Better in the shade

Last year, a ‘Little Honey’ Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’, below) was moved from a spot where the yellow leaves were often damaged in too much sun, to the shadier far side of the garden that borders a forest of tall maples and tulip poplars. I didn’t like ‘Little Honey’ much in the sun, and in the shade its still far from a favorite. Here, it doesn’t damage, and now I can tolerate it.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm, the hydrangea works far better in this new location that needed the enclosure of shrubs at the garden’s border. I have no objection to vibrant, yellow leaves, but the yellow of ‘Little Honey’ still looks faded, even in shade. The flowers are much smaller than other green leafed Oakleafs in the garden, and while I won’t be digging it up and getting rid of it, the hydrangea has fallen to the level of functional and just passably ornamental.

I am surprised (again) how well Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, above) flowers in the shade, even lower branches shaded by a large ‘Mary Nell’ holly. While lowest branches have been pruned over the years to clear a path beneath the tree, I first see fallen flowers on the stones (below) in a succession of blooms over several weeks. The view from our second story bedroom reveals the full extent of Stewartia’s flowering.

Flowers do not fade before falling, so the stone path is littered with Stewartia’s splendid blooms through much of June.

It is true that planting Stewartia requires patience, which I claim in abundance though my wife laughs at the notion. This is an advantage of developing a garden over three decades, so that trees that are slow to get started have time to grow. Once a minor disappointment as it barely grew, it is now among favorites.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. James says:

    Dave….are all the plants you mentioned in this post available at your nursery in South Riding, or one of the other locations? Or do you use mail order outlets?

    1. Dave says:

      Little Honey was purchased through the nursery, but is only occasionally available. A small number of Stewartia were received this spring. Please call the nursery to confirm they are in stock. Many of the plants in my garden are typical to the garden centers, but I also test plants for growers to evaluate if they are worthwhile, so these might not make into the garden centers. I also order less common plants not worthy of selling in larger numbers from specialty mail order growers, so some of all of these might be seen in the garden.

  2. Linus Chen says:

    Do you still have good fall color for the stewartias in the shade?

    1. Dave says:

      Last autumn, foliage color was disappointing, but I don’t believe that had anything to do with shade. Most years the color is excellent.

  3. Laura says:

    Thanks for your honesty. I can’t own everything so I look forward to news about your experiences to guide my choices.

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