ShadyGardens Blog

September 28, 2012

Callicarpa Americana: American Beautyberry

If you like berries, American Beautyberry belongs in your garden. Callicarpa Americana, the American Beautyberry, is a deciduous shrub native to the Southeastern United States.

In early summer, tiny lilac flowers appear in clusters close to the stem. By autumn the flowers turn into bright magenta-violet purple berries. The beautyberries are ¼ inch drupes and packed tightly together in clusters that encircle the stem. Leaves usually turn a pale yellow shade in September and begin falling off the shrub soon after. Once the leaves are gone, the shrub is left with vividly purple berries encircling the bare naked stems until birds eat the berries sometime during the winter.

Callicarpa American Beautyberry
Shady Gardens Nursery

Callicarpa Americana is sometimes referred to as French Mulberry, although I cannot figure out why. I think the name American Beautyberry says it all. 

The Beautyberry is very easy to grow, thriving in any well-drained soil and even adapting to very poor soil. Plant in dappled shade beneath large oaks and pines. The edge of the woodland is ideal. 
Beautyberry is very drought tolerant once established, but water once or twice weekly the first year or two. After that, supplemental water is unnecessary, except perhaps in extreme drought. If the plant gets full sun, it will need more water.

Beautyberry can be grown in most areas of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 6-10.
Beautyberry is eye-catching either when massed or when planted as a single specimen in a woodland garden or shade garden. Callicarpa is great for a low maintenance natural garden where it contributes year round beauty and food for wildlife. Spring flowers and beautiful fall fruit make this an attractive landscape plant. Use it in semi-shade under tall pines or in full sun where foliage will take on a not unattractive yellow-green color that combines interestingly with the brilliant violet fruits.
Prune back severely in late winter for best berry production. I just cut back branches so all are about the same size and let my bushes grow large. However, Beautyberry can be kept small with an annual pruning in late winter or early spring. This shrub can be cut back as short as 4-6 inches tall every winter with no harm to the plant and without sacrifice of the berries.
To be sure your shrubs are loaded with berries, plant more than one of these beautiful plants.
And if purple is not your color, you might want to try one of the more rare forms.
Callicarpa Lactea has white berries instead of purple. I have encountered many a gardener requesting this shrub for their night garden. Plants with white berries or white blossoms really stand out at night while most other colors are barely visible. Additionally, white reflects the light from the moon. Can you imagine how lovely White Beautyberry would be in the floral arrangements for a Fall wedding? 


If you are partial to pink, you are in luck, because a rare pink-berried form has been discovered. Known as Callicarpa Sautee, it is named for the area in Florida where it was found. The Pink Beautyberry is perhaps the most rare form of all beautyberries. 

Once you see Callicarpa Americana loaded with berries, you will want one for your own garden.

September 27, 2012

American Euonymus: Strawberry Bush, Hearts a Bustin

Filed under: American, Bush, bustin, euonymus, fruits, gardens, hearts, native, nursery, orange, red, seedpod, seeds, shade, Shady, strawberry, woodland — shadygardens @ 4:15 pm
Eunonymus Americanus Strawberry Bush
Shady Gardens Nursery
It would be hard to find a more unusual and interesting shrub than the American Strawberry Bush. A native plant of the Eastern US, Euonymus Americanus is a thin little shrub with
narrow, opposite leaves, green stems and tiny, inconspicuous flowers that give
way to peculiar crimson red fruits that look like strawberries. As the fruits mature, they burst to reveal bright orange seeds, which is the reason for the common name Hearts a Bustin.

The Strawberry Bush usually
reaches about 6 feet tall, and has a loose, sprawling habit with thin,
wiry, spreading branches and an open, airy form. There are usually several main
upright stems arising in a stoloniferous clump. The twigs are distinctive green stems that stay green in the winter too.   The springtime flowers are very inconspicuous,
with five greenish yellow petals.

The fruit is a
warty red capsule about 1 inch across that resembles a strawberry. When ripe,
the capsule splits open to reveal four or five bright orange seeds that really
stand out against the deep red capsule. Strawberry Bush is an important food source for
white-tailed deer, turkeys, many songbirds, and other wildlife.

Strawberry bush prefers a rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. This shrub does well in shady situations, even tolerating deep shade. Drought tolerant once established.

Euonymus Americanus can be grown in most of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

American strawberry bush is best
used in naturalistic settings, in the shade of larger shrubs and trees. But be
sure it’s close to the path where the interesting (and beautiful) fruits can be
appreciated! 

A specimen covered with hundreds of bursting red hearts is a
remarkable sight. In autumn, the leaves turn shades of orange and red before
falling. In the winter, the leafless green twigs and stems are structurally
interesting. Strawberry bush will naturalize under ideal conditions, forming
loose, open clumps of sprawling green stems, but it would never be considered
invasive or even moderately aggressive.

You might want to plant more than one, since deer will graze not only on the fruits and leaves but also the green stems.

January 3, 2012

A Native Garden in Winter

Filed under: American, Cypress, gardens, Georgia, holly, jasmine, native, nursery, pachysandra, plants, Shady, source, yucca — shadygardens @ 6:14 pm
Gelsemium sempervirens – Carolina Jasmine

Since a Georgia winter has frequent warm days, we enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors even in January and February. Finding native plants that are showy in winter can be challenging.


We do have many non-native evergreens in our garden, but we find it important to plant native plants whenever possible. After much searching, I have come up with a few suggestions of American native plants you should add to your winter garden:

  • American Holly, of course for the berries!
  • Carolina Jasmine, Gelsemium sempervirens, also known as Carolina Jessamine, begins blooming often as early as December. Profuse bloom in winter hides the leaves, which are evergreen in most of the South. This easy to grow vine will climb anything or can be grown as a spreading groundcover, but it is never considered invasive.
  • Pachysandra Procumbens, often referred to as Allegheny Spurge, is a non-invasive groundcover that develops a silvery mottling to its leaves in fall and winter.
  • Evergreens are an important addition to any garden. One I like in particular that looks just as good in winter as any other time of year is Arizona Cypress.
  • Yucca provides spikey interest year round and provides contrast in the garden. I like ‘Golden Sword’ for its bright yellow stripes appearing like sunshine in the garden.
In addition to being beautiful year round, these plants offer the added benefit of being drought tolerant, which is an important asset to consider after the drought we’ve endured for the last few years.

Source for these plants: Shady Gardens Nursery.

December 31, 2011

Plant in Winter? Yes, You Can!


January is a great time for planting here in Georgia! Shrubs and trees planted before the arrival of hot weather have a much better chance of surviving the drought. I’m afraid it’s time we all adjust our gardens for the return of the drought each year.


Several years ago, our garden was certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. We are very proud of that, because preserving our environment for wildlife and our children is very important to my family and me.

Not only is preserving wildlife and native plant species important from an environmental standpoint, but native plants are easier to grow, since they are able to thrive in our climate!

In addition to being easy to grow, many of our Native American Species offer other advantages over the imported counterpart.

Consider American Euonymus with the unusual red fruits instead of the more common Euonymus that is invasive. The fruit resembles a hard strawberry until the capsule bursts open to reveal bright orange seeds—food for the birds! (See the photo above.)

American Native Azaleas perfume the garden with a lovely fragrance, while Asian Azaleas have no fragrance at all! And what could be more beautiful than a native azalea in full bloom?

Nothing smells sweeter than the banana-pineapple scented blooms of the native Sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus.

The bright red blooms of our American native honeysuckle vine, Lonicera sempervirens, will attract whole families of hummingbirds, yet won’t take over and pop up all over the community as does the very aggressive Japanese honeysuckle.

So as you add new plants to your garden during this great planting time, seek out some of these rare native specimens, and don’t be afraid to plant them now, to give them a headstart before summer! And check back soon for suggestions on how you can improve your garden to help protect your local wildlife.

For more information on these and other plants for your garden, please visit Shady Gardens Nursery.

January 22, 2010

Winter Garden in Georgia with Native Plants

Since a Georgia winter has frequent warm days, we enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors even in January and February. Finding native plants that are showy in winter can be challenging.

We do have many non-native evergreens in our garden, but we find it important to choose native plants whenever possible. After much searching, I have come up with a few suggestions of American native plants you should add to your winter garden:

  • American Holly, of course for the berries!
  • Pachysandra Procumbens, often referred to as Allegheny Spurge, is a non-invasive groundcover that develops a silvery mottling to its leaves in fall and winter.

  • Lonicera fragrantissima begins blooming in January with sweetly fragrant and delicately beautiful blooms. This large growing shrub is commonly referred to as Winter Honeysuckle.
  • Evergreens are an important addition to any garden. One I like in particular that looks just as good in winter as any other time of year is Arizona Cypress.
  • Yucca provides spikey interest year round and provides contrast in the garden. I like ‘Golden Sword’ for its bright yellow stripes appearing like sunshine in the garden. The top photo shows Golden Sword Yucca in its January splendor.

In addition to being beautiful year round, these plants offer the added benefit of being drought tolerant and perfect for xeriscape gardens, which is an important asset to consider during today’s uncertain water conditions!

October 13, 2009

Native Azaleas: Plant Now for Spring Blooms & Fragrance

Filed under: American, azalea, buy, garden, gardens, native, nursery, online, plant, plants, rhododendron, sale, shade, Shady, ship, shrub, species — shadygardens @ 2:27 pm
Native Azaleas are definitely a spectacular show in spring, but don’t wait till Spring to plant them! Shrubs planted in Fall have a much better chance to get established and become healthy plants by next summer. 

The American Native Azaleas, species Rhododendrons, are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves for the winter. This defoliation begins quite early in fall, depending on the climate conditions and the variety. Usually the earlier the bloom time in spring, the earlier leaf loss occurs in Fall.  
Fall is the best time to transplant shrubs because they are then dormant. Fall planted shrubs have all winter to become established before time to bloom and grow next year. This is especially important when your plants are received by mail, as is most often true with rare plants like native azaleas.
When planting native azaleas, soil preparation is key. All azaleas prefer well-drained soil. Amend the soil for drainage, especially if your soil is clay.  Prior to planting your native azalea, work in some compost or composted manure and shredded bark to the planting hole. To help insure good drainage, mound up the soil so your azalea is planted high. Be sure that the root collar is slightly higher than soil level so water will drain away when those heavy downpours occur.
 
When planning your native azalea garden, consider the site. Native azaleas naturally occur in the filtered light beneath large trees near stream banks, but will grow in full sun when water is adequate.  They perhaps will bloom more profusely in full sun, but need more water with more sun. 
Make sure you can get water to the plant if drought occurs. Native azaleas are quite drought tolerant once established, however, water weekly the first year or two, as the plant grows in to its new environment.  Also, the blooms buds are formed during late summer on the early blooming varieties, and if your area is prone to a late summer-early fall drought, pay attention to those weekly waterings, so you won’t miss out on your fragrant spring blooms! 
Finally, obtain some good organic mulch. Azaleas have a shallow root system. Apply a thick layer of any organic mulch such as shredded bark, leaves, or straw to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool. Never cultivate around your native azaleas, since this can damage those shallow roots. 

Once planted, your native azaleas will need water at least once weekly to insure good root development and beautiful blooms for years to come. 
For more information on the beautiful and fragrant native azaleas, visit us at Shady Gardens Nursery.

 

October 5, 2009

Fall Garden Plants

Filed under: American, Beauty Berry, fall, garden, muhly grass, pink, Shady Gardens — shadygardens @ 4:43 pm
Fall is my favorite time of the year.  I just love the cool, crisp air which makes walking in the garden so much more enjoyable. I enjoy Fall gardening for the same reason—it’s cooler. I am a sucker for a fall-blooming plant.  I’m always on the lookout for something new, and I thought I’d share with you some of my findings. 
Pink Muhly Grass is hard to find, but when you see it, you’ll love the pink fluffy plumes that arise from the foliage in September. This plant is beautiful when planted in mass, but also makes a great specimen. Muhlenbergia capillaris is it’s botanical name, and this plant looks great with fall blooming asters. 
Perennial Ageratum is another eye-catcher with its bright lavender blooms that return each year in September. 
Berries tickle me as well, because I know they’ll bring birds into the garden. One of my favorites is American Beautyberry with its deep magenta berries that are in clusters wrapped around the stem. The berries hang onto the stems even after the leaves have dropped, providing interest on into the winter. If purple isn’t your thing, a rare white form and a pink form can be found in specialty nurseries. 

Fall is upon us, and fall is the best time to plant these beauties, so make your plans now for the best gardening season of all—Fall!

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.

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