For years, my customers have been asking for woody plants for shade—trees, shrubs, and vines—in addition to the perennials I sell. Last year I found a wholesale woody plant nursery with the quality and selection I needed to be able to offer woody plants at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. I put together two offerings in 2010 and have just sent out my first 2011 list. To view the catalogue, click here. However, I thought my blog readers who are not customers might be interested in learning about the woody plants that I would recommend they add to their shade gardens. And doing an article allows me to add more information and explain why I chose the plants I included so customers might be interested also.
Included in my offering are one tree, three camellias, four other shrubs, and one vine. Of the nine plants I have chosen, five are native. Please read my article My Thanksgiving Oak Forest to see why I think planting native plants is crucial to our environment. My article New Native Shade Perennials for 2011 explains why I think native cultivars and hybrids are valuable native plants.
Six of the plants I have chosen are evergreen or semi-evergreen, and four bloom in the off season: fall, winter, or very early spring. This reflects my desire to see gardeners expand their gardens’ season beyond spring and summer to become a year round paradise for them to enjoy. With that introduction, here are the plants I am highlighting:
‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is an extremely cold hardy southern magnolia tree perfect for our area (southeastern Pennsylvania, U.S.). It is said to be even hardier than ‘Edith Bogue’, which I have in my garden and came through our difficult winter in pristine condition. It grows to 35’ tall at maturity and thrives in sun to partial shade. The huge fragrant white flowers are beautifully displayed against the glossy dark evergreen leaves in June and July. The rusty undersides of the leaves are particularly ornamental in this cultivar: I couldn’t take my eyes off it when I saw it on a local garden tour.
Southern magnolia is native from Maryland south. ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant, click here to see why, and a Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit (photos courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder), click here for details.
I choose three hardy camellias, all with different characteristics, for their off season flowers and evergreen leaves. Camellia x ‘April Blush’ is a spring-blooming hardy camellia with gorgeous plump buds opening to semi-double blush-pink flowers in April and May. It has glossy dark evergreen leaves, which come through the winter unscathed. It is 5’ tall and grows in part to full shade. This is the cultivar that I have in my garden, and it is fully cold hardy in our area.
Camellia x ‘Spring’s Promise’ is a very early spring-blooming hardy camellia that also flowers in the fall for two seasons of interest. Its single coral-red flowers appear in March and April displayed beautifully by its glossy dark evergreen leaves. It was in full bloom in Charles Cresson’s garden during our March 3 winter interest seminar, see Winter Interest Seminars for an additional photo, and Charles highly recommends it. It is 5’ tall, grows in part to full shade, and is fully hardy in our area.
Camellia x ‘Winter’s Snowman’ is a fall-blooming hardy camellia. Its semi-double, anemone form white flowers glow when displayed against its glossy evergreen leaves in November and December. ‘Winter’s Snowman’ is a vigorous plant with a narrow upright habit. It grows to 6’ tall, in part to full shade and is fully hardy in our area. This is another of Charles Cresson’s favorites.
I have chosen four other shrubs for their outstanding ornamental qualities. Calycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ is a hybrid between our eastern U.S. native and an Asian sweetshrub and was introduced by the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina. It has breathtaking large wine-red flowers (see photos at the top and above) set off beautifully by the smooth bright green leaves with yellow fall color. I placed this shrub at the entrance to my woodland garden and my customers are entranced by it as am I. It grows to 8’ tall and 5’ wide in part to full shade.
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, variegated winter daphne, has rose-pink buds opening to extremely fragrant clusters of pale pink flowers in early spring. Its fine-textured, evergreen leaves are delicately edged in cream. It grows to 4’ tall and wide in part to full shade. It should be protected from winter sun and wind by planting it in a sheltered southeastern-facing location. This is the daphne in my terrace garden that my customers have been asking about for almost 20 years because it perfumes that whole nursery when it blooms! I am re-planting this year because my very large specimens were killed by falling white pine branches last winter. Daphnes do not like to be disturbed once planted.
Fothergilla gardenii, native dwarf fothergilla, has fragrant white bottlebrush flowers in April and May. Its blue-green leaves turn lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red in the fall (see photo below). It grows to 3’ tall and wide, making it an excellent shrub for small gardens and spaces. It will grow in any light conditions from full sun to full shade and is wet site tolerant. It is native to the southeastern US. Missouri Botanical Garden has chosen dwarf fothergilla as a Plant of Merit (photos courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder), for details click here.
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Pee Wee’ (Native Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea) photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Pee Wee’ produces large, long-lasting, upright pyramids of white flowers in June and July, changing to pink as they age and remaining ornamental into winter. It is prized for its bold-textured leaves with burgundy-red fall color and cinnamon-colored exfoliating bark. Walnut tolerant and native to the southeastern US, at 3′ tall it is the perfect native shrub for smaller spaces and smaller gardens. It grows in any light from full sun to full shade. If I could have only one shrub for shade, oakleaf hydrangea would be it.
The full size oakleaf hydrangea is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant, for details click here.
Gelsemium sempervirens ‘Margarita’ (Native Carolina Jessamine) photos above and below courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Gelsemium sempervirens ‘Margarita’ blooms with copious fragrant, bright yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers in April and May. The lustrous, dark green leaves are semi-evergreen and provide winter interest. It is native to the southeastern U.S. and reaches 15’ at maturity in full sun to part shade. I grow this vine on a lattice trellis along my fence line in part shade and its beauty never fails to provoke comments. It is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant, for details click here.
I hope I have convinced you that these plants would be excellent additions to your shade garden. If you are a customer, you have until April 7 to place an order by clicking here. If not, now you have some plants to ask for at your local independent nursery.
Please leave a comment/reply telling me what other woody plants for shade I might want to offer in the future and describing your experience with them.
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.), click here.
Nursery Happenings: My next nursery event is Bulb and Native Wildflower Day on Saturday, April 9, from 10 am to 2 pm. My next open house sale features early spring-blooming shade plants and is Saturday, April 16, from 10 am to 3 pm. For details and directions, click here.