Articles in Category: Shade Plants

Polystichum munitum

on Wednesday, 30 September 2020. Posted in Winter Interest, Native, Evergreen, Shade Plants, Perennial, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Western Sword Fern

Western Sword FernThe sculptural fronds of ferns provide lots of winter interest, and Western Sword Fern is one of the toughest, most drought tolerant, and easiest ferns to grow in the Rogue Valley. 

This native fern can tolerate our dry summers and wet winters and even take a little sun. It prefers to be an understory plant but established ferns in good, composty soil will tolerate quite a bit of sun. The key is to get them well established with deep waterings the first few summers and applications of yearly leaf mulch or compost mulch. Western Sword Fern has a courser texture than some more delicate ferns but that makes their fronds last longer, allowing them to be used in cut flower arrangements. The leathery, dark green fronds can be 2-4' tall depending where they are grown and can be used alone or look especially good in clumps or drifts. 

fiddleheadWe like to use Western Sword Ferns under large trees, like oaks, combined with Euphorbia purpurea, Heuchera sanguinea or the purple leafed varieties of Coral bells, Mahonia repens, and other dry shade perennials and shrubs. All ferns are deer resistant and the Western Sword Fern is no exception. They are evergreen but will look their best with an annual shearing of the oldest fronds in spring to allow the new fronds to uncurl. Leave the old, pruned fronds as a natural mulch.  Ferns are always interesting to watch throughout the seasons and Western Sword Fern makes an especially nice evergreen specimen in the shade garden.

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica (x hybrida)

on Thursday, 27 August 2020. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Shade Plants, Perennial, Deer Resistant, Flowering Plants

Japanese Anemone

Honorine JobertOne of the standout flowering perennials of fall, Japanese Anemone is a refreshing addition to a part shade garden. They begin flowering when most of our summer-blooming perennials are starting to fade – usually in mid-September - and will bloom continually until frost.

Japanese Anemones are truly elegant plants; rising gracefully above shorter perennials. They tend to look best in the middle or back of a border. Most varieties are 2-4' tall and will spread to at least 2-3' wide. We love to pair them with ferns - especially the bronzy Autumn Fern, with dark-leafed varieties of Heuchera like ‘Obsidian’ and ‘Palace Purple’, and with Hostas and Astilbes.

Shooting Star Nursery regularly carries the following varieties of Japanese Anemones:

 

 Wild Swans2 edWild Swan – Wild Swan is the smallest of this group – just 1-2’ tall and wide – but it makes up for its lack of height with huge 3” flowers that feature white petals with a lovely purple reverse. These plants have a longer bloom season than most anemones, beginning in mid-summer and extending until frost. Wild Swan was the 2011 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year.

 

 September CharmSeptember Charm – September Charm has masses of soft pink, slightly cupped flowers on plants that reach 2-3” tall by about 2’ wide. Like most Anemones, September Charm makes a great cut flower; extending your fresh floral bouquets well into the fall! This Anemone was given an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.

 

 Honorine Jobert – Honorine Jobert was the 2016 Perennial Plant of the year, and it’s easy to see why! These stately beauties grow up to 4’ tall and feature snowy white flowers with golden centers (see photo at top of the article).

Anemones do best with morning sun or dappled light, and love soil with lots of organic material incorporated into it. They only seem to need a deep soak once a week or so, but can also tolerate regular watering and clay soils. Unlike many taller shade plants, Anemones require no staking and just need to be pruned back after the flowers have faded. They’re quite popular with pollinators – lots of our Anemone photos end up featuring a wide variety of honeybees and native bees! Deer typically leave them alone, but try one out first: deer have been known to just eat the flowers and leave the foliage in certain locations.

Ribes sanguineum 'King Edward'

on Thursday, 02 April 2020. Posted in Berries Attract Wildlife, Attracts Pollinators, Native, Shade Plants, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

King Edward Red Flowering Currant

Ribes King EdwardFlowering currants really come into their glory in April, with their cascades of brightly-colored flowers and soft green, scalloped leaves. And one of our very favorites is Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward’.

A cultivar of our native Ribes sanguineum, 'King Edward' has darker pink flowers than the native species, followed by dark blue berries in the summer. Both ‘King Edward’ and the native species are absolute magnets for hummingbirds and other pollinators. Later in the seasons, berry-loving songbirds like robins, thrushes, grosbeaks, cedar waxwings, etc., flock to the berries (which taste better to them than they do to humans, so we’re happy to share!).

Flowering currants will bloom heaviest when in full sun, but in hotter areas like the Rogue Valley, they also appreciate a bit of afternoon shade. In fact, they’re also a great choice for dry shade gardens or for planting under an oak or other large tree. ‘King Edward’ will grow in a variety of soils but does require good drainage; if you plant in clay, place it on a mound or along a slope. Being a native plant, they are used to dry summers and wet winters, and will do best if you can mimic those conditions in your garden.

'King Edward' grows quickly and has a lovely open habit that mixes well with other plants. They can get at least 4-5' tall and wide, and are also relatively drought tolerant once established.

Pieris 'Cavatine'

on Friday, 06 March 2020. Posted in Evergreen, Shade Plants, Deer Resistant

Pieris japonica Cavatine cropWe really, really like Pieris. They’re evergreen, deer resistant, relatively low-maintenance shrubs that grow well in part sun to full shade. They even grow well in containers! In short, they’re pretty versatile plants that come in a variety of sizes - from just 2’ tall up to 8’ tall.

 

Of all the Pieris varieties out there, though, there’s one that is our hands-down favorite (even though, like parents, we’re not supposed to have favorites...): Meet Pieris ‘Cavatine’.

 

Cavatine detail cropCavatine is a gorgeous dwarf variety, reaching roughly 2’ – 3’ tall and wide. The dark green foliage really sets off the abundant spring bloom of white, bell-shaped flowers that look a bit like lily-of-the-valley. Even when the bloom is finished, the dark green leaves are a wonderful complement to other shade-loving perennials including Heuchera, Aquilegia, Erica, and Hellebore.

 

Another thing in Cavatine’s favor? It provides year-round interest in the garden. Pale green flower buds appear in the winter, contrasting nicely with the evergreen foliage. Cascades of pure white flowers arrive in early spring, followed by bright red new growth that gradually changes to dark green as the plant matures.

 

Pieris ‘Cavatine’ is in full bloom right now, and we’ve got a good assortment of them in both 1-gallon and 2-gallon sizes. We’re guessing they’ll quickly become a favorite of yours too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarcococca

on Friday, 10 January 2020. Posted in Winter Interest, Fragrant Blooms, Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Shade Plants, Ground Cover, Deer Resistant, Shrubs, Flowering Plants

Fragrant Sweetbox

Sarcococca ruscifolia

Dark and shady places - like the north walls of a home - can be extremely challenging sites to plant. Sarcococca, or Sweetbox, is an ideal shrub for low-light situations like this. Thriving in everything from part sun to deep shade, Sweetbox is an attractive, broad-leafed evergreen with glossy dark green leaves that provides a good backdrop for airier ferns and flowering shade perennials. 

There are a handful of different species ranging from upright shrubs to slowly spreading groundcovers. They all have simple leathery leaves and are for the most part deer resistant, making this genus a true problem solver in a myriad of ways. Not to mention they bloom in late winter when most plants haven't even broken dormancy! 

Even though their small fringy flowers are not what you would consider showy, they amply make up for it with a powerfully sweet, vanilla-like fragrance that is sure to get attention. Add in red to black berries that lend a festive quality later in the year, and you've got a great four-season plant!

In return, this understated plant merely asks for moderately fertile soil with decent drainage and regular water throughout the hotter months. That is not to say Sweetbox wouldn't prefer rich, humusy and acidic soil, but it is quite adaptable once established. 

 Here are some of our favorite types:

 Sarcococca ruscifolia or Fragrant Sweetbox is the largest of the more common species reaching 3-6' high and wide with an arching habit and more rounded leaves. It is known to naturally espalier itself against a house and thus can be useful in tight spots and under windows. Its growth is slow to moderate and can easily be kept at 3’.

Sarcococca 'Fragrant Valley' is a compact yet vigorous selection growing to 18-24" tall and 3-4' wide. 

Sarcococca 'Fragrant Mountain' attains a slightly larger size at 2-3' tall and 3-4' wide, making it a great alternative to Skimmia japonica. 

All of these varieties are disease resistant and tolerant of drier soils and less than ideal conditions. Sarcococca species are great supporting cast members for the shady garden (…we can't all be stars...) - and a must have for lovers of fragrant plants!