ShadyGardens Blog

June 26, 2009

Althea: Hibiscus syriacus or Rose of Sharon

Once again I found myself a discouraged gardener because all that wonderful rainful we’d been receiving has come to a screeching halt! I’m not sure when it rained last here, but I know it’s time to begin praying again when I take a walk through my garden. Yesterday as I looked with sadness at all the wilted plants, I was impressed with the fluffy blooms and dark green leaves of Althea ‘Blushing Bride.’

Althea is a beautiful name to me, but this shrub is also known as Hybiscus syriacus. I like to refer to this plant by its common name of Rose of Sharon, since that is my name, but whatever you call it, Althea is a wonderful garden shrub for the south. Even when not in bloom, the foliage is attractive, remaining green and bushy even during the severe drought to which our Georgia summers are prone. Blooms can be anywhere from a crisp snow white to a dark pinkish red. Single blooms with a red eye are common but single-color blooms are available, and double blooms are spectacular.

As shown in the photo, ‘Blushing Bride’ is particularly beautiful with its soft pink fluffy double blooms that resemble carnations.

What amazes me most about Althea is its obvious tolerance for dry conditions. The name Hibiscus usually indicates a love for water and full sun. In my garden, Hibiscus syriacus or Rose of Sharon seems to prefer afternoon shade. We have been unable to offer supplemental water to the plants in our woodland garden, yet we have several Altheas that have not only survived, but they have thrived during this drought. Leaves remain deep green and blooms arrive at just about the same time that outdoor temperatures are unbearably hot. Lucky for me, I’ve planted some of these shrubs close enough to the house to be viewed from a window!

Rose of Sharon can be grown almost anywhere in the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

Tolerant of not only drought, but also heat, air pollution, and salty air, Althea is so easy to grow that every garden should have it! Since Althea is available in just about every color, you can find one suitable for your garden. These heirloom plants are hard to find in the nursery however. They do root easily from cuttings, if you know someone who’ll let you ‘take a piece.’ Send me a message if you want me to help you find one.

June 25, 2009

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea is my favorite hydrangea, because it’s beautiful in every season! In winter, the branches exhibit lovely cinnamon colored exfoliating bark, and the large flower buds already forming are attractive. In spring, the new leaves are a reddish purple. In summer, there are the very large panicles of white blooms that turn purplish by summer’s end, hanging on into fall. In fall, the leaves turn a rich mahogany red, contrasting beautifully with the then dried rosy brown flower stalks used by many in floral arrangements. Oakleaf hydrangea is one of our most beautiful American native shrubs, and should be in every garden, especially native plant gardens! Hydrangea quercifolia is much easier to grow than other hydrangeas. The fact that it is native to the southeastern United States is probably the reason for that. It’s accustomed to our summer droughts, making it more drought-tolerant than other hydrangeas. It isn’t picky about soil. And oakleaf hydrangea can take more sun than most other hydrangeas.

June 12, 2009

Beneficial Insects in Your Garden

When many people see an insect, the first impulse is to kill it. But not all insects are pests, and many are actually beneficial insects, meaning they do good things like eating harmful insects and pollinating flowers. When we use pesticides to control insect pests, we also kill the good bugs.

You probably already know Ladybugs or Lady Beetles are beneficial insects, feeding on aphids, scales, and mealybugs. But did you know that the larvae of ladybugs look like tiny little alligators and eat even more pests than their parents?

Lacewings are fragile-looking insects with delicate, lacy green or brown wings, large eyes, and long antennae. Their larvae feed on aphids, scales, mealybugs, whiteflies, and young caterpillars.

The Praying Mantis will eat almost any insect (yes, they will eat the good bugs too and will even eat each other!)

Parasitic Wasps are usually too small for you to see, but you might spot signs of their presence. If you find a crispy-looking brown, inflated aphid attached to a leaf, it was probably the victim of a parasitic wasp that laid its eggs in the aphid so its offspring would have something to eat when they hatched. You might also see caterpillars, cabbage loopers, or hornworms carrying around cocoons of developing wasps. Parasitic Wasps lay their eggs on the back of soft caterpillars so their young will have a convenient food source upon hatching. (Yuck!) It’s almost time to see the Tomato Hornworm eating up the leaves and even the green tomatoes on our tomato plants. The best control is to pick them off and destroy them, but if you see one with loads of small white things that look like clusters of rice, just leave it alone–the white things are eggs of the Parasitic Wasp!

Grandaddy Spiders, or you might call them Daddy Longlegs, eat aphids, mites, and other garden pests.

These are just a few of the many beneficial insects in our gardens. Beneficial insects can be purchased from mail-order sources, but you can attract them into your garden without purchasing them. The best way to attract these beneficial insects into your garden is to just plant more flowers and herbs!

Swamp Azalea: Rhododendron Viscosum

Filed under: azalea, buy, fragrant, garden, native, nursery, online, rhododendron, sale, shade, Shady, ship, Swamp, viscosum, white bloom — shadygardens @ 1:02 pm

If you like fragrant plants, you’ll want Rhododendron Viscosum in your garden! Most often referred to as Swamp Azalea, Rhododendron Viscosum is a native azalea found in the Eastern United States. Pure white blooms in early summer have a pleasing spicy scent reminiscent of cloves.

Swamp Azalea, as the name implies, is one of the few azaleas that can tolerate periodically wet soil. This plant can grow in regular garden soil, but it does not want to miss out on water. If you can water regularly when rainfall is absent, Swamp Azalea will be easy for you to grow in your garden. Grows very tall near streams.

Rhododendron Viscosum can be grown almost anywhere in the United States since it grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9.

Swamp Azalea can be grown in full sun if regular water is available. Otherwise, filtered sun/shade is best.

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