My sad azaleas, thoughts on changes this season

kpaquetteMarch 8, 2012

Hi all...I was out doing some cleanup in my garden beautiful outside! (albeit a tad breezy) Of course my wheels are turning trying to decide what little changes I'll be making this year...I plan on totally redoing my hottest bed to have a cutting garden, and I am going to probably attempt a climbing rose on my arbor.

I'm an infrequent poster so I'm not sure if anyone remembers, but I am a newbie gardener who had my entire garden installed (By Avant Gardens in Dartmouth MA.) This is the start of it's 4th season in the ground.

There are a few things that haven't really thrived - I can't get my clematis to do much of anything (both on the arbor, and on 3 trellises we have as a divider to the house that sits in our garden. So this year I'm going to try a rose on the arbor and climbing hydrangea on the trellises (they're shaded by that neighbor's house.)

I have a couple of azalea 'klondyke' that were put in and I swear they haven't grown one inch since. There were originally three, but one died after the first winter so I replaced it, but with a 3rd spirea since I wasn't that crazy about the azaleas to begin with. The blooms are a beautiful mango color but they are so short lived and the plants just look sad the rest of the time. The remaining two are still kinda pathetic looking. So I'm thinking of giving them away to see if they like a new home better, and trying something else...what other shrub is interesting and likes shade? In that bed I currently have 2 spirea, a stewartia tree, and an amsonia. (which I love.) But the two azaleas are to the shady side of the bed (shaded by that house) so don't see much sun at all.

Any input would be appreciated!

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I have one Azalea that came with the house, also in a shady area. This finally flowered my fifth season after I had to cut back a bush in front of it that had lost its middle branches in a storm. When it got some sun, it flowered. I bought another one, I forget the cultivar but it is hardy to my zone, and it is in an area that gets a lot of sun, although it is shaded from the midday sun. And it flowers like crazy, it is growing, and I have one wayward branch that looks really funny. I don't know if this will help, but it might be worth thinking about moving them. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 7:30AM
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Hi Fixerupper! well, part of the problem is my garden is so small I don't have another place for them. My garden is really a patio surrounded by some beds. And so I have to really think before adding (or subtracting.) Since these azaleas aren't particularly attractive (they are scrawny - leaves only at the tips of leggy stems, yet they are only about 2 ft high) I think I want to get rid of them and replace with something I might actually like. They do flower, but I have never been a fan of azaleas (or rhododendron) because personally I don't find the foliage that attractive for the rest of the year they aren't flowering. When they were suggested in the garden design I think I imagined they'd be more full and fill in the area better.

I think I remember posting about these azaleas a couple of years ago because they were still ugly then (haha) and I was asking if they'd ever fill in - based on the buds they have now it looks like in their 4th year they'll still be the same. Time to move on! ;) If anyone wants 2 azalea klondykes come to Newport for them. :)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 7:57AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


There aren't a lot of shade tolerant shrubs, but a hydrangea might work for you in that spot. If you have azaleas there I'm going to assume the pH is low. A hydrangea will grow in that kind of soil. How much space do you have in that spot? Hydrangeas now come in a variety of colors, not just blue/pink. The newer Endless Summer varieties or Forever and Ever varieties have a longer bloom season than the older ones because they bloom on both old and new growth.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:12AM
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Hi Steve...ha yesterday I was searching the hydrangea forum to get ideas. I think I do have room for one as long as it can be kept in check with hard pruning (like the Endless or FE varieties.) The issue is if the spot gets enough sun. It's pretty much shade because of the house next door but there might be enough indirect sunlight. I might give one a try.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:55AM
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When I combine "climbing hydrangea on the trellises" and "my garden is so small" my first thought is please don't do it! Climbing hydrangeas are enormous plants, suited to growing up the trunks of very large, mature trees or up the side of 3 story buildings, or even across wide, heavy stone walls, but not on trellises unless they are truly massive structures.

Clematis play well with roses, so I'd add the rose while leaving the clematis. I'd give the clematis a year or two longer before deciding that I didn't like them -- they are slow to get going, but once they are growing well, they are great. Avant Gardens has types of clematis that are well-suited to this area, so I'd be surprised of they don't do well ultimately. Have you pruned them the past couple of years? Regardless of type, it's suggested that all clems get pruned down to a few buds (over winter) for the first couple of years since it makes them fill out better. Also, they do best if mulched well and kept from drying out.

I like Steve's suggestion of a reblooming hydrangea or two for that shady spot. I have 'Twist and Shout', 'Endless Summer' and 'All Summer Beauty' and like them all. An evergreen option for shade would be Leucathoe. I have green ones since they are hardiest, but you can grow some of the variegated foliage ones. Depending on how much shade there is, you may find some of the small rhododendrons do well there, particularly some of the yakushimanum hybrids like 'Yaku Princess' or 'Yaku Prince.'

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 9:00AM
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aaaaah yeah you're right nhbabs, about the climbing hydrangea. I would loooooove to have roses on the trellises but I don't think they get enough sun. They are sort of a "screen" to the house next door (taken with an annual vine on the middle one) -

And so they don't get any direct sun. Do you think a rose would do well there? I have an arbor with the same clematis on it at the entrance to the yard and it gets sun, so I'm definitely adding a rose to that (this pic taken with an annual vine on it a couple of years ago)

Of the three trellises, only one still has a clematis. The other two, the clematis just went away. If roses won't work, any other suggestions? Preferably something vigorous. I'm tired of waiting. ;)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 10:00AM
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This picture is a pretty accurate representation of the amount of sun the trellises get. (and you can see the azaleas on the left in bloom haha.) The left half of the garden is shaded by the house next door.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Wow, your yard is so pretty!
I am drawing a blank on ideas though. Have you tried the shade gardening forum to get suggestions for replacing the Azalea?
As far as roses go, I do know they like sun. I have some in a an area that gets some sun, and they aren't doing so well. I'll be moving them to a full sun area this year.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 4:21PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Wow, you do have a pretty yard! My yard may be bigger but its not nearly as nice looking and inviting as yours. How charming!

A rose in the shade is tough. Perhaps you could try a Darlow's Enigma. (See link below) Lyda Rose is a very pretty single rose, that does well in partial shade and reblooms (for me) late in the year, but it is not a climber.

Let us know what you do and make sure you post more pictures!


Here is a link that might be useful: Darlow's Enigma

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 6:16PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

You know, I think Zephirine Drouhin can take some shade too... *some* shade being the operative term here...


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:10PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Unless the arbor gets a lot more sun than in shown in the pictures, roses are out. Shade tolerant roses tolerate some shade, but still need about six hours of sun to bloom.

The English have variegated forms of Virginia creeper. There really are very, very few climbers that can handle shade.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 9:43AM
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I agree that the garden is quite lovely! It looks comfortable to relax in. It appears that the yellow building is to the south of your garden; do you get any sun either late afternoon or early morning on any of the trellises? If you do, that will expand your choices to include some of the shade tolerant clematis or shade tolerant roses. However, neither of those will be happy or flower with full shade, even though it is somewhat bright due to the patio being to the north, though the trellis by the tree will be very shaded in a few years. I have a few clematis that have bright shade most of the day but have something like 3 or 4 hours of sun and they will flower. I do have one in that situation which I need to move since it won't flower in that little sun.

I did some googling and came up with a few suggestions for full shade that might well be hardy for you, aren't invasive as far as I could tell, and seem to be a reasonable size for your setting. I haven't grown any of them, so perhaps someone who has can jump in with comments.
Woodlanders carries a variegated Kadsura japonica vine, though no ornamental flowers and it might not be fully hardy for you:

Brushwood has Lonicera x heckrottii, Goldflame Honeysuckle:

as well as Parthenocissus henryana, Silvervein Creeper which is slightly variegated and supposed to be "more restrained" than the native Virginia creeper. No ornamental flowers.

Another possibility to investigate includes Ficus pumila (AKA repens) variegata which may not be hardy enough for you.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 10:29AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I wonder if you can train an euonymous up the trellises? I believe they can take quite a bit of shade, no? But on the flip side I have heard they may be invasive; I don't have a lot of experience with this plant but it always catches my eye because of the variegation.

Virginia Creeper can indeed be beautiful, especially in fall. I had a friend who grew it up over her garage doors and it was quite stunning, but a lot of work to keep it in bounds. Well, not a LOT of work, or hard work, but constant vigilance to make sure it didn't go crazy. I think it would take over your trellises in one season, but may be worth the work to maintain it.

Personally, I think your trellises are quite nice and I would prefer to have bits of them remain visible, but then that has always been a problem of mine - I want something full and glorious to cover the arbors/trellises/tuteurs, but then I want to see them too!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 10:58AM
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If you're considering a hydrangea to replace the azaleas, Pia is a really nice small one that does well in my garden in part shade. I think I have 3 - they get morning sun; I haven't checked closely to see how many hours, but they're to the north of a line of tall spruce, and east of a towering maple. They bloom very well despite the conditions. The flowers are pink fading to deep red, in my garden (where there's no lime at all).

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 12:46PM
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Regarding your clematis - the ones that Avant Gardens planted for you - some varieties can take several years to get going, so I'd be cautious before removing them. You might ask the Tracys if these are supposed to be shade tolerant before you do anything drastic.

Also wanted to mention that you need to be careful placing roses at the entrance to your garden. I planted a tiny Fairy rose about 5' from the path to our music studio, and now it's a constant battle to keep the thorny canes from snagging arriving musicians.

I hesitate to mention this, because of your location, but Sweet Autumn Clematis thrives in shade here along the coast. The problem is that it's horribly invasive here - I have it coming up all over the place and it's very difficult to eradicate. I'll be spending several hours today cutting it off at the base in places where I don't want it - knowing it will be back with a vengeance within a few weeks. It does bloom better in sun, but shade doesn't seem to slow down its growth at all.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 11:06AM
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Thank you everyone for all your suggestions!!! Digginginthe dirt, there were a few plants that just haven't thrived in my garden - When it was initially installed, there was a clematis on each trellis and on the arbor. They were small 5" round mounds of chartreuse leaves that were close to the ground when they were put in. Of those, all three on the trellises were dead after the end of the 3rd year in the ground. I had Chris come back last year to mulch and fertilize, as well as put in a few plants - he brought 2 more clematis and put one on on the other side of the arbor and one on one of the trellises. The two he put in last year did better than the original ones-they actually grew a little bit haha. But the one that is remaining of the original bunch, which is on the arbor, is still only about 2 ft high. I am not going to remove the clematis on the arbor - it will live with the new rose (which by the way, will be a thornless variety - probably James Galway, because it is at the entrance.)

So now I am left with the decision of what to do for the other trellises - should I buy two more and put them on the remaining trellises, and start over the wait of years for it to get established, or start from scratch? Part of the problem I guess is that hubby is over the clematis - he is tired of looking at the empty trellises and has said he doesn't care WHAT we put on them as long as it's vigorous. (of course he said ivy, but I refuse because of its invasiveness.) Perhaps the answer is to keep up with the clematis and find an annual vine that will live happily with it.

NHbabs, the trellises really don't get any sun at all. The one all the way over to the right gets a *little* sun in he morning since it stands in front of a one-story addition - the other two are blocked by the two story house. I will start researching your links after I post here - thank you so much!!

Mad Gallica did you mean that roses on the trellises are out? Because the arbor actually gets quite a bit of sun - it's in full sun for most of the day - the left side of it is slightly shaded in the morning until the sun gets up over that yellow house, but then it's sun all day after

Diggerdee - you know, I agree with you that the trellises are nice to look at - I don't mind them naked. It's my darling husband who is so adamant about something on them. *sigh*

I am definitely thinking hydrangea to replace the azalea. As for the trellises, I'm going to be making a trip to Farmer's Daughter when I'm ready to start planting and I'll see what they have that might work - if I don't end up getting more clematis from Avant. If nothing there will work, I'll look at ordering something online.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 11:42AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

For roses, you really need at least six hours of sun. If the arbor gets that, you can work with it. Remember that Japanese maple is going to grow and provide shade.

In general, Austins are quite disease prone in this part of the country. You might want to keep that in mind.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 1:50PM
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I have Virginia creeper, which Dee suggested, and personally I find it a pain to keep under control. It spreads by seed and also sends out underground runners and so is difficult to keep contained, and I have even resorted to Roundup in some areas when persistent pulling hasn't gotten rid of it. It's sort of like a mint (except vine-shaped) in terms of trying to keep it in bounds. I only find it ornamental in the fall when it turns a fiery red, the rest of the year the leaves are just green and not very close-set on the vine. That's why I suggested its non-native relative which is smaller and has variegation, even though my usual preference would be for the native plant.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 2:19PM
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Nhbabs I hear you with the Virginia Creeper - I'm very leery of anything that will send runners. I already have a trumpet vine that does that and while it's simple enough for me to pull them when I weed, I don't want to add to it. The trumpet vine is in the back of my garden trained up the fence. There are yews on either side. I really don't like any of it but it was inherited and gives us so much privacy from neighbors in the back, we kept it. But when the fence and shed need replacing (soon, they're rotting away haha) all of that is going. I don't know if I'll ever really get rid of that trumpet vine though!

Mad Gallica, yes, the arbor does get that much sun. The way it is situated in relation to the maple, the sun will still hit it unless the maple grows out over it, which will be many years, if ever. The maple would have to grow out and cover the entire patio to block the the time that happens I will have had many years of enjoyment from the roses. ;) The maple (and the front of my house, which is perpendicular to the sidewalk and hence the arbor) is south facing, and the sun goes just over the yellow house, and then goes down the length of the yellow house all day.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 9:01PM
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Here's a variegated hydrangea that the nursery says grows in a more restrained fashion than the straight species. It might be worth trying if your trellises are stout and stable enough.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hydrangea anomola ssp. petiolaris 'Kuga Variegated' at Broken Arrow Nursery

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 5:56PM
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