Happy Threesomes (Part 3)

By Kerry Ann Mendez

The first two parts of this series (Part 1, Part 2) recommended "threesomes" that were ideal for sun to part sun areas. Now it's time to introduce some superstars for part shade.

Japanese Maples

I love Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum), especially those with burgundy-red leaves. Two striking, mid-size Japanese Maples are 'Fireglow' and 'Bloodgood'. Both grow between 10-20' tall and are hardy to Zone 5. Their graceful branching habit is particularly striking in the winter landscape.


Commonly called Summersweet, Clethra is a fantastic native shrub to partner with Japanese Maples. Clethra 'Compacta', 'Hummingbird' and 'Sugartina Crystalina' are smaller cultivars (2-5' tall) with highly fragrant white flowers in mid to late summer. Their foliage turns buttery-yellow in fall, contrasting brilliantly with the maple's red leaves.


Perennial Brunnera macrophylla, commonly called Siberian Bugloss, draws the eye spring through fall. Bright blue, forget-me-not like flowers billow above large heart-shaped foliage in spring. 'Jack Frost' is probably the best known cultivar with frosty-silver leaves intersected by green veins. Other sensational varieties include 'Sterling Silver' and 'Emerald Mist'. A sweep of Siberian Bugloss in front of the Summersweet completes the threesome!