Sometimes we all get blinded by the garden showstoppers--you know, the plants to which odes are written and for which admiration societies form. When I first started gardening, many of the truly lovely but comparatively quiet "workhorse" plants flew under my radar. Tiarellas were one such casualty, aided by the fact that an attempt at establishing a groundcover patch of tiarella wherryi in the shady side yard at my old house failed.
I rediscoverd tiarellas when I worked part-time at a local garden center in 2005 to help pay off my "divorce debt." The person who ordered our shade perennials had purchased a number of different cultivars, including 'Crow Feather,' 'Iron Butterfly' and 'Lacquer Leaf.'
As I occasionally deadheaded the shade perennials, I admired the tiarellas for their toughness--and their beauty of both leaf and form. When I read that they offered interesting winter color as well, I decided that I needed to bring some home with me. I liked all of the cultivars above, but for some reason was especially drawn to 'Crow Feather.'
As you can see from the first picture, 'Crow Feather' has interesting winter color. The purple blotches on the interior of the leaf turn darker purple, red, or reddish brown and the green outer leaf margins turn various shades of yellow through rust.
In fact, winter is when I seem to appreciate tiarellas the most, but that is probably only due to lack of competition. As you can see from the other two pictures, they are pretty handsome plants in the spring when they wave bright bottlebrush flowers above their leaves. (The tiarellas are in the lower left corner of the closeup, and under the Japanese maple at the far end of the sidewalk in the other picture. In both, you can spot their white flowers.)
If deadheaded regularly, they continue to flower intermittently through the summer and fall. Other than deadheading, the only maintenance they need is the occasional deadleafing--similar to the treatment of heucheras. I will admit that I might be a little more vigilant about deadleafing the tiarellas, but that is only because I enjoy the scent of the leaves when they are crushed or pulled. It is very fresh-smelling, like celery and cucumber combined.
My tiarellas were in their "creeping" year during 2006, so I expect to see some "leaping" out of them this year. They are even worthwhile in their slow years, however, so I hope to never be without them in the garden.
How about the rest of my fellow garden bloggers? Any quiet plants that you love and want to give a shoutout to? With plants like these, it seems that they need either a cheerleader or a publicist to make a splash... and although I've adjusted my radar, I want to make sure I'm not missing anything particularly garden-worthy.