One of the great pleasures of working on the What Plant Where Encyclopedia is that I had the chance to think about so many possible combinations of difficult conditions—dry shade, exposed sites, gravely soil, for example—and then present plants that would solve such gardening problems. Likewise, I had the opportunity to include my favourite plants—beautiful, reliable performers that everyone can grow.
Here are Lorraine Johnson’s five favourites!
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis): This early spring native plant is a joy! White blooms appear before most other plants have emerged, making it a very welcome harbinger of the growing season. Its scalloped leaves create a lovely groundcover. Prefers shade, rich soil, and average moisture. Bloodroot is a great alternative to lawn grass in shady conditions. Zone 4.
Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus): Shady conditions and clay soil are a tough combination, but this upright, bushy perennial will thrive. Its flowers—creamy white plumes that rise above the foliage—are a knockout in early and midsummer. Grows to approximately 6 feet, with a spread of 4 feet. Give it plenty of room, and water during dry spells. Zone 3b.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis): This native deciduous tree has it all: prolific, showy white flowers in spring, delicious (for humans and for birds!) berries in summer, and a small stature (20 feet) that makes it perfect for urban gardens. A bonus: it tolerates shade. Zone 3b.
Fringecups (Tellima grandiflora): This perennial makes a dramatic statement in the garden, sending up tall spikes of bell-shaped yellowish flowers that bloom from late spring to midsummer. Tolerant of part-shade, it will grow in the dry areas under trees. The leaves are purple tinged. Fringecups is great for attracting pollinating insects to the garden. Zone 4.
Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca): Perfect for container growing on patios and balconies, this compact strawberry bears small but intensely flavoured fruit throughout summer. It can also be planted directly in the garden, where it spreads by runners, creating an excellent groundcover. Zone 4.