Tag Archives: shade plants

Best Vine for Shade: Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’

Japanese hydrangea vine

For an easy and fast growing woody vine for partial or rather  shady spots, consider Japanese Hydrangea Vine, aka  Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’.  Similar but visually different (and IMHO more lovely) than its cousin Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomela petiolares), the cultivar ‘Moonlight’ has faint silvery mottling on it’s dark blue-green heart shaped foliage. In July and August, it bears large (up to 9″) white “lacecap” flowers that are composed of teardrop shaped sepals attached to the tiny fertile flower clusters.  Although it is not native, the fertile flowers do invite pollinators. Plants come into bloom more quickly than do Hydrangea anomela petiolares, plus its flowers last longer and can be controlled to 10-15′ tall, although it can get taller with age.

Grow Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’  espaliered up walls, pergolas and arbors or even over stonewalls. It enjoys  a rich evenly moist well-drained soil for quickest growth. and plants are hardy in zones 5b-9.

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The Forgotten Hellebore

No, I’m not referring to the legendary Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger. I am suggesting that this lovely winter bloomer, Helleborus foetidus (pictured above), should be more widely grown. Unfortunately its specific name is Latin for “foul smelling”, and thus is commonly called Stinking Hellebore. Take note, in case you are already prejudiced, that I have never detected a smell, foul or otherwise.

What Helleborus foetidus does offer are lovely clusters of celadon green  bells sometimes as early as late fall or early winter. The flowers begin forming in November, and emerge on caulescent stems above dissected dark green foliage. Unlike the familiar Lenten Rose hybrids (Helleborus orientalis), these babies bloom on past season’s growth. A mild start to winter will encourage H. foetidus to flower away on the shortest days. If more frigid temperatures take hold, no harm is done; the blooming picks up again at winter’s end. Once the flowers set seed, the branched stems die and then need to be cut back. This encourages a surge of fresh new foliar growth.

You may ask why this plant is often overlooked. Blame its common name, perhaps, but it is not a patented and cloned variety; you need to grow this species hellebore from seed.  It is perfectly hardy in zones 5-9, is easy to grow in either sun or shade in a well-drained soil, and in our garden it self sows, always in the right spot. I don’t consider this tendency to be a nuisance, but a good thing. Helleborus foetidus is not extremely long lived, and its seedlings insure future plants.

So here we have a perennial that blooms when little else does, grows in sun or shade, is deer resistant, with flowers that are visited by the earliest foraging bees.  Is it time to add this forgotten Hellebore to your winter garden?

 

Two Time Tested Groundcovers To Try

Some of you will remember that many (20+) years ago, there was a wonderful specialty nursery on the West Coast called Heronswood. Heronswood Nursery turned us on to so many great new plants! Yes the climate on Bainbridge Island was much milder than ours here in zone 6, and some of their offerings would not survive our cold winters. Still there were plant discoveries that could.  One was this evergreen ground cover commonly known as Silver Veined Wintercreeper, (Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’).

We’ve had this planted for decades in a spot with only a few hours of sunlight. Here it has gracefully spread and spilled over a low retaining wall. Plants do not get much taller than 8-10″ but can cover an area as the stems might root along as they touch the earth. It is known to be hardy in zones 5-9, is adaptable to part sun or shade plus it is disliked by deer.

Sedum sichotense

Another ground cover we have enjoyed in our garden for years is Sedum sichotense. (now reclassified as Phedimus sichotense). Low growing (under 4″) but ever spreading, it is a superb choice for dry soil in full sun. The narrow serrated leaves add textural interest, but what is most exciting is the foliage turns shades of brilliant red in the fall .

Fall color starting to turn red

Sedum sichotense offers clusters of starry yellow summer flowers that are favored by bees. It ishardy in zones 4-9 (it’s native to a part of Russia we’re told).  And yes, it is deer resistant.

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A Versatile Fall Aster

Heath Aster planted itself in the dappled shade of our oak tree.

I take no credit for planting the occasional surprise of native Symphyotrichum ericoides (heath aster) in our gardens…they just appear and often in just the right spot. Unobtrusive all summer, but a delightful accent when flowers form in mid-September, Heath Aster presents 1-2′ stems bearing hundreds of tiny white daisies with yellow centers, creating a frothy foam in both sunny and even somewhat shady areas.

Synphyotrichum ‘Bridal Veil’…a Chicago Botanic Garden Introduction. ( image courtesy of CBC)

There are selected forms out there….‘Snow Flurry’ stays quite low at  6-8″ with 2′ branches that hug the earth, making it a useful native ground cover for the edge of a border or in the rock garden. A new selection ‘Bridal Veil’, introduced by the Chicago Botanic Garden, is believed to be a naturally occurring cross of ericoides and “?”. It produces strong 2′ arching stems with copious amounts of blossoms and forms vigorous clumps.

All forms of Heath Aster prefer well-drained soil and are quite drought tolerant once established. As I mentioned we’ve had plants pop up in even shady situations, but I think you get more flower power with full sun. Deer resistant and pollinator-friendly and hardy in zones 5-8…yay!

5 Plants for the Late Summer Shade Garden

Sunny borders can be wonderfully colorful, but when the heat of summer settles in, it is the comfort of the shade garden that I am drawn to. Hosta is now excluded from so many gardens due to its “appetizer for deer” reputation, so you might want to consider this short list of shade-tolerant plants that shine in August.

Hydrangea  arborescens ‘Haas Halo’... This lace cap selection of Smooth Aster boasts sturdy stems that can bear the weight of the large white blossoms.  This native shrub is a favorite of pollinators and grows 3-5′ tall and wide. Hardy in zones 3-9.

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’.…. It’s hard not to be impressed by a glowing golden specimen of Sun King Spikenard. This Aralia grows 4-6′ tall and we have 6-year-old clumps that are easily 6′ across.  (It might take a few years, but be ready…). In late summer white “Sputnik” flowers top the tall stems, followed by showy black fruit. Pollinators love this plant and the deer don’t. Hardy in zones 4-9.

Kirengeshoma palmata… I remember the first time I saw  Korean waxbells, looking very shrub-like in front of an antique farmhouse, fresh and in flower in August. Bold Maple like leaves are its main feature, but it does have soft yellow somewhat bell shaped flowers.  Slow growing at first,  but in about 4-5 years you will have a clump 4′ tall and 5′ wide. Oh, and yes, it is deer resistant. Hardy in zones  5-9.

Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’ Toad lilies tend to get resentful if the soil isn’t evenly moist, but I have found ‘Autumn Glow’ more forgiving than most. The extra-large foliage has a wider band of gold than the other variegated forms, and the purplish orchid-like flowers are produced in profusion during August and September. Hardy in zones  5-9.

Hakonechloa macra aureola Japanese Forest Grass is simply rewarding. It clumps up, not too quickly, to healthy expanses  2-4′ across and its yellow and green variegated leaves brightens up shady corners and adds contrast to other bold foliage plants. The deer are not fond of Hakonechloa, but we are learning that the bunnies like to nibble its young shoots in the spring, so an application of repellent is in order by those who are being pestered. Hardy in zones 5-10.

Do you have a favorite late-summer plant that tolerates some shade? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glows in the Shade: Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’

We are always looking for summer blooming perennials for shade, and here’s one you should consider. Many of us notice plants when their blossoms present themselves , and indeed Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’ does captivate with its purple-blue orchid like flowers. I say that this form of Toad Lily deserves attention for its large and bold golden edged foliage. Ovate leaves grow to 6″ long and 3” wide and plants enjoy a rich, somewhat moist but well drained soil. Plants spread by stolons and clump up quite quickly, growing to 2’ tall and up to 3’ wide in dappled shade. ‘Autumn Glow’  is reliably winter hardy in zones 5-8.

Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’ still showing off in early October

The flowers, born in sprays from late July into early October, are lovely as cut flowers and do attract butterflies. Pair Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’ with ferns, such as Athyrium otophorumor golden leaved Hosta for a nice shady vignette.

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Smitten by Solomon’s Seal

Polygonatum x hybridum 'Striatum'

Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Striatum’

Unfurling

Other forms….Unfurling

Dancing

Dancing

polygonatum_flowers_web

Dangling

Just a few images to share….loving the various species and  forms in the genus Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal).  We currently have about 15 selections, ranging in size from tiny 6″ Polygonatum humile to  6′ selections of P. biflorum. and are always seeking out more.

quick facts: Solomon Seals is in the family Asparagaceae. Most forms are hardy in zones 5-8, (a few in zones 3 & 4). They slowly spread by jointed rhizomes, and enjoy well drained soil in partial to full shade. Long lived and almost indestructible, Solomon’s Seal is one of those plants that holds its good looks with little care all season.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Mahonia x media 'Charity'

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

What shrub has evergreen foliage resembling both holly and fern, blooms in late fall/early winter with a candelabra of fragrant primrose yellow flowers, is drought tolerant once established and not a favorite of marauding deer? Answer: Mahonia x media ‘Charity, a hybrid of the two species, M. japonica and M. lomariifolia.

Ever since I saw a form of Mahonia  blooming in winter in the Plymouth MA garden of my friend Susanne, I have wanted to have this plant in my garden. Certainly, this is pushing the hardiness limits in our neck of the woods, so I have been  scouting for a very protected spot (thinking of a clearing in our now dense grove of Yellow Groove Bamboo).  ‘Charity’ is hardy to 0 degrees F, but we usually dip below that for at least a day or two each winter.

Of course all of you who live in balmier zones 7-9 should consider giving this winter interest plant a try.  It is a broadleaf evergreen, and so it would be prudent to choose a site with protection from winter winds and strong western sun. Plants develop a vase shape and usually grow to 5-7’ tall but can reach 10’ in mild climates, with a width of 3-6’. The flowers begin forming in late October, providing unexpected color when you need it most from late November into January. The multiple upright racemes of small flowers are magnets for bees, who may venture out on mild days. Rich blue fruit follow in spring, thus the common name Grape Holly,  and these are relished by birds. Older foliage may take on reddish tones in late winter, and tarnished leaves should be pruned once fresh growth begins to unfurl.

Mahonia can be grown in full sun or dappled shade, but if grown in full sun it it may require a bit more watering in dry spells. I should also add that the foliage has rather unfriendly sharp edges, and can deliver a “look but don’t touch” message to passerby.

Do you grow any forms of Mahonia and how have they performed where you live? Please share your experience.

Not Just Fall Color: Enkianthus campanulatus

enkianthusfall

Enkianthus fall foliage

Redvein Enkianthus is about to betray its quiet charms any day now, with a display of technicolor fall foliage in shades of gold, orange, fiery red through purple. In mid to late spring it delights in a more soft-spoken way, bearing dainty clusters of white or red bells, depending on the cultivar. E. ‘Lipstick’ has white bells delicately edged in brick red, ‘Red Bells’ are colored, as the name suggests, coral red, and ‘Showy Lantern’. A slow growing shrub at first, it is often listed at growing from 6-8′ tall and 4-5′ wide, but with age it can easily reach 15′ or more with a wider reach. In fact, Enkianthus campanulatus can be pruned to from a lovely small tree. It is a perfect candidate for the partially shaded garden, both large and small.

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus 'Lipstick'

Enkianthus ‘Lipstick’

enkredbell500

Enkianthus c. ‘Red Bells’

Enkianthus c. 'Showy Lantern'

Enkianthus c. ‘Showy Lantern’

Grow Redvein Enkianthus in full sun or partial shade. It enjoys an enriched, well drained, acidic soil that stays evenly moist, although we have found it to be quite forgiving of dry spells, once established. It is deer resistant, but please note that deer will eat almost anything if hungry enough. Perfectly hardy in zones 5-8, with some reporting success growing it in zone 4B.

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5 Fall Bloomers for Shady Gardens

Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty'

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’

What’s black (dark chocolate) and white (ivory) and smells like grape jelly? Answer: Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, formerly categorized as Cimicifuga and commonly known as Fairy Candles (yes!) Bugbane (eee-uugh!), or Cohosh. This selection originated years ago at Fred and Maryann McGourty’s famous Hillside Gardens in CT. Select this plant for its brown/black foliage which is attractive all season. In September, fragrant  ivory flowers on 5-6′ stems emit a smell reminiscent of my childhood… Welch’s grape jelly. Actaea like a soil that has even moisture, and will need supplemental watering in dry spells. Hardy in zones 5-8.

Tricyrtis 'White Towers'

Tricyrtis hirta ‘White Towers’

Toad lilies  have their charms….exquisite, up close and personal blossoms, sometimes lavender, sometimes purple spotted…Tricyrtis ‘White Towers’  has pure white blossoms which lack spots, but are accented with lavender tinted stamens. The upright somewhat arching stems grow 18-20″ tall, and plants spread by stolons. Toad lilies like an evenly moist soil as well, and are hardy in zones 4-8.

Hosta 'One Man's Treasure'

Hosta ‘One Man’s Treasure’

More attention should be paid to Hosta with showy flowers, especially when they bloom at the end of the summer. Hosta ‘One Man’s Treasure’ is a small to medium Hosta with simple dark green leaves that have distinctive reddish purple petioles. In late September  clusters of showy dark lavender flowers are produced.  Hardy in zones 3-8.

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Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ , commonly known as Spikenard, has bold compound leaves which are bright yellow when grown in a lot of sun, and  more of a chartreuse if given more shade. At first this plant seems unimposing, but give this Aralia a few years and it will be super sized…a good 5-6′ tall and wide. White starbursts of flowers form in September on dark stems followed by black fruit. Hardy in zones 4-9.

Begonia grandis 'Heron's Pirouette'

Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’

Pretty enough to be grown as a container specimen, yet Begonia grandis perpetuates for us in well drained soil, especially in pockets at the top of our retaining wall. Plants are propagated by dividing little bulbils which form underground as well as along the stems.  The attractive ovate leaves are under-sided in a ruby red ,  and from August to October sprays of  dainty pale pink flowers are born on 18″ upright then decumbent stems. Please note that in the spring, plants don’t show signs of like until late May here in New England, so mark the planting spot to prevent plants from accidentally being dug up. Hardy in zones 6-10.