Northern Shade Gardening

Transplanting Astilbe

Thursday, July 18, 2013 Category: Perennials

I wrote this article last fall, but then never posted it. The Astilbe are starting to get buds now, so I’ll follow up with some photos of how they look this year once they open fully. Here are a few of the moves I made last year with my Astilbe. Back in early autumn I transplanted a number of them to better positions in the garden. Some needed new sites, because they were being overshadowed by neighbouring plants, and others got new flowering partners. I also added some brand new Astilbe to my garden.

Astilbe japonica 'Europa' being moved

Astilbe japonica ‘Europa’ being moved

The Astilbe japonica ‘Europa’ above is part way through the move, and the rootball is sitting up on the ground. They were getting overshadowed by some ferns and other plants that had grown taller, so the ‘Europa’ were getting almost no sun. Astilbe can handle shade, but too much shade and the blooms dwindle. There were fewer flowers on them last year, and the pink plumes disappeared behind the fern fronds, and couldn’t be seen. I transplanted them to a part shade area that gets more light. The new site will get a few hours of direct sun, and then indirect light for most of the day. In the new location, the pretty ‘Europa’ can be seen better, without the tall ferns in front of them. They also get partnered with some shorter Campanula (bellflowers), so the Astilbe flowers will easily be seen over top of the blue flowers.

Astilbe arendsii 'Diamont' ('Diamond') with white flower plumes

Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamont’ (‘Diamond’) with white flower plumes

The slightly taller Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamont‘ (‘Diamond’), shown in summer, used to be with the ‘Europa, so I dug it up and moved it too. Now it’s next to the ‘Europa’ in the new location and the white flower plumes will show up much better next year. It gets some short blue flowering Campanula companions in front of it, too.

Astilbe 'Younique Silvery Pink' with blue Lobelia

Astilbe ‘Younique Silvery Pink’ with blue Lobelia

Astilbe ‘Verssilvery Pink’ ( ‘Younique Silvery Pink’) was new to my garden last year. They have beautiful shell pink flowers. The colour is very similar to Astilbe japonica ‘Europa’. Earlier in the summer, while they were waiting to get planted, I had them on my patio in their containers just below a pot with light blue lobelia.  The two soft colours of pink and blue looked great together . When it came time to get it in the ground this fall, I put it with some Campanula cochlearifolia and Campanula rotundifolia which have light sky blue flowers, similar in colour to the lobelia. I think the combination will look good when they bloom together next year, with the pink above the blue.

Astilbe 'Younique Silvery Pink' fluffy pink flowers

Astilbe ‘Younique Silvery Pink’ fluffy pink flowers

This picture shows the flowers of Astilbe ‘Younique Silvery Pink’ fully open back in summer. You can see the soft, delicate pink colour, and the numerous blooms, but they were still in their pots and flowering based on previous care. It’s supposed to be a very heavy bloomer, but ‘Younique Silvery Pink’ might not get the same number of blooms once it’s in a shady site in my garden.

Astilbe 'Younique White' and Hosta 'Francee'

Astilbe ‘Younique White’ and Hosta ‘Francee’

Here’s another summer picture. Astilbe ‘Verswhite’ (‘Younique White’ ) has been in my garden for two summers now. This cross between A. arendsii and A. japonica blooms with pretty white flowers. It is part of the same series as ‘Younique Silvery pink’. I only had one plant, and it was in an extra shady site, so I’ve transplanted it next to the new ‘Younique Silvery Pink’, so they’ll flower together at the same time.

‘Younique White’ has bright red stems, that show especially well when the shafts of sunlight filter through the branches. This photo shows the companion plants to ‘Younique White’ in its old spot. There was a Hosta ‘Francee’ to one side, some Brunnera in front, some Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern) behind, and some Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern) to the other side. The sensitive fern is long gone, as it retreats with the slightest hint of cold.

Astilbe 'Younique White' by birdbath

Astilbe ‘Younique White’ by birdbath

This summer view in the other direction showed the birdbath on the other side, short Asarum europaeum (European ginger) in front, more Brunnera after that, and some Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern) behind the birdbath. There are a few of the Hosta ‘Patriot’ leaves showing behind the birdbath. I actually liked the way it looked with the surrounding perennials, but I think it will be more effective as part of the larger group of ‘Younique Silvery Pink’.

Astilbe ‘Mighty Pip’ is another new Astilbe. They are supposed to be one  of the tallest Astilbe, so I planted them where the shorter Astilbe used to be. They should be able to compete with the taller ferns for light. ‘Mighty Pip’ will get darker pink flowers. There are some Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady In Red’ (lady ferns)  in front of them, some Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) to one side, and a Hosta ‘Francee’ to the other side.

Athyrium filix-femina 'Lady in Red' fern with red stalk

Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ fern with red stalk

This photo of Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady In Red’ shows the way that sunlight highlights the fiery stem colour. Even though the ‘Lady In Red’ ferns are getting taller, I want to keep them at the front of the garden, as they have nice red stems that look good against the green fronds. I don’t want to hide the stems behind other plants, because when the sun shines through in the evening at a low angle, I can see them lit up from my kitchen window. That’s why the Astilbe got transplanted instead.

I gave these Astilbe transplants lots of water after moving, and for a few weeks afterwards to help them adjust. A couple started getting crispy leaves as Astilbe will do if they dry out, but they should be fine next year. The only Astilbe that didn’t get moved were my ‘Hennie Graafland’.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the Astilbe look  in their new locations. With their feathery foliage, they look good next to broad leaved plants like Hosta or Brunnera. Then when the soft Astilbe flower plumes appear, I think they should partner well with the blue Campanula.

 

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.

 

 

 

Cornus Canadensis in the Garden and Mountains

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 Category: Perennials

 

Cornus canadensis group with red berries

Cornus canadensis group with red berries

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) is a woodland plant that is native to large parts of Canada. It works as a groundcover under trees in the garden, too. This subtle plant with green leaves perks up with seasonal changes, adding colour to the garden with white flowers in late spring as well as bright red leaves and berries in autumn. This fall, I was hiking in the montane and subalpine areas near Banff, and saw bunchberry plants spread out into the distance as I hiked under the pine and spruce  trees. You can see the wild bunchberry in the picture above. My own bunchberry patch is more modest in scale.

Cornus canadensis on forest floor

Cornus canadensis on forest floor

In my garden the Cornus canadensis is growing under a large spruce tree on the north side of the house, next to a walkway. It makes a very natural looking, easy care groundcover. I’m seeking an appearance that is a combination of forest floor and garden in this bed, so the Cornus canadensis fit in perfectly. I’m aiming for this bunchberry section to look like the photo above from the mountains.

Cornus canadensis flower in in my garden

Cornus canadensis flower in in my garden

The picture of the white bunchberry flower is from my garden in very late spring. I planted my C. canadensis 3 year ago, and they are just filling in now. Since they are a native wildflower,  I expected them to spread a little faster, but I suppose the extra shady site under the conifers and the occasional dryness have slowed them down, or the bunchberry just took a while to settle into the garden. I often see larger patches of it in slightly damper conifer forests, so it might spread faster if I gave it more supplemental water.

Cornus canadensis surrounded by green

Cornus canadensis surrounded by green

The feather mosses are common on the forest floor, and give it a springy surface. I’d love to have more moss growing between the Cornus canadensis in my garden, like the picture above.They are often found in spruce and pine forests, so I thought they would enjoy my mini-forest of spruce and pine.

Cornus canadensis group around logs

Cornus canadensis group around logs

Here is another shot of the typical habitat where you will find bunchberry growing in the wild. There is lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and white spruce in this forest. Sometimes I see bunchberry growing with twinflower or kinnikinnick plants. I purchased mine from a garden centre and planted them 3 years ago  in a group on their own in between some Tiarella and Hosta, but I’ve thought about planting some of those other natives with it.

Cornus canadensis white flower in my garden

Cornus canadensis white flower in my garden

Cornus canadensis gets small white flowers in the late spring. The photo shows the white flowers on my plants back in June. Those 4 decorative, white shapes are the bracts, and the flowers are the little green part in the middle.

Cornus canadensis 2 plants with berries

Cornus canadensis 2 plants with berries

Come autumn, the plants develop cluster of bright red berries. Mine didn’t get the berry clusters like the wild ones in the shot above. Birds and wildlife eat the berries, so either the neighbourhood wildlife got them already, or they never developed.

Cornus canadensis with berries in fall

Cornus canadensis with berries in fall

Looking at this shot from the mountains, I think I need to add some fallen tree logs. I do have a piece of bark that is developing a nice mossy coating on the other side of this bed that I might place in the bunchberry patch.

Cornus canadensis under tree branches

Cornus canadensis under tree branches

The understory in the mountains can be very serene in myriad shades of green, with shafts of sunlight reaching through the tree branches to highlight the little plants of the forest floor. For most of the year Cornus canadensis wears  its green camouflage like the picture above, blending in to the forest floor.

Cornus canadensis bunchberry collage of autumn colour

Cornus canadensis bunchberry collage of autumn colour

Then the bunchberry leaves make a brilliant transformation in the fall, changing to bright shades of red and purple. Mine develop red and burgundy coloured leaves as the cooler weather sets in. The collage above is made with my garden photos from this fall. Before the snow comes, they give one last jolt of colour under the trees.

Cornus canadensis in snow

Cornus canadensis in snow

The colour flashes on the leaves are still visible as the snow settles on them. If you’re searching for a  natural looking groundcover for a shady area, Cornus canadensis is a low maintenance choice.