Northern Shade Gardening

Blue Muscari and Pink Tulip Flowers

Sunday, May 30, 2010 Category: Bulbs

Here is a pretty pink and blue bulb combination of Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ (grape hyacinth) and Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’ (a double pink tulip) for mid spring. The blooming times coincide in my garden to create an appealing mix.

Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' and Tulipa 'Fox Trot'

Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ and Tulipa ‘Fox Trot’

Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ is an extra full grape hyacinth, with double florets along the flower stalk. With all of the open petals, the stalks are very thick and showy. Planted closely, they make a luminous river of blue at the front of the garden bed. The grape hyacinths are 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in) tall, while the tulips behind are 30 to 35 cm (12 to 14 in) tall.

Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' closeup

Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ closeup

This photo shows a closeup of the grape hyacinth just before the abundant petals have fully opened.

Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' flower closeup

Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ flower closeup

Here is an image of a flower after it has fully opened.  You can see how lavishly the blue petals are packed on the flower stalk, making the grape hyacinth look  like a miniature hyacinth.

Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' flowers of blue

Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ flowers of blue

The photo above shows the intense blue colour of a group of the Muscari bulbs. This is my favourite bed right now. Just around the corner of the bed is a group of Brunnera (Siberian bugloss) with blue flowers too, and in the other direction are the blue Pulmonaria (lungwort) flowers.

Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' group

Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ group

The ribbon of Muscari bulbs winds through some Campanula (bellflowers) in the picture above. When these brilliantly coloured bulbs die back for the summer, the Campanula here will replace them with their own blue flowers. Muscari look great with perennial Tiarella, too

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' with Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' behind

Tulipa ‘Fox Trot’ with Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ behind

Beside the Muscari are some Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’, a double pink tulip with extra petals that make them extra showy.

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' first opening

Tulipa ‘Fox Trot’ first opening

The ‘Foxtrot’ bulbs first open in a white colour, with curled and overlapping petals.

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' after opening

Tulipa ‘Fox Trot’ after opening

Here is part of the group of tulips, just after they opened, still showing white petals.

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' pink flower

Tulipa ‘Fox Trot’ pink flower

Soon the ‘Foxtrot’ flowers develop their pink colouration. You can see the overall pale pink colour, with medium pink edges to the petals.

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' pink flower closup

Tulipa ‘Fox Trot’ pink flower closup

Here a ‘Foxtrot’ tulip bulb is opening up more, showing the graduations in pink shades, and developing a rose pink colour.

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' pink flowers detail

Tulipa ‘Fox Trot’ pink flowers detail

This group of four shows the colour range they can have, from mostly white when new, to the stronger pink colouration as the flowers develop.

Muscari armeniacum 'Blue Spike' with Tulipa behind

Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ with Tulipa behind

I had trouble getting the overall photos to show the pink colour of  ‘Foxtrot’ next to the vibrant ‘Blue Spike’, since at a distance the camera (or photographer) seems to capture the tulips as more pale than they are in person. There are over 50 of the tulip bulbs, but as sometimes happens with bulbs, a purple one sneaked into the package. There is also a bright red one with an orange edge. They are not well camouflaged in this pink and blue colour scheme, but I haven’t had the heart to remove the imposters yet.

When I planted the tulips and grape hyacinths last Fall, I wasn’t sure if they would bloom at the  same time, especially because bulbs can have such short flowering times,  so I’m happy to see that the bloom period overlaps closely. The Muscari started a few days before the tulips, and I think they might still bloom after the tulips are finished. Despite the snow we had over the last two days, the bulbs are still flowering upright. Both are sturdy bulbs, as well as being pretty. You can see more details of the pink Foxtrot tulips in this follow up post.

Do you have any favourite bulbs combinations?

Sanguinaria Canadensis

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 Category: Perennials

The little woodland Sanquinaria canadensis (bloodroot) are blooming now in mid spring. These perennials grow happily under the trees, flourishing in the organic matter that the trees drop and that decays into the soil. The flowers may bloom for a short time, but it is enjoyable to anticipate the beauty, and watch the perfect white petals unfold. The leaves are thick and lobed, making an interesting texture contrast with other woodland plants, or lacy ferns.

Sanguinaria canadensis flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis flowers

This photo shows the simple white blooms of Sanquinaria canadensis. Their petal structure is beautiful, even if the flowering time is brief. The flower on the left shows the perfectly symmetrical shape, with four large petals like compass points, and four shorter ones marking the directions in between.

Sanguinaria canadensis bud with leaf

Sanguinaria canadensis bud with leaf

The leaves of Sanguinaria are deeply lobed and attractive, too. Above you can see how the flower bud comes up through the bottom lobe in the leaf.

Sanguinaria canadensis and Brunnera

Sanguinaria canadensis and Brunnera

Mine are planted in between some Athyrium (ferns), Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and Astilbe, where they make a nice bridge between the delicate texture of the ferns and Astilbe, and the solid heart-shaped Brunnera leaves. On the other side is an Arisaema (jack in the pulpit). There is some space right now between the Brunnera and the Sanguinaria because the Brunnera leaves keep growing over the summer, and will develop right up to the bloodroot. There are also some Chionodoxa (glory of the snow bulbs) planted around the Sanguinaria now. The Sanguinaria really are a woodland floor plant, standing about 20 cm (8 in) tall.

Sanguinaria canadensis flowers opening

Sanguinaria canadensis flowers opening

Here are the buds of the bloodroot in the process of opening. The folded buds are pretty even before they fully open. You can see a few light shafts hitting the broad leaves. The Sanguinaria get some early spring light before the tree leaves fully open, followed by some dappled light, and the plants seem to enjoy this exposure, making them a perfect shade perennial.

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex' flower

Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’ flower

Sanquinaria canadensis f. multiplex (double bloodroot) has these lovely double blooms. The multiplex are new to my garden this year. The foliage has the same deep lobes, but the blooms get lot of extra white petals. Even though the multiplex has the flashier flowers, I like both of the bloodroots in their own way. There are more photos and information about the double bloodroot, as well as how it overwintered in this followup article.

These woodland perennials are flowering at the same time as the Brunnera (Siberian bugloss) and Pulmonaria (lungwort), creating a pretty blue and white flower scheme. The Trillium flower buds are just about to open, but they’ll join the woodland flower display soon with white blooms, too. It is very reassuring to see the blooms come into flower, each in their own time. I love the plants that bloom all season for their constant colour, but there is a rhythm to the flow of seasonal blooms that add their brief beauty one after another, in a familiar pattern. They allow you to enjoy each change in the garden, and the anticipation of the unfolding seasons. Although Sanguinaria get their name from the blood red colour of their sap, the other meaning of sanguine, or hopeful, is also very appropriate.

Here is post showing more woodland flowers.

Flower Planters in Shade

Monday, May 17, 2010 Category: Annuals
tray of annuals for shade

tray of annuals for shade

Here are some of the plants I used in containers for my shady front porch. There are lots of bright, colourful flowers to liven up the area. Much of my garden has subtle colours and leaf combinations, but the porch is separated from the rest of the garden, so I went for a vivid look with these shade planters, including lots of petals.

tray of shade annuals

tray of shade annuals

Above  are some of the new plants, still in their pots on a tray. These all make great container plants with their long blooming time. They are annuals, or treated as annuals in a cold climate. It’s possible that the begonia and fuchsia are wondering what they’re even doing in zone 3, and why they didn’t make it onto the shipment to Florida.  Most of these flowers will fold at the first sign of frost.

shade planter Begonia Schizanthus and Impatiens

shade planter Begonia Schizanthus and Impatiens

You would think there would be a finite number of ways to arrange them, but I tried lots of combinations.

Impatiens balfieplos apple blossom pink

Impatiens balfieplos apple blossom pink

The Lobelia and double flowering Impatiens are two annuals that I often plant into my shady perennial beds. They blend nicely in a mixed bed, as well as working well in a container with their long blooming time. They will flower right up until Fall. The Impatiens will collapse at the first frost, but the Lobelia is more tolerant of a little cold at the end of the season. The photo above is a double flowering pink Lobelia ‘Balfieplos’ (Apple Blossom). I love the soft pink colour and beautifully folded petals.

Begonia Non-Stop Pink

Begonia Non-Stop Pink

The tuberous begonias can handle a lot of shade, and get covered in these large flowers all summer. This beauty is a Begonia Non-stop Pink, with lots of crinkly petals. The shadings from light to medium pink are very attractive. It looks great in the blue ceramic planter.

shade annuals in mixed tray

shade annuals in mixed tray

The large white double begonia on the tray above is picked from Memory Mix. It has lots of bright petals that stand out against the dark green leaves. This one is very noticeable in the darker shade on the recessed  front porch.

tuberous Begonia deep pink

tuberous Begonia deep pink

The deep pink, almost red Begonia is supposed to be Picotee Lace, but I don’t see a white edge on it. It looked pink when I picked it out, but in this light it is looking more red, poinsettia red.

Schizanthus Rose Bicolour blooms

Schizanthus Rose Bicolour blooms

I used to grow mixed Schizanthus in the beds of my last garden.  Now some are available as separate colours, and growers like to trademark them. This one is a rose bicolor. They should work well in the planters, since they have masses of flashy blooms. The Schizanthus worked better in part shade than full shade. You can see more tender plants in planters in this followup article.

Fuchsia 'Dollar Princess' buds

Fuchsia ‘Dollar Princess’ buds

This is  Fuchsia ‘Dollar Princess’. Those plump red buds are very attractive, and soon they will be dripping with intricate fuchsia blooms. I like how they look against the cobalt blue pot. They’re a classic shade plant, and will cascade nicely over the sides of the planter.

Begonia and Lobelia in container

Begonia and Lobelia in container

This is a view from above of one of the flower containers, as I walk down the steps. The planter is full of pink red tuberous Begonia and blue Lobelia. Do you think I could have stuffed any more blooms in there?

shade planter Begonia Lobelia Impatiens

shade planter Begonia Lobelia Impatiens

I had a lot of fun designing these containers this year. The picture above shows them while I was still arranging them in their packs. They are all grouped on my front porch, so it is easy to keep them watered. One advantage of pots in the shade, is that you don’t have to water them as often. Did you make up any flower planters this year? What are your favourite combinations?

I have another post about a part shade flower container., and an article with more photos and information of shade plants in pots.