Northern Shade Gardening

Unexpected November Blooms

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 Category: Perennials

A few surprising perennial blooms have braved the repeated frosts of zone 3. Normally November is a bleak month in the garden. Permanent snow has usually settled in by now.  This year, we have had only a few flakes, and the odd snowfall has not stayed for longer than a day. Although we have had frosts for two months now, a few daring bellflower blossoms have incredibly ignored the cold.

This Campanula rotundifolia (harebell) still has a few delicate purplish blue bells rising above the brown tree leaves. I don’t think I’ve ever had flowers still blooming at the end of November in Edmonton. This hardy defiance of the cold has endeared the plant to me even more.  Amidst the dried fallen leaves, the green leaves and pretty flowers are a startling reminder of the bright colours of summer. These are a naturally hardy perennial, but some daytime temperatures above freezing, and a lack of snow have allowed them to carry forward through 8 weeks of nightly frosts. I have a compulsion to cover my garden in these astonishing survivors.

Campanula poscharskyana 'Camgood' (blue waterfall Dalmation bellflower)

Campanula poscharskyana

The Campanula poscharskyana ‘Camgood’ (blue waterfall Dalmatian bellflower) above are also carrying a few scattered flowers into winter. They persevere, with glimpses of blue, despite the repeated frosts. These resolute bellflowers have leaves that are almost all green, a rare colour in the November garden.

Besides the bellflowers, a few other perennials have kept their green leaves until the end of November. Usually conifers  supply the main greenery in the garden from November to April. There are few broad leafed plants that keep their leaves through the winter in zone 3. Without the typical snow covering, the green foliage of a few plants is still on display.  The Linum perenne (flax), undaunted, are showing their bluish green foliage. Although the feathery leaves look delicate, they are a tough survivor in zone 3. This perennial is providing the only green in my sunny area.

The thick, round leaves of Asarum europaeum (European ginger) are also persistent. This green ground cover is a welcome change in November from the shades of brown covering most of the ground in the shade. I will have to plant more of this delightful ground cover next year. They are not as glossy after repeated frosts as they were in the summer, but even a simple green is admirable now that this colour is so scarce.

Pulmonaria 'Samourai' November end

Pulmonaria 'Samourai'

The long leaves of Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ are still silvery green in the shade under the trees. The silver tones are not as prominent now after all the cold, but every bit of green at this time of year is a welcome sight. With such a short growing season, extending the season with plants that keep their appearance ensures that the garden stays interesting as long as possible into winter.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' November end

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince'

The Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ are displaying wonderful foliage, with no decay. The perky green leaves are a welcome change from the dried brown twigs and leaves of other plants which surround them. I just planted the Helleborus two months ago,  and they continue to enliven the shade with their stiff scalloped leaves and red stems. Since these might be borderline hardy, I’m going to pile some extra tree leaves over them for the winter.

At  53° N latitude, and far from the moderating effects of a large body of water,  November is normally a harsh month in my zone 3 garden. My bloom chart, where I keep track of the flowering time of my perennials, only goes up to September, because we rarely have any flowers make it through October. This year I would have to extend it to November, due to the warmer conditions and a few bellflowers that won’t give up. All summer they have delighted me with their constant blue beauty, and now they give a reason to tour the garden in late November, searching for these unlikely, but persistent blossoms. Do you have any extra hardy survivors, or did any plants surprise you?

36 Responses to “Unexpected November Blooms” »

  1. Sylvia (England) :
    December 2, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Plants never cease to surprise me, but November surprises in England are very different from yours. I did a guest post at http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com about a poppy which surprised me with its lovely bloom. I also have a Campanula like yours, these flower well for me too, with the odd flower all winter. I hope your hellebore flowers for you this year, though as it is new it may make you wait a year. I love hellebores for their winter flowers which are so long lasting.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  2. Northern Shade :
    December 2, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Sylvia, the average temperature this November was 6 C above the normal for the month, so a few stragglers were able to continue to flower. Typically the garden would be under a layer of snow now, and I would be waiting for the end of April or beginning of May to see any colourful blooms. Our winters drop to -35 C(-31 F) or -40 C(-40 F), so plants have to wait for the April thaw.

    I think the Helleborus will flower in April or May next year, but since they are new, they might surprise me. It’s fun to make the garden rounds in the spring, searching for shoots and buds, especially to discover when new plants will bloom.

    I enjoyed reading and viewing your guest post. It would be great to see your other plants and garden scenes.

  3. Barbarapc :
    December 2, 2008 at 9:31 am

    You’ve inspired me to have a little look around my garden – I’m really impressed that you’ve got blooms this time of year – amazing. Just went back to check my photos – Ivory Prince had its first fully open blossom on April 20th for me this year. My leaves look about the same as yours right now, not sure if they are lying on the ground because of the cold or because of Archer’s horticultural practices.

  4. easygardener :
    December 2, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    We are having occasional light frosts here. I’ve still got the odd rose and hardy geranium flower. It is strange how just one or two flowers will continue to appear on a plant long after it appears to have shut down. Just as well really as even a tiny bit of colour at this time of year is very uplifting!

  5. Marnie :
    December 2, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I love Campanula rotundifolia but haven’t had much luck growing it. Funny how some people’s pest simply will not grow in other gardens;) I have 6 -inches of snow, nothing blooming under that.
    Marnie

  6. Helen/patientgardener :
    December 2, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I have belflowers in flower in my garden as well but I dont think I’m as northerly as you

  7. Gail :
    December 2, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Hi there! I love surprise blooms…the new phlox ‘Laura’ is still blooming, even though we had a big time freeze last night! But I am in zone 7, so I think I give up my bragging rights to late bloom! Gail

  8. Amy :
    December 2, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Wow! Flowers in November…in Edmonton no less! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen the pictures for myself :)

    It’s been a warm Nov. here too. Usually we have a lot more snow on the ground by now, but it keeps snowing and then melting, over and over again.

  9. Northern Shade :
    December 2, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Barbarapc, thanks for the information on your Ivory Prince bloom time. I like to keep track of the beginning and ending dates for bloom time too.

    Your future guide dog, Archer, is a real cutie, He seems to have oodles of personality, and some gardening preferences too.

  10. Northern Shade :
    December 2, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Easygardener, the smallest bloom, that might get lost in the summer garden, is a wonder now. The odd rose or geranium flower are an incentive to tour around and check the garden.

  11. Northern Shade :
    December 2, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Marnie, it’s too bad that C. rotundifolia doesn’t grow for you, since it grows all the way around the north part of the Northern Hemisphere. It is very easy care here, but not overpowering or annoying like some easy plants can be. It mixes well with many other plants, and has a real woodland feel to it. Plus, it laughs at the cold.

    We would normally have 6 inches of snow too. Today we got a bit of snow. Perhaps this is the start of our permanent layer.

  12. Northern Shade :
    December 2, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Helen, how delightful to have plants still flowering in December. You must enjoy your long gardening season. I get a little antsy over the winter, anticipating the big melt.

  13. Northern Shade :
    December 2, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Gail, I love phlox, and they sure give you a nice long time to enjoy their blooms. Isn’t it great to have a pretty plant linger on? My Phlox ‘David’ blooms lingered through the first 3 or 4 weeks of frost, but then gave up. They were the ones in the shade that got a later start.

  14. Northern Shade :
    December 2, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Amy, it is ironic. I fully expected to be the first one to have a snow covered garden, but other more southerly blogs seem to have thick layers already. Many are showing lots of snow covered garden shots. The snow has been falling this afternoon, so this might commence the winter cover.

  15. Birgitta :
    December 3, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Asarum europaeum is one of my favorite plants, I love the smell from the small brown flowers, it’s Spring for me.
    Here in Sweden most Helleboruses have flowers in April but you never really know when the winter is gone and the Spring arrives.
    Birgitta

  16. Northern Shade :
    December 3, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Birgitta, I love Asarum europaeum too. I can’t wait for spring, when I can peak under the leaves to discover the little blooms.

    It is fun to discover when the new plants will flower, and to see how things actually looks as they bloom with the surrounding plants. I planted more of the early flowering perennials, like Helleborus, so we’ll see how much impact they have next spring.

  17. Marnie :
    December 4, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Someone else was mentioning their campanula still blooming. I only have Blue Chips (which is really wimpy). I might try the Campanula rotundifolia again. I had it several years ago and it didn’t do well in my heavy clay soil.
    Marnie

  18. Northern Shade :
    December 4, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Marnie, the Campanula rotundifolia seems to adapt very well to my garden, but I don’t have heavy clay soil. It will bloom more in the sunny areas, but adjusts to the shade well, with fewer blooms. It has definitely been the longest blooming perennial in my garden. The Campanula poscharskyana comes in second for longest blooming, but I’ve read that it can do too well in some gardens.

  19. Connie :
    December 4, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Ya gotta love flowers in November! You have a very nice blog, I have enjoyed a browse here this morning. Love all your gorgeous camping photos.

  20. Northern Shade :
    December 4, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Connie, thank you. Flowers in November are a rare occurrence here, so each one seemed pretty special, even though they were fairly small. I don’t usually see much beside white covered outlines at this time of year. Winter type weather is now settling in these last two days.

  21. shady gardener :
    December 6, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Northern Shade, NOW what’s happening in your gardens? It sounds as though you’re finally getting some snow? I’m in Omaha, NE right now (visiting my daughter, son-in-law and family for a few days) and they hardly have a flake lying around! ;-)

  22. Northern Shade :
    December 6, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Shady gardener, we’ve had some snow over the last few days, but it’s melting quite a bit now. Our high temperatures have been a little above freezing, which is well above normal. There are still a few blooms on a couple little blue bellflowers in the garden. I never would have believed that I would have a flower visible in December.

  23. Jan/ThanksFor2Day :
    December 8, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Hi NS, Even as far north as you are there are flowers blooming! That’s a real treat! Here in VA I haven’t seen much color in my gardens…but then again, I haven’t walk around outside in some time. I wonder what you will have for December’s GBBD?! Jan

  24. Northern Shade :
    December 8, 2008 at 8:46 am

    I’ve been overjoyed with the few bellflower blooms that made it until this week. Now, I’m satisfied with having some green leaves still present in the garden. I’m predicting lots of white for GBBD.

  25. Katarina (Roses and stuff) :
    December 12, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Unexpected blooms are all the more precious, don’t you think? I’ve still got a few rosebuds – and it’s the middle of December…
    Katarina

  26. Northern Shade :
    December 12, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Katarina, now the snow is piling up, and this weekend our temperatures will drop to -32 C (-25 F), so the last flowers are covered and gone. I’m going out in the garden to collect some willow branches for making a wreath, but otherwise I’ll mostly be watching the garden through the window.
    Your rosebuds would definitely be a delightful surprise in December.

  27. Steve :
    December 12, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    It must be time to fill up the back yard with water and make that hockey rink!! When I lived in Vancouver, there was always talk of that from the various transplants from the Colder Areas. I recall seeing Wayne Gretzky’s dad doing that in their backyard on some family film of theirs. Time to kick back and do some reading! I love your blog, btw. The Mountain shots were just fabulous. I’ve been through there more than once and absolutely loved it.

  28. Pomona Belvedere :
    December 12, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    It’s so interesting reading yet more very-late-season blooms, in both this post and comments. Seems to be a year for it. And you’re right: a few flowers in November and December are huge in the landscape, whereas at other times they’d be overlooked. I’m citing you as a shade and campanula expert in next week’s posts–glad you’re already living up to expectations!

  29. Northern Shade :
    December 12, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Steve, with your love for rock, I bet you enjoy the mountains. Were you calculating how and where you’d place those mountain boulders?

    Pomona, thank you, I guess we all have particular areas of gardening we’re enthusiastic about.
    This weekend should test the cold hardiness of some of my new plants, since it’s going to -32 C (-25 F). Most have a layer of fallen leaves, now topped by a layer of snow.

  30. Sue :
    December 16, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I’m happy for you that your snow was late in coming. Has it come yet? Ours did today, here in Nebraska. It could get a chance to melt at some point before spring, though.

    Sue

  31. Northern Shade :
    December 16, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Sue, we are into a deep freeze now, with snow and -30C (-22F) temperatures. It will probably be April before we see the ground again.
    I haven’t done much picture taking lately in the garden. My ski gloves aren’t very nimble at pressing the buttons. :)

  32. Joy :
    December 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    We share a lot of the same plants ! I love all sorts of campanula .. the little waterfall ones are gorgeous .. Dickson’s Gold is a shocker with the gold foliage and the blue blue of the flowers.
    We have too much snow to even think about what is under it any more for now … darn it !!

  33. Barbara :
    December 21, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Every year there are some little surprises in the garden. Last Christmas we even had a late rose flowering. And if one looks a little closer it always is possible to discover something blooming. Unfortunately not now, as the garden is covered with snow. Today it started to rain and I guess, the whole white splendour will disappear soon .
    Wishing you merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!
    Barbara

  34. Northern Shade :
    December 21, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Joy, my gardening twin, there is always the right spot for another Campanula. They partner up well with so many other plants, and who can resist the little blue bells.
    I hope Santa attaches a snow plow when he visits you.

    Barbara, wow, a rose for Christmas would be awesome. We have a thick quilt of white splendor now, which will probably be here until April. I can’t wait for the little bulbs to start poking above the melting snow, but it’s a few months too early to start my hunt for green yet. I will have to enjoy the pretty sight of snow piled on evergreen branches for now.
    Merry Christmas, Barbara.

  35. Birgitta :
    December 23, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Just want to wish you a wonderful Christmas!

    Birgitta

  36. Northern Shade :
    December 23, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Merry Christmas, Birgitta.

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