Woody Plants for Shade Part 7

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.

Camellia x 'Spring's Promise'Spring-blooming camellia ‘Spring’s Promise’ 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 of mine, and I wanted to include a photo.  For a full write up of this plant,  go to Woody Plants for Shade Part 1.


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.  I provide a quality source for these plants by doing a special offer three times a year. 

I have just sent my first 2013 list to my customers.  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.


Camellia japonica 'Korean Fire'Spring-blooming camellia ‘Korean Fire’ has the most beautiful leaves of any camellia.

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

Camellia japonica 'Korean Fire'‘Korean Fire’

I included four hardy camellias for their spectacular early (or late) season flowers and elegant evergreen leaves. These camellias, along with many other cultivars, have been selected 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.

‘Korean Fire’ is a Camellia japonica cultivar hardy in our area because it was selected from the most northern range of the species.  It has very showy bright red single flowers in April and May and glossy dark evergreen leaves.  It grows to 10′ tall and 6′ wide in part to full shade.  It was introduced by Barry Yinger of Asiatica Nursery from plants collected in Korea in 1984 and has received the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Award for outstanding plants for our area.


Camellia x 'April Rose'‘April Rose’ spring-blooming camellia

Camellia x ‘April Rose’ is a spring-blooming hardy camellia with gorgeous plump buds opening to formal double rose-pink 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 cold hardy camellias developed by Dr. Clifford Parks of North Carolina.


Camellia x 'Winter's Star'Fall-blooming camellia ‘Winter’s Star’

‘Winter’s Star’ is a fall-blooming, cold hardy camellia with single pink flowers in October and November and glossy evergreen leaves.  It is a vigorous plant with an upright habit, reaching 6′ tall and 5′ wide at maturity and sporting lustrous dark evergreen leaves in part to full shade.  It was selected for cold hardiness by Dr. William Ackerman at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC.


Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Sasaba'‘Sasaba’ holly osmanthus (also known as holly tree olive), O. heterophyllus, blooms in the fall and is beautifully fragrant.

Fall-blooming holly osmanthus‘Sasaba’  is the fifth evergreen in the offer, and I would grow it just for its dramatic, deeply incised dark evergreen leaves.  Its delicious fragrance perfumes my whole hillside in November when it blooms: if you are visiting you can see it on the back hill.  Its prickly foliage repels deer.  It grows 6’ tall and 4’ wide in full sun to full shade.


Japanese mahonia, Mahonia japonica, is the sixth evergreen in the offer.  It was previously profiled here, but I am including it again because I think it is the most fragrant and best all round mahonia species.


There are four deciduous shrubs in the offer:

Chaenomeles speciosa 'Texas Scarlet'‘Texas Scarlet’ flowering quince, Chaenomeles x superba, is another repeat.  This compact selection gives you the wonderful early flowers of quince without the lethal thorns and out-of-control growth habit of normal quinces.  For a complete profile, click here.


Fothergilla MOBOTThe lovely fragrant flowers of fothergilla.


Fothergilla gardeniiThis is a photo of my unselected fothergilla so I can only imagine what ‘Red Licorice’ must look like in the fall.


Native ‘Red Licorice’ fothergilla has honey-scented, white bottlebrush flowers in April and May.  It is a new fothergilla cultivar selected for its spectacular cherry red fall color.  It grows to 6’ tall and 5’ wide in full sun to full shade.  It is wet site tolerant,  deer resistant, and attracts butterflies.  It is native to the southeastern US.


Kerria japonica Golden Guinea_DK‘Golden Guinea’ Japanese kerria, Kerria japonica, produces copious amounts of large, bright gold flowers.


Kerria japonica Golden Guinea2 apr_LS (1)A close up of ‘Golden Guinea’


‘Golden Guinea’ Japanese kerria is covered with 2 ½” yellow flowers  in April and May and then reblooms sporadically.  It has delicate, bright green pointed leaves, and its graceful stems are a vibrant green providing great winter interest.  It grows to 5’ tall and 4’ wide in part sun to almost full shade (full sun bleaches the flowers).  Kerria grows in average garden soils, is tough and adaptable, and resists deer.


Rhododendron arborescens 1-15-13_LS (1)The lovely buds of native sweet azalea, Rhododendron arborescens.


Rhododendron arborescens 4-27-12_LS (2)The fragrant flowers of sweet azalea.


Native sweet azalea’s very attractive buds, which are on the plant right now, produce light pink to white very fragrant flowers with showy red stamens from May to June.  Its lustrous green leaves turn a stunning orange to red in fall.  It can grow to 10’ tall and 7’ wide in full sun to almost full shade but is usually smaller.  Sweet azalea is wet site tolerant and is one of Pennsylvania’s hardiest native deciduous azaleas.  It was first described by John Bartram in 1814.


Gelsemium sempervirens 'Margarita'Carolina jessamine ‘Margarita’, Gelsemium sempervirens, is a vine that I have offered before but its many fragrant, bright yellow flowers, semi-evergreen leaves, and the fact that it is native to the southeastern US make it a very desirable plant.  For a complete profile, click herePhoto courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.


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 30.  If not, now you have some plants to ask for at your local independent nursery.



Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, zone 6b.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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.

Nursery Happenings:  The nursery is open and fully stocked.  If you can’t come to an event, just email to schedule an appointment to shop.  If you wish to order shrubs, everything you need to know is in the catalogue, which can be accessed here.   The deadline for shrub orders is noon on March 30.  Our Native Wildflower Weekend takes place on Friday, April 5, from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday, April 6, from 10 am to 2 pm.  If you are a customer, expect an email shortly with all the details.

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.

43 Responses to “Woody Plants for Shade Part 7”

  1. Bill Plummer Says:

    Which of these plants are hardy in Zone 5?

  2. So many good choices you have shown. A few do not grow here, but I do love seeing them in PA. I am hoping to get down in Spring, I miss all the Spring bloomers.

    • Donna, Pennsylvania is still in the throes of winter right now with another snowstorm yesterday and continuing freezing temperatures. At this point it feels like spring will arrive in July. Carolyn

      • I know you are having the same weather as we are right now. The end of the week will be mid forties, so that is a bit better. But I mentioned in a comment that I do like this weather because it makes all the flowering trees and shrubs bloom simultaneously which is quite a show! Adds a different look to the landscape than other years..

  3. I love the fothergilla and native azalea. I hope you have a great selling season. I know I am ready to get some plants in the ground!

  4. Oh, that fothergilla! Wow! What a gorgeous shrub. And the kerria is beautiful, too. Love that golden color.

  5. Do you know if any of these woody plants will survive planting in the vicinity of a black walnut?

    Thank you! Anne

    • Anne, The only one of these plants that I am growing near a black walnut is kerria, and it does fine. that doesn’t mean that the others would have a problem, just that I don’t know. You can probably research that on the internet. Carolyn

  6. Great suggestions as always Caroline. You always make me wish I had more shade plus a little more water in my garden! Christina

    • SG, Sorry, I decided that I didn’t want to give advice on zones outside of my own which is 6b. However, in the wholesale nursery’s catalogue the camellias, mahonia, osmanthus, and gelsemium are zone 6 and all the rest are zone 5. Carolyn

  7. I’ve never seen the native azalea – amazing flowers. With our acidic soil and wet conditions it would be perfect for my garden.

  8. I’m drooling over the Camellias, as always! I think I’ve finally decided to try one in a pot on my plexiglass-protected back porch. And in the summer, I’m thinking I’ll move it to the back patio … if I’m brave enough to try it. 😉

    • PP, That is how people grew camellias for years in our area before the cold hardy varieties extended their outdoor survivability to zone 6. Longwood has a beautiful indoor collection. I think you should go for it. Carolyn

      • Thanks for the encouragement, Carolyn. Now I have to decide if I want a fall-blooming or spring blooming Camellia. I’m thinking about the “Winter’s” series, or maybe “April Snow.” By the way, to answer your question, I had planned to go to the Fling, but the cost is more than I can justify. I was thinking of asking if people want to share a suite room somewhere, because I think the hotel is booked. It might be too late for me to sign up, anyway? I really want to go, but…

      • PP, The April series and the Winter series are both great. I think you can still sign up for the fling because I registered quite recently. If we go, Donna GWGT and I are staying at the hotel. Perhaps you could post something on the fling site about staying somewhere else. Carolyn

  9. I’m very taken with your Fothergilla, and have a space in the woodland where we removed a bamboo that died. I have been trying to find something for just that spot ever since, with flowers and good autumn colour, fantastic, it will go onto the list, thank you!

  10. May Papastephanou Says:

    I have a camellia which I have had for several years. It is located in a spot sheltered from the northwest winds but it does get some morning sun. I know Charles Cresson said that was not a good idea. Every year it puts out several flower buds but then at about this time they all disappear. Could this be squirrels chewing them off? I have sprayed with squirrel repellant. The same thing happens to a nearby rhododendron. I have a deer fence. Do you have any ideas as to what is casuing this?

    • If you don’t have deer, then it’s probably squirrels. For the first time this year, I have customers commenting on squirrels eating the buds off of all kinds of plants. I have never experienced this with camellias but one year they ate the buds off a spice bush viburnum.

  11. All very beautiful selections. I have a fothergilla that the rabbits adore- it is having a hard time with all the pruning they do. Perhaps one is not enough?

  12. Hello Carolyn,
    I love the Fothergilla you list, and am really envious. We’ve tried others in the past, but I fear they weren’t good specimens.We’ll have to see if this one is available over here. The autumn colour looks stunning,
    Best wishes

  13. Thanks Carolyn for yet another great post, I wish my garden was much, much bigger, you always write about plants I would like to have! We still have winter weather in London too, very unusual, the coldest March since 1962! My Camellia japonica has hundreds of flowers but is wisely waiting to open them. Last year it started flowering 19 February.

    I am glad you mention Chaenomeles x superba, it is such a great plant and many people comment on mine when I show photos of it, as mine is so small. I prune mine hard, it is 10 years old and only about 2’ tall and wide, but smothered in flowers from January to late April. A great plant for a small garden.
    Oh, by the way, my first new magnolia was delivered yesterday, it is 2.5 m tall, was difficult to get through the kitchen and out to the garden in that huge box! It is lovely, looks like it has tiny buds but a bit hard to tell yet. Will be posting about it in May 🙂
    Take care, Helene.

    • Helene, I was telling someone that I think flowering times are two months off last year, which of course was incredibly early. We finally had some cold but spring like weather for the last two days so I am daring to be hopeful. I have been keeping my quince in a pot on the front porch for the last three years, and it is covered with buds. I am glad to know that it can be pruned hard and will do that after it blooms. I want it to stay small. Congratulations on your magnolia. Carolyn

  14. You have shared so great ideas. Most of these will grow in Zone 8 so I am going to research them further.

  15. I had many of these shrubs when i had just shade gardens at the old house. Lovely reminders of that garden.

  16. Thoroughly enjoyed all the plants which you showed us today Carolyn. The Kerria Japonica was the very first shrub which I planted in the garden when I was twenty three years old, the form we had the flowers were double, better not get started on reminiscing or Myra will have my guts for garters. Planted an Osmanthus Delavayi, loads of buds on it ready to open, it did bloom earlier last year, I didn’t detect a fragrance on this one.

  17. Such lovely flowers and foliage. I am hard pressed to pick a favorite. I have placed Carolina Jessamine in several places around the garden, and I love it. Those golden flowers in the spring are so beautiful.

  18. That sweet azalea is on my must have list. It’s so pretty!

  19. I think you may have solved a mystery. I inherited a lovely camellia that is covered with rose-like blooms. It looks a lot like ‘April Rose.’ It started blooming in March, but perhaps that could be because I’m further south than you are?

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