ShadyGardens Blog

March 30, 2008

Native Azaleas Brighten the Shade Garden

Each year at the beginning of spring, I eagerly anticipate the blooming of our native azaleas. Available in a rainbow of colors–pink, yellow, orange, white, or red, these plants are superior to any other plant, in my opinion. A member of the Rhododendron family, native azaleas are deciduous, and some varieties bloom before leafing out in very early spring. Most of the American native azaleas are fragrant too, with a very pleasant but not overpowering honeysuckle scent. Another important feature is that most of the Native Azaleas are drought tolerant, once established. (‘Once established’ is the key though, since no plant is established the first year!)
The first to bloom in my garden is the elegant Florida Flame Azalea, Rhododendron Austrinum. Drought tolerant, once established, this plant really lives up to its common name, because the blooms can be any shade of yellow or orange, or even a little of both–yes, the colors of a flame! As the name ‘Florida’ implies, the Florida Azalea is well able to tolerate any heat our Georgia climate can dish out.
Blooming at about the same time is our own native, the Piedmont Azalea, Rhododendron canescens. Beautiful pink blooms in late March or early April are exquisite.
If you love Alabama like I do, you’ll love the very rare Alabama Azalea, Rhododendron Alabamense, with its lovely white blooms coming a little later in spring. This plant is native to East Alabama, and is rarely seen in the wild anymore due to land development in that area. We’re fortunate to have a local grower with a love for native plants to propagate this delightful shrub. If you find it in the wild, please don’t try to dig it up to move to your own garden. Several varieties of the native azaleas are endangered plants, making it illegal to remove them from the wild.
Most native azaleas do not root easily, so they must be grown from seed! I admire the well-known Mr. Ernest Koone for having the patience to grow these beauties, because I do believe it’s important to preserve our native plants.
The native azaleas are becoming more and more difficult to find in nurseries, but can be purchased through mailorder. For more information on the different varieties currently available, check back regularly to read updated profiles of native azaleas with their bloom times and unique characteristics.
To purchase some of these rare plants, go to

March 18, 2008

Ashe Magnolia or Magnolia Macrophylla: A Rare Native Plant

Filed under: American, Ashe, Bigleaf, ice plant, Macrophylla, Magnolia, native, Shade Garden — shadygardens @ 5:16 pm

Magnolia Macrophylla, more commonly called Bigleaf Magnolia, is a very rare plant native to the Southeastern United States. It is one of the most beautiful plants I have ever seen. Huge leaves can be up to 18 inches long! The flower is large–up to 6 inches across–and very fragrant. If pollinated, a seedpod will develop that sports very juicy-looking red seeds that are very ornamental, providing food for the birds.

Magnolia ‘Ashei’ is a variety of Bigleaf Magnolia that blooms at an earlier age than others. Shown in the photo above is our own plant with a bloom while only slightly taller than knee high.
Smaller and more bushy than macrophylla, Ashe Magnolia reaches a height of about 15 feet with a spread of about 12 feet, growing in a more rounded form.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 – 9.
Site: Prefers moist woodland soil rich in organic matter.
Light: Partial shade. Tolerates morning sun. (Needs plenty of moisture with more sun.)
Water: Needs regular water.

While some botanists have put this magnolia as a subspecies of Magnolia macrophylla in the past, the new Flora of North America has decided Ashei is a species in itself. It is much smaller & often multi-trunked, blooming at an earlier age (3 to 4 years). Magnolia ashei is the rarest Magnolia in North America.

Magnolia Macrophylla will provide a tropical look to your garden and is at home in any southern style garden. Provide some shelter from wind and hot sun, since the huge leaves are somewhat sensitive.

March 15, 2008

Master Gardener Day Honors Volunteers

Filed under: gardening, Georgia, Master Gardener, Master Gardener Day, volunteer program — shadygardens @ 1:09 pm

Master Gardener Day in Georgia is March 15th. What is a Master Gardener? Master Gardeners are very well-trained volunteers that serve their community in a variety of ways. They are an invaluable asset to the County Extension Service, providing assistance to the County Agent and home gardeners throughout the county. Trained by experts with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Georgia Master Gardeners help answer gardening questions year-round and assist with a variety of garden-related projects. To honor their service to the state of Georgia, Governor Sonny Perdue declared March 15th as Master Gardener Day. Master Gardeners participate in gardening projects which range from teaching children about gardening or planting flowers downtown to actually visiting home gardens to offer suggestions on pest management, and all kinds of tasks in between. Georgia Master Gardeners are very busy, because last year 2,644 Master Gardeners donated 192,854 hours of their time to help Agents and gardeners in their counties. If you’re looking for a chance to help your community and would appreciate receiving valuable gardening training and experience, you should look into the Master Gardener Program. I owe alot to the Master Gardener Training I’ve received. We’ve learned all kinds of things about Xeriscaping, water conservation, plant conservation, gardening with native plants, and really more than I can name here. The Master Gardener Program has something for everyone. Whether you like to teach and speak, perform office tasks, or just get down on your hands and knees and dig in the dirt, you’ll find a worthwhile volunteer program that you can really enjoy. For more information, visit the Georgia Master Gardener website at

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