Archive for Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

The Garden Tourist

Posted in bulbs for shade, garden to visit, hosta, landscape design, my garden, native plants, Shade Gardening, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2019 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

The cover of The Garden Tourist by Jana Milbocker features the teacup garden at Chanticleer in Wayne, Pennsylvania, which is 10 minutes from our nursery.  Many of our out-of-state visitors tour Chanticleer and shop at our nursery on the same day.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has been selected as one of the 120 must visit destination gardens and nurseries in the Northeast United States in the wonderful guidebook The Garden Tourist by Jana Milbocker.  This book is a great resource for those of us who love to visit gardens as it covers Maine through Pennsylvania with detailed information on each entry, including photos, suggested daily itineraries, and nearby restaurants.  You can purchase The Garden Tourist on Amazon here, or at Valley Forge Flowers in Wayne, Pennsylvania, if you are local. 

I have visited, photographed, and written about many of the destinations included in the book, so, from personal experience, I can say that they are well-chosen.  As a sample, here are the featured Pennsylvania gardens and nurseries:  Ambler Arboretum, Bartram’s Garden, Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, Chanticleer, Highlands Mansion & Garden, Hortulus Farm Garden & Nursery, Longwood Gardens, Meadowbrook Farm, Shofuso Japanese Garden, Scott Arboretum, Terrain, and Wyck Garden.

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 to US customers only.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and cell 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.


The Carolyn’s Shade Gardens page from The Garden Tourist.

We are so honored to be included in this wonderful garden resource.  Many of our customers have already purchased it and are looking forward to putting it to use.  One longtime customer even brought his copy over so I could autograph the Carolyn’s Shade Gardens page!  I thought it would be fun to give my readers, especially my international followers, a more in depth photographic tour of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.  The photographs used in this post were taken from 2010 to 2019.  Enjoy!


Stone stairs lead from the nursery area, past the original entrance to the two-room gardener’s cottage that is now our home, to the Main Terrace.  All the areas of our garden have names, which I will capitalize.  That way my husband Michael and I can communicate about garden maintenance.  During our last open house, visitors were overheard referring to “the team of workers who [must] take care of the gardens.”  We are still laughing and wondering when our team will arrive!  Michael does most of the maintenance, and I help when I can.  5/7/2012


On the way down the stairs, you pass the entrance to the Main Rock Garden.  It is mostly a winter garden filled with snowdrops, snowflakes, hardy cyclamen, winter aconite, and other early bulbs.  4/25/2016


The Main Terrace outside the front door in early spring.  4/15/2012


The Main Terrace a month later.  5/15/2015


Michael’s pride and joy and a major feature of the Main Terrace is our gorgeous wisteria.  Plein Air painters come to capture it on canvas every year.  4/29/2011


One of my favorite color combinations on the Main Terrace: ‘Magic Carpet’ spiraea, ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding-heart, and Spanish bluebells emerging from a silver-variegated ornamental grass.  4/15/2012


We call the lowest of our three terraces the Orange and Purple Garden.  Here ‘Paliban’ lilac blooms over a collection of small hostas with orange geum in the foreground.  5/10/2015


The Orange and Purple Garden features a grass oval surrounded by stepping stones inter-planted with sedums, geums, thyme, moss phlox and other low plants.  5/8/2011


The Orange and Purple Garden in fall when our coral bark maple ‘Sango-kaku’ is the star of the show.  11/2/2013


in front of the terraces in the lawn area is a very old American hornbeam with lots of surface roots and a dense canopy requiring plants that can handle full dry shade.  The Hornbeam Garden features Japanese woodland primroses (in flower above), Athyrium-type ferns (Japanese painted, lady, and ‘Ghost’ ferns), hellebores, cardamine, golden groundsel, and pulmonarias, among other plants.  4/15/2012


The Chain Link Strip Garden (don’t ask) along the right boundary of our property is a great place to grow hostas because all the water from the driveway drains through here—hostas love water.  Blue-leafed ‘Neptune’ is on the left, and 2007 Hosta of the Year ‘Paradigm’ is on the right behind a native Carolina allspice.  ‘Paradigm’ measures 60″ wide.  6/7/2019


Native ‘Golden Shadows’ pagoda dogwood is dwarfed by this ‘Great Expectations’ hosta in the Chain Link Strip Garden.  Hosta experts tell me it is the biggest specimen they have ever seen at 52″ wide.  6/7/2019


All the way at the bottom of the yard where it is actually consistently moist are our Production Beds where we grow shade plants to sell at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.  Pictured are ‘Old Brick Reds’ primroses, two types of pulmonaria, and golden groundsel.  5/10/2015


Walking back uphill towards the woodland, you pass our River of Phlox ‘Sherwood Purple’.  Native, evergreen creeping phlox makes an excellent groundcover with gorgeous purple, blue, pink or white flowers, depending on which cultivar you plant.  In the River, we have planted a large part of our snowdrop collection, which blooms December through March before the phlox flowers extend.  4/24/2019


In late winter, snowdrops and winter aconite begin to emerge along the woodland path.  3/2/2019


The snowdrops have been multiplying here for over 100 years and fill the Woodland with white when they open.  3/26/2015


When the snowdrops and aconite are done, the Woodland bursts into bloom with mostly native wildflowers—the native, white redbud trees play a starring role.  4/15/2019


Plants native to Pennsylvania fill the Woodland, here mayapples, golden groundsel, and Virginia bluebells.  4/25/2017


Epimediums, daffodils, cinnamon ferns, and Celandine poppies replace the February-blooming aconite whose leaves are still visible at their base.  4/26/2015


Natives dwarf Jacob’s ladder, black cohosh, and foamflower line the path.  5/10/2015


The Lower Deck Garden provides early color from hellebores, ‘Mohawk’ viburnum, pink old-fashioned bleeding-hearts, and the rose-colored new leaves of ‘Butterfly’ Japanese maple.  4/26/2015


The Upper Deck Garden comes into its own later in May with Hosta nigrescens, pulmonaria, Spanish bluebells, and variegated Solomon’s seal, all echoing the blue and silver garden under the Kentucky coffee tree across the path.  ‘Butterfly’ has assumed its main season color of green and white but will turn pink again in the fall.  5/6/2011


The Kentucky Coffee Tree Garden across from the deck is filled with silver and blue plants, including ‘Ghost’ fern, ‘Bunny Blue’ sedge, ‘El Nino’ hosta, white bigroot geranium, variegated Japanese kerria, and ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Dawson’s White’ brunnera.  5/27/2012


Sugar maples, behind the Kentucky coffee tree on the left and the two giant black walnuts center and right, light up the woodland in fall.  For scale the ‘Butterfly’ Japanese maple is on the far right.  10/27/2010


Moving up the hill, ‘Eye Declare’ hosta steals the show when it emerges in the Sycamore Garden in mid-spring (for orientation, you can see the Blue and Silver Garden in the top right of the photo).  The trees are actually London plane trees but the garden’s name stuck.  5/8/2011


In early summer, native Indian pinks (spigelia) fill the Sycamore Garden and hummingbirds vsit from miles around.  6/7/2019


Above the Sycamore Garden, behind the carriage house, is Hosta Hill, filled with hostas of all sizes plus epimediums, ferns, and hellebores.  5/26/2019


I have a special place in my heart for our Mini Hosta Rock Garden, featuring mini hostas in a multitude of colors and sizes plus a wide assortment of dwarf plants, including ferns, irises, epimediums, conifers, lady’s mantles, and sedums, among others.  6/9/2015


The garden is never without flowers unless deep snow covers the snowdrops, which start blooming in mid-October and finish in late March.  12/10/2013


Michael and I rest in deep winter waiting for the cycle to begin again as soon as the snow melts.  2/21/2014


Although it may seem like winter-, spring-, and early summer-blooming plants predominate, our garden is beautiful in late summer and fall too—I just don’t photograph it then.  I enjoyed writing this post and seeing our garden develop and change over the 10 years that these photographs were taken.  I hope you enjoyed the tour too.



Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name, location, and cell number (for back up contact use only) to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.  Please indicate if you will be shopping at the nursery or are interested in mail order snowdrops only.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and only within the US.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a very active 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.


November GBBD: Prime Time

Posted in Camellias, Fall Color, Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, Shade Perennials, Shade Shrubs with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2011 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

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.

I think Disanthus cercidifolius (no common name) has the best fall color of any plant in my garden.  It is also in full bloom right now (photo below).

It is the middle of the month and time to participate in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day hosted by May Dreams Gardens where gardeners from all over the world publish photos of what’s blooming in their gardens.  I participate because it is fun and educational for me to identify what plants make my gardens shine at different times of the year.  I also hope that my customers will get some ideas for plants to add to their own gardens to extend their season well into fall.  I am also joining my friend Donna’s Word for Wednesday theme of texture and pattern at her blog Garden Walk Garden Talk.

My garden is located in Bryn Mawr (outside Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, U.S., in zone 6B.

The re-blooming tall bearded iris ‘Clarence’ is a star performer in my fall garden.  It got knocked over by our unseasonable snow storm so it doesn’t look like this now, but it continues to bloom.

In colder months there is a tendency to include GBBD photos of anything with a flower, and I may do that in January.  But fall is still prime time in my gardens (no hard frost yet) so I am showing here only plants that are at their peak between October 15 and November 15 (I do not take all my photos on November 15).  This means that they bloom now (or are still blooming), have ornamental fruit, or feature exceptional fall color during this period.  For more ornamental ideas for fall, see A Few Fall Favorites for Flowers and A Few Fall Favorites for Foliage and Fruit.

Let’s start with perennials:

Fall-blooming hardy cyclamen, C. hederifolium, continues to flower through November.

Yes, the snowdrop season has started with Galanthus reginae-olgae, which has been blooming since mid-October.  Fall-blooming ‘Potter’s Prelude’ has just produced its first flowers as has the giant snowdrop, G. elwesii, but they will be featured next month .

When I was touring Chanticleer this spring one of the gardeners gave me a clump of this very late-blooming monkshood, Aconitum sp.  I am not sure what species it is, but I am loving it’s dark violet-blue flowers.

‘Immortality’ is another re-blooming tall bearded iris that puts on a fall show.  I appreciate these flowers much more now when most other showy blooms are gone.

‘Zebrina’ hollyhock mallow, Malva sylvestris ‘Zebrina’, shows up in the most unlikely places in my garden, here my terrace stairs, and produces generous quantities of blooms through fall.

Gorgeous ‘Moudry’ black fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’, is one of the most asked about perennials in my fall garden and is well behaved here, but it can spread aggressively in some sites.

Hellebore season has started too with this little gem that was sold to me as Helleborus dumetorum (no common name), probably mislabeled.  Christmas rose ‘Josef Lemper’ has been blooming for quite a while but has no fresh flowers now.  I will include it next month.

Here are some trees and shrubs that I would grow for their ornamental contribution to the fall garden from flowers or berries:

The award winning hydrangea ‘Limelight’, H. paniculata ‘Limelight’, continues to produce fresh flowers late into fall.

Pond cypress, Taxodium ascendens, is ornamental almost all the time, but I would grow it even if all it did was produce these gorgeous cones.

Native green hawthorn ‘Winter King’, Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’, has produced a bumper crop of berries this year, which the robins are just starting to enjoy.

The flowers on my evergreen ‘Sasaba’ holly osmanthus, O. heterophyllus ‘Sasaba’, are small but they make up for their size with their heavenly fragrance which perfumes the whole garden.

The berries of evergreen Japanese skimmia, S. japonica, persist well into spring.

Disanthus cercidifolius is in full bloom right now.

The scarlet flowers are interesting and beautiful, but you have to get quite close to see them.

All my fall-blooming camellias are covered with flowers.  The first four pictured below are Ackerman hybrids, which are hardy in zone 6 see Fall-Blooming Camellias Part 1, and the final plant is one of their parents:

Camellia x ‘Elaine Lee’

Camellia x ‘Winter’s Joy’

Camellia x ‘Winter’s Snowman’

Camellia x ‘Winter’s Darling’

Fall-blooming Camellia oleifera was introduced to the U.S. from China in 1948.  In 1980, Dr. Ackerman at the U.S. National Arboretum noticed that it alone survived the U.S. mid-Atlantic’s cold winters and began crossing it with non-hardy fall-blooming species to produce what are now known as the Ackerman hybrids.  My camellia in the photo above is a seedling from the original C. oleifera ‘Lu Shan Snow’ at the National Arboretum.

There are dozens of plants that are vying to be included on GBBD because of their beautiful fall color.  However, I have decided to showcase only the seven that I think are exceptional, including disanthus pictured above and at the very beginning of the post:

Our Pennsylvania native vine Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is underused in gardens especially when you consider its fall look.

Many magnolias, including star magnolia, turn a lovely yellow in the fall, but native hybrid Magnolia x ‘Yellow Bird’ (named for its yellow flowers) is the most beautiful.

Redvein enkianthus, E. campanulatus

Pennsylvania native oakleaf hydrangea, H. quercifolia, is ornamental 365 days a year, but it definitely reaches one of its peaks in the fall.

Another woody with 365 days of interest, coral bark maple, Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, has stunning and long-lasting fall color.  For more information on this lovely tree, read Coral Bark Maple.

Pennsylvania native sugar maple, Acer saccharum, has gorgeous orange fall color.  Pictured above is a sugar maple tree in my garden that turns red instead of orange.  Sadly, when the iconic Princeton Nursery closed its doors, they had been evaluating it for seven years for possible introduction.

Enjoy your fall,  Carolyn

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.

Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed for the year.  Look for the snowdrop catalogue (snowdrops are available mail order) in January 2012 and an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  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.

Shade Gardening in Fall: Coral Bark Maple

Posted in Fall, Fall Color, Shade Gardening with tags , , , , on November 10, 2010 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

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.

Sugar Maple

I have a love/ hate relationship with fall.  I try to take joy in the fall colors and the plants that come into their own in fall.  But I can’t quite ignore the feeling, even though it’s wrong, that the garden is dying.  And, I have to admit that, although I like snow, I don’t like cold and that’s what fall is heading towards.

I think that is why plants that turn beautiful fall colors like the sugar maple pictured above and those that bloom in winter have always been a priority for me.  The riot of color distracts me.  I can rearrange my mental state by viewing winter blooms as the start of  spring (more about that in a later post).  So, to improve my mental state right now, I want to mention a shade tree that has outstanding fall color as well as year round interest.

The four photographs above are of coral bark Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’).  Once you have your splashy sugar maple, you should make room for this elegant tree.  Although rightfully famous for its dazzling  coral-red bark in late winter and spring, I think it should be equally prized for its long-lasting apricot-gold fall color.  I can’t take my eyes off it this time of year especially when the sun shines through it—it’s magical!

Culturally it is a 20-25′ understory tree with an elegant, spreading vase shaped habit.  Easy to grow in part to more shade.  It is also readily available in nurseries around the mid-Atlantic area.

Some other trees at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens with amazing fall color:  flowering dogwood (native), kousa dogwood, Rutger’s hybrid dogwoods (native hybrid), pagoda dogwood (native), other Japanese maple species and cultivars, American hornbeam (native), red maple (native), ‘Okame’ cherry, Yoshino cherry, and Katsura.

Please send me a comment/leave a reply with the names of your favorite trees for fall color.

For more information on the coral bark maple and any other plant you want to know about, I highly recommend the Plant Finder provided by the Missouri Botanical Garden‘s Kemper Center for Home Gardening.  I have added this site to my favorites and use it frequently to get information on plants I am researching.  I have provided a permanent link to this wonderful site under Plant Information on my sidebar so you will always be able to find it.


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