Northern Shade Gardening

Celebrating Foliage

Sunday, June 29, 2008 Category: Garden Design

Foliage adds a serene atmosphere to the garden. The soothing calmness of greenery is enlivened by the play of light and shadow on fronds, needles and leaflets. There is always something interesting to view when there is a variety of textures and colours of leaves in the garden. In the shade garden, this is especially important. The photo gallery at the bottom of the post shows a variety of perennial and tree leaves, and some interesting combinations.

Since the leaves are usually around for longer than flowers, it’s important to think about how they look. Placing foliage that contrasts with nearby plants, or compliments the other plants makes the garden a visual tapestry of green. A garden doesn’t have to look boring when the flowers are gone, leaves can be enjoyed for their own beauty. A few flowers might have sneaked into the photos, but mainly the foliage takes the stage.

There are many ways you can emphasize the wonderful detail in foliage. Alternating shiny leaves with matte ones, large leaves with small ones, delicately textured foliage with bold foliage, round leaves with long leaves, and smooth edged leaves with scalloped ones makes them stand out on their own. Placing plants with patterned foliage by solid coloured leaves adds subtle texture in the garden that is pleasing to view. Smooth leaves adjacent to fuzzy leaves makes them both more appealing. In the shade garden, it is  especially important to play up the difference between leaves, so there is always something to catch your eye.

Here are some photos of the foliage in my garden in June. Some of these perennials are topped with beautiful flowers at other times, and some have been planted mainly for their leaves.

You can find some more foliage ideas in this earlier post.

If you like photos of interesting leaves, there are some more pictures in this post.

A Hardy Mockorange

Sunday, June 29, 2008 Category: Trees and Shrubs

Philadelphus lewisii \'Blizzard\' blossom tall.jpgPhiladelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ (blizzard mockorange) is a great shrub for the northern shade garden. It has attractive foliage, and a nice overall shape, not awkward like other mockoranges can be. It grows about 1.5 metres (5 feet) tall, making it easy to fit into a small backyard. It is extra hardy and can tolerate shade.

The white blossoms of Blizzard are beautiful with a light scent and noticeable yellow stamens. This variety blooms for about 3 weeks in June and July in my garden.

The stems are red with medium green leaves. Blizzard mockorange keeps looking good over the winter, because of these decorative stems.

Philadelphus lewisii \'Blizzard\' (mockorange) red stem

Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ was originally selected from one growing in Alberta, and was introduced in Canada. I have found this shrub to be very hardy, surviving over the winter and blooming in the summer, while other mockoranges can be borderline hardy in zone 3. My Philadelphus virginalis has never bloomed  in a semi-shade exposure. I’m not sure if this is because of the light exposure, the cold, or an individual quirk.

The P. lewisii ‘Blizzard’ only gets an hour or two of direct sun, and then some dappled or indirect sun the rest of the day. It would probably have more blooms in the sun, but I’m pleased to find a great shrub that flowers in this exposure.

I would recommend the Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’, if you are looking for a small to medium shrub that tolerates a cold climate, blooms in medium shade, has decorative winter stems, and exquisite white flowers.

Here is another post with more photos and information of my Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’, and this post has more about ‘Blizzard’, too.

Philadelphus lewisii \'Blizzard\' (mockorange) 2 blooms

You can read about my hardy Hydrangea shrubs, which do well in the shade.

Clustered Bellflower and Iris

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 Category: Perennials

Campanula glomerata (clustered bellflower) and yellow iris closeupPurple and yellow make a pretty combination. The blooming time of the purple Campanula glomerata (clustered bellflower) and yellow iris overlap right now, and I appreciate the look of these two flowers together.

The C. glomerata isn’t fully out yet, since the buds are just opening, but I couldn’t resist snapping these photos now. There might be a windstorm, or hail, and I’d miss this lovely combination. When the clustered bellflower opens fully, the bloom is a  round ball about 7 cm ( 3 inches) across at the top of the plant. They are a bluish purple as many of the bellflowers are. The blossoms usually last about 2 weeks. Sometimes the older plants will rebloom with smaller blooms from the leaf axis, if they are deadheaded.

Campanula glomerata (clustered bellflower), yellow iris and blue lobeliaIt’s a good idea to deadhead anyways, since this bellflower spreads too easily. You have to be ruthless with C. glomerata, or they take more than their fair share of space. The plant itself is not as attractive after blooming. The foliage is not great, and they tend to flop over after the heavy flower. They tolerate semi-shade, but get even floppier with more shade. However, when it is in bloom, it looks fabulous. The colour looks terrific combined with light yellow. I’ve combined it with pink, which looks good too. It’s difficult to recommend it wholeheartedly though, because of its spreading nature and downhill slide after blooming.

There are more Campanula (bellflowers) in my garden just starting to open now.  Most of the bellflowers start blooming in my garden around the first day of summer or shortly after. I’ll post more  photos of the other types of Campanula when they open more fully. They are one of my favourite genus. There is a wide variety of species of bellflowers, from tiny rock garden plants to taller specimens. I had a larger collection of them at my last house. Many of these perennials come in various shades of bluish purple to purple, as well as white. They vary in their ability to handle shade, but most are relatively easy care and adaptable. This post has more details about bellflowers for zone 3 with photos and descriptions.

You can read about some of the iris I grow here.

Do you like bellflowers? Which are your favourites?