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020Beautiful foliage in a wide array of colors.  Graceful, wispy flower spikes.  Good performers in the shade garden.  These are the Heucheras!

 The rich humusy soil and mostly shady condition of my lasagna bed make it an ideal spot to grow Heucheras, or as they are commonly called,  Coral Bells.  Last fall I ordered five new-to-me Heuchera cultivars and planted them there in mid-September.

I chose Heuchera ‘Paris’, pictured above, for its promise of heavy, repeat blooming.  So far it has had one bloom cycle with five bright flower stalks that lasted about four weeks, from mid-June through to early July.  The bright pink flowers stand out well against the many shades of green in that garden and are easy to spot even at the distance from my kitchen window to the lasagna bed.   Its foliage is pale green overlayed with brighter green veins.  In the mid-summer of its first year here, Heuchera Paris has formed a 16 inch wide mound that is 9 inches high.

‘Rave On’ is advertised as one of the heaviest blooming Heucheras.  Mine is about to open its first, and only, flower stalk so far:021Remembering the adage about perennials: “Sleep, creep, leap,” I choose to believe that ‘Rave On’ indeed will bloom heavily in subsequent years.  Its foliage is somewhat more silvery than that of Paris, with distinct green veins.  They are burgundy on their reverse side.  It now measures 14 inches across by 6 inches high.

Here is Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’, which I chose for its distinctive bright yellow-green, ruffled foliage.  It measures in at 13″ x 7″, and is a real stand-out in the lasagna garden:023I put in two “Lime Marmalades’ last fall, and the day after I planted them, one of them provided a nice meal for Bambi:008

 Heucheras have traditionally been billed as deer resistant, but a couple different nursery owners have told me that lately, especially with so many new cultivars, the deer are finding them more appealing.  Thankfully, this plant recovered, and has not, thus far, suffered any more deer damage.  It is, however, considerably smaller than its untasted counterpart:033When ‘Lime Marmalade’ blooms, it should bear tiny off-white flowers on sixteen inch spikes.

Heucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’, a cross between a Heuchera and a Tiarella (foamflower), also must have tasted good, as it too was a victim to the deer.  It tried to recover in the spring, but has since disappeared:009

Had it survived, ‘Alabama Sunrise’ would have featured foliage which changed color throughout the growing season, beginning with gold leaves with deep red veins, moving to a chartreuse-green shade in mid-summer, and ending with coral in the fall.  I’m sure it would have been spectacular!

Another victim to the deer last fall was Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’. which I selected for its very large, copper-colored leaves.  It never made even an inkling of an appearance this spring.

In addition to these five, I moved two others from already established beds in my yard.  One is the common Coral Bells my grandmother grew; I do not know its “official” name.  It was a well established, large clump in my rock garden, and had bloomed very poorly over the past several years.  I think it was too crowded, too sunny, and too hot in that location, so I dug it up and planted a few clumps in the lasagna bed.  A couple of the clumps sent up wispy spikes of tiny, coral bells earlier this summer.   The foliage is a pleasing shade of spring green, with negligible veining:170

The final Heuchera I transplanted was ‘Palace Purple’, which in the best circumstances boasts big burgundy-purple leaves with maroon undersides.  This seems to hold true for new leaves in the spring, but as they age, the color fades to a brownish-green:036

This division took well, and has already established a mound 18 inches across and 9 inches high.  Its leaves show some damage that seems insect related, and the deer did nibble on it last fall.  This one, which is in the most heavily shaded section of the garden, shows no signs yet of blooming. Its counterparts in a sunnier garden, however, have sent up many spikes of white flowers already:181All of the Heuchera I chose for my Zone 5b garden in Northeastern Pennsylvania are rated hardy from Zone 4 and up.  Each of them lists “full sun to shade” as its light requirement, with the caveat that they do require at least afternoon shade in more southern zones.  I have found that most perform best if they receive at least a few hours of sunlight in the morning, then shade or dappled sunlight in the afternoons.  They do not seem susceptible to diseases, and with the exception of ‘Palace Purple’, none has shown insect damage.  While the deer did nibble on them when they were brand new transplants, they now seem at least deer-resistant.  In spite of the two failures, I am very happy with my Heuchera choices and will not hesitate to try other varieties of this gorgeous plant in the future.

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