Shade Monthly
Shade Monthly 2015

Author: Joe Sime

Shade Monthly: March 2015

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You will see from the articles below that we have had a good response to my appeal for articles. Please keep it up. If you don’t like writing, but have a photo of a woodland plant you are proud of, then just send this to me and I will look it up and add a few bits of information about it. Please send all material to

Plant of the Month: Chrysosplenium macrophyllum

This is one of a small group of woodland saxifrages coming from moist, shady sites in China. It differs from its cousin C. davidianum in being much bigger and in the colour of the inflorescence which is a pinkish white. In my first two attempts to grow it I failed miserably. It either dried up in the summer or rotted away in the winter. These plants were bought from different nurseries. I was then given a piece from a vigorous clump growing on a moist slope in a friend's garden. This has romped away, being quite happy in our moist woodland. I think there may be more than one clone around in the trade, so if you fail with it the first time, do keep trying. It is definitely worth the effort. It looks more like a bergenia than a saxifrage with broad, fleshy leaves about 6 ins long. Early in the season these have a purplish cast, but turn a rich green for most of the year. It spreads via self-rooting runners, and it is worth giving it the space to form a good colony. The flowers are best described as unusual and appear early in the year. I have not seriously looked for seed as propagation via rooted runners is very easy. It was only introduced to cultivation in the 1980s, but last year's Plant Finder shows 22 suppliers. I think this tells you what a good plant it is.

Preparing for Chelsea

Colin Moat of Pineview Nurseries has sent in the first instalment of a ‘mini-series’ describing the preparation of a group of shade plants for Chelsea.

Chelsea 2015

The Kent group of the HPS has the responsibility of doing the Society's display at Chelsea in 2015, which, as you can imagine, is very exciting and very stressful in equal measure. Whilst the display as a whole is a joint responsibility of the 12 volunteers, we thought that we would give teams the responsibility of areas of the stand. My chosen area was of course the shady one, and our team was named (not by me I hasten to add) ‘the 3 shady ladies and Colin’!

One of the benefits of being involved is that it allows you to go on a plant buying spree. I don’t normally need an excuse, but it provides a reason. I immediately think of heading to Crug Farm Plants, a shade plant Mecca. Unfortunately, the RHS don’t tell you that you definitely have a place at Chelsea (or confirm the size of stand) until October, and Crug Farm closes in September. So what do you do? Well, with a ‘cup half full’ attitude, I went with the ‘car overfull’ option, booked accommodation in Bangor (university) and set off.

Plant shopping should be like food shopping. If you are sensible, you make a list and stick to it. As we know however, nurseries aren’t like supermarkets, and are subject to the vagaries of seasonal variation. The other factor is deciding in September what plants are going to be looking good in May.

Polygonatum vietnamicum BSWJ8366

Polygonatum, Disporum (What's the difference between the two, I hear you cry. Well Polygonatum is single stemmed, and Disporum is branched, he said, showing off.) and Maianthemum were top of my shopping list. I have a fair range in my nursery, but there is always room for more. Whilst not having their full range of 66 varieties of Polygonatum, 48 varieties of Disporum and 40 of Maianthemum, they still had roughly 12 of each. Trying to supress my ‘Stamp Collector’ instinct, and with the help of their head propagator Robbie, and under the reproachful gaze of my very understanding wife, I limited my choice to 8 Polygonatum, 3 Disporum and 5 Maianthemum.

Maianthemum flexuosum BSWJ9060

Another plant I obtained and I am hoping will be flowering in time is Angelica edulis BSWJ10886. As it is related to A. archangelica, so named as it flowers on Archangels Day (in May) I have my fingers crossed. It is from Japan and described as reaching gigantic proportions, 2m tall, reddish stems and large umbels of white flowers.

I managed to find another 20 plus plants, amongst which were another 5 Roscoea to add to my collection, and Rodgersia henrici KW21015 which is from the original collected plant brought back by Kingdom Ward and is a distinct clone from a very rare species.

I will let you know how we get on and hopefully provide photographs of the stand too…especially the shady bit!

To Chop or not to Chop

The following note from Jan Vaughan, who gardens in the Malvern Hills, takes me to task for being a bit too sanguine about the risks of hellebore diseases in my piece last month.

Hellebore Leaf Spot

This year is the first time I have decided to cut back the foliage on my hellebores in late December before they come into flower, although I have been aware of this advice from several sources over the last few years. Last year for the first time I had noticed signs of hellebore leaf spot and I’m trying to prevent the condition worsening or spreading to unaffected plants. Hellebore leaf spot is a common fungal disease caused by Microsphaeropsis hellebori resulting in roundish brown patches on infected leaves and stems. Small black fruiting bodies may be seen in the dead tissue and release spores which can be spread by wind-blown raindrops which then infect the new growth. Last year we experienced a particularly wet winter and this may be why my plants looked worse. The organic way of controlling this condition is to remove and destroy the affected leaves rather than leaving them on the plant. I have just been round the garden to see if I could take a photograph to illustrate the problem, but I have been too thorough in removing the leaves. I hope the foliage this year will emerge looking healthy and I can revert to leaving them on as I think the mature leaves provide a lovely foil to the flowers. I might also add that I took the opportunity to feed and mulch the plants as I went round with the secateurs.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled group) ‘Anna's Red’ instead.

Helleborus Rodney Davey Marbled Group ‘Anna's Red'

Alstroemeria in shade: beauty or beast?

Like many others I have made the mistake of planting A. aurea in a good, rich, sunny spot. The following note from Marian Goody, who gardens in North Shropshire, indicates that it may be slightly better behaved as a shade plant.

It was 5 years ago that we arrived in this garden. It has 17 mature oak trees, a few scots pines and the odd birch. It is my first shade garden and the mature trees provide a fabulous structure. The soil is a very well drained sand. If we ever flood it's time to launch the ark! When we moved in I was curious about a large egg yolk patch of colour in the deepest, darkest part of the garden. I had inherited a patch of . It's a native of Chile and Argentina and in the Antipodes considered an invasive alien. It has rhizomes which run deep which probably explains why it has survived in recent years, some of the coldest, driest and wettest weather on record for this part of Shropshire. It grows to about 75cm, is self-supporting and has twisted pale green leaves. It is not too much of a thug in this garden, words which I may regret! If I were planting it myself, I would do so in a bottomless bucket. Last spring I saw on a nurseryman's stall. I enquired as to whether it was as invasive as A.aurea and was assured it was a well behaved clumper. I bought a pot and it seems to be quite happy in the shade. This native of Brazil is not supposed to be as hardy as A. aurea, consequently I’m interested to see how it does in this cold garden. So far, it's thriving and has produced its intriguing red and green flowers continuously from July to the first proper frost in December. Will I wish I hadn’t planted a second Alstroemeria? Time will tell. I know I shall enjoy the flowers in the meantime.

Alstroemeria psittacina

Schefflera Survey

Last month I asked for help to survey the hardiness of Scheffflera. Keith Ferguson suggested some people to contact, and as a result I have had a lot of data from Doug Smith, the keeper of the national collection of Araliaceae, and the following note from Matthew Hall from Batsford Hall in the Cotswolds. If you have any experience with these plants, however slight, please send it in. I hope to distil the information down to a few recommendations in the future.

Schefflera at Batsford Hall

I have always liked subtropical looking effect shrubs and it was a Schefflera delavayi which first caught my eye at Batsford which had survived many cold winters and seemed to be happy on the conditions here. This plant unfortunately succumbed to honey fungus after reaching 11 years old and over 10ft high but this got me thinking. There is a south facing 20ft high wall behind the plants which traps the sun and a Cotswold stone wall to the front which filters the wind chill on the plants in the winter. However, even given these benefits, the negative in this area is the brutal winter weather. It is so open to the elements. With all this in mind I decided to grow some more Schefflera. I contacted Crug Farm Plants and selected three species which were planted in October 2005.

SpeciesCollection No.Size on purchaseCountry of origin
Impressa syn rhododendrifoliaGWJ93751.34 mHimalaya
Hoi var fantsipanensisBSWJ82281.0mVietnam
taiwanianaBSWJ 35750.55mTaiwan

Schefflera impressa has never looked back and has romped away. It is multistemmed, flowering and fruiting on a regular basis and as of yet does not seem to be affected by the cold winters.

Schefflera hoi var. fantsipanensis and have not thrived and have taken much longer to establish themselves than expected given where they were collected from. They seem to be a little more delicate and can be pegged back slightly by the cold winters. But to be fair they have come through -10 with ice and snow in the last six years so they are hardy but you do have to be a little more patient. But most of all realise that we are in the Cotswolds.

Schefflera taiwaniana

I have recently planted two ‘rhododendrifolia’ which is the same as impressa. These are from different nurseries. It is too early to form a judgement on them.

The important thing to remember is never be afraid to try and grow something that may be difficult or too tender. Be bold and the results can be spectacular and rewarding. It all comes down to learning and understanding microclimates and conditions which make a big difference when establishing any plant.

Shade Charade

Guess the species. 2 words

1st word: 4 syllables:

  • 1st two syllables… tweed drops its haiches
  • 2nd two syllables… hello mother

2nd word: 4 syllables

  • 1st two syllables: what your schoolmasters did
  • 2nd two syllables: if you only paid for half, you still ….

The solution to last month's puzzle was ‘Semiaquilegia’. This is a genus of about 6 species. They differ from aquilegia in not having spurs. They have an outer row of five rounded, petal-like sepals and an inner row of rectangular petals with nectary sacs at the base. The most commonly grown is S. ecalcarata. This is about 12-18 ins tall with pinkish purple flowers. Although short lived, it seeds itself around in a civilised manner. A good plant for a partly shady site.

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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