Shade Monthly
Shade Monthly 2015

Author: Joe Sime

Shade Monthly: May 2015


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Plant of the Month: Jeffersonia

Epimediums are now common in gardens, but there are many interesting woodlanders amongst the other herbaceous berberidaceae that are not as well known. I think the problem is that the flowers are fleeting and people underestimate the pleasure that the foliage and fruits can give.

Jeffersonia are particularly attractive. It is a genus of two species, one (J. dubia) is found in east Asia (Siberia, China) and the other (J. diphylla) in eastern North America. Both have single leaves on the end of stalks arising from the base of the clump. The leaf is essentially round with the stalk in the centre. In J. dubia this round leaf is split to the stalk in one place and the edge is slightly scalloped. In J. diphylla the leaf is split in two places, giving the impression of two kidney-shaped leaflets. The flowers are held up on leafless stalks and have eight petals which open flat to show a central boss of 6 stamens. In J. diphylla the flowers are white. In J. dubia the common colour is light blue, but there is a white flowered variant. The seed capsules are also interesting: in dubia they open by a vertical slit, but in diphylla the slit is horizontal and the top of the pod hinges back to look a bit like a tiny beer stein.


Jeffersonia diphylla

Both fare best in an open, moist but well drained soil with plenty of leaf mould. They like a partially shaded, cool site. They can be propagated by division, but growth of the clumps is relatively slow, and if you want several plants the best route is to sow fresh seed. The problem is to catch the pods just as they are about to burst. Do not let the seeds dry out. Plant immediately in a well-drained compost . They will germinate the following spring. If you fail to catch the seeds, then search around the plants in early spring to find the seedlings. It is best to dig them up and grow them on without competition for a year or so.


Jeffersonia diphylla seedling

Letter from the Pacific Northwest

The first of what will become a semi-regular item describing shade gardening in the north west of the USA by Walt Bubelis

When I was contacted by Joe Sime about writing a piece for the Hardy Plant Society, I was both flattered and trepiditious. Various seed that I sent must have caught his eye and thus he assumed that I knew enough to pen an article. Even though I taught horticulture at a local community college close to Seattle for some 41 years, I still consider myself a rank amateur when it comes to the herbaceous lot. Still, my interests are multi-faceted having tried with varying success many different plants over the years.

I do have a shady garden for the most part, the direct sun being a small portion of a large city lot in Seattle (120’ (36m) deep x 90’ (27m) and treasured for what I can squeeze into that space. The house is towards the south end further limiting the sun lovers. My wife and I fell in love with the site due to the four giant Western red cedars () randomly placed by nature, as each is over 150 years old.

Comparing the plant lists I used to teach woody plant identification in the 1970's with what can be taught now certainly show an increasing number of additions particularly amongst the broadleaf evergreens. When I began teaching, I used USDA hardiness zone 7 as my benchmark; now I use 8b as my guide on plant purchases.

Of course it doesn’t always pan out that way as this last November saw a quick plunge to the 20's for a week, resulting in much havoc.

As this is an introduction, space only allows for a few plants to mention from my garden. I grow both uncommon alongside tried and true, both having served me in my plant identification classes. Three white flowered plants serve as beacons in the often cloudy Pacific Northwest. The Auburn White Camellia (C. japonica ‘Auburn White’) has been with me some 40 years, having started with a small cutting at a local garden society plant sale. It's a rather clean white, shedding its old blossoms quickly without a fuss.


Camellia japonica

I do enjoy seeing the blossoms emerge from the being a sparkling white with the yellow stamens showing up so well. This herbaceous perennial lines a shaded path but does have a tendency to spread by underground roots. Digging the wayward pieces out from the path, one sees the bright orange interior of the roots as happens in other members of the Papaveraceae (think Bloodroot, Sanguinaria for a deeper red color).


Eomecon chionantha

Lastly, Pachyphragma macrophyllum forms a decent clump to make itself known but should be placed without competition from similar white flowered members of the Cruciferae/Brassicaceae such as in Iberis and Arabis. It easily lights up a corner; mine is holding its own with Vancouveria hexandra in the same bed, which is just beginning to emerge. I hope this short bit resonates with those of you reading this. More to follow!


Pachyphragma macrophyllum

An Aristocratic Poppy… Ruth Plant describes how to succeed with Pteridophyllum.

It all started with the need to have something in front of our house which is north facing, with a grey concrete slab drive and also a wind tunnel effect…impossible we thought. Everything we tried in pots in the early days got blown to pieces, bedding geraniums (a safe bet we thought) were not watered or dead headed as the area came bottom on our care list….. borders, then veggies, then plants for sale being our hierarchy. Always dark by the time anyone thought about plants at the front of the house and trying to wrestle some water out there.

So…one day I moved around a pot with peaty compost and a Meconopsis punicea flowering in it, it needed some shade…and hey presto it loved it …flowered itself to death as they do and has had a few successors grown in the same place with no relocations needed. Then I tried in the same pots and compost and it was a roaring success. Gets a little bit blown around sometimes when it is tall but still looks superb. It has been in there four years and keeps spreading.

And then….last year I was tempted to buy Pteridophyllum racemosum at the Harrogate spring show. This was my second attempt at this gorgeous woodlander. The first was planted in accordance with the label in a shady mixed border, and I never saw it again. I might just as well have set fire to £12 and have done with it. No point in peering in the border for the next two years or so wondering where it is….a little white tombstone label marks the spot.
So buying it again after a gap of some years was a leap of faith, a dent in the wallet (inflation you know) and it got pretty mangled being carted out of the show and then traveling home on the coach.
I wondered where to plant it, and had a gap in those north facing tubs and so in accordance with my recently retired person's resolution, planted it straight away and pretty much forgot it.

This spring, halleluiah, it popped up and has happily flowered with three spikes and gorgeous ferny foliage. Had to watch for the slugs and snails as it seems they will abseil to get to it…my hubbie Clive reckons there are some 640 snails (at least) on our roof waiting to come down each night and make more snails. This is his calculation based on them laying eighty eggs each, and who is to say he is wrong. We certainly are not winning the war of the molluscs.


Pteridophllum racemosum

The question is what will happen next? Now Joe knows I have this gem in flower he will want to know if it sets seed and want the seeds collecting if it does. I will want to see it pop up again next spring as it's summer dormant. I think there is a very good chance as a quick look at what Bleddyn Wynn-Jones says about this plant is “Preferring cool-cold rich woodland conditions, (decomposed pine-needles if you can obtain them) in full to part shade in a moist but well drained soil.” Bingo, my peaty tubs in that nasty cold wind tunnel is just like a northern Japanese high mountain!

My next target for the tubs is Glaucidium palmatum, just maybe it too will be happier there. I will keep you posted.

Note: Pteridophllum racemosum is in the Papaveraceae (we shouldn't be surprised as I am a meconopsis addict and all plants in this family seem to float my boat). It is the only species in its genus.

Shade and Woodland Plant Group… Seed Distribution

The HPS seed distribution scheme works well, and we do not wish to duplicate the service that they already supply. However there are three areas in which a distribution scheme amongst our members may add value: Firstly there are many woodland plants for which germination is much more successful if they are planted as soon as possible after collection (Epimedium, Trillium etc.). We need a process which gets these from the donor to the planter much more quickly than the main distribution scheme can achieve; Secondly the seed of several woodland plants ripen either very early in the year (spring ephemerals) or much later than the seed distribution cut off (Kirengeshoma, Disporopsis etc.) although these are distributed by the main scheme, they are automatically quite old before they get planted. Finally many woodland plants produce seed in very small quantities. We would like to ensure that this goes to shade enthusiasts who stand the best chance of germinating and successfully growing the plants.

The scheme will work as follows.

  1. Donors will send seed to Dr S.J.Sime, Park Cottage, Penley, Wrexham, LL13 0LS at any time of the year. No quantity is too small. We are unlikely to have more than 10 requests for any particular seed, so there is no point in sending too much of any particular variety.
  2. Available seed will be listed on the website and in ‘Shade Monthly’
  3. People may request seed by sending a SAE to the above address.
  4. Seed will be removed from the list 3 months after receipt. Any excess at that point will go to the main distribution scheme.

There will be no charge for the service, however, we hope that anyone particularly pleased with the plants they grow from this seed will make a small donation to group funds via the ‘honesty box’ at the annual AGM.

This scheme by its very nature has to be run on-line. This excludes those few of our members who are not connected. If you know of a member in this position and can help them access the list please do.

Finally please note that this service is only available to paid-up members of the Shade and Woodland Plant Group.

Seed Available for Distribution

Seed of the following plants is available now:

Shade Charade

Guess the species. 2 words

1st word: 3 syllables:

  • First syllable… a good place to watch the birds
  • Last two syllables… not necessarily the lone one

2nd word: 2 syllables… superficially examine the bears's houses

The solution to last month's Charade was Epimedium chlorandrum. This is quite an easy species to grow. It has good, narrow leaves with fine spines along the edges which are blotched bronze in spring. These are reliably evergreen. The flowering stem rises to 20ins and carries 20 to 30 pale primrose yellow flowers with good spurs. The anthers are, as the name suggests, green. Planted with other epidemiums it will form good sized seed pods, which are easier to collect than those of many of the small flowered species. It thus makes a good choice as seed parent if you want to try to grow your own epimedium hybrids.

Mini-Group meeting in the North East

The north east group met recently. Pete Williams reports.

‘Six shady gardeners attended our garden yesterday and we had a lovely time chat-ting about plants, gardens and gardeners. The sun shone all afternoon despite a poor forecast and I am sure that we will arrange visits to other members gardens’.

I hope many of you will get to meetings sometime soon.

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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