Spring is the happiest time in the deeply-shaded, narrow garden between the south side of the house and the woods. The soil, amended well with compost and peat when the area was dug and the fieldstone path laid 10 years ago, is now root-infiltrated and dry. Some things do well, such as the tiarella and phlox stolonifera above, intermixed with hosta and backed by old-fashioned bleeding heart. The plantings almost obscure the large rock outcropping which was the impetus for making this area a garden. The ledge was just too difficult to mow around, and the sparse grass became thinner with each passing year.
I try different things in there on a regular basis, and some plants, such as Virginia bluebells, have thrived, but the Shade Garden remains one of my most difficult challenges. In April I removed the leggy rhodies along the east side, and replaced them with a deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls' and a itea 'Little Henry'. We'll see.....
One thing that helps is the small red tulips I plant each autumn. Though they won't perennialize b/c there's not enough sun, the effort of yearly planting is worth the bright sparks of color in spring. And I love tiarella. It takes deep shade, the deer don't bother it, and it self-sows. I have several cultivars and numerous seedlings.
Heucherella is a cross between heuchera and tiarella. I find it tolerates significant shade, blooms well, and is a healthy, deer proof plant. I recently purchased 'Sweet Tea', a lovely caramel hue, and put it in with some large hostas at the entrance to the Shade Garden. I like the color contrast, and we'll see how that area does.
After all, a gardener is always learning.