Woody Plants for Shade Part 4

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.

Spring-blooming camellia ‘Pink Icicle’

For years, my customers have been asking for woody plants for shade—trees, shrubs, and vines—in addition to the perennials I sell.  I now have a wholesale woody plant nursery with the quality and selection I needed to be able to offer them at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.   I have just sent out my first 2012 list.  To view the catalogue, click here.   However, I thought my blog readers who are not customers might be interested in learning about the 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.

Spring-blooming camellia ‘April Tryst’

The offer focuses on winter- and early spring-blooming plants, evergreens, and fragrance.  Included are three camellias, six other shrubs, and one vine.  Four of the plants I have chosen are evergreen, and seven bloom in the off season: late winter or 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:

The buds are just starting to expand on ‘April Snow’ camellia.

I included three hardy camellias for their spectacular early season flowers and elegant evergreen leaves. These camellias, along with many other cultivars, have been bred to be fully cold hardy in the mid-Atlantic U.S, zones 6B and 7A.  Nevertheless all camellias benefit from being sited to shelter them from winter wind, which comes from the northwest.  They also maintain their lustrous dark green leaves in better shape if they are sheltered from winter sun.  For more information on cold hardy camellias for our area, click here.

‘April Snow’ spring-blooming camellia

Camellia x ‘April Snow’ is a spring-blooming hardy camellia with gorgeous plump buds opening to large pure white rose-form double flowers in April and May.  It has large glossy dark evergreen leaves.  It is 5’ tall and 4′ wide, growing in part to full shade.  It is part of the April series of exceptionally hardy camellias developed by Dr. Clifford Parks of North Carolina.

‘April Tryst’

‘April Tryst’ is very similar to ‘April Snow’, reaching 5′ tall and 4′ wide at maturity and sporting lustrous dark evergreen leaves in part to full shade  However, it blooms earlier, in March and April, and has knock-your-socks-off red anemone form flowers.  It is also part of the April series of exceptionally cold hardy camellias.  ‘April Tryst’ was starting to bloom in Charles Cresson’s garden during our recent Winter Interest Seminars, and Charles highly recommends it.

‘Pink Icicle’

Spring-blooming camellia ‘Pink Icicle’ has very large, peony form, shell pink flowers that glow when displayed against the glossy evergreen leaves.  It blooms in March and April in part to full shade.  It has a compact and upright growth habit and was selected by Dr. William Ackerman at the U.S. National Arboretum.

Japanese mahonia, Mahonia japonica

amazingly fragrant flowers of Japanese mahonia

The final evergreen plant is Japanese mahonia, Mahonia japonica.  Aside from being evergreen, this was the most fragrant plant in the Cresson garden during the Winter Interest Seminars, and there was plenty of competition.  In February and March, extremely fragrant yellow flowers on 8” racemes cover Japanese mahonia.  The evergreen leaves are a dark glossy green with a finer texture than other mahonias, and they rarely get damaged in winter. The  glaucous blue fruit in early summer attracts birds.  Japanese mahonia grows to 6′ tall and 3′ wide in moist, well-drained soil.  It is also deer resistant.  For more information, click here.

‘Jet Trail’ flowering quince

There are five deciduous shrubs in the offer, including two flowering quinces.  Now I love the early flowers, beautiful colors, and deer resistance of quince, but it is difficult to fit a 10′ plus tall and wide shrub covered with lethal thorns into the garden.  That’s why I was excited when new low and compact quinces that won’t dominate your garden were introduced.  They are not marketed as thornless, but I can’t find any thorns on mine.  As an added benefit, the leaves remain healthy all summer.

‘Texas Scarlet’ flowering quince

‘Jet Trail’ and ‘Texas Scarlet’ flowering quince, Chaenomeles x superba, are identical plants other than their flower color, growing 3’ tall and 3’ wide in sun to part shade.  They produce multitudes of very showy white or coral red flowers in March, which are beautifully displayed by the elegant branching structure.  The  glossy dark green leaves stay ornamental through the season.  The  yellow fruit is wonderfully fragrant.  Both cultivars will grow well in clay soil and drought conditions.  For more information, click here

Spike winter hazel, Corylopsis spicata

Spike winter hazel, Corylopsis spicata, is the elegant shrub with the unusual yellow flowers that everyone admires in my garden in early spring. Dangling panicles of very fragrant, lemon yellow flowers cover this graceful shrub in March and April before the foliage.  The bold-textured leaves emerge burgundy and age to a lovely blue-green.  Winter hazel grows to 8′ tall and 6′ wide in full sun to part shade.  It takes average garden soils and is deer resistant; for more information, click here.

The lovely dusty blue leaves of native ‘Blue Shadow’ fothergilla.

‘Blue Shadow’ has honey-scented bottlebrush flowers.  Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

fall color of fothergilla

Native ‘Blue Shadow’ fothergilla, Fothergilla x intermedia, has stunning ornamental attributes three seasons a year.  In March and April, it is covered with honey-scented white bottlebrush flowers.  Its gorgeous dusty blue leaves provide an unusual color and texture for the shade garden.  In the fall, the foliage turns lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red.  ‘Blue Shadow’ grows to 4′ tall and 3′ wide in full sun to part shade.  It is native to the southeastern U.S., wet site tolerant, and deer resistant.  For more information, click here.

Snowball flowers of ‘Cayuga’ Koreanspice viburnum

‘Cayuga’ Koreanspice viburnum, Viburnum x ‘Cayuga’, is a cross between a smaller Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii) and the fragrant snowball viburnum (V. x carlcephalum) introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum.   It has the best attributes of both.  In April and May, striking pink buds open to abundant, fragrant, large white snowball flowers.  It has a compact habit with dark green leaves that change to orange-red in the fall.  It grows to 6′ tall by 5′ wide in full sun to part shade.  ‘Cayuga’ tolerates a wide range of soils and is deer resistant.  For more information, click here.

Climbing hydrangea, photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The final plant in the offer is a vine.  Climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris, is really the best vine for shade with 365 days of ornamental value.  Its lustrous, dark green leaves are neat and attractive all season before turning a buttery yellow in the fall.  In June and July, fragrant 8” wide hydrangea-like white flowers layer over the leaves.  The exquisite exfoliating cinnamon bark provides winter interest.  Climbing hydrangea is self-attaching and reaches 30 to 50′ at maturity in part to full shade.  It is a Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit.  For more information, click here.

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 by noon on March 26.  If not, now you have some plants to ask for at your local independent nursery.  If you would like to read about the other woody plants I have recommended for shade, see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


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: I will be having a native wildflower event sometime during Easter weekend.  Look for an announcement here or in an email 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 carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  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.

43 Responses to “Woody Plants for Shade Part 4”

  1. I love Quince blooms, although I’ve never actually grown one. Here I might even try one of the full sized ones, but I wonder if the more more compact, less thorny varieties are as deer resistant? Camellias here certainly get nibbled, which is a shame, as they’re my all time favorite shrub. I was so excited to move back here again, as they grow so well in our climate, but I hadn’t considered the deer!

    • Clare, Camellias are the only shrubs on the list that the deer will eat. They are definitely not good for a garden plagued by deer. The smaller quinces are supposed to be equally deer resistant. I don’t think that it is the thorns that keep the deer away. They just don’t like quince. Carolyn

  2. You may have inspired me to plant more camellias! I do love them, they grow well here and my garden increasingly has more shade! I only have two, so maybe it is time to consider planting a few more. I would love a climbing hydrangea, I wonder how they do in Southern California…..Jeannine

  3. paulinemulligan Says:

    Beautiful selection Caroline, but would just like to add that the Quince can be grown in a small space with a bit of pruning. We have one trained up the wall of the house, yes , it is 8ft tall and 10ft wide, but only1ft deep! We prune it to form flowering spurs just as you would with an apple tree to form fruiting spurs, Ours flowers all winter long and only stops when we have a frosty spell, it started in November and is still in full flower now, super shrub!

  4. Varieties of most of those plants (except the hazel) were in my garden before I moved in. I recommend them because they have all grown beautifully without any attention from me. If I was forced to pick one, it would be the dwarf quince because it flowers from late autumn, through winter and into spring. It’s scented fruit (which can only be bought in specialist groceries here) is great for jam-making or just keeping in a room as an air-freshener.

    • Bag, Thanks so much for commenting on your favorite. Your garden must be wonderful with all those plants already there. My quince has not produced any fruit yet so I was wondering if it would. Now I know I have something to look forward to. Carolyn

  5. We are a 6B local, but Camellias are a bit touchy here due to the lakes (lake effect weather) and river with those strong winter winds from Canada. I have never tried one in my garden, but that would be a place to try it. It is very well protected, but I would be still chancing it here. I agree about the Mahonias. The farm nursery grows them and the fields smell wonderful when they are in bloom. The Korean Spice Viburnum is a top seller too because of it manageable size. I use them often in design for smaller properties. I just love the color and texture of fothergilla.

  6. Oh, that climbing hydrangea is magnificent! You have given me so many ideas for shade planting – which is something that mystifies me. When I come to your blog, I always wish I had more shade in my garden!

  7. my shrubs are breaking dormancy slowly so not much blooming except the lilacs (little buds)..oh my I hope no freeze or they will surely be lost…I have tried growing the quince now for a couple of years…if it does not do well this year out it comes…

  8. deborahelliott Says:

    Fothergilla has always been a favorite, and i already have it in a couple of places. However, your ‘Blue Shadow’ has made me covet another one! All of these are wonderful shrubs. My spike winter hazel finally matured enough to begin to bloom this year. I hope that within a year or two it will be covered in early spring with those yellow tassels. They are gorgeous.

  9. Hi Carolyn. I am growing the Native ‘Blue Shadow’ fothergilla but have been having problems with rabbits browsing on it. Any idea how far back one can prune this plant without hurting it more? It is still a young plant, but seems to be doing ok in my zone 5a.

  10. Great selection of plants. I thought the quinces needed sun so its good to know they will tolerate shade. Christina

  11. I wish I had room for every shrub you mentioned. I’ve grown a few of them in gardens in other states. I helped my neighbor landscape their yard and was sure to add a Koreanspice viburnum. Great listing of shrubs for shade. :o)

  12. Fabulous plants, and a Camellia named pink icicle. I should try it in my woodland as a complimentary plant to my white icicle. The first Camellia bud of Donation has just opened for us and also this year I see quite a number of buds on one which was named as Japonica seedling. I will have to do a search to see if that label simply meant it was an unknown seedling.

  13. Such beauties! I so love that climbing hydrangea and I am determined to get it going in my garden one of these days. That blue fothergilla real stunner.

    I wish I could take off the word verification but as soon as I do there come a million spammers (okay, more like a half dozen per day); it’s ridiculous. You must not get them because you are not blogspot?

    • Tina, Glad you like the woodies. I get spam but it all goes into my spam file. Maybe you should switch to WordPress. I wonder what the other bloggers who use blogspot but eliminated the word verification are doing to keep spam out. I only read two blogs that still have it. Carolyn

  14. Another good collection. I am so glad that the beauty of the camellias was not lost in the breeding process to give them more cold hardiness. I have always said I could never live where camellias won’t grow, so I guess now my geographic boundaries have been enlarged.

    • Les, I “discovered” camellias about 6 years ago and have fallen in love with them. I too am glad that they haven’t been overbred. The selection isn’t as big for my zone, but I will never have all the cultivars that are available. Carolyn

  15. I love camellias. They are such treasures in the garden. I have a dozen or so myself and would not do without them in my southern garden. Many of mine are blooming now…

  16. Your camellias are gorgeous, thank you for the eye candy. I love flowering quince too, and that climbing hydrangea is amazing, for some reason, mine just doesn’t look so lush…

  17. A little late to this post, but its a wonderfully useful one!

  18. Some lovely plants Carolyn. Since I am only in my garden sping and fall now, these are certainly ones to look out for.

  19. Carolyn, You have a very nice selection of woody plants in this post. My Mom had one very similar to your ‘Texas Scarlet’. There are several very old quince shrubs in my neighbourhood and I have come to appreciate them even more. I have never seen a white quince before though. I would like to add a fothergilla to my garden. I have a climbing hydrangea, but it does not look anything nearly as spectacular as the one in your post. Based on my experience, they really take years to establish themselves.

  20. So many of my favorites! Can’t remember if I’ve asked you before – how do you find Fothergilla ‘Blue shadow’ does for you? It’s something of a disappointment here in Seattle

    • Karen, I have F. gardenii, and I love it. I planted ‘Blue Shadow’ in a garden I designed in Maine, and the blue leaves are gorgeous. I am just about to plant 5 in my garden in PA. You would need to specify how it was disappointing. Carolyn

  21. A well-thought out collection Carolyn with a couple of nice surprises in here too (the Fothergilla & Corylopsis). The shorter, rounder gardener friendlier quinces are an addition for even the smallest of gardens. I wish you large sales!

  22. I have not tried camelias in my garden, and I don’t know why. My mother has grown them, and I have always admired them. All of your selections are perfect for a shady garden. I have flowering quince and enjoy its spring display. A friend of mine has mahonia and simply loves it. I have a spot in my shaded garden where a small azalea did not survive…perhaps one of these specimens will work…

  23. The more I read about fothergilla, the more I wonder why I don’t have it growing in my garden — something I will have to remedy in the next few years.

  24. I was a little surprised to see Forthergillia listed as a woodland plant since I have not had good luck getting it to bloom in my woods. I am currently moving most of mine to the edges of the woodland where they seem to bloom much more reliably. ‘Blue Shadow’ is a gorgeous plant, isn’t it.

  25. I just reviewed all four sections on woody plants for shade and thought you might be interested in checking out one additional plant that most people do not know: Illicium floridanum. I first learned about it from one of the gardeners at Mt Cuba who was planting it under a copse of pine trees. True to her word, this plant does grow and even flower a bit in absolutely dense shade. Unfortunately, not many people seem to know about it although I expect you do.

  26. I have a shady yard in Nebraska, and have been desperately trying to find interesting shade plants, so I am so pleased to have found your lovely site. I have climbing hydrangeas that have been in the ground for about 3 years, but have never flowered. They are growing well, but are not as big and full yet as the one in your photo. I fertilize them well with plenty of P. The soil is clay-rich. I gave them Miracid last summer. Any ideas about why they have not flowered? Thanks in advance for your advice!

  27. What is the Japanese Mahonia scent similr to? When woyld the flowering occur in USDA 7b? is the scent wafting/ cought in the air and under what conditions?.How to make it grow in hot dry summers?.Blavk clay soil, ph 7? Thank you.

  28. What is the spike winter hazel scent similar to? Chimonanthus? Is it cought in the air? Under what conditions? I have two types of Chimonanthus. Waited 7-8 years to get flowers. First flowered in December before hard frost. Loved the hyacynth like fragrance esp when a branch us brought inside. WONDERING IF SPIKE WINTER HAZEL HAS THE SAME SCENT ESPSCENT FRAGRANCE BUT WITH MORE NOTICEABLE FLOWERS?

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