Woody Plants for Shade Part 9

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.

Magnolia asheiAshe magnolia is a rare native bigleaf magnolia in a size suitable for almost any garden.


Because shade gardens are not composed solely of perennials, three times a year I offer woody plants—shrubs, trees, and vines—to my customers.  I want them to have a reliable source for large and healthy specimens, but I also want to make available woody plants for shade that are wonderful but hard-to-find.  I am in the middle of an offer right now, and customers need to let me know if they want to order by Sunday, September 29.  To see the 2013 Fall Shrub Offer, click here.

When I do these offers, I also do a post describing the plants in more detail.  These posts are some of the most popular I have ever written.  In fact, Woody Plants for Shade Part 2 is number four for all time views and Woody Plants for Shade Part 1 is number eight.  If you want to read about all the plants I have recommended, you can find the remaining six by using the Search My Website feature on the right hand side of the home page.  So let’s get to the plants that I am recommending this time, starting with the trees.


Magnolia asheiThis is my own Ashe magnolia, which I planted in an open, north-facing bed.  It bloomed after its first full year and was spectacular as promised.


I have been coveting the native bigleaf magnolia, also known as the large-leaved cucumber tree, M. macrophylla, for a long time.  It has gorgeous, gigantic fragrant flowers and the most amazing leaves and did I say it was native?  There is even one in my neighborhood for me to lust after.  However, it’s huge, the sources say 40 feet tall by 40 feet wide, but I have seen larger specimens.  Plantsman Michael Dirr calls it a “cumbersome giant”, and it takes forever to bloom.  Imagine how excited I was when I discovered a small version of this tree tucked into a courtyard at Chanticleer.


Magnolia asheiThe flower bud on the Ashe magnolia.


Ashe magnolia, M. macrophylla ssp. ashei, is a subspecies of the bigleaf magnolia, or maybe it is its own species, but the important thing is that it only grows to 15 to 20 feet tall with a similar width.  The specimen at the Scott Arboretum is 10 feet tall after 20 years.  It has the same spectacular, tropical-looking 24″ leaves.  The huge 10″, highly fragrant flowers are pure white with a purple center spot and bloom in early summer.  Unlike its big relative, it blooms at a very young age in sun to part shade.  It originates in the Florida panhandle and its hardiness range is unclear.  However, it does fine in the Delaware Valley.


Stewartia koreanaKorean stewartia has attractive exfoliating bark that is especially ornamental in winter.


Stewartia koreanaStewartias are known for their striking fall color.


Stewartia koreanaKorean stewartia blooms in the summer with white, camellia-like flowers.


Korean stewartia, S. koreana,  is another small tree that is easily integrated into home gardens.  It reaches 25 feet in height and has an upright, pyramidal shape.  Its large, white, camellia-like flowers appear over a long period of time in June and July.  Its cinnamon-colored, exfoliating bark is visually interesting in winter.  The refined dark green leaves turn a beautiful orange-red color in fall.  Korean stewartia has received the coveted Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant award.  For details, click here.  This is an elegant tree for the smaller landscape with a solid 365 days of ornamental interest.


Camellia x 'Long Island Pink'Fall-blooming hardy camellia ‘Long Island Pink’


Fall-blooming camellias hardy in zone 6, the zone for most of southeastern Pennsylvania, are hard to find for sale especially in a decent size.  Even though hardy camellias suitable for our more northern climate were developed over 20 years ago, they are not well known to most gardeners and even to the horticultural trade.  That is why I always include a nice selection in my offering.  For more information on them generally, you can read my posts by clicking here, which will take you to Part 4 in the series and provide links to the first three parts.  To summarize, they bloom in part to full shade in the fall, generally from October through December, with large showy flowers and have glossy evergreen leaves and a lovely habit.


Camellia Northern Exposure Monrovia‘Northern Exposure’ fall-blooming camellia


I am offering three camellias this time.  ‘Long Island Pink’ has a compact and upright habit reaching 5 feet tall and three feet wide.  It produces lovely single pink flowers in mid-fall and has glossy dark evergreen leaves.  ‘Northern Exposure’ grows to 6 feet tall and five feet wide.  Its pale pink buds open to very large, single white flowers with bright yellow stamens over a long period of time in fall.  The flowers look gorgeous against the glossy dark evergreen leaves


Camellia 'Winter's Dream'‘Winter’s Dream’ fall-blooming camellia


‘Winter’s Dream’  also has a compact and upright habit, reaching 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide.  It produces very showy semi-double pink flowers in early fall.  ‘Winter’s Dream’ was developed by famous camellia breeder Dr. William Ackerman at the U.S. National Arboretum.  All three of these camellias are fully cold hardy in our area but benefit from siting to protect them from winter sun and wind, which generally comes from the northwest.


Callicarpa americanaThe berries of our native American beautyberry are eye-catching to say the least.


I always try to plant native trees and shrubs when I can for many reasons ranging from their durability and beauty to the ultimate survival of the human species (for more on this read My Thanksgiving Oak Forest).  So you can imagine how happy I was to find a source for native American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana.  I immediately planted three of them on the shady open hillside above my nursery and have been very impressed with the spectacular berries they produced this fall.

American beautyberry grows 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide in sun to part shade.  Its pink flowers in early summer are nice, but, like all beautyberries, it takes center stage in fall.  Right now large clusters of spectacular, long-lasting, magenta-purple berries march up and down the branches wherever the leaves join the stem.  The color is so unusual it stops people in their tracks.  This striking native plant is also deer resistant and attractive to birds.  I am thrilled to be able to offer this wonderful native to my customers.


Edgeworthia chrysanthaRight now edgeworthia is just forming its gorgeous silver buds, which remain ornamental all winter.


Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream' Cresson gardenThe whole bush is loaded with these buds all fall and early winter before the flowers open.


Edgeworthia chrysanthaEdgeworthia’s fragrant and unusual yellow flowers are very long-blooming.


I have profiled Edgeworthia chrysantha (supposedly called paper bush but everyone calls it edgeworthia) before in my woody plants for shade series and written a post on what is one of my top five favorite shrubs.  For all the details, see Edgeworthia, A Shrub for All Seasons.  I continue to offer it again and again because it is very hard to find for sale.  I am not sure why because it is ornamental 365 days a year with an elegant habit, reddish bark, large tropically-textured leaves, gorgeous silver buds from fall to late winter, and fragrant flowers from January to March.  For all the details, including a discussion of edgeworthia’s cultural requirements, you will have to read my post.


Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball' & 'Invincible Spirit'‘Incrediball’ smooth hydrangea in my garden.


Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' photo MOBOTThe flowers of ‘Incrediball’ are gorgeous in both their white and green stages.  They last forever in a vase.


Another native, ‘Incrediball’ smooth hydrangea, H. arborescens,  grows to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide in part shade and is full shade tolerant.  Its very showy pure white, 12″ and larger globular flowers are set off beautifully by smooth bright green leaves from June through August.  Unlike some other hydrangeas whose flowers turn brown, these flowers age to a lovely green and are wonderful in dried arrangements.  ‘Incrediball’ is a vast improvement on ‘Annabelle’ because it has very sturdy upright stems and its flowers do not flop even in the torrential rains we had early this summer.  My one-year-old plants shown above were loaded with upright flowers all summer.  Smooth hydrangea is said to be deer resistant and mine, which are exposed to deer, have not been touched.


Hydrangea macrophylla 'Forever Pink'The leaves and flowers of ‘Forever Pink’ are both beautiful.
I chose ‘Forever Pink’ bigleaf hydrangea, H. macrophylla,  for the offer because its leaves still look beautiful in the fall and it has striking flowers.  It grows to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide in sun to full shade.  The vibrant, large, dark pink flowers cover the plant for an extended period in summer.  It has a compact, globe-shaped form with thick stems that resist falling over.  ‘Forever Pink’ is very tolerant of cold temperatures and salt and can take more sun than other bigleaf hydrangeas due to its thick leaves.


Hydrangea quercifolia 'Pee Wee' at Carolyn's Shade Gardens‘Pee Wee’ oakleaf hydrangea is small enough to fit almost anywhere in the garden.


Hydrangea quercifoliaAll oakleaf hydrangeas have lovely red to burgundy fall color.


Hydrangea quercifoliaOakleaf hydrangea’s large flowers


Everyone should have a native oakleaf hydrangea in their garden for four-season interest.  They get quite large, but  ‘Pee Wee’ dwarf oakleaf hydrangea, H. quercifolia,  is the perfect cultivar for  smaller gardens and smaller spaces.  It grows to 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide in full sun to full shade.  The large, long-lasting, upright pyramids of white flowers in June and July change to pink as they age and even look good brown.  The bold-textured leaves with burgundy-red fall color and cinnamon-colored exfoliating bark move the season of interest through fall and winter.  Oakleaf hydrangeas are walnut tolerant and native to the southeastern US.


Symphoricarpos 'Amethyst'The berries of ‘Amethyst’ coral berry cover the shrub.


I was looking through my supplier’s availability list when I came across native  ‘Amethyst’ coral berry, Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii, a shrub unknown to me.  I was very excited when I discovered that it is a hybrid of two Pennsylvania natives and thrives in the shade.  ‘Amethyst’ grows to 3 to 5 feet tall with a similar width in part shade, but is full shade tolerant.  Small pink flowers appear in June.  In the fall, abundant and unusually striking pink fruit are set off beautifully by fine-textured blue-green leaves and then remain after the leaves drop.  Coral berry is deer resistant and attractive to birds.


I hope I have introduced you to some new trees and shrubs that excite you.  Remember orders must be received by September 29.



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 carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens will hold a full-fledged open house sale on Saturday, September 28, from 10 am to 3 pm.  Shrub and tree orders are due by September 29.  For details, click here.  We are currently offering double hellebores, both by pre-order and at the nursery.  For details, click here.   Now that it’s cool, we are also shipping miniature hostas again.  For details, click here.  Low maintenance seminars are in the works.

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.

26 Responses to “Woody Plants for Shade Part 9”

  1. Hi Carolyn… I have a friend who is blooming some variety of the big leaf magnolias and Stewartia pseudo-camelia with success. I have tried the Korean Stewartias in northern Wisconsin many years ago with no success on several occasions. That probably could change now that we seem to have entered into milder winters. If I recall correctly, they are hardier than the pseudo-camelias?
    We are very limited in bloom now in the gardens, although the Seven Sons are all quite outstanding. I have finally gotten up the courage to remove several flowering crabs that are plagued by apple scab. I am also considering removing several large shrubs that are not worthy of the space they occupy. These would include three that are labeled as Unique hydrangeas… they simply aren’t as lovely in bloom as many other cultivars so will probably go away.
    I’m also clearing a path for a skid loader so that I can create another rock garden… hopefully the rocks and dirt will get moved within the next month… all waits for crops in the fields to be harvested so that the rock stash can be accessed. Have a great fall… Larry

  2. I love reading your blog as I have a very shady garden; you offer lots of very good information, and locate plants I could not find otherwise. I’m in New England, however. Have you ever considered mentioning the zones for the plants you discuss?

    • I am furnishing this information and recommending these plants for gardeners in the mid-Atlantic where I know they are hardy. Zone information for these plants varies from source to source so I chose not to give it. Readers outside this area need to do their own research to see if they can grow these plants. Just looking up the zone is not enough, gardeners should consult local horticultural organizations to see what they recommend.

  3. Linda Geiger Says:

    I’ve had a coral berry bush in my full sun garden for three years. It does well in the sun too. It has many beautiful and unusual coral berries all over. I cut it down to about 6 inches in the spring and it comes back very well. An unusual and beautiful addition to my garden!

  4. Nice selection of plants that you featured. I see Incrediball is doing very well. It still has some height and width to gain yet. Always nice to see what you are selling and growing.

    • Donna, I love Incrediball. The pink hydrangeas, Invincible Spirit all flopped down in the rain and the flowers go straight from pink to brown (I still like it though). The Incrediball stood straight up and the flowers aged to a lovely green and still aren’t brown. Carolyn

  5. You have some great plants for sale. I’m sure they’ll soon be snapped up.

  6. I’m really tempted by the beautyberry. Need to think about where I could place it. Also I like the coralberry, wish I had known about it before I planted my snowberry, another Symphoricarpos which is very similar except for having white fruit.

  7. I agree with you on Invicible Spirit – so far I am disappointed in its floppiness. My Annabelles are more upright. I am trying the white Symphoricarpos which is native to my area. Good luck on your sale Carolyn.

    • Patty, I like the Invincible Spirit because of its pink flowers which look great mixed with the white, but I didn’t expect it to be so floppy. There is a new pink smooth hydrangea on the market called ‘Bella Anna’ and it is supposed to have sturdy stems. Carolyn

  8. Carolyn you always have the most amazing shrubs especially the magnolias.

  9. So many suggestions–thank you! I know where to go if I have a question about shade-tolerant plants, shrubs, and small trees! The large-leaved Magnolia is stunning. Perhaps that specimen will have a place in my future. Not many people grow Beautyberries her, but they are hardy in southern Wisconsin. The UW-Arboretum has several of them growing near the entrance. I might pull out my Barberries one of these days and replace them with Beautyberries.

    • Beth, Barberries are a bad word to me since I run an invasive plant removal program in Maine all summer, and they are one of the worst offenders. They have completely replaced the understory in the island that is a state park next to the island where I work. They are also a tick and lyme magnet. Carolyn

  10. My sister has two oakleaf hydrangeas. Both were planted in the same year.The one in the shade has no flowers and is still very small. The one in the sunny border is very big with many flowers. She has clay soil. Should she move the one in the shade to a sunnier spot?

    • Denise, All my oakleaf hydrangeas are in high and open full shade and clay soil. They all bloom profusely. There may be something else going on. I would move the one that’s not blooming as long as it hasn’t bloomed for two years. If it is not blooming the first full year after she planted it, I would give it another year. Carolyn

  11. Great post! I have wanted a bigleaf magnolia, but, believe it or not, I am running out of room for trees! I am happy to learn of this smaller cultivar.

  12. The brush-strokes of purple at the centre of that magnolia make it really special

  13. Beautiful pictures Carolyn!! You do such a good job with the camera.

    Our American Beautyberries are starting to show their color. Check out my post:

    Beautiful Color

    Glad ot see you visit my site!

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