Northern Shade Gardening

First Crocus Buds

Sunday, April 20, 2014 Category: Bulbs

 

crocus leaf spears in snow

crocus leaf spears in snow

Despite the last 4 days of snow, the first crocus bud is up in the lawn. Those pointed leaves are spearing through last year’s fallen leaves, right in the middle of the snow melt. I adore these hardy bulbs that bring the first colour of spring. Their endearing habit of coming into bud just a few days after popping up is perfect for a gardener who’s grown impatient after 6 months of winter. This patch of lawn gets very shady when the trees leaf out, but the speedy crocus can take advantage of the early spring sunshine that filters through the bare tree branches.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' coming up through old leaf

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ coming up through old leaf

Crocus don’t wait until you’ve done your garden cleanup to start flowering. This first intrepid bud is Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus ‘ (snow crocus). The petals are white and purple, and as you can see its an early riser. The fresh green leaves, each with a silver stripe, are almost as welcome as the buds, after a winter of monotony in the garden. Snow on evergreen branches is a pretty sight, but after 6 months I’m ready for something flashier. Soon this patch will be joined by the other purple, white and yellow crocus.  Most of them are the smaller C. chrysanthus, but each small plant can produce many flowers. When they all open, the petal edges almost touch from flower to flower. With all of the leaves now, it won’t be long until the lawn is covered in blooms. I planted mostly the earliest flowering types of crocus here, so the leaves die back fairly quickly, and I can mow the lawn by the end of May, after they’ve gathered all of the energy they can. The garden has a mixture of early and late flowering crocus, to give a longer season of bloom.

first crocus bud on lawn

first crocus bud on lawn

Even ice crystals clinging to the bud’s petals don’t bother a snow crocus. This is the perfect plant for early spring in Edmonton. When the snow or clouds come, the petals simply fold up and wait patiently for the sun’s warmth, when they’ll unfurl and make a tapestry of spring colours . They are particularly showy when most of the garden is still a series of monochrome earth tones. A vibrant field of yellow and purple is a great start to the gardening year, especially after the dreariness of a long Edmonton winter. Happy gardening season.

Double Bloodroot and Glory of the Snow

Sunday, June 2, 2013 Category: Bulbs,Perennials
white double flowering bloodroot and bluish purple glory of the snow

white double flowering bloodroot and bluish purple glory of the snow

The pretty blue Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) bulbs  and the pure white Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex (double flowering bloodroot) make gorgeous companions for each other. I planted the Chionodoxa around the Sanguinaria last fall, and now this spring the pretty bluish purple flowers help show off the white blooms of the bloodroot.

double flowering Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex flowers

double flowering Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex flowers

This garden area has both the single and double flowering Sanguinaria canadensis I haven’t seen any of the single flowering ones this year, however the double flowering f. multiplex seem to be spreading well and there are many more of them blooming. These perennials are so beautiful that I’m very glad the rhizomes are multiplying. The double bloodroot must enjoy the position under the willow, with all of the bits of tree leaves, twigs, and other organic matter that they get to grow in, since they are a woodland perennial of Eastern Canada. These flowers handle a great deal of shade, as the willow has leafed out now, so there is very little direct sun here. This garden section is on the north side of a fence, so the plants might get a bit of low sun first thing in the morning, but mostly it’s shade.

white bloodroot and purple blue glory of the snow flowers

white bloodroot and purple blue glory of the snow flowers

I hope some single flowering forms have survived, as the pollinators would miss the single flowering Sanguinaria, since the doubles do not have reproductive parts. The doubles have longer lasting flowers, and a more beautiful form than the singles, but I like to share the garden with the insect visitors, too. In the picture above, you can see another bloodroot folded leaf emerging on the lower left. Soon, it will be revealing an exquisite white bloom.

Sangiuinaria canadensis f. multiplex small bud emerging

Sangiuinaria canadensis f. multiplex small bud emerging

When the flower buds first emerge, the closed white petals are wrapped tightly in a leaf. Then both unfold and the leaf grows fairly large after the white petals drop. You can see a new bud rising up in the front of the picture still mostly protected by the wrap around leaf. On the upper  right is the next stage with the flower popping out of the leaf. On the upper left is a more mature flower, fully open and sitting above the leaf. Once the flower opens fully, it remind me of a water lily sitting above the leaf. Eventually the leaf opens completely, close to the ground, and gets fairly large. The plants make an attractive groundcover for the rest of the summer.

white bloodroot flower emerging from leaf

white bloodroot flower emerging from leaf

The bloodroot flowers have been emerging in waves, so the display has lasted a while. The double flowering bloodroot tend to bloom longer than the singles anyway, but with the staggered emergence, there are new flowers to spy everyday.

white Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex flowers in front of Chionodoxa forbesii

white Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex flowers in front of Chionodoxa forbesii

Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) are one of my favourite bulbs. These were added to surround the Sanguinaria last fall, and the two flowers compliment each other.

white Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex and blue Chionodoxa forbesii bulbs

white Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex and blue Chionodoxa forbesii bulbs

I planted the Chionodoxa all around the Sanguinaria group, so all the bloodroot plants would get partners. So far there have been a couple dozen bloodroot flowers, and most of them have a group of pretty glory of the snow flowers to accompany them, lean on them, and twine around them.

spring flowering Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex and Chionodoxa forbesii

spring flowering Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex and Chionodoxa forbesii

Those Sanguinaria leaves will grow large enough to form an almost solid mat of leaves, and cover the decaying bulb foliage from the Chionodoxa after the bulbs finish blooming. The leaves have a thick texture, with rounded deeply cut lobes. The solid mat of foliage they make for summer means that few weeds will grow here.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex and Chionodoxa forbesii

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex and Chionodoxa forbesii

If you’re looking for a partner for your Sanguinaria canadensis, I can recommend some Chionodoxa bulbs to highlight the pretty white blooms.

 

 

 

Scilla and Chionodoxa Bulbs in Part Shade

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 Category: Bulbs

Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica collageScilla (squills) and Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) are two of my favourite spring flowering bulbs. Since they bloom right after the crocus, they keep the bulb show going so I don’t have a bare time in the garden before most plants start to flower. Both of them do well in part shade, growing under the trees. These bulbs are very cold hardy, and have no problem with a zone 3 winter. The white Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’ and blue Scilla siberica were in this garden section before, but I added the purplish blue Chionodoxa fobesii last fall.

Chionodoxa forbesii with purple blue flowers

Chionodoxa forbesii with purple blue flowers

I have a number of the Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) in other parts of the garden, but I added them to this area to combine with the other small spring bulbs. They have beautiful purple blue flowers with five petals that face upwards to make a showy display. The inner base of each flower lightens to almost white, while there is a line of deeply saturated colour down the centre of each petal. The petal tips curl back slightly.

Chionodoxa forbesii and 'Alba'

Chionodoxa forbesii and ‘Alba’

I especially like the way the white Chionodoxa mix with the more colourful Chionodoxa to highlight the pretty colour. They are like twinkling lights against the remains of the fall leaves.

Chionodoxa 'Alba' white flower bulbs

Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ white flower bulbs

Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’ are an all white version of glory of the snow. The light colour shows up extra well in the shadowy areas. This group of ‘Alba’ are growing on the other side of the willow next to some Puschkinia (striped squills) bulbs and pair well with the blue and white striped flowers.

Chionodoxa 'Alba' white flowers

Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ white flowers

These ‘Alba’ are in front of a Dryopteris fern that is mostly evergreen. You can see one of the fronds from last year at the top of the photo. Chionodoxa work well informally under the deciduous trees, mixed with ferns and tree detritus. As the ferns grow, the green strap-like foliage of the Chionodoxa will be covered up, so it won’t be so noticeable as it dies back for the summer.

spring bulbs Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica growing through fall leaves

spring bulbs Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica growing through fall leaves

Chionodoxa mix beautifully with the related Scilla that at the top of the picture. The colourful Chionodoxa used to be my favourite, but now I appreciate having some white ones mixed with them. You can see how the white ones add a little sparkle to brighten up the display. They catch your eye more and set off the pretty colour of the purplish blue Chionodoxa.

blue Scilla siberica with Chionodoxa forbesii and 'Alba' in front

blue Scilla siberica with Chionodoxa forbesii and ‘Alba’ in front

The Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’ (squills) at the top of this picture have a true blue colour. The Scilla flowers have a darker line running down the middle of each petal. The squill flowers face downwards, and because of this they are less noticeable than the Chionodoxa, but they make up for that with their wonderful colour.

Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica flowers

Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica flowers

This photo shows the difference in flower habits, with the Chionodoxa blooms at the front pointing upwards, and the Scilla at the back facing downwards.

Chionodoxa in purple and white

Chionodoxa in purple and white

Here are the glory of the snow bulbs mixing it up in the leaves under the trees. On their own the Chionodoxa seem blue, but planted next to the real blue squills they appear purple.

glory of the snow and squill flowers

glory of the snow and squill flowers

This closeup of the two colours of starry Chionodoxa flowers twinkling together.

spring bulbs in dappled light under tree

spring bulbs in dappled light under tree

These bulbs are planted under a willow tree, so the plants get a medium amount of light in spring before the tree fully leafs out. Even so, you can see that the branches cast dappled light on the bulbs, which handle the part shade just fine.

blue white and purple spring bulbs

blue white and purple spring bulbs

I’m glad I mixed the Chionodoxa colours next to each other to enliven the display. Along with the blue Scilla siberica, they make a nice trio.