ShadyGardens Blog

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?

March 1, 2014

Garden Chores for Late Winter

Filed under: chores, fertilize, garden, Georgia, plant, prune, seeds, winter — shadygardens @ 1:32 pm


In my previous post we established the fact that you should wait to prune away seemingly dead stems from winter damaged shrubs. But this weekend promises to be absolutely beautiful, and I know you are anxious to get out in the garden and do something! “What can I do?” you might be wondering.



Well first, one more “don’t.” Do not fertilize. Fertilizing should be done a little later on, when all danger of frost is past. 
But you can top-dress. Top-dressing is when you spread a layer of compost, composted manure, or worm castings around the plants. Top-dressing can be done any time of year, even in the middle of winter. I use the shavings from our hen house.


Poppies bloom in early Spring


You can spread mulch too, being careful not to cover the crown of the plant. Organic mulch is best–either wood chips, shredded bark, or straw. Gravel is not the mulch to use in Georgia, because it will heat the soil too much during summer and damage the plant roots.

You can plant cool season crops like collards, kale, mustard, and turnips. Sugar snap pea and snow pea seeds germinate best in cool soil. We have 3 batches of peas already coming up, and I plan to sow more today. You can broadcast seeds of larkspur and poppies now too.


February 9, 2014

Plants for your Garden that Help the Bees

Filed under: attract, bees, garden, plants — shadygardens @ 11:48 am

January 15, 2014

Edgeworthia, Rice Paper Plant: Fragrant Blooms for the Winter Garden

Edgeworthia chrysantha buds beginning to open
If you’ve been searching for something new, exciting, or unusual for your Winter garden, consider Edgeworthia. First of all, what could be more exciting than a plant that blooms in winter? No matter how cold it is outside, Edgeworthia will bloom in the middle of Winter. Plant it near a window so you can view the beautiful blooms from the comfort of your home. 

Edgeworthia’s Winter blooms are not only beautiful, but are also fragrant. Scent is often described as being similar to that of the paperwhite narcissus. However, I find the fragrance to be more similar to cloves. On second thought, plant Edgeworthia near the entrance of your home, so you can enjoy the fragrance of the flowers when you come and go. Or perhaps you could do as I did and get more than one.

Edgeworthia grows wild in China and is related to Daphne odora, and has even been called Yellow Daphne. Also known as Rice Paper Plant, Chinese Paper Plant, and Japanese Paper Plant, Edgeworthia is used to make rice paper. 

There are several species of Edgeworthia, but the most desirable is Edgeworthia chrysantha, since it is more winter-hardy and easier to grow. Edgeworthia chrysantha is a deciduous shrub with very fragrant spherical bloom clusters in late January into February. A large specimen of Edgeworthia chrysantha can be seen growing at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Large elongated leaves are more than 3 inches wide and can be up to 11 inches long. The leaves which resemble plumeria, lend a tropical look to the garden in summer. Thus, edgeworthia contributes beauty and interest even when not in bloom. 

Silver buds form in late summer and early fall, growing larger and larger through the Fall, encouraging my anticipation and excitement. When the leaves are gone, the plant appears to be already in bloom. Then in early Winter, the buds begin to swell and resemble upside down sunflowers about 2 inches across. In mid- to late-Winter, the flower clusters begin opening from the outside in. Deep yellow tubular flowers attract pollinators who happen to be out on warmer days. In Georgia, Edgeworthia blooms in January or February, depending on the conditions for that particular Winter. Blooms last up to 6 weeks.

Edgeworthia chrysantha grows to about 6 feet tall and just as wide.

In China, Edgeworthia grows in full sun, but here in Alabama and Georgia, Edgeworthia chrysantha grows best in partial shade or filtered light. No hot afternoon sun.

Edgeworthia is hardy in USDA Zones 7-10, but Edgeworthia chrysantha tolerates colder temperatures and grows just fine in zone 6. 

Rich well-drained soil and regular water will keep your Edgeworthia plant happy. Be sure to water once or twice weekly during periods of summer heat and drought. Like hydrangeas, Edgeworthia will let you know when it is thirsty – the large leaves will droop and hang limp. With a good soaking of water, your plant will promptly perk up.

Edgeworthia grows rather quickly, and tends to send up new shoots from the base, forming a rounded shrub up to 6 feet tall. In Fall, leaves do turn yellow and fall off, but that just makes the plant ready to show off those extravagant Winter blooms. Attract attention and make your neighbors envious with this unusual and beautiful plant, Edgeworthia chrysantha.

December 22, 2013

Recycling at Home: Reuse your Fireplace Ashes

Filed under: ash, ashes, fireplace, garden, recycle, reuse, slug, snail, soil, test, uses — shadygardens @ 1:14 pm





I don’t know about you, but during the winter, I just cannot get warm without a fire! Every time I build a new fire however, something must be done with the ashes from the previous one. We try to recycle as much as we can, and I hate to waste anything, but what can we do with those wood ashes?





A great way to use them is to apply them to the garden. Before we do that, we must decide which garden area would benefit from wood ashes. Ashes from hardwood trees make great soil amendment for certain types of plants. They contain nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, and other elements that will promote bloom and strengthen roots on plants such as lilacs, rosemary, and peonies, as well as certain vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and collards. Don’t use ashes from charcoal fires or from treated lumber, because they contain chemicals that would be harmful to plants.



The addition of wood ashes can be of great help to you when growing plants that prefer ‘sweet’ soil, especially if your soil is very acidic. The wood ashes will sweeten the soil, making it less acidic. You must be careful where you deposit the wood ashes, because plants like blueberries, camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons all need acid soil, and will perish if you apply wood ashes around them.






To find out what kind of soil you have, for a small fee you can take a soil sample to your local County Extension Service for evaluation. They’ll have to send it off for testing, and for more information, follow this link: Soil Testing or just call your local county extension office.



Also, as with most fertilizers, a little wood ash goes a long way. Apply no more than 20 pounds per 1000 square feet per year. Plus, wood ashes should never be applied too close to tender roots of newly planted seedlings, so it’s best to apply them to the soil well in advance of planting time. (Fall would be great!) Wood ashes are also beneficial to lawns if applied very sparingly and watered in well.

In addition to soil benefits, wood ashes make a good natural slug repellent—just encircle the vulnerable plant with a ring of ashes and the snail/slug will not cross the line.  Since ashes won’t be as plentiful next summer when snails are munching, you might want to save some for later in a galvanized bucket.

June 20, 2013

Pests in the Garden: How to fight them without Pesticides

Filed under: aphid, beetle, bug, caterpillar, control, garden, insect, Japanese, natural, pests, soap, worm — shadygardens @ 12:57 pm

While our gardens are full of bad insects that bite us and eat our plants, many of the bugs in our garden are not only helpful and beneficial but responsible for much of the food we eat. Many of our valuable pollinators are on the decline due to habitat loss and overuse of pesticides by both commercial farmers and home gardeners. Since pesticides cannot tell the difference between a good bug and a bad one, it is best to not use them at all. 


Yet, insects like aphids, Japanese beetles, and squash bugs can destroy a plant quickly. And fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes? In addition to those itchy bites, they carry diseases which can be fatal. What can we do? It depends on the insect really.


Here in our garden, we use a variety of different methods for insect control. We have chickens, ducks, and guineas that roam free-range throughout the day eating every bug they see. Since introducing chickens to our garden, we have seen a significant decrease in Japanese Beetle damage. Guineas love to eat ticks, I am told. And ducks just eat every bug within reach. Since I have read that geese eat snails, I am entertaining the thought of getting a goose for my garden. (Don’t tell my husband.)




Aphids will usually be taken care of by Ladybugs, if you haven’t killed them all with pesticides. If you don’t have a good Ladybug population, you can order them online from Gardens Alive. Be sure to follow their instructions when you release them. Its really the Ladybug larva that devours the most aphids.






If you can’t wait for the Ladybugs to do their job, use the safest insecticide you can, insecticidal soap. You can purchase it ready made or make your own (1 or 2 Tablespoons of pure liquid soap like Castile, not detergent, to 1 quart of water.) Spray on the undersides of leaves and only where you see aphids.



For Japanese Beetles, mix up a cup of soapy water and add a little vegetable oil. Take it outside and as you see a Japanese Beetle, knock it into the soapy water. The oil will prevent its being able to climb out. This is a good job for your little boy, if you have one.

For many plant pests like squash bugs and tomato hornworms, the best method of control is to simply pick them off by hand. Since I don’t like to touch bugs and caterpillars, I use my pruners to knock them off. You can then mash them, or if you have chickens, knock the bug on the ground for them to fight over. It’s been years since I’ve seen a grasshopper in the garden here. Our chickens used to fight over them. It was fun to watch.
For ticks and fleas, here is an excellent recipe for homemade repellent.



June 16, 2013

National Pollinator Week

Filed under: flowers, garden, Georgia, honeybee, national, native, partnership, pesticide, plant, pollinator, week — shadygardens @ 12:05 pm



National Pollinator Week is June 17 – 23, 2013. Additionally, by proclamation, Governor Nathan Deal declared this week as Pollinator Week in the state of Georgia. 

In celebration of Pollinator Week, places all over the country have planned events
Since I can find no formal events close enough for us to attend, we will have our own. This week will be spent in the garden making our environment more friendly and welcoming for the pollinators. 

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, birds, hummingbirds, moths, bats, beetles, and more. We depend on pollinators for much of the food we eat. You have probably heard of the decline of the honeybee due to disease, loss of habitat, and excessive or improper pesticide use. Many other pollinators have shown as much as a 90% decrease in their populations. We all need to do our part in helping to insure the preservation of all of our pollinators. To attract more pollinators into our garden, my children and I will be planting more flowers this week. 

One of the most important things you can do to help pollinators in your area is to plant native plants. Native pollinators need native plants. 

Another thing, do not use pesticides. Pesticides cannot distinguish between a good bug and a bad one. 
For more information and ideas on how you can help, please visit The Pollinator Partnership. There is even a downloadable guide for your specific zip code to help you in choosing plants for your pollinator garden.

June 15, 2013

Gardening with Bugs

Filed under: attract, Beneficial, bug, garden, insect, lady, native, pest, pesticide, plant, pollinator — shadygardens @ 2:02 pm
If you are a gardener, you must learn to accept bugs. In the garden, there are good bugs and bad bugs.  Bad bugs, pests in the garden, are the topic for a later discussion. There are 3 types of beneficial insects you want in your garden: predators, parasitoids, and pollinators. 

Predators such as Lady Bugs, Lacewings, and Praying Mantis eat other bugs. Parasitoids like parasitic wasps lay their eggs on other bugs or insects so their young will have something to eat when they hatch. And of course you know pollinators like bees, butterflies, and moths pollinate flowers so we can have fruits and vegetables to eat.

As a gardener, you will understand the importance of attracting pollinators into the garden. Just like birds and butterflies, insects need 3 things for survival: food, water, and a place to lay eggs.

Very important – do not use pesticides. Pesticides don’t know the difference between a good bug and a bad bug, and you do not want to kill off your pollinators.

Creating a garden for the bugs is very simple. Brightly colored flowers will attract all types of beneficial insects to your garden. Choose a spot in full sun near your vegetable garden or fruit trees and amend the soil with compost. You can purchase annuals like cosmos, zinnia, marigolds, and vinca from your garden center or grow your own plants from seed.  Sunflowers are available in both annual and perennial plants. Native plants work best. Variety is important. A wide range of colors and flower types will in turn attract a wide variety of beneficial insects. For a printable list of native plants suitable for your own planting zone, click here.

May 12, 2013

Memorial Garden: My Ideas to Honor my own Mother

After the passing of my mother last year, a friend brought me a gift of a lovely garden bench with the suggestion that I start on a memorial garden in honor of my dear sweet Mother.
Mama’s sudden death was very painful for me, so it took awhile to be able to bring myself to begin the project. Each time I would think on it, memories would overtake me and I’d be unable to get started toward any real progress. I’m a thinker, a ponderer, a daydreamer. When I begin a new garden area, I spend lots and lots of time just thinking, as I wander around in the garden.
It took a long while to pick the spot for this memorial garden. Recent years of drought kept reminding me of how many plants I have lost over the years because I could not keep them watered enough. I knew I had to choose a spot that could be reached with the hose.
Once I picked my spot, I began to consider plants I wanted to include in my memory garden. Since most available garden space here is in the shade, I would need shade plants. Certainly, I wanted plants that would live and flourish. I wanted plants that would be beautiful in every season. Plants that would provide privacy would also be best, as my intention was to end up with a secluded spot to sit and remember my Mother. And finally, I wanted to include some of her favorite plants and her favorite colors. This would prove to take a lot of time and planning. I wanted shrubs that would grow large over time and fairly quickly. They would need to be thick shrubs that would offer seclusion and screening. Perhaps I might want to hide in there some day to be alone with my thoughts.
I tried to make the area large enough to include a spot for the garden bench I mentioned, as well as a birdbath or some type of statuary which I might want to add later. I ended up lining out a rectangle about 10 feet by 15 feet.
Red Knockout Roses 
Initially I planned on having only white blooms, which is most often used in memorial gardens, meditation gardens, and prayer gardens. But since I needed plants that are dependable, I began with Knockout Roses and Ruby Loropetalum.
Loropetalum Ruby
I placed the evergreens in the foreground for privacy. The roses and loropetalum were planted on the corner of the spot that will receive a good bit of sun. I knew I could depend on them to at least double in size the first year. (Yes, that’s right…our climate does that to Knockout Roses and Loropetalum.) 

At the back of the garden, I placed some larger specimens: Mock Orange,

Mock Orange, Philadelphus coronarius

and two types of Doublefile Viburnum, Shasta and Mareisii.

Viburnum Shasta
Although they are not evergreen, they leaf out very early in Spring and will have lush, thick, green foliage until frost. There will be plenty of privacy when weather would permit my sitting out there for any length of time. 
To finish my enclosure, I planted  a few more evergreens.
Banana Shrub, Michelia figo
Leucothoe axillaris
Viburnum Sandankwa
This project will be ongoing. Mama loved hydrangeas, so several types will certainly be included. They will be protected and accentuated by the evergreens.

I will post pictures of the finished project once the shrubs have grown.

December 5, 2012

Christmas Tree for the Birds

Filed under: birds, children, Christmas, garden, nature, tree, wildlife — shadygardens @ 2:55 pm
Decorating for Christmas is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Once we get the inside of our house decorated each year, 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. We use a cedar tree that happened to plant itself close to our dining room window, but any tree can be used, as long as you and your children can reach its branches. 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 hole so we could use twine for hanging them on the tree. 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.
Sliced apples and oranges and pineapple can be hung using twine. 
A walk through the garden gave us more ideas. Nandina berry clusters made beautiful ornaments. Creampuff, one of our red hens, 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!
This is a Christmas tree that will be enjoyed by all types of wildlife, and watching to see who visits your tree is a great way for your children to learn more about nature.

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