Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Woodland gardening: "my soul under the trees doth glide"


Cypripedium guttatum on Serkyem La, Tibet
 As much as I love alpine heights, deserts and steppes, there is something about woodlands that I have always found alluring: when the spring ephemerals are at their peak, or when you find a throng of orchids blooming like this--well--what can I say? I can almost hear birds twittering in the background, and a cool breeze caressing my cheek!

Do put this on your calendar please! Better yet, click HERE and sign up (it's a bargain!).  If you've clicked (as so sweetly asked you) you will see a stellar lineup of extraordinary gardeners who also happen to be cutting edge plant nerds and designers extraordinaire!  We'll talk about them a bit more in a while...but first let's extol the glories of gardening in shade, and in the shadow of stone! Rock gardening is often associated primarily with alpine plants--but even at alpine heights there are shadier slopes--and most of us live lower down--or even at sea level! Most of us deal with more and more shade as the trees and shrubs we keep planting grow larger and larger.

And truth be said, on a hot summer's day, the woodland is the best place to hang out! There are a vast throng of woodland plants of all sorts--and an array of strategies for growing these in gardens. I'm sure there's been a conference somewhere, somehow about woodland gardening. But N.A.R.G.S. webinars, well, they deliver the goods!

Dryopteris tokyoensis

I have shady corners here and there around my garden: and like most ever serious gardener, I've planted way too many trees!

Dryopteris x remota

Sone of us are pteridophyles: I keep seeing how many more species I can sneak into this or that shady habitat!

Dryopteris cycadina

This is one I found at Lowe's of all places! I keep going back to see if they haven't brought back some more--but no ferns this year. Shame on THEM!

I have a special fondness for rock ferns...the maidenhair spleenwort  in particular. I'm thrilled to have three happy clumps in my shady rock garden.

Dicentra formosa 'Purity'

The white flowered form of this Pacific Northwestern bleeding heart blooms for months in spring and summer--and spreads with long rhizomes. It has gone by several cultivar names--my favorite is 'Purity'.

Aruncus x 'Zweiweltkind'

I must grow the "regular" species found across much of North America and Europe--although it is a space hog! I see it here and there in Denver gardens, so it can't be too hard to grow. This compact hybrid is much more manageable--but still a yard high or so...

Aquilegia canadensis (dwarf form)

 Some of us never have enough columbines...the dwarfer the better!

Lilium philadelphicum v. andinum

I have tried this in all sorts of "logical" spots--here out in a more open spot, maybe it will be more permanent!

Mertensia virginica

I finally seem to have gotten the eastern Virginia bluebells established. I've been warned it can be a bit of spreader: spread away, I say!

Primula woronowii

A memento from an unforgettable trip to the Caucasus. All the plants we saw of this in the wild had darker flowers...but I enjoy the way this one has flowers that change tint.

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex'

 I've lost my credibility with many visitors when I assure them each flower has a little LED light that makes it glow even brighter...I fear some believe me.

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Snow Cone'
And this year I grew a new bloodroot--semi-double. Never can have enough woodlanders! I wonder what new marvels I'll learn about on the NARGS webinar. Hope you join me and sign up!


  1. I'll be online for this inspired NARGS ROCKS event, In The Shadow of Stone is right up my alley, hope to see some of the dwarf woodland Iris which are perfect for shady rock gardens.

  2. Thanks for the tip. Have always meant to join NARGS so this was the push I needed.

  3. Unfortunately, I think this might have been the last year for the Cypripedium guttatum I have been growing from laboratory propagated seedlings. Only two of the five returned this year with leaves only about one centimeter long. They shrunk a little each each year. This species of high mountains and the subarctic just does not seem to be able to tolerate the conditions in Chicago unlike Cypripedium yatabeanum.


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