Woody Plants for Shade Part 6

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.

‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma, is available in the current offer but was profiled in a previous woody plant post so I am not describing it here.  However, it is a favorite for fall interest and I wanted to include a photo.  For a full write up of this plant,  go to Woody Plants for Shade Part 3.

My nursery, Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, specializes in perennials for shade with an emphasis on hellebores, unusual bulbs especially snowdrops, hostas particularly miniature hostas, native plants, and ferns.  However, a satisfying shade garden does not consist of just perennials but includes trees, shrubs, and vines.

‘Winter’s Joy’ fall-blooming hardy camellia is another repeat, see this post for details.  I planted one myself last fall, and I would like to add to my previous write up that this camellia has more buds and flowers than any other camellia in my garden.  In 2011, it produced the beautiful flowers pictured above through out the entire winter.  Right now my plant is poised to do it again with hundreds of buds waiting to open.

Despite the need, woody plants for shade are difficult to find in local nurseries.  To fill this gap for my customers, three times a year, I offer woody plants for pre-order.  The plants chosen for the offer are the result of hours of painstaking selection in the shade houses of wholesale nurseries to find the healthiest, most desirable woodies available.

‘Winter’s Snowman’ fall-blooming hardy camellia is another favorite offered previously, see this post for details.  I have written three articles about fall-blooming hardy camellias in general.  If you are interested in finding out more about them, start here Fall-blooming Hardy Camellias Part 3, and you will find links to the first two installments.

 It is now time for my fall 2012 woody offer.  If you are a customer, you should already have gotten an email with all the details.  Blog readers can look at the catalogue on line by clicking here.  My nursery is on site retail sales only.  The only plants I ship are snowdrops in February and miniature hostas later in the season.  However, I hope out-of-town readers will get some good ideas for woody shade plants to look for at their local independent nursery.

The previous three photos are of another repeat: paper bush, Edgeworthia chrysantha, for details click here.  My plants have thrived through the last two hot and dry summers with pristine tropical looking leaves, gorgeous fall-forming buds, and highly fragrant late winter-blooming flowers.  This is truly a shrub with 365 days of interest.

So much for the preliminaries and repeat offerings, let’s get to the new plants.  There are six: three from my favorite group of shrubs, hydrangeas, and three evergreens for winter interest (the camellias are evergreen too).  Here are the details.

Native oakleaf hydrangea, H. quercifolia

The fall color of oakleaf hydrangea.

Our native oakleaf hydrangea, H. quercifolia, is the best all round shrub for shade—everyone should have at least one!  Huge, long-lasting, upright pyramids of white flowers bloom from May through July. It has bold-textured leaves with heart-stopping burgundy-red fall color, and cinnamon-colored exfoliating bark—a true four season plant. 

The white flowers of ‘Amethyst’ oakleaf hydrangea age to a striking red that does not fade when dried.  Great for flower arranging.

I am offering ‘Amethyst’ native oakleaf hydrangea, a new cultivar selected because  its initially white flowers turn to a striking red color and stay that way.  It grows to 5 to 6’ tall and 5 to 6’ wide in sun to full shade.  It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9, walnut and drought tolerant, and native to the southeastern US.


‘Blue Bird’ sawtooth hydrangea, H. serrata

‘Blue Bird’ sawtooth hydrangea produces lovely blue lacecap flowers starting in June for an extended period.  Acid soil results in the best blue tint.  I also grow it for its beautiful clean bright green leaves through out the season, which are enhanced by red highlights in the fall.  It is very tolerant of cold temperatures avoiding bud and twig dieback in harder winters.  ‘Blue Bird’ reaches 4′ tall and 4′ wide in part to dappled shade and grows in zones 5 to 9.  Sawtooth hydrangea is native to Korea and Japan.

This photo shows ‘Endless Summer’ bigleaf hydrangea, H. macrophylla, right now.  Yes, it is loaded with fresh flowers and buds and has been blooming since late spring.

‘Endless Summer’ bigleaf hydrangea sports very large pink or blue mophead flowers from late spring through summer and well into fall—it’s in full bloom right now as you can see from the photo above.  It represents a recent breakthrough in hydrangeas because it blooms on old and new wood giving it an extended bloom season.  This also means that if the buds formed on old wood the previous season are frozen over the winter, buds will form on new wood as the season progresses.  ‘Endless Summer’s’ large, medium green leaves provide a pleasing backdrop for the flowers.  It grows in zones 4 to 9 and reaches 4′ tall and 4′ wide in part shade.  It is recommended for full sun only with supplemental watering.  Bigleaf hydrangea is native to Japan.

‘Gold Dust’ Japanese aucuba, A. japonica, is an elegant specimen for deep shade.

A close up of the unusual leaves of ‘Gold Dust’ Japanese aucuba—glorious in winter.

‘Gold Dust’ Japanese aucuba’s very shiny, broadleaf evergreen leaves sprinkled with yellow spots make it one of the most vibrant and colorful plants to thrive in dense shade.  I have grown it successfully for many years in several areas of my garden that receive no direct sunlight.  It is very vigorous, disease free, and easy to grow as long as you don’t plant it in the sun.  ‘Gold Dust’ grows to 6 to 8′ tall and 4 to 6′ wide in part to dense full shade and is hardy in zones 7 to 9.  Aucuba is native to Japan, and the variegated form was introduced to the west in 1783.

The fall flowers of ‘Rose Creek’ glossy abelia, A. x grandiflora.

‘Rose Creek’ is a compact form of glossy abelia, great for smaller spaces and smaller gardens.

‘Rose Creek’ is a dense and compact glossy abelia that covers itself in a multitude of wonderfully fragrant, showy white flowers continuously from May through September.   When the flower petals drop off, the rosy pink sepals (bud enclosures) remain and are very eye-catching.  The beautiful, glossy evergreen foliage has pink highlights and turns purple in the fall, providing excellent winter interest.  The stems are  crimson red.  ‘Rose Creek’ grows to 2 to 3′ tall and 3 to 4′ wide in part shade or full sun and is hardy in zones 5 to 9.  It is deer resistant and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Glossy abelia is a cross between two Chinese abelia species.

The incredibly shiny leaves of Prague viburnum, V. x pragense, sparkle in the winter.

This photo of the flower of Prague viburnum was kindly lent to me by Monrovia, for their full plant profile, click here.

Prague viburnum’s pink buds open into large, bouquet-like, creamy white flowers in May followed by glossy, persistent black fruit.  Just as ornamental are its very showy, lustrous, dark evergreen leaves.  Prague viburnum reaches 8′ tall and 6′ wide in full sun to part shade and is hardy in zones 5 to 8.  You can grow it in full shade and the leaves will be gorgeous, but it won’t flower very well.  It is fast growing and deer resistant.  It is a cross between leatherleaf and service viburnums, which are both from China.

I hope you have a space in your garden for at least one of these wonderful shrubs for shade.  For more ideas, check out Woody Plants for Shade Parts 1 to 5 using the links provided below:

Part 1,   Part 2,   Part 3,   Part 4,   Part 5


Nursery Happenings:  Shrub orders are due by noon on Wednesday, October 3.  For the catalogue, click here.  We are offering two sessions of a seminar on low maintenance gardening for fall on Wednesday, October 3, and Friday, October 5, from 10 to 11:30 am.  For the details, click here.  Look for a special offer of double hellebores next week.

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.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens 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.

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.


38 Responses to “Woody Plants for Shade Part 6”

  1. Hi Carolyn! Wow… such beautiful selections in your post today… I had to pass up a nice plant of Callicarpa this past weekend because I had the van so full of new conifers there wasn’t room for much else. It must be wonderful living in a climate where camellias do so well. I’ve considered planting Oak Leaf hydrangeas on the merits of their fall foliage alone since they generally aren’t bud hardy here. Wonderful post!
    We are still in a drought here with 3 ‘storms’ totalling 3/10ths of an inch combined in the past month. There is going to be some major plant damage down the road I’m afraid… I’m still watering a lot of the time… take care, Larry

  2. All beautiful. It’s good to know the aucuba will grow in full, dense shade. I have mostly sun, but where I have shade, it is full and complete shade! And that Rose Creek abelia is stunning! I have only seen the white – this shade is stunning! I also like the color of that Amethyst hydrangea. These are all such beautiful and interesting plants. You are correct in saying that most garden centers don’t seem to stock shade loving plants.

  3. Carolyn you know I love shade bushes and have looked for many…I adore that new oakleaf that’s blooms turn red…so many gorgeous bushes here…I hope to add a Callicarpa one of these days!

  4. That ‘Amethyst’ oakleaf hydrangea is spectacular – I’m going to keep my eyes open for that here in SA. I think I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, if I lived in the same country as you I’d be one of your best customers – I love your selections and learn so much from you about what will work in my garden. Thanks 🙂

  5. Reading your posts always makes me wish I had more shade in the garden. I know some of the plants wouldn’t survive my heat and drought but some would do well. you’re doing a great job, thank you. Christina

  6. Carolyn, I have been admiring the Oakleaf Hydrangeas for some time now, it is high time we introduced it to the garden, how very unusual is Amethyst, blooms turning red! We have a fondness for Aucuba and have quite a few of them in the garden, not everyone’s favourite in the UK. I am sure I have heard some of the gardeners in the USA say that they are not fully hardy.

  7. Carolyn, I can’t say enough good about Edgeworthia. Have two in my SC garden, part sum/part shade. They are thriving. The fragrance in the winter is just wonderful. Truly an all season shrub.

  8. You have featured some of my favorites! I planted a small Edgeworthia early this year, and it was so scrawny, it was hard to imagine what it could become. I have never seen a mature one, but I admired photos of them. My little shrub has grown well and shows promise of becoming a really nice shrub. I love its leaves and already little buds are forming. I am looking forward to the striking flowers.

    I have not seen the Amythyst Oakleaf hydrangea. It is definitely something to look for! I agree with Christine’s comment; I would be a regular customer of yours if I lived in your area!

  9. I too grow ‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma. In addition, I have two of our native species (Callicarpa americana) which I obtained while participating in a plant rescue organized by the Georgia Native Plant Society. I tend to prefer the larger native species (larger berries also) in my woodland garden. So do the birds!

    • Glenn, The native beautyberry is quite beautiful but very difficult to locate for retail sale. It is also much larger than ‘Early Amethyst’ which fits into smaller more formal gardens better. Interesting that you say your woodland—is it full shade? Carolyn

  10. Of all of these the paperbush is my favorite. I have it here and this year (first time in three years) it is loaded with buds. I love it!

    Hope the tree is gone and all is back to normal now!

  11. Carolyn what beautiful plants, your customers are so lucky, when I get time I really want to do more under my now ever taller and after the needle drop this year due to last decembers 90 mph winds more open pine trees, I will be checking some of these and others you recommend out, I saw your comment on Deb’s blog and agree how lovely to have oakleaf hydrangeas growing wild,

    thanks for posting your facebook page I have just ‘liked’ it, I only friend family on facebook and use it to keep up with them and only recently discovered that if I like a company page I get posts, I only have 4 likes 2 are family and 2 gardens you and Beth Chatto :o)

  12. Such lovely plants, Carolyn. I have gotten some ideas from this list of plants. I love that ‘Amethyst’ hydrangea, the Prague viburnum, and that paper bush is gorgeous!

  13. Despite the fact that you live nowhere near my climate, I do find all these shade suggestions extremely helpful. I do wish sometimes there was another one of you specializing in hot and humid southern shady problem spots!

  14. I have Blue Bird and it has never yet performed as expected. Your climate maybe much better for it than here. I love the plant too and wish it loved our conditions. I really like paper bush too. I need to look into it.

  15. I added abelia to my gardens last year and it is thriving! I need a beauty berry. I have seen them growing “wild” in nature parks around our area but have yet to aquire one. Some day, I shall get that pretty purple berried beauty in the garden…

  16. Wonderful recommendations, Carolyn! These are very beautiful plants. And, it looks they grow happily near the big trees. In my garden, that is the major problem: big trees’ roots suffocate my shrubs! I just relocated two bushes to the different spots in the garden.

  17. wifemothergardener Says:

    Wonderful shrubs! I have added a few of them to my wish list, which is always growing more than I have room to keep up. I was so pleased though to have purchased a Calycanthus ‘Venus’ yesterday! I hope to see it as large as your C. ‘Hartledge Wine’ someday.
    I hope the nursery business is going well for you this fall.

  18. Uli Fernandez Says:

    This is a really beautiful website! I have a shady garden in the north east and I really do like it better most of the time than a sunny garden: Less heat and what ever does flower lasts a little longer. I do miss having a lot of lilies but I do have my fair share and they are fairly good although a bit leggy…
    Thanks Carolyn for this site.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  19. Carolyn, I think you’ve solved a mystery for me. For weeks now, I’ve been staring at the lovely flowering shrubs blooming outside the window of my office (where I am spending most of my time these days!) and trying to figure out what they are. I wasn’t able to identify them by searching through my garden reference books. When I saw your photos of Abelia, I shouted with joy: that’s it! Thanks.

  20. Hydrangeas are great woody plants and one of my favorites!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: