Northern Shade Gardening

Perennials Hidden Under the Leaf Mulch

Monday, May 5, 2008 Category: Spring Gardening

Last week I though that spring had skipped my garden. This weekend I removed the mulch in much of my garden and discovered it’s finally here. Because our northern winters can get quite cold, my garden gets a good leaf mulch in the fall to help insulate the perennials for the winter. The laying down of the mulch is actually easier than it sounds, since the trees do most of the work on that one. I haven’t trained them to remove the mulch yet though.

Snow on lawn chair in April With a good blanket of snow over top of the leaves, the perennials sleep snugly. However, sleeping in until May is just too decadent. If it sounds like I’ve been lax in my gardening, well here’s what the garden looked like on April 22. I’m a bit reluctant to show this picture, since you might think Canada is always covered in snow. Now whether or not that’s a fair assessment, I don’t want to perpetuate it.

Dicentra spectabilis (white bleeding heart)Here is Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ (white bleeding heart) rising from the ground. It looks a little blanched from being under the mulch, but it should start to appreciate the sun and remember how to photosynthesize again soon. I’m eager to see these blooming. They have the prettiest white flowers dangling from their arching stems and are relatively long lasting, flowering for about 2 months. Their foliage is ferny and lasts so well in the shade.

Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley)They look great with the Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) growing around them, since the branches are held above them. Now the C. majalis are not shy about popping up in the leaves. They do just fine even if you don’t remove the mulch. I like the smooth red sprouts with the green tips. These plants look great as they emerge. It doesn’t seem to matter how deep the shade is, these always do well.

Brunnera macrophylla \'Jack Frost\' sproutsThe Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss)are just unfurling their fuzzy sprouts. They give no indication of the beauties they will become. There is no silver and no veining yet. These, too, are in some fairly deep shade, right under a large willow. A few of these perennials got stuffed tightly into some tiny gaps between some large roots, yet they still grew and flowered fine. So far, I’m very impressed with their hardiness and suitability for a cold climate or woodland garden.

Linum perenne \'Blue Sapphire\'Now to a sunnier part of the garden. The Linum perenne ‘Blue Sapphire’ (flax) looks fresh and green. I’m surprised by how much it’s grown in such a short time. Soon it will be tall enough to sway gently in the breeze. I love the pretty sky blue flowers on these and the way they give movement to the garden. The foliage looks fresh right up to through to the first snow.

Viburnum shrubHere are the buds of my Viburnum shrub. This poor shrub has an unfortunate destiny, since the previous owners planted a 15 foot by 10 foot shrub 6 inches from the house. I’m sure it looked awfully tiny when it was first planted, but there is no way it can fit the space. It covers my bedroom window, hits the eaves, and goes around past the roof, while centred 6 inches from the wall. I’ve given it various prunings every year, but I’m just delaying the inevitable. It is going to have to get the “final big pruning”.

Well now I know that spring did not forget my garden. There is lots of life coming up from the faux forest floor. The buds are popping and the birds are courting. Now that my lawn chair has thrown off the snow, I’m going to sit outside and observe it all.


4 Responses to “Perennials Hidden Under the Leaf Mulch” »

  1. Don :
    May 5, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Gosh, I always think our winters here in Iowa are SO long… everything must just explode when you finally warm up.

  2. Northern Shade :
    May 6, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Don, It’s exploding now, but not quite fast enough for me. I think that’s why I appreciate the earliest bulbs the most.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow :
    May 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Isn’t the first fuzzy greening of spring just the most joyous? I love to uncover those first little stick ups.

  4. Northern Shade :
    May 7, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Yes, it puts aside that nagging doubt I get in late winter, that maybe this year nothing will grow.

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