ShadyGardens Blog

January 19, 2013

Landscape for the Birds and Butterflies

Filed under: Berries, birds, butterflies, invasive, landscape, plants, shrubs, wildlife — shadygardens @ 1:29 pm



Attracting wildlife to the garden is a goal for many gardeners. Few things are more relaxing than sitting in a quiet spot, viewing birds flitting around among the plants, locating food, bathing, and dancing around in an attempt to attract a mate.
As gardeners, we look for plants that will bring butterflies to our garden, hummingbirds to our window, and birds to our feeders.
Attracting wildlife to your garden is very simple–birds and butterflies just need a few things to make them happy! When searching for a place to live, animals look for water and food sources, shrubs and brush for safety from predators, and safe places to build nests for raising young.
To attract wildlife into your garden, you must provide what the animals need for survival:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter from predators
  • Safe place to nest and raise young

Water sources are easy to provide. Birdbaths are widely available in garden centers, home improvement stores, discount stores, and even craft and hobby stores. Birdbaths are also easy to make using items found at flea markets and yard sales or purchased terracotta plant saucers. Birds prefer a shallow bowl rather than a deep one. Just remember to place it near a good spot for shelter if the bird needs it, but not too close to a tree or shrub that would provide good hiding spots for predators like cats. Remember to keep the water bowl clean and filled with fresh clean water.
Food and Nesting Sites can also be easily provided. One of the most important things you can do to bring wildlife into your garden is to plant native plants! By doing this, you will provide what birds and butterflies need most: food and shelter. Butterflies will drink nectar from any suitable flower, but each species of butterfly depends on just certain plants for host plants on which to lay their eggs. Some examples are: Milkweed, Asclepias (Commonly known as Butterfly Weed), Dill, Fennel, and Parsley. In fact, herbs attract a number of butterflies and other beneficial insects like ladybugs.
In addition to providing food and shelter for wildlife, when you plant native plants, you’ll be planting plants that will thrive in your climate, thus making gardening with native plants easier than gardening with foreign exotic species.

One other thing to consider when planting foreign species is that many of these exotic plants simply take over and crowd out native plants that are necessary for the survival of our wildlife. Think of how kudzu and privet have taken over in the southeast! One simply has to travel a little way down any highway in Georgia or Alabama to see how these plants have crowded out everything else. When crowding out native plants, they crowd out some of the wildlife species that depend on certain plants for survival.

And what could be more beautiful than a native azalea in full bloom? Nothing smells sweeter than the banana-pineapple scented blooms of our native sweetshrub. Our American native honeysuckle vine with its bright red blooms 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.
I hope you’ll visit again for more plant recommendations to attract birds and butterflies into your garden. In the meantime, drop by our Shady Gardens Nursery online store to see if we have some of the plants you need for your wildlife garden.

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.

July 10, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #1: Evergreen Shrubs

Filed under: alternatives, Berries, boxwood, holly, invasive, Itea, ligustrum, native, plants, privet, Sweetspire, viburnum, yew — shadygardens @ 2:30 pm
Many popular landscape plants seem harmless, but they are actually invasive plants which move quickly into the surrounding areas to crowd 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.

Privet, or Ligustrum, is a highly invasive species found growing all over the South. Once it moves into an area, privet is very difficult to eradicate. It seems this problem will never go away, since to my surprise it is still sold in big box garden centers and planted in enormous proportions by landscapers and home owners everywhere. It can be found in almost every landscape. Once one person plants it, it will eventually be all over the neighborhood, since birds eat the small dark berries (see photo shown below) and drop seeds anywhere they deposit their droppings.
Privet Berries are eaten by birds, therefore privet seeds
are deposited in bird droppings all over the neighborhood.
In my opinion, privet is not even pretty, and I don’t know why people plant it, unless it’s because it’s evergreen. Our property is surrounded by thickets full of privet which, since it is not our land, we can do nothing to eliminate. And believe me, when it blooms, it really wreaks havoc on my sinuses and I keep a migraine until the blooms fade, because I cannot escape the strong fragrance permeating our entire garden.

There are certainly many superior alternatives to this pest. I could go on and on with a list, but any fine, textured evergreen would be better than privet. Here are just a few suggestions, all evergreen, some of which also have beautiful flowers or bright berries for the birds to eat:

  • Boxwood is much slower-growing, making it far superior to privet, since privet must be pruned every few weeks to keep it tidy. Boxwood is also available in dwarf sizes and variegated forms, making it absolutely unnecessary to ever plant any variety of privet.
  • Hollies are excellent in any garden. Dark green glossy leaves in a variety of textures with beautiful berries in shades of yellow, orange, or red provide plenty of interest. Dwarf yaupon holly is a native holly with small leaves giving a fine-textured appearance similar to privet, but without the maintenance.  When choosing holly for the garden, the possibilities are endless. 
  • Yew is a lovely evergreen plant that is available in a variety of forms: upright, conical, or spreading. (Also, deer will not eat it–Yay!)
  • Viburnum is available in small-leaved evergreen varieties such as Davidii, Compactum, or Sandankwa as well as some deciduous species with bright fall foliage color. Many varieties have hydrangea-type bloom clusters and some put on a bright display of beautiful berries in the Fall. 
  • 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!
Non invasive Native Shrub with Fragrant Spring Blooms and Vibrant Fall Color
Itea virginica Henry’s Garnet
Shady Gardens Nursery
I hope you will consider some of these suggestions, and plant shrubs that are not invasive instead of invasive exotics. Thus you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

March 8, 2010

Grow Your Own Food

Filed under: Berries, blueberry, food, garden, Grow, home, vegetables — shadygardens @ 2:45 pm
In recent years I have become increasingly concerned about what’s in the food I feed my children. Everywhere I turn, I am reading or hearing news of preservatives, pesticides, and various other unknown food additives. Additionally, how many times have we heard in the news of food recalls due to salmonella or e. coli contamination? Many! It’s very frightening.
I have tried purchasing more organic or kosher foods, but they are expensive. I do think it’s worth it, but sometimes it seems I just can’t afford those more costly choices. So what’s the solution?
Grow your own, of course.
One of the most important foods to grow at home I think is leafy greens. I remember numerous recalls on spinach due to salmonella contamination. Lettuce is difficult to grow here in Georgia, but we can grow other salad greens. At various times of the year, we’re growing cabbage, collards, kale, mustard, turnip greens, spinach, and swiss chard.
Berries are a special concern since they absorb whatever is sprayed on or around them. I worry that pesticides won’t completely wash off. And I do remember more than one recall on strawberries due to contamination. Strawberries are difficult to grow at home, although it is worth the trouble. Blueberries are easy to grow and have few if any pests. Really the only difficult thing about growing blueberries is keeping the birds from eating them before you do. For more information on growing blueberries, read Blueberry Growing Tips for a Georgia Garden.
Many vegetables can be grown in a small garden. Just a few squash plants can yield more squash than our family of four can eat. This year, we have a freezer, so extra food will not go to waste. A favorite of my children is the sugar snap pea. Pods can be picked right off the plant and eaten whole, making them a great snack for small children. Sugar peas, as my babies call them, can be planted in March here in Georgia. Look for the seeds at home improvement stores or even your local dollar store.
I did read that it’s unnecessary to pay more for organic citrus, since citrus requires no preservatives. That’s good news, since we don’t live in South Florida.

January 15, 2010

Gardening for Birds, Squirrels, and other Wildlife

Although I do plant in my garden plants that please me, I usually garden with little animals in mind. Birdwatching really does bring alot of joy to my family. We enjoy watching the little birds flitting around, grabbing seeds, diving at each other with their territorial antics, and such. Most of our native birds are very beautiful, and my favorites are the little chickadees! Also, it tickles us to hear the sound the doves make when they fly up to a tree branch. 

And, although I hear many complaints from others about the squirrels, I don’t mind that they eat so much of the birdseed. It’s worth it to us, for the fun we get out of watching them try to get a little snack before Shadow, our very large black lab, notices them.

It probably doesn’t surprise you that when I choose new plants for the garden, I look for something that will help me out with expenses–I try to plant shrubs and trees that will make berries and fruits for the wildlife creatures to eat, thus saving me a little bit in the cost of birdseed and corn. Some of the plants we use are common, but every little bit helps!

  • Holly is a dependable plant for berries each winter. The evergreen hollies with which we’re all so familiar are great, but my favorite is our native Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua. The shiny red berries really stand out against a winter background, the mottled gray and white bark is lovely in all seasons, and the tree is constantly full of birds during the winter.
  • Dogwood provides showy fruit in either red or white, depending on the species you plant.
  • Viburnums are available in both deciduous and evergreen species, but my favorites are the Cranberry and Arrowwood Viburnums. They’re native to the US and provide plenty of colorful berries. Plant several of each for good berry production.
  • Blueberries are devoured quickly by the lucky one who finds them first, so plant as many shrubs as possible, and you’ll need more than 1 variety for cross-pollination.
  • Mahonia, although not a native plant, is a wonderful addition to the winter garden, since the bright yellow blooms appear in January and develop into purple berries in late winter and early spring when all the other berries have been eaten.
So as you add to your garden, plant some of these berry-producing shrubs near a window so you can see the birds and squirrels, and I promise you, you’ll find yourself smiling as you watch them.

December 28, 2009

Bluebirds: Landscaping to Attract them to Your Garden

Filed under: attract, Berries, bluebirds, dogwood, holly — shadygardens @ 4:01 pm
Bluebirds eat mostly insects, but in the winter when insects are scarce, berries and fruits supplement their diet. Plants such as holly and dogwood have juicy berries the birds love that are also attractive in the garden at Christmas time.
When choosing plants for your garden, it is important to select non-invasives. Most often, native plants are the best choice for a wildlife garden. Birds will eat berries from invasive exotic plants too, which helps further the spread of invasive plants.
Some easy to find plants for bluebirds include:
  • Holly
  • Dogwood
  • Cedar
  • Elderberry
  • American Cranberry Bush (Viburnum Trilobum)
  • Pokeweed (yes, in Georgia we consider it a weed, but the birds love it and it is pretty…)
Remember, in Georgia, the absolute best time to plant shrubs is fall and winter. Rain is in the forecast (again), so now would be a great time for planting. We might as well take advantage of this abundant rain for as long as it lasts. I look forward to a beautiful garden next summer full of plants that can withstand the drought that is sure to return.

    December 4, 2009

    Christmas Tree for Birds

    Filed under: Berries, birds, Christmas, natural, nuts, ornaments, peanut butter, peanuts, pinecones, seeds, tree — shadygardens @ 3:40 pm
    Our Christmas Tree usually goes up the weekend right after Thanksgiving. This year we’re still involved in a major home remodel, so we won’t be putting up the tree for another week or so.
    Decorating for Christmas is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Plus, we try to involve the children in providing for our wildlife friends outdoors.
    Decorating an outdoor tree for the birds is a great way to spend an afternoon. When you put your imagination to work, you can come up with all kinds of decorations made from things birds can eat. Materials can be berries, nuts, seeds, and breads along with natural items found outside like pinecones and sweet gum balls.
    Fresh cranberries can be strung on cotton twine to be hung throughout the tree.
    Using regular loaf bread, we used cookie cutters to to cut out shapes and a straw to poke a whole to string twine through for hanging. We then toasted the bread slightly to make it stiff before spreading with chunky peanut butter. A sprinkling of seeds makes the ‘cookie’ appealing to the birds. We looped cotton twine through the hole in the top and hung these from the tree.
    Additional decorations were made using pinecones. We applied peanut butter to the pinecones before rolling them in birdseed.
    A walk through the garden gave us more ideas. Nandina berry clusters made beautiful ornaments. Creampuff our newest little hen likes those.
    Popcorn looks beautiful on the tree, but I’m surprised to find the birds are not eating that. The peanut butter toast was gone the next day, so we had to make more!

    February 8, 2008

    Gardening for Birds, Squirrels, and other Wildlife

    Although I do plant in my garden plants that please me, I usually garden with little animals in mind. Birdwatching really does bring alot of joy to my family. We enjoy watching the little birds flitting around, grabbing seeds, diving at each other with their territorial antics, and such. Most of our native birds are very beautiful, and my favorites are the little chickadees! Also, it tickles us to hear the sound the doves make when they fly up to a tree branch. And, although I hear many complaints from others about the squirrels, I don’t mind that they eat so much of the birdseed. It’s worth it to us, for the fun we get out of watching them try to get a little snack before Shadow, our very large black lab, notices them.

    So it probably doesn’t surprise you that when I choose new plants for the garden, I look for something that will help me out with expenses–I try to plant shrubs and trees that will make berries and fruits for the wildlife creatures to eat, thus saving me a little bit in the cost of birdseed and corn.


    Some of the plants we use are common, but every little bit helps!

    • Holly is a dependable plant for berries each winter. The evergreen hollies with which we’re all so familiar are great, but my favorite is our native Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua. The shiny red berries really stand out against a winter background, the mottled gray and white bark is lovely in all seasons, and the tree is constantly full of birds during the winter.
    • Dogwood provides showy fruit in either red or white, depending on the species you plant.
    • Viburnums are available in both deciduous and evergreen species, but my favorites are the Cranberry and Arrowwood Viburnums. They’re native to the US and provide plenty of colorful berries. Plant several of each for good berry production.
    • Blueberries are devoured quickly by the lucky one who finds them first, so plant as many shrubs as possible, and you’ll need more than 1 variety for cross-pollination.
    • Mahonia, although not a native plant, is a wonderful addition to the winter garden, since the bright yellow blooms appear in January and develop into purple berries in late winter and early spring when all the other berries have been eaten.

    So as you add to your garden, plant some of these berry-producing shrubs near a window so you can see the birds and squirrels, and I promise you, you’ll find yourself smiling as you watch them.

    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!

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