Northern Shade Gardening

Philadelphus for Pretty White Blooms

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 Category: Trees and Shrubs
Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) lots of flowers

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) lots of flowers

Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ (Blizzard mockorange) makes a wonderful hardy shrub for part shade in a cold climate. They have pretty white blossoms and a wonderful fragrance. My Philadelphus has been a reliable bloomer, even after cold winters and spring frosts.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) white buds

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) white buds

This Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ (Blizzard mockorange) is an especially hardy version of mock orange that grows well in a northern garden. Even after a cold zone 3 winter, the shrub is full of these pretty white blooms. I thought that I might not get flowers this year, since we had a number of late spring frosts, but the blizzard mockorange has excelled itself with an abundance of these pretty blossoms. This has been a very reliable bloomer for me.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) with Campanula

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) with Campanula

This closeup shows how many gorgeous flowers there are on the end of each Philadelphus stem. Behind there are flashes of blue peeking through from the Campanula poscharskyana (Serbian bellflower) and a frond of Osmunda regalis (royal fern).

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) pretty blooms

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) pretty blooms

In the above photo you can see the pure white petals with the golden centres. The mockorange blooms come after the spring flowering shrubs, but before the Hydrangea. In my zone 3 garden that is at the end of June, beginning of July. They are a good choice if you are looking for an early summer flowering shrub.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) branching structure

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) branching structure

My Blizzard mockorange is about over a metre tall (4 feet) and 1.5 metres (5 feet) wide. It might grow a bit more still, but this shrub maintains a compact size. The branches of Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ have a very nice red colour, that remains attractive after the leaves have fallen off the shrub in fall. The branching pattern of  ‘Blizzard’ is more elegant than my Philadelphus virginalis (basic mockorange). It has a number of shorter branches, with the smaller branches coming off at right angles opposite to each other, whereas the Philadelphus virginalis tends to have a smaller number of very long branches, in a looser shape, that come off at awkward angles, looking ungainly.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) blooms closeup

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) blooms closeup

Almost every branch end has a set of pretty white flowers. This shrub has a multitude of blooms, even in part shade. This garden bed gets about 2 hours of sun a day, and some dappled light as the trees sway overhead. I’ve been very pleased with its performance here.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) branch patio

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) branch patio

The flowers of Blizzard mockorange has a faint scent that is beautiful, but it is not strong enough to perfume  a large area of the garden. The fragrance is not quite as powerful as other Philadelphus. You have to bend over and sniff the blossoms to enjoy the sweet smell. The shrub is planted right next to my patio by my back door, so it is easy to enjoy the flowers and scent up close.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) shrub

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) shrub

Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ is a prolific bloomer, with beautiful white flowers, even after extra cold weather. With its attractive branching pattern, and overall shape, it looks good, even when not in bloom. I can recommend this for a zone 3 garden, if you are looking for a compact, early summer flowering shrub. In the photo below, you can see how Blizzard looks as the buds are just opening.

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) lots of blooms

Philadelphus lewisii 'Blizzard' (mockorange) lots of blooms

You can read more information about this mockorange shrub in this post.

Conifers Keep Winter Green

Saturday, December 27, 2008 Category: Garden Design,Trees and Shrubs
frontyard conifers

front yard conifers

When winter snow lasts for half of the year, conifers are a remembrance that the white doesn’t last forever, and that buried underneath there are dormant green plants that will emerge eventually. Without the conifers, winter would be a vista of twigs and houses. I enjoy walking down the street and admiring the pretty sight of snowy evergreen branches on front lawns. They create a verdant background all year, provide privacy, and are an excellent habitat for birds.

Here are my large spruce trees, filling most of the front yard with green boughs. My spruce wear their branches right down to the ground, which makes a natural and full silhouette. The grass doesn’t grow underneath them, but the snowy boughs look much better in the winter than snow-covered grass. Natural spruce trees, with all of their branches, make a very tall groundcover.

These trees tower over the house. From a landscaping point of view, they are out of scale, and obscure the view of the house. However, from a forest lover’s point of view, I enjoy the woodsy atmosphere in the middle of the suburbs. I am thankful the previous owner had the foresight to plant trees for the future.

Picea closeup

Picea closeup

When I look out my front windows I can imagine that I live in an evergreen forest. I can watch the birds on the branches, blue jays scolding, or chickadees chattering and flitting from branch to branch. In the fall, the squirrels are very busy storing away the spruce cones. One squirrel made a precariously balanced pile of cones under the willow in the backyard. I’m not sure why he bothered running back and forth to the backyard, instead of just storing them conveniently under the curtained safety of the spruce  tree.

The spruce produce numerous cones at their top, which scatter around the tree on  windy days. I gather the cones and use them to mulch a hidden area to the east side of the house, about 6 m (20 ft) long and 1 m (3 ft) wide. Perhaps the squirrel has admired my large stash of cones. Maybe he’s even raided it for his own supply. The spruce and pine needles fall onto a narrow sidewalk that leads to my backyard. I often sweep the needles off the walk into the adjacent north facing garden area, making a natural and easy woodland mulch for the front bed.

Pinus mugo (mugho pine)

Pinus mugo (mugho pine)

There is the base of an overgrown Pinus mugo (mugho pine) in my front yard. It is taller than the house, and forms a green curtain between the street and my front window, blocking noise, attracting birds, and presenting another forest view. The mugho pine has a tangle of lower branches, and long, soft needles. The dwarf mugho pines, that have been kept small by breaking the outer third of their new candles, look neat and cute in a garden bed, like small green statues. This older, taller Pinus mugo has not had its candles cut back,  and the inside lower trunks make a forest of their own. The curved multiple trunks arising from the base form a living woodland sculpture.

While the front of the pine has a wall of green needles, the lower needles at the back are mostly gone in this shady spot, making for easier viewing from the house of the birds, which like to flit about on the protected branches. There are small middens of cone scales under the tree. The branches make a comfortable place for an animal to break open cones to get at the seeds, and the scales fall in small piles beneath.

Pine branch

Pine branch

A tall straight pine grows in the corner of my backyard. Its branches are lacy, casting a partial shadow on the plants below. The long needles are attractive. This evergreen gives me something green and beautiful to view, when I look out on the bleakest winter days. The pine also gives some privacy, when all of the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves to survive the winter. Sometimes in summer, a robin likes to perch on the topmost branch, proclaiming its territory from the tallest point around.

Taxus media hicksii (yew)

Taxus media hicksii (yew)

This upright evergreen is Taxus media ‘Hiksii’, one of the many small yews in the garden. In summer, they practically disappear in the garden, serving more as a green backdrop. However in winter, they are the little green jewels, rising above the snow. While the yews are tolerant of shade, the ones in deeper shade are about half the size of the ones in medium shade.

Taxus media 'Nigra' (nigra spreading yew)

Taxus media ‘Nigra’

I also have some Taxus media ‘Nigra’, which are a darker green yew, and a bit more spreading than upright. The soft needles are particularly attractive. There is less browning and die back on the yews over the winter than on junipers. The yews also fill in their bare patches, maintaining a more attractive shape. Taxus media are a good yew for zone 3, since some other yews are borderline or not hardy here.

I love my conifers. They bring wildlife, privacy and beauty to the garden year round. I most appreciate conifers in the winter garden, when the colour green is rare, and especially treasured.

Elegant White Summer Flowers

Saturday, August 16, 2008 Category: Perennials,Trees and Shrubs
Phlox paniculata 'David' (David garden phlox)

Phlox paniculata

Bright, clean white is an elegant flower colour for the late summer garden. The 3 brightest whites in my garden right now are Phlox paniculata ‘David’ (garden phlox), Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (PG Hydrangea),  and Impatiens walleriana ‘Fiesta White’ (double impatiens). White flowers look cool and refreshing, like a crisp, white cotton shirt.

Phlox paniculata is a stately perennial for the summer and fall garden. It can form good sized clumps, that stand out in a flower bed. Mine are 1m to 1.3m tall (3ft to 4ft). Despite their height, they don’t need staking, although a fierce storm can test their sturdiness. The large beautiful blooms are  long lasting. I cut the flowers as they fade, to keep the plant blooming. They are a classic for the summer garden, and combine well with just about any other perennial around them.

This one is flowering in part-shade. Its partner across the yard is in medium shade and has not started blooming yet. They flower better without too much shade, but tolerate part-shade well.

Hydrangea paniculata "Grandiflora' (PG hydrangea)

Hydrangea paniculata

I used to have different varieties of P. paniculata in a previous garden, and was fortunate not to have much powdery mildew. However if it’s a problem, the variety ‘David’ is especially known for its resistance to powdery mildew.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (PG hydrangea) is another prominent bloomer this month. I compared it to  some other hydrangea in another post. The last time I posted about it, the flowers were only partially out. This photo shows how the white panicles are more striking now that they’ve had time to open. It’s an outstanding shrub for part-shade. This PG is on the north side of a fence.  I’m very pleased with the number of blooms this shrub has, for being in a mostly shady site.  A smaller PG hydrangea, located in deeper shade under a willow tree, is not producing blooms the same way.

Like the Phlox, the large hydrangea blooms are long-lasting. It’s always satisfying when a gorgeous flower blooms for an extended time. In the late fall, the panicles still add interest as they fade to brown. Early next spring I’ll snip off the old flowers.

Here’s a much smaller white bloom. This double flowering impatiens is ‘Fiesta White’. Up close, they sometimes have the faintest, pale pink tinge. These small plants are covered in the pretty blossoms. The flowers give the appearance of miniature rose blooms with a multitude of petals. Impatiens don’t need deadheading to keep them flowering. The old blooms fall off, and a steady supply of new buds replace them.

They are satisfied growing in medium shade, where the soil stays moister. Deep shade cuts into the bloom count.

Impatiens are like an annual in zone 3. They can only be placed outside after the last frosts, and will finish quickly after the first frosts in September or October, but until then they’ll brighten the shade. Yesterday there was a full moon. As I looked out the window late at night, these flowers were visible, twinkling in the moonlight.

Impatiens walleriana 'Fiesta White'

Impatiens walleriana

Here is apost I wrote before, about some white flowering plants in the spring.

Do you grow any stalwarts like hydrangea or phlox, that you can depend on to put on a good display?