Archive for gardening with native plants

Your Native Woodland: If You Build It They Will Come, Part 2

Posted in green gardening, landscape design, my garden, native plants, Shade Perennials, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2017 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

The woodland at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens with mayapples, golden groundsel, Viginia bluebells, dwarf Jacob’s ladder, wild ginger, and white-flowered redbud, all native to Pennsylvania in the mid-Atlantic US.

I am very excited to report that my blog has now gone over 2 million views.  To see the numbers, look at the counter on the right sidebar labeled Site Stats Since 11/3/10 (if the sidebar is not visible, click the snowdrop banner at the top).  That’s a lot of people!  And what have they been reading?  Well, my fifth most popular post is Your Native Woodland: If You Build It They Will Come, which I wrote in April 2012.  In it, I tell readers how to create their very own woodland filled with native plants.  To read it, click 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 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.

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Photos of the six of the native plants recommended in the 2012 post, clockwise from the left: Celandine poppies and Virginia bluebells, dwarf Jacob’s ladder and wild ginger, ‘Blue Ridge’ creeping phlox, and northern sea oats.

In 2012, I recommended that readers use nine plants to create their native woodland: Virginia bluebells, Celandine poppy, dwarf Jacob’s ladder, white violets, creeping phlox, wild ginger, golden groundsel, and northern sea oats.  All the botanical names are in the original post.  I still believe that those nine plants are the best natives to start your woodland because they are beautiful, easy to grow, and spread quickly.

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Photos of the remaining three native plants recommended in the 2012 post, clockwise from upper left: white violets, blue wood aster, and golden groundsel.

I am hoping that after five years, gardeners have been successful with the original nine recommendations and are ready to broaden their selection.  Below, I profile eight more easy-to-grow native plants.  Keep in mind that the more plants of each variety you plant, the more satisfied you will be with the result.  If you are on a budget, plant five, seven, or nine of one or two of the recommendations rather than a smaller quantity of each.  Use plenty of compost and mulch with ground or whole leaves, and then stand back and watch them spread. 

Here are my suggestions for additions:

.Foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia, thrives in high shade and well-drained soil.  Here it is with blue wood aster right under my massive black walnut trees.

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Last time I recommended ‘Blue Ridge’ creeping phlox, but purple and pink creeping phlox are even more vigorous.  This is my sweep of the purple variety, Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’.  It really likes edges so plant it along your woodland path.

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‘Sherwood Purple’

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Creeping phlox also comes in pink—the cultivar ‘Home Fires’.

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Native sedge, Carex laxiculmus ‘Bunny Blue’, grows right at the base of trees and reproduces itself nicely, spreading its beautiful silver-blue hue around the woods.

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This is a western native camassia, C. leitchtlinii ‘Caerulea’.  It grows through out my woodland in filtered light but also in my part sun meadow.  Each plant increases to a gorgeous clump and blooms in May.

A very unusual native plant called Robin’s plantain, Erigeron pulchellus ‘Lynnhave Carpet’, makes a tight ground cover of fuzzy gray leaves at the edge of my woods.  In May, it produces multitudes of daisy like flowers.  This patch started from a single plant given to me by Charles Cresson.

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There are many ferns that thrive in my woods but none do as well as ghost fern.  It is a native hybrid (lady fern x Japanese painted fern) rather than a straight native, but it makes up for its non-native heritage with its beautiful silvery gray leaves and striking upright habit.

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Your woods wouldn’t be complete without understory trees, and nothing works better than our Pennsylvania native redbuds.  I use white-flowered redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Alba’, in my woods because I love blue, yellow, and white together.   ‘Alba’ is pictured here with yellow trillium, Virginia bluebells, and Celandine poppy.

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White redbud with native hardy geranium, ginger, Virginia bluebells, cinnamon fern, mayapples, and golden groundsel.

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It is a pleasure to walk this path in the spring.

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.  Please indicate if you will be shopping at the nursery or are mail order 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 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.

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:  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.

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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.

Longwood Gardens Part 5: Tulips and Natives

Posted in bulbs for shade, garden to visit, groundcover, native plants, Shade Gardening, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2013 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 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.

. Tulips at LongwoodThis color combination is magnificent for spring.

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During 2012 to 2013, I have been visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, U.S., every few months and highlighting some aspect of this amazing place (last year I focused on Chanticleer).  Links to my previous four posts are at the end.  There is much to see there with 325 acres open to the public and 20 outdoor gardens. 

On April 18, Michael and I headed out to Longwood with the specific objective of photographing the plants in the native woodland, Peirce’s Woods.  Of course, on the way to the woods, we got sidetracked by the bulb displays out front and along the Flower Garden Walk.  Although masses of tulips and other bulbs are just about polar opposite to native plants naturalized in a woodland, they are still gorgeous so I will show you a few photos as I explain the history of the woodland.

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Leucojum aestivumSummer snowflake, Leucojum aestivum, is a great plant for massing.  Mine grow and self-sow quite readily in both south-facing and east-facing locations as well as in full deciduous shade in my woodland.

In 1700, a Quaker family named Peirce purchased the area that is now Peirce’s Woods from William Penn to establish a working farm.  In 1798, the Peirces began planting trees to establish an arboretum on the property.  Eventually the area became known as one of the finest collections of trees in the country.  The great industrialist Pierre DuPont (1870 to 1954) purchased the property in 1906 with the specific purpose of preserving the magnificent trees.

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container at LongwoodYou will find fabulous container gardens throughout Longwood, including this one outside the Visitor’s Center with a large native dogwood underplanted with daffodils.

Peirce’s Woods comprises seven acres planted to showcase the ornamental characteristics of native plants from the eastern U.S. deciduous forest.  The shade trees  are mostly oak, ash, maple, and tulip trees, some over 200 years old.  The understory is native flowering trees and shrubs underplanted with native groundcovers.  All the plants are labeled so it is a great place to visit to get ideas for your own woodland garden.  Before I highlight the plants there, a few more bulb photos:

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Narcissus Tahiti and Flower DriftNarcissus ‘Tahiti’ and ‘Flower Drift’

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tulips at Longwood

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tulips at Longwood.

tulips at Longwood

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Tulipa 'Yellow Wave'‘Yellow Wave’ tulip

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Tulipa 'Rococo'‘Rococo’ tulip

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Tulipa 'Rococo'I think this tulip should be called the Little Shop of Horrors tulip—you definitely would not want to stick your finger inside of it.

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Flower Garden Walk at LongwoodAs we neared the end of the Flower Garden Walk, we were greeted by this magnificent vista.

We came to Longwood with the objective of viewing and photographing Peirce’s Woods.  I fully intended to show scenes of the woods as a whole and close ups of individual native wildflowers.  However, I didn’t realize that because the weather has been so cold this spring, many of the flowers would not be blooming yet.  My own garden is always ahead because it is on a south-facing slope and the soil warms up early.  Also, as soon as we got there and typical for this spring, the sun went in, the wind picked up, it started to rain, and the temperature plummeted.

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Matteuchia pennsylvanica The only other landscape shot that I got: ostrich ferns by the shore of the lake.  These ferns can be quite tall, 3 to 5′, spread aggressively by runners, and are the source of edible fiddleheads.

Michael and I were both under-dressed with no raincoats so I decided to take photos of the plants that were blooming and come back the following week for the landscape shots and later-blooming plants.  As usual, work at the nursery got in the way, but I wanted to show you the beautiful native plants that I was able to capture on film.  Just picture me kneeling patiently by each plant and snapping the photo in between gusts of wind and bouts of rain:

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Heuchera villosa 'Miracle' ‘Miracle’ coralbells, Heuchera villosa, is one of my favorite cultivars of this tough eastern native.  The only coralbells I sell at my nursery are offspring of eastern natives H. villosa and H. americana because I find the other types not hardy.

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Anemonella thalictroides Rue-anemone, Anemonella thalictroides, is so delicate looking but  thrives and self-sows in dry shade.

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Trillium grandiflorum‘Quicksilver’ large-flowered trillium, T. grandiflorum, was selected as a rapidly multiplying form of the species by Dr. Richard Lighty, at the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware.

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Trillium grandiflorum 'Quicksilver' and Anemonella thalictroides‘Quicksilver’ surrounded by rue-anemone.

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Trillium luteum, yellow toad trilliumI find yellow toad trillium, T. luteum, quite easy to grow.

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Trillium erectum, purple trilliumpurple trillium, T. erectum

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Trillium erectum, purple trilliumThe two-tone flowers of purple trillium are gorgeous.

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Dicentra cucullaria, squirrel cornsquirrel-corn, Dicentra canadensis

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Caulophyllum thalictroides, blue cohoshBlue cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides, has these unprepossessing flowers in the spring followed by bright blue berries.  I love its leaf and stem structure and elegant overall habit.

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Caulophyllum thalictroides and Dicentra canadensisBlue cohosh can act like a small shrub, here with an underplanting of squirrel-corn.

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Mertensia virginicaVirginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, were everywhere just like they are in my own garden where they seed prolifically.

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Enemion biternatum, eastern false rue-anemoneEastern false rue-anemone, Enemion biternatum, is a new plant to me.  I am going to look for it though because its flowers were lovely perched on reddish stems and it evidently spreads to make an eye-catching patch.

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stump in Peirce's WoodsI thought what Longwood had done to the stump of a tree that came down was very interesting and actually quite attractive.

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Erythronium americanum, adder's tongueAdder’s tongue or what I call trout lily, Erythronium americanum, usually produces hundreds of leaves and a few flowers in my garden, but this year it is blooming well everywhere.

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Polstichum acrostichoidesThe emerging fronds of Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, look like fairies should be dancing among them.

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Onoclea sensibilisSensitive fern, Onoclea sensibilis, is a great native fern that is underused in gardens.

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Onoclea sensibilisSensitive fern looks great in a mass planting.

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Claytonia virginica, spring-beautyThe wind was roaring when I tried to photograph these spring-beauties, Claytonia virginica, so they are out of focus, but I didn’t want you to miss them.

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Claytonia virginicaSpring-beauty really has an amazing flower even when blurry.

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Hydrophyllum macrophyllum, large-leaf waterleafLarge -leaf waterleaf, Hydrophyllum macrophyllum, has very pretty foliage.

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Cardamine concatenata, cutleaf toothwortCutleaf toothwort, Cardamine concatenata, is a spring ephemeral that naturalizes slowly to form a colony in the shade.

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Uvularia grandifloraLarge-flowered bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora, is one of my favorites.  It grows 1 to 2 feet tall, has unusual and elegant yellow flowers, and grows in full, dry shade.  I don’t know why this plant isn’t more popular, but it doesn’t sell well at my nursery even though I have big stands of it in my display gardens.

All the plants profiled are native to Pennsylvania and the East Coast.  If you would like to see if a plant is native to your state, the best place to look is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Database.  All you do is put in the name of the plant and you will be shown a map of where it is native in the U.S.  I also have all these plants in my garden except toothwort and false meadow-rue, and I highly recommend them.

To read more about Longwood Gardens, follow these links:

Groundcovers, Thinking Outside the Box

Longwood Gardens Part 2: At Night

A Longwood New Year’s Eve

Cold Weather Antidote: Longwood’s Orchids

Carolyn

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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, 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:  The 2013 Spring Shrub Offer is now in full swing and orders are due May 18.  To read about the plants available and place an order, click here.  The 2013 Miniature Hosta Mail Order Catalogue, containing choice selections of miniatures for shipping all over the US, is now on the right sidebar here, and we are ready to ship.  If you are local, you can use the catalogue to see what miniatures are 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.

Specimen Natives for Your Woodland

Posted in bulbs for shade, green gardening, groundcover, landscape design, native plants, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 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 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.

Who says our native mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum, is not as ornamental as the Asian versions?

This is the last in a three-part series of posts dealing with native plants for mid-Atlantic U.S. gardens.  In the first, Your Native Woodland, I explained how easy it is to create your own native woodland garden by choosing plants that spread aggressively.  In the second, Native Phlox for Your Garden, I profiled some of the wonderful members of the genus Phlox, all native to eastern North America and Pennsylvania in particular.  Here I am going to suggest some superstar native plants to place between the spreaders recommended in the first post.


Double bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’, just might be my all time favorite flower, and it thrives in my woodland.

Let’s face it: none of us avid gardeners (and collectors) are going to be happy limiting ourselves to the seven spreading  plants that I recommended in my previous post for colonizing a woodland.  Although the gardening books seem to think we have moist, loamy soil in our woods, we don’t (where do these people garden anyway?).  So what other plants can stand up to the root-filled, dry, rocky, clay soil prevalent in the woods of the mid-Atlantic?  You will be happy to know there are many, and the plants shown below just scratch the surface.  I have personally tested each one, and killed many others, so I know they work.

White trillium, T. grandiflorum, is one of the many native trilliums that thrive in my woodland.


Sweet Betsy, Trillium cuneatum, also does well as do prairie trillium, T. recurvatum, and yellow trillium, T. luteum.  Although I usually do not water my woodland, I find that trilliums benefit from watering in drought conditions.


Dogtooth violet, Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, is a hybrid of two North American species.  ‘Pagoda’ seeds around my woodland, and this is one of its seedlings.


The single-flowered bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is quite lovely too.  Both it and ‘Multiplex’, pictured above, have spread into large patches.


Large-flowered bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora, has very unusual yellow flowers.  Shown here with British Columbia wild-ginger, Asarum caudatum, native to the U.S. west coast.



My woodland wouldn’t be complete without mayapples with their beautifully patterned, umbrella-like leaves, incredibly fragrant flowers, and “apples” in May.  However, they do spread quite quickly and are better used as one of the colonizing plants in my first post—give them room.


Every woodland needs lots of ferns!  Pictured here is cinnamon fern, Osmunda cinnamomea, but I also have Christmas, royal, and ostrich ferns in my woods, among others.  In the flood plain down by my creek, ostrich fern has successfully out competed my nemesis, the incredibly invasive, non-native Japanese knotweed.  In drier woods, ostrich fern’s spreading tendencies are kept in check.


Yellow violet, Viola pubescens, spreads almost as well in my woods as the white violet recommended in my woodland post, and you can’t beat the crayon yellow flowers.

 

Dutchman’s breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, never fails to bring out the child in me with its little pairs of pants swinging in the breeze.


Large camas, Camassis leichtlinii ‘Caerulea’, is native to western North America not the mid-Atlantic, but it does so well in my woodland that I have included it here.  The large clumps of tall blue flowers line the back of the beds.

Foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia, is a star of my woodland garden with its wonderful fragrance, interesting leaves, and red fall color.  There are many cultivars available, and I recommend choosing a spreading form: cultivars in the “River Series” are particularly vigorous.

One of the loveliest native flowers in my woods is rue-anemone, Anemonella thalictroides (photo used with the permission of Arrowhead Alpines).  It looks so dainty, but it is tough as nails and seeds around freely.

There are many forms of rue-anemone, but my favorite is this luminescent single pink.

You can’t go wrong when you add any of these wonderful native plants to your woodland.  They are ‘tried and true’ in mine!

Carolyn

Commenters have asked for photos showing ” sweeping vistas” of my woods.  It is impossible to take this kind of photo in my woodland and capture the effect of the masses of plants because of the trees.  My woods are filled with 10 to 12′ diameter trees—no panoramic views are possible.  The best I could do was go up on the roof and shoot down, but individual plants are not visible, and I am not happy with the result:

Nursery Happenings: The third annual Great Hosta Blowout where you can order beautiful hostas for a bargain basement price is going on now until April 25.  To see the catalogue, click here.  My third Open House Sale, featuring hostas, ferns, and hardy geraniums, will take place on Saturday, May 12, from 10 am to 3 pm

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.

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

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.

‘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.

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