Native Plants 2013

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.

Stylophorum diphyllum & Mertensia virginicaThis photo is one of my favorite shots of my native woodland which has huge swathes of some of the native plants that are particularly good spreaders, including Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, and Celandine poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum.  For more photos of my woods and information on the natives I grow there click here.


This weekend Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is holding its second annual Native Wildflower Weekend on Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm.  This event is my seventh annual native plant event and is timed to coincide with my native woodland coming into bloom.  However, this is the coldest spring that I have experienced since starting Carolyn’s Shade Gardens 21 years ago.  The timetable for my events is the same but the plants in the ground and in the pots are on a totally different schedule—they didn’t get the memo, they think it’s early March.


Polemonium reptansAnother shot of what my woods should look like with dwarf Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium reptans, in the foreground and native wild-ginger, Asarum canadense, in the background.  The Jacob’s ladder is visible right now, but the ginger has not even emerged from the mulch of ground leaves.

Normally I write a blog post around this time featuring native plants. That process usually involves heading out to the garden to take a lot of photos of my native plants to use in the article.  However, the only plants blooming right now are hellebores, pulmonarias, and many beautiful non-native bulbs—all my winter-blooming shade plants.  So I thought I would use some of my existing photos to show you what spring usually looks like and to highlight some native favorites.


Senecio aureusThe woodland with golden groundsel, Senecio aureus, and Virginia bluebells.  Golden grounsel is a wonderful native plant with fragrant yellow flowers and wintergreen leaves.  It spreads aggressively to form an impermeable groundcover and should only be planted in places where its habit can be accommodated.  It is a wonderful replacement for pachysandra, vinca, or ivy.

Phlox stolonifera 'Home Fires'‘Home Fires’ creeping phlox, P. stolonifera, is actually blooming in the pots for sale at my nursery.  You have to admire its courage!


Phlox stolonifera 'Sherwood Purple'‘Sherwood Purple’ creeping phlox is the best spreader for use in a shady woodland.  Creeping phlox should not be confused with moss phlox, P. subulata, which is also native but prefers part shade.


Heuchera villosa 'Citronelle'Lemon coral bells, Heuchera villosa ‘Citronelle’, keep their color all winter as do all the coral bells native to our area.  They are also tough as nails compared to the coral bells derived from western natives that don’t work here.


Heuchera 'Green Spice' Terra Nova photo‘Green Spice’ coral bells have beautifully patterned leaves all winter.


Spigelia marilandicaIndian pink, Spigelia marilandica, is a very flashy native that blooms in May and June and attracts hummingbirds.  It is dormant in the garden and in the pots right now.


Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon'The lovely fragrant flowers of ‘Blue Moon’ wild sweet William, Phlox divaricata, are a great spreading addition to the woodland edge.


Phlox divaricata 'May Breeze'‘May Breeze’ wild sweet William is a steely white.


Lobelia cardinalisOne of my all time favorite native plants, cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, blooms in the fall and is a hummingbird magnet.


Sanguinaria canadensisNo garden should be without bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis.


Polemonium reptansDwarf Jacob’s ladder and Celandine poppy are equally vigorous and combine well.


Podophyllum peltatumThe elegant leaf pattern of our native mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum, is under-appreciated.


Aquilegia canadensisAnother hummingbird attractor, wild columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, needs very good drainage.


Asarum caudatumIf you like the shiny leaf of European ginger, the native long-tailed ginger, Asarum caudatum, from the west coast is a nice alternative.  It grows faster and is less picky about siting.

Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty'‘Purple Beauty’ moss phlox, P. subulata, is one of seven different colors that I will be selling this season.  Moss phlox is often seen in quite a bit of sun but it also thrives in part shade locations.  It likes to be well-drained.


Jeffersonia diphyllaA treasured native, twin-leaf, Jeffersonia diphylla, has not even started to emerge yet.


Camassia leichtlinii 'Coerulea'Another native of western US, ‘Caerulea’ camassia, C. leichtlinii, grows in the full shade of my woodland and in the sunny areas beside my lawn.


Erythronium 'Pagoda'‘Pagoda’ dogtooth violets, Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, are so happy in my woods that they have self-sowed all over.


Geranium maculatum 'Espresso'My favorite time of year for the purple-leafed native geranium ‘Espresso’, G. maculatum, is when it first emerges in the spring.


Tiarella cordifolia 'Brandywine'Foamflowers, Tiarella cordifolia, are a wonderful Pennsylvania native.  This is the spreading form ‘Brandywine’.


Iris cristataIn well-drained locations, blue dwarf crested iris, I. cristata, spreads to make large colonies.


Every photo in this post was taken in my garden.  If you live in the area, I hope you can visit when the plants are in bloom.  Meanwhile, if you want them in your garden, this weekend is your chance to acquire them.



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  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings:  Our Native Wildflower Weekend takes place this Friday, April 5, from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday, April 6, from 10 am to 2 pm.  If you are a customer, you should have gotten an email with all the details. If you can’t come to an event, just email to schedule an appointment to shop.  If you wish to order shrubs, I will be doing a second order within the next week for customers who missed the deadline. 

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 “Native Plants 2013”

  1. Some really great natives here. I have that groundsel this year for the first time and saw that it was blooming wonderfully. I’ll be taking it to the land and hope it will spread so I will site it carefully. Anything to keep down weeds would be a huge help out there. I don’t even know half of these plants here. When are you going to come to Tennessee so you can help teach me?? I have a plant you may be able to identify for me. I’ll email you if it’s okay.

  2. I love the selection of plants you grow and offer at the nursery. I have many varieties of Phlox and feel it is such a useful plant. Pollinators love them. My Hellebores are finally flowering. Hope your wildflower event is successful, I am attending one this weekend also. It is being given by a leading bee expert in our area and held at a nature preserve.

  3. You have demonstrated some wonderful specimens, love the photos. You have really raised my interest in bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis. I have a local garden that focuses on shade plants and has a little nursery with it to support the garden. I am going to see if I can’t find some there. Thank you.

  4. Hello Carolyn,
    I hope that the sun shines for your weekend event and lots of people visit. By strange co incidence we bought a Polemonium reptans, along with a few other P.’s 2 days ago after hearing a talk by the UK Polemoinum National Plant Collection holder who’d travelled nearly 300 miles there and back to give the talk! We’re attracted to getting some more cultivars/species after discovering they’re great pollnator plants, slug resistant AND Rabbit proof. Your pictures of plant mixes in the woods are really stunning. Lets hope that they pop up soon in this strange weather year,BW

    • Julian, Polemonium reptans is one of our best natives. It stays green all winter with a small rosette close to the ground, the leaves are purple when it emerges, it spreads nicely, it flowers forever, and the seedpods are ornamental. I can’t grow any of the Asian polemoniums here and wonder why I see them for sale in local nurseries. It went down to a very unseasonable 28 degrees F last night. Carolyn

  5. It amazes me how you find the time to do such an extensive post at such a busy time of the year! Very informative! Larry

  6. Carolyn Says:

    I always love your images and enjoy dreaming about having a shade garden. Not much shade to be found here… but we do have lots of sunshine in Summer!

  7. I love these photos! I also have a question. Does the Pagoda Dog-Tooth Violet grow in our warmer, most likely drier zone 7b gardens here in Upstae South Carolina? I do not find them at local nurseries and Woodlanders, a nursery that specializes in native, shade loving woodland plants that do well in our summer heat, does not carry them. I absolutely love them but, alas, I am famous for falling in love with plants that do not naturally thrive in my region and having to baby it and pamper it through the season just to get it to survive. On the other hand, I have discovered that the three little trilliums I planted over 20 years ago in our deciduous woody slope on our farm have colonized and Bloodroot naturally grows there as well but more in solitary isolation than in clumps.

  8. What a lovely selection of natives! I love the combination of wood poppy and Jacob’s ladder. My poppies are just now starting to come up. Hope you have a very successful plant sale!

  9. Incredible planting combos there! A few of these plant I have never heard of – must investigate 😉

  10. Pagoda is gorgeous! I was struck by your statement that this is the coldest spring you’ve seen in 21 years. I did know it was unusually cool, but that really puts it into perspective! I hope your Wildflower Weekend is a great success.

  11. What a beautiful selection of natives you have! Your Podophyllum is extraordinary with its deeply cut leaves!!

  12. Florence WITONSKY Says:

    Thanks I will try for Saturday. If that doesn’t work I’ll connect for another time. Pecki

    Sent from my iPhone

  13. I figured we were the only ones, here in the upper Midwest, who were suffering from a late spring. But it sounds like it’s more widespread. Spring is starting to make an appearance. Yay! I especially enjoyed the Heucheras that you’ve shared here. I’ve had success with Heuchera in the past, but not so much in my current shady garden. I love it. I guess I just need to find a better spot.

  14. debsgarden Says:

    I love all these woodland plants! I am introducing more native phlox to my woodland garden, but here it is surprisingly hard to find! I planted bloodroot a couple years ago and thought it had died, as it never appeared. However, this year it produced a single bloom and two leaves. Maybe there is hope, but this is taking “slow to establish” to the extreme!

    • Deb, A lot of times wildflowers purchased from nurseries are originally potted from dried out or otherwise deteriorated roots dug from the wild, not necessarily illegally but not in a way that is good for the plant. If these plants survive, it could take a couple of years to establish. Carolyn

  15. Cathy Huston Says:

    Carolyn – I read with interest your piece on Edgeworthia. I recently ordered ‘Red Dragon’. Do you know anything about this one? Thank you. Cathy

  16. Carolyn, I am interested in Hypericum calcinum and ‘Brigadoon’, do you still have them? If so how much are they, thanks, Alice Johnson

  17. Really pretty photos. I can’t decide if it’s the black background that makes the colors stand out, or if you’ve done some enhancement, or both? 🙂

    Happy Spring!!

  18. Carolyn what a magnificent spring garden…we are late here too…is this native plant sale always the second weekend in April…I want to note it for my calendar so I can start scheduling events like this once I reitre…then I can finally see your stunning garden and take home some of your beautiful plants.

  19. Carolyn – I’m just wondering how much maintenance your woodland garden needs. Is it self-sufficient ?

  20. I wish I could get to the sale! I have a question about the bluebells and celandine poppies. I have a large bed under a tree. The back potion is mostly some hostas and large ferns along with a few small slow growers. If I mix in bluebells and celandine poppy will they be too aggressive?

  21. Gosh I thought I had commented here but don’t see the comment. Not sure why but here I am again. Those ‘Pagoda’ violets are lovely. I just added some to my garden last fall and so far they are keepers! Can you possibly take a look at a plant I posted today. I have no idea what it is but it is growing wild everywhere and I am dying to know what it is. Thanks Carolyn! Hope your Wildflower weekend went wonderfully!

  22. What a great variety that I will have to admire from the distance because I do not think I can grow any of those here in the island, but is great to know there is such a collection of beneficial natives to incorporate to a garden.

  23. Every time I read your blog posts I wish we lived closer. I would love to have some of those great native plants. I planted Spigelia marilandica last year….it doesn’t seem to be returning.
    Not many people know of the Jeffersonia diphylla, what a neat little plant.
    Great collection of natives Carolyn.

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