Northern Shade Gardening

Bunchberry for Fall Colour

Friday, September 24, 2010 Category: Perennials

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) is an easy care groundcover for the shade under trees, that develops great Fall colour. The leaves turn from green to a handsome red, making an eye-catching Autumn display. All of these photos are showing their seasonal colour change.

Cornus canadensis bunchberry with red tinge

Cornus canadensis bunchberry with red tinge

My bunchberry are planted in the shade under an evergreen, on the side that gets almost no direct light. Despite the deep shade, the plants grow well, and make a green carpet over the summer, needing no real attention. They would probably get more flowers in medium shade, or the shade of deciduous trees. This groundcover looks much prettier than half dead grass, or a rock mulch under the evergreen boughs.

Cornus canadensis bunchberry leaves with red edges

Cornus canadensis bunchberry leaves with red edges

The bunchberry are right at  home in the forest atmosphere under the tall spruce. The spruce cones, dropped needles, and cone scales left by squirrels blend with the plants to make a natural forest floor under the trees.

Cornus canadensis bunchberry turning red in Autumn

Cornus canadensis bunchberry turning red in Autumn

My bunchberry grow about 13 cm (5 inches) tall, but I’ve seen them a little taller than that in the wild. They spread to make an attractive green carpet of leaves under the trees. Earlier in the season they have what looks like white flowers, but are 4 large white decorative bracts, with small flowers in the middle.  They can develop into large red berry clusters.

Cornus canadensis bunchberry red fall foliage

Cornus canadensis bunchberry red fall foliage

Bunchberry are especially attractive as the Autumn chill sets in, when they develop a deep red colour. Soon, all of the leaves are a deep scarlet red, brightening the ground under the evergreens.

Cornus canadensis bunchberry all red leaves for fall

Cornus canadensis bunchberry all red leaves for fall

In the photo above you can see the full red  and purple Fall colour of the foliage. It is very striking, rising up out of the brown cones and needle mulch. Cornus canadensis is especially attractive white flowers in late spring or red leaves in autumn.

If you are looking for a low maintenance groundcover perennial for a shady site, bunchberry will make a natural woodsy look. The dramatic Autumn colour change is an added bonus. You can see more photos of Cornus canadensis in my garden here, including pictures of the plants in flower.

Here is a collage showing the different stages of colour change for some of the bunchberry plants.

Cornus canadensis bunchberry Fall collage

Cornus canadensis bunchberry Fall collage

Elizabeth Oliver a Pretty Double Campanula

Sunday, September 19, 2010 Category: Perennials

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver double bellflowers

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver double bellflowers

Campanula cochlearifolia ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ (double fairy thimble bellflower) have gorgeous light blue, double flowers on very compact plants. They are covered in a multitude of dainty blooms for many weeks in summer. Although I love all of the Campanula genus, this one has especially charming double blooms.

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver flower closeup

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver flower closeup

Although tiny, there are over 50 blooms on each small ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ plant in midsummer. Each one is a perfect double flower, like a mini rose. The double bells face upwards and outwards, so it is easy to see their delightful shape. The beautiful blue coloured petals show up well, with the petal tips curving slightly outwards.

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver dwarf bellflowers

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver dwarf bellflowers

Campanula cochlearifolia are very short, around 10 cm (4 inches) tall. The elfin plants make a great edging for a garden border. This groundcover spreads out to form a beautiful carpet, but does not bother other plants. This makes them perfect for underplanting taller perennials or shrubs, too.

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver blue flowers

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver blue flowers

In zone 3, these fairy thimble bellflowers bloom from mid July through September, putting on a long flower show. Although the flowers look very delicate, they are actually very hardy plants, and have no problem surviving winters down to – 40º C (-40º F).

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver double petals

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver double petals

‘Elizabeth Oliver’ bellflowers get a good number of flowers in part shade. Mine are planted just a few feet south of a pine tree. They also have a fence a few metres to the south and to the east. A few maple branches stretch this far, and the  shadow of the willow tree reaches here in the late afternoon and evening. It sounds shadier than it is, as they get bits of sun at different times of the day, as well as dappled light. They thrive in this light, and flower well.

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver with campanula carpatica behind

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver with campanula carpatica behind

I have my ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ planted with some other bellflowers. The photo above shows the Campanula carpatica (Carpathian bellflower) in a darker blue behind. There are also some white C. carpatica behind on the other side. Another double bellflower, Campanula ‘Haylodgensis’, is planted next to them, as well. The ‘Haylodgensis’ flowers are about double the size and especially attractive, too. There are some Muscari ‘Blue Spike’ (grape hyacinths) spring bulbs planted in between the perennials, to start the blue flower show in spring and extend the flowering time.

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver with miniature flowers

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver with miniature flowers

The photo above shows how thick and pretty the flowers on ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ can be at their peak.

Campanula cochlearifolia 'Elizabeth Oliver' after the frost

Campanula cochlearifolia 'Elizabeth Oliver' after the frost

The first pictures are all from earlier in the season, but the bellflowers are still blooming towards the end of September, just not with as many blooms. The photo above shows the Campanula after the first frost this week. Even after the freeze, there are still pretty blue bells on ‘Elizabeth Oliver’. Their long season of flowering makes them great for edging up front. Any plants that can still show some flowers after the first frosts are appreciated in a short growing season.

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver blue flowering groundcover

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver blue flowering groundcover

There are many Campanula on my favourite bellflower list, and all of them make great garden plants, but Campanula cochlearifolia ‘Elizabeth Oliver’  have a little extra charm, a cute petal form and a great colour.

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver fairy thimble bellflower

campanula cochlearifolia elizabeth oliver fairy thimble bellflower

You can read more about the double flowering Campanula I grow, and there are photos and information about other Campanula cochlearifolia in this post.

Blue Bellflower and Pink Carnation

Monday, August 2, 2010 Category: Perennials

Pink and blue flowers make a pretty garden combination. These Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’ (bellflower) and Dianthus caryophylus ‘Grenadin’ (carnation) bloom in midsummer in my zone 3 garden. The carnations add a little fragrance to go with the lovely summer colours of these perennials.

Dianthus caryopyllus 'Grenadin' pink carnations

Dianthus caryopyllus 'Grenadin' pink carnations

Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Grenadin’ are a hardy perennial carnation that come in a variety of colours. These carnations are a medium pink, but the photo above taken in the late evening gives some of them a red appearance. I’ve had these Dianthus for a while, and they are now a mixture of double and singles. These are usually short lived, but new plants can be made from the loosely connected sections that spread out, or from cuttings. Their scent is wonderful, and they always entice me to bend over and enjoy the fragrance up close. The leaves of Dianthus will be visible as soon as the snow melts, so this is another perennial that helps green up the garden quickly in spring. You can read more about this fragrant Dianthus here.

Dianthus caryopyllus 'Grenadin' pink carnations with bellflowers 2

Dianthus caryopyllus 'Grenadin' pink carnations with bellflowers 2

The carnations are actually sun loving, but manage to do okay in this part shade area, with some morning light and then dappled shade. Theses cottage flowers lean a little in this amount of light, but still get a good number of flowers. If I had a bright sunny area, I’d plant the Dianthus there, but I’m pleased with the way the colour of this pink carnation coordinates with the blue bellflower in this area of the garden.

Campanula 'Summertime Blues' bellflower and Dianthus caryophyllus 'Grenadin' pink

Campanula 'Summertime Blues' bellflower and Dianthus caryophyllus 'Grenadin' pink

Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’ has silvery blue flowers with large bells that hang down, flaring out at the bottom. Each plant gets multiple stems about 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 inches) tall, with somewhat sparse leaves,  so the amount of flowers is almost equal to the mass of foliage. In the photo below, you can see the plum coloured buds that will be opening soon to a steely blue. Here are more photos and information about Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’ from last year.

Campanula 'Summertime Blues' and Dianthus caryopyllus 'Grenadin'

Campanula 'Summertime Blues' and Dianthus caryopyllus 'Grenadin'

These two perennials are about the same height, and the flower stems mingle together. In my zone 3 garden, the carnations bloom for about 4 weeks from July to August, and the ‘Summertime Blues’ bellflowers have a strong initial flower bloom, and then flower in waves intermittently until fall. There are some annual blue lobelia bordering this bed, that you can see in the upper left of the photo above. Beside these Campanula are some Phlox paniculata (tall phlox) in white and mauve that will be flowering soon, as they are full of buds. Just across the path bordering this section of the garden are some Campanula lactiflora (milky bellflower) with lavender blue flowers.

I have lots of blue bellflowers, and particularly like this combination with pink carnations. I also pair the other blue flowers with white, lavender or pink coloured flowers. Do you have any favourite colours to pair with blue flowers?