Archive for creeping phlox

Strike a Blow for the Environment in your own Yard

Posted in garden essay, green gardening, groundcover, landscape design, my garden, native plants, organic gardening, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2016 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Senecio aureus

Golden groundsel, Senecio aureus, is the best native plant for ground cover.

I write a lot about the things we do at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens to support the environment: gardening organically without herbicides and chemical fertilizers, doing little supplemental watering, composting, mulching with ground leaves, getting rid of our lawn, landscaping with large quantities of native plants, and promoting natives at the nursery.

Nursery News:  You are welcome to shop at the nursery any time by appointment.  The 2016 Mini Hosta Catalogue is now on line here, and we are taking orders.  Our third open house sale, featuring hostas, miniature hostas, ferns, and hardy geraniums, will be held on Saturday, May 7, from 10 am to 3 pm.  Customers on my email list will get a detailed email.   For announcements of spring 2016 events, please sign up for our customer email list by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Let us know if you are local or mail order only and if you are particularly interested in snowdrops or miniature hostas so we can put you on the right email list.

Carolyn's Shade Gardens Woodland

Our native white-flowered redbud surrounded by native plants.

You can read more about these practices in these posts among others: 

Your Native Woodland: If You Build it They Will Come, how to create your own woodland filled with native plants

My Thanksgiving Oak Forest, the importance of native plants to our survival

Your Most Precious Garden Resource, step-by-step guide to mulching with ground leaves 

Letting Go Part 1: The Lawn, the dangers of lawn chemicals to ourselves and the environment 

Do You Know Where Your Mulch Comes From?, toxic substances in shredded hardwood mulch

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Carolyn's Shade Gardens woodland

Our woodland in April with Virginia bluebells, wild ginger, golden groundsel, and mayapples—all native.

My guide to creating a native woodland has been especially popular.  However, most gardeners don’t have vast areas of woods to convert to native plants but still want to make a difference.  And I am sure that most people realize that planting three milkweed plants, though admirable and to be encouraged, is not going to save the monarch butterflies.  So what can you do? 

.Viola striata

Native white violets, Viola striata, used in quantity as an edging along the front of a border.  The violets spread rapidly by seed, filling in empty areas and preventing weeds.

One solution is to find ways to include large quantities—a critical mass—of native plants in your garden, no matter what size.  You can accomplish this by replacing non-native ground covers like pachysandra, vinca, ivy, euonymus, and turf grass with native ground cover plants.  It is easy to do and you can start small by using spreading native plants like the violets above as edging for your existing beds.  Soon you will be eliminating whole swathes of your lawn!  Here are some more ideas of plants to use:

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Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty'
Native ‘Purple Beauty’ moss phlox, P. subulata, used as an edging.
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Phlox subulata 'Emerald Blue'

This patch of native ‘Emerald Blue’ moss phlox has been in place for at least a decade and requires no maintenance at all.  It is evergreen so is present year round like pachysandra but provides you with beautiful flowers and the native insects with food.  Its mat-like habit excludes all weeds.

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Phlox subulata 'Nice 'n White'

Native ‘Nice ‘n White’ moss phlox used to replace non-native vinca, which you can see behind it.  This location is quite shady and the moss phlox thrives.  All it needs is good drainage.

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Phlox subulata 'Nice 'n White'

Our original planting of native ‘Nice ‘n White’ moss phlox is filling in to create a solid blanket while we continue to move down the hill adding new plants.

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Iris cristata 'Tennessee White'

Native ‘Tennessee White’ dwarf crested iris, Iris cristata, used to edge our raised beds.  I expect these clumps to double in size by next spring.

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Senecio aureus

Native golden groundsel, Senecio aureus, the yellow flower in the photo above and the first photo, makes the best ground cover of any native plant.  It spreads aggressively and is evergreen and mat-forming like pachysandra but also produces beautiful, fragrant flowers suitable for cutting.  Like pachysandra it is too aggressive to be mixed with other plants, but unlike the pachysandra in our area it is not subject to alfalfa mosaic virus.

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Chrysognum virginianum 4-26-2016 11-47-39 AM

Native goldenstar, Chrysogonum virginianum, is another creeping plant that makes a good edger.

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Chrysognum virginianum 4-26-2016 11-47-51 AM

Because the goldenstar was working so well at the edge, we decided to replace a whole section of our lawn with it.

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Phlox stolonifera 'Sherwood Purple'

Two years ago we replaced another section of our lawn with native ‘Sherwood Purple’ creeping phlox, P. stolonifera.  This phlox grows in part to full shade and forms a flat, weed-choking mat that stays green all winter.

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Aster cordifolius

Native blue wood aster, Aster cordifolius, replaced another section of lawn at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens that surrounded a gigantic black walnut.

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Aster cordifolius

Native blue wood aster blooms in the fall and grows in part to full shade.

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Doug Tallamy explains in his amazing book Bringing Nature Home* that we can make a difference for the environment and the plants and animals (including us) which are struggling to survive there, by planting native plants in our suburban gardens.  I hope I have given you some good ideas for accomplishing this laudable goal.

*Profiled in my blog post My Thanksgiving Oak Forest.

Carolyn

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Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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 miniature hostas and only within the US.

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.

April GBBD: Native Phlox for Your Garden

Posted in Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, green gardening, groundcover, landscape design, native plants, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

‘Emerald Blue’ moss phlox in my garden

In my last post, Your Native Woodland, I explained how to create your own native woodland garden.  Here I am going to profile some of the wonderful members of the genus Phlox, all native to eastern North America and Pennsylvania in particular.

All the plants except smooth and garden phlox are pictured blooming in my garden right now so I am linking to Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day (“GBBD”) hosted by May Dreams Gardens (link available on April 15) where gardeners from all over the world publish photos of what’s blooming in their gardens.

‘Sherwood Purple’ creeping phlox in my woodland

Phlox are very satisfying native plants to add to all areas of your garden.  They are easy to grow and spread rapidly but not aggressively.  All species that I am profiling are fragrant, some amazingly so, and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  They are also disease-free except garden phlox, which gets powdery mildew.  And, most importantly, they have copious amounts of gorgeous flowers in purple, blue, pink, and white.  Did I mention that they are native to Pennsylvania and all of eastern North America?!?  What more could you want.

Wild sweet William ‘Blue Moon’, Phlox divaricata


Wild sweet William is the most fragrant of the phlox described here.  Its heavenly scent perfumes the whole garden when it is in bloom from April to June.  It is 8 to 10″ tall and spreading with semi-wintergreen leaves.  Although I have seen it growing in the wild in full shade, I have better success with it in sun to part shade.  Cut it back after flowering to maintain an attractive habit.  My favorite cultivars are ‘Blue Moon’ (photo above), ‘May Breeze’ with steely white flowers, and ‘Blue Elf’, a compact form.

‘Morris Berd’ smooth phlox, Phlox glabberima

Smooth phlox is a taller clump-forming plant, although the clumps expand rapidly when it is happy.  It is 18 to 24″ tall and grows in full sun to part shade in average to moist soil.  Flowers appear from late spring to early summer, a time when not much else is blooming.  The only smooth phlox I have ever seen for sale is ‘Morris Berd’ (photo above).  Its velvety pink flowers with silver highlights are breathtaking.


Garden phlox, P. paniculata, left with purple coneflower and ‘Goldsturm’ rudbeckia in my front border in 1993.

I dream of the day that I can plant a field of every cultivar of garden phlox on the market.  The fragrance of the flowers, second only to wild sweet William, the long bloom period, and the colors available make this a very desirable plant.  It grows anywhere in full sun to a good bit of shade (but not full shade).  It reaches 2 to 4′, and I have cultivars blooming from June to October.  My favorites are very early-blooming ‘Blue Paradise’ (photo below), compact ‘Pixie Miracle Grace’, pure white ‘David’, and ‘David’s Lavender’ with huge flower heads.  Unfortunately, I have failed to photograph these plants in past years, but I hope to remedy that this summer.

‘Blue Paradise’ garden phlox

I get questions all the time about powdery mildew on phlox.  The only phlox that gets powdery mildew in my garden is garden phlox.  The best way to avoid this is to buy mildew resistant varieties but in bad years even these cultivars get mildew.  You can also prevent mildew organically by spraying the leaves with a baking soda and oil formula before mildew strikes.  However, my approach is to ignore it because it doesn’t hurt the plants, it just looks ugly some years.  Focus on the flowers instead and plant plants in front of the phlox that hide the leaves.  Your garden does not have to look perfect.


Creeping phlox ‘Blue Ridge’, P. stolonifera, in my woodland.

If I had to pick one phlox that is my favorite, it would be creeping phlox (not to be confused with P. subulata whose correct common name is moss phlox not creeping phlox).  It has beautiful and plentiful fragrant flowers attractive to butterflies like all the native phlox here.  But in addition, it grows in full, dry shade and makes an excellent 3 to 6″ mat-like groundcover that remains green through winter.  It flowers from March to May.  My favorite cultivars are ‘Sherwood Purple’ (photo at the beginning), which is the most vigorous, ‘Blue Ridge’ (photo above), ‘Home Fires’ (photo below), and ‘Pink Ridge’, which is a slightly different pink and blooms later than ‘Home Fires’.

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‘Home Fires’ creeping phlox


‘Emerald Blue’ moss phlox, P. subulata, in my garden


For abundance of flowers, you can’t beat moss phlox: you can’t even see the leaves when it is in bloom in April and May.  It grows in full sun to part shade and forms a wintergreen mat that solidly blocks out weeds.  The needle-like leaves provide an attractive texture year round.  A great plant for dry sites with thin soil because it has a shallow root system and likes to be well-drained.  An annual shearing is recommended although I don’t do this.

‘Amazing Grace’ moss phlox

A lot of breeding has been done with moss phlox to produce a plethora of beautiful flower colors.  They are all good plants, and I don’t have a favorite, but I like ‘Emerald Blue’ (photo at beginning and above), pink ‘Fort Hill’, white with a red eye ‘Amazing Grace’ (photo above), and ‘Purple Beauty’ (photo below).

‘Purple Beauty’ moss phlox

You can’t go wrong when you add any of these wonderful native phlox to your garden.  Enjoy the flowers!

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: My second Open House Sale, featuring spring-blooming plants for shade, will take place on Saturday, April 14, from 10 am to 3 pm.  Look for an email listing the plants available if you are on my customer email list.

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.

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.

Your Native Woodland: If You Build It They Will Come

Posted in Fall Color, groundcover, landscape design, native plants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Virginia bluebells and Celandine poppy in my woodland

Well you might have to plant a few first.  What am I talking about?  How to create your very own woodland filled with native plants.  I have written before about how important native plants are to our survival.  To read about it, click here.  Now I am going to tell you how to create a shade garden in which mid-Atlantic native plants thrive and multiply with abandon.

my native woods

It is really quite simple.  All you do is take one woodland area, mix with generous amounts of compost, add the appropriate native plants, and wait a few years.  The key is knowing which plants to use.


I started with the worst possible soil in the worst possible conditions.  Not only were the beds composed of the hard baked clay and rocks prevalent in our area, but they were filled with roots from 100-year-old London plane and—hold onto your hats—black walnut trees.  Add to that, years of trash, including roofing slate and coal furnace shovelings, dumped in the woods before municipal collection came along and construction debris from the 1960s.


Nature does not dot the landscape with precious collectibles but  “designs” with large sweeps of single types of plants, and that is what I have done in my woods  To create a woodland like mine, all you do is plant at least five but preferably seven and ideally nine of the plants profiled below in beds amended with generous amounts of compost, mulch heavily with ground leaves, and stand back and wait.  Really….that’s what you do….it works.


I wanted to recommend six plants, but when it came down to slimming the competition, I had to go with nine: seven spring-blooming and two fall-blooming.  All are native to the mid-Atlantic and Pennsylvania and all seed freely in a woodland setting once they get going.  And the winners are:

Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica: porcelain blue flowers top blue-green leaves in March and April, goes dormant when hot.  All my plants came from one plant given to me by a friend.


Celandine poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum: lovely filigreed leaves are covered with large bright yellow flowers in April and May.  Again, all my plants came from one plant given to me by a friend.

Dwarf Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium reptans: wintergreen fern-like leaves are followed in April and May by copious blue bell-shaped flowers replaced by ornamental chartreuse seedpods.

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White violets, Viola striata: white flowers in April and May.  All my plants came from one clump dug from my woods.


Blue creeping phlox, Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’: wintergreen mat of foliage is topped with blue flowers in April and May.


Creeping phlox, Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’: creeping phlox comes in blue, purple, white, and pink.  The purple is the most vigorous.


Native ginger, Asarum canadense: the reddish purple flowers appear below the leaves.


Golden groundsel, Senecio aureus: the wintergreen leaves are topped by attractive purple buds in March followed by fragrant yellow flowers in April and May.  This vigorous spreader is a great native substitute for vinca, pachysandra, and ivy.

Blue wood aster, Aster cordifolius: the leaves of blue wood aster completely cover the ground in the spring.


Blue wood aster is covered with flowers in October and November.

Northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium: pendulous oat-like flowers grace this native shade grass in October and November.  The foliage ages to a lovely khaki color that remains ornamental through winter.

The flowers of northern sea oats in the slanted light of fall.


As the spreading, woodland plants profiled above establish themselves, you can add pockets of other special natives like trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits, mayapples, bloodroot, and ferns.  The result is magical.

Carolyn

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens now 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.

Nursery Happenings: My Native Wildflower Weekend will take place Friday, April 6, from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday, April 7, from 10 am to 2 pm.  Look for an email listing the native plants available if you are on my customer email list.

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.

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.

Flowering Wintergreen Ground Covers for Shade

Posted in evergreen, groundcover, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2011 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

golden groundsel as groundcover in my woodland in spring

Here in the mid-Atlantic (US), we go through long periods of winter weather that are just plain cold without the compensation or covering of snow.  Any patches of exposed ground look barren and downright ugly.  That is why, during this time of year, I treasure any little patch of green, any ground cover that is presentable through the winter.  Yes, I have the usual evergreen  triumvirate of vinca, ivy, and pachysandra.  I can even find good things to say about each of them.  But I want more: native plants, deer resistance, tolerance of dry shade, fragrance, abundant flowers, drought tolerance, and beautiful foliage.  All four of the shady ground covers described below have a majority of these desirable characteristics.

fragrant flowers of native golden groundsel

Our native golden groundsel, Senecio aureus, has to be my favorite all time ground cover.  It spreads as fast and aggressively as any of the reigning three.  It is not a plant to be mingled into your perennial beds: it is a plant for the bare patch—wet, dry, sunny, shady, infertile, clay—where nothing else grows.  Put it behind the garage, around the base of a tree with surface roots, along the bottom of a fence, or in your “hell strip” by the road.  You will be rewarded with evergreen leaves through winter and an abundance of  fragrant flowers suitable for arrangements.

winter foliage of golden groundsel

Golden groundsel is native to meadows and woods of the eastern half of the US.  It quickly creeps to form large, 6″ tall patches of wintergreen leaves even in full dry shade.  In spring, buds emerge bright maroon-purple opening to cheery yellow, 2′ tall fragrant flowers in May.  The new leaves, which appear after the flowers, are large and round, providing a bold texture (see photo at top).  My deer have never touched it.

creeping phlox ‘Bruce’s White’ in my woodland in spring

The other native I highly recommend for wintergreen shady ground cover is creeping phlox, Phlox stolonifera.  Not as aggressive as golden groundsel, creeping phlox can be mingled in your perennial beds or used alone under shrubs and trees.  It moves at a medium rate to fill in around surrounding plants without overwhelming them.  Then, from March into May, it is covered with blue, pink, white, or purple flowers.

creeping phlox with foamflower (Longwood Gardens)

winter foliage of creeping phlox

Creeping phlox is native to wooded areas of the eastern US.  The 2 to 3″ tall mat-forming leaves are completely covered by 8″ tall flowers in spring.  It is very tolerant of soil conditions and, once established,  grows well in full dry shade.  My deer leave it alone.  As an added benefit, it comes in white, ‘Bruce’s White’ (photo above), pink, ‘Home Fires’ or ‘Pink Ridge’, pale lavender-blue, ‘Blue Ridge’, or purple, ‘Sherwood Purple’ or ‘Fran’s Purple’.  The purple cultivars are the most vigorous, and I think the most beautiful.

beautiful colors of creeping phlox

For a refined and elegant, truly evergreen ground cover, I recommend dwarf sweetbox, Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis.  Technically a small shrub, dwarf sweetbox slowly creeps by means of underground stolons to form a 4′ patch over 10 years.  But it is well worth the wait—or if you are impatient, planting it close together—because in February its tiny white flowers produce the most heavenly fragrance for your winter enjoyment.  My patch perfumes my whole garden.

dwarf sweetbox in winter as ground cover under a dogwood

Dwarf sweetbox is native to the western Himalayas in China.  Its stems grow to 18″ with narrow, glossy evergreen leaves and creamy white, extremely fragrant flowers in February in the mid-Atlantic.  It thrives in average soil and part to full shade and, once established, is tolerant of drought.  Deer do not bother it.  It tends to be pricey so I planted very small plants which periodically needed to be poked back into the ground as it roots right below the soil surface.

dwarf sweetbox flowers getting ready to bloom

The final plant that has the characteristics I want in shady wintergreen ground covers is hybrid hellebore, Helleborus x hybridus.  My customers are always asking me what to do with the multitude of seedlings produced by their hybrid hellebores, and here is the answer: move them to a place where you need ground cover.  In three years, you will have 2′ wide plants covered with huge, beautiful flowers from February to May and pristine foliage that remains green all winter—for free!  I have done this under my Kousa dogwood and throughout my woodland, and the result is spectacular.

hybrid hellebores in winter as ground cover under Kousa dogwood

Hybrid hellebores have many different parents mainly native to eastern Europe.  Their wintergreen leaves are 2′ tall and remain ornamental until new leaves appear in spring.  Each plant produces a multitude of large, cup-shaped nodding flowers in many colors ranging from dark purple to pink to white to green with doubles, spots, and picotee edges quite common.  They grow anywhere in any soil and light conditions as long as they are well-drained.  If you want to spoil them, give them organic matter, but no supplemental water is required after they are established even in the worst drought.  They are slightly poisonous so deer do not eat them.

some of the flowers on my ground cover hybrid hellebores

Next spring when you are looking for ground covers, I hope you will consider one of the fantastic four described above.  In the meantime, leave a comment with the name of your favorite wintergreen ground cover for shade.

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.

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