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Vermont Garden Journal: Shade-loving Shrubs For Your Garden

St. Johns-wort (or Hypericum) is a native, small, shrubby plant with bright, yellow flowers in summer.

On my recent trip to Northern India, I noticed in farmers' fields a common Vermont shrub. There were rows and rows of yews. I found out they're the Pacific yews and farmers are growing them to extract a cancer-fighting chemical, taxol, from the plant.

It got me thinking about shrubs, especially those that thrive in shade. Yews are certainly one of the evergreens that grow well in shade. They're also a deer favorite. But there are other lesser-known, shade-loving, shrub choices beyond rhododendrons and azaleas.

Itea, "Little Henry," is a two-to-three-foot tall, zone-five shrub that produces bottlebrush-like, white fragrant flowers in spring. Even when not in bloom, this is an attractive shrub. It grows in moist, boggy soils and has brilliant orange and red foliage in fall.

Snowberry or coralberry is a unique zone-four shrub that grows up to five feet tall with pinkish-white flowers in spring and brilliant coral-colored berries in fall and winter. It tolerates shade, suckers and is easy to grow.

Hydrangeas grow well in part shade. One that doesn't get enough attention is the oakleaf hydrangea. Hydrangea quercifolia grows four-to-six-feet tall in zone-five with white, turning to purple, colored blooms. The oak-shaped leaves are attractive even when this shrub isn't blooming and turns colorful in autumn.

St. Johns-wort or Hypericum is a native, zone-four, small shrubby plant with bright yellow flowers in summer. Newer selections feature larger flowers with red fruits that add to the show quality into fall.

Japanese kerria is another zone-four, yellow-flowering shrub. This shrub can grow up to eight feet tall in well-drained soil and can spread. It's a tough shrub good for woodland edges and shade gardens.

Now for this week's tip: if your overwintering dahlias, gladiolus or canna lily bulbs are starting to sprout prematurely in the basement or garage, slow them down. Move the bulbs into a colder spot that doesn't freeze and reduce watering. Snip off the tops to reduce the height.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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