Northern Shade Gardening

Spring Bulbs in Blue and White

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 Category: Bulbs

Now that the crocus are done flowering, it’s time for the blue and white spring bulbs.  My Chionodoxa (glory of the snow), Puschkinia (striped squills), Scilla (squills) and Muscari (grape hyacinths) all bloom after the crocus, and coordinate beautifully together. With the trees leafing out now, there is more shade in the garden, but these bulbs tolerate the lower light conditions, and don’t mind the leaf litter from the trees.

Chionodoxa forbesii blue flower closeup

Chionodoxa forbesii blue flower closeup

Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) are my favourite of the blue spring bulbs. As their common day implies, they don’t mind a little cold and snow, which you are bound to get in Edmonton in the spring.

Chionodoxa forbesii blue flowers

Chionodoxa forbesii blue flowers

Those pretty blue Chionodoxa petals lighten to almost white at their base, and a deeper blue at their tips. The dark blue stripe down the centre of each of the 6 petals make them stand out a little more.

Chionodoxa forbesii blue flowers above leaves

Chionodoxa forbesii blue flowers above leaves

Since they are so tiny, I  like them planted in large groups, especially next to Scilla and Puschkinia, for more of an impact. I can see this group from my kitchen window, and enjoy the pattern of white and blue colours. The slow poke gardener hadn’t removed all of the fall leaf drop when this picture was taken. I usually leave the fall leaves on the garden over winter for a little extra protection against our cold -35°C/-40°C (-31°F/-40°F) winters, and remove it in early spring. However this year in a few garden sections that extended into late spring.

Chionodoxa forbesii glory of the snow blue flowers

Chionodoxa forbesii glory of the snow blue flowers

These bulbs are surrounded by ferns, Hosta, Polygonatum (Solomon’s seal), and Brunnera (Siberian bugloss), which will soon hide the decaying leaves of the bulbs.

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba'closeup

Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’closeup

This white form, Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’, blends well with the blues. The light colour shows up beautifully as this area gets shadier and shadier, and also make the blue flowers pop more.

Chionodoxa luciliae 'Alba'

Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’

These white glory of the snow got a little dirt on their faces when I disturbed the surrounding fall leaves, but they are still a bright spot in the garden.

Muscari azureum grape hyacinth

Muscari azureum grape hyacinth

I haven’t shown these little Muscari azureum (grape hyacinths) much before, although I’ve had them in the garden for quite a while. The larger Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ are more showy, and my favourites, but these have their own charm, too. I don’t have a large enough group of them, and being so petite they really need to be planted in more substantial numbers. I keep meaning to add some more Muscari bulbs to this area in the fall, so I’ll have to make a note for this fall’s bulb planting. They do pretty well considering they are planted at the base of a willow tree, and most plants don’t appreciate that kind of competition.

Muscari azureum showing little grapes

Muscari azureum showing little grapes

When seen closeup, the individual bells of the Muscari remind me of the Puschkinia shown below, with the pale blue petal colour and a dark blue stripe down the centre of each petal section.  However, the grape hyacinths have a little purple shimmer to them. The little Muscari bells open from the bottom up. You can see the closed ones at the top look like the little grapes described in their common name. They really are very small, maybe a centimetre or 2 across (less than an inch), so they don’t show up as much as the Puschkinia. The double  ‘Blue Spike’ grape hyacinths that open later have more of a ‘wow’ factor, but if you are looking for an earlier Muscari, or more natural looking bulbs, then these are a nice choice for their pretty, light blue colour.

Puschkinia libanotica 3 flower spikes

Puschkinia libanotica 3 flower spikes

The Puschkinia scilloides ‘Libanotica’ (striped squills) have no trouble popping up through the leaf litter either. The elongated spears poke a hole where needed, and out they pop, followed quickly by those gorgeous flowers. The many blue striped bells hang down all along the central stalk.

Puschkinia libanotica closeup of white and blue flowers

Puschkinia libanotica closeup of white and blue flowers

In this photo you can see how the striped squills look like expanded versions of the Muscari azuereum.

Puschkinia libanotica pretty blue striped flowers

Puschkinia libanotica pretty blue striped flowers

The Puschkinia get more flowers per square area then any of the other small bulbs, so they make a more noticeable display.

Puschkinia libanotica up through fall leaves

Puschkinia libanotica up through fall leaves

Here’s a clump of Puschkinia, showing how they can make a nice show in larger numbers. With their blue and white colouring, they make a bridge between other blue bulbs.

Scilla siberica small blue flowers

Scilla siberica small blue flowers

These Scilla siberica have the truest blue of all of these bulbs. When viewed closely, the also have the central blue stripe down the centre of each petal, just like the Puschkina and Chionodoxa, to which they are related.

Scilla siberica with pretty blue flowers

Scilla siberica with pretty blue flowers

Usually in the shade the Scilla look a little darker blue than is showing in the photo. They are such hardy bulbs for a northern climate, since they just look after themselves, with no fussing.

Chionodoxa in blue and white

Chionodoxa in blue and white

Here are the 2 different Chionodoxa next to each other, enjoying a little sunshine through the tree branches. The next bulbs up are the double Muscari ‘Blue Spike’, which flower with the tulips. It’s fun to see all of my old favourites have their turn in the garden, before the larger perennials take over. Now is a good time for the smaller bulbs to shine, and not get lost amongst their giant neighbours.

 

Yellow and Gold Crocus

Sunday, May 25, 2014 Category: Bulbs
yellow crocus collage

yellow crocus collage

The crocus are done flowering now, but here are some photos of the yellow and gold ones as they bloomed through May, showing my favourite early, mid-season and late flowering yellow crocus.

Crocus 'Yellow  Mammoth' with golden flowers

Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ with golden flowers

Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ is a very golden coloured crocus. Despite its name, it is about the same size as an average Crocus vernus, but larger than the small Crocus chrysanthus. It is long flowering in my garden, and one I can recommend for its hardiness.

Crocus 'Yellow  Mammoth' with Crocus 'Pickwick' behind

Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ with Crocus ‘Pickwick’ behind

‘Yellow Mammoth’ pairs superbly with purple Crocus, for a contrasting colour scheme. I have them planted next to some solid purple ‘Remembrance’, and the purple striped ‘Pickwick’ and ‘Striped Beauty’.  They all make satisfying combinations, especially the dark purple Remembrance, since it matches the intensity of ‘Yellow Mammoth’.

Crocus 'Yellow  Mammoth' with golden flowers and purple crocus behind

Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ with golden flowers and purple crocus behind

In the photo above you can see how bright ‘Yellow Mammoth’ looks in the garden.

Crocus 'Yellow  Mammoth' in snow

Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ in snow

‘Yellow Mammoth’ withstood the snow earlier in May, and resumed flowering when the sunny weather came back. When you live in a cold climate, you have to love tough little plants like the crocus.

Crocus 'Yellow  Mammoth' showing golden colour

Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ showing golden colour

‘Yellow Mammoth’ is always the last crocus flowering in my garden, so its a good choice if you want to extend crocus time.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance' in sun

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ in sun

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ has a much softer yellow colour than Yellow Mammoth, more like a pale butter colour. I’m going to pair it with the softer purple Crocus ‘Firefly’ next year for a pastel combination. ‘Romance’ is the first crocus to bloom in my garden, along with ‘Prins Claus’.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance' with raindrops

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ with raindrops

Here the  ‘Romance’ buds are closed tight in the rain, while the drops fall harmlessly off the backs of the petals.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance' with other crocus behind

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ with other crocus behind

I have Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ planted in the lawn, next to some deeper purple Crocus sieberi Tricolor’, and the white and purple C. chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’. The combination really brightens up the grass that still had its winter straw colour earlier in May.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance' yellow flowers from above

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ yellow flowers from above

This shot shows the sweet little ‘Romance’ flowers from above. They sit close to the ground, and the little snow crocus flowers are much smaller than Crocus vernus. With a number of blooms per corm, they still make a good display. These are a good choice if you are looking for a softer spring yellow, a more delicate looking flower, or a very early crocus.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus' in sunshine

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ in sunshine

The sunny yellow Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ have maroon coloured stripes down the outside of the petals that give them some extra zip in the garden. They are a very bright golden yellow colour, that look fantastic next to any purple crocus.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'with closed buds showing stripes

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’with closed buds showing stripes

This picture shows the maroon coloured stripes that are most visible when the buds are closed tight.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus' in rain

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ in rain

These Fuscotinctus come up right through the leaf litter, before I could clean it out of the garden beds earlier in the season. In spite of their tiny size, and delicate look, they are very tough and independent, not needing any coddling. That’s one of the reasons I like crocus so much, along with their ability to handle our spring snows.

yellow crocus with purple and white behind

yellow crocus with purple and white behind

Yellow crocus add a little sunshine to the purple and white crocus in the garden. Do you have any favourite yellow crocus?

 

Colouful Purple Crocus

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 Category: Bulbs
Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' with other crocus behind

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ with other crocus behind

The crocus started flowering at the end of April, and have been blooming up to the third week of May. I have  a variety of purple shades, in early and late flowering types, so the waves of colour kept coming all month. Here’s a closer look at their pretty petals.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' with open petals

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ with open petals

This is the mid- flowering Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’.  It starts blooming after the early C. chrysanthus (snow crocus), and is one of the first C. vernus (large Dutch crocus) to bloom. It is especially attractive with the alternating petals of medium purple and silvery grey purple. You can see the silver colour on the outside of every second petal at the top of the photo. There are 3 darker petals slightly closer to the centre, and the larger silvery petals are held farther out.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' with crocus whitewell purple behind

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ with Crocus ‘Whitewell Purple’ behind

When the Vanguard flowers are partially closed, the alternating colour is very noticeable. It makes a nice contrast to the more solid, dark purple of the Crocus tommasinianus ‘Whitewell Purple’ behind. The Crocus vernus are a more substantial looking crocus than the C. tommasinianus. The larger flowers of Vanguard pack in many more petals per square foot and hide most of the foliage. They have darker green foliage, with a very distinct silver line tracing the centre of each leaf.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard'surrounded by crocus

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’surrounded by crocus

This shot of Vanguard shows some of its neighbours. There are some Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ in the upper left corner, and some pure white Crocus chrysanthus ‘Snow Bunting’ to the upper right. Off to the left, but not showing in the photo, are lots of yellow and gold crocus to add some contrasting zip. Since Vanguard blooms mid-season, it overlaps the late and early crocus flowering times, and can pair with any of them.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' purple flowers

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ purple flowers

This one shows the petals towards the end of the flowering period, with some starting to turn papery thin and fold back. The blooms last a couple of weeks before fading away to make room for the perennials growing between.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' purple flowers with yellow behind

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ purple flowers with yellow behind

Here you can see the tightly folded buds at the top left of the photo, showing only the pale colour on the outer 3 petals. The flowers at the bottom are just starting to open and display the 3 deeper colored petals within.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' purple flowers in sun

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ purple flowers in sun

Vanguard flowers have a little extra sparkle in the sunlight, with their silver grey colour. They really draw your eye in the garden.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' in snow

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ in snow

Crocus are great for a northern garden, since they don’t mind a late spring snowfall in May. Most of the petals will fold up when it snows,  so they usually don’t get damaged. When the snow melts, they just open in the sunshine again. The Vanguard have performed well in our cold climate.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' in silver and purple

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ in silver and purple

 

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' in garden

Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ in garden

Here’s a view of the Vanguard crocus from above. The flowers are large enough that the petal tips touch at the edges to make a sheet of pale mauve.

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick' showing purple striped petals

Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ showing purple striped petals

Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ are pretty flashy, too. They get your attentions with their zippy purple racing stripes. The petals are a white to very pale purple, with dark vertical purple stripes flowing up from a deep purple base.  They make a fantastic partner to gold or yellow crocus.

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick' purple with tricolor behind

Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ purple with tricolor behind

These Pickwick are paired with some purple and yellow Crocus sieberi ‘Firefly’ behind, and some yellow Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ to the side.

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick' purple with golden crocus behind

Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ purple with golden crocus behind

Here  are some Pickwick next to a large group of golden Crocus ‘ Yellow Mammoth’. The bright ‘Yellow Mammoth’ make a good contrast to all of the other purple crocus surrounding them.

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick' purple petals with golden crocus behind

Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ purple petals with golden crocus behind

The bare spaces in between the crocus are where the perennials will be popping up soon.  The growing perennial leaves will hide the crocus leaves as they die back. The tree leaves are just starting to come out now towards the end of May, and will soon shade this bed, so most of the perennials planted in this garden site are shade tolerant, but the sun loving crocus perform well with their strategy of grabbing the earliest spring light under the bare trees.

Crocus tommasiniannus 'Whitewell Purple' with Crocus 'Vanguard' behind

Crocus tommasiniannus ‘Whitewell Purple’ with Crocus ‘Vanguard’ behind

Crocus tommasinianus ‘Whitewell Purple’ have smaller flowers than the C. vernus. The picture above shows how the ‘Whitewell Purple’ at the bottom are about half the size of the C. vernus behind. They are an early crocus, like the little snow crocus.

Crocus tommasiniannus 'Whitewell Purple' in sun

Crocus tommasiniannus ‘Whitewell Purple’ in sun

In this closeup shot, you can see that the ‘Whitewell Purple’ are still charming in their own way.  When fully open, they show the contrasting golden anthers and pistil. I haven’t noticed as many bees visiting the crocus this year, but usually they love this mini field of flowers for a nectar source so early in the season.

Crocus tommasiniannus 'Whitewell Purple' in snow

Crocus tommasiniannus ‘Whitewell Purple’ in snow

The crocus were getting a spring snow bath about a third of the way through May, which is typical for Edmonton. I love that you don’t have to wait until the weather warms up to get a flower display. Hardy plants, like crocus, are great for extending the growing season.

Crocus tommasiniannus 'Whitewell Purple' closeup of flower

Crocus tommasiniannus ‘Whitewell Purple’ closeup of flower

Look how pretty the ‘Whitewell Purple’ blossom is, with its 3 smaller inner petals and 3 larger outer petals.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' in snow

Crocus sieberi subsp sublimus ‘Tricolor’ is another stoic bulb. A few of the flowers in the middle are blown open by the snow, but most are closed tight, and will be fine when the sun shines again.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' flowering open and closed

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ flowering open and closed

The eye-popping colour scheme of purple and gold on one flower makes Tricolor a real standout. As you can see at the top of the photo, when closed they look like a rocket, with a gold base, white band, and purple top. When open, they display the same colour scheme inside, with the gold at the very centre, then the white, then the purple reaching to the petal tips. Tricolor is great to combine with both gold and purple crocus, as it knits them together with its two-toned theme.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' end of flowering

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ end of flowering

In the shot above, the Tricolor are starting to fade, and some petals are thinning, as they fold back. These crocus open early, so they combine well with C. chrysanthus, or C. tommasinianus.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' closeup of 2 flowers

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ closeup of 2 flowers

This closeup shows the sunny interior colour. Aren’t they fantastic? These are my favourite of all the purple crocus, along with Vanguard.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' closeup interior

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ closeup interior

Here’s one last look at the inside of a Tricolor bloom. The white band makes the purple and gold pop even more.

Crocus sieberi 'Firefly' open flower

Crocus sieberi ‘Firefly’ open flower

These Crocus sieberi subsp atticus ‘Firefly’ have more delicate looking colour. There is a slightly pinkish tinge to the lavender colour. Like Tricolor, they are fairly early, flowering before the larger C. vernus get going. They have shorter petals, and sit closer to the ground.  The flowers open very quickly once the first green leaves start spiking up from the soil. I hadn’t even removed the fall leaves from this bed, but the little ‘Firefly’ just pushed the leaf blanket up and flowered anyways. I then removed their leaf top hat, and there they were, so pretty and fresh.

Crocus sieberi 'Firefly'closeup of flower

Crocus sieberi ‘Firefly’closeup of flower

This closeup shows the more delicate colour of Firefly. If you’re looking for an early crocus to blend with other early pastel coloured crocus, these work well. I have some soft yellow, Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’, and I’m thinking of pairing these with them.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' with folded petals showing purple

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ with folded petals showing purple

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ are the first crocus up in my garden. The inside of the petals is white, and on the outside is a large purple splotch in the centre of each petal. When they first appear, or on a cloudy day, they seem very purplish. Then when the petals fully open and stretch back, they are mostly white.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' showing purple splotches

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ showing purple splotches

Here are some early crocus in the lawn. The deep purple adds some needed colour to a lawn that still looks like winter. Yes, some dandelions are also trying to colour the grass, but they don’t get the love that the crocus do.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' from above

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ from above

These Prins Claus have opened back, so they appear white from the top. You can just see small flashes of purple now.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' flower bunch

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ flower bunch

You can see some other crocus combinations from last year. Here’s a little crocus bouquet in the lawn. The crocus have faded now, and many other bulbs are blooming, but they are still one of my favourites for braving an Edmonton spring, snow and all.