Cooling Off in the Dappled Shade: Deepest Violet and Shadow Blue Hues …

July 23rd, 2011 § Comments Off on Cooling Off in the Dappled Shade: Deepest Violet and Shadow Blue Hues … § permalink

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ with Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’

Out working in the field during this week’s scorching heat and high humidity, I found myself dodging the sun whenever possible; ducking beneath the cover of every shade tree and arbor in order to hide from burning, mid-day rays. Over the past couple of weeks it’s been so hot, it really does feel as if you could fry an egg on the side walk. I can barely keep up with watering these days, and I find myself longing for the sweet relief of summer rain.

During the dog days of summer —seduced by the undeniable allure of cool hues and dappled shade in the Secret Garden— I like to spend as much time as possible working from my shadowy office-nook. Cool shades like sea-green, violet-maroon, silvery-blue and burgundy —some of my favorite colors— fill this shady oasis. And on hot days, I love to pull a chair into the tall ferns and surround myself with lush, sensual foliage, in soothing, deep, dark hues. Previously, in posts such as “A Heart of Darkness”, I’ve mentioned my infatuation with nearly-black plants. And while the hues are anything but hot, my dark passion for shadowy foliage shows now sign of cooling. Currently, I’m loving the color play of silver-blue leaves against deep maroon, and two long-time favorite, shady ladies, Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’ (USDA 4-8) and Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (USDA 4-8), are the latest, cool-hued additions to my garden (foliage of both pictured above). 

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea (aka variously: Japanese Mitsuba or Japanese parsley/honewort)

The pale pink plumes of Astilbe x arendesii ‘Europa’ also combine well with bronzy-maroon Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

Elsewhere in the shade gardens, I like to combine astilbe and silvery ferns —particularly Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (both ferns, USDA 4-9)— with the deep, violet-maroon leaves of Cryptotaenia japonica autropurpurea(aka Japanese Mitsuba/Honewort, USDA zones 4-9*), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, H. ‘Stormy Sea’ and statuesque Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (which I featured in this post –click here– last summer). Chartreuse/gold leaves and blades also play beautifully in contrast with darker foliage; bringing a bit of light to shady vignettes. Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and Hosta ‘August Moon’ are two favorite bright-contrast plants in my dimly-lit Secret Garden.

After a long day in the hot sun, there’s nothing quite so soothing as a cool glass of lemonade in a lush, shady nook…

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (aka Cimicifuga), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ play beautifully with the chartreuse-blades of Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and to the far left, silvery, variegated Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’

Hosta ‘August Moon’ with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

One of my long-time favorite, leafy ground covers for dappled sunlight, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, combines well with many other shade garden plants. And I particularly love the leathery-maroon leaves beneath Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

*Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea is a culinary herb, known variously as Mitsuba, Japanese parsley or honeywort. It is closely related to North American Cryptotaenia canadensis. Although it is not considered an invasive plant by the USDA, C. japonica freely seeds and in shady, moist locations can become aggressive (much like mint). Plant this herb with caution and dead head to prevent self-sowing seed troubles.

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Pausing as Spring Dances with Summer: A Moment at the Verdant Threshold …

June 14th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Secret Garden Door in Late Spring

Sunny days and sultry evenings alternate with cool mornings and moody rain showers as Springtime dances toward Summer. The month swept in with dramatic beauty: wild thunderstorms followed by golden sunsets; mist-covered hills illuminated by pink afterglow. This is a busy time of year, but every morning and evening, I make time for a stroll through the garden. With so many changes this week,  I couldn’t help but notice that Summer —wearing her most luxurious, emerald gown— is already flirting at the threshold of my garden door…

Aquilegia ‘Spring Magic Rose & Ivory’ blooms beside the water bowl (planted with Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’, Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea and Glaucidium palmatum)

Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ with Heuchera and Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’)

Rodgersia aesculifolia and Matteuccia pensylvanica with various Heuchera and Euphorbia

Cimicufuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Paeonia moutan x lutea ‘High Noon’, Matteuccia pensylvanica, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’

The Secret Garden in June. Atop:Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’. Below: Heuchera americana (various cultivars), Euphorbia, Rodgersia aesculifolia, Matteuccia pensylvanica, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, Hosta ‘August Moon’

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ Tumbles Over the Secret Garden Wall

In the entry garden, Cornus kousa takes center stage in full bloom this week, and in the background, Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’  cascades in a waterfall of deep cerise

The softer side of June: Aruncus dioicus, Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ and Hydrangea petiolaris with free-sown Valeriana officinalis

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ (Mountain Laurel) Just Coming into Bloom on the Ledge in the Entry Garden

Ferny and Feathery in Shades of Green and Ivory: Aruncus dioicus (Goat’s Beard) with Dennstaedtia puntilocula (Hayscented Fern)

The Stone Seat with Baptisia australis, Aruncus dioicus and Tsuga canadenis

Moon Urn and Terra Cotta Pots with Verbena, Stobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield), Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’, Lysmachia nummularia

Iris germanica (cultivar unknown), Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ in the entry garden

Wish I could share the beautiful fragrance of Abelia mosanenisis with you. Exquisite… Quite like a powdery memory. (Read more about this season spanning beauty and her icy juniper companion here).

Iris germanica ‘Senlac’ glows in the afternoon light, backed up by Hosta ‘Big Daddy’

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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A Heart of Darkness…

February 12th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’, available online at, (and image via):  White Flower Farm

Some gardeners adore bright colors, and other plant collectors crave pastels. There are those who prefer dramatic plants painted silver and gold and a few indecisive types who seek out green tonal shifts and mottled white variegation. These hues are all quite lovely, and they occasionally catch my eye, but I fully admit that I have more shadowy desires. The truth is that deep within me, hidden from the light of day, beats a heart of pure darkness – I confess that I have a passion for black plants. Rich, dark purple and velvety red; bitter chocolate and silky maroon; ruby wine and exotic ebony: these are the colors I covet. And wouldn’t you agree that on a hot summer day, it’s easy to be seduced by a mysterious garden filled with shadows?

Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea backs up Athyrium niponicum var. pictum in my Secret Garden…

I love the cool, quiet of my shady, Secret Garden – but even in full sun, I like to paint shadows with dark foliage and black plants. While stunning on their own, when used in artful combination, these raven-hued beauties of the plant world can make the other flowers and foliage in a garden truly sing. Beside maroon and deep purple, sky blue blossoms sparkle, and when paired with orange and yellow, wine toned foliage is a bold and dramatic choice. Variegated plants, as well as the dusty, marbled whites and soft silver tones, all appear more striking when positioned beside darker colors. Imagine ghostly white ferns floating in a sea of dark foliage, or icy silver-tipped ivy winding about the base of black snake root, (Cimicifugia/Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’). Dark beauty shyly beckons in the shade…

Streptocarpus ‘Black Panther’, seduces from the shadows of my garden on a hot day..

As for the dark blossoms – oh my, but how I’ve fallen; hopelessly deep, and madly in love, with all of their seductive charms. Ruby red, tipping toward blackness, the deep colored dahlias delight me, and the ink-stained petals of iris can drive me truly wild. But pair the velvety allure of maroon roses with a subtle, spicy fragrance, and I will begin to truly swoon. Yes, I know it is an obsession – but you must know my passion for plants by now. I simply can not help it. In fact , as some of you may recall, I have revealed my personal weakness for dark flowers, when I wrote about the mysterious Black Panther Streptocarpus last summer, (pictured above). So, come along with me, won’t you ? Let’s wander away on a tour of the dark-blossoming underworld. Others may only be charmed by bold birds-of-paradise or delicate little, fluttering flowers. As for me, I will always prefer the slightly sinister beauties, like the dark temptress Odile, a shadow drifting silently across Swan Lake

Ipomoea ‘Sweet Heart Purple’,(image via): White Flower Farm

Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’, available online at, (and image via):White Flower Farm

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black magic’, (image/avail. via): White Flower Farm

Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Angelica gigas, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Sambucus ‘Black Lace’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita bright red’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Begonia Rex ‘Fireworks’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’, available online at (and photo via): White Flower Farm

Iris chrysographes, available online at (and image via): Wayside Gardens

Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass), available online at: (and image via) Wayside Gardens

***

Odile, the black swan, as portrayed by Julie Kent. Photo by Roy Rounds via Thought Patterns.

For further exploring the shadowy side of your gardening personality, I recommend both of these dark, delicious titles…

Karen Platt’s Black Magic and Purple Passion

Paul Bonine’s Black Plants

***

Article and photographs (except where noted and linked to external websites and products) are copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved.

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent.

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Ode to a Fiddlehead…

July 16th, 2009 § Comments Off on Ode to a Fiddlehead… § permalink

The woodland path at Ferncliff – Image ⓒ Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden

Call me a fiddle-head, it is true. I have a long standing love-affair with ferns. Ostrich and Cinnamon, Maidenhair and Lady, Autumn and Christmas; even their names delight me, and I can never seem to get enough of this delicate, feathery species. My affection can be traced back to the summers of my childhood; those long, hot afternoons and fading twilight hours spent exploring abandoned stone foundations and hidden brooks in the forest beyond my home. There, beneath the shade of tall trees, ferns became woven crowns and verdant skirts fit for imaginary forest royalty. To my eye, when it comes to beauty in the plant world, foliage truly equals flower. What could be more beautiful than the fern? Shimmering, silver fiddleheads unfurling from damp earth, luminous feather paths winding through dark tree-trunks, and lacy plumes softening rugged outcroppings of rock and ledge; ferns possess some of the most dramatic foliage in the forest.

Native to North America, the cinnamon fern, (Osmunda cinnamonea, pictured below), is a perfect example of the long-lasting beauty of this foliage plant. In very early spring, the fuzzy, silvery-white tipped fiddle-heads of cinnamon fern emerge from the forest floor. As the first tightly wrapped heads unfurl, (reaching upward 2-4 feet), they quickly transform into stunningly beautiful, rich cinnamon stalks, followed by rapidly emerging, bright green fronds. By midsummer, the foliage of the cinnamon fern deepens to a regal emerald hue. Later, in autumn, the bold foliage turns a brilliant gold that absolutely glows in the forest. As lovely as it is in a natural setting, the cinnamon fern is also a spectacular addition to the garden. This non-aggressive plant forms thick but contained clumps of growth. As a companion to spring flowering bulbs, and a contrast to the exfoliating bark of trees, (river birch, stewartia and paperbark maple spring to mind), the design possibilities of both the lush foliage and cinnamon-colored stalks make the cinnamon fern one of my favorites.

cinnamon-fern-stalksCinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamonea) – Image: Georgian Court University

Cinnamon fern’s close relative, the interrupted fern, (Osmunda claytonia), is another gorgeous native plant. As the fiddle-heads unfurl to a height of 2-3 feet, the foliage on this fern’s upright, fertile fronds is interrupted midway by sporing pinnae. This break gives the plant its common name, ‘interrupted’ fern. The non-sporing fronds arch away from the plant dramatically, creating an attractive, flowing green mound. Interrupted ferns prefer slightly damp conditions, where they forms natural groupings in the wild. As a garden plant, the interrupted fern is endlessly useful in dappled light and partly sunny conditions. Though large, the airy fronds of this fern combine well with many trees, shrubs and perennials.

interrupted-fernInterrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana)

The Christmas fern, (Polystichum acrostichoides), is an evergreen fern, and one of the most shade tolerant members of this species. Another North American native, this leathery-leafed plant can often be found carpeting steep banks in densely forested areas. As a garden plant, the soil-stabilizing qualities of Christmas fern make it an excellent choice for shady slopes and other places where erosion is a concern. In Northern woodlands, the beauty of this plant’s glossy, deep green foliage is well appreciated in late autumn and early winter, when most deciduous trees have shed their leaves and the forest floor has turned brown.

christmas-fernChristmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

It is easy to understand how the enormous, feathery plumes of Ostrich fern, (Matteuccia pensylvanica, pictured below), earned their name.  This gorgeous fern is also one of my favorites, and placed with care, it can be a fantastic garden plant. Ostrich fern spreads by aggressive rhizomes, making it useful as a ground cover in damp areas. If planted in a dry spot, (as it is in my secret garden), however, Ostrich fern is mild mannered and easily contained. In it’s ideal conditions, (moist, dappled shade), this fern can reach nearly six-feet in height. And although there is no autumn color, if the plant receives ample moisture, it will remain attractive and green through late autumn.

naturally-occuring-ostrich-fern-at-ferncliffOstrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica) is a member of the cliff fern family.

The delicate and airy, native maidenhair fern, (Adiantum pedatum), and lady fern, (Athyrium felix-feminina), are commonly used in gardens, and with good reason. Both of these plants are not only beautiful but tough, tolerating a wide variety of soil conditions and changing light. Although both ferns prefer dappled shade and moist soil, they will succeed under less favorable circumstances, and need not be coddled. Lady fern in particular has become popular with commercial growers, and it seems a new variety is available whenever I pick up a magazine or catalogue. Beyond the commonly available lady fern, (a member of my favorite group, the cliff ferns), I have come to enjoy the sanguine stems of Athyrium felix-feminina, “Lady in red”, as they emerge along my garden wall.

lady-fernLady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) ‘Lady in Red’ and companion Huechera ‘Green Spice’

maiden-hair-fernThe northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) planted with Hosta.

Many of the other ferns native to North America, such as the bracken fern, (Pteridium aquilinum), and hay-scented fern,(Dennstaedtia puctilobula), are lovely in naturalized settings, or singular landscape uses, but are far too aggressive for mixed borders or perennial gardens. Hay-scented fern forms dense carpets, and it is particularly beautiful and useful along woodland paths, hedges, walks and driveways, and beneath dense foliage trees.

natural-grouping-of-bracken-fern-at-ferncliffBracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) beautiful in naturalized areas, is an aggressive spreader.

natural-grouping-of-hay-scented-bracken-and-interrupted-fern-at-ferncliffA natural grouping of hay-scented, bracken and interrupted ferns in the forest at Ferncliff.

In addition to the many ferns native to North America, introduced garden ferns and hybrids, such as the Japanese painted fern, (Athyrium nipponicum, “Pictum”), are spectacular plants for light to dense shade situations. Beautiful, subtle color variations in fern foliage can be played against one another and in combination with other plants to create breathtakingly beautiful patterns. A ground-cover of perennial ferns can become a living tapestry to be enjoyed throughout the growing season, year after year. Athyrium x “Ghost” is a particularly beautiful fern, and I have found the color varies a bit by placement and light. The frosty white fronds are stunning at twilight in darker corners of my garden.

Athyrium x ‘Ghost’ planted to with Hosta ‘August Moon’ , Astilbe, Lamium and Cryptotaenia japonica

Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’, planted with Cryptotaenia japonica ‘Atropurpurea’

japanese-painted-fernJapanese painted fern, Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’, nestled beside Hosta and seeded Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’

Having named my garden Ferncliff, it should come as no surprise that I am a true fern-fanatic. When designing gardens here and elsewhere, I am always on the look-out for new ways to use ferns in garden settings. Ferns are remarkably versatile plants; softening formal designs and lending elegance to modest buildings and simple features. Ferns can be planted in urns to flatter classical architecture, or in geometrically precise planters to harmonize with more modern landscapes. The airy quality of ferns provides movement in shady nooks with the slightest breeze, and the textural qualities of fronds enliven the edge of still or slow-moving water features and smooth wall surfaces. The possibilities of ferns are limited only by imagination.

fern-in-courtyardOstrich Fern, (Matteuccia pensylvanica), softening the edge of the secret garden at Ferncliff.

For more information on ferns, see Martin Rickard’s The Plantfinder’s Guide to Garden Ferns, (copyright 2000, Timber Press).

Image of Cinnamon Fern: Georgian Court University

Article and all other photographs copyright 2009 Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden


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