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shade garden

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Buttercup Winterhazel – An Early Spring Fragrant tree

February 17, 2017

Winterhazel from American NurserymanMagazine


What blooms earlier than forsythia, has a delicate fragrance and is an easy-to-care for compact delight ? It is also hardy to USDA Zones 6-9 and native to Japan and Taiwan.

Buttercup winterhazel (Corylopsis pauciflora)
Toward mid April (depending where you live), the bare branches of buttercup winterhazel hang with inch-long clusters of soft yellow flowers that appear as little lanterns.

The fragrance is noticeable, making it perfect near a sitting spot. It was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.

This is a different species of winterhazel – Corylopsis glabrescens ‘Longwood Chimes’ has exceptional fragrance.

Winterhazel (pauciflora)is good in a small city garden or as a woodland underplanting in open shade.
It glows in front of evergreens and is a perfect pairing with purple Rhododendron mucronulatum since they flower at the exact same time.

And winterhazels look wonderful with snowdrops and hellebores!

Portland Nursery photo

As the flowers fade, the leaves unfurl to 3 inches long, bright green with red edges before darkening to rich green. In fall they turn a gold-bronze.

This species is compact and is the ideal choice for a small garden. Plant in spring, in well-drained, acid soil, in a spot with light or dappled shade. It will tolerate full sun with regular watering in the summer. It needs little pruning.

Branches of Corylopsis pauciflora are best collected in February for flowers in early March, up to two weeks before their normal bloom season.

C. pauciflora can be hard to find, but well stocked nurseries will carry it. Look for it in Spring!

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‘Sparkler’ Carex – a great plant

January 5, 2017

Sparkler Carex


What is deer resistant, grows in part to full shade, has varigated leaves, likes wet soil, has no serious pests and will naturalize and spread?

Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’ – photo by Laura McKillop

Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’


‘Sparkler’ Carex or sedge thrives in moist, organically rich soils so it is perfect for rain gardens or heavy soil. It is considered to be winter hardy to USDA Zone 7 (hardy to 10 degrees). It can be grown as an annual is colder regions.
‘Sparkler’ is clump-forming and has whorl-like clusters of grass-like, variegated leaves at the end of each 12″ – 24″ tall stem. This makes it look like a mini palm of narrow leaves with broad white margins. Tony Avent describes Carex Sparkler as “a grove of miniature variegated palm trees.”


photo taken by Laura McKillop in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens

In southern locations where plants are reliably winter hardy, you can grown them in a mass in a shady spot..in colder areas you can grow them in planters to light up a shady corner. It is also great for cut flower arrangements.

This Japanese import looks lovely among ferns in the woodland garden or along a border. Tell your garden center to order it now for next spring!