Archive for Aster cordifolius

What’s Blooming in Mid-Fall?

Posted in Fall, Fall Color, How to, landscape design, my garden, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Hygrangea 'Limelight', Aster cordifolius, Rudbeckia triloba‘Limelight’ hydrangea, native blue wood aster, and native brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) shine through October.

For me, fall has three seasons, early, middle, and late, and they do not conform to the calendar definition of fall.  Early fall plants perform in September, a month that is technically summer until the equinox.  Mid-fall plants peak in October, and late fall plants grace November.  As far as I am concerned, December is winter no matter what the calendar says.  The first post in this series covered September bloomers, for details click here.  This post features perennials and shrubs that make a daily walk through my garden worthwhile in October, even as the weather cools.  The next post will feature plants for November.

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Hydrangea 'Limelight'As the weather cools in October, ‘Limelight’ hydrangea’s flowers take on this lovely pink hue.


Anemone x 'Honorine Joubert'Some of my other favorite Japanese anemones like ‘September Charm’ and ‘Pamina’ may extend into October, but ‘Honorine Joubert’ is the queen, blooming throughout the month.  It also has the best habit and most flowers of any Japanese anemone that I grow.


Callicarpa 'Early Amethyst'Berries are very important in October, and none is more eye-catching than beautyberry, here ‘Early Amethyst’, an Asian variety.


Callicarpa 'Early Amethyst'The unusual purple berries are elegantly set off by the lime green leaves.  When the leaves drop in November, the berries persist.


Callicarpa americanaI actually prefer the cluster form and color of native callicarpa berries, but Callicarpa americana may have hardiness issues in our zone.  I lost two of my three established plants last winter.  The third is huge and vigorous though.


Persicaria 'Purple Dragon'My ‘Red Dragon’ fleece flower bloomed beautifully this year, and the purple leaves still look great in October.


Cyclamen hederifolium at ChanticleerOctober is the month for fall-blooming hardy cyclamen and the wonderful leaves remain gorgeous all winter (photo taken at Chanticleer).


Cyclamen hederifolium 'Alba'‘Album’ is a white-blooming form of hardy cyclamen.


Tricyrtis 'Sinonome'‘Sinonome’ toad-lily is another outstanding October plant and continues full strength until the first frost.  This photo was taken October 23, and plenty of unopened buds remain.


Tricyrtis 'Sinonome'A close up of ‘Sinonome’s orchid like flowers.


TricyrtisAnother toad-lily with a beautiful habit blooming in October at Welkinweir Estate Garden in Pottstown.  There was no sign, but it may be Tricyrtis hirta ‘Variegata’.


Amsonia hubrichtii at ChanticleerNative threadleaf bluestar shines again in October when it turns this gorgeous yellow-orange, here at Chanticleer.


Cimicifuga Scott Arboretum Fall 2014Cimicifuga’s (actaea) soaring, beautifully scented candelabras are dramatic in October, here at the Scott Arboretum.


Aster tartaricusTartarian aster takes over when all the other asters except native blue wood aster (see first photo) are done.


Ceratostigma plumbaginoides & Corydalis luteaYellow corydalis blooms all season and continues on into November, while the blue flowers of autumn leadwort start in June and peak in September and October.


Mid-October marks the start of the snowdrop and camellia season, two plants that carry me through the depths of winter and into spring.  Although the variety broadens considerably in November, I want to show you the snowdrops and camellias that start the show:


Galanthus reginae-olgae, Lamium 'Shell Pink'The fall-blooming snowdrop species, Galanthus reginae-olgae, sometimes called Queen Olga’s snowdrop because it was named for the Queen of Greece, always blooms by October 15.  Shown here with my favorite lamium, ‘Shell Pink’, which flowers all season.


Galanthus reginae-olgae 'Tilebarn Jamie'Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Tilebarn Jamie’ is an improvement on the straight species with bigger, rounded flowers and two flower stems per plant.


Camellia x 'Snow Flurry'I am so thrilled that this spring, I finally found ‘Snow Flurry’ fall-blooming camellia to plant in my garden.  It starts the camellia season off with a glorious show in mid-October.


Camellia 'Lu Shan Snow'‘Lu Shan Snow’ is my oldest camellia and starts the third week of October.


Camellia x 'Long Island Pink'‘Long Island Pink’ is another early fall-blooming camellia starting in mid-October.  I planted it last fall, and it sailed through our terrible winter to produce a large crop of flowers this fall.



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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Your Native Woodland: If You Build It They Will Come

Posted in Fall Color, groundcover, landscape design, native plants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Virginia bluebells and Celandine poppy in my woodland

Well you might have to plant a few first.  What am I talking about?  How to create your very own woodland filled with native plants.  I have written before about how important native plants are to our survival.  To read about it, click here.  Now I am going to tell you how to create a shade garden in which mid-Atlantic native plants thrive and multiply with abandon.

my native woods

It is really quite simple.  All you do is take one woodland area, mix with generous amounts of compost, add the appropriate native plants, and wait a few years.  The key is knowing which plants to use.

I started with the worst possible soil in the worst possible conditions.  Not only were the beds composed of the hard baked clay and rocks prevalent in our area, but they were filled with roots from 100-year-old London plane and—hold onto your hats—black walnut trees.  Add to that, years of trash, including roofing slate and coal furnace shovelings, dumped in the woods before municipal collection came along and construction debris from the 1960s.

Nature does not dot the landscape with precious collectibles but  “designs” with large sweeps of single types of plants, and that is what I have done in my woods  To create a woodland like mine, all you do is plant at least five but preferably seven and ideally nine of the plants profiled below in beds amended with generous amounts of compost, mulch heavily with ground leaves, and stand back and wait.  Really….that’s what you do….it works.

I wanted to recommend six plants, but when it came down to slimming the competition, I had to go with nine: seven spring-blooming and two fall-blooming.  All are native to the mid-Atlantic and Pennsylvania and all seed freely in a woodland setting once they get going.  And the winners are:

Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica: porcelain blue flowers top blue-green leaves in March and April, goes dormant when hot.  All my plants came from one plant given to me by a friend.

Celandine poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum: lovely filigreed leaves are covered with large bright yellow flowers in April and May.  Again, all my plants came from one plant given to me by a friend.

Dwarf Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium reptans: wintergreen fern-like leaves are followed in April and May by copious blue bell-shaped flowers replaced by ornamental chartreuse seedpods.


White violets, Viola striata: white flowers in April and May.  All my plants came from one clump dug from my woods.

Blue creeping phlox, Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’: wintergreen mat of foliage is topped with blue flowers in April and May.

Creeping phlox, Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’: creeping phlox comes in blue, purple, white, and pink.  The purple is the most vigorous.

Native ginger, Asarum canadense: the reddish purple flowers appear below the leaves.

Golden groundsel, Senecio aureus: the wintergreen leaves are topped by attractive purple buds in March followed by fragrant yellow flowers in April and May.  This vigorous spreader is a great native substitute for vinca, pachysandra, and ivy.

Blue wood aster, Aster cordifolius: the leaves of blue wood aster completely cover the ground in the spring.

Blue wood aster is covered with flowers in October and November.

Northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium: pendulous oat-like flowers grace this native shade grass in October and November.  The foliage ages to a lovely khaki color that remains ornamental through winter.

The flowers of northern sea oats in the slanted light of fall.

As the spreading, woodland plants profiled above establish themselves, you can add pockets of other special natives like trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits, mayapples, bloodroot, and ferns.  The result is magical.


Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens now has a Facebook page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Nursery Happenings: My Native Wildflower Weekend will take place Friday, April 6, from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday, April 7, from 10 am to 2 pm.  Look for an email listing the native plants available if you are on my customer email list.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

October GBBD: A Few Fall Favorites for Flowers

Posted in Fall, Fall Color, Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, landscape design, native plants, Shade Gardening, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2011 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

The subtle coloring of ‘White Towers’ toad-lily, Tricyrtis latifolia ‘White Towers’, is magical in the fall.  Every photo was taken at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens this fall.

I am linking this post to Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for October when gardeners around the world show photos of what’s blooming in their gardens (follow the link to see  photographs from other garden bloggers assembled by Carol at May Dreams Gardens).  I am also linking to Gesine’s Bloom Day at Seepferds Garten.  I am located in Bryn Mawr (outside Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, U.S., and zone 6b.

In my last post, A Few Fall Favorites for Foliage and Fruit,  I explained that, inspired by an article about dressing up your fall garden with mums because everything else is finished, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to prove them wrong.  There was so much going on that I divided the plants into three posts: foliage and fruit, flowers, and hostas for fall.  This is part two highlighting flowers.  So here are some of the flowers dressing up my shady gardens right now:

Japanese anemones, Anemone x hybrida, are one of the undisputed stars of my fall garden, growing anywhere from full sun to almost full shade and thriving no matter what the weather.  Clockwise from upper left: ‘Honorine Joubert’, ‘Margarete’, ‘Whirlwind’, ‘Bodnant Burgundy’, ‘September Charm’.

The black plumes of ‘Moudry’ fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’, glow in the low-angled fall light.  ‘Moudry’ does well in the shade, flowering later and remaining more compact.

I grow about five different varieties of native golden rod, Solidago,  with my current favorite ‘Little Lemon’, growing only 12 to 18″ high.  Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not cause allergies as it is pollinated by insects.  Wind pollinated ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is the culprit.

Toad-lilies, Tricyrtis, bloom throughout the fall in full shade with ‘Sinonome’ just getting started now and continuing into November.  Clockwise from upper left: ‘Sinonome’, ‘White Towers’, ‘Miyazaki’, ‘Empress’.

Another plant that is just warming up is Pennsylvania native northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium.  Its foliage will turn orange later in the fall and then dry to a beautiful khaki for the winter.  Be forewarned, however, when this plant reaches critical mass, it starts spreading, and its wiry roots are very difficult to remove.  Give it room and then triple the space you think you need.

Autumn leadwort, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, is one of my favorite groundcovers.  Its true blue flowers start blooming in June and continue through October when its leaves turn bright red.

Pennsylvania native ‘Bluebird’ smooth aster, A. laevis ‘Bluebird’, seeds all around my garden in full sun to part shade.  Butterflies and bees love it.  Please click here to find out why most native cultivars are just as friendly to native fauna as the species.

‘Zebrina’ hollyhock mallow, Malva sylvestris ‘Zebrina’, seems to move around my garden at will, but it never fails to steal the show with its 3 to 4′ stalks loaded with showy flowers.  It grows best in full to part sun.

Fall-blooming hardy cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolium, is one of the plants I would take to my shady “desert island”.  Right now its pink or white flowers are floating all around my shady gardens.  Later its evergreen leaves will emerge from summer dormancy and look like the photo on the left all winter long.

I am always raving about the foliage of the coral bell cultivars derived from our Pennsylvania native Heuchera villosa.  Well this is the plant that started it all, Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’.  It has very large and attractive fuzzy green leaves and beautiful flowers that bloom right now–this is the only cultivar I would grow for its flowers (the rest I grow for the leaves).

The cultivar ‘Cory’ of Pennsylvania native hardy ageratum, Eupatorium coelestinum, is far superior to the straight species.  It has more abundant and showier flowers, ornamental purple stems, interesting crinkled leaves, and a much better upright habit.  ‘Cory’ is also a good spreader in sun to part shade so give it room.  Pictured above with another of my favorite Pennsylvania natives, wrinkleleaf goldenrod, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’.

Hardy begonias, Begonia grandis, have spread all over my garden in full shade, and I have yet to find a place that I don’t want them.  Because they come up very late in May and really just get going in the fall, I use them to fill in between my hostas on my back hill.  

Pennsylvania native Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium dubium, reaches 10′ tall in my garden and flops over in our torrential rains.  The “dwarf” version called ‘Little Joe’ grows to a diminutive 5′ tall and has remained erect through the 30″ of rain we had in August and September to bloom now with its large purple flowers–a magnet for butterflies and bees.

In the spring, a gardener I very much admire brought over this plant, telling me it was a salvia with yellow flowers that grows in full shade and blooms in the fall.  I duly planted it in my shady “yellow garden” and it thrived through heat, drought, and rain with no attention.  It is called woodland sage, Salvia koyamae.

I am just beginning to learn about hydrangeas because until last year there was no point in planting them because of the deer.  One of my first acquisitions after the netting went up was ‘Limelight’, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’.  The large white flowers aging to pink have been blooming all summer in part shade, and there are still buds coming—very impressive.

If you want a multitude of fall flowers in dry, full shade, you can’t find a better plant than Pennsylvania native blue wood aster, Aster cordifolius.  It fills in all the difficult sites in my woodland and produces a glorious blue haze in the fall.

It is fitting that I should end with my favorite Pennsylvania native perennial for fall, garden phlox, Phlox paniculata.  I love everything about garden phlox: its heavenly fragrance, its long bloom time from early summer through fall, the wealth of colors available, its polite self-sowing, and its attraction to butterflies.  I dream of installing a meadow area and collecting dozens of plants of every phlox cultivar out there!

Of the 17 photos above, 8 picture plants that are native to Pennsylvania and eastern North America.  I believe that planting native plants is crucial to our survival.  Please take the time to read this short essay explaining why.  And Pennsylvania’s native plants really come into their own in the fall eliminating the need for dressing with mums!

Click to enlarge


To read Part 1, A Few Fall Favorites for Foliage and Fruit, click here.  Stay tuned for Part 3, Hostas for Fall.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that sadistic botanists have recently changed the botanical names of many of the native plants that I highlighted to completely unpronounceable and unspellable but “botanically proper” names.  At this point, I refuse to follow.

Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), just click here.

Nursery Happenings: The nursery closes for the year on October 16.


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