ShadyGardens Blog

October 31, 2007

Drought Tolerant Plants for Georgia

“Average Moisture” is a term we see often on plant labels and in garden books. Many plants do well with average moisture. If only I had a garden with average moisture! It seems like our drought comes earlier each year. Our garden shows serious signs of stress, since we’re now under severe drought status. Nowadays when I search for new plants, I look for those claiming to be drought tolerant. Once again, I’m drawn to native plants—plants that occur naturally in this part of the country. Many native plants are rare plants, mostly as a result of land development for housing, shopping, and industry, but specialty nurseries have them. Georgia climate poses some problems for many plants—our summers are hot and humid. Most years we receive little rainfall. Yet our winters can be cold. Actually, it’s the extreme temperature fluctuations that cause the demise of many plants in winter here in Georgia. Native plants are accustomed to our temperature fluctuations and our drought. Believe it or not, there are some plants that grow very well in dry soil. For dry shade, look for Columbine, Perennial Geranium, Cast Iron Plant, Rohdea, Carex, Autumn Fern, and Christmas Fern. For dry sun, you’ll be rewarded by Amsonia, Asters, Yarrow, Ice plant and other succulents, Blanketflower, Perennial Sunflower, Blackeyed Susan, Ornamental Grasses, and Red Trumpet Honeysuckle. If you plant some of these drought tolerant plants, you’ll find it easier to have a beautiful garden during this Georgia drought.

October 30, 2007

Blueberry Growing Tips for a Georgia Garden

Many times Blueberry Bushes sold in our local garden center stores will not grow here in Georgia—they are not able to tolerate our summer heat and humidity. There are several “Rabbiteye” varieties recommended for the Southeast. Highbush blueberries will not thrive in our area. When selecting blueberry plants for your garden, look for Becky Blue, Climax, Premier, Tifblue, or Woodard. For a good crop of berries, you will need 2 or more different varieties for cross-pollination. Although blueberry bushes normally occur in the woods, more berries will develop when the plants receive at least half a day of sun and plenty of water. The planting hole is important for getting the plant off to a good start. An effective planting method is to dig the hole twice as wide as the rootball and the same depth. Mix the soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure, and peat moss. Place the plant in the planting hole and fill the hole completely with water before filling in with soil. After filling in around the roots with the amended soil, water again, and apply a thick layer of organic mulch to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool. Water weekly. You’ll be eating blueberries every year, as long as you get to them before the birds do!

October 28, 2007

Native Plants vs Exotics

Many popular landscape plants are actually invasive plants that are moving into our natural areas and crowding out native plant species. Once established, these plants are capable of strangling trees and covering up native plant species on which many of our beneficial insects and wild animals depend for their survival. This change to our environment could drastically alter our eco-system.
Most of these popular invasive species have a native counterpart that is much more desirable in both appearance and behavior!
Listed below are some commonly planted invasive plant species with some alternatives.
Chinese Tallow Tree (Popcorn Tree) is prized for its fall color, but is one of the worst invaders into our forests because of the rapidly dispersed seed. It is a lovely tree, but consider these alternatives:
Sassafras – a native small tree with beautiful fall color and large unusually-shaped leaves. It is easy to grow and tolerant of a variety of growing conditions.
Serviceberry – another native tree noted for its spring flowers and fall color with the addition of beautiful berries which are food for the birds.
Fothergilla – yet another native American tree/small shrub with showy, sweet-scented, white bottlebrush flowers in spring, and excellent fall foliage in shades of orange, red, and burgundy.
Viburnum – there are many varieties, both native and non-native, that are lovely, consisting of beautiful, showy blooms and many also have berries in shades of white, blue, pink, and red that provide wildlife food, and some ending up with beautiful fall foliage, while others are evergreen—yet they are never invasive!
Sourwood cannot be beat in my opinion. It’s my favorite native tree, because in addition to beautiful maroon foliage in early fall, Sourwood has fragrant blooms in early summer that look and smell like Lily of the Valley!
Chinese Privet is a highly invasive species that is all over the South! The plant is rapidly spread by birds who eat the small dark berries. Privet is very difficult to eradicate, since it’s still sold and planted in enormous proportions. It can be found in almost every landscape. In my opinion, it isn’t even very pretty, and I don’t know why people plant it, unless it’s because it’s evergreen. There are certainly many superior alternatives to this pest. I could go on an on with a list, but any fine, textured evergreen would be better. Here are just a few suggestions:
Hollies are excellent with dark green glossy leaves and beautiful berries in shades of yellow, orange, and red. Dwarf yaupon holly is a native holly with small leaves giving a fine-textured appearance.
Yew is a lovely evergreen plant that is available in a variety of forms.
Viburnums are available in small-leaved varieties such as Davidii, Compactum, or Sandankwa.
Itea, Virginia Sweetspire, is a lovely shrub available in large or dwarf-growing sizes. Sweetspire has fragrant bottlebrush blooms in spring and one of the showiest fall color displays of any shrub, native or not!
Japanese Honeysuckle appeals to many gardeners due to its fast-growing habit and its sweetly scented blooms, but the fact that it’s fast-growing is what has caused it to take over the South! Japanese Honeysuckle is one of the most common nuisance plants, yet it is still sold in garden centers everywhere!
Red Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come year round in my garden. (There are a few blooms on mine now in January here in West Central Georgia!)
Carolina Jessamine is an evergreen vine native to the Southeastern US that produces tubular yellow blooms in late winter to early spring.
Confederate Jasmine (Star Jasmine) is an evergreen vine with sweetly-scented white star-shaped flowers.
Lady Banks Rose comes in 2 colors—white blooming which is very fragrant, and yellow blooming which is not. Both varieties thrive with neglect, and the largest, oldest rose bush in the country is a white Lady Banks Rose growing in Tombstone, Arizona! That should give you an idea of how easy it is to grow. That bush is over 100 years old!
American wisteria, yes, I did say wisteria!!, is a native vine that is just as beautiful as the Chinese and Japanese wisteria, but is not invasive at all. The blooms are very fragrant. You might see it sold as Amethyst Falls wisteria, but don’t be afraid to plant it. Avoid Chinese and Japanese wisteria, because I can show you how it’s taking over much forestland in Alabama and Georgia, strangling and pulling down trees, much like kudzu.
Clematis is available in many varieties, both native and non-native species.
Passionvine is another native perennial vine with very showy, large purple flowers and attractive, edible fruits. This vine will self-sow, but never crowds out its neighbors.
I hope you will consider some of these suggestions, and plant native plants instead of invasive exotics. I truly recommend native plants for every garden, but there are some other plants that have earned respect with their ease of growing and ability to do well without invading our natural areas. Just, whatever you do, don’t plant any more invasive exotics! Where ever you live, when you plant native plants, you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

Deer Proof Your Garden the Easy Way

Filed under: eucalyptus, herb, Herbs, native azalea, native plant, nursery, plants, rosemary, tree — shadygardens @ 6:33 pm

Since opening the nursery, I’ve been asked many times, “How do you keep deer from eating your plants?” Well, I have several suggestions that worked for me, and they are surprisingly simple.
1. The 1st recommendation is obvious–plant things the deer don’t like! Deer prefer nice tasty leaves, and not leaves with fuzz or strong odors. Deer love hosta, pansies, and daylilies–if it’s edible for people, deer like it too! They don’t like herbs, except for basil. There are many desirable plants the deer will not eat. For instance, anything poisonous, such as Foxgloves, Florida Anise, or Daffodils. Other deer-resistant plants are: Ageratum, Iris, Barberry (they usually won’t eat anything with thorns), Buddleia, Mock Orange, Spirea, Lilacs, Dogwood, Magnolia, Boxwood, Holly, Leucothoe, Pieris, and Yucca. See, there are many plants deer won’t eat–although when they get truly hungry, they’ll taste of anything!
2. I know you also want to grow many plants that deer do like; as gardeners, we don’t want to limit ourselves to the few plants deer won’t eat. Deer will eat just about anything, when they are truly hungry. So go ahead and plant what you like, even if the deer like it too, and do what we did…Several years ago, my husband planted our first weeping willow tree. The deer just would not leave it alone! Every time the little tree managed to grow a new little shoot, the deer gobbled it right up. The poor little tree just couldn’t get ahead! Until I encircled it with a few aromatic herbs that the deer find distasteful: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, and lots of Chrysanthemums. The deer then decided to move on to other plants! That little tree has grown to supply me with many new trees to sell at my nursery!
3. Build a tall fence. Deer can jump very high, so your fence would need to be at least 10 feet tall. This can get pricey, especially if your garden is large.
4. My final and most successful recommendation is this: Get a big dog! A little cute dog won’t work, but a big dog that loves to chase wildlife will keep the deer from eating your prized plants. You want one of those playful, hunting dog types–ours is a big black Lab.
She works herself to death keeping the squirrels off the birdfeeders and the deer from my garden. Of course she does a little damage–she tramples plants sometimes, and she digs a hole when she believes a chipmunk would be tasty, or when she smells a rat. And when she was a puppy she chewed a little bit, but she never did as much damage as a family of deer can do in a single night!
I don’t recommend those expensive, smelly deer-proofing products. I have been told that they really work, but they are expensive! You’ll be planting anyway–and everyone needs some aromatic plants like Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Thyme, Oregano, and of course, Mums! So plant aromatic plants all around your garden, and then start looking for a great big dog. Go to the pound and ask them, “Who’s the friskiest dog you have?” (That’s the kind you need–a playful hunter with a loud bark!) Take him home and love him. By the way, the big dog will eat alot, but I believe feeding him will still be cheaper than buying all that Deer-repellant spray!
By following my suggestion, you will have done 2 wonderful things: (1) Saved a dog’s life, and (2) Saved your garden

October 27, 2007

Native Plants for Your Garden Landscape

Filed under: garden, native azalea, native plant, plants, wildlife — shadygardens @ 6:43 pm

“What’s so great about native plants?” might be a question you are asking these days. In recent years there has been much discussion about native plants on TV gardening programs and in gardening magazines, due to our increasing drought and concern for the preservation of wildlife. Native plants are a wise choice, because they have acclimated themselves to current growing conditions and can withstand the increasing drought, heat, and humidity our Georgia climate throws at us each summer. The beauty of native plants makes them very desirable, and the ease of growing them makes common sense! They require much less care and water than imported plant varieties. Also, in a time when we’re becoming more concerned about preservation of our native wildlife, native plants should be more widely planted because many of our native plants are important food and nesting sites for wildlife. So instead, a better question might be, “What native plants should I plant this year?”

Plant Blueberry Azalea and Hydrangea Shrubs in Fall

Filed under: blueberry, native azalea, native plant, plants, rabbiteye, shrub — shadygardens @ 6:30 pm

Fall is the best time to plant shrubs and trees. Our weather usually begins cooling off in September, making gardening easier on both the plant and the gardener! Although daytime temperatures are still hot, our nights are cooler. October is a great time to plant Azaleas, Blueberries, and Hydrangeas. This time of year just brings better weather for shrubs to establish themselves without having to fight for their lives! So if you dream of beautiful blooms covering your yard on shrubs like azaleas, hydrangeas, snowball bushes, etc, do yourself and your plants a favor and plant them now, instead of waiting until spring. If your dream includes eating tasty blueberries from your own garden, plant those now too! Since we still are not receiving regular rainfall, you’ll need to water newly planted trees and shrubs once or twice weekly, especially while these hot days continue. Shrubs planted in fall will have a head start over spring planted ones, and will have a greater chance of survival during our heat wave next summer. Even though the top growth of the plant will be dormant and might not even have any leaves, the roots will continue to grow through the winter. So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather we’re having, and remember to pray for rain!

Native Plants for Dry Soil

Filed under: agave, drought tolerant, dry garden, Golden Sword, native plant, plants, yucca — shadygardens @ 6:13 pm

There are some interesting plants that not only tolerant dry conditions but actually enjoy dry soil! This is an exciting topic to me, since we are forced to endure dry soil here in Georgia. Although we’ve received some good rainfall recently, we can’t be sure it will continue. Native plants are the best way to responsibly landscape and garden without the extra effort of watering when it doesn’t rain. Yucca might not be your favorite plant, since it is famous for those spines at the tips that bring blood when an unsuspecting person bumps into it, but there are some less common varieties that are eye-catchers in the garden! Golden Sword has leaves striped with yellow, giving the garden a spiky focal point even in winter. This variety does not have the sharp spines at the tip of the leaves, but does send up the beautiful and quite showy fragrant white bloom spike in summer. Another beautiful variety that is sometimes available is Red Yucca, not a true yucca, but a very drought-tolerant Texas native that is virtually maintenance free! Red flower stalks extremely attractive to hummingbirds are sent up several times during the season, beginning in spring. Fruits will develop that provide food for the birds, so don’t remove the flower stalks. Yes, Red Yucca is hardy here, tolerating temperatures down to 10° F. Agave, usually referred to as Century Plant, comes in several different varieties including variegated ones and blue-tinted ones. All prefer dry soil, but make sure it’s hardy in our winters before planting it outdoors. Yucca and Agave both like dry soil so much that they can be planted even in the middle of a drought! They prefer full sun but grow well in partial shade too. Be careful with the agave though—I’m told the sap will cause a reaction far worse than poison ivy! Another good quality possessed by these plants—deer don’t eat it! So get out there and plant some drought-tolerant plants, but first thank God for the rain!

Dry Climate Gardening

This time of year has always been my favorite time to work in the garden. I want to plant pansies, mums, and beautiful, crunchy, purple kale! But if you’re like us, the recent rains didn’t soften up the soil any, so digging a garden bed is almost impossible. I just can’t plant anything in the soil we have right now. If the showers you received were not as much as you’d hoped (I was praying for a monsoon), there are still some things you can do to make your garden more beautiful! One very important task that can be done any time of year is to improve the soil. We look forward to the falling leaves, because we chop them up with our lawnmower and spread those on all of our garden beds. If you’ll add composted manure to your beds, earthworms will be attracted to break down all the organic matter to improve the nutrition in your soil. This will lessen soil compaction and will also make it easier for the rain we do receive to reach the roots of your plants. You can sprinkle composted manure and chopped up leaves right on top of the beds around your plants—no need to work it into the soil. This should be done every fall anyway. Landscape supply companies also have available a double-ground mulch that is excellent for improving soil texture, and it’s a beautiful dark brown color that makes the plants look better, retains moisture, and keeps the roots at a more consistent temperature during heat waves and cold spells. If you’ve contemplated adding some hardscape to your garden, now is a great time to build an arbor or rock wall. The cool weather will be pleasant while you work. Then when the rain comes, consider planting a beautiful native vine like Red Trumpet Honeysuckle or American Wisteria at the base of your arbor instead of an exotic vine that will require lots of water and pruning to keep it from taking over! You know, native plants don’t require as much water—they’re used to whatever our Southeastern climate has to offer. When you thank God for the rain we received last week, ask him to send a little more!

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