Fragrant Fern, Damp Moss & Fantaisie: Summer Rain in the Secret Garden…

Inside My Secret Garden: Earthy Fragrance of Damp Moss & Fern, Verdant Hues & Cool, Moist Air {In Mexican Terra Cotta: Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’ & Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’}

Although the shady Secret Garden outside my studio door is a welcome retreat on hot summer days, sometimes I feel it is actually most alluring in the rain. Fragrant moss and fern, damp earth and stone; when skies are grey and raindrops shimmer, the Secret Garden comes alive with verdant color and musky fragrance…

The Mysterious, Shadowy Allure of the Secret Garden in Rain (In Pots: Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’, Hosta ‘Patriot’ and Hedera helix ‘Glacier’, Surrounded by Perennials, Vines, Rusty Curious and Old Pottery)

At the threshold to the Secret Garden Room —where I pause daily to fumble with my keys— I like to create a different, containerized vignette each season. This year I filled my terra cotta pots with perennials, which I plan to plant directly in the garden later this fall. Annuals and tender tropicals are wonderful in containers, but if you’re on a budget and have a garden to fill, it’s wise to consider perennials, hardy ornamental grasses and woody plants as well. Many perennial plants have stunning foliage year-round, and perform well in containers (Some perennials to consider for shady spots: Hosta, Heuchera, Ophiopogon, Hakonechloa, Brunnera and Athyrium)  Imagine how wise you will feel when you recycle potted plants into your beds and borders —rather than tossing them with annuals, into the compost pile— at the end of the season.

Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’: Such a Stunning, Jewel-Toned, Ruffled Leaf

This year’s shade-pot display stars a new beauty in my garden. Ligularia —particularly the large, maroon-leafed cultivar L. dentata ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’— has long been a favorite of mine for damp spots and shade garden designs. But my latest infatuation is with the more petite and delightfully ruffled Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’ (pictured on the far left in the photo at top and in the foliage close-up directly above). As if the gorgeous two-tone leaves and ruby stems weren’t enough to sweep me off my feet, later in summer, this beauty produces deep gold, aster-like flowers. Hardy in zones 3-8, Ligularia makes a great plant for shade or, with ample moisture, partial to full sun. L. ‘Osiris Fantaisie’ will reach a height and width of about 2′ at maturity, and combines well with many other plants; particularly those with subtly variegated foliage, maroon, bronze, blue or gold-tinted foliage.

Secret Garden Steps: Heuchera x ‘Silver Lode’, Valerian officinalis & Juniperus squamata ‘Holgers’

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4 Replies to “Fragrant Fern, Damp Moss & Fantaisie: Summer Rain in the Secret Garden…”

  1. Laurrie

    I want to add ligularia to my shady garden under a maple tree, but I’m worried about the typical huge size. This Osiris Fantaisie beauty not only has fascinating foliage, but you said it stays at 2 feet? And you have it in a pot? I could handle that size. Interesting.

  2. Michaela

    Hi Laurie, This particular cultivar of the most gorgeous Ligularia is quite petite. So far, in my clients’ gardens, Fantaisie has remained politely in-bounds. This plant really, really, really hates dry soil. That would be my only hesitation with placing it beneath a maple (typically that’s a dry spot, but maybe not for you). I love Ligularia and can not get enough. I hope more smaller-sized cultivars continue to show up in nurseries. Gorgeousness! xo M

  3. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Hi Michaela, Laurie’s question is one I’ve been pondering for a while as well… Are there any plants you would recommend for the (semi-drought) shade under larger, well-established trees? Thanks for any suggestions, D. xo

  4. Michaela

    Hi Deb, Nice to hear from you. And, a belated Happy Canada Day! Dry shade is definitely challenging, but there are a few plants I love in this situation. Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ (Variegated Solomon’s Seal) is a long standing and reliable favorite. It takes awhile to settle in, but when it takes off, the beautiful leaves (plus fragrant flowers and nice fall color) make it a great choice for covering ground beneath established trees. Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern) also does fairly well in dry shade and makes a lovely companion plant. Those are two less-commonly used favorites on my list. Some Epimedium cultivars are quite tolerant of dry soil, though you really have to shop around for the toughies now that there are so many varieties out there. Good question. Thank you! xo

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