Northern Shade Gardening

Philadelphus Lewisii Blizzard

Monday, July 5, 2010 Category: Trees and Shrubs

Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ (Blizzard mockorange) is a compact and hardy shrub that blooms reliably in part shade and a cold climate. It produces loads of pretty flowers every year, with a delicious scent. ‘Blizzard’ is my favourite shrub for the shade in a northern climate.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange flowers

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange flowers

‘Blizzard’ is a more dwarf shrub than the standard mockorange, with a better shape. Philadelphus virginalis (mockorange) can have a rangy habit, with long branches sticking out at angles. However, Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ has more of a rounded shape, with a compact form and good branching. This makes for an attractive looking shrub, even when it is not blooming. The smaller size, about 1.2 m (4 feet) tall and wide, makes it easy to fit into a mixed garden bed.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange flower closeup

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange flower closeup

However, ‘Blizzard’ mockorange really earns its space in the garden in early summer when the snowy flowers cover it. The pure white blossoms are gorgeous, with four simple petals, and a cluster of golden anthers in the middle. ‘Blizzard’ has been a very reliable bloomer for me. This hardy shrub flowers every year, even after a cold winter, or late spring frosts and snow.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange white flowers

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange white flowers

In the photo above, you can see how the mockorange flowers are clustered at the end of every small lateral branch.  The shrub is bejewelled with the beautiful blooms, for almost three weeks.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange flower cluster

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange flower cluster

The mockorange scent is wonderful, and one shrub manages to perfume my patio when all of the blooms are fully open. The fragrance is the icing on the cake for the pretty blooms. My Philadelphus flowers from the end of June to the middle of July in zone 3. The lilacs have finished by then, so this is  a good successive shrub for delightful garden scent.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange shrub overall

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' mockorange shrub overall

This is one of the few northern shrubs that you can depend on to give a good flower display in the shade. Mine is sited to get some early morning sun for less than a couple of hours, yet it puts out a full set of blooms.

I highly recommend Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ for its reliable blooming in a northern climate, shade tolerance, attractive shape and lovely fragrance. You can read more information and see more photos about this mockorange in this post from last year.

Syringa Vulgaris Wedgewood Blue

Monday, June 21, 2010 Category: Trees and Shrubs

Syringa vulgaris ‘Wedgewood Blue’ (wedgewood blue lilac) is a more compact lilac with full sized flowers. This dwarf shrubs fits well into a smaller garden, but still gives the traditional showy flowers. Because of the shape, it is easy to plant bulbs and perennials underneath to get colour for the whole season. The fragrance of the flowers is wonderful.

If you’re viewing at a smaller resolution, the photo overflow is hidden, and you have to click the pictures to see the full photo.

Syringa vulgaris 'Wedgewood Blue' flower clusters

Syringa vulgaris 'Wedgewood Blue' flower clusters

The flowers of  ‘Wedgewood Blue’ are a lavender blue colour when they mature, while the buds start off as a more traditional purple lilac colour, like the second photo. The blooms are a pretty colour, and coordinate easily with many of the colours in my June garden here in zone 3. The panicles are 20 cm (8 in) long, not the smaller flowers you sometimes find on dwarf lilacs, and the individual petals are wide, not narrow like some dwarf flowers. With the full size, and packed with petals, the blooms are very showy, many of the them hanging in pairs. These flowers give lots of  colour and scent for a small shrub. Last year mine flowered for 3 weeks, but it has been blooming for over 4 weeks this year with our cool, late spring.

Syringa vulgaris Wedgewood Blue lilac buds

Syringa vulgaris Wedgewood Blue lilac buds

Of course lilacs not only delight with their pretty blooms, but they fill the senses with their wonderful fragrance. The scent of this lilac is fabulous, and since the flowers are all at nose height, it is very easy to enjoy the wonderful perfume, without being on tiptoe. I circulate to this part of the garden everyday while the shrub is in bloom to breathe deeply of the delicious fragrance.

My compact shrub is about 2 metres tall (6 feet) tall and wide. It has a natural vase shape, which is very attractive. The base is narrow, so there is lots of room for underplanting the smaller lilac with bulbs and perennials in a mixed border. I’ve underplanted my ‘Wedgewood Blue’ with crocus for spring and hardy blue geraniums for summer and fall, so there are blooms from when the snow melts until the first Fall frosts, with few gaps.

Crocus under lilac shrub

Crocus under lilac shrub

The bare lilac branches in the pictures above are from April, when the crocus planted under the shrub flowered. The Crocus chrysanthus (snow crocus) on the bottom half of the photo above are the earliest flowers in my garden. They are followed by the Crocus vernus (large Dutch crocus), which are shown on the top half. As the crocus leaves fade away, the hardy blue Geraniums (cranesbills) grow to cover the bulb leaves.

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' under lilac

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' under lilac

The Geraniums bloom after ‘Wedgewood Blue’ is finished, so they continue the flower show. These Geraniums are just developing buds now,  so the picture above is from last year. The first Geraniums to bloom are the ‘Johnson’s Blue’, followed quickly by ‘Rozanne’. The Geranium ‘Rozanne’ bloom all the way to frost. There are a few Campanula (bellflowers) at the front of the bed, too.

Syringa vulgaris 'Wedgewood Blue' lilac double flower

Syringa vulgaris 'Wedgewood Blue' lilac double flower

My ‘Wedgewood Blue’  lilac gets one of the sunnier areas of the garden. a part shade site, but more sun than shade, and the shrub seems to do well. It used to be more shaded from an overgrown Viburnum that I had to remove last year, and it is blooming better than ever now.

Syringa vulgaris 'Wedgewood Blue' lilac closeup

Syringa vulgaris 'Wedgewood Blue' lilac closeup

I highly recommend Syringa vulgaris ‘Wedgewood Blue’, if you are looking for a smaller lilac to fit into your mixed borders, but still want the full lilac flower effect on a dwarf shrub.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

Monday, August 10, 2009 Category: Trees and Shrubs

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is not what you would call a demure shrub. This Hydrangea is not a shy and retiring woodland plant. It is an exuberant cheerleader in the garden, with large pompoms.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' flower closeup

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' flower closeup

This flower cluster is 20 cm (8 inches) across.  For such small shrubs, they usually  produce a large number of these jumbo sized blooms. Typically, an Annabelle hydrangea is covered in these large white flowers.

My shrub is in a very shady area of the garden, so it doesn’t get as many blooms. It is on the northern side of my house, and gets about an hour or less of direct sunlight a day. This seems to be enough to produce about five large pompoms at this point. Although Annabelle can take shade, this might be too shady of a location. I’ve only had this one for two years, so it might get more flowers as it matures, or it could be that this Annabelle is just blooming the best it can with the small amount of sunlight I give it.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' flowers

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' flowers

As the green buds open, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ produces these showy, white flower heads. The flowers last for over a month in summer, and then gradually fade to tan in fall.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' shrub

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' shrub

Here are the five blooms on my 60 cm by 60 cm (2 ft by 2 ft) Annabelle shrub. :) You can see that some of the blooms are still green, and the buds have just started opening.   I could move the shrub to a brighter part shade location, but I think I’ll leave Annabelle here for now, and see how it blooms as it matures. After all, it would only take another five of those giant bloom clusters, fully open, to cover this shrub.

This Annabelle hydrangea is planted in the garden next to my front steps. Every time I come home in August, it waves its pompoms and cheers:  “Give me an ‘N’  —  ‘ N’. Give me an ‘O’  —  ‘ O’. Give me an ‘R’  —  ‘R’. … Yeaaaaaah, Northern.” You have to admire such an enthusiastic shrub, even if it doesn’t have its full compliment of pompoms.