New Shade Perennials for 2011

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Cyclamen coum 'Pewter Leaf' photo Arrowhead AlpinesSpring-blooming Hardy Cyclamen, Cyclamen coum ‘Pewter Leaf’: grows and spreads well in my shady rock garden where it gets the excellent drainage it needs; can’t beat the solid silver leaves paired with the pink flowers (photo Arrowhead Alpines).

My blog has two audiences, one anticipated and one unexpected.  The first is composed of the wonderful, loyal customers of my shade plant nursery, Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, over 340 of whom subscribe to my blog.  My primary goal in starting the blog was to communicate more information to interested customers in a garden magazine-type format without sending emails to customers who weren’t interested.

Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium niponicum ‘Burgundy Lace’: I love the colors of Japanese painted fern and they can only be improved with more purple; naturalizes in dry shade in my gardens (photo Terra Nova Nurseries).

My second group of readers is the garden-blogging community, an audience I never anticipated  when I started this project.  Nan at Hayefield told me to register my blog with Blotanical, the international garden-blogging registry.  I did, and now I have readers all over the world.  Blotanical is a great site to visit if you like to read about gardening, and you don’t need to have a blog to access it.  Several of my customers have joined Blotanical and enjoy reading the popular articles posted there.  It is also a very warm and friendly virtual community of gardeners.

Helleborus x nigercors ‘Green Corsican’: a superior cross between Christmas rose and Corsican hellebore with many beautiful green flowers and gold-marbled leaves (just a taste, I will cover all my new hellebores in a separate article).

It is the time of year when I send out my new catalogue describing all the plants I will be selling at my nursery this spring.  I have already emailed it to my customers and posted it in Pages on my sidebar here.  It describes over 300 varieties of shade plants, including almost 80 hard-to-find natives and 60 plants that are new this spring.

Silver Lungwort, Pulmonaria ‘Silver Bouquet’: I collect pulmonarias (especially the silver cultivars) for their early flowers and striking wintergreen leaves (photo Terra Nova Nurseries).

Although I don’t do mail order (except for snowdrops), I still put together a catalogue for my customers to use as a reference when shopping at the nursery and planning or planting at home.  This came about because I find that plastic plant tags and most general gardening books are about equally inaccurate in their descriptions of the characteristics and  cultural requirements of shade plants.

White Checkered Lily, Fritillaria meleagris ‘Alba’: unlike most fritillarias, checkered lily is easy to grow and takes shade, it has naturalized throughout my woodland gardens; I love the purple and the white forms.

My catalogue has never included photos, but this year I want to show pictures on my blog with additional commentary for some of the new plants about which I am especially excited.  Complete descriptions and cultural information are in the 2011 catalogue.  Be forewarned  though, you are not about to see the glitzy new cultivars hot off the patent-laden presses of hot  shot plant hybridizers (in fact, you will probably never find most of them at my nursery).

‘Black Scallop’ Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’:  I usually don’t get excited about ajuga or sell it at my nursery, but ‘Black Scallop’ is exceptionally beautiful and has remained so, photo taken on 11/29/10

With a few exceptions, I don’t offer a plant for sale unless I have grown it successfully in my own gardens for a few years.  That eliminates all those perennials that look great in pots but are miserable failures in the ground or really any plant that requires even a modest amount of pampering to succeed.  I don’t believe in growing or selling those kinds of plants.  So, on with the 2011 show!

Double Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis ‘Blewbury Tart’: if you have been reading this blog, you know I love snowdrops, and this one is quite special! (just a taste, I will cover all my new snowdrops in a separate article).

Fairy Wings, Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’:  I have a large epimedium collection and ‘Lilafee’ is one of my favorites for flowers and fall color (photo Arrowhead Alpines).

Fairy Wings, Epimedium x warleyense: this is another one of the favorites in my collection, the orange flowers are magical in the dry, full shade in which epimediums thrive (photo Arrowhead Alpines).

Japanese Woodland Primrose, Primula sieboldii: foolproof primrose for dry, full shade, treasured in Japan with over 500 cultivars named, but rare in the US; I have been selling several named cultivars but this year I will include divisions from my own collection of unnamed varieties.

Gold Siberian Bugloss, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Diane’s Gold’: I haven’t grown this cultivar but all my other brunneras thrive in my dry woodland, and you can’t beat this gold color (photo Terra Nova Nurseries).

Crocus 'Ruby Giant'Snow Crocus, Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’:  I have always valued this very early-blooming species, which naturalizes in my garden, but ‘Ruby Giant’ has knock-your-socks-off deep violet-purple color (photo Charles Cresson).

Spring Vetchling, Lathyrus vernus: I am a sucker for all flowers in the pea family, and if they grow in full, dry shade, I’m sold; I grow four varieties of spring vetchling and love them all.

Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Stripe It Rich’: a new cultivar of this tried and true grass for shade with gold leaves and white stripes; I treasure its lovely cascading habit (photo Terra Nova Nurseries).

Dogtooth-violet, Erythronium dens-canis: a beautiful and easy dogtooth-violet that self-sows in my dry woodland.

Part 2 of this article will showcase the new native plants I will be offering in spring 2011, and new snowdrops, hellebores, and hostas will be covered in their own dedicated articles.


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.), just click here.

In my post I Need Your Help, I asked readers to send cards to the daughter of Kartik who was the subject of my post New Year’s Resolution to Edit the Garden.  I would still appreciate your help with this appeal.  Thanks.

The view from my desk this morning

63 Responses to “New Shade Perennials for 2011”

  1. I don’t have a lot of time to read long emails or articles, but I’m so enjoying your blog. The photos are inspiring and I’m saving the blogs to refer to in early spring for future purchasing. My yard looks like much like yours this morning. Enjoy being tucked in today!

  2. I wish your nursery was in my city — sounds like exactly the type of business I like to support. I’m impressed that you don’t stock all the glitzy newbie plants each season. It’s wonderful that you still trial them before offering them to customers. 🙂

    • Thanks Eliza. Unfortunately, plant trials aren’t what they used to be or the trials occur in more ideal conditions than the mid-Atlantic. One of the benefits I offer my customers is my own knowledge through growing them of the plants I sell. Carolyn

  3. Hi Carolyn. You have so lovely flowers in your nursery, I like all of them, especially the purple and green color. Sadly, I’m too far to get it from you and my garden climate not ‘friendly’ to them.

  4. Beautyful cyclamen and so many other great plants! I hope your new project will do great.

  5. Too bad you don’t do mail order, and to Canada ( just to increase my dismay). I have never seen a purple dogtooth violet before -very nice. I look forward to your native plant segment.

  6. All you flowers are gorgeous and your photos are so amazingly beautiful! I wish I could visit your nursery to get those lovely flowers for my garden even if they dont last long in our climate..

  7. You are a wonderful nursery owner to grow the plants you sell. I’m not sure I’ve found a local nursery owner who does this. Heck, you’re lucky if any of the workers know anything about the plants. I sure wish you lived closer because I have mostly all shade here so I really enjoy the plants you post about. I could learn a lot from you just by visiting. Happy New Year to you. I bet your catalog is most beautiful and helpful to your clients.

    • Thanks for the support Tina. The most common comment/compliment I get from my customers is that the plants they bought from me didn’t die. It is sad to think that that is their experience from other purchases, and funny that they view this as a compliment—I expect the plants I sell to live! Tennessee isn’t as far away as Malaysia, maybe you will get here one day. Carolyn

  8. This is a really information laden post. It is useful for both the readers and your clients seeking your suggestions and advice. It is a lot of work running a home or farm based nursery and just today, I am doing the federal and state filing to hire the Jamaican workers that work the nursery for my friend. I do not envy you with all the work necessary to run a growing nursery. I have my hands full with all the clerical that I do for my friend. And you have a catalog. I do the flyers we send out, so I know how time consuming that is too. Do you do the trade show circuit? That is just starting up too.

    • Hi Donna, Fortunately (and also unfortunately) I have no employees, my husband and I do all the work ourselves. No trade show circuit, in fact, no advertising at all until I started this blog/website, all my customers come by word-of-mouth. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Carolyn

      • I now envy you. When it is just a family run business, there are headaches that don’t come because you have to hire outside help. Like you said, it is both good and bad, but a lot of the fun is gone when employees are involved. This work I am doing now is such a royal pain and it is my first year doing it after an ’employee’ that normally has done it for the past twenty years just unexpectedly quit and it is due in a week.
        The trade shows is something I do like. I may make it to Ohio again this year. My friend does not really advertise either. The flyers go out to nurseries (long time customers) that sell his trees and shrubs both wholesale and retail.

      • I was going to attend the trade show MANTS in Baltimore last week, but I came down with a virus. I decided when I started this business that, if you have employees, a lot of your job is managing people instead of plants. Plants are so much easier. Carolyn

  9. Hi, Carolyn, I am a regular customer, and just want to say how much I have been enjoying your posts. Don’t forget your composters, who run their own business beside yours. That is another of the side benefits of being able to come there. To everyone else out there–we in this area have to negotiate parking on the side streets during open house. This is NOT a traditional nursery, it’s Carolyn’s yard and garage! Can’t wait to get there in the spring.

  10. thanks Carolyn for another very helpful post, I do not have much shade in my garden but I am beginning to realise that the more northerly latitude and less strong sun I have might mean some shade plants would like it here, like Eliza I wish there was someone like you and your nursery here or that I could move to your area, Frances

    • Frances, All the plants I sell grow in sun to part shade or part shade to full shade so some of the plants featured grow in the sun. I would think that was especially true in northern latitudes or milder climates (maybe some of my UK readers could chime in here). I doubt you want to move from an island off the northern tip of Scotland to suburban Philadelphia, but I could be wrong. Maybe there’s a trade in our future—I have always wanted to visit where you live. Carolyn

  11. Carolyn, I should love to visit your nursery. I love your collection and your philosophy! I am so glad you joined Blotanical, for that is how I found your fabulous blog! Your first photograph looks like it is floating in dark water instead of shade. Lovely!

    • Carol, You are much more within striking distance of my nursery than Scotland or Malaysia so maybe some day you will get here. Any birdwatchers out there should check out Carol’s blog (click on her name above) for amazing photos, right now of bluebirds nesting. Carolyn

  12. Carolyn, When I first saw the title of this post, I was both excited and wary. I have a new shade garden to plan, but I also tend to steer away from the latest new plant, preferring the tried and true. And then I saw your explanation that your “new” plants for 2011 are ones that you have already been growing successfully for several years. You are a plantswoman after my own heart! I am one blog reader who intends to become a customer — and since you are familiar with my Maine climate, you will probably be able to give me good advice on which plants will grow there. I can see that I have many pleasurable hours with your plant lists ahead of me. -Jean

    • Jean, Wow, worlds collide and virtual becomes actual (couldn’t resist saying that). I am excited that you will visit since you are not that far away in Gettysburg. I do garden in Maine: all annuals and vegetables in pots on my family’s deck. The woods around the house are filled by nature herself with gorgeous native trees, shrubs, mosses, ferns, and other perennials that I don’t feel the need to garden in the ground. So I don’t know a lot about hardiness in Maine. Carolyn

  13. patientgardener Says:

    I have a Japanese Painted Fern and it looks lovely along side a dark leaved Geranium.

    I do like your Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ – very pretty

  14. I have been following you for a short while and did not realize you are in the business. This is a great collection of plants, and I would love to know where you garden, and if your company has a web site, not for any surreptitious reasons, just out of curiosity.

  15. Oh my…. what a wonderful collection of plants… I have some of these and would like to have others…. I have concerns about the hardiness of cyclamens and have only had success with Pupureum to this point. Many ajugas don’t do well here so I will have to give Black Scallop a try. I will refer to your posts more as I’m new at plants that do ok in the dry wooded areas…. Larry

    • Larry, thanks for your thoughtful comments. You are right to be concerned about hardiness on the hardy (!?! see what I mean about common names) cyclamen. I just checked my Longwood Gardens bulbs course book and it says zones 6 to 9 for both Cyclamen coum and hederifolium unless you have a microclimate for it. I don’t generally think that much about hardiness because all my customers are local, and I grow all the plants I sell in my gardens so I know they are hardy here. Dry wooded areas are my specialty as there is not much else around here. Always wanted to know where all the moist shade referred to in gardening articles is found. Maybe it’s in Wisconsin. Carolyn

  16. Carolyne, Unfortunately I come in to your second category. We have some of the plants which you list today including the purple dog tooth violet. If not a visitor to your nursery I will at least look forward to my online visits. Alistair from Aberdeen Scotland

  17. Those plants are really spectacular, i haven’t seen most of them. Upon seeing Galanthus the first time in Turkey, it already became a favorite, then when you posted the double petalled, oh it really is marvelous! But of course not seeing them is not unusual because i am from the tropics, haha. But they are really unique even in the temperate climes. BTW, thank you very much for correcting my error about Lord Alfred Tennyson’s quote. I really appreciate it, and my mistake is already corrected in the post. Gardeners are really such lovely, kind people.

    • Andrea, glad to help out with the quote. It’s a long way from the Philippines to Turkey. I would love to hear the story and you saw snowdrops in the wild, which I think not many people have done. I don’t know if gardeners are aware that several snowdrop species are native to Turkey. Carolyn

  18. Saw many tempting things to get at your open house sales. I don’t have a deer problem but have lost primula to rabbits. You don’t seem to have that problem. I’ll have to give yours a try. And the cyclamen Pewter Leaf is very tempting.

    I’m hoping your readers can help with this predicament. I have a co-worker who is downsizing and must part with some houseplants. She has already chucked some. We all know of rescue resources for pets. Anyone know of ‘rescue’ for plants? This would be in the Philadelphia area.

    • Hi Darlene, I love hearing from my customers! I don’t have much of a problem with rabbits so I don’t know if the primroses I sell are more rabbit-proof. Cyclamen coum can be difficult to grow if you don’t give it exactly the conditions it wants, which is a dry and very well-drained site. Any local readers who want houseplants please email me and I will pass your emails to Darlene. On a more personal note, Darlene, Kartik just emailed to say that he and Tara really appreciated your card from Arizona and the way you could relate to Tara’s situation from personal experience. Thank you so much for that—you have made a difference as has everyone who has sent cards so far. Carolyn

  19. Debbie Lewis Says:

    Wow-i really wish you did mail order. There are soo many I want for my garden. Guess, I’ll have to put in my order and drive to Bryn Mawr to pick them up. I also wish that people could send you pictures of their gardens and
    you could send back a plan!

    You’re an inspiration.

    • Thanks Debbie. It’s just a short hop down here from Boston, and I know you know the way. No plans done though because I am not a landscaper designer. However, if you make an appointment and bring photos to my nursery, I will advise you on what plants to use and how to place them. I will even lay them out for you so you can take a photo to use when planting them at home. Carolyn

  20. What wonderful new choices for the shade garden! I have some Japanese Painted fern in my garden but I must get some of the Burgundy Lace. They are stunning! I also love the double snowdrop and am looking forward to your post on snowdrops. I hope you have a great season. I wish I lived closer so I could visit your nursery!

    • Karin, Georgia is really pretty far away but both our landscapes look the same right now with all the snow. I am looking forward to adding ‘Burgundy Lace’ and another Japanese painted fern I added to my list this year called ‘Regal Red’. Carolyn

  21. I enjoy seeing all the latest offerings. I wish that you shipped to Canada- you have showcased so many exciting new plants in this post that I be hard pressed to pick just a few favorites. I will have to see if I can find some of these locally. Have a great weekend. Jennifer

  22. What a fabulous blog you have ! As one who also loves snowdrops I am looking forward to that post.

  23. Thanks for visiting my blog today Carolyn!

    You’ve got a wonderful blog and website, and I’m in awe of your business. Very cool!

  24. LOVE this post, I uncovered an old shade garden last year on my property and can’t wait to try some of these out! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Carolyn, as you know I am no great gardener. But you have struck a note with me and my weakness…shade gardens. I have always been obsessed with them and have set them up each time we have moved. I find you blog a delightful mix of beautiful photos, great information and personal inspiration.

  26. So many gorgeous shade plants — that ‘Green Corsican’ hellebore is especially beautiful!

    Just found your blog after seeing your comment on Mr. Brown Thumb’s “Garden Bloggers” blog — I’ll definitely be visiting again! (And welcome to garden blogging — there are plenty of nice bloggers around!)

    • Colleen, No one has mentioned ‘Green Corsican’ yet, you must have refined tastes in plants. Amazing easy-to-grow species hybrid producing an abundance of flowers. I love green flowers. I know that garden bloggers are a great group; I was just disappointed that they were no different than any other group. Carolyn

  27. Hi, Carolyn, Thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂 I think shade gardens can be so beautiful and your nursery sounds amazing. I would love to come visit it sometime. 🙂

  28. Carolyn, Thanks for visiting Blithewold – I wish we were close enough to buy some of these lovelies! What a nice selection… Maybe I’ll get to take a roadtrip to PA someday…

  29. Thanks so much for your correction on the Cherry Laurel in my Evergreen Shrub post! I appreciate it! Chris

  30. […] before this years growing season, next we have the reason I am learning as much as I can from Carolyn’s shade garden posts, this is under the Lodge pole pines Pinus Contorta, due to the wind some of the lower […]

  31. Stunningly beautiful

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