ShadyGardens Blog

May 21, 2014

Cherokee Rose: Georgia’s State Flower

Filed under: cherokee, China, flower, Georgia, native, plant, rosa laeveigata, rose, state — shadygardens @ 12:56 pm

Probably because the Cherokee Rose is Georgia’s State Flower, I am often asked if we grow it. Most have been disappointed or even shocked when I told them that we did not. 

Since it is Georgia’s State Flower, one would assume the Cherokee Rose is native to Georgia, but this plant originally came from China. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although our specialty is plants that are native to these parts, we grow many plants that are native to Asia. However, we do have to be careful with Asian plants, since many can be very invasive here (kudzu, honeysuckle, and wisteria), but that’s a separate post.

If the Cherokee Rose is not native to this state, you might be wondering how in the world it became Georgia’s State Flower. And furthermore, how did it come to be called the “Cherokee Rose”? There is an interesting legend behind that.

One of our nation’s earliest nurserymen, Thomas Affleck, introduced Rosa laeveigata and sold it to landowners all over the South in the 1800’s. Since that time, Rosa laeveigata has naturalized all over the state of Georgia. One of the saddest things in history to me is the removal of Cherokee families from their land in Georgia when they were forced to march on foot all the way to Oklahoma. This tragic relocation of the Cherokee became known as the “Trail of Tears.” According to the legend, every time a tear hit the ground, a rose grew in its place. That rose was Rosa laeveigata, later to be called the Cherokee Rose.

In 1916, the Cherokee Rose was designated as the State Flower of Georgia with the support of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs. Often confused with Rosa bracteata, the McCartney Rose, the Cherokee Rose blooms in Spring and is not invasive.

The Cherokee Rose is a vigorous climbing rose with ferocious thorns, but can be pruned and grown as a hedge. Large white flowers with yellow centers cover the plant in March or April.

Having learned this interesting piece of history, we might decide to produce this beautiful rose after all. If for no other reason than to remind us of an important event in history that should never have happened. Nowadays it seems everyone has something to grumble about. Oh, “Woe is me,” they seem to be saying. Well, imagine if you had been a Cherokee, back in 1838.

Look for us to have Rosa laeveigata in the future. Hopefully in the mean time, I can learn to spell it.

March 13, 2014

Camellia, the State Flower of Alabama

Filed under: Alabama, camellia, flower, garden, japonica, sasanqua, shade, state — shadygardens @ 1:21 pm
Although Alabama’s State Flower is the Camellia, this popular Southern shrub is native to Asia. The first Camellias were brought to Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1700’s by the French botanist Andre’ Michaux. Camellias are one of my favorite winter blooming plants. Camellias are often thought of as the Rose of Winter. There are thousands of different types of camellias, but most often what you see falls into one of two categories: Japonica and Sasanqua.
Camellia Japonica has glossy evergreen leaves and large blooms that may be any shade of white, red, or pick. Some even have “variegated” blooms that are spotched or striped. Blooms which can sometimes be very large come in several forms: single, double, semi-double, or peony type. Flowers hold up well indoors. I like to display them in a clear glass bowl.
Sasanqua Camellias have glossy evergreen foliage too, but the Sasanqua has different characteristics. Blooms are looser and appear more delicate, but the plant itself seems easier to grow. Sasanquas tolerate more sun that the Japanese Camellia, and they grow faster and larger too. 

By having a variety of both Japanese and Sasanqua Camellias in the garden, one can have blooms from Fall all the way into Spring. All camellias prefer some shade. Morning sun is okay, but give your camellias some protection from hot afternoon sun. They are all surprisingly drought tolerant once established, but you’ll need to water regularly the first few years to get your shrubs established.

A good reference book to add to your collection would be Camellias: The Gardener’s Encyclopedia, by Jennifer Trehane.
Although I do love camellias, personally, I think the State Flower should be one that is native to that state. But that’s just me. What do you think?

July 18, 2009

Four Oclock: Fragrant Blooms for the Evening Garden

If you like fragrant plants, the old-fashioned Four Oclock will be one of your favorites. Small pink blooms scent the garden with their sweet perfume every evening during summer. Mirabilis jalapa is a shrub-like multibranched perennial plant that emerges each spring from a large carrot-shaped tuber. The common name Four Oclock comes from its fascinating habit of opening its blooms around 4 oclock in the afternoon. That alone is enough to intrigue me, since I have a natural interest in plants with unusual traits. Although it’s called Four Oclock, in our garden Mirabilis actually opens her blooms around 5:30 pm, perfuming the air right about the time it begins to cool off enough to sit in the shade on the patio.

Four Oclock is very easy to grow. Easy to please, four oclock can be grown in sun or shade. Our plants get morning sun and afternoon shade, but four oclock grows equally well in full shade with a reasonable amount of water. She’s not a water hog, but good soil with regular water will keep the plant looking healthy and green with plenty of those fragrant blooms. Just so you’ll know, plants in our shade garden get very little water, yet still bloom and multiply with profusion. Plants in the sun that receive occasional water perform just about as well as those in dry shade. The few Four Oclocks we have in dry sun are just surviving.

I can’t really describe the fragrance–it’s just a sweet, pleasant scent that invites me to relax outdoors. You might not notice the scent until your plant gets large with many blooms. And if you’re never outdoors in the evening, well…you’ll just miss out entirely.

Another important feature of the fragrant Four Oclock is that hummingbirds just adore it! The hot pink blooms are tubular and full of nectar for both butterflies and hummingbirds. You’ll further enjoy sitting on the patio observing the tiny creatures flitting about around the plants.

Four Oclock dies to the ground with the onset of winter in colder zones, but re-emerges again in late spring. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-11, mirabilis can be grown anywhere in the southern half of the United States.

I must tell you also that Four Oclock is definitely a reseeder. Toward the end of summer you’ll notice small black cannonballs on the plants and the ground beneath. Those are very viable seeds. If you’ve had no luck growing Four Oclock from seed, that’s because these very hard seeds need a cold treatment to break them. It’s best to plant them in fall, but most gardeners don’t think about it then and seeds often are not available in the big box stores at that time of year. You’ll have nearly instant gratification if you go ahead and purchase a tuber instead. Heavy black carrot-shaped tubers will send up a stem very quickly after planting in warm summer soil. Four Oclock tubers are available for summer shipping from Shady Gardens Nursery.

July 16, 2009

Attract Hummingbirds with Native Plants

Filed under: attract, buy, flower, garden, Hummingbird, hummingbirds, native, nectar source, plant, plants, Shady, vine — shadygardens @ 3:04 pm

Everyone loves hummingbirds! As a nursery owner, I’m frequently asked for plant suggestions to attract hummingbirds into the garden. Hummingbirds, like other birds, look for food, water, and a safe nesting area when searching for a place to hang out. A good nectar source is very important. I prefer to provide nectar in the form of live plants, since they require less maintenance than a hanging feeder. When I think of plants to attract hummingbirds, these flowering vines are the first that come to mind.

Campsis radicans, Trumpet Vine, or Trumpet Creeper is a very vigorous vine with reddish orange trumpet-shaped blooms all summer long. Hummingbirds adore this vine, but plant with care–Trumpet Vine will take over an area quickly. Best planted away from the house and on a very sturdy trellis or arbor where it’s beauty can be enjoyed without fear of wearing out its welcome. Still, you’ll need to keep your pruners sharp. Watching the hummingbirds chatter and fly around it is well worth the maintenance to me.

Bignonia Capreolata, more commonly referred to as Crossvine, is a less invasive but equally beautiful native flowering vine. While Trumpet Vine is seen in profusion along roadsides in the south during the summer, you’ll be lucky to find Crossvine growing freely. Bignonia is in the same family as Campsis, but has a much better behaved and easier to control habit. Blooms are large and trumpet shaped and bloom color can be anywhere from brownish orange to vibrant orange to a deep pinkish red. If your gardening tastes lean more to the exotic and unusual, this plant is for you.

Lonicera sempervirens usually goes by the name of Red Trumpet Honeysuckle or Coral Honeysuckle because the blooms are a vibrant coral red. John Clayton is a yellow-flowering form found growing in Virginia. Lonicera sempervirens is a vigorous yet non-invasive flowering native vine that hummingbirds love. Evergreen in most of the Southern states, Lonicera sempervirens blooms almost year round. I’ve seen blooms on ours in December here at Shady Gardens in west central Georgia.

Flowering vines are an important part of every garden, and the addition of a vine is an important layer for small gardens. In addition, these vines can be grown in containers and added to patio or balcony gardens. Next time you consider a vine for your garden, I hope you’ll choose a native plant rather than an invasive exotic one. As you can see by the photo above, imported vines could not possibly be more beautiful than some of our own native flowering vines!

July 30, 2008

Purple Passion Vine: Food for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly!

Passiflora Incarnata is one of the most exotic-looking plants I can think of, yet it is native to right here in the Southeastern United States!

Dark green foliage begins scrambling over the ground and up neighboring shrubs in May each year. Soon after, large buds open into very unusual purple flowers that attract pollinators of every sort.

Purple Passionvine is an easy to grow deciduous vine that can be found growing along roadsides and in open fields in Eastern Alabama. Large serrated leaves have 3-5 lobes and can be up to 5 inches across. This plant forms tendrils which help it climb up nearby support.

Passionvine, or Passionflower, is also often called Maypop, because of the large egg-shaped fruits that develop all along the vine. My parents say childeren used them as weapons in their day! Some say the fruit tastes much like guava, but it reminds me of green plums. The fruit will open with a ‘pop’ to reveal hundreds of pulpy seeds. Try sucking on them to enjoy the sourness.

Passiflora incarnata is an important larval food source for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, so you might observe orange caterpillars devouring your plant!

One suggestion is to plant Passionvine where it can scramble up a shrub, thus disguising the chewed leaves as you enjoy the flowers. (The caterpillars eat only the leaves & fruit–not the flowers.)

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