Hellebores: A Great Choice for an Early Blooming Evergreen Ground Cover


Hellebores:  A Great Choice for an Early Blooming Evergreen Ground Cover

HELLABORES:  Can you ever have enough of them?  At ourhomeinthewoods, we have over 500, hellebores, not exaggerating, we really do.  We’re not too fussy about varieties although we have about a dozen choice varieites.  Most are what would be labeled ‘helleborus x hybridus.  Many are young and small but they’ll grow.  I saw this great photo on Pinterest that inspired me.   I love the mass of evergreen foliage and blooms.  This is part of my goal for a garden bed between our driveway and the woods.   We have other plantings mixed in with the hellebores.  There are about 300 + there now.  Many are 2 -3 years old and just blooming for the first time this year.  We have raised most from volunteers in our yard.  Starting with about a dozen varieties, in many colors, double & single flowers.  Most are pinks, whites or variations.    I planted them way to close to each other.  Why?  well, it helps to fill the space now and as they outgrow the space, I will have mature sized hellebores to transplant to other areas as we develop them.    This bed will have a very different look by the time the perennials are up and growing.


In our garden, hellebores are a beautiful, easy to grow means to an end.  I haven’t studied all the particulars about them.  I know the important things: they grow very well in our area, pests don’t seem to be attracted to them, they take care of themselves for the most part and they continue to reseed themselves at the base of the plants and provide us with many more hellebores.   One quiet evening I will learn more about hellebores and I will start with this great article by Tony Avent of Plant Delights. (one of my favorite online nurseries)  http://www.plantdelights.com/Article/Hellebore-Lenten-Rose/Hellebores/Christmas-Rose/



Fragrant Pink Flowers Attract Butterflies To Your Garden

bead like flower buds

Last year we were looking for an interesting tall perennial that would do well in a fairly sunny and pretty wet place.  We found an 4 – 5 ft tall herbaceous perennial – Swampy milkweed also known as Asclepias incarnata.  The name Swampy milkweed doesn’t give this plant a very sophisticated aire but it really has some great qualities.

It is known as a favorite of butterflies.  You can always have more butterflies.
They are attracted to the pretty pink clusters of fragrant flowers that bloom in midsummer.  The buds look like clusters of bright pink beads.
The leaves are long and slender with veining that looks almost silvery. The leaf arrangement is opposite. Swampy weed grows tall 4 – 5 feet tall and slender eventually becoming a 2 – 3 feet wide clump.  A lot of tall and slender perennials get tall and floppy, but the milkweed is self supporting and most of it has remained upright even through some pretty strong wind gusts.
Swampy Milkweed
Swampy Milkweed
They are hardy is USDA zones 3 – 6.  I love the fact that they will thrive in places other plants would be very unhappy.  We are planning to let ours naturalize where they are.  They would also be great along the edge of a pond or in a rain garden.   Clay soil and wet soil are all well tolerated.  Deer, elk and bunnies just pass them by.  Gotta love that! 
Last year we left the seed heads on the plants all season.  They dropped onto the ground below and several new plants are growing.  I’m leaving them in place and will let the seed heads mature again this year.  Hopefully we will milkweed to share next year.

Amber Jubilee – Fantastic Foliage

physocarpus amber jubilee close up

Our ‘amber jubilee’ has been in the garden for about a year now.  It’s doing great – growing with beautiful color.  Happy & healthy.  I was exited at finding this plant last year and adding to our collection of ninebarks.  We have 6 varieties now.

Usually our ninebarks are at high risk of becoming deer food but things have changed around here.  We have added an 85 lb deer repellant named Bailey to our family.  He has a very menacing bark and has chased a deer out of the yard several times so far.  If he sees a deer from the window – he jumps up on the glass and barks loudly. It’s great – he chases them away from in the house.  Go Bailey!

Bailey – the 9 month old deer repellant
physocarpus amber jubilee (about 30″ tall)

This elegant little (for now) shrub gets bright light all day and only partial sun.  It could probably take more sun than it gets but this is where we wanted it in the landscape.

I have written other posts about ninebarks.

‘Amber Jubilee’ –  http://wp.me/p2kNeQ-mN

– aB    This one discusses more about some other ninebarks focusing on Coppertina


Eskimo Sunset Maple Offers Dramatic Pink Foliage


Eskimo Sunset Sycamore Maple

Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Esk Sunset’

Eskimo Sunset is one the showiest of maples in our yard.
The variations of oranges and pinks in the leaves make this a striking addition to any garden.  Ours is planted on the west side right outside our  master bathroom.  We see it out the window first thing in the morning.  What a beautiful sight to start the day.
view from the bathroom window
view from the bathroom window
This tree is sure to attract attention.  In spring the leaves emerge orange-pink, maturing to assorted shades of greens.  The leaves are marbled, looking as though they have been splashed with creams, tans and pinks. There is a very wide variation among the individual leaves.  

some of the leaf variation
some of the leaf variation
The undersides of the leaves are purples, adding to the appeal when caught by a gust of wind or you are viewing the tree from below.  Autumn brings a prolonged color interest from this tree.
looking up at the purple undersides
LIGHT:  partial to full sun ( ours gets midday and afternoon sun )
MOISTURE:  regular watering is important as the tree becomes established.  (ours in an area that stays moist almost all year)
PRUNING:   we have pruned it to improve the shape and for flower arrangements.  It has started to grow so fast that I think we will have to be pruning for size before too long.  I think they have underestimated the full size and growth rate.  It is said that the average landscape size will be12 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide in 10 years; 25 ft. tall with age. I think that is an understatement.  I read on another site that it will get to 40 ft. 
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
Eskimo sunset will produce an insignificant chartreuse bloom in mid spring – early summer.   Collect seeds by allowing seed heads to dry on plants. Then remove and collect seeds.  Seed does not store well so direct sow seeds outdoors in the fall.
Eskimo Sunset Maple
Eskimo Sunset Maple


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
Family: Sapindaceae (sap-in-DAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Acer (AY-ser) (Info)
Species: pseudoplatanus (soo-doh-PLAT-uh-nus) (Info)
Cultivar: Eskimo Sunset
Additional cultivar information: (aka Esk Sunset)
It was discovered as a chance seedling by John Wills at Trelinoe, his garden in the Esk Valley, which is on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
We have had our tree for several years.  It was a bit more rare when we found it than it is now.  We see them at nurseries  occasionally, though it is not a nursery staple in this area.
The vibrant leaf color commands lots of attention in this area of the garden.  We have just redone the area around this tree and have used plants that add bold foliage colors and textures that are complimentary, actaea simplex ‘black negligee’, astilbe ‘look at me’ peonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and many more.  We’re looking forward to seeing all these new plants mature into an interesting, colorful and pleasingly awesome garden anchored by esk sunset.





Prunella ‘Summer Daze’ – An Unusual Pretty Pink Perennial

Our garden is at it’s best in the early to mid spring. We have been needing to add summer color and have been focusing on adding plants with foliage interest and summer bloomers.

prunella 3
Prunella ‘Summer Daze’


US Plant Patent #19,609

I bought this cute little flowering perennial from Far Reaches Farm, Summer of 2013 for $10.00. I have never seen it for sale anywhere else. I planted it in partial sun in an area that takes a fair amount of abuse, by the dog chasing his ball, by bunnies, deer and elk all looking for fodder. It sat quietly all winter and sprang back to life this spring and is now in full bloom. The leaves are green and oak shaped.

flower bud
flower bud

The flower buds are an interesting are odd-shaped affair with a dark burgundy – black whirls with tiny white hairs where the bright pink spikes of hooded blooms will emerge. The buds add an interesting texture to this plant even before the vibrant blooms spring out.

The ‘summer daze’ originated In the United Kingdom. It’s a hybrid herbaceous perennial resulting from the cross between Prunella grandiflora and Prunellalaciniata. It will bloom in from late spring until first frost, producing dense spikes of rosy purple blooms.

Flower Close up
Flower Close up
Oak leaf type foliage
Oak leaf type foliage

CULTURE: this plant grows well in sunny or partially shady areas. It also doesn’t seen to be too fussy about watering. It hasn’t received more than anything rainwater since I planted it in summer or 2013. I gave it 1st season protection from animals, by putting a birdcage over it. I don’t know yet if the animal pests will eat it. It is said to be deer ‘resistant’ I’m always a bit skeptical about that claim because the deer and elk that travel our yard don’t seem to read the same ‘deer resistant’ plant charts that I read. ‘Summer daze’ seems pretty sturdy. It clumps neatly and would be suitable in pots or in the garden. Rows of them would be stunning in a border garden!

It is said to be hardy to a zone 4 (-30). It had no problem getting through 8 degrees last winter. It can be propagated by tip cuttings however a license is required – I don’t know how easy it is, I haven’t tried it, yet.

Pacific Northwest Native Foxglove (digitalis)
Pacific Northwest Native Foxglove (digitalis)

The color of the prunella blooms tie in beautifully with the native digitalis that volunteer in our garden.

I think this is a perennial that is definitely worth growing.

‘Common’ Mahonia Deserves Another Look

Today we had a brief respite between rain and wind storms. As I was strolling the yard making the pre-spring assessment of what needs to be done… a sweet fragrance caught my attention.mahonia 'charity' 2

We love to collect the rare and interesting flora, often taking for granted the ‘common’ plant materials that provide the bones of the garden. This Oregon grape is found commonly in many Northwest Nurseries. Mahonia stands quietly in the garden most of the year, going unnoticed, while adding shape and structure. In early March it come to life with blooms in whorls of delicate and fragrant yellow flowers. It was such a treat to smell the sweet fragrance and see the delicate blooms on such a study plant that I wanted to share the outstanding qualities of this wonderfully common family of Mahonia.mahonia 'charity' 3

mahonia 'charity' 1

The flowers will be replaced by waxy dark berries in grape like clusters in late summer into early fall. The evergreen foliage has an upright growth habit, with deep green, prickly leaves in arranged in whorls. In my part of the world, one of the most redeeming features to this shrub is that it is of no interest to rabbits, deer or elk, but the hummingbirds find it appealing.

CARE: In our yard we have several varieties and have used it in several places. Mahonia has thrived in a variety of light, moisture and soil situations. We may prune occasionally for shape. Our winter temperatures get down to single digits most years and wind speeds over 35 mph are not unusual. Mahonia takes it all in stride, showing few signs of wear and no signs of stress. No wonder it is among the ‘great plant picks’ collection.

We have collected several different varieties of mahonias, from common to exotic. In the back yard, in the spring….the 6-7 foot tall sturdy deep green leaves of Charity are beautifully contrasted with delicate sprays of pale pink candelabra primroses and the deeper rose double blooming perennial ’Corporal Baxter’ primroses. As summer approaches and the primrose blooms fade, they are replaced with a ground cover of dusty blue hostas and miniature ‘Twist of Lime’ hostas. To its left stands a vigorous ‘Coppertina’ physocarpus (ninebark) providing wonderful color contrast. mahonia 'charity' 4

Most mahonia prefers full sun to dappled shade, is drought tolerant once established, but also does well in our very damp weather -3/4 of the year. It prefers a well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy sites and clay.   Most are hardy – zone 6 -7.  Some varieties are more tender: ‘Dan Hinkley’ – a small slender growing plant and ‘gracilipesis’ – with beautiful blue-gray green foliage and silver undersides. We planted this one on a hill in hopes of being able to admire the underside as it grows.

There is a mahonia choice (or two) that is perfect in any garden.

Great New NINEBARK – ‘Amber Jubilee’

The newest ninebark member in my collection is Physocarpus ‘Amber Jubilee’, also known as Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’.   ‘Amber Jubilee’ ninebark was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.  The queen took part in the ceremonial planting of this new shrub while visiting Winnipeg.
It is beautiful, and as amber, golden, glowing and colorful as the name suggests.  It is the seedling of the cross ‘Diabolo’ x ‘Dart’s Gold’ made by Rick Durand of Jeffries Nurseries in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba (Canada).

foliage variations on our new Ninebark 'Amber Jubilee'
foliage variations on our new Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’

I was so pleased to find this and add it to our collection.    It came in a two gallon pot and cost $38.00 in one of our local nurseries.  The cost was a bit on the high side, but not enough to prevent me from buying it.

I’m really fond of ninebarks and the color they bring to the garden.  Last year I wrote a post about ninebarks, here’s the link http://wp.me/p2kNeQ-aB  since then we have added ‘summerwine’ and now Amberglow to the gardens.

When doing some internet research on this great new shrub, I found this great description of the foliage.  :According to this nursery the new ninebark offers a unique blend of foliage colors including new growth that takes on shades of yellow and orange in summer before turning purple in the fall. “Foliage on mature sections of the plant is lime-green. Amber Jubilee is distinct from purple-foliaged ninebarks such as ‘CenterGlow’, ‘Coppertina’ and ‘Summer Wine’. Its foliage is an improvement over long-time cultivar ‘Dart’s Gold’. ‘Amber Jubilee’ will be effective as a medium shrub in the landscape, whether massed or planted in small groupings.” 

The Details:

The common name: Amber Jubilee® Ninebark

True botanical Name: Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’

A member of the Rosaceae family

Light: full to partial sun

Hardy to: USDA Zone 2

Soils: adaptable to a wide variety of soil types

Growth Rate: A vigorous shrub reaching a mature height of 5-6’ (2 m) and a width of 4’ (1.5 m).

Pest and Disease: No specific problems.  (In my yard- we have to protect them from the deer and elk who find them very tasty)

Propagation: Cuttings from established plants. Propagation by First Editions license only.

Landscape Value: Amber Jubilee® is distinct from purple-foliaged ninebarks such as Center Glow®, Coppertina® and Summer Wine®. Its foliage is an improvement over long-time cultivar Dart’s Gold. Amber Jubilee® will be effective as a medium shrub in the landscape, whether massed or planted in small groupings.

Rhododendron ‘ruby parasol’

It’s funny how many times you can walk past something then one day you actually SEE it.  That’s what happened when I walked through the garden today.   Rhododendron ‘ruby parasol’ is an attractive little background shrub in our garden.  We’ve had it for several years, but admittedly, I have never really paid attention to it, it was just there.  This year it has distinguished itself and made me notice why we selected it and the very reason it was named ‘ruby parasol’.

Rhododendron 'ruby parasol'
Rhododendron ‘ruby parasol’

This is a very young plant, as rhodies go.  It has put on a lot of new growth this year and that is what makes it so interesting.  The new growth emerges with  a thick coating of gray velvety hairs and a blush of ruby color,  before it fades to

a typical rhododendron leaf, later in the season.  It’s a subtle evergreen beauty.  I think the flowers are a medium pink, but I honestly don’t remember for sure.  While writing this post, I searched it online and couldn’t find this particular variety.  I don’t remember where we bought it.  It’s been about 3 years ago and I can’t always remember what I had for breakfast.  😉

It’s one of the ‘bones’ of the garden, quietly giving structure, shape and character to the garden all year.  Today, it’s my favorite.


tiny leaf mazus ‘radicans’

Mazus ‘radicans’ is a really cool, low-growing perennial in the lopseed family, Phrymaceae.  This plant is generally found in damp habitats in lowland or mountain regions of China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.  (The previous info courtesy of Wikipedia)  I don’t really know much about this plant except how it has preformed in my garden.  I have never heard a nickname for it.  In my garden it is in a pot that sits in the ground because it is so small, I was afraid it would get lost.

mazus 'radicans' in bloom
mazus ‘radicans’ in bloom

I first bought this in a 3″ pot, two years ago.  It has the cutest little fuzzy stems and bronze spotted leaves.  This is the first year that it has bloomed.  The flowers are purple and white and more than double the size of the leaves.

I keep a cage over it because the bunnies find it very attractive.

In my garden it gets some sun mid to late in the day.  It gets watered when it rains (in the pacific northwest it rains a lot).   It’s not unusual to get down to 8 degrees  f. around here in the winter, and it seems to come though that just fine.

It is considered to be a ‘steppable’, but it will not be used that way in our garden.  It has the teeny tiniest leaf perennial in our garden.  It would be a great, though slow growing perennial ground cover.

I love having it in my garden.  Today… it’s my favorite.  😉

Beautiful Late Spring Primrose – Primula bulleyana

Primula bulleyana
Primula bulleyana

Primula bulleyana is a species of flowering plant in the family Primulaceae, native to hillsides in China.

In our garden this grows in a place with no direct sunlight, but bright shade most of the day.  The ground stays pretty moist most of the time.  We haven’t ever fertilized this bed.  Weeds are such a problem here that we put bark down.  Slugs don’t seem to like bark so we have not had to bait at all.  Rabbits, deer, elk, squirrels, and chipmunks all seem to leave them alone.   This is really a stunning primula!