ShadyGardens Blog

June 1, 2008

A Beautiful Garden In Georgia With Native Plants!

Getting the garden ready for a hot Georgia summer can be easier than you think!

Plant selection is most important—choose plants you know will thrive in your area. Planting trees, shrubs, and perennials native to your climate zone means less work for you, because native plants are accustomed to the difficult conditions our Georgia summers offer. They are better able to withstand our drought, and some native plants even prefer our muggy, humid temperatures!

Always amend the soil with compost or composted manure. Plants are better able to tolerate harsh conditions when they have good soil in which to live.

Don’t overlook the importance of mulch. Apply a thick layer of organic mulch such as straw, bark chips, or shredded leaves to conserve moisture, keep the plant roots cool, and prevent weed growth. Gravel mulch is not suitable for our climate, except in a cactus garden, because it heats up too much in the summer.

Finally, if your budget allows, install a soaker hose or drip irrigation watering system. This will get the water down to the roots where it’s needed with less water waste.

February 29, 2008

Landscaping to Attract Birds

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 & 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 be provided easily too with native plants. 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 be providing many of the things butterflies, birds, and mammals need: 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 into your garden. In the meantime, drop by http://www.shadygardens.biz/ to see if we have some of the plants you need for your wildlife garden.

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.

January 30, 2008

You Can Plant in Winter!

February 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.

Recently 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.

December 3, 2007

Arizona Cypress Loves the Georgia Drought

As rain continues to remain scarce, we are constantly seeking out drought tolerant plants that will beautify our garden. A couple of years ago, we discovered the stately yet durable Arizona Cypress. We’ve had 2 years of drought here in West Central Georgia. The Arizona Cypress trees are planted in the hottest, driest part of our garden where the soil is nothing but hard clay bricks. The columnar Arizona Cypress ‘Blue Ice’ has continued to grow taller and taller while maintaining its narrow form. We just love it. The blue color of the foliage is just as beautiful as the Colorado Blue Spruce, yet grows much better in our hot Georgia climate. Our Arizona Cypress Trees receive no supplemental water at all. Last year, in the middle of our summer drought, we added two more trees, and they have responded so well to the drought that we think they actually enjoy it! The Arizona Cypress does love the heat—as its name implies, it is a native of Arizona. The Arizona Cypress makes a great hedge or screen, and it is available in both a pyramidal form and a columnar form. Both are equally beautiful and they also make a great living Christmas Tree. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-10, the Arizona Cypress Tree will make a beautiful addition to your garden.

November 4, 2007

Recycle Gray Water for Garden Plants

As drought continues to cause heartache for all of us gardeners, we must rethink our gardening practices and use more extreme measures to save our plants. Homeowners waste an average of 33% of good drinking water, according to the UGA Cooperative Extension Service School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Most of this waste is done through diluting toilet water, little-used sink and shower water, and laundry and kitchen use. In this time of water shortage, recycling slightly used ‘gray water’ to water our landscape plants makes good sense. Gray water is water that can be used twice. Safe sources for this gray water include bath water, laundry water, and sink water from bathroom and kitchen sinks. (Water from toilets and swimming pools cannot be reused.) Yes, using gray water is more time-consuming, especially if you must do it by hand. But if it will keep a prized plant alive, it’s worth the effort. If you’re considering installing a collection system for recycling gray water, you can find complete installation instructions on the UGACAES website along with usage suggestions for the gray water. It is of great concern that we do not know how long the drought will continue or how serious our water shortage will become. Please do your part to preserve one of our most precious natural resources by using water conservatively. Native plants are the best choice for gardens in a changing climate. And remember to pray for rain!
More information can be found at http://georgiadrought.com

October 31, 2007

Drought Tolerant Plants for Georgia

“Average Moisture” is a term we see often on plant labels and in garden books. Many plants do well with average moisture. If only I had a garden with average moisture! It seems like our drought comes earlier each year. Our garden shows serious signs of stress, since we’re now under severe drought status. Nowadays when I search for new plants, I look for those claiming to be drought tolerant. Once again, I’m drawn to native plants—plants that occur naturally in this part of the country. Many native plants are rare plants, mostly as a result of land development for housing, shopping, and industry, but specialty nurseries have them. Georgia climate poses some problems for many plants—our summers are hot and humid. Most years we receive little rainfall. Yet our winters can be cold. Actually, it’s the extreme temperature fluctuations that cause the demise of many plants in winter here in Georgia. Native plants are accustomed to our temperature fluctuations and our drought. Believe it or not, there are some plants that grow very well in dry soil. For dry shade, look for Columbine, Perennial Geranium, Cast Iron Plant, Rohdea, Carex, Autumn Fern, and Christmas Fern. For dry sun, you’ll be rewarded by Amsonia, Asters, Yarrow, Ice plant and other succulents, Blanketflower, Perennial Sunflower, Blackeyed Susan, Ornamental Grasses, and Red Trumpet Honeysuckle. If you plant some of these drought tolerant plants, you’ll find it easier to have a beautiful garden during this Georgia drought.

October 27, 2007

Native Plants for Dry Soil

Filed under: agave, drought tolerant, dry garden, Golden Sword, native plant, plants, yucca — shadygardens @ 6:13 pm

There are some interesting plants that not only tolerant dry conditions but actually enjoy dry soil! This is an exciting topic to me, since we are forced to endure dry soil here in Georgia. Although we’ve received some good rainfall recently, we can’t be sure it will continue. Native plants are the best way to responsibly landscape and garden without the extra effort of watering when it doesn’t rain. Yucca might not be your favorite plant, since it is famous for those spines at the tips that bring blood when an unsuspecting person bumps into it, but there are some less common varieties that are eye-catchers in the garden! Golden Sword has leaves striped with yellow, giving the garden a spiky focal point even in winter. This variety does not have the sharp spines at the tip of the leaves, but does send up the beautiful and quite showy fragrant white bloom spike in summer. Another beautiful variety that is sometimes available is Red Yucca, not a true yucca, but a very drought-tolerant Texas native that is virtually maintenance free! Red flower stalks extremely attractive to hummingbirds are sent up several times during the season, beginning in spring. Fruits will develop that provide food for the birds, so don’t remove the flower stalks. Yes, Red Yucca is hardy here, tolerating temperatures down to 10° F. Agave, usually referred to as Century Plant, comes in several different varieties including variegated ones and blue-tinted ones. All prefer dry soil, but make sure it’s hardy in our winters before planting it outdoors. Yucca and Agave both like dry soil so much that they can be planted even in the middle of a drought! They prefer full sun but grow well in partial shade too. Be careful with the agave though—I’m told the sap will cause a reaction far worse than poison ivy! Another good quality possessed by these plants—deer don’t eat it! So get out there and plant some drought-tolerant plants, but first thank God for the rain!

Blog at WordPress.com.