Shady Shrubs

zz Milner Gardens1

Sunny days are here again and with that sun comes the “it’s too hot, I need to find some shade to sit in!”   Well, you’re not the only one who likes a shady spot.  Here are some shady shrubs that prefer to beat the heat and stretch their roots in the cool understory of larger trees.

While rhododendrons and Japanese Maples are commonly used shrubs in shady gardens there are some others that deserve their time in the spotlight.

Camellia sinensis, commonly called Tea Plant, is an evergreen tree or large shrub that has just arrived at Cultivate.  While related to the ornamental camellia bushes everyone is familiar with this one is everybody’s cup of tea, literally.

This is the tree that is cultivated to make the popular beverage called tea.  Yes, that cup of tea you sip in the morning (unless you’re a coffee drinker) comes from a tree just like this.  I kid you not.

Green tea, black tea, oolong, yellow tea and white tea are all harvested from this tree, it’s the processing of the leaves that distinguishes the different teas.  The leaves can be dried or fermented depending on what type of tea is preferred. The best leaves to use are at the ends of the branches, basically the last couple of leaves and the bud.

Not only can you make yourself a cup of tea with this plant but it also has scented white flowers with bright yellow pistils in autumn.  All around this plant would make a cool addition to the back of a partially shady border.

Lindera obtusiloba, or Japanese Spicebush, is a really pretty little deciduous tree for a shady or woodland garden.  In the fall it glows a golden yellow and in late winter you can expect clusters of bright yellow flowers before the cool shaped leaves appear.  New this season at Cultivate (my mom has already snatched one up).

Kerria japonica is one of my favourite late spring flowering plants.  Just from looking at it you’d think it would enjoy a spot in a sunny English border but it really loves to reside in the shady side of the street, even full shade.

Kerria flies out of the garden centre in April and May when it’s full of bright yellow flowers but we usually have it in stock most of the time as it’s one of the few reliably deer resistant plants.

Another favourite of mine is Enkianthus.  This deciduous shrub works wonderfully in a woodland setting with tiny, bell-shaped nodding flowers in carmine tones and fab fall colour.   Moist, acidic soil is its preference so add lots of Sea Soil to the planting hole.

You can’t go wrong with Skimmia japonica as an evergreen structure plant for a shady garden.  Fragrant flowers, bright berries and clean green leaves on a nicely rounded, compact plant.  There are many different cultivars and if you want the berries then make sure you have a male and a female plant otherwise you’ll just get flowers (which are nice by themselves but not so nice if you were counting on berries).  If you only have room for one plant then go with Skimmia reevesiana, a self-fertile cultivar.

So if you’re feeling too hot then pick up one of these shade loving plants at Cultivate.  It will give you an excuse to do some gardening out of the sun.

Shirley Eppler

July 2014