Shade Monthly
Shade Monthly 2015

Author: Joe Sime

Shade Monthly: August 2015

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We still need more articles. Please don’t be shy. Have you visited an interesting garden or nursery, seen a new-to-you plant or do you have any questions or advice about growing shade plants? Just write it down and send it to, preferably with a couple of pictures.

Plant of the Month: Arisaema candissimum

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Arisaema candissimum

In a normal year this would be a candidate for flower of the month in June, but the cold weather in April, May and June has slowed things down in our garden, and the flowers did not appear until the beginning of July. It is one of the easiest Arisaema to grow, being happy in any shady site that does not dry out in summer or get waterlogged in winter.

In a genus in which the inflorescences are probably best described as slightly sinister, A. candissimum is actually pretty. Also, almost uniquely in the genus, it has a pleasant perfume. There are two forms in cultivation, one with a pure white spathe (hence the specific epithet). The other, more commonly grown form, has a pale pink spathe. Because it is so late to emerge it can be quite frustrating to grow; each year one is left wondering whether it has survived, but in fact it is quite hardy and reliable. The inflorescence can be either male, female or, exceptionally, bisexual. Fruit is quite rare in cultivation, but the plant will eventually form a good sized clump from off-sets. The trifoliate leaves do not emerge until after the flowers, but they make a good, bold impression. If you have not grown Arisaema before it is a good one to start with.

Pots for Shade

The following note from Sue Ferguson reminds us that many shade plants perform very well in pots and can add interest to a shady corner. In fact it is often easier to give East Asian plants the wet summers and dry winters they like in a pot.

I have 2 paved areas behind my house which face North, one by my back door and one in front of patio doors. I like to use pots there and have found that not only are a wide range of plants happy there but also that they need less watering; a real bonus in the normally drier East of England.

By my back door I have a large terracotta animal feed trough which contains epimediums, heuchera and choice primula in the spring. This summer I have added the painted fern, white lobelia and a small stripy grass. In the past I have had white nicotiana which were lovely for a long period and scented at night. I also have a large pot with a small sorbus, largely for foliage and contrast and smaller pots with lilies and a dark leaved begonia.

On the patio area I have lots of pots which contain golden Hakonechloa “Ivy Gold Child”, a hosta (On Stage), Dicentra “Burning Hearts” and a really stunning fern bought at a Hardy Plant talk last year, . A large blue pot has a small blue hosta, Adiantum aleuticum “Miss Sharples” (another favourite fern), an astilbe with handsome foliage (always happier in some shade in my dry garden), Aster divariticus flowing over the edge (an idea pinched from Scampston) and some blue lobelia for long lasting colour.

Ferns I have used in the past include Athyrium “Ghost” and Athyrium otophorum “Okanum” and they make wonderful pot plants, untroubled by slugs and can go in the garden when something more exciting comes along. The pots in front of the house in full sun dry out very quickly although they are colourful but the ones in the shade give me great pleasure and are very little trouble to look after.

Climbers for Shade: Part 2. Evergreen Climbing Hydrangeas

Taxonomists split the genus Hydrangea into two sections: hydrangea and cornidia. Subsection hydrangea has mainly deciduous shrubs (H. anomala the only climber) with thinnish, papery leaves. Subsection cornidia has mainly evergreen climbers with thick, leathery leaves. Most of the hydrangeas in common cultivation come from section hydrangea. The cornidia tend to come from warmer climes in Central and South America. There are three reasonably hardy species which can be grown in the U.K.

The most common species is H. seemanii which comes from the mountains of Mexico. This is a vigorous climber with glossy, dark green, elongated, oval leaves. The fat, rounded flower buds are typical for a member of the cornidia and open to give nice, white, lace-cap flowers.

H. serratifolia is some botanist's idea of a joke. It has completely un-serrate leaves, like those of seemanii. The flower buds are fat and round, but the inflorescence consists only of fertile flowers. What one sees is a powder-puff of white stamens. It comes from the Andes in Chile and Argentina.

H integrifolia is the only member of the cornidia found in Asia, coming from the mountains of Taiwan and the Philippines. It is similar to seemanii, but the inflorescence has fewer, smaller ray florets.

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Hydrangea seemanii flower bud
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Hydrangea seemanii flower

I have had good success with both seemanii and serratifolia. In both cases I have them growing up six foot walls and up the boles of large mature oaks. They flower well on the top of the wall; they are still climbing the trees and not yet flowering. I have not been so successful with H. integrifolia. The plant grew slowly, and was killed by the bad winter of 2010/11.

If you want to cover a north or east facing wall or the bole of a mature tree with an evergreen climber, and are tired of Ivy, then one of the evergreen, climbing hydrangeas may fit the bill.

Seattle Notes: the latest from Walt

After a slow, gentle entry into spring, summer arrived well before its usual time. Lots of jostling of plants vying to bloom at the same time -the lives of honeybees and bumblebees are certainly strained to the utmost right now. Now that the orchard/mason bees have gone back into their mud cells for another year, it's the humble bumblebee that I admire most. Here it's late evening, the honeybees have retreated to their hive and yet bumblebees are still out there probing a myriad of blossoms. I try to provide safe nesting places under rocks for them but am always dismayed when I’m digging or weeding in an relatively undisturbed area and uncover a queen now ousted from her home. I leave the site alone now and hope she finds her way back into the earth.

Some plants outdid themselves this year such as Arisaema taiwanense, Cyathodes colensoi, Epimedium wushanense, Deutzia x hybrida “Mont Rose”, Tiarellas, and Trilliums. My of some 40 years is well over 2 meters tall and benefits from mid-day shade to produce a lovely blossom set. It's just a seedling soft pink but puts out such a flush that foliage is temporarily hidden. Some morning sun and late afternoon sun are enough to help set flower buds. Cool organically rich soil aid its growth as does a vine planted at its base, one Smilax walteri.

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Epimedium wushanense 2721
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Kalmia latifolia 2857
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Smilax walteri 2898

This evergreen, thorny scrambler is still a surprise to others once introduced as a member of the lily family. Small clusters of light yellow flowers appear about the same time but really don’t compete. The triangular leaves have attractive whitish spotting. It's really a curiosity, sometimes known as greenbrier. Mine came as a gift from my friend Dan Hinkley who couldn’t resist the species name connection.

Even if it didn’t bloom, Epimedium wushanense has gloriously large leaves year round that don’t suffer even in harsh winter spells. At 60 cm height, the large pearly white flowers are readily seen without difficulty. Mine is shaded by a Photinia villosa sharing space with Pulmonarias, Hacquetia, , Polystichum scouleri, and . As ground covers here, Blechnum penna-marina and battle it out. As I like both, I sometimes will dig up some of one or the other to give the other some breathing room. These extras get potted up and passed on to past students and friends -that sharing thing again.

Available Seed

If you are a paid up member of the Shade and Woodland Plant Group and would like any of the seeds listed below, please send a SAE to S.J.Sime, Park Cottage, Penley, Wrexham LL13 0LS.
If you have seed to donate, please send it to the same address.

Lonicera setifera

Beesia calthifolia

Mitella makinoi

Epimedium from named seed parents

Cardamine kitabelli

Shade Charade

Guess the species. Two words.

First word, two syllables

  • First syllable: one of Joe Cartwright's Brothers
  • Second syllable: A thank you from Yorkshire?

Second Word, four syllables

  • First two syllables: rich fate?
  • Last two syllables: first part of the old farmer's chorus

The solution to last month's charade was Cortusa matthioli. This is a lovely little plant looking just like a small primula. It comes with either pink or white flowers. It is happy in moist shade. In our experience it is not long lived, but seeds itself around in a civilised manner.

Joe Sime

The HPS Shade and Woodland Plant Group is open to all members of the Hardy Plant Society. Please follow this link for more information.

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