BEYOND HYDRANGEAS: CREATIVE COMPANIONS FOR THE SHADE GARDEN
PART 1: Trees, Vines, and Conifers
Jamie Blackburn, Curator of Woodland Gardens with the Atlanta (GA) Botanical Garden Horticulture Department, was a featured speaker at a recent Central Savannah River Area Hydrangea Society Conference.
Jamie began work in the fall of 2005 as Curator of Woodland Gardens, where he oversees all management aspects of garden maintenance and collections development. Before that time, Jamie was Rainforest and Horticulture Exhibits Manager at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. He holds a master’s degree in urban horticulture from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Jamie is a native Virginian. He is thrilled to be an integral part of all the exciting horticultural happenings at ABG (Atlanta Botanical Garden), as the temperate woodland flora of the Southeast US and Asia are where his botanical heart has always been.
Don’t be limited by the few offerings in local garden centers. Search out the unusual and little used. These are a few of Jamie’s recommendations for shade gardens.
CREATIVE COMPANIONS FOR THE SHADE GARDEN Trees for Shade
Curator of Woodland Gardens, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Photographs: Anne K. Moore
Acer leucoderme Chalk Maple. This native tree is planted for its whitish bark and rich fall leaf color. It can reach heights of 30-40 feet and is often multi-trunked. It resembles Southern sugar maples (Acer floridanum) but has fuzzy undersides to its leaves and is found in rocky areas. USDA zones 5-8. Acer japonicum ‘Green Cascade’ Japanese Maple. Weeping Japanese maples are often used in shade gardens above rocks, walls, and ponds. Green Cascade grows as high as staked and then tumbles into a mound. USDA zones 5-8. Acer davidii Snakebark Maple, David Maple is a native maple with distinctive smooth green bark highlighted with white striations. USDA zones 5-7. Ostrya virginiana Hophornbeam. Very versatile street tree. It’s common name comes from its fruit, which resembles hops. It can grow to 40 feet. Growing it in a container for its yellow fall color and grayish-orange peeling bark will help keep it small. USDA zones 3-9.
Vines for Shade
Decumaria barbara Native Climbing Hydrangea. Southeast U.S. native. Use as a climber or groundcover. White blooms when used as a climber. Clings to support. USDA zones 6-8. Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ Japanese Climbing Hydrangea. Clings to its support with holdfasts. Takes some time to get established. Blooms look like lace cap hydrangeas. ‘Moonlight’ has irregular patches of silver on its leaves. USDA zones 5-9. Kadsura japonica ‘Chirimen’ Variegated Kadsura Vine. A short (10-15 feet) yellow/green vine that twines to support itself. USDA zones 7-10.
Evergreen Conifers for Shade
Taxus chinensis Chinese Yew. Heat tolerant and tolerates some drought. USDA zones 5-7. Cephalotaxus harringtonia Plumyew and Cephalotaxus lanceolatus Longneedle Plumyew. USDA zones 6-9. Harringtonia is tall growing, to 3-4 feet and lanceolatus is a low-growing spreader. Both are invaluable for winter interest or backgrounds in the southern garden. USDA zones 6-9. Sciadopitys verticillata Japanese Umbrella Pine. Will stay small in your lifetime although it can grow to 30-40 feet. Grown for its unusual growth habit of limbs sticking out like an umbrella. USDA zones 5-8. Tsuga chinensis Chinese Hemlock. The best choice in hemlocks since it shows good resistance to woolly adelgids, which are killing all the Eastern hemlocks. USDA zones 5-7.
Spring ephemerals are some of the first plants to flower in the early spring long before most trees leaf out. They tend not to like the heat and will quickly disappear if temperatures get above 80 degrees. Spring ephemerals leaf out, bloom, go to seed, spread themselves about and then enter dormancy; they don't really die. All this happens in a two-month period, making them some of the most efficient of the flowering plants. That is what makes these plants so very special.
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