Native Plants in Bloom Part 1

Our woodland is spectacular right now.  Here, ‘Royal White’ redbud, Cercis canadensis, underplanted with golden groundsel, Senecio (Packera) aureus.

More and more of our customers are becoming interested in native plants, which we have been promoting since we opened our nursery in 1992.  If you would like to know more about why growing native plants is important to our survival, click here.  Every plant in this post is native to Southeastern Pennsylvania unless noted.

Our woodland garden, which is filled predominantly with native plants, is in full bloom right now.  If you would like to see a video of our woodland in bloom, there is one on our Facebook page here, just scroll down past upcoming events to videos.  Meanwhile, I am going to highlight some of the natives in our woodland in this post.

I am dedicating this post to the volunteers and career emergency personnel at Narberth Ambulance and all the ambulance workers all over the country who are risking their lives daily to help people with COVID-19.  In the face of their dedication, any sacrifice that we are asked to make seems minor.  Please stay home to save lives.  For an inside look at what ambulance workers face right now, please read this excellent article from the Philadelphia Inquirer by clicking here.

Nursery News:  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 within the US.  For catalogues and announcements of local events, please send your full name, mailing address, and cell number to and indicate whether you are interested in snowdrops.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

.Celandine poppies, Stylophorum diphyllum, in the front with golden groundsel in the back.  Both of these plants should only be grown in a naturalized garden where they can spread.  Golden groundsel is a great native substitute for non-native groundcovers like pachysandra, ivy, or vinca.  It is evergreen, has beautiful flowers suitable for cutting, grows in even the most difficult site, and covers the ground completely.


‘Blue Ridge’ creeping phlox, P. stolonifera, also makes a great evergreen groundcover.  ‘Blue Ridge’ is not as vigorous as some of the other creeping phlox cultivars, which can be an advantage if you have a small space.


Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, are going by right now, but their true blue flowers have been a highlight for the last two months.  They go dormant when it gets hot out.


Dwarf Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium reptans, in the front with blue flowers, and wild ginger, Asarum canadense, right center under the native dogwood, have moved around on their own to fill large swaths of our woodland.


A close up of dwarf Jacob’s ladder and wild ginger.


‘Mocha’ coralbells, Heuchera villosa, on the right, western wild ginger, Asarum caudatum (native to the west coast), on the left, surrounded by creeping phlox, P. stolonifera.

.There are pink-flowered cultivars of creeping phlox called ‘Home Fires’ and ‘Pink Ridge’, but this is the straight species.  My customers didn’t buy it last year as it is so vigorous it doesn’t look as appealing in the pots as the other creeping phlox cultivars.  I planted 12 leftover, quart-sized pots, and they completely filled in this large area in one year.

.Little sweet Betsy or bloody butcher, Trillium cuneatum, is my favorite of the many trilliums in our woodland.

.Great white trillium, T. grandiflorum, has been seeding through out our patch of white violets, Viola striata.  White violets make a great groundcover as they fill in completely and are one of the longest blooming plants in out woodland.


‘Sherwood Purple’ creeping phlox surrounds a small grove of ‘Blue Shadow’ fothergilla, F. x intermedia.


This large “river” of ‘Sherwood Purple’ creeping phlox hosts many of the special snowdrops in my collection in late winter and then produces its lovely purple flowers for a long time in early spring.  ‘Sherwood Purple’ is another creeping phlox that makes an excellent groundcover.


‘Lynnhaven Carpet’ robin’s plantain, Erigeron pulchellus, has fuzzy, silver-highlighted leaves and daisy-like flowers.


‘Lynnhave Carpet’ spreads quickly to form a weed-choking groundcover.


Our woodland is almost all native plants with a very narrow path through the center covered in white pine needles.


A final view of the woodland.


Blogs are a lot more fun for everyone, especially the writer, when readers leave comments.  Scroll down to the end of the page to the box where it says “Leave a Reply” and start typing—-it’s easy!


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.

45 Responses to “Native Plants in Bloom Part 1”

  1. I bought the pink creeping phlox last year and it is so pretty with the pulmonaria. I have never had much luck with the groundsel and this year found it on the back at the back of my yard not where I planted it. Thank you I love looking at your photos

  2. Beautiful! Snow in Atlantic Canada last night. Good things come to those who wait ❤

    • Yes, well we could have had snow last night as it went below freezing and damaged even more plants that were just recovering from the last freeze. It has been a difficult spring weather-wise (and every other way too). But it’s a beautiful day today.

  3. I have a large woodland area I would love to make into a woodland garden. Would be a huge effort, but your blog is so inspiring!! I love all the spring colors!!

    I have some of your mini hosta plants I got through mail order several years ago.

  4. Caroline Stone Says:

    The blue river of your snowdrop bed is wonderful!

  5. Sarah Saul Says:

    Wonder post Carolyn! I so enjoy the photos of your garden, it gives me hope for my own.

  6. Anne Canby Says:

    Carolyn – Like you I have black walnuts. What have you found to be most successful growing under them.

    My mertensia are doing well, along with hellebores; I thought ilex opaca ’Md dwarf’ would work but no such luck; I have some bulbs that do alright as well.

    Would love your thoughts.

    Regards, Anne Canby

    Anne Canby 302-984-2882 (h) 302-584-0201 (m)


  7. I see you use white pine needles on one pathway but do you use other materials on paths?

    A walk through your woodland must be wonderful but do you have any seating along the way?


  8. Good News: ten of the mini hostas which were eaten to the ground by slugs and snails while I was in Maine have resurfaced!


  9. Lori Prosser Says:

    Loved the virtual stroll through your woodland. Especially love the little Sweet Betsy trillium… So lovely!

  10. Really enjoyed a virtual stroll through your spring garden of natives. I have a few of them in my tiny garden here in the borough of West Chester, which I purchased from you over the last few years. Thank you, Carolyn.

  11. The celandine poppies and the creeping phlox are both so beautiful. How did your gardens fare with the visit from the polar vortex Friday night?

    • The first freeze two weeks ago or so on a Thursday night was devastating. It would take too long to list all the plants that were damaged. Friday night further damaged some of the hostas and got a few other things, but was relatively minor by comparison.

  12. Carolyn Friedman Says:

    I love your posts. Thank you. Do you have any methods for keeping groundhogs from eating so many things, e.g., the robins plantain and creeping phlox?

    On Sun, May 10, 2020 at 7:03 AM CAROLYN’S SHADE GARDENS wrote:

    > Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens posted: “Our woodland is spectacular > right now. Here, ‘Royal White’ redbud, Cercis canadensis, underplanted > with golden groundsel, Senecio (Packera) aureus. More and more of our > customers are becoming interested in native plants, which we have been > promoti” >

    • Ground hogs will move off your property if you find their burrow entrance and dump used kitty litter down it. They are fastidiously clean and will move out. I do have a ground hog or two but they have never touched either of those plants.

  13. We have mostly beech in the woods behind our house and there is no understory to speak of–basically just a carpet of brown leaves, beech leaves being notoriously slow to decompose because of high lignin content. Do your know if golden groundsel or any of the other native groundcovers you feature would grow under beeches?

    • All the plants that are in our woodland grow up through the undisturbed leaves of the London plane trees, black walnuts, maples, etc. which provide high shade. Although I can’t comment specifically on beech leaves, none of the leaves in the woodland that come off in the fall have broken down by the time the understory plants come up, and the plants are unaffected. Plants native to our area evolved to deal with heavy leaf cover because it was all forest then.

  14. My celedon poppy makes large clumps. It has been putting up alot of babies this year. My yard is shaded by 2 large maples and the poppies with more shade are the biggest and healthiest. I need to go measure the size of those clumps. The oldest one I have gets more sun and stays smaller and thinner, not really a clump.

  15. Thank you for the link to the EMT article – a must read for everyone!! All that is being asked of us is to stay home – when you start to feel stir crazy a story like that one is what you need to put it all in perspective!!!

    Love your garden – my celadon poppies are finally starting to spread!! Took them a few years but now the spot where I planted them is now nice and full!!! Love the cheery yellow in the spring!!

    • I agree, reading about the sacrifices of people who are actually dealing with COVID-19 reconfirms how important it is for me to follow the rules to keep others safe. Unfortunately, out of all the people who read my post, only 8 clicked the link to read the Inquirer article.

      I started with one Celandine poppy given to me by a friend. It takes a while but then they really take off.

  16. Mary Sue Burgess Says:

    Beautiful! Our son and daughter-in-law are buying a home on 5 acres, most of which is woodland and I can’t wait to get my hands on the largely blank palette. This post will be our inspiration.

    • I have written two posts on how to create a woodland garden with plant recommendations. Go to the home page of my website and in the search bar, type “If You Build It…” to find the posts. If there is no sidebar visible, click the banner at the top.

  17. ALWAYS ENJOY YOUR POSTS. The Epimedium purchase last year are growing well. At this moment I’m wanting to propagate some of the Phlox Blue Ridge, pulmonmium and others. Is it best to wait until after bloom and then cut them back and reset of move into pots to increase? Mertensia finally begin to show more. Do you have any clues how to propagate them faster?

  18. Thank you so much for the lovely post and chance to take a virtual stroll through your woodlands. I have missed being able to visit your beautiful gardens in person this spring, so this was a real treat! But as you say, staying home is a very small price to pay compared to what the frontline workers are dealing with. Luckily gardening is a great solace that we can enjoy without leaving home.

    My hellebores, Celandine poppies, Virginia bluebells and many other CSG plants are all doing well and beginning to spread out this year. (Although I too have had many plants eaten by woodchucks this year, so thanks for the tip about the kitty litter!) Stay well and happy Spring gardening!

  19. Roseanne Moresco Says:

    Fantastic photos and narrative. Thank you!

  20. Caitlin Says:

    I just came across this page! It’s exactly what I was looking for! I have 2 acres of woodlands at my first home. Currently fighting garlic mustard, oriental bittersweet, Japanese barberry and more! I can’t wait to get more in depth with your recommendations from your page. I am located in Bethany CT, but grew up in Chester county:) if you have any specific recommendations for my area I would greatly appreciate them especially evergreen ground cover options! Thanks for a great page!

  21. Your garden is beautiful! When your bluebells dieback, what fills the space? I have a few hostas, but would really like something native to plant with them.

  22. How beautiful is your woodland, it must be a pleasure to stroll thru there!

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: