Northern Shade Gardening

Crocus Flowering in the Lawn

Saturday, May 11, 2013 Category: Bulbs
crocus bulbs planted in lawn

crocus bulbs planted in lawn

After a long winter,  pretty flowers are  popping up where I planted the Crocus corms in the lawn last fall. The early crocus look even better than I anticipated. The bright petals add beautiful colour to the dull, brown grass. While most of the yard still wears neutral winter colours, the vivid crocus patch is a refreshing start to the garden. I’m very happy with the bright effect, which makes me smile every time I look out the window.

Crocus chysanthus flowers in lawn

Crocus chysanthus flowers in lawn

Most of these crocus are very early blooming, so the foliage should get enough energy to replenish the plants and die back naturally before the lawn needs cutting. As you can see in the photos, the lawn hasn’t even greened up yet. The Crocus chrysanthus and Crocus sieberii are the first to bloom in my garden, while Crocus x tommasinianus ‘Yalta’ flowers later. If ‘Yalta’ takes too long to die back,  since there is only a small patch in the lawn, I might move them into the garden where they can flower next year with the later blooming C. vernus.

crocus bulbs in lawn with petals folded

crocus bulbs in lawn with petals folded

Even when the petals are folded up in the early morning or on a cold day, the flowering crocus are still decorative with the patterns on the outside of their petals even more visible. Since there were still freezing temperatures and the odd snowflake a week ago, they folded up and waited for warmer times.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance' planted in lawn

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ planted in lawn

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ is a particularly attractive yellow crocus. The soft yellow petals alternate with ones that have a slightly  silvery sheen. The subtle variations are a nice effect, and this is now my favourite yellow crocus. These are larger than Crocus ‘Cream Beauty’, so they make a better show. ‘Romance’ is extra early, and after 7 months of snow early flowering is a very desirable trait. I highly recommend these if you are looking for an early yellow crocus.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance'  soft yellow

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Romance’ soft yellow

‘Romance’ have their petals mostly folded up in this picture, showing off the alternating darker and lighter petals, and the almost silver gray tone to the lighter ones. With the flower petals upright, they look as if they were carved out of butter for a table centrepiece.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus'  with Crocus 'Romance' behind

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ with Crocus ‘Romance’ behind

Here are the purple and white Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ flowering in front of ‘Romance’. These charming bulbs really glow in the sunshine. The crocus get a sunnier spot in my lawn and in the garden, as they don’t appreciate the shade and don’t open much in the shadowy areas.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' bulb flowers from above

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ bulb flowers from above

Looking down from above, Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ have mostly white petals, but the few flowers with closed petals show the purple design on the outside.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' white petals with purple outside

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ white petals with purple outside

When ‘Prins Claus are fully open they appear mostly white. With that hint of purple, these bulbs pair up well with other purple crocus, or give a hint of contrast next to yellow crocus.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' petals closed

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ petals closed

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' petals folded showing purple patches

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ petals folded showing purple patches

The dark purple patch of colour on the outside of each petal of  ‘Prins Claus’ is mostly noticeable when the petals are folded up first thing in the morning. The warmth and sunlight later on coax them to open fully.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' with Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'  behind

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ with Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ behind

Here are some ‘Prins Claus’ flowering in front of the purple and yellow Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’. You can see the silver stripes down the centre of each crocus  leaf in this picture. Although those beautiful flowers get all of the attention, the grass like foliage with the zippy silver stripes is attractive, too.

 

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' flowers mauve and gold

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ flowers mauve and gold

Crocus sieberi subsp sublimus ‘Tricolor’ have an especially appealing colour combination. Don’t tell the other crocus, but these are my favourite of the new crocus bulbs I tried this year. The combination of a medium purple colour with the yellow ring really catches your eye, and the white band between them makes the colours stand out.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' flowers folded up

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ flowers folded up

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' with petals folded

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ with petals folded

Even when the  ‘Tricolor’ flowers are folded up, they are charming with their colourfully banded popsicle appearance. Here you can see how the colours really pop out with the transition between purple tops and yellow bottoms on each petal. ‘Tricolor’ has the prettiest folded colour of all of my crocus. The bulbs look especially lively against the background of the dreary grass that hasn’t come out of dormancy yet.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' flowers from above

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ flowers from above

This shot shows the cheery colour of ‘Tricolor’ flowers when they are open. The purple colour on each ‘Tricolor’ petal intensifies at the edges. The bulbs bloom at the same time as ‘Romance’ and look good contrasting with the butter yellow Crocus ‘Romance’.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' flowers

Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ flowers

Here’s another group of ‘Tricolor’ in the grass, showing the yellow bee in the middle, and the white separation. I highly recommend these bulbs for an early pop of colour.

Crocus 'Yalta' flowering in lawn

Crocus ‘Yalta’ flowering in lawn

Crocus x tommasinianus ‘Yalta’ is the largest of the crocus in the lawn, and the last to bloom. Their two toned purple colour combination is very attractive. The petals have a longer and narrower shape than the other crocus. They are a cross between the large C. vernus and C. tommasinianus, so they bloom later and larger than the C. chrysanthus.

Crocus 'Yalta' bulb flower in lawn

Crocus ‘Yalta’ bulb flower in lawn

This photo shows off the alternating dark purple and light silvery purple petals of ‘Yalta’, which are very appealing. This is another standout, and my second favourite purple crocus after ‘tricolor’.

Crocus 'Yalta' in lawn

Crocus ‘Yalta’ in lawn

I didn’t plant as many of the ‘Yalta’ in the lawn, as I only found a smaller number of the bulbs. Aren’t those alternating dark and light petals good looking? Whether closed or open, the blooms are still beautiful. I’m going to plant more of them in my garden with the larger crocus next year, if I can find them in the fall.

white crocus flowers planted in lawn

white crocus flowers planted in lawn

These mislabelled white crocus are pretty, despite the fact that they were supposed to be Crocus ‘Spring Beauty’, which are a dark and light purple colour. There is no trace of purple on them, but they still look good in the lawn. I’m going to look for ‘Spring Beauty’ again next fall, as I was looking forward to them.

mislabelled white and yellow crocus in lawn

mislabelled white and yellow crocus in lawn

This combination of two mislabelled bulbs turned out quite pretty together. The smaller yellow ones were supposed to be ‘Gipsy Girl’, which are yellow with small maroon purple stripes on the outside , but there is no hint of stripe and they look more like ‘Cream Beauty’. They are short and sit quite close to the grass, barely showing any  leaves.

crocus planted in lawn

crocus planted in lawn

Here’s another view of part of the bulb lawn. The whole crocus planting is about a 2 m (6 ft) by 3 m (9 ft) oval. It turned out so good, I’m going to expand it next fall with more of the early crocus. They are such a respite from the dullness of the dormant grass, old leaves, and maple keys in the lawn, and were the first flowers this year. It was easy to plant them, as I just dug up  30 cm by 30 cm (1 square foot) patches adjacent to each other in the lawn, put a group of 20 or so bulbs in, and put the sod back over top.  You can see photos and read more about planting the crocus in the lawn last fall.

crocus flowers blooming in lawn

crocus flowers blooming in lawn

Despite the fact that these crocus are flowering in May in my yard, these are actually early crocus. It’s just that we had an extra long winter this year, which makes them an even more welcome sight. After many months of snow, there’s nothing like a yard full of flowering crocus to cheer you up and get the gardening season off to a good start. The bees appreciate the early flowers, too, and these have been buzzing with visitors.

 

Heuchera and Tiarella Books

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 Category: Gardening Books
garden bookshelf with Heuchera books

garden bookshelf with Heuchera books

These two great book are packed with useful information about Heuchera (coral bells), Tiarella (foamflower) and their cross, Heucherella (foamy bells).  I’ve had the books for a couple of years on the shelf with some of my favourite gardening books, as they are very handy. Since two of the major North American Heuchera breeders and introducers have written them, there is a wealth of helpful tips, and you get some of the inside story on what goes into breeding them. The perennials have exceptional foliage for the shade, and many combine this with attractive flowers, too, so its helpful to have such detailed references for them.

Heucheras and Heucherellas:  Coral Bells and Foamy Bells

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book

Heucheras and Heucherellas: Coral Bells and Foamy Bells is written by Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries and Graham Ware. The book was was published by Timber Press in 2005, ISBN 0-88192-702-3.

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book back

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book back

The picture of the back cover shows the incredible variety in foliage colours and shapes that Heuchera and Heucherella have. The book has extensive photographs by Dan Heims himself, showing details of the flowers and leaves. There is an overview of the species and their traits, with a much more detailed and alphabetized list of Heuchera cultivars and Heucherella, including a discussion of their features. The alphabetical listing makes a very convenient reference if you want to look up a name that is new to you or that you saw in a garden centre. There is a history of the various breeders of these perennials and the contributions they have made. For gardeners, there is a section on how to look after these plants, and advice about propagation by seed and cuttings. Since Heuchera cultivars come in a vast array of leaf colour combinations, the section on how to combine them with other bronze, silver or yellow plants is very useful. When I plant new garden combinations, it’s helpful to pick up colour echos from the surrounding perennials. There are other practical sections, too, such as tips for cut flower arranging of Heuchera and combinations to plant in pots.

Heucherella photos from Heucheras and Heucherellas by Dan Heims

Heucherella photos from Heucheras and Heucherellas by Dan Heims

Here’s a photo from Dan Heims’ book of my favourite Heucherella, but as you will see in the very last picture, the ‘Dayglow Pink’ in my garden don’t get quite as many flowers in their very shady location. There are 56 pages of coloured photos at the beginning of his book, so you can compare the more bold as well as subtle differences in flowers and leaves.

Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella A Gardener’s Guide

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver book cover

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver book cover

The second book, Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella: A gardener’s guide, is written by Charles and Martha Oliver of The Primrose Path. It was published by Batsford in 2006, ISBN-10: 0713490098. As the title indicates, this book also includes a discussion of the related Tiarella.

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver back cover

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver back cover

Since the Olivers are breeders of Heuchera and Tiarella, there is  extensive information about the different species, including the size, colour and shape of the flowers and leaves, as well as plant form. They discuss how these qualities are chosen and contribute to garden hybrids. The original habitat of native species gives clues about how hardy various hybrids will be, and how much shade or sun they will tolerate. It’s interesting to read about the history of the breeding lines they’ve used and resulting crosses. There is a discussion of the various cultivars, arranged by leaf colour and sports. This is handy if you are searching for a particular colour of Heuchera for your garden. They also give recommendations for particular garden sites such as woodland or rock garden, including sample planting maps. There are lots of coloured photos throughout the book of the plants growing in gardens, as well as sketches of leaf and flower forms.

tissue culture from Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by the Olivers

tissue culture from Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by the Olivers

I was particularly interested to read in the Olivers’ book about how tissue culture works, since so many plants are propagated this way now. For this process they use small pieces of axillary buds in sterile nutrient medium and they even give the basic recipe and steps, not that I’m ready to set up a micropropagation lab.

There are a few drawbacks to both volumes. Since they were published in 2005 and 2006, neither of these books discuss the very newest cultivars that have been bred in the last 7 years. It would be great if there was an updated version of each. Also, because some newer Heuchera are more tolerant of heat and sun, it’s important to know the cultivars’ requirements before choosing one for your gardening zone or a specific light exposure in your garden. Neither of them necessarily gives those details, other than for the species. Despite these minor points, they are still very informative books that make them an enjoyable read.

If you are growing these perennials, or are interested in finding out more about them, I’d recommend either book as a handy garden reference, an interesting plant history, and an inside look at their breeding. Both are very useful if you are interested in a comparison of the species, details of cultivars, tips for their care, and instructions for propagation.

Heucherella 'Dayglow Pink' in my garden

Heucherella ‘Dayglow Pink’ in my garden

In the photo above you can see the dark pink Heucherella ‘Dayglow Pink’ growing in my garden next to some Tiarella. Here is a comparison I wrote of the foliage of some of my Heuchera. There are pictures and information about Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’,   ‘Plum Pudding’, and  ‘Green Spice’ in these articles. You can read about  ‘Havana’ and  Peppermint Spice’, as well as ‘Raspberry Ice‘. There’s a comparison of my Tiarella, and there are pictures of my Heucherella in this post.

Do you grow any Heuchera, Tiarella or Heucherella, and if so, which are your favourites?

Merry Christmas Everyone

Saturday, December 22, 2012 Category: General
hippeastrum (amaryllis)

hippeastrum (amaryllis)

Merry Christmas. I hope that everyone is enjoying the season. It is very cold and snowy here, so I look out the window wistfully at the parts of the garden that manage to rise above the snow, and make plans for next year. I’m looking forward to the first spring bulbs, but meanwhile I’ve got a few bulbs growing indoors.

amaryllis bulbs growing

amaryllis bulbs growing

In order to enjoy the scent of soil and the satisfaction of watching something grow, I’ve got some Hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulbs in various stages of growth. It’s such fun to watch their progress, and of course so easy since they don’t require chilling. From the first tiny point of emerging green to the splendid, showy flowers, they are fun to observe. The ones in bloom need staking, even after only one of the flowers fully opens, and the heavy pots help keep the tall, top-heavy flowers stable.

Christmas bears

Christmas bears

Here’s a warm fire to offset the frigid temperatures outdoors. The Christmas bears are warming their toes, after having fun in the snow, but I’ve warned them not to get their paws too close.

Christmas tree ornaments

Christmas tree ornaments

This collage shows some of the ornaments from my tree. I have some birds that I’ve had since I was a child, given to me by my father when I belonged to the young naturalist’s club. I got one per month, and now 40 or so of them nest in my tree. The little presents were ones that I made from homemade wrapping paper, by carving and printing them with ink onto tissue paper. There are more teddies on the tree, and various mini-wreathes and mini-baskets I’ve made and wrapped with ribbons, berries or cones. I made some little cross stitched ornaments, too.

Christmas presents

Christmas presents

I hope that Santa is good to you, and that you have a peaceful holiday. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Northern Shade.