Hostas are the mainstays of the shade garden. Their luscious foliage is unparalleled for accent and groundcover effect. Plant hostas with ferns, wildflowers, and shade perennials on the north side of a house or under the canopy of large trees. Use them as specimens or accents on the shaded side of a shrub border or under flowering trees. In the darkest recesses between buildings, under carports, or in narrow passages, hostas will grow and thrive if the soil is rich and moist.
Take advantage of the fact that hostas emerge late and plant the large open expanses with spring-flowering bulbs and ephemeral wildflowers such as toothworts (Dentaria), spring beauties (Claytonia), and trout lilies (Erythronium). As the early bloomers are dying away and looking shabby, the newly emerging hosta leaves will hide them from sight. Snowdrops (Galanthus), miniature daffodils, and winter aconites (Eranthis) are good bulb companions. Combine the lovely foliage with sedges (Carex); ferns such as ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), and lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina); and foliage perennials such as lungworts (Pulmonaria), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla), and wild gingers (Asarum).
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In cooler areas, combine white-flowered H. plantaginea with variegated Japanese silver grass (Miscanthussinensis 'Caberet'), garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), and other perennials in borders protected from the hottest afternoon sun. Use the medium-size varieties as groundcovers in front of flowering shrubs or in mass plantings of mixed leaf colors and shapes under shade trees. Plant the smallleaved selections in rock gardens or in containers and trough gardens.
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