Shade Monthly
Shade Monthly 2015

Author: Joe Sime

Shade Monthly: October 2015

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Yet another plea for items. If you like reading this please try writing something. As we move into the ‘dark months' why not tell us about shade plants you enjoyed in Spring and Summer. All items to

Plant of the Month: Cardiandra moellendorffii

Cardiandra is a genus of herbaceous plants in the hydrangea family. Well grown they are pleasant small plants to about 2 ft looking like an unusual species of hydrangea. I have been trying to grow them well for twelve years now. It is not that they died, just that they did not seem to thrive and there was no advice available on what to do to make them happy. Even Wynne-Jones at Crug just shrugged his shoulders when asked. I think there are several clues to the underlying problems. Firstly, although described as herbaceous plants in nurseries in the west, the ‘Flora of China' says that they are sub-tropical sub-shrubs. It is obvious that they do not get summers long and warm enough to harden wood in the UK. The challenge is to plant them where they will get enough warmth to grow well and still be provided with the shade they require. They are also late flowering. In the UK moellendorffii flowers in late August, formosana in September. I finally have two happy plants by growing them at the edge of a wooden raised bed in part shade in a rich, woodland soil. I keep them moist in the summer, and being at the edge of the construction, they are reasonably well drained in the winter.

Cardiandra moellendorffii 14
C. moellendorffii

The picture is of C moellendorffii. C. formosana is planted nearby but is not yet in flower. I bought moellendorffii under the name C. alternifolia subsp. moellendorffii, but it is now counted as a separate species. It provides a pleasant addition to the shade garden in September. We have not yet tried to propagate it, but C. formosana roots easily as semi-ripe cuttings in June (this works well for other herbaceous Hydrangeaceae such as kirengeshoma).

If you want to try something different, and in particular if you live some where with slightly warmer summers than we get, I think you would enjoy cardiandra.

Shade in Chelsea! … an update on the Kent Group's display by Colin Moat

Joe Sime had asked me ages ago to live up to my promise of an overview on the shadier parts of the Kent Group's display at RHS Chelsea and I must apologise for the delay. In my defence, as a nurseryman Chelsea falls at the time of year when everything is happening in every department and there aren't enough hours in the day normally. To put that on hold for what turns out to be 6 weeks (encompassing the build-up and breakdown) means that you are faced with an uphill challenge on returning to reality.

Nightheron 8
‘Night Heron'

Anyway excuses over, as mentioned in my previous article the main part of the stand comprised a sunny area and a shady one divided by a log edged path. The shady area was dominated by a 10′ tall specimen (the unloading of which featured in 10 seconds of BBC coverage!). The placing of this with its 50 litre container required a substantial chunk of stand to be removed, the repair of which was just enough to give the impression of stability, but sufficiently unstable to give rise to a number of embarrassing moments, helping to keep the troops amused. As anyone who has been involved in this type of display knows, one of the things to avoid is the showing of a pot edge, as you can imagine a 50 litre pot has a considerable edge, and raised handles too. This was catered for by the use of a hollowed out weathered tree stump, planted with a mixture of ferns including Dryopteris dilitata ‘Crispa Whiteside', Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae' and ‘Purpurescens'. Planted at the base of the tree we used the ever useful Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Spessart' and G. m. ‘Ingwersen's Variety'. On the opposite side to the ‘stumpery' was a magnificent specimen of Disporum longistylum ‘Night Heron' (I know it as D. cantoniense, but Plant Finder ‘finds' me wrong) which was picked out by Stephen Lacey (who flatteringly spent ages studying our shady display) in his Daily Telegraph column, and used extensively by Dan Pearson in his Chatsworth garden. Dancing in attendance around this was Melica uniflora and Milium effusum ‘Aureum' (both of which we used liberally through the shady side, as they add lightness and uniformity, and we also used Aquilegia in both sun and shade areas to have the same effect) in between , Arisaema sachalinense (form of A. amurense), and Athyrium otophorum var. okanum.

Semiaquilegia 8
Semiaquilegia ‘Sugar Plum Fairy'

Another area that aroused enquiries was an area featuring Semiaquilegia ‘Sugar Plum Fairy' in front of which draped Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume' flanked on one side by a chunky ‘Jack Frost' (helpfully camouflaging post supports) and on the other a dwarf Hosta partnered with Anemonella thalictroides f. rosea ‘Oscar Schoaf' (still flowering from a display I did 5 weeks prior). This whole area was backed by substantial clumps of Polygonatum x hybridum and Maianthemum racemosum.

Cypripedium 71

At the other end of the stand was an area for plants that preferred damper conditions the centre of which featured the dark bronze chestnut-like leaves of Rodgersia purdomii, accompanied by large leaves of Podophyllum versipelle ‘Spotty Dotty' and , these set off the deep red ‘wings' of the moth orchid Cypripedium ‘Aki' gx, and lighter C. ‘Dietrich' gx, in turn lightened by the beautiful Epimedium ‘Pink Champagne' and delicate Dicentra ‘Filigree'.

The wonderful planting and arranging of this large area was primarily carried out by Anne Smith, helped by Karin Proudfoot and Alison Crayford (the shady ladies) and I pointed, made helpful suggestions and ‘repaired' the stand (oh, and contributed a fair number of plants).
Having probably reached that point of articles like this of ‘Plant name overload*' I will draw this to a close. All I will add, was that I was fortunate that our stand was located fairly close to Jacques Armands and they were selling off a lot of their display on the last day!

*    If you would like to see the full plant list of the 300 plants used it's on Kent Group's web site
….oh and we got a Silver Gilt Medal.

North East mini-group's visit to Maspin House.

Maspin House 2 21

We had a really good afternoon at Susan Ferguson's recently.  The garden looked lovely as the plants reflected the change from summer into autumn. Susan was a superb guide and host and the weather was good after rainfall of biblical proportions around the area the day before.  We had 16 enthusiasts in total and some had travelled quite a distance to get there and all were very appreciative of Susan's garden.
A couple who were just passing  saw the open garden sign that Susan's husband put up a few minutes before we were due to start and they were invited to join us  and I believe we persuaded them to join the HPS. Luckily Sue Gray from West Yorks was on hand to talk to them about the West Yorks group.

Climbers for Shade part 3… Decumaria

Decumaria barbara copy 82
Decumaria barbara

Decumaria is a genus of two species of self clinging climbers in the hydrangea family. Like many genera (Liriodendron, Jeffersonia etc.), one species is found in the eastern USA and the other in China. The American cousin (D. barbara) is a deciduous climber with ovate, glossy, light green leaves. It is the more vigorous of the two and can get to 30 ft, although ours is happy clothing a 6 ft wall. The Chinese relative (D. sinensis) is evergreen in all but the coldest winters. The leaves are narrower than D. barbara and a glossy dark green. In cold weather in the winter some will turn red and fall. It is said to grow less vigorously, but ours is well into clothing the north side of our house. Both produce dense panicles of small, creamy white, scented flowers. There are no sterile florets, and as with some other members of the family, the stamens are numerous and give a ‘powder-puff' appearance. D. sinensis flower early in March or April, D. barbara later in June. Both are easy to grow, although sinensis may suffer in colder parts of the country. I have not tried growing them into trees, but, as this is how they grow in nature, it should work well. We have not tried propagation, but most axial rooted climbers are easy to layer, and this is what we would try first.

Walt's notes from Seattle in September

Since I last penned a note, a lot has happened at least in the environment here. Two weeks ago, we cheered when we got a good soaking rain, our first decent amount in over three months. Since July, forest fires mostly east of the Cascades continue to burn. Some days the smoky haze transforms daylight into a glowing amber and irritates the throat. I calculated that the largest fire burnt an area almost twice the size of London.

Additional rain came but with a price -extreme high winds hit wet summer foliage and toppled multiple trees in the Puget Sound area. At the height of the storm, some 500,000 were without power; we lost power ourselves for three days. Even with these late downpours we are under voluntary water restrictions. These recurring dry summers and lessened snow packs for our water supply are making us re-think our plant choices.

I'm heavily invested in broadleaf evergreens for instance due to the preponderance of shade in my garden. Under the canopy of four large Western Red Cedars are to be found a variety of rhododendrons, Sarcoccocas, Leucothoë, Aucuba, Ruscus, Eurya, ferns, Skimmia, Weinmannia, podocarps, Mahonias, Daphnes, Helwingias, Illicium, camellias, viburnums and bamboos. Shifting gears will occur but I hope on a pace that I can manage with grace.

Ajis Leucojum autumnale Cobb s Variety 3127 53

Leucojum autumnale ‘Cobb's Variety'
Asters 3387 80


Leucojums in spring are always a joy and so I was happy to extend the season so to speak with Leucojum autumnale ‘Cobb's Variety'. No matter that it is now known as the genus Ajis, the first memory of it will stick in my mind when I purchased it at Heronswood years ago. It is such a perky little thing, standing its own alongside a Lawrence Crocker Daphne which had a brief second blooming last month. Also adjacent in this small sunny, gravelly bed are the waterlily form of colchicum, , and Polygala chamaebuxus var. grandiflora ‘Kamniski'. I'm giving some space too for an exquisite northwest ground-hugging native, Dryas octopetala or Mt. Avens. Having eight petals always intriqued me -was this a mutation gaining three petals from the normal rosaceous five or was it a loss of two from a multiple of 5? The glossy evergreen foliage sets off the large, for this plant, white blossoms.

Dryas octopetala 3130 78
Dryas octopetala

In the back yard are a few asters soaking up the afternoon sun. Not as commonly used these days but I note every division I bring to the donations table at the University of Washington Arboretum is eagerly purchased. First to bloom for me is ‘Coombe Fishacre' (Aster x lateriflorus ‘Coombe Fishacre') with the red-toned ‘September Ruby' (A. novae-angliae ‘September Ruby') right on its heels. Both being of relatively equal height (3-4′, 1-1.4 m) they can nudge one another and present a very full look to the space they're in. As a lower footing, I use ‘Professor Anton Kippenburg' (A. novi-belgii ‘Professor Anton Kippenburg') which will extend the color selection nicely with its deeper purple tones.

Seed distribution is taking a break during October, as I am working more or less full time on the main distribution scheme. It will start up again in November.

Shade Charades

Guess the species

Two words.

First word: three syllables
 ●   First syllable…a motorised vehicle
 ●   Second syllable… little father
 ●   Third syllable…not generous
Second word: four syllables
 ●   first two syllables…like a bulb
 ●   last two syllables…more light skinned.

The solution to last month's charade was Beesia deltophylla. There seems to be some confusion about whether this plant is really in cultivation in the UK. is relatively well known now. It is an excellent shade plant with glossy, marked, evergreen foliage and spikes of white flowers followed by interesting fruits. Seed and plants of B. deltophylla have been offered by various nurseries, but the opinion has been expressed that they are really B. calthifolia. This is now supported by the entry in the ‘Plant Finder'. Flora of China lists a clear distinction between the two in that calthifolia leaves should be edged with many (40+) small ( 2-4 mm wide at base) teeth. Those of deltophylla should have fewer (up to 16) and wider (3-8mm at base). If you think you grow deltophylla… get out and count!

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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