concrete stepping stones with leaf impressions that match the perennials along the shade garden path
concrete stepping stones with leaf impressions that match the perennials along the shade garden path


centurea 'black sprite'
centurea ‘black sprite’

‘BLACK SPRITE’ has an intriguing spidery black bloom on a familiar old-fashioned easy to grow perennial.

Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’

This is a new patented variety that was discovered from an anomaly of the Centaurea montana ‘Black Widow’ which is not patented. There are a couple of other new varieties in the group also, they are ‘Amethyst Dream’ – which has large, royal purple flowers and ‘Amethyst in Snow’ – which has pure white blooms with a deep royal purple center. I have all three new varieties in our garden as well as the old familiar blue one. I find the ‘black sprite’ to be the most interesting.

Many gardeners are familiar with the old blue Bachelor’s Button.
This cultivar looks the same until it blooms with it’s very unique flower.

Hardy to zone 3 (-40* f) – zone 9


Foliage: Gray green leaves with tiny, silvery hairs.

Flowers: medium-sized, silky black, spidery blooms in May & June
Height: about 18”
Width: about 24” (I find that these gain some height then slumps, it looks a little lazy, and could take up more space than this.
Light: These are in full sun – partial sun in my garden. The full sun plants are better bloomers.
Water: They can go pretty dry between waterings.
Soil: normal, sandy or clay
Critters: These are deer and rabbit resistant. In really wet weather, slugs find them mildly interesting.
Special care notes: I should (but have forgotten to) prune them lightly before the blooms appear to keep them from the slumping.
How to use in the garden: Beds, borders, as an accent, containers, cut flowers
Imagine how great they would look massed!

OMPHALODES – pretty perennial that sounds like a disease

OMPHALODES:   aka:  the creeping forget-me-not

A member of the borage family

It’s a semi rare perennial, it’s easy to grow.

omphalodes in the garden
omphalodes in the garden

What makes it interesting:   A plant is interesting to me if I have never seen it before.  We first came across this plant at Heronswood.    It continues to be a good performer in the garden and best of all… it is of  little or no interest to deer, elk, rabbits or slugs.  This is an important consideration in the wet Northwest springs.

How it grows and blooms:  It makes a thick ground cover, thick enough to choke out weeds.   The leaves are a dry semi sticky consistency.  The plants form clumps that can be wide-spreading over time, but grow slowly and are not invasive or aggressive.   These will grow to a height of 6-8″.

blue eyed mary
blue eyed mary

In early spring, the flowers rise above the leaves in small clusters. The flowers are about a 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) wide.  The flowers can range from white to true blue.  The green leaves are pointed and have a hairy surface.

These are similar to forget-me-nots, but is not as invasive.

What it needs:   It will tolerate a range of areas, from hot afternoon sun to part shade.  It seems to be the happiest in part shade, in an area that doesn’t dry out too much.

How to propagate:    It has a clump form and features stolons, which are stems that grow horizontally along the soil and connect several plants together.  You can gently tear the divisions from the outer borders of the clumps,   pot them up or plant them directly into the garden and keep them cool and moist until they take root.   This is best done in the early spring of fall.  You can put umbrellas over them to protect them from hot sun.  ( I often mention the umbrellas because I have a tendency to divide my plants when it’s convenient for me, not when its the ‘best’ time for the plants.  Umbrellas are my work-around for dividing in warmer, sunnier weather. )

starry eyes
starry eyes

Problems:  They may develop some powdery mildew in consistently wet weather.

How to use it in the landscape:
Use it as a ground cover, under trees or in areas that you want to mitigate summer soil temperatures and where you want some spring color and as a backdrop for later bloomers.

Some favorite varieties:
1.)  Blue Eyed Mary:  true blue small 5 petal star-shaped flower
2.)  Starry eyes: very pale blue, almost white background with darker blue stripes on the small 5 petal star-shaped flower.

There is a white blooming variety that is now on my WISH LIST… verna alba.  I will be on the lookout for it in my local nurseries this spring.

Outstanding Shade Garden Perennial – # 2

Hosta 'Striptease'
Hosta ‘Striptease’

HOSTAS – Easy to Grow, Lots of Variety!


They come in an amazing array of colors, patterns & sizes.

I’ve been growing them for about 20 years. When we moved out to our home in the woods, where there are huge shady areas, we have really increased the number of varieties as well as the number of plants.

What they need:

Partial (early morning or very late afternoon sun) to bright shade. Hint: keep the blue varieties out of the sun, it causes the waxy coating that is the blue color to melt away. Ours are in moist soil most of the time, not soggy, but moist. They are very cold hardy.

Use them in pots or in the ground. They are impressive in large clumps, borders or alone.

Pests; these can be a favorite of slugs in very damp weather, I have also had problems with deer, I will throw a light net over the top from time to time to discourage them.

Add some hosta’s to your garden, Have some fun!