WOODLAND (Shade tolerant) PLANTS at OpdeHaar gardens

Podophyllum Spotty Dotty
Podophyllum Spotty Dotty

On this page you will find information on and/or photos of anemone, aralia,  begonia grandis, calanthe, chloranthusepimedium, helleborusimpatiens(bizzy lizzy) mosses, mushroomspodophyllum, dysosma, polygonatum, (smilacena, disporum, disporosis), pulmonaria, tiarellatrillium and more woodland plants.    Under Miscellaneous there are photos of the following plants: allium ursina, arum, asarum, chrysosplenium, cornus, deinanthe, diphylleia, hacquetia, hepatica, lamium, lysichiton, mandragora, mertensia, mukdenia, omphalodes, pachyphragma, peltoboykinia, pollemonium, rabdosia, rubus,sanguinaria, saruma, soldanella, tricytris,uvularia, vinca. Don’t forget to look at aroids, araceae, hosta en ferns – also woodland and shade tolerant plants.

All photos were taken in our garden. Click on the photos for a larger image and a slideshow   

Why is a plant shade – tolerant?

Click here to learn why some plants are shade tolerant. In order to better understand the behaviour and needs of plants grown in either sun or shade, it is helpful to familiarise oneself with some basic botanical principals of photosynthesis and plant nutrition. I have chosen to include this summary as a prelude to the review of shade-tolerant plants because these are ones which have had to adapt their prime food-making mechanism (photosynthesis) to reduced levels of sunlight which is the energy provider of this process.



Begonia grandis

For information about Begonia grandis ssp. Evansiana and other winterhard begonia hybrids click here





Chloranthus are woodland plants which, while fairly well known in Japan and S.E.Asia, are as yet rarely encountered in European and American nurseries. Apparently, C.fortunei is growing on the rockery at the RHS Wisley Garden in UK which maybe indicates that at least some members of the genus are comfortable in sunny conditions – I hasten to add that I’ve not seen the situation myself. Our plant gave us a generous crop of seed in September and these have been freshly sown here and portions given to two plant nurseries; if we get successful germination(s) then details will be posted.   Recent queries (August 2015) around the nursery trade here in The Netherlands revealed that propagation work is going on with at least two Chloranthus species – C.oldhamii and C.fortunei.

For more information on chloranthus, click here.


Epimediums come in hundreds of variants and the photos here show a fraction of what you can see in the gardens. The majority are happy in shade and generally cope well with dry conditions. They spread by rhizomes and some, such as the E.X youngianum hybrids, are vigorous enough to be considered as good groundcover candidates. The old leaves can be clipped off in early February to render the Spring flowers better visible – you can do the Hellebore leaves at the same time! Wikipedia gives a quick review of the genus : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimedium but the standard text is W.T.Stearn’s “The Genus Epimedium” (ISBN 1 84246 039 0). The scope of this book extends to other members of the Berberidaceae family, notably Podophyllums and is useful for the shade/woodland gardener. They have medicinal uses in traditional Chinese medicine and there is more on this on the Internet than on their role as garden plants!


Gardeners have access to a variety of different species of hellebore but the following notes are restricted to H.niger, H.orientalis and their hybrids. In short, the colourful plants which together with snowdrops, herald a new gardening year. The flowers of the natural species do rather “hang their heads” and point towards the ground but various selections and hybrids are increasingly available where flowers are more visible and outward facing – fully upward-facing flowers can be damaged by snow and rain.

The key to successfully cultivating Hellebores (and any plant) is to be cognisant of their natural growing conditions. H.niger from Alpine woodlands appreciates some lime in a well-drained, humus-rich soil with light shade. They hate wet conditions. H.orientalis and hybrids are a bit more tolerant and do acceptably well even in lightly acidic soils and can take more sun. For owners of country woodland gardens, these hellebores are also rabbit and deer-proof! Here in our gardens, conditions can be very acidic and we have calcifuge shrubs such as rhododendrons and camellia which aren’t regular companion plants for hellebore hybrids. While I do occasionally spot-treat the hellebores with lime, my usual trick is to put bits of cement amongst their roots (+ mycorrhizal booster) when I plant them. Bearing in mind that plants are forming buds and getting into growth in the winter months, a top dressing and some general fertiliser in Autumn is also beneficial. Carefully cutting away old leaves prior to flowering lets one appreciate the flowers better.

For more information on hellebores, click here.

Impatiens (Bizzy Lizzy)


Impatiens omeiana
Impatiens omeiana

Having talked about hardy begonias, it seems fitting to introduce the hardy version of “Busy Lizzy” or, more grandly and correctly, Impatiens omeiana. This plant was originally found in 1983 by Don Jacobs on the famous Omei Shan ( Mount Emei) in S.E. Sichuan, China. It is a beautiful foliage plant, around a foot high, which excels in moist shade and slowly forms a clump. As autumn arrives, yellow trumpet-shaped flowers appear but , like the begonia, it is really a plant which one grows for its foliage. Any question as to the winter hardiness of Impatiens omeiana can be safely discounted. Despite this and it’s ease of propagation, it is still a bit of a rarity in the Dutch nursery trade and isn’t seen in garden centres. At least two variants are reported by specialist nurseries. ”Ice Storm” features a plant where the attractive leaf variegation of the sort is rather masked by a sort of haze over the leaf. To my mind , a far more attractive and currently rarer variant is a dark leaved, attractively variegated variety that appears on the Internet as ”Silver Pink” or ”Silver and Pink”.

For more information on Impatiens, Click here


Moss en boomstam

We have several different sorts of mosses in our garden. These plants multiply by producing spores, just like ferns, but simpler in structure. They have stems and leaves, but no real roots, just stems which change to have rootlike appendages, rhizomes. There are 3 important sorts of mosses – leafmoss, livermoss and crustmoss. Often all 3 sorts are seen in the same area.
Leaf mosses form spores in caps from which they either are slung through small openings or they are released via 4 splits, or the most usually, through an opening in the mouth which becomes visible when the cap has fallen off.

Livermoss are either flat and lobed or they have small leaves in  3 rows. Crustmosses are formed from mould in close relationship (symbiosis) with another plant.

Mosses growing on tree stumps  Haircap moss (Polytrichum commune), cushion moss ( leucobryum glaucum ), greenshield lichen (parmella caperata)


We are certainly no mushroom or fungi experts, but every autumn, particularly after wet weather, we are confronted with with all sorts of mushrooms in the wood. I hope that the identification is correct, but don’t trust it. Mushrooms such as sulfur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare),  the shaggy ink cap (Corprinus comatus), oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)  and  turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) grow on dying wood but do not attack living wood.

Podophyllum and Dysosma

Podophyllums are ideal foliage plants for moist, lightly shaded positions in the garden and are perfect subjects for woodlands. Taxonomically, along with a surprising number of other woodland species, they are included in the Berberidaceae family. Podophyllum peltatum occurs naturally in the eastern part of USA up into Canada and is readily available from garden centres. It forms clumps from a spreading rhizome and is fairly fool-proof when kept moist and not exposed to intense sunlight. It generally flowers white in May and red fruits form under the covering leaves.

There are several other Asian Podophyllums having the general characteristic of highly decorative leaves which are still often encountered under the nomenclature “Dysosma” rather than “Podophyllum“.  These highly decorative Asian podophyllum varieties are generally expensive and, in my experience, rather more temperamental than their plainer family members. That said, varieties such as P.veitchii ( P.delavayi) and P. difforme invariably cause garden visitors to stop and comment.

Podophyllum “Spotty Dotty” is illustrated in the accompanying photos. As the photos illustrate, it is a highly decorative plant and I obtained it some years ago from a local nursery, De Hessenhof. Over about 3 years, it slowly formed a small clump and then the central area just seemed to disappear but then it was as though numerous seedlings were appearing and these had every appearance of “Spotty Dotty”.  “Spotty Dotty” is a lovely addition to the woodland garden and here at “Op de Haar” is as temperament-free as P.peltatum.

For more information on Podophyllums, click here.

Polygonatum, (smilacena, disporum, disporosis)




Miscellaneous – More woodland plants – schade tolerant plants

Under Miscellaneous there are photos of the following plants: allium ursina, arum, asarum, chloranthus, chrysosplenium, cornus, deinanthe, diphylleia, hacquetia, hepatica, lamium, lysichiton, mandragora, mertensia, mukdenia, omphalodes, pachyphragma, peltoboykinia, pollemonium, rabdosia, rubus, sanguinaria, saruma, soldanella, tricyrtis, uvularia, vinca 

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