Woody Plants for Shade Part 3

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 carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

‘Winter’s Joy’ Fall-blooming Hardy Camellia

My nursery specializes in herbaceous flowering plants for shade.   However, although no shade garden is complete without trees, shrubs, and vines, our local nurseries seem to ignore woody plants for shade.  To fill this gap, I offer my customers shade-loving woodies from a wholesale grower whose quality meets my exacting standards.  As in Woody Plants for Shade Part One and Woody Plants for Shade Part Two, 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 in addition to the customer offering allows me to add more information so customers might be interested also.

This summer was tough on plants.  I lost several shrubs that I planted this spring.  That is why fall is the best time to plant.  The soil temperature is elevated for good root development through December, but new plants don’t have to contend with scorching temperatures, severe drought, or an excess of rain.  The plants that I add in the fall are always the most successful in my garden.

Included in my offering are three evergreen shrubs, five deciduous shrubs, and one vine.  Of the nine plants I have chosen, three 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 are valuable native plants.  With that introduction, here are the plants I am offering highlighted in green:

The fall-blooming camellia ‘Winter’s Snowman’ shines in the winter sun.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I love camellias, especially fall-blooming varieties.  There is nothing like going outside on a cold November or December day and being greeted by large showy flowers backed by gorgeous evergreen leaves.  Camellias really light up the shadiest parts of my garden during the time of year when flowers are most appreciated.  For more information on and some beautiful photographs of fall-blooming hardy camellias, see my articles Fall-blooming Camellias Part 1 and Fall-blooming Camellias Part 2.

‘Winter’s Snowman’ blooming in December

In a very shady place on the terrace outside my front door, I have a ‘Winter’s Snowman’ fall-blooming hardy camellia.  At maturity, it will reach six feet.  Its semi-double white flowers glow when displayed against the glossy evergreen leaves in November and December.  It is a vigorous plant with a narrow upright habit.  Although it is fully hardy in our area, I have sheltered it from winter sun and our winter winds, which come from the northwest.

‘Winter’s Joy’ fall-blooming camellia

In a similarly sheltered and shady location outside my back door along the path to my compost “pit”, I have planted another fall-blooming camellia.   ‘Winter’s Joy’ fall-blooming hardy camellia has semi-double, fuchsia-pink flowers elegantly displayed against glossy evergreen leaves in November and December.  It is a vigorous plant with a narrow upright habit, reaching six feet at maturity.  Right now both these fall-blooming camellias are covered with buds.  I can’t wait for the display to begin.

‘Winter’s Joy’ is loaded with buds just waiting to produce its showy flowers, and look at that immaculate foliage.

I really like leatherleaf viburnums.  They are evergreen, deer resistant, grow in full shade, have lovely flowers and foliage, and are big enough to screen unsightly views.  The plants I have in my garden are the straight species Viburnum rhytidophyllum and that’s what I intended to offer to my customers.  However, when I saw ‘Dart’s Duke’ lantanaphyllum viburnum (what a name!), V. x rhytidophyllum ‘Dart’s Duke’, and did some research, I realized it is a superior plant for foliage, flowers, berries, and vigor.   A comparison of the nursery stock confirmed this.

‘Dart’s Duke’ showing its majestic leaves and reblooming to produce some of its very large flowers for fall.

‘Dart’s Duke’ grows to 8’ tall by 8’ wide in full sun to full shade.  It has very large, 6 to 10”, showy white flowers in May and can rebloom in the fall.  The flowers are followed by very nice red fruit.  The beautiful, clean dark green, leathery evergreen foliage is deer resistant and winter tough.  It is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant for 2012, one of only four plants honored.

‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry is dispalying its amazing purple berries right now at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’,  has attractive pink flowers in spring.  But the real show is in the fall when huge amounts of unbelievably colored purple berries run down the center of the beautifully layered branches.  When the leaves drop, the persistent berries are even more showy though they are attractive to birds.  Beautyberry reaches 4’ tall by 4′ wide in sun to part shade and is deer resistant.  I have grown this plant successfully in part shade for years.  If desired, it can be cut back in spring, but I usually leave mine alone.  Beautyberry is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant and Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit.

Paper Bush, Edgeworthia chrysantha

Paper bush, Edgeworthia chrysantha, is a rare and unusual shrub that has just been discovered by collectors within the last few years.  However, it has so many great ornamental features that it is sure to become very popular.  Its very fragrant clusters of tubular bright yellow flowers bloom from January to March.  The buds, which form in the fall, are as ornamental as the flowers.  They remind me of the tassels on the corners of Victorian pillows.  Paper bush has an elegant and symmetrical upright, branching habit, growing to 6’ tall in part to full shade with protection from winter winds.  It is an exquisite and rare shrub that is ornamental 365 days of the year in my garden.

The buds of paper bush are ornamental all winter.

The unusual fragrant flowers of paper bush

The flowers of ‘Preziosa’ sawtooth hydrangea start out a lovely pink and mature to a bright maroon.

‘Preziosa’ sawtooth hydrangea, Hydrangea serrata ‘Preziosa’, produces numerous lovely pink, small, mophead-like flowers in June and July, which darken with age to a gorgeous maroon (see link below for photo).  The flowers are reliably pink and don’t turn blue.  The beautiful burgundy fall color of the leaves and stems only adds to the show.  ‘Preziosa’ reaches 4’ tall and wide in part to full shade.  The Hydrangea serrata species is one that thrives in full shade.  Unlike many hydrangeas, ‘Preziosa’ is very tolerant of the cold temperatures in our zone 6.  For a raving review of ‘Preziosa’ and more cultural information (note that the winter protection recommended is for zone 5), click here.

The leaves of ‘Preziosa’ sawtooth hydrangea have already started to turn burgundy.

This photo shows the berries on my ‘Red Sprite’ winterberry holly right now—they get much larger as the season progresses, but the show is already breathtaking.

One of my all time favorite native plants is winterberry holly, Ilex verticillata.  It grows wild all over the island in Maine where my family vacations and is always covered with berries in the fall.  Here in Pennsylvania, my preferred winterberry holly cultivar is Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’.  It produces copious amounts of very large red berries on relatively compact plants that never need pruning.  The birds love the berries too, but they leave enough behind for it to remain extremely showy late into the winter.  ‘Red Sprite’ reaches 5’ tall in sun to part shade and is wet site and salt tolerant, and deer resistant.  All hollies require a male pollinator, in this case ‘Jim Dandy’, for good fruit set.  Winterberry is native to the entire eastern half of North America, including Pennsylvania.

The flowers and foliage of native ‘Cool Splash’ southern bush honeysuckle, Diervilla sessifolia ‘Cool Splash’

‘Cool Splash’ southern bush honeysuckle is a native shrub whose bold green and white variegation really stands out in the shade.  Its honeysuckle-shaped yellow flowers appear in July and August with rebloom in the fall.  ‘Cool Splash’ grows to 4’ tall and wide in sun to part shade.  It is tough, cold hardy, and deer resistant, and integrates well into perennial borders.  This species is native to the southeastern U.S., but a closely related species, D. lonicera, is native to Pennsylvania.  It is one of four plants honored with a gold medal by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 2011.  Nan Ondra at the blog Hayfield has written an excellent profile of this native shrub (with many photos), click here .

In late spring and early summer, ‘John Clayton’ trumpet honeysuckle is covered with these delightful tubular yellow flowers attractive to hummingbirds.

I love vines, and one of my first acquisitions was the native ‘John Clayton’ trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’.  It is my most vigorous trumpet honeysuckle vine, completely covering the lattice under my deck.  Its bright yellow tubular flowers are beloved by  hummingbirds in late spring and early summer and  rebloom through fall, forming attractive red berries.  ‘John Clayton’s’ semi-evergreen, bright green leaves remain attractive through the season.  It reaches 10’ in sun to part shade.  It is deer resistant and very low maintenance.  Trumpet honeysuckle is native to the eastern U.S., including Pennsylvania.

I grow most of these plants in my gardens so I know you can’t go wrong by adding them to yours!  If you are a customer, see Nursery Happenings below for details on how to order these wonderful shade plants.  If not, now you have some plants to ask for at your local independent nursery.

For a great video demonstration of how to plant a shrub put together by my cousin, Jay MacMullan, at the blog Landscape Design and Gardening Resource Guide, click here.


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.

Nursery Happenings: Orders for woody shade plants will be accepted until  noon on Thursday, September 29.  Click here for the catalogue.  Our final fall open house sale will be on Saturday, October 8, from 10 am to 3 pm.  If you can’t make it because of Yom Kippur or other reasons, remember you can make an appointment to shop 24/7 by sending me an email at carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

46 Responses to “Woody Plants for Shade Part 3”

  1. Another fantastic plant guide Carolyn, thank you! I have lots of Camellias, sadly none white, and I now realise I should have. The white blooms really look gorgeous on your ‘Winter’s Snowman’ and for brightening a dark corner, it must be quite spectacular. Wonderful photos! Your blog is such a great “go to” guide for me whenever I need advice for my shade garden – thanks for sharing your knowledge so generously with us all.

    • Christine, I have two very old camellias that are covered with hundreds of flowers when they bloom. However, all the rest, which are more recently planted since we put up a deer fence, put on a spectacular show even though they are younger. I do like the white. I am so happy that my shade gardening information is useful to you in South Africa. Carolyn

  2. What an unusual bush your paper bush is, must try to find it over here in the UK. and the berries on the Callicarpa are as good , if not better than flowers at this time of year. Another to add to the “must have ” list!

  3. WOW! I love that mauve Beautyberry!!!!

  4. I have not seen the ‘Cool Splash’ before. That would brighten a shady corner. Winterberry is also on my list.

  5. Paperbush is very ornamental. It is not sold up here because it is not hardy for our area. We have a bit of trouble with siting certain plants requiring protection from winter winds too, like Azalea, Inkberry and Pieris. They are beautiful plants also for shaded and semi-shaded locations. Many times shaded locations are dry and this is a problem also, since most require much water. Shade at the forest edge is fine with moisture, but not shade created by built structures generally. Plus the PH (too alkaline) affects many shade plants and that is another problem we usually encounter. Do you have any info on the PH requirements?

    • Donna, I did quite a bit of research on all these plants and nothing mentioned anything special about PH. I have the camellias next to the foundation, and they do fine. I am not growing the ‘Preziosa’ hydrangea (although I have others) or the southern bush honeysuckle (yet, I am going to plant them this fall), but I do grow all the other plants in fairly dry locations. My garden is on the side of a hill shaded by 150 year-old trees with giant root systems so everything is dry here. Only one moist location on the whole place. Carolyn

  6. Carolyn, ever since reading about winter flowering camelias on your blog, last year, I have been thinking about buying one. But I don’t know where to put it. Can they grow in a pot. Against an east-facing wall? Or is that a bad idea? Which one is your absolute favourite?

    • Denise, Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about growing camellias in pots or in your climate. In our climate, they need to be protected against winter sun. Mine face east with some overhead shade. I don’t have an absolute favorite–depends on whar color you want, what habit (upright, wide, etc.), and what’s available at the nurseries. I grow ‘Winter’s Snow’, ‘Elaine Lee’, and ‘Winter’s Darling’. They are all nice. Carolyn

  7. Hello Carolyn,
    Thanks for another very informative post with lovely photos. The paperbush looks and sound gorgeous. Looking it up in my standard reference, it’s ranked as similar to Drimys winteri and Drimys lanceolata which we can grow here…..they both suffered a bit last winter, but we got down to minus 17 deg C and they are planted under trees. I wondered if you grow either of these in your garden?
    I started with H.preziosa 3 years ago, and really love it. It goes a deep red even on our pH 5 soil, when many other Hydrangeas are strongly blue and has stunning leaf/stem colour in the autumn as well,
    Best wishes

    • Julian, thanks for your thoughtful and informative comment. The Drimys you mentioned are only hardy to zone 8 so they won’t work here in my zone 6B where winter temperatures can theoretically go down to -10F. Paper bush is zone 6. I had read that ‘Preziosa’ is reliably pink and has red leaf stems but forgot to mention that. Maybe I will add it. Carolyn

  8. Carolyn! love this! Red sprite is a personal fave. Had dad plant some callicarpa and camellia at SML. Thanks so much for the plug. You have been so helpful in supporting me! –Jay

  9. I love camellias – they are such a delight in the winter when nothing else is blooming. Most of the others I did not know about, and enjoyed reading about them. I don’t have a lot of shade in my garden, so I am amazed at all the interesting plants.

  10. The Paper Bush is a new one to me. The camellias are very choice. I particularly like “Winter’s Snowman”.

  11. Carolyn, I am drooling over your camellias! I first saw the hardy camellias at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden two years ago and Steve and I have been wanting one (or 3 or 5) ever since.

    This year, we ordered two to grow in pots on our deck, planning to bring them in for the coldest part of the winter. We also ordered a white wisteria for our all white garden. Can you believe, after waiting MONTHS, they finally advised us they were sold out of all 3!

    I keep watching the website of the nursery we ordered from, hoping they will get them back in soon. I can wait until spring for the white wisteria, but we would like to get the camellias this fall, before the weather really gets too cold to ship them.

    They are supposed to be hardy with protection in our zone but we thought it would be just as easy to bring them in for the winter and enjoy them indoors. That huge window in Steve’s office is going to look like a jungle!

    And that yellow trumpet honeysuckle is sweet. Another thing to add to our wish list!

  12. I was thinking I was batting a 100 on growing all of these until I got to the last three. I don’t have the winterberry, diervilla or bush honeysuckle. I did not know winterberry grew in the shade. If so I’ll be getting one soon! I am very interested in the diervilla. It’s so bright it looks like a variegated dogwood. As a camellia lover you’ll appreciate this-I discovered half a dozen seedlings under my huge 12′ tall camellia just yesterday. I am SO excited. At first I was not sure it was camellia then I found the apple seedpods still attached so yahoo! it too has just begun blooming. One of my favorite shrubs-if not my favorite since it is evergreen. Very helpful post for me because as you know I have pretty much full shade. I plant all my shrubs in the fall except camellias and azaleas. I’ve found they don’t usually last the winter if planted late down here.

    • Tina, My experience is that winterberry grows at woodland edges in part shade as well as in full sun. I grow mine in a part shade/part sun site. I am going to be planting ‘Cool Splash’ shortly myself. I grew my biggest camellia from a seedling I was given (yanked out of the ground) during a tour at the Morris Arboretum. so fun that you have all those seedlings. I planted camellias last fall, we had an exceptionally hard winter, and they thrived. Carolyn

  13. A wonderful list! I just bought a paperbush and am looking forward to seeing it this winter! I couldn’t agree with you more…fall is the best time to plant.

  14. As always I learn so much from your posts that I am assured of seeing now that I have subscribed to them. I love so many of these but for some they are pushing the envelope in my zone 5 although I have done it successfully sometimes. I have always thought of growing camelias but found it unwise in my garden conditions. Honeysuckle is a long fav of mine from childhood and I also have John Clayton. My newer viburnums hopefully will grow in the meadow and not be devoured by rabbits or deer ( who eat anything when hungry). The rabbits love the young, smaller bushes and can eat them to a nub in my yard if I don’t protect them. Great post!!

  15. Carolyn, I had a shade garden for several years and one of the most difficult things to find was shrubs for shady conditions. Although I don’t have much shade in my garden now I still looked at this list out of curiousity and was very impressed with the number of plants you’ve recommended. I’m sure plenty of people will be thrilled to find they can have such great plants in a shade garden.

  16. I was surprised that you didn’t have one of my favorite shade shrubs, bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora). It’s also one of the few shrubs I’ve found that gracefully handles the worst dark shade with lots of competition from tree roots. Plus, it has big bold leaves and huge striking flower spikes that can be 2 feet long.

    I, too, am a bit colder than you, or I would be out buying a paper bush right this instant. As it is, I’m reminded that I’ve been meaning to try a beautyberry…I just have to find somewhere to put it.

    • PO, I didn’t recommend bottlebrush buckeye because I already featured it in Woody Plants for Shade Part 2, but I do love it. You can’t go wrong with beautyberry. There is a new cultivar called ‘Duet’ with variegated white and green foliage and white berries that looks beautiful for gardeners who already have the purple-berried variety. Carolyn

  17. Those paper bush buds are enticing! It would be nice to do a whole photographic study of them alone!

    An American Beauty Berry was added to my garden this summer and it is doing really well despite the drought and heat. I’m anticipating beautiful fall berries next year! Yours looks outstanding.

  18. So many great ideas in part 3 I went back and read part 1 and 2 again. As we are very shady I will look into some of your suggestions. How does the bottlebrush manage in clay soil?

  19. Carolyn, thank you! You always have great recommendations! Camellias are my favorites here. They look so gorgeous during our gray winter days here in the PNW.
    P.S. Carolyn, with school started, I don’t have much time for comments, but I read and appreciate all your posts.

  20. Really beautiful photos – and lush plants! Lots of great advice here. 🙂

  21. Carolyn, you now have me hooked on the winter flowering plants . The ‘Red Sprite holly does indeed look breathtaking. Oh, and I even planted a few Hellebores the other day.

  22. Paper bush sounds really interesting! I wish I had more room for a few winter berries. I love camelias but they can be fussy. I ended up pulling out a sasanqua that rarely bloomed but I’m pretty sure I had it in the wrong spot. Unfortunately, the right spot didn’t exist in my garden.

    • CM, I have not found the new hardy camellias, mostly from Dr. Ackerman at the National Arboretum, to be be fussy at all other than requiring siting to protect from winter sun and wind. Some of mine are quite new though so I will have to give them a longer test. Carolyn

  23. More beautiful things. I love the callicarpa – always a surprise to see those lilac berries. And you’ll be pleased that I am trying to love the edgeworthia after we saw it together at Chanticleer. It was unknown to me and further research has suggested that in the UK it is not very hardy, so is not widespread. I suspect our cooler summers mean that the wood does not ripen as much as it does in China (or Pennsylvania!) and so it struggles more in the winter. Perhaps I will get to see it now in its native Himalayas!

    • Jill, So funny about the edgeworthia (will we ever forget that). Interesting that it may not work in the UK because of cool summers. I guess I always think that if something works in our tough climate, it’s sure to succeed in the milder UK. If you see it in the wild, I will be so jealous. You will have to do a post. Carolyn

  24. I learned a lot from this post, Carolyn. I’m a big fan of winterberry, even though I don’t have the right conditions to grow it. Some of these other woody plants are new to me and might be better choices for my property. Thanks.

  25. I love camellias as well. My mother has had them. I am sorry you lost some of your plants with the strange weather this summer.

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