ShadyGardens Blog

November 28, 2007

The Garden in December

Filed under: Uncategorized — shadygardens @ 3:00 pm

If you’re anything like us, gardening continues on through the winter. So many gardening tasks can be more easily done in winter. The cooler temperatures make labor intensive chores less intense. Shrubs and perennials can still be planted, provided your ground is not frozen. Rain is much more plentiful, or as in our case, less scarce. Although many days are just too cold or too wet to get outside, we have days that are just lovely! Those are good days for going outside to do more planting, clearing, mulching, or just for a nice walk in the garden. Winter is a good time to re-evaluate your garden. Look around and take note of what you see. Now is when you can see the bones of your garden. Many things have died down for the winter. Many shrubs and trees have lost their leaves. Do you have evergreens? Do you have any blooms? There are many plants with winter interest. Evergreens are always welcome, but many plants bloom in winter! With a little planning, you can have blooms in your garden every month of the year, including December, January, and February!

December – Camellia Sasanqua, Osmanthus fragrans, Loquat, Wintersweet (Chionanthus praecox)

January – Daphne odora, Witch hazel, Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’, Camellia Japonica, Flowering Quince, Mahonia, Wintersweet, Winter Honeysuckle

February – Camellia Japonica, Daphne odora, Flowering Quince, Forsythia, Bridalwreath Spirea, Fujino Pink Spirea, Winter Jasmine, Winter Honeysuckle, Viburnum ‘Spring Bouquet’

In addition to winter blooms, most of the plants listed above are very fragrant—my belief is that they need that additional oomph to attract bees to pollinate their flowers—something extra to entice the bees to come and visit.

And don’t forget about berries! Many trees and shrubs produce berries in fall which remain on the plant throughout winter—attractive in the garden and food for the wildlife!
Dogwood – shrubs or trees
Indian Hawthorn
Holly – there are many forms available—trees, large shrubs, small shrubs, deciduous and evergreen.
Viburnum (many varieties)
I hope you’ll give these plants some consideration this season, as you contemplate your winter garden. And the next warm day that comes your way, get out there and plant something!

November 12, 2007

Native Plant Alternatives to Invasive Species Like Honeysuckle, Privet, Tallow, and Wisteria

Many popular landscape plants seem harmless but are actually invasive plants that are moving into the surrounding 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:
Boxwood is much slower-growing, which is an asset, since Privet must be pruned every few weeks to keep it tidy. Boxwood is available in dwarf sizes and variegated forms, making it unnecessary to ever plant privet.
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 showest 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!
American Native Honeysuckle, shown in the photo above, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come year round in my garden. (There were a few blooms on mine even in January here in West Central Georgia!)

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. Thus you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

November 11, 2007

Plant of the Week November 4, 2007

Filed under: garnet, henry's, Itea, merlot, native, native plant, shrub, Spire, Sweet, Sweetspire, Virginia, virginica — shadygardens @ 7:03 pm

Itea Virginica is an American Native Plant that is spectacular in all seasons! Spring brings fragrant blooms that attract pollinators, summer produces lovely leaf and stem texture with some burgundy red colorations, and fall sets the plant on fire with brilliant red to burgundy foliage that can be seen from great distances. In winter, Itea is evergreen in most climates, but if it does lose most of its leaves, the burgundy stems are very attractive as well. Itea is available in both larger growing and dwarf varieties, so it can fit in any garden! ‘Merlot’ is a very nice compact form, while ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is great if you have the space for a larger growing shrub. Whichever you choose, you’ll be adding a spectacular feature to your garden with Itea Virginica. For more information on this plant, go to

Camellia Sasanqua

Filed under: camellia, control, Deer, dwarf, japonica, sasanqua — shadygardens @ 6:51 pm

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Camellia in bloom. I was young, and I was new at gardening. I was driving through a residential area when I noticed a large, bushy, green shrub with large red blooms that looked like roses. Believe it or not, it took me a while to find out what it was! You’re probably laughing at me now, but thank goodness I’ve learned a few things about camellias since then. It wasn’t until attending the Master Gardener Course that I learned of the Sasanqua Camellia. Sasanquas are early bloomers, usually blooming October – December, so there is less chance of frost damaging the blooms. The fall blooming Sasanquas make great holiday decorations and gifts. Sasanqua camellias seem to be faster growing and are often larger growing than Japonica. Dwarf camellias are available too–great for smaller gardens or containers, but beautiful in any garden. Some varieties bloom so profusely that the blooms hide the foliage! Camellias prefer a sheltered site away from drying winter winds. Bright, filtered shade beneath tall trees is ideal. Moist, well-drained soil is best, but camellias are drought tolerant once established. All our camellias are very young, but some of them are even forming bloom buds in spite of no water! Remember that deer will eat the camellias, so consider using a deer deterrent around them. Your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter has plenty of inexpensive deer-deterrent—the all-natural kind. Just ask the attendant which dogs are frisky enough for deer control! For additional deer control tips go to where you can read the archived article and view photos of our organic pest control staff.

November 8, 2007

Plants for a Dry Shade Garden: Native and Not!

Filed under: aquilegia, drought, dry, fern, native, nursery, perennial, plant, plants, rohdea, Shady, shrub, shrubs — shadygardens @ 4:39 pm

If you have dry shade in your garden, you know what a challenge it is to find plants that will grow in those conditions. What plants grow well in dry shade? This is a list of some of the plants we’ve found to grow well with little or no supplemental water. As I said, this is just a list, but if you’ll check back often, we’ll add plant profiles as time permits.

Strawberry Euonymus
American Beautyberry
Native Azaleas – Alabama and Florida (Piedmont is moderately drought tolerant as well)
*The straight species ones have done much better for us—the named hybrid varieties haven’t survived the drought in our garden
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Red Buckeye
Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)
Arrowwood Viburnum

Perennials & Groundcovers:
Asters (Shade-loving varieties, like wood aster)
Ageratum (the hardy perennial one)
Columbine (Aquilegia)
Dwarf crested Iris
Hardy Geraniums
Native Wild Ginger
Solomon’s Seal
Pachysandra Procumbens (Allegheny Spurge)
Pussytoes is a very cute little native plant with fuzzy silver leaves like lamb’s ear.
Rudbeckia (Blackeyed Susan) does surprisingly well in dry shade if the shade is not too dense. We have several patches planted in shade, and they seem to bloom just as well as the ones in full sun. They bloom just a little later in the season when in shade, which works out just fine for me.
Purple Coneflower does equally well in shade.

There really are some ferns that grow just fine in dry shade.
My favorite is Christmas Fern, because it’s a native plant, and it looks a lot like the popular hanging basket fern, Boston Fern.
It looks great all summer, in spite of no rain or supplemental water at all. Plus it’s evergreen.
Autumn Fern isn’t native, but it’s my 2nd favorite, because it too is very drought tolerant and evergreen.
Dixie Wood Fern is a very large fern that is moderately drought tolerant, although it prefers moist soil.
Eastern Wood Fern is an evergreen native fern that grows well in dry woods. It might move into 1st place in our garden, if it continues to do well.

Carolina Jasmine/Jessamine naturally occurs most often in dry shady woods. We were lucky to have this one already growing in our woods, and it grows well and blooms in spite of no supplemental water.
Red Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) also usually occurs in the woods but blooms better in the sun. It tolerates dry shade very well, but blooms less in the shade.
Virginia Creeper is a deciduous native vine with beautiful red fall color that is often mistaken for poison ivy.
I won’t mention the non-native vines for dry shade, but there are some. Many of the popular ones are quite invasive. If you need more information on these, let me know.

Since native plants are my favorite, I tend to concentrate most on them, but I’d be telling a story if I said we don’t grow anything else. We do try to avoid invasive plants, but many non-natives provide a lot of easy-care beauty in our shade garden. You really can’t beat these for a dry shade garden:
Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant)
Daphne odora
Gardenia (once established)
Hellebores (Lenten Rose)
Mahonia (Leatherleaf)
Mondo grass, also a non-native plant, is a great performer.
Rohdea (Japanese Sacred Lily) – makes a great
substitute for Hosta, since it’s evergreen and deer- resistant.
Viburnum (there are many types, both native and non-native)
*In addition to being evergreen and deer-resistant, both the Aspidistra and Rohdea grow well in even very deep shade.

Shady Solutions for a Dry Shade Garden

Filed under: drought, dry, garden, gardening, native, plant, plants, shade, shrub, tolerant — shadygardens @ 4:33 pm

Shade garden can be very challenging, because there are many different types of shade. Shade means different things to different people. Not all shade is the same.
Types of Shade:
Part shade can be very variable. Time of day is very important—whether or not the shade is morning shade or afternoon shade can mean life or death for a plant.
Afternoon shade means the area is shady after lunch, but sunny in the morning.
Morning shade means the area is shady before lunch and sunny in the afternoon. With the heat coming from our summer sun, I wouldn’t even consider this spot to be shade at all.
*Most shade loving plants can tolerate some morning sun, but they cannot live with our hot afternoon sun.
Filtered Shade – This is usually shade beneath large trees that have a high or open canopy, letting in little bits of sun off and on throughout the day. This kind of shade is perfect for a wide range of plants.
Full Shade – Shade all day long. This can be either shade provided by tall trees or a tall wall like a building of some kind. There is still some light for the plants, but plants in full shade receive no direct sun.
Deep Shade – Shade all day long beneath big trees that let in very little light at all. In deep shade the area can seem dark. This is beneath very big trees like oaks. This is the most difficult area to fill, but there are some plants that grow fine here.

In addition to determining what kind of shade you have, it’s important to also consider soil condition. Moisture, or lack of moisture, makes a big difference when choosing plants for a site.
Moist Shade – Most shade-loving plants like moist soil. If you have moist soil or a way to water to insure that your shade garden does have moist soil, you’ll have no problem growing a beautiful shade garden.
Dry Shade – Dry shade is by far the most difficult shade to deal with. Since most shade plants also like moist soil, plant selection for a dry shady area is greatly decreased. This is what I’ll focus on tonight.
Although recent rains have brought back some green to our gardens, we’ve been under a serious drought for quite a while. Several years ago, my husband and I bought a house in a wooded area that had been overgrown and neglected for years. Ever since then, we’ve been been working on a woodland garden using primarily native plants. We’ve tried to come up with an easy way to water this area using our well, but so far, the area remains dry. For this reason, I’m constantly searching for plants that can tolerate dry shade. Dry shade is probably the most difficult soil in which plants can grow, because the shade is made even more dry when large trees are soaking up any available moisture when rain does come, leaving very little for other plants with less aggressive root systems.

When planting in dry shade, it’s very important to amend the soil at planting time. Plants expected to grow in dry shade need all the help they can get, and it’s much easier to spread out your roots in soft pliable soil, even if it’s dry. Woodland soil tends to be dry and full of tree roots, and there’s a lot of competition among plants for what little water there is. Composted cow manure or mushroom compost are my favorite soil amendments.
Mulch is important too, because it conserves moisture in the soil and helps keep the roots cool. Shredded leaves are the perfect mulch for shade gardens, because the leaves will enrich the soil as they break down.

If shade gardening is among your interests, take a look at my other post, Plants for Dry Shade.

Dry Shade Garden

Filed under: drought, dry, garden, gardening, native, plant, plants, shade — shadygardens @ 4:02 pm

As you might suspect, gardening in shade is a passion of mine, but with this ongoing drought, I must constantly search for plants that can tolerate dry shade. Dry shade is probably the most difficult soil in which plants can grow, because the shade is made even more dry when large trees are soaking up any available moisture when rain does come, leaving very little for other plants with less aggressive root systems. Shade means different things to different people—not all shade is the same. When choosing plants for your shade garden, you must first determine which type of shade you have. For instance, morning shade and afternoon shade are not equal, because the rest of the time is full sun, and shade plants cannot tolerate afternoon sun. Some areas might have filtered shade, when there is dappled bits of sun peaking through the trees. Other areas might have full shade or even deep shade, which means very little light comes in at all. Once you’ve decided which type of shade you have, you must understand if your soil is moist or dry. Many shade plants require moist or even wet soil. If your shady area is moist, you are very fortunate. If your shade garden is dry, then you’re in the boat with me. You will need to amend your soil prior to planting, since anything planted in dry soil needs all the help it can get! Work in any kind of organic matter that is readily available—composted cow manure or mushroom compost work very well. Once these things are accomplished, you can choose your plants and prepare your planting hole. Finally, have ready some organic mulch—shredded pine bark is good but shredded leaves are probably even better for shade plants. Remember to water well at planting time and water often until your new plants are established.

November 7, 2007

Antique Shrub Roses for A Carefree Rose Garden

Filed under: antique, Beauty, Butterfly, Carefree, Cascade, China, drought, dry, garden, gardens, Georgia, Mutabilis, nursery, red, rose, Shady, shrub, shrubs — shadygardens @ 6:18 pm

Now that our weather is cooling off a bit, roses are beginning to give us another great show. Even the most popular repeat blooming roses often bloom sparingly during our summer heat. I don’t blame them—I don’t think I’d bloom either! But roses, like us, enjoy this time of year, because the temperatures are more to their liking. Mutabilis Rose is one of my favorites. Sometimes called the Butterfly Rose, because the multicolored blooms look as if a flood of butterflies have landed on it, Mutabilis Rose is an antique rose from China. Single petals open yellow, change first to orange, then to pink, and finally turn crimson, with these different colors on the bush at the same time! Mutabilis Rose is almost thornless and retains its glossy green leaves with no spraying. Carefree Beauty is a large growing shrub rose with huge, fluffy double blooms to match. The pure pink blooms are more vivid during the cooler fall season. This rose literally blooms until the first frost, and I’ve had buds on mine in winter. Blooms are large—up to 5 inches across. Red cascade is classified as a miniature rose, but that’s because of its small leaves and flowers. This rose is certainly not miniature in size or flower power! Once established, Red Cascade is simply covered with blood red double blooms from spring to fall. It makes an excellent groundcover for steep banks but is equally beautiful climbing on a fence or trellis. These roses really bloom continuously all summer, but the fall show is simply spectacular and very welcomed in my garden. If you’re too busy to spray roses, try one of these—they are truly trouble free. Fall is an excellent time to plant roses, because the roots will have plenty of time to become established before next summer’s heat wave. Since we still are not receiving enough rainfall, remember to water regularly after planting, as long as Georgia continues to remain under extreme drought. At least it’s cooler. Enjoy Fall!

Daphne Odora – Fragrant Winter Daphne – for Dry Shade

Filed under: Daphne, drought, dry, evergreen, fragrant, odora, plant, shade, shrub, tolerant, winter — shadygardens @ 3:31 pm

Daphne odora, Fragrant Winter Daphne…mmm—the fragrance is just lovely. If you’ve never had the pleasure of approaching a Winter Daphne shrub in bloom, just imagine a bowl full of fresh lemons, sliced, right beneath your nose. It isn’t an overpowering scent, or strongly perfumey; it’s just a fresh, clean, lemony scent. The first time I saw it, we were at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and the shrub was not in bloom. It was so cute, we just had to find one for ourselves, but it took awhile. Daphne is an evergreen small shrub, reaching only 3-4 feet in height, and the leaves are variegated—deep green with a creamy yellow margin around each one. Blooms come in either pink or white. Daphne odora isn’t easily found, probably because it has a reputation for being difficult to grow. Really, it isn’t, if you know what it likes. Daphne will not tolerate wet soil. It needs very little water. That isn’t a problem for us right now, but when it does rain, clay soil will remain soggy, so amend the soil when you plant. Daphne prefers shady conditions. The perfect spot would be beneath large trees on an incline for good drainage. Mix in some soil conditioner or compost and builder’s sand, and plant high—with the top of the root ball slightly above ground level. Then mulch well to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool. Water the shrub when you plant it, but don’t worry about watering it again. Can you believe it’s that easy? Yes, it is.

November 6, 2007

Dry Soil Groundcovers: Pachysandra, Rudbeckia, and Many More!

I love groundcovers. There’s just something about them that makes me want to have every one I see. Groundcovers can be an important addition to our Southern gardens. They act as a living mulch, helping to conserve moisture around trees and shrubs. Many groundcovers are evergreen, so they add beauty to the garden in every season. There are groundcovers that bloom, and even groundcovers that make berries! Groundcovers can be found that thrive in sun, shade, and even the most difficult dry shade. Whether your taste for plants leans toward the exotic, like Hellebores and Rohdea, or if you prefer native plants, such as native ferns, consider adding them beneath the shrubs in your garden. There are many native groundcovers that are evergreen, and some even produce berries, like Mitchella (Partridgeberry). Groundcovers like creeping phlox can help control erosion. Good groundcovers for sun include the sedums, ice plant, and rudbeckia (Black eyed Susan.) Certain rose varieties also make excellent groundcovers. Beware of groundcovers that can take over the garden, seeming to eat other plants alive, crowding out everything else. Instead of invasive English Ivy or the popular Japanese pachysandra, try our native pachysandra, Allegheny Spurge. Or if it’s a vine you’re after, plant Crossvine, Carolina Jasmine, or Lonicera sempervirens—all native vines that will not overtake your garden.

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