My grand gardening scheme consisted of creating a woodland look with Rozanne cranesbill and dogwoods in my part-shade front yard. But Mother Nature just had to put her two cents in and produce a stand of Corydalis ophiocarpa to mingle with the cranesbill.
You see, about five years ago I planted a few corydalises in my side yard. They reseeded aggressively and tended to move around. Eventually they disappeared from my side yard because I didn’t water them enough.
But their seeds sneaked into my front yard, presumably because I’m always moving soil from place to place. This resulted in said mingling of corydalis and cranesbill with cranesbill blossoms peeking out from corydalis’ fern-like foliage.
I love it! It’s exactly the low-maintenance woodland feel I was looking for. It’s also a perfect complement to my Isanti red twig dogwoods that emerge from the middle of the groundcovers. As long as I keep the soil from drying out completely, my woodland should stay intact and hopefully spread along my foundation.
Ferns, other than ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) can be difficult to grow in Colorado because of the dry climate. Perennial corydalis fills the void. You can plant Corydalis ophiocarpa or its cousin, Corydalis lutea. Both are great-looking plants. C. lutea blooms longer, cut I prefer the leaf structure of C. ophiocarpa. It’s a personal thing.
Other outstanding shade-tolerant perennials include bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis or the shorter, fluffier D. formosa), tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), moonshadow winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’), variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’), oxeye sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides), plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) and even prairie winecups (Callirhoe involucrata—yes, it will bloom in part shade).
As for shrubs and trees, excellent choices for part shade are golden spirit smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Ancot’), autumn brilliance serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’), dart’s gold and Diabolo® ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’ and P. opulifolius ‘Diabolo’), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), Knockout™ shrub rose (Rosa ‘Radrazz’ Knockout), and yews (Taxus spp.).
As you can see from these lists of plants, shade gardening can be downright exciting. And you never know what Mother Nature might contribute to your efforts.