Northern Shade Gardening

Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ with True Blue Flowers

Saturday, May 30, 2009 Category: Perennials
Pulmonaria samourai (lungwort) blue flowers

Pulmonaria samourai (lungwort) blue flowers

I’m enjoying all the blue flowers in the garden this week. These Pulmonaria x  ‘Samourai’ (Samourai lungwort) have wonderful silver foliage all season, and the pretty blue flowers in spring. This perennial thrives in the shade, with no problems. The Pulmonaria survive a cold climate very well, while the leaves persist past the first frosts, giving long seasonal interest.

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort)  closeup of leaves

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort) closeup of leaves

The long silver gray leaves are covered in hairs, leaving a thin edge of green. Since they are a cross of  ‘Majeste’, they have the silver colour, but the leaves are longer and more slender. These will elongate even more in summer. The light colour displays very well in the shade, catching the eye in the shadows. This perennial shows up well next to dark foliage. I particularly like them next to the round, shiny leaves of Asarum europaeum (European ginger).

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort) closeup of buds

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort) closeup of buds

The maroon coloured buds of the lungwort are in tight clusters. You can see how hairy they are, just like the leaves. As they first open, they are pink coloured, but they quickly turn a true blue colour.

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort)  closeup of flowers

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort) closeup of flowers

In this closeup of the bright blue flowers, the simple five petaled blooms of the plant are noticeable. With the back lighting, the hairiness of the flower stalk, leaves and buds stands out. The smaller leaves on the flowers stalks are more green than gray, and often have the dots that are found on other types of Pulmonaria .

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort) plant

Pulmonaria x 'samourai' (lungwort) plant

That early growth of foliage is a great benefit in a short growing season. The above photo shows the new leaves, which will continue extending. These are one of the plants, along with Campanula, Helleborus and Brunnera that start greening up the garden bed while other perennials are waiting for better weather. After the new leaves grew in spring, I removed the old foliage, which started to fade. The older leaves tend to be prickly at the base, so I had to use my gloves when removing them.

This group gets an hour or two of light in the evening, when the sun is low, and thrives there. I have another group on the north side of a fence which does equally well.

Pulmonaria samourai lungwort plant may 29

Pulmonaria samourai lungwort plant may 29

With their long silver leaves, these Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ look great next to lacy ferns, or plants with rounded leaves. This grouping has some lady ferns to one side, little heart shaped Asarum in front, and some blue flowered Campanula on the other side. In the shade of a mock orange shrub, they make a nice grouping. Most of the the neighbouring plants haven’t grown as fast as the Pulmonaria yet this spring.

Pulmonaria samourai lungwort flowers may 29

Pulmonaria samourai lungwort flowers may 29

The flowers are a beautiful true blue, except when they’re pink. : )

Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ is a great perennial for the shade. They are very hardy in zone 3. The lungworts  are much sweeter than their unfortunate common name suggests. The silver foliage is attractive from earliest spring, until after the first frost, while their lovely blue flowers brighten the spring garden.

Asarum Europaeum with Glossy Foliage

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 Category: Perennials
Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny leaves

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny leaves

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) is a wonderful foliage plant for the shade. The rounded, cordate (heart shaped) leaves are thick and extra glossy. When they bloom, these perennials will have small, inconspicuous flowers, like tiny cups under the leaves. The polished foliage is the main attraction. I especially like the way they reflect the smallest amount of light in the shadows. The leaves spread out flat above the soil surface, making a great groundcover.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) closeup foliage folded

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) closeup foliage folded

You can see the newly emerging perennial  leaves are folded tightly in half and are a fresh green colour. The large, flat leaf in front is from last year. About half of the leaves remain on the plant from last season, some in good shape, and some not.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new little leaves

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new little leaves

Here the symmetrical leaves of Asarum Europaeum are partly open, and starting to separate. They are luminous in the dappled light. I noticed that the plants which lost their old leaves over the winter were the first to pop up gleaming new leaves in the spring. I like the way the new leaves of this low-growing perennial appear to be coming directly up from the soil. There are horizontal stems at the soil surface.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) foliage unfolding

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) foliage unfolding

The little hearts are opening along their line of symmetry, flattening out. The lighter patterns along the veins are noticeable on the inside of the European ginger leaves.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) old and new foliage

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) old and new foliage

In this photo you can see the old dark green foliage from last year close to the ground, as well as the fresh light green leaves rising up in the centre. My one group of seven Asarum plants on the east side of my yard all came back, but I only see seven out of nine plants from this group so far. It is still early in the season, so they might be waiting for a better forecast before they come out.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new foliage folded

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new foliage folded

Here is another picture of the shiny new Asarum leaves appearing, like arrows from the ground. They are gleaming on the top surface, even when they are only half open.

Asarum europaeum May 18 with snow

Asarum europaeum May 18 with snow (You'll never defeat us, Mr. Freeze!)

The European ginger does not mind a late spring snow. The leaves looked perfectly fine afterwards, which is a great trait for a foliage plant.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) flower closeup

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) flower closeup

It is difficult to get a good picture of the flower, since they are very small, and hidden under the leaves, sideways on the ground. The purplish brown structure in the middle of the above photo is the flower. Having your flowers laying on the ground makes it easy for insects that hang out at the soil surface to pollinate your flowers. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see how tomentose (hairy) the flowers are, like the stems.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny foliage

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny foliage

This group of Asarum have some Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern) planted behind them on one side, but it is much slower to come up in the spring. On their other side, there is a group of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss). The fern is very lacy, and makes a nice contrast, while the Brunnera have a similar cordate leaf, with a silver pattern. On the other side of the yard, I have another group of Asarum europaeum in front of some Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ (lady fern with red stems), and next to some Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr. Morse’.  Again they make a nice combination of lacy fern, red stems, silver foliage and lustrous little rounded hearts.

These shiny leaves will enlarge, and make a lovely perennial groundcover under the trees. They make a good contrast to other shade foliage. The hardy plants keep their foliage after frost, looking good until they are covered up. I recommend Asarum europaeum to make a pleasing green carpet in the shade, in the dappled light under deciduous trees.

Trillium Grandiflorum Rhizomes 12 Months Later

Saturday, May 23, 2009 Category: Perennials
Trillium grandiflorum (look at me I'm growing)

Trillium grandiflorum (look at me I'm growing)

I have to take back the disparaging remarks I made about the Trilliums in a plastic bag. I planted the perennials twelve months ago, and never saw a sign of them in the garden.  Now, those overdue Trillium grandiflorum are finally making an appearance. I was so pleasantly surprised when the characteristic three leaves suddenly appeared in the garden.

I bought them very cheaply from the shelf of a store last May. The little rhizomes were in plastic packages, carelessly arranged on a dusty shelf, with no extra signage.  How could such a special and pretty little woodland plant be laying on a shelf in a plastic bag? However, the price was so reasonable, that I had to give them a try. As I purchased them, I had misgivings, but I figured that I  didn’t have much to lose.

I planted the little brown rhizomes carefully in this garden bed under the maple, thinking that they would enjoy the shady location and fallen deciduous leaves.  I watered and tended the space all last year, but there was never a sign of any growth. When the slow-paced perennials  had still not appeared this spring, I admitted defeat and bought three new Trillium grandiflorum plants. Now the old rhizomes are coming to life.

I feel bad that I gave up on the little Trillium rhizomes in this previous post. However I feel even worse that I was stepping over this area of the shade garden a week ago, as I cleaned up, finally sure that nothing was under there.

Now the fresh leaves have appeared, and I’m elated at this unexpected bonus. Only two of the six have appeared so far, but with our current weather, I wouldn’t blame the others for staying cozily underground for a while longer. I’m definitely not giving up on the other Trillium rhizomes yet, after a twelve month delay for the first two.

Trillium grandiflorum new flower

Trillium grandiflorum new flower

Here’s what the three petaled blooms will look like, if they flower this year. This flower picture is of one of my newly purchased plants.

I’m thrilled to see these perennials in the garden.  My little Trillium patch is growing. I’m not sure how long it will take them to flower, perhaps not this year. However, there is a little piece of charming woodland growing under the trees now.

Have you given up on a plant, only to have it surprise you much later?