So I’m still trying to figure out what to plant in place of the Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) that are snuggled up against the hedge on the west side of the Back Garden. Whatever I choose has to be pretty shade tolerant, as this spot is shaded by the hedge itself in the afternoon, in addition to the dappled shade that covers the Back Garden as a whole.
So my interest was piqued when I saw that Richard Hawke of the Chicago Botanic Garden had done plant trials of various Rodgersias. I was also a little surprised, because I didn’t realize they were cold hardy in the Chicago area. They seemed like the sort of plant that would be at home in southern England or the Pacific Northwest, but not on the shores of Lake Michigan (the genus originated in east Asia).
Anyhow, there were two Rodgersia varieties from the trial that in particular spoke to me: Fingerleaf Rodgersia (R. aesculifolia) and R. podophylla ‘Smaragd’. Both have white flowers, which I tend to favor in shady gardens. I realize that for most people the bold foliage is the primary virtue of Rodgersias, but I cannot give up my floracentric outlook.
Anyway, I am going to put these two Rodgersias on the short list of possible replacements for the Viburnums. Another possibility I’m considering (and I realize this is looking in a totally different direction): Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum), which I have found to be very shade tolerant. This is a tall plant with dusty-pink summer flowers, greatly loved by pollinators.
An advantage of Sweet Joe Pye Weed is that I wouldn’t have to buy any new plants – there are surely more than enough young volunteer plants available for transplant.