Northern Shade Gardening

White Flowers are Luminous in Shade Garden

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 Category: Perennials

Here are some brilliant white flowers blooming in the spring shade garden. Each one of these perennials have distinctly different flower shapes and arrangements. With their light colour they show up well in the  darker garden beds, while other flowers might fade into the background. White and ivory colours can also be noticed better when viewing from a distance, and are the last flowers visible in the twilight.

white flowers in spring

white flowers in spring

At the top is Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’, formerly Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’  (bleeding heart), with those unmistakable hearts strung along the stems. The buds start off green, while the mature flowers are luminescent in the shadows. You can see the buds closest to the bottom of the stems have already opened, while the ones at the top ares still waiting to swell into pure white hearts. I love these old fashioned perennials that don’t mind a darker garden spot and have such a distinctive display of white flowers.

Trillium grandiflorum (large trillium) are on the left of the middle row. The little woodland blooms only flower for a short time, but then the other surrounding perennials take over for the rest of the summer, as these die back. The three white petals, centred against the three leaves, are incandescent in a shady garden area under the trees. These ones have no problems growing underneath the maple, and seem to appreciate the tree debris that decomposes into the soil below.

The Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) in the middle have the purest white flowers, in clusters of suspended open bells. However, it is their scent that I notice first when I go out into the garden now. I have groups of these flowers in different garden beds, so the wonderful perfume is swirling around as I bend over to tend to the gardens. Although they spread, I find it very easy to pull them out where I don’t want them. Usually I wait until after they have flowered if I need to pull them back. They are so low maintenance, so entrancing in bloom, and the scent is so delightful, that I don’t mind them trying out a new garden bed when I’m not watching. When lily of the valley like their location and produce lots of flowers, their little bells light up the shade garden.

The Polygonatum (solomon’s seal) are on the right side of the middle row. They are just starting to flower, but they haven’t opened into their bell shape yet. The pretty buds are dangling from the stems that curve over. The solomon’s seal flowers are not really white, but there will be pairs of creamy coloured, flared bells dangling all along the stems in a week. Some plants seem to have the bells in pairs, and some are solitary. Mine grow under the branches of a willow tree and compete very well against that giant.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr. Morse’ (Siberian bugloss) have a mist of tiny white flowers for about six weeks in spring. The little starry flowers give a white cloud effect. In darker areas, the white blooms and silver leaves of Mr. Morse add some light. Those beautiful  leaves look just like ‘Jack Frost’, with distinctive green veins on a silvery background. In my garden these Brunnera grow less than a metre (a foot and a half) from the trunk of a maple. Their large leaves suppress the sprouting of the maple keys, which is an added bonus. After picking up a couple hundred maple keys, I often don’t bother with the ones under these perennials. The Brunnera are perfect plants for the shade garden.

Another white spring flower that has finished blooming is Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex (double bloodroot). Which has many petals in a waterlily shape.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba', formerly Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' (bleeding heart)

Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba', formerly Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba', (bleeding heart)

Here the bleeding heart flowers are strung like miniature patio lanterns. There is such a wide variety of flower shapes that add interest if you are gardening in the shade. My little spring bulbs have faded away, but the woodland shade lovers have taken over, and their white flowers are like little lights under the trees. As I peer out the window for a final look at the garden in late evening, these luminous flowers still glow, illuminated by the last few rays.

15 Responses to “White Flowers are Luminous in Shade Garden” »

  1. Marit :
    June 7, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Yes, the white flowers really brighten up the garden. I am very fond of white flowers.

  2. Northern Shade :
    June 7, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Marit, white flowers combine well and look good with all the other plants, too.

  3. The Garden Ms. S :
    June 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Your Mr. Morse is looking gorgeous. How long do the flowers last on this one?

  4. Northern Shade :
    June 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

    The Garden Ms. S, I’m glad you asked, since I made a mistake in the article. I checked my records of the last few years, and Ms. Morse averaged 6 weeks of bloom time. I haven’t seen these offered around Edmonton for the last few years, and I don’t know why, as they are a really nice Brunnera.

  5. Rebecca @ In The Garden :
    June 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    They really do shine in the shade. And white is especially gorgeous against a backdrop of green. :)

  6. Northern Shade :
    June 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Rebecca, I like the white blooms against the verdant background, too. It gives a serene feeling to the garden.

    Catherine, ‘Mr. Morse’ is very decorative all season, because of those handsome leaves. I especially like it next to some lacy lady ferns.

  7. Catherine :
    June 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    You are right about white flowers showing up and looking pretty in shaded gardens. I love the brunnera, both the leaves and flowers stand out.

  8. The Garden Ms. S :
    June 8, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Six weeks is great, and, of course, the foliage is stunning. I saw them at Mill Creek nursery two years ago. Certainly worth seeking out.

  9. Northern Shade :
    June 8, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    The Garden Ms. S, it’s great if you can find a local source.

  10. gartenzauber :
    June 10, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Hi Northern Shade, the magnificent white flowers, they shine at night.
    Since it only needs a Salemonsiegel .. know the botanical name at the moment do not sigh!

    I’ve just looked at your Hp, like it very much.

    I wish you a sunny weekend. Until then, Waltraud

  11. Northern Shade :
    June 10, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Gartenzauber, the flowers on the solomon’s seal have fully opened to their little bell shapes now. I like the plant shape, with long stems that curve over.

  12. easygardener :
    June 14, 2011 at 5:15 am

    It is often a surprise how white flowers show up at a distance, especially sprays of tiny ones.
    No way am I going to remember Lamprocapnos – it will have to stay as Dicentra in my spreadsheet otherwise I will be always saying – “What’s a Lamprocapnos look like. Have I still got it?”

  13. Northern Shade :
    June 14, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Easygardener, each of the Brunnera flowers is tiny, but many of them together with their light colour do show up well.

    I agree that it is so confusing when the scientific names of plants change. After all, one of the reasons I like using them so much is that they are international, so everybody can know exactly which plant you mean. I read a lot of gardening blogs in other languages, and it really helps when they include the binomial designation. I still call it by the genus name, Dicentra, in my head, and then think of how the flowers look like little ‘lamps’ to remember the new name. I hope my neurons make a faster pathway to the new name soon. :)

  14. gartenzauber :
    June 14, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Hi, I like the Salemonsiegel very well, although very overgrown. The Lien chicken like it too much.

    LG Waltraud

  15. Northern Shade :
    June 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Gartenzauber, I like the shape of the Polygonatum (salemonsiegel), too, since its arching habit adds contrast next to upright or mounding plants. Mine are supposed to be the giant ones that grow up to 2 m (6 ft) tall, but so far they are much shorter growing.

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