ShadyGardens Blog

October 27, 2012

Dry Fall in Georgia – Can I Plant Anything Now?

Filed under: drought, dry, fall, Georgia, planting — shadygardens @ 2:05 pm
Well, folks, it certainly looks like we are in for a dry Fall here in Georgia. This really puts a damper on my Fall planting plans. Each year, I look forward to Fall, because this is the time of year that I can plant shrubs in the outer stretches of our garden. I cannot reach these parts of my garden with a hose, so I usually wait for rain to be in the forecast, and then I hurry out there with my shovel and shrubs. Earlier this week, according to our local meteorologist, we had a 20% chance of rain for today. I thought the day I had been waiting for was finally coming. Yesterday, that chance of rain was removed from our forecast. So far this Fall, I have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for that rain that just has not come. 



A rain shower every two or three weeks does not constitute regular rainfall that should be coming this time of year. I remember cold rainy days in October during my younger years. Back then, I did not enjoy that weather, because I had not yet discovered the joys of gardening. It seems like once I fell in love with plants and the gardening bug really bit me hard, the droughts came. And every single year I become more and more discouraged when I walk out into the garden. 

Our soil looks more like bricks I could use to build a potting shed than something in which to plant a shrub. This is the result of record-breaking intense heat along with a drought that has been going on for years. While we did receive nice rain showers in Spring this year that stirred up my excitement, received rain never caught up with our need. We began summer with a rainfall deficit.

What will I do? The only thing I can do is wait for rain…

October 26, 2012

Drought Damage in my Georgia Garden

Filed under: Beautyberry, drought, dry, garden, gardens, Georgia, lady banks, mahonia, nursery, Shady, shrubs, tolerant, trees — shadygardens @ 3:31 pm
I took a walk in the garden today to assess the damage the drought has caused thus far. Many of the plants believed to be drought-tolerant have actually suffered quite a bit. I did find a few surprises when I noticed plants that still look great in spite of absolutely no water, so I thought I’d share them with you. 


Lady Banks Rose has not wilted, although she’s been in the ground only one year. I can’t reach her with the hose, so I was a little worried. 

Other shrubs and trees with no wilt are: American Beautyberry, Holly, Paw Paw, Spirea, Arizona Cypress, and Rosemary. 



Established camellias and viburnums look fine, while newly planted ones wilt again every few days and recover only after a deep soaking. 

Mahonia from Shady Gardens Nursery
Although it will plant itself in your garden wherever it likes, Leatherleaf Mahonia never wilts. It provides a rough texture in the garden with its tough evergreen spiny leaves and bright yellow winter bloom sprays followed by dark purple berries that are loved by songbirds. It requires shade. Although it does reseed freely, I do not consider it to be an invasive plant. 

Perennials that still look great are Hosta, Rohdea, sedums, and succulents. Hardy Ice Plant is great for dry sun—rewarding you with flowers that open in full sun even with no rainfall. 

If you decide to add any of these recommended plants to your garden during this drought, remember that no plant is completely drought tolerant the first year, so water weekly in the absence of rain. In other words, water weekly, because obviously, there is no rain!

October 17, 2010

Georgia Drought is an Annual Event–What Can You Do About It?

Filed under: drought, dry, native, plant, soil, Water — shadygardens @ 2:37 am
Delosperma nubigenum
As our climate here in Georgia becomes more hot and dry, it is important to make wise choices when considering plants for the garden. Inadequate rainfall again this summer caused many of our newly planted garden additions to die. 
If you don’t want to be faced with those same results again every single year, consider plants that actually enjoy hot, dry growing conditions. My husband jokingly states that we live in the ‘Desert Southeast.’ Well, there really seems to be a lot of truth to that new nickname, so we’ve added several plants to our garden that originate in the desert southwestern US. Plants from that region are accustomed to hot, dry climates with poor soil, and most will adapt well to our climate here. 
Southwestern native plants need well-drained soil, though, and for the most part, Georgia soil is heavy clay. Some soil improvements will be necessary to help those plants survive here. 
Now, bear with me for a moment–I know you’re thinking I’m about to suggest you install a cactus garden, but I’m not. Most of the time when we think of the gardens of Arizona, we think only of cactus and yucca, but there’s more out there than that. I’ve compiled a list of garden worthy plants that deserve consideration for Georgia gardens, along with photos to show you how beautiful they are. By the way, some of these recommendations are actually native to the Southeast!
    Delosperma cooperi
  • Delosperma comes in several varieties with different foliage and bloom color, but my favorite Ice Plants are cooperi and nubigenum. Delosperma cooperi has rather large purple flowers resembling asters on a ground-hugging succulent plant. Delosperma nubigenum (shown in the top photo) has sunny yellow flowers resembling daisies on a very low-growing succulent with jelly-bean shaped leaves that turn red with the onset of cold weather.
  • Gaillardia: Blanket Flower
  • Gaillardia, often referred to as Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket, has blooms all summer long that, as the nickname implies, have all the colors of an Indian Blanket. The blooms are quite large and bright, visible from a distance, making this plant ideal for roadside gardens. Some even have ruffly or double petals!
  • Rudbeckia (Black eyed Susan) and Echinacea (Coneflower) are probably already in your garden, but seek out some of the new colors which are hard to find but unusually beautiful.
  • Pink Muhly Grass
  • Ornamental grasses will provide movement in the garden as well as foliage contrast. The blooms which are usually in the form of a plume or seed head offer additional beauty at the end of the season and also food for some of our native birds! An unusual native grass we grow in our garden, Muhlenbergia capillaris or Pink Muhly Grass, goes unnoticed all year until September when billows of pink cotton candy appear above the foliage–simply spectacular!
  • Bulbs tend to be more drought tolerant, so if a native plant forms a bulb, you can usually count on it surviving a drought and returning when more favorable conditions return. One of my favorites is a California native plant, Dichelostemma, commonly referred to as Firecracker plant. This plant is available in either red or pink blooms and likes dry summers! Other drought-tolerant native bulbs are Solomon’s Seal and Rain Lilies. Zephyranthes candida sends up lovely white blooms usually right after a good rain shower, which is the reason for its common name.
  • Amsonia is a native perennial that really looks like a grass to me. In early summer blue flowers are lovely, but in my opinion this plant is most beautiful in fall when the foliage turns the brightest of gold.
  • Baptisia also has many seasons of beauty–soft blue-tinted foliage appears in spring, vivid blue flowers are next, then large seed capsules that turn black in late summer. Wow!
  • Crossvine: Bignonia capreolata
  • Vines are needed in every garden for that vertical interest, and my absolute favorite of all is the very drought tolerant Cross Vine, Bignonia capreolata. Not to be confused with the also beautiful Trumpet Vine which can be invasive if not controlled, the Cross Vine is much easier to manage. And instead of just plain orange blooms, Bignonia has blooms that resemble a flame–yellow, orange, and pinkish red all on the same flower! Shaped like a trumpet, the blooms are a favorite of the hummingbirds here.
  • I wouldn’t be discussing native plants if I didn’t mention my very favorite native tree, the Red Buckeye. Unlike other buckeyes, the Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, grows well in dry soil. The huge red bloom panicles appear in very early spring even before the leaves, and provide food for the hummingbirds just as they are returning from their winter vacation.
    Red Buckeye: Aesculus pavia

    These plants tolerate our winters as well as our hot, humid summers, as long as the soil is well-drained. So as you plan for new additions to your garden this year, remember there will always be a summer drought and plant some of our beautiful native American plants that are even more accustomed to the heat than we are!

March 21, 2010

Mahonia: Bright Yellow Blooms for the Shade Garden

Filed under: dry, grape holly, leatherleaf, mahonia, nursery, online, oregon, shade — shadygardens @ 9:04 pm
Mahonia is my favorite non native plant. After the cold wet winter we’ve had, I’m excited to see the first blooms in our garden, and each year they appear on the Mahonia first.

Mahonia is an evergreen shrubby plant from Asia. Often referred to as Leatherleaf, this plant has tough green leaves with spines.

Bright yellow blooms appear in winter as early as January, but this year the blooms didn’t open until March due to our prolonged winter weather. Blue black drupes appear in clusters like grapes in spring, lending the common name of Grape Holly.
Mahonia is very easy to grow in the Southern United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 7-9. This evergreen plant prefers shade and well-drained soil. Bloom is not prevented even in the deepest shade. Very drought tolerant once established, Mahonia is an excellent choice for a dry shade garden. 
The growth habit of mahonia makes it a striking architectural feature for foundation planting as well. 

Leatherleaf Mahonia is available online from Shady Gardens Nursery.

February 12, 2008

Drought Tolerant Plants for Georgia Native Plant Gardens

As our climate here in Georgia becomes more hot and dry, it is important to make wise choices when considering plants for the garden. Necessary watering restrictions imposed last year caused many of our newly planted garden plants to die. If you don’t want to be faced with those same results again this year, consider plants that actually enjoy hot, dry growing conditions. My husband jokingly states that we live in the ‘Desert Southeast.’ Well, there really seems to be alot of truth to that new nickname, so we’ve added several plants to our garden that originate in the desert southwestern US. Plants from that region are accustomed to hot, dry climates with poor soil and most will adapt well to our climate here. Southwestern native plants need well-drained soil, though, and for the most part, Georgia soil is heavy clay. Some soil improvements will be necessary to help those plants survive here. Now, bear with me for a moment–I know you’re thinking I’m about to suggest you install a cactus garden, but I’m not. Most of the time when we think of the gardens of Arizona, we think only of cactus and yucca, but there’s more out there than that. I’ve compiled a list of garden worthy plants that deserve consideration for Georgia gardens, along with photos to show you how beautiful they are. Some of these recommendations are actually native to the Southeast!

  • Delosperma comes in several varieties with different foliage and bloom color, but my favorite Ice Plants are cooperi and nubigenum. Delosperma cooperi has rather large purple flowers resembling asters on a ground-hugging succulent plant. Delosperma nubigenum has sunny yellow flowers resembling daisies on a very low-growing succulent with jelly-bean shaped leaves that turn red with the onset of cold weather.
  • Gaillardia, often referred to as Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket, has blooms all summer long that, as the nickname implies, have all the colors of an Indian Blanket. The blooms are quite large and bright, visible from a distance, making this plant ideal for roadside gardens. Some even have ruffly or double petals!
  • Rudbeckia (Black eyed Susan) and Echinacea (Coneflower) are probably already in your garden, but seek out some of the new colors which are hard to find but unusually beautiful.
  • Ornamental grasses will provide movement in the garden as well as foliage contrast. The blooms which are usually in the form of a plume or seed head offer additional beauty at the end of the season and also food for some of our native birds! An unusual native grass we grow in our garden, Muhlenbergia capillaris or Pink Muhly Grass, goes unnoticed all year until September when billows of pink cotton candy appear above the foliage–simply spectacular!
  • Bulbs tend to be more drought tolerant, so if a native plant forms a bulb, you can usually count on it surviving a drought and returning when more favorable conditions return. One of my favorites is a California native plant, Dichelostemma, commonly referred to as Firecracker plant. This plant is available in either red or pink blooms and likes dry summers! Other drought-tolerant native bulbs are Solomon’s Seal and Rain Lilies. Zephyranthes candida sends up lovely white blooms usually right after a good rain shower, which is the reason for its common name.
  • Amsonia is a native perennial that really looks like a grass to me. In early summer blue flowers are lovely, but in my opinion this plant is most beautiful in fall when the foliage turns the brightest of gold.
  • Baptisia also has many seasons of beauty–soft blue-tinted foliage appears in spring, vivid blue flowers are next, then large seed capsules that turn black in late summer. Wow!
  • Vines are needed in every garden for that vertical interest, and my absolute favorite of all is the very drought tolerant Cross Vine, Bignonia capreolata. Not to be confused with the also beautiful Trumpet Vine which can be invasive if not controlled, the Cross Vine is much easier to manage. And instead of just plain orange blooms, Bignonia has blooms that resemble a flame–yellow, orange, and pinkish red all on the same flower! Shaped like a trumpet, the blooms are a favorite of the hummingbirds here.
  • I wouldn’t be discussing native plants if I didn’t mention my very favorite native tree, the Red Buckeye. Unlike other buckeyes, the Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, grows well in dry soil. The huge red bloom panicles appear in very early spring even before the leaves, and provide food for the hummingbirds just as they are returning from their winter vacation.

    These plants tolerate our winters as well as our hot, humid summers, as long as the soil is well-drained. So as you plan for new additions to your garden this year, remember there’ll be a drought and plant some of our beautiful native American plants that are even more accustomed to the heat than we are!

February 10, 2008

Drought Survival Tips

Filed under: drought, drought tolerant, dry, Georgia, plant, soil — shadygardens @ 2:13 pm

If you’re in the Southeast as we are, I know you’re thankful for the rain we’ve been receiving. I’m now encouraged and excited about the upcoming gardening season, and we’re again making plans about what to plant. The whole state of Georgia, as well as much of our country, sufferered tremendously from the drought last year. We’d be wise to plan ahead to be hit hard with it again this year. Currently I’m studying on what plants in our garden made it through the drought last year, and searching for new varieties of those to add this year. I’ll let you know in future posts what I find out!

As we dealt with the drought during the past few years, we’ve come upon a few tips for survival, and I thought I’d share them with you:

  • Conserve water every way you can. Save water for later use by leaving a bucket in the shower or fill buckets from leftover bath water to use for watering plants. Install a rain collection barrel to collect rain now while it’s plentiful.
  • Amend the soil with compost. Well-amended soil retains water better, and plant roots are better able to move freely through the soil to reach available water and nutrients, making for healthier plants ready to fight the drought.
  • Plant drought tolerant plants! If you must have some of the plants that are less able to cope with water shortages, plant them close together in a spot where you can easily water them with reclaimed water.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! Apply a thick layer–up to 4 inches thick–of a good organic mulch. Don’t use things like gravel unless you’re growing cactus. And it turns out that mulch made from recycled tires could be cancer-causing, according to a report from Environment and Human Health Inc http://www.ehhi.org/reports/turf/). Good organic mulch not only retains soil moisture and protects roots, but also breaks down in time, enriching the soil.

Remember to check back soon for my suggestions on drought tolerant plants for your Georgia garden.

January 1, 2008

Daphne Odora: Rare Shrub for Winter Bloom

Filed under: aureomarginata, bloom, blooms, Daphne, dry, fragrant, garden, gardening, nursery, odora, pink, shade, variegated, white — shadygardens @ 2:29 pm

Daphne odora is one of the easiest shrubs to grow, yet is very difficult to find! Available with either white or pink blooms and variegated or solid green leaves, Daphne odora is probably the most fragrant shrub you can find. Not an overpowering scent, but a very pleasant one, described by some as being the scent of fruit loops, while others insist the fragrance is that of fresh lemons. What is perhaps most amazing about this shrub is that the blooms come at a very rare time for flowers–right in the middle of winter! Beautiful even when not in bloom, Daphne odora, despite its reputation, is surprisingly easy to grow. Daphne requires well-drained soil in shade. Give Daphne a try, and you’ll love it!


Daphne Odora Aureomarginata PINK

December 30, 2007

Rohdea: Beautiful Year Round in Dry Shade!

Rohdea Japonica, also known as Japanese Sacred Lily, is a low-growing evergreen plant that is a great substitute for Hosta. Rohdea actually thrives in dry shade gardens, and is not bothered by deer. A native of the Orient, Rohdea should be more widely planted here. Its low-maintenance and tolerance for poor, dry soil make it an easy plant to grow, even for busy gardeners. The 1 foot long deep green leaves form an upright vase-shaped clump that will cover a 2 foot area in several years. In late fall the insignificant flower stalks will develop into a 6-inch stalk of bright red berries at the base of the plant–just in time for Christmas! The berries are eaten by birds and squirrels which help to disperse the seed for more plants in the garden. Usually difficult to find in the United States, Rohdea is highly prized in Japan, with some fancy-leaved varieties often selling for thousands of dollars. If you can find it, Rohdea is definitely worth planting in the garden. Rohdea Japonica needs shade and will even grow in very deep shade with little water. This drought tolerant plant is perfect for a xeriscape garden in shade. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-10.

December 29, 2007

Hellebores: Winter Blooms in Dry Shade Gardens

Since we have many days of nice warm weather here during the winter, I like to find plants that will bloom in winter. Hellebores are evergreen perennial plants that bloom after Christmas in a rainbow of colors in shades of magenta, rose, mauve, and cream. Some blooms are even speckled. Often called Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, Hellebores aren’t really roses at all, but are in the buttercup family. Hellebore is a very low-maintenance plant that thrives in dry shade—that’s right, dry shade! When not blooming, Hellebores have interesting, shiny, dark green foliage with leaves often serrated or even palmate. It is a long-lived perennial offering years of beauty in the shade garden. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8, hellebores require no special care. They spread with time, forming clumps up to 2 feet across in just a few years. Amend the soil well with organic matter when planting, and you’ll be rewarded with many years of beauty. Hellebores are a great substitute for Hosta, but are even better. Hellebores are evergreen and the deer will not eat them! No matter what you decide to plant in your garden, get out there and enjoy it. And remember to thank God for the rain we’ve received!

November 8, 2007

Plants for a Dry Shade Garden: Native and Not!

Filed under: aquilegia, drought, dry, fern, native, nursery, perennial, plant, plants, rohdea, Shady, shrub, shrubs — shadygardens @ 4:39 pm

If you have dry shade in your garden, you know what a challenge it is to find plants that will grow in those conditions. What plants grow well in dry shade? This is a list of some of the plants we’ve found to grow well with little or no supplemental water. As I said, this is just a list, but if you’ll check back often, we’ll add plant profiles as time permits.

Shrubs:
Strawberry Euonymus
American Beautyberry
Native Azaleas – Alabama and Florida (Piedmont is moderately drought tolerant as well)
*The straight species ones have done much better for us—the named hybrid varieties haven’t survived the drought in our garden
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Red Buckeye
Sweetshrub
PawPaw
Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)
Arrowwood Viburnum

Perennials & Groundcovers:
Asters (Shade-loving varieties, like wood aster)
Ageratum (the hardy perennial one)
Columbine (Aquilegia)
Dwarf crested Iris
Hardy Geraniums
Native Wild Ginger
Solomon’s Seal
Pachysandra Procumbens (Allegheny Spurge)
Pussytoes is a very cute little native plant with fuzzy silver leaves like lamb’s ear.
Rudbeckia (Blackeyed Susan) does surprisingly well in dry shade if the shade is not too dense. We have several patches planted in shade, and they seem to bloom just as well as the ones in full sun. They bloom just a little later in the season when in shade, which works out just fine for me.
Purple Coneflower does equally well in shade.

Ferns:
There really are some ferns that grow just fine in dry shade.
My favorite is Christmas Fern, because it’s a native plant, and it looks a lot like the popular hanging basket fern, Boston Fern.
It looks great all summer, in spite of no rain or supplemental water at all. Plus it’s evergreen.
Autumn Fern isn’t native, but it’s my 2nd favorite, because it too is very drought tolerant and evergreen.
Dixie Wood Fern is a very large fern that is moderately drought tolerant, although it prefers moist soil.
Eastern Wood Fern is an evergreen native fern that grows well in dry woods. It might move into 1st place in our garden, if it continues to do well.

Vines:
Carolina Jasmine/Jessamine naturally occurs most often in dry shady woods. We were lucky to have this one already growing in our woods, and it grows well and blooms in spite of no supplemental water.
Red Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) also usually occurs in the woods but blooms better in the sun. It tolerates dry shade very well, but blooms less in the shade.
Virginia Creeper is a deciduous native vine with beautiful red fall color that is often mistaken for poison ivy.
I won’t mention the non-native vines for dry shade, but there are some. Many of the popular ones are quite invasive. If you need more information on these, let me know.

Since native plants are my favorite, I tend to concentrate most on them, but I’d be telling a story if I said we don’t grow anything else. We do try to avoid invasive plants, but many non-natives provide a lot of easy-care beauty in our shade garden. You really can’t beat these for a dry shade garden:
Acuba
Ajuga
Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant)
Daphne odora
Gardenia (once established)
Hellebores (Lenten Rose)
Holly
Hosta
Mahonia (Leatherleaf)
Pieris
Mondo grass, also a non-native plant, is a great performer.
Pittosporum
Rohdea (Japanese Sacred Lily) – makes a great
substitute for Hosta, since it’s evergreen and deer- resistant.
Pittosporum
Viburnum (there are many types, both native and non-native)
Yew
*In addition to being evergreen and deer-resistant, both the Aspidistra and Rohdea grow well in even very deep shade.
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