June 3, 2011

Two Shining Stars

There are two sweet little groundcovers in my garden that shine in late May.  They put out little stars but you have to look down, not up to see them.  Stars on the ground.

The first is Deutzia gracilis 'Nikko'.  No, it's not the big rangy deutzia shrub you know.  It is a midget shrub that is a graceful low spreader with clean, nice foliage, and pure white stars for blooms.

It is a woody shrub, but it hugs the ground and never gets more than eight inches tall.  It roots wherever the arching branches touch the soil, so it fills a space over time.

The second little midget shrub is a dogwood.  Again, it is not the dogwood you know, the flowering tree.  It is a groundcover.  Cornus canadensis, or Bunchberry, has the dogwood blooms that are so familiar, but they are tiny.

I have had a difficult relationship with this plant.  It has been a pain to establish in my garden and I have bought many little plants and lost many.  It is very fussy --- bunchberry wants very acid soil, shade, some moisture and the perfect alignment of the stars in the sky to thrive.  When its needs are met, it spreads.  It gets great maroon fall foliage, a real plus to have color at ground level.

Normally I have no patience for failures or fussy plants, and they get replaced with something else.  I keep trying with this plant, though, because I just love the idea that you can look down and see dogwood blooms.  And the foliage is so pretty.  And for some unknown reason, I just want this in my garden.

I have several plants under a 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple where they do get the shade they need.  Some are spreading a little and new plants have been added.

I like both of these nice groundcovers.  I especially like having stars at my feet.


  1. Hi Laurrie, I am finally back in internet land, and am slooowly catching up on some of my favourite blogs. And now I have so many more ideas, thanks to you! I have been thinking about a dblefile viburnum for the front of our downsized home (more acreage and a larger house), feel I must have a sassafrass grove as well, And I promise to now stop pulling out the multitude of seedlings the pagoda dogwoods are giving me. Oh sorry, I cannot promise that as I already have a grove of them on my berm and do not need more.

  2. I haven't had luck with deutzia in any form. I know I shouldn't try the little dogwood. I can see why you like it so. It appears that your persistence is paying off.

  3. They are both simply stunning. Love, love the flowers on the Deutzia ... such a delight up close. It does make a terrific crisp white patch ... and I so love white in the garden.

    I think the Dogwood groundcover certainly deserves a few chance. It look lovely in bloom and the maroon foliage sounds so gorgeous.

    It was lovely to finally catch up with what's going on in your garden. Love the colours on the Maple too!

  4. I like the first plant best of the two featured here, simply because I had an allergic reaction working with this little dogwood at the greenhouse. I do love its blooms and foliage but I simply cannot handle it.

  5. Very pretty Deutzia! I thought about getting 'Nikko' a couple months ago. I wasn't too thrilled at the thought of a groundcover Deutzia. I think you've changed my mind! 'Nikko' is perfect for limited spaces--or spaces that are becoming limited. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Laurrie, the bunchberry is great. I think I need to have that plant. I've never heard of it, much less seen it, but meets all my requirements. I'm sure I can found it at a local nursery. Pequot Plant Farm has EVERYTHING.

  7. I love the little dogwoods under the maple! Sometimes I keep trying with a plant that I love. Finding the right spot with the right soil and lighting can be a challenge. Your bunchberry looks like it may be happy at last!

  8. Laurrie, Those are two plants I do not grow so I was thrilled to see your photos and read about them. I thik bunchberry might like my garden, I have very acidic soil, but I'm not sure about the moisture levels. My soil is quite dry. And I don't think I've ever really seen it for sale except in mailorder catalogs. Do you buy yours locally?

  9. I don't have this deutzia but do have 'Chardonnay Pearls', which is also a low-growing one with golden foliage. As for bunchberries, they are one of my favourite plants, but you've absolutely nailed their growing requirements. Especially the bit about the alignment of the stars.

  10. Deutzia gracilis has been on my want list for several years, after seeing it in the Gimghoul Rd. neighborhood in Chapel Hill. It's a delightful plant.

    I hope your Bunchberry thrives. I'd love to try it here but I think it's too hot.

  11. Deborah, how wonderful that you have so many pagoda dogwoods... I had such a hard time finding one! And you're pulling out seedlings of them?? Do try the doublefile viburnum, it is easy and beautiful.

    Lisa, it's funny how some easy plants give others fits. I can't grow some perennials that everyone else has.

    Bernie, the description of "crisp" is right for the little deutzia; it is such a clear sharp white.

    Shirley, that is so awful--- getting an allergic reaction to the dogwood. That would certainly make me think twice about having it in a garden.

    Goldnbleueagle, the 'Nikko' deutzia is delicate with small flowers but it will spread out a good 4 feet eventually. It really does act as a groundcover, so if your space is very limited, consider how wide it gets!

    Wendy, I'll have to check out Pequot Plant Farm. If you try the bunchberry, I hope it is easier to get going for you than it has been for me : )

    Deborah, I do hope this is the year (after four years of trying) that the bunchberry finally spreads and is happy.

    Debbie, I'm glad this was of interest. I got the bunchberry plants at garden centers in Simsbury and West Hartford. I got the deutzia at Farmington Valley Nursery on rte. 10.

    Jodi, I have seen Chardonnay Pearls in a garden center and it is beautiful. I like the golden color.

    Sweetbay, I don't know about the heat for bunchberry, but it certainly wants very acidic, shady woodland conditions.

    A note to all: I just got back from the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden in Boothbay Harbor ME and they had cornus canadensis (bunchberry) growing absolutely everywhere. Everywhere. All over the place, wherever you stepped. Thriving in sun, along a pond, by the parking lot, growing along garden paths in extensive sweeps of thousands of little plants. All blooming in delicate white against green. Sheeesh. It's taken me four years to get nine little plants to take.


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