For a long time I have admired the garden of a home near mine for its low maintenance and charm. The house is a long ranch, and its surrounding mature trees cause the long three-foot wide bed across the entire house front to be in shadow most of the day. The entire bed is planted with white and pale pink astilbe. Over time the plants have grown together so that now they form a lacy mat of ferny foliage that is very efficient is stifling weeds.
The garden has a soaker hose which supplies moisture to the bed during hot, dry summers, as astilbe likes moisture as well as shade. After the pink and white plants have bloomed, the ferny foliage looks fine until late summer/early fall a ribbon of lavender Chinese astilbe that is shorter than the pink and white varieties blooms along the front edge of the bed.
The bed is simple yet refined, and attractive both in and out of bloom. Though the plants have now increased and grown close together, they probably were originally planted much further apart and mulched while they took hold and grew together and filled in so that mulching was no longer needed to deter weeds.
I keep thinking of how different varieties of astilbes with varying bloom times could be used in a similar low-maintenance shaded bed. It is extremely low maintenance and that appeals to me!