Northern Shade Gardening

Sanguinaria Canadensis f Multiplex Double Bloodroot

Thursday, May 26, 2011 Category: Perennials
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot in May

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot in May

I have both the single and double bloodroot in the garden, and appreciate each. However the Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex, the  double form, have an exquisite shape. In spring these give you dramatically beautiful blooms in the shade garden, with the white flowers showing up well in the shadowy areas. Although the flowers look exotic, they don’t mind a zone 3 winter.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot first buds poke from leaves

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot first buds poke from leaves

Here the Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex (double bloodroot) are just emerging from the soil in spring. Each beautiful flower bud rises up with a leaf curled around it. On the right you see the initial appearance, and on the left the leaf is starting to part.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot buds emerging above curled leaves

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot buds emerging above curled leaves

As the leaf uncurls more, the flowers rise up and unfold, so you begin to see hints of a the multitude of beautiful petals.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot white flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot white flowers

It seems that this perennial can be listed in different ways, and I sometimes see the double labelled as  ‘Flore Pleno’. Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex is extra generous with the petals, the exquisite flowers resembling waterlilies. The pure white colour really stands out against the background in the shade. I have two of these double bloodroots, and this year they have bloomed a week before the single version. The double forms are supposed to last much longer than the singles. However,  mine only lasted a little over a week, a brief but beautiful flowering. They are definitely worth finding space in your shady garden. I go out each day to admire the blooms, but the light colour can also be glimpsed from my windows.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 3 double bloodroot white flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 3 double bloodroot white flowers

Bloodroots are native to the woodlands of Eastern Canada, but these are doing fine in the Parkland of Alberta. I have these planted in a very shady area, between the trees. There is a lot of decomposing leaf matter in this garden bed. Although these perennials are supposed to be ephemeral with the leaves fading back after spring, mine keep the foliage all summer, and their unique shape looks good. Perhaps the cooler summers help sustain the plants.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex leaf closeup

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex leaf closeup

The Sanguinaria leaves are very decorative for a perennial that might hide away for the summer in some areas. The large flat leaves are deeply lobed and stiff, so they make a nice green foil for other plants in the garden. The bloodroot leaf above is looking shiny in the rain. The plants are about 18 cm  (7 in) tall, with the flowers about 23 cm (9 in) in height.

Here  are more pictures of Sanguinaria canadensis (single flowered bloodroot). I’ve now paired the Sanguinaria with some pretty blue Chionodoxa forbesii.

Even if you don’t have a woodland, the double bloodroot will do well under the shade of a tree, to bring a little part of the Eastern forest to your garden.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex closeup of double bloom

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex closeup of double bloom

An Upward Facing Hellebore

Monday, May 23, 2011 Category: Perennials

Helleborus ‘Walhelivor’ (‘Ivory Prince’ hellebore) has a super combination of traits, with attractive flowers, great looking leaves, attractive red stems, a long flowering time, evergreen leaves, and surprising hardiness. Although hellebores are not always considered hardy on the prairies, I’ve found ‘Ivory Prince to be very hardy, down to -40º C (-40º F).

One of my favourite parts of this hellebore are the giant rose pink buds that appear so early in the spring. The ice and snow will be melting at the edge of the leaves, and then the fat buds will start to rise up. Even before they open, they are very appealing, and add instant colour to the left over fall leaves.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' showing true flower

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' showing true flower

The flowers themselves are the small clusters in the middle, while what look like petals are the large decorative bracts around them. It’s the bracts that stay on the plants for so long. In my northern garden, they often stay on right until fall, fading to yellow and looking very much like real flowers.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' with cream pink and green flowers

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' with cream pink and green flowers

What’s especially good about the flowers on this particular hellebore, is that they face upwards and outwards, so they can be admired easily. The petals are a combination of cream, green and pink, set off against the dark green leaves.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' with little Chionodoxa

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' with little Chionodoxa

My plants have been slowly expanding in this tough spot, and now make a good sized clump. The photo above shows about three of the group. Not many perennials are happy  growing 60 cm (a few feet) away from a willow trunk, but the hellebores don’t complain. They get an hour or two of direct early light morning light, with the the sun low in the sky. After that they get a bit of dappled light that filters through the willow leaves.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' flower closeup

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' flower closeup

All of my ‘Ivory Prince’ have survived three zone 3 winters with no problems. We do get good snow coverage, which helps to insulate them. I also leave the fall leaves over the plants for additional protection, removing the fallen willow leaves in spring. It’s possible that they wouldn’t do as well on the wind swept open prairie, but they are very hardy in an enclosed garden.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' with spring bulbs behind

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' with spring bulbs behind

To the south of this group are some spring bulbs. You can see the Puschkinia (striped squills) and Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) in the background.  This clump of hellebores have expanded, so the little Chionodoxa mingle right at the edges now. The red stems are visible in the shot above, making a good contrast with the green leaves.

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' just opening

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' just opening

This is a flashback to when the ‘Ivory Prince’ flowers were first opening, with lots of buds still showing pink on the outside, and a little Chionodoxa flower in the bottom left. The leaves are about 20 cm (8 in) tall and the flowers are around 25 cm (10 in) in height. The plants are up to 60 cm (24 in) wide.

Helleborus ‘Walhelivor’ is a particularly charming hellebore, with all of its parts being highly decorative. From the moment the snow melts to show the evergreen leaves, it takes centre stage, continuing to look good through the summer and fall. There are more pictures and information about this hellebore in this post from last year.

Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’ and Scilla siberica

Friday, May 20, 2011 Category: Bulbs
Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow) white flowers with fern

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow) white flowers with fern

Here’s a pretty combination of blue and white bulbs. The Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’ (white glory of the snow) and Scilla siberica (squills) have the same flowering schedule, and show up right after the crocus.

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow) closeup of flowers

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow) closeup of flowers

Chionodoxa luciliae commonly comes in a very pretty blue colour, a little lighter than the Scilla. I enjoy the colour, but the white ‘Alba’ are attractive, too, and also coordinate with blue bulbs. The Chionodoxa flowers face upwards, unlike the Scilla, for maximum impact. These groups have filled in nicely, and returned with more flowers. It’s heartening to see bulbs that improve in appearance each spring, rather than slowly fading away quickly over a few years like some do.

Scilla siberica (squills) with blue flowers in May

Scilla siberica (squills) with blue flowers in May

Scilla siberica are a pure saturated blue. The little blue flowers face downwards, but since both the back and front of the petals are brightly coloured, you can still get an overall effect of a a little piece of the sky. They are very charming and easy to grow, spreading slowly over the years. Since the squill foliage  disappear after spring is done, they don’t interfere with any other plants.

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow), Scilla siberica (squills), and Puschkinia

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow), Scilla siberica (squills), and Puschkinia

Both of these small spring bulbs bloom at the same time as the blue and white striped Puschkinia libanotica, which you can see at the back of the photo. The Puschkinia start first, then the Chionodoxa, and the Scilla join in last. All three of these spring bulbs are reliable, withstanding the cold of zone 3, and returning with strong blooms in early to mid spring. After the flowers are through, it doesn’t take long for the foliage to store up energy for next year, and then die back. Since the leaves are small, they are not as noticeable as tulip and daffodil leaves after the flowers are done, while you wait for them to whither. I find that planting them next to ferns or later perennials hides the decaying leaves quickly.

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow), Scilla siberica (squills) and Pulmonaria

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow), Scilla siberica (squills) and Pulmonaria

Both the Chionodoxa and Scilla handle part shade well. In the picture above, they are planted adjacent to some Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ (lungwort), which you can see on the right. It should have it’s own blue flowers in a few weeks.

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow) white flowers with Dryopteris

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba' (glory of the snow) white flowers with Dryopteris

You can see some of the fern fronds between the white blooms, like greenery added to a bouquet in a vase. These Chionodoxa luciliae are planted beside a Dryopteris expansa (spiny wood fern). which is semi-evergreen. The fern keeps some fronds over the winter, so it has ready made greenery to pair with the glory of the snow, as the other ferns are still emerging.

Scilla siberica (squills) with Matteuccia struthiopteris ferns

Scilla siberica (squills) with Matteuccia struthiopteris ferns

These squill flowers are resting on the new fiddleheads of the Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern), pretty blue with alien looking green and brown. The fuzzy looking fiddleheads will unroll very quickly now, growing a metre or so (3 to 4 feet) in a month.

Scilla siberica (squills) with blue flowers

Scilla siberica (squills) with blue flowers

Here you can see the true blue of the Scilla siberica. Both of these bulbs are diminutive, at only 10cm to 25 cm (4 to 10 in) tall, so they look sweet in groups, but a little lost individually. They  provide some early flower colour as the first perennials are barely starting to bloom. They look very natural, so you can plant them in a more formal garden bed, or under the trees for a woodland setting.

Here is a gallery showing different photos of the squills and glory of the snow. You can click on any small photo to see it full size.