Archive for Hydrangea arborescens

Landscape Problem Solved

Posted in How to, landscape design, native plants, Shade Shrubs with tags , , , , , on July 25, 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.

20120724-154006.jpg‘Invincibelle Spirit’ and ‘Incrediball’ smooth hydrangeas massed at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Three things came together recently to help me solve a landscaping problem that had bothered me for years. First, I was reading one of my favorite blogs called Conrad Art & Glass Gardens authored by Larry Conrad. In a recent post he talked about his favorite combinations including one achieved by massing white and pink smooth hydrangeas. I have been interested in smooth hydrangea, H. arborescens, because it is very shade tolerant. I also like it because it is a native plant found through out much of the eastern United States, including Pennsylvania. The well known cultivar ‘Annabelle’ with very large white mophead flowers was discovered in the wild in the 1960s. It grows well in Maine and has proven to be quite deer resistant on the island where my family vacations.

20120724-185734.jpgWhite and pink smooth hydrangeas massed in Larry Conrad’s Wisconsin garden.

The second thing that brought me to this post was a landscaping dilemma at my family’s house in Maine. There is a perennial garden planted by the previous owners next to the front door. However, no one who uses the house wants to garden there. The native landscape is so beautiful we don’t need any added ornamentals. I had been wondering where to try Larry’s beautiful combination, and this neglected garden seemed the perfect place. I bought three pink and two white smooth hydrangea with the intention of emptying the bed and letting them fill it in.

20120724-195423.jpgSmooth hydrangeas at the entrance to the children’s garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

The third contributor to this post was a visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Donna from Garden Walk Garden Talk came to visit me in Maine, and I had to show her this gorgeous garden (among other Maine delights). In the fall of 2010 I wrote about my first visit to CMBG, and I will write a longer post about my recent visit later but right now we are discussing hydrangeas. Imagine my delight when we approached the CMBG children’s garden and found the hydrangea combination I intended to use lining the entrance. My project now had a professional seal of approval, and I couldn’t wait to get home and start digging.

20120725-113605.jpgInvincibelle Spirit’ smooth hydrangea at CMBG

There was a choice of which smooth hydrangea cultivars to use. The biggest determining factor was which plants looked the healthiest at the nursery where I bought them. Although smooth hydrangeas are extremely tough, taking both dry and wet soils, clay, drought, heat, shade, rocky soil, and almost anything else you can throw at them, I have found them difficult to establish if you don’t start with vigorous specimens. There are two pink-flowered cultivars: ‘Bella Anna’ and ‘Invincibelle Spirit’, which has been on the market longer. I have been told that ‘Belle Anna’ is an improvement on ‘Invicibelle Spirtit’, but the plants looked weaker and I don’t think you can improve on the ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ specimens at CMBG in the photo above.

20120725-113851.jpg‘Incrediball’ smooth hydrangea at CMBG

For the white smooth hydrangeas, I had a choice of tried-and-true ‘Annabelle’ and an improved version called ‘Incrediball’, which has even larger, to 12″, globular flowers. Although I wasn’t after larger flowers, I chose ‘Incrediball’ because the flowers are whiter than ‘Annabelle’, which has some lime in it, and because ‘Incrediball’s’ stems have been selected for thickness to avoid flopping when it rains.

20120725-120518.jpg‘Invincibelle Spirit’ and ‘Incrediball’ at CMBG

All the smooth hydrangea cultivars grow to around 3 to 5′ wide and 3 to 5′ tall in zones 3 to 9. They flower from June to September, but the dried flowers heads are quite beautiful through fall. They perform best in part shade, but will grow in full sun with consistent moisture. The straight species grows in full shade. They bloom on new wood so pruning in late winter is recommended to encourage vigorous new stem growth.

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20120725-122305.jpgMy newly planted smooth hydrangeas

As you can see from the two photos above, my new hydrangeas have been planted. I anticipate that they will fill in the whole bed and crowd out weeds. I am still working on the wall but am quite happy with it so far. I hope the trench along the front will allow us to keep the nasty, tenacious grass out of the bed. If I get really ambitious, I am going to fill the trench with mussel shells from the beach.

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This post is my second experiment with publishing a post directly from my recently acquired “new” iPad. Although it was a little easier this time and I mastered bold captions and links, I still had to call Donna in Niagara Falls to help me. I also took the final two photos with the iPad, and I think they turned out quite well. I am very impressed with the camera function on the new iPad, but you can’t truly appreciate the incredible resolution unless you have a very good screen on your computer, which I don’t. I think I would recommend an iPad just for looking at photos, that is if you can afford it. We don’t have internet access at the house in Maine so portability was a big factor for me. But the major reason I got it, 3G/4G capability is a huge disappointment, which I will explain at a later date.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed until the fall. Thanks for a great spring season!

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.

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Groundcovers, Thinking Outside the Box

Posted in garden to visit, groundcover, How to, landscape design, native plants, Shade Gardening, Shade Perennials, Shade Shrubs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 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.

Part of the Idea Garden at Longwood Gardens

I recently visited Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  I have no hesitancy in saying that Longwood is one of the premier gardens in the world and should be on everyone’s life list.  However, there is so much there that it is difficult to post about it.  Also, “familiarity breeds contempt.”  I hold two Certificates in Ornamental Horticulture from Longwood and have taken a total of 18 courses to earn them.  Each course involved a minimum of 8 visits to the gardens so you can see that I have spent a lot of time there.  If you are local, these courses are the absolute best plant education available.

Italian Water Garden, viewed while resting in the shade.

Because I have spent so much time at Longwood, I didn’t photograph the usual sights or even visit the fabulous four acre indoor conservatory (with one exception mentioned below).  As a shade gardener I headed straight for Peirce’s Woods, which is seven acres devoted to shady plants native to the eastern U.S. deciduous forest.  I hoped to augment my library of photographs and get some ideas of plants to sell at the nursery and add to my own gardens.  I wasn’t disappointed.

The straight species of smooth hydrangea, H. arborescens, lined the very shady paths by the lake.  I think it is more appropriate to a woodland garden than the cultivated forms like ‘Annabelle’.

Smooth hydrangea has a lovely flower whose size is in keeping with other native woodland plants.

While walking through Peirce’s Woods, I returned to the thoughts I have been having lately about groundcovers.  This time of year, with the weeds running rampant, my customers are more interested in groundcovers.  But it is clear from their questions that they mean plants that form runners to creep and cover the ground.  The classic examples are vinca, ivy, and pachysandra.  However, my definition of groundcover is much broader than this and includes any plant massed to effectively choke out weeds.

Native maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum


When you look at the masses of native maidenhair fern above, you are probably thinking that’s all very nice that Longwood uses masses of these fairly pricey, non-creeping plants as groundcover, but I could never afford that quantity of plants.  However, think of the alternative: weeds and the hours if not days it takes to remove them, not to mention how their presence detracts from the look of your garden as well as your satisfaction with it.  Your time is valuable, and you wouldn’t be reading my blog if the look of your garden wasn’t important to you.

Native semi-evergreen coralbells, Heuchera villosa, often sold as the cultivar ‘Autumn Bride’, has gorgeous white flowers in the fall.

Yes, you can use mulch to keep down the weeds.  However, commercial shredded hardwood mulch is not attractive, is generally not produced sustainably, and requires a significant time investment to apply it.  Most importantly, it requires a monetary outlay every year because it must be re-applied every spring.  Perennial plants are initially more expensive to buy and plant but once they are there, you never have to do anything again.  It is kind of like buying a compact fluorescent light bulb versus the bulbs we grew up with.

Here are some more plants that Longwood uses in masses to make effective groundcovers:

Mexican feather grass, Nassella tenuissima


Native evergreen Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides

Native semi-evergreen coralbells, Heuchera villosa purple form.

Shredded umbrella-plant, Syneilesis aconitifolia: I can only dream of achieving this in my garden, and, yes, it is very expensive.

Native hay-scented fern, Dennstaedtia punctiloba, creeps to fill in large areas.

This bellflower, Campanula takesimana, was growing and apparently self-sowing in dense shade on the hillside near the Chimes Tower.

Fall-blooming yellow waxbells, Kirengoshoma palmata, is more like a shrub than a perennial but it dies to the ground ever year.

Native coralbells, Heuchera villosa ‘Caramel’, is my favorite heuchera and retains its lovely color 365 days a year.

Giant butterbur, Petasites japonicus, grows in dense shade and covers a lot of ground.

Lavender mist meadow-rue, Thalictrum rochebrunianum

Native sensitive fern, Onoclea sensibilis, does creep.

Shrubs can be used as groundcover also, two examples from Longwood:

The straight species of oakleaf hydrangea, H. quecifolia, gets quite large and spreading.

Native southern bush honeysuckle, Diervilla sessifolia, suckers to form a colony.

Lastly, I want to show you why I briefly visited the conservatories:  groundcover for walls, the new fern wall at Longwood.  It is worth a visit just to see it:

This is a beautiful hallway containing individual restrooms, and the walls are totally covered in ferns.

Some of the ferns are quite large, and all are healthy and beautiful.

I hope I have convinced you to think outside the box and mass all kinds of unusual plants as groundcovers.  You will have more time to enjoy a better looking garden and save money in the long run.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings:  This coming weekend we will have our final open hours at the nursery on Saturday, June 16, from 9 am to 2 pm, and Sunday, June 17, from 11 am to 1 pm.  We close on June 17 until September.  Customers on my email list will receive an email with details.

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.

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