Thursday, February 28, 2008

Even more dry shade

These next two plants were brought to my attention by a couple of my favorite customers. They come in every couple of months or so and buy a box or two of perennials. I always like to check out what they are purchasing since they seem to be drawn to the interesting and unusual. I noticed that in their last couple of visits they purchased a number of hardy cyclamen. Of course I was intrigued and asked them why cyclamen. To which they answered "dry shade". Okay, I have an abundant amount of dry shade so I planted the two varieties we carry C. coum and C. hederifolium. I planted the drought...this past fall, in dry shade. They have bloomed there off and on all through January and February. The foliage is quite lovely on both and I think I would grow them even if they didn't flower.

C. hederifolium is the most reliably hardy of all the Cyclamen species, flowering well in the garden and seeding around. It grows well both in full sun and partial shade or beneath deciduous trees. It particularly enjoys growing in soil which contains a good proportion of leafmould (leaf litter). It easily survives low temperatures.

C. coum grows in deep forest shade often right up against a tree. An old patch clumps to a twelve inch spread of rounded mottled leaves mid-autumn through early spring, with the height of their bloom in winter.

From what I have been reading they are also very long lived.

They have lovely foliage, they bloom in winter, they colonize and prefer dry shade. I think I am in love.

More dry shade

Well I was up too late last night working on the blog and I got my plants confused. Too many plants...too little brain cells left.

The reineckia carnea I was writing about was actually pointed out to me by our former greenhouse manager, Cinda. I think we were talking about evergreen plants for shade and she showed me the reineckia. All the information about the reineckia was correct except the fact that reineckia is actually a late summer bloomer.

The winter bloomer I was thinking of which was featured on one of my favorite blogspots was actually sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis having much the same growing requirements. They are both evergreen and both are groundcovers. The only difference is that the reineckia is still happily growing under american hollys and the sarcococca was sacrificed to my folly by planting it in full morning sun instead of light shade. I thought I could keep them watered enough to compensate but the leaves literally were burned. I think I just pulled them out when cleaning up the garden this spring. I just recently planted another where I should have planted it before. In the same general area as the reineckia is happily living. So anyway, sarcacocca is native to the western Himalayas and wants organically rich soil. It makes a restrained slow-spreading groundcover for the shade garden. A mature clump produces suckers & reproduces along stolons, so that it will slowly spread over an area easily reaching three feet wide, though it can be kept to a more restricted area if suckers are removed and it is sheered each spring for increased compactness.

Lets add sarcococca to the list of plants for dry shade.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Talking about dry shade.....

Well all that talk about hellebores got me thinking about dry shade. Dry shade can be extremely troubling to grow in. I'm always looking for something new to try in dry shade.

I'll start out with one that I have been growing myself with good results. I happened across this plant when visiting one of my favorite blog spots. The blogger was featuring a photograph taken of a winter-bloomer called reineckia carnea. I was intrigued, I googled but couldn't find out much about this rare plant except that it is an evergreen, lightly fragranced winter-bloomer good for dry shade and I also discoved to my great pleasure that we actually carried this plant in our nursery. I promptly planted a couple in a sad little area of my property under evergreens and american holly where they have heroically championed on, even through this last year of drought.

A very rare plant from the Himalayas. This is a rhizomatous perennial, evergreen in mild climates, and is an attractive and almost never-seen groundcover for open woodland or around shrubs, in part shade. It also works as a pot plant, and probably would do well in a basket. It reminds me of mondo grass except it flowers in late winter and you kind of have to search for the flower since it is very tightly held. Its pretty carefree and while it has a lovely fragrance its the type of plant you need to put you nose to the ground to enjoy...not that I havn't been known to do that.

Shout out to the Hellebores

Lets give a shout out to the lonely hellebore. Holla....Hellebore.

Out there in our gardens in the freezing cold without even a jacket to keep them warm. Hellebores are basically easy to grow. Most prefer woodland conditions with deep, fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil and dappled shade, but they're very tolerant of a wide variety of soils and situations as long as they have good drainage and are naturally very long-lived. Although many hellebores perform best in alkaline soil, they’ll usually do just fine in neutral to slightly acidic conditions. Feed them once or twice yearly. Once established, they do not appreciate being moved - they will sometimes take a few years to get re-established following transplanting. Some are also known for freely self-sowing and colonizing when happy. Though if you have more than one type of hellebore in close proximity the offspring may not resemble their parents. I've had some seedlings I received in a plant swap that have survived and grown in almost pure sand at my gardens at home so I can attest to what a tough little plant this is.

We carry a varied selection of them here at Big Bloomers. We have recently added 'The 'Mardi Gras' series. This series boasts exquisite colors and slightly larger flowers carefully hybridized by hellebore guru Charles Price making them truly the big brothers of the genus.

'Mardi Gras White'

'Mardi Gras Black'

'Mardi Gras Pink'

'Mardi Gras Red'

We have also added to our 'Schiemann Strain lady collection' with some lovely 'spotted ladies' as well as a new Metallic Blue lady with a pewter sheen and large bowl-shaped flowers of rich purplish-blue. Beautiful and easy to grow. Isn't she a sight for cold eyes.

Another addition to this series is the lovely 'picotee pink'

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Perfect Picture

One of the best things about working at Big Bloomers has to be the customers.

These gorgeous pictures were taken by one of them.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Tomorrow I will take advantage of this lovely bit of weather and plant this sweet little box of foxglove.

This time of year always sends me into a bit of a tizzy. We offer so many lovely perennials in four packs and I always have to have them all.

This is a four pack.

You get four for the price of one and since perennials are better planted in groups you get a nice bang for your buck. The seedlings are sown in the greenhouses starting early winter. Some will take a couple of years to get to their true size. These though, will bloom and grow to full size in one season.

We have a varied selection of perennials in four packs including campanula, alcea, digitalis, aquilegia, various grasses and herbs. I could go on and on but maybe you should come and see for yourselves. The digitalis, aquilegia and some others are hardy to zone 4 and being so are fine planted this time of year in the south.

These are pictures of one of my gardens photographed in May, that was planted early February with the same amount of digitalis that I will be planting today.