Northern Shade Gardening

Double Bloodroot for the Shade

Friday, June 6, 2014 Category: Perennials
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex pretty double flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex pretty double flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex (double bloodroot) are fabulous plants for a shady woodland section in your garden. I’m very happy to see this year that the bloodroot is spreading well and putting on a better flower display each season.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex newly emerging bud

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex newly emerging bud

The new flowers rise up straight from the ground in spring, wrapped cozily in a rolled up leaf. As the leaf unwraps, the flower opens fully on the first or second day. You can see the sequence of blooms in the picture above, with a tight bud on the left,  a partially open bud in the middle, and a fully open flower on the right.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot flower closeup

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot flower closeup

Multiplex is the double form of bloodroot. All of the extra petals make for an exquisite flower, packed full of pure white loveliness. The double multiplex form flowers for longer than the single, which can be very brief.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot group

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot group

The double bloodroot flowers resemble a lotus flower or waterlily as they appear to float above the broad leaves.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers

They spread by rhizomes, so if the plants are happy, you can get a nice colony forming.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot

As the Sanguinaria in this site have spread, they have made a much larger flower display each year.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers with blue chionodoxa

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers with blue Chionodoxa

This bloodroot colony is surrounded by Chionodoxa luciliae (glory of the snow). This year the Chionodoxa peaked a little before the Sanguinaria, so there aren’t as many of the pretty blue flowers left to set off the white blooms. I’m thinking of adding some Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ (double grape hyacinths) bulbs to this area in the fall. ‘Blue Spike’ blooms after the Chionodoxa, so if the Chionodoxa are a little early, there will still be some blue flowers surrounding the bloodroot.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot 4 flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot 4 flowers

You can see here how nicely the Chionodoxa at the back pairs with the double bloodroot in front. It just needs a larger blue background to balance it out.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot white flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot white flowers

The flowers have a delicate, exotic appearance, but they are very hardy. They have no problem surviving a zone 3 winter, with temperatures down to -35 °C (-31°F), or sometimes -40° (Celsius and Fahrenheit even out about this temperature). My garden is surrounded by houses in the city, so the site is a little sheltered, rather than open prairie or parkland. These beauties are thriving in Edmonton, even though they are native to the woodlands of Eastern Canada.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex leaves

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex leaves

The foliage grows quickly as the flowers bloom, and soon those substantial leaves are up to 20 cm (7 to 8 inches) across. Their attractive shape is a little different from other shade plants, with their rounded lobes and a deeply wavy margin. In my cooler summer, the thickly textured leaves stay all season, and form a dense mat to make a good groundcover. Those overlapping leaves  can out-compete the maple seedlings that are determined to turn my yard into an all maple forest. There are bare areas around this group right now, as the surrounding ferns, Hosta, Brunnera and Astilbe are just starting to grow, but within a month they will meet the bloodroot leaves to make a tight carpet of foliage here.  The ferns and Astilbe make good companions to bloodroot, since their slower growth ensures they don’t block the view of the pretty white flowers when the bloodroot are in bloom.  As the double bloodroot finish flowering, the Astilbe and ferns grow lacy foliage, to contrast with the thick and solid bloodroot leaves. There is also some Polygonatum (solomon’s seal) to one side that starts blooming as the bloodroot flowers finish.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot 2 flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot 2 flowers

I used to have some Sanguinaria canadensis (single bloodroot) in the same location, but they’ve disappeared over the last few years, while the doubles have settled in and spread. Although the double bloodroot is more beautiful, it’s unfortunate for the pollinators, because the doubles are sterile. Since the single flower form doesn’t seem as hardy in my garden, I don’t think I’ll try replanting it. Sorry bees, I usually try to cater to you.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot large group

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot large group

The double bloodroot must enjoy the location under the trees on the north side of a fence, as they have been spreading beautifully. The site is almost all shade, with a small amount of direct light when the sun is very low in the sky, and a little bit of dappled light. You can see in the pictures that they get a lot of debris from the trees,  such as small branches, twigs, leaves, willow catkins, etc. If you have a willow you know they are always dropping something in the garden. I clean up some of the leaves in the spring, but leave most of the other tree droppings here. The bloodroot seem to flourish in the backyard woodsy setting. I can highly recommend these for a shady zone 3 garden, particularly if you have a site under the trees, with organic, humus rich soil. Their flowering time in spring is brief, but glorious, and then you have  a good looking groundcover for the rest of the season.

 

Hardy Hepatica Nobilis

Sunday, June 1, 2014 Category: Perennials
Hepatica nobilis liverleaf under conifers

Hepatica nobilis liverleaf under conifers

Hepatica nobilis (liverleaf) makes a terrific hardy groundcover for your shady areas. In spring it sends up these bright flowers. As you can see in the photo above, the colours of this blue form can look bluish or purple, but from a distance they appear to be an electric blue. They make an excellent woodland planting and are very hardy in zone 3.

Hepatica nobilis with new leaves

Hepatica nobilis with new leaves

Hepatica can grow in fairly dark shade. Mine are flowering in a garden section that gets only a brief amount of dappled light underneath a pine and spruce on the north side of my house. Despite the shady location, they send up those delightful blue flowers in early to mid-spring that seem to glow above the pine needle debris. I leave the cones and needles where they drop here as a natural mulch, and the Hepatica fit right in, thriving in the suburban forest mulch. The squirrels add to the mulch by perching on branches above and working their way through the cones, dropping scales in middens as they go. The Hepatica rhizomes have been spreading slowly, so they make a better groundcover every year.

Hepatica nobilis blue flower closeup

Hepatica nobilis blue flower closeup

The flowers are about 10 cm (4 in.) tall and about 2 cm (an inch) across. These hardy perennials start blooming before the new leaves emerge, so they can appear to be flowering right from the garden floor.

Hepatica nobilis top of hairy leaves

Hepatica nobilis top of hairy leaves

Some of last year’s leaves have persisted over the winter, but new fresh leaves with 3 lobes start growing as the flower period ends. The Hepatica leaves and stems are very hairy. The new leaf uncurling on the top right shows how fuzzy the backs and stems can be. The fresh leaves are a light, shiny green,  but they’ll eventually darken as they grow larger. Those leaves will meet at the edges and overlap to make a good groundcover as they mature over the next month.

Hepatica nobilis hairy leaf side closeup

Hepatica nobilis hairy leaf side closeup

Check out the hair on these as seen from the side. The underside of the leaves is covered in peach fuzz, as are the downy stems.

Hepatica nobilis collage

Hepatica nobilis collage

The collage above shows how they look for 3 weeks in spring, while the one below shows the good looking foliage they’ll have for the rest of the summer. They are surrounded by Hosta, Brunnera (Siberian bugloss), Athyrium (ferns), Heuchera (coral bells), Tiarella (foamflower), and Aruncus (wild ginger), most of which are still emerging in the garden.

Hepatica nobilis leaf collage

Hepatica nobilis leaf collage

Hepatica nobilis is a charming plant for what could be a challenging garden area.  Those electric blue flowers will glow in the shadowy garden areas, but with their small size and simple petals they blend in with a natural garden area. Then over the summer, their thick, lobed leaves make an attractive groundcover, needing very little care.

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.