Bugbane is an awful name for a wonderful plant. Fortunately, it also can be called black cohosh, and the botanical name is Actaea racemosa – although until recently it was Cimicifuga racemosa.

At this time of year, it is one of the few herbaceous perennials blooming in shade gardens. So, if your garden is lacking blossoms now, run out to the nursery and buy a couple.

Its long, white flower spikes shoot straight up on stems that are 4 to 6 feet tall. The plant is hardy to Zone 4, produces green fruit and will self-seed. It likes rich, neutral soil and can tolerate some sun but is loved for its ability to stand dense shade.

Perennials can be planted late in the season with no problem. Dig a hole, add a bit of compost and water thoroughly. Keep watering until the ground freezes, and the plant will easily survive the winter.

— TOM ATWELL


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