an excellent pre- and also post-bloom filler for astilbe. Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum “Pictum”) grows to 12 to 18 inches high and grows in USDA zones 4 through 9. Silver- or even red-tinged stems and silvery leaves create high interest whether the astilbes are thriving or not.
Ringing the Bells
A relative of astilble, coral bells (Heuchera spp.) Have benefited from whales’ attention as much as astilbe. Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 10, based on variety, most coral bows feature a 12-inch-high, 12- to 24-inch-wide rosette of ruffly leaves, topped with 2-foot spires of small flowers that appear in late spring and sporadically during the summer. Once available in green along with a brownish bronze, coral bell leaf can now be found in shades of purple, wine, red, orange, copper and yellow-greens. While sun can intensify foliage colours, coral bells need partial shade to avoid burning their leaves.