ShadyGardens Blog

April 16, 2009

Florida Azalea: Rhododendron Austrinum

One of the brightest and showiest of all native plants in the spring garden is definitely the Florida Azalea.

Blooms appear in early spring and can be anywhere from bright yellow to a dark reddish orange. Rhododendron austrinum is deciduous so plant it among your evergreen azaleas and it will really stand out!

Blooms are very sweetly frarant, so you might want to plant one near your garden bench to enjoy as you relax.

As the name implies, Florida Azalea is native to Florida, but grows well anywhere in the Southern US and in zones as cold as USDA Zone 6.

Rhododendron Austrinum in on the endangered species list, so do not dig it up for planting in your garden if you find a specimen in the woods. Florida Azalea is propagated and sold by native plant nurseries, so you can purchase container grown plants for your garden.

Florida Azalea will eventually grow into a large tree-like shrub up to 10 feet tall. When found in the wild, it naturally occurs in woods beneath large deciduous trees, but flowers much more profusely when grown in full sun. Drought tolerant once established, but needs regular water to become established. Bloom buds on this spring blooming shrub are formed in late summer, right when we have our yearly drought, so water regularly during August and September to ensure good flowering in spring.

Let me know if you have trouble finding this plant in your area, because we have plenty! You can purchase them in our online store Shady Gardens Nursery.

March 31, 2009

Piedmont Azalea

Piedmont Azalea is definitely one of the loveliest blooming shrubs in the South. And the fact that it is a native plant means it should be planted in every southern garden (in my opinion!)

The Piedmont Azalea, Rhododendron canescens, is native to the Piedmont region of the Southeast, making it suitable for growing anywhere in Georgia.

The fragrant blooms can be anywhere from a vivid pink to a soft pink or even a pinkish white. Blooms appear in very early spring before the leaves on this deciduous shrub.

Although Piedmont Azalea naturally occurs in the warm southern United States, it is hardy to areas as cold as USDA Zone 5.

All azaleas prefer well-drained soil, so you should amend your soil with soil conditioner or composted bark to improve drainage if your soil is clay.

Native Azaleas are usually found growing in the woods but will bloom more profusely in full sun as long as water is adequate.

Bloom buds are formed in late summer and early fall, so pay close attention to watering during this time. When a native azalea fails to bloom, lack of water during bud formation is usually the culprit.

Native azaleas are drought tolerant once established, but water weekly the first year or two to make sure your plant gets a good start.

March 21, 2009

Red Buckeye – Native Plant for Hummingbirds

Filed under: Aesculus, buckeye, Callaway Gardens, dwarf, gardens, native, nursery, online, pavia, red, Shady, tree, woodland — shadygardens @ 2:47 pm


Dwarf Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, is one of the most showy native plants in our garden. Blooming very early in late winter or early spring, the large red panicle blooms are visible from a great distance, attracting hummingbirds as they return from their trip down south.

The Red Buckeye is among the first of the woodland plants to reawaken in spring, sending out tender new leaves as early as February. Lavish flowers appear early too, usually sometime in March for us.

The large luscious blooms attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators to the early spring garden. The Red Buckeye begins blooming at a young age when only about 3 feet tall. Red panicle blooms are up to 6 inches long!

This deciduous tree is the perfect specimen for the edge of a woodland, offering a focal point to draw you into the garden. It is especially lovely when underplanted with early spring blooming wildflowers.

The palmately compound leaves are deep green and keep their attractive tropical look all season long.

Red Buckeye is very easy to grow. You will enjoy this lovely little tree in your woodland garden!

November 20, 2008

Sourwood Tree

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!

Sourwood is a very ornamental small to medium-sized tree native to the United States. Leaves of Oxydendron arboreum possess a sour taste, giving the plant the common name of Sourwood.

Lovely clusters of sweet smelling blossoms hang delicately from the tree in early summer. Later the blooms develop into attractive seed clusters that are usually still hanging on the tree in fall when foliage turns its fire-red fall color.
Leaves begin to change from green to red as early as August. Autumn color can be a combination of red, burgundy, and purple!

The photo shows a small tree in my garden in November, but some large specimens can be seen at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Sourwood prefers a semi-sheltered position in partial shade–the edge of a woodland is perfect. This lovely tree also grows well in full sun and is a great choice for a roadside garden.

Although drought-tolerant once established, water regularly the first year after planting, to make sure your tree gets off to a healthy start.

An important source of nectar for honeybees, sourwood is a smart choice for our environment in light of the decrease in honeybee populations across the country.

July 19, 2008

Attracting Butterflies into the Garden

Butterflies are probably everyone’s favorite garden creature. They’re beautiful, mysterious, and romantic. It’s a goal of many gardeners to attract these lovely butterflies into the garden.

Butterflies need 3 things: Water, a nectar source, and host plants on which to lay their eggs.

The preferred source of water for butterflies is a mud puddle. This can be easily created by filling a large clay saucer with clean sand. Place this in a sunny spot in your butterfly garden and keep it moist at all times.

Nectar plants are the food source for adult butterflies. You’ll need Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) of course, which is now available in many colors. Lantana can’t be beat for attracting butterflies. Clethra is a large-growing native shrub that produces sweetly scented flower spikes up to 6 inches long in either pink or white and attracts butterflies by the hundreds. These blooms come in August, a time when flowers are more scarce. You’ll enjoy the fragrance as well, which reminds me of fresh honey. Clethra, also known as Summersweet and Sweet Pepper Bush requires moist soil and full to partial sun. Joe Pye Weed comes in many forms. Eupatorium Chocolate has interesting purplish/black foliage all summer and contrasting white blooms in September & October. Eupatorium coelestinum, Perennial Ageratum or Mistflower, displays bright periwinkle blue blooms in August and September. Helianthus is another late-blooming flower that butterflies love—it has large yellow sunflower-type blooms on tall stems. Of course all the beneficial insects, including butterflies, love Blackeyed Susan, Gaillardia (Blanketflower). In September, butterflies are attracted to Stonecrop (Sedums like Autumn Joy, Matrona, and Vera Jamison.) Dianthus flowers just about all summer, and butterflies are particularly attracted to this plant. You can fill in between bloom times of the perennials with annuals like cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias. Just try not to ever use pesticides in your butterfly garden, because then you would kill the butterflies you are trying to attract.

Host plants are those on which butterflies lay their eggs. Yes, the larva will eat the plants, but without a place for the babies to grow into the beautiful adult butterfly, you can’t have the butterflies! So plant extra parsley, dill, fennel, and milkweed, so you can have plenty to share with the butterflies. An added bonus is that these plants also attract many other beneficial insects!

For more information on this topic, contact us at http://shadygardens.biz/.

July 7, 2008

Clethra: Pink or White Fragrant Bloom in Late Summer Attracts Beneficial Insects!

Clethra is one of my favorite native plants, but more importantly, it’s a favorite plant of butterflies and other pollinators! Clethra alnifolia, better known as Summersweet or Sweet Pepper Bush, is another wonderful native plant that blooms in late summer. Obviously the common name ‘Summersweet’ comes from the very sweet-smelling blooms that appear right in the heat of the summer. The other common name ‘Sweet Pepper Bush’ comes from the attractive seed capsules that closely resemble Peppercorns.
The fragrant blooms which are 6-inch long spikes last for more than a month and attract many pollinators.
There’s a Clethra for every garden, since this shrub is available in both large-growing and dwarf varieties. But when I say ‘available’ I realize that Clethra is truly difficult to find in nurseries. Why, I do not know.
My favorite is ‘Ruby Spice’ since I’m a fan of pink flowers, but the white-blooming ‘Hummingbird’ is much sought after, probably due to the beauty of the shrubs planted en mass around Hummingbird Lake at the famous Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.
If your garden prefers a dwarf shrub, seek out ‘Sixteen Candles’–a more compact plant that seems to have more bloom spikes than possible! The name was given to this plant by Michael Dirr because the upright bloom spikes really do resemble candles on a birthday cake. This plant is truly spectacular!
Whichever you find, you can count yourself lucky to have this plant in your garden. It requires only consistent moisture to keep it happy. (I’m sorry, I do know that consistent moisture is hard to provide in Georgia these days, but if you have a wet spot, a pond edge, a soaker hose, or even, as in our case, stopped up field lines because your wife didn’t know any better than to plant a Weeping Willow in the wrong spot, this shrub is definitely worth the trouble!)
Of course, my favorite online source for native plants is Shady Gardens Nursery.

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