Pleasurable Pairings for Early Summer Part 1

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.

Rosa 'Westerland', 'Delta Jazz' crape myrtleWesterland’ rose and Lagerstroemia ‘Delta Jazz’, a new crapemyrtle with beautiful burgundy leaves and pink flowers which I am trialing for the Southern Living Plant Collection.


One of the most satisfying posts I have written is called Pleasurable Pairings for Spring and profiles plant combinations in my garden in April 2011.  To read it, click here.  It has taken me over two years to find the time to do a similar article for another season, but this post and the next will show pleasing plant pairs for early summer.  I have also included some long views of the gardens to give readers a sense of place.  My house is on a south-facing slope, and this post includes the gardens on the west side in the order in which you would encounter them.  The east side is in Part 2. 


view down the front stepsLooking down the front steps on the west side of the house across two of the three terraces to the dovecote at the bottom.


miniature hostas in strawberry jarAs you walk down the steps, you pass my many miniature hosta containers, including this strawberry jar with 16 different hostas—one for each pocket.  Miniature hostas are available mail order.  To see the catalogue, click here.


Hostas 'Shiro Kabitan', 'Dew Drop', 'Hi Ho Silver', 'Country Mouse'This is a new container that sits on the steps to the side door.  Clockwise from upper left: Hosta ‘Shiro Kabitan’, ‘Dew Drop’, ‘Hi Ho Silver’, and ‘Country Mouse’.


main perennial bedThe main perennial bed by the front door on the middle terrace.


view from the front doorLooking from the front door towards the dovecote: ‘Minnie Pearl’ phlox, ‘Goldheart’ bleeding-heart, and ‘Caradonna’ salvia.


view from the front doorA longer view of the main perennial bed.


DSCN0415The other end of the main perennial bed: yellow corydalis, allium, ‘Magic Carpet’ spiraea, and ‘Caramel’ coralbells.


Geranium 'Katherine Adele', Corydalis lutea, Campanula 'Blue Waterfall'The right side of the steps to the lower terrace: ‘Katherine Adele’ hardy geranium, yellow corydalis, and ‘Blue Waterfall’ campanula.


entrance to orange and purple gardenThe left side of the steps to the lower terrace.


container in orange and purple gardenA close up of the container on the left side of the steps with dwarf orange lilies and violas, which have been in full bloom with no dead-heading since mid-March.


Digitalis 'Goldcrest'Yellow corydalis in the wall with ‘Goldcrest’ foxglove surrounded by ‘Blue Waterfall’ campanula and sedums in bloom.


Hosta 'Whirlwind', fernJust below the lower terrace: ‘Whirlwind’ hosta and a self-sown fern.


hornbeam gardenIn a very dry and shady garden below the dovecote, clockwise from upper left: Japanese painted fern, ‘Sparkler’ native jack-in-the-pulpit, pulmonaria, and black sedge.


Leucosceptrum japonicum, Pulmonaria 'Leopard', Carex 'Oehme'In another very dark area, Japanese shrub mint in back, ‘Leopard’ pulmonaria (one of my favorites for its giant spots), and native sedge.


Ligularia 'Othello', Hosta 'Paradigm'Along the fence line on the west side of the property, ‘Othello’ ligularia and ‘Paradigm’ hosta.


Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls', Aconitum speciesAlso along the fence, ‘Ametyst Falls’ American wisteria, which I think is just as beautiful as the Asian varieties, and monkshood.


Primula japonica, astilbes, fernsAt the very bottom of the property in the only moist garden we have, Japanese primroses, which self-sow with abandon, are succeeded by astilbes and ferns.


Magnolia asheiFor Larry with best wishes for good health, the first flower on my native Magnolia ashei, a close relative of native bigleaf magnolia.

I hope you enjoyed the tour.  Stay tuned for Part 2, the shadier east side of the house.



Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., 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:  We are having the final spring open hours at the nursery on Friday, June 7, from 10 am to 4 pm,  Saturday, June 8, from 9 am to 2 pm, and Sunday, June 9, from 1 to 3 pm.  Customers will get an email with the details shortly.  Appointments are available through June 15 when we close for the summer, reopening in the fall around September 15.  The 2013 Miniature Hosta Mail Order Catalogue, containing over 35 choice selections of miniatures for shipping all over the US, is on the right sidebar here, and we are still shipping.  If you are local, you can use the catalogue to see what miniatures are still available at the nursery.

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.

37 Responses to “Pleasurable Pairings for Early Summer Part 1”

  1. Just beautiful. And so inspiring!

  2. I love the ‘Waterfall’ campanula with corydalis. I also have the Digitalis grandiflora with Corydalis lutea and think it’s a winning combo. Thanks so much for sharing, it’s a lovely post of a lovely garden.

  3. You have such a beautiful property, everywhere one turns. You also have many pairings that are worth copying. Even though I took few photos of your property, the ones I did where all terrific. Too bad it was raining…

  4. Simply Stunning! I just got in from gardening till it was too dark. What a treat to tour your garden after. You have inspired me, I have a couple of strawberry jars that need planting, I think I’ll put hosta in them as well.

  5. All the purples, oranges, and yellows are so complimentary. And the Hostas arranged in the adjacent square containers add a nice bit of whimsy. Thanks for the plant pairing suggestions–I took some notes!

  6. You have some really interesting and inspiring combinations, your strawberry pot with your little hostas is beautiful. I really like the combinations where it is just foliage forming a wonderful tapestry of leaves contrasting in colour shape and texture, that is what I am aiming for here.

  7. Carolyn thanks for a wonderful and informative tour down the west side of your garden, there are so many beautiful combinations I can’t pick one I like best as I think they are all beautiful, your garden is so lush and apart from the flowers the foliage combinations are just wonderful,
    I’m encouraged by your plants in darker dry areas as I have been cutting low branches under my trees and hope to start planting there later this year,
    you are lucky your slope faces south, I too am on a slope but my garden faces east, early morning sun lost well before sunset,
    thanks for such an encouraging gardening start to my day, Frances x

    • Frances, I am very lucky in the placement of my garden because it is also very protected. A lot of it is in dry, full shade, but I don’t have any areas under evergreens like you do. Carolyn

      • thanks Carolyn, I am taking into consideration the many differences in our gardens due to where we are, being so far north I never get hot sun and there is the wind, my evergreens have lost so many leaves that they are not dense like those in more sheltered favourable climates, there is dappled sunlight and rain penetrates through, I am learning about my garden and the types of plants that can thrive here, thank you for your descriptions and insights into the plant world, Frances

  8. Oh how wonderful to look at your beautiful garden again. I have missed it with over work and winter blues. The hostas are still my favourite in your garden. Thank you for sharing.

    • Barbara, I hope work has calmed down and you are feeling great. You are just going into winter in South Africa as we are approaching summer. Hostas are such wonderful shade plants, I don’t see how anyone can take them for granted. Carolyn

  9. Hey!! Way cool Carolyn!!! thankyou… i hadn’t seen this post due to preparing for this week’s surgery and recovery… much appreciated… Larry

  10. Okay…now I have to get a strawberry jar. That is just brilliant! Do you leave that out over winter?

  11. I agree. Your American wisteria is just as beautiful as the Asian varieties.

  12. Thank you for the stroll in your lovely garden, so nice to see wider shots of it to get a sense of the space. I love your strawberry jar, I have seen them over here too, I have been looking for a glazed one in red so it would fit with the rest of my pots, seems I have to buy one unglazed and paint it myself as I haven’t found a red one so far. Great to see all your companion planting, and with as much space as you have you really can have a lot of different plants!

    I am redesigning a part of a bed this year, nearly two square meter of empty bed to play around with, can’t wait! Some of it is partly under my camellia so I have been thinking of planting some of the lovely hostas you have featured – some of it will be full shade, but nice and moist soil. I have a very long list of plants I would like to put in that new space, a hardy, double gardenia is top of my list, to go right on the edge where it would get dapple shade. There is a new variety here in the UK, came last year, but already sold out everywhere this year, I so want one 🙂

    Oh, and your magnolia is lovely, how wonderful that it can flower already as such as small plant!
    Take care, have a great week-end, Helene.

  13. Hi Carolyn, I appreciate the longer views in your garden. You have some wonderful combinations, and everything is lush and beautiful! I am in love with your Leopard pulmonary. I also like the idea using a strawberry jar for miniature hostas.

  14. The hosta and fern is my favourite pairing. The contrast really shows off the hosta.

  15. Carolyn I love these combos…my miniature hostas are growing in beautifully in their pots….

  16. Fabulous tour Carolyn and the ‘Whirlwind’ hosta is a real beauty.

  17. As you well know I get excited about plant combinations especially when they include luscious foliage! Great ideas here. I must move my Pulmonaria next to my Japanese painted fern! Incidentally I discovered that Pulmonaria will take full sun in good moisture retentive soil. Mine look fabulous next to Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’

  18. I love this early summer flush of blooms (just beginning in my garden), and it was great to see all your wonderful pairings. My favorite pairings in my own garden tend to be products of serendipity. At this time of year, they include Geranium x cantabrigiense and lady’s mantle and those two together with Spirea ‘Magic Carpet.’

  19. You have a great garden … so busy … love it!

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