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Learning to Grow: Color gardens with 50 shades of green

Although “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a title many people are talking about today, it got me thinking about my favorite color – green. I’ve renamed my shade garden 50 shades of green. 

Green is a restful, serene color, and there are so many wonderful shades of green that the shade garden is the perfect place to showcase my favorite color. 

For groundcover, I like Lamium maculatum  or “White Nancy.”  The silvery green-centered leaves with dark green margins are perfect companions for the 50 shades of green in the garden. I also like that the white flowers that appear off and on throughout the season blend easily with the shades of green. 
An old garden favorite is bleeding heart – Dicentra spectabilis or “Gold Heart.” While this variety has pretty heart-shaped pink flowers, the reason I love this plant is the bright chartreuse green leaves. Pink blooms last a few weeks but the bright, green foliage stays until the arrival of summer heat. Plants will go dormant in the summer so take that into consideration when designing. 

Favorites for the summer garden are hostas, of course.  I really enjoy hunting around for different varieties because this is a perfect plant to explore the shades of green. 

Besides characteristics such as size, color and bloom time, I choose hostas for other reasons – their name. Paul’s Glory is one of my favorites because every time I see it emerge in the spring, it reminds me of a very special friend who has passed away. 

This large hosta is lovely because of the gold heart-shaped leaves and the irregular blue-green margin which is a striking color contrast.

Another favorite is June, which I chose for the name.

But one of its characteristics that I’ve come to really appreciate is it seems to be more slug resistant than most hostas. This medium-sized hosta also has a golden center with blue-green margins and makes a great edging plant.

And sometimes you just choose hostas because the name is fun and that is the reason I have “Gaucamole” in my garden. 

This large hosta has apple green foliage in the center and is bordered by dark green margins making a bold statement near the back of my garden.  Another bonus is the magnificent fragrance that comes from the large white flowers.

Fall is a great time to do some redesigning and adding a few perennials. I hope to find a few more things to add to my 50 shades of green garden.

• Vicki Hagstotz is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. Call the Extension office at 630-584-6166.

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