ShadyGardens Blog

February 24, 2014

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Filed under: chinese, Honeysuckle, invasive, Japanese, ligustrum, Lonicera, plants, privet, species, wisteria — shadygardens @ 3:36 pm
National Invasive Species Awareness Week is February 23-28, 2014. Invasive species involves more than just plants, but as you know, plants are my thing. Seeing invasive plants being sold in big box stores to uninformed gardeners is my pet peeve. 

I’ve written about these before, but I despise these invasive plants that are still commonly sold and planted right here in Georgia:

Chinese and Japanese Wisteria should never be planted here

Chinese Privet is dispersed when birds eat the berries

Privet in the garden center might also carry the name Ligustrum, so beware.

For what to plant instead of these invasives, please read Alternatives to Invasive Plants in the Garden.

Japanese Honeysuckle and Japanese Privet photos borrowed from Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area.

September 21, 2013

Plants I Wish I’d Never Planted

Filed under: aggressive, freely, grass, grows, invasive, ivy, mint, pampas, plants, quickly, reseeds, self sows, spreaders — shadygardens @ 3:28 pm
If I could do it all over again, I’d plant my garden differently. Early on, when I heard the words “spreads eagerly”, “reseeds freely”, or “grows quickly” when it referred to a garden plant, I grabbed one (or two or three) for my garden. For some of that ignorance, I am paying dearly every single day.

1 6 inch pot has taken over and climbed to
the top of this tall pine tree in just a few years
English Ivy should never be planted directly in the ground. It’s a wonderful plant for containers and hanging baskets, but if you let it touch the dirt, it will take off running and you will probably never subdue it.

Mint. It smells good when you walk on it or touch it or cut it. But if you plant mint in the garden, it will eventually spread all over your yard and probably into the neighbor’s. I used to think it would be okay if you plant it where you can frequently mow, but if you do, it will eventually spread to areas where you cannot mow. That’s what happened to me. I permitted Chocolate Mint to escape its container years ago out beside the greenhouse. It now covers just about every square inch of soil on all four sides of the greenhouse. And once it gets tall and begins to flower, mint is not a very pretty plant. I will never again plant anything in the mint family directly in the ground. Any type of mint is beautiful at the edge of a hanging basket, urn, or any other container like this leaky watering can where it can spill over the side, and that is where mine now resides.

Pampas Grass. Years ago, Pampas Grass became popular here, adding a tropical appearance to areas that are several hours drive from the beach. Giant Pampas Grass is very hardy even with winters much colder than ours. This large ornamental grass starts out nice enough. But it will grow so large over time that it can take over a small or medium sized garden. And when it comes time to prune it, all I can say is OUCH! Paper cuts are nothing compared to the burning cuts you’ll get when you brush up against Pampas Grass. Pampas Grass is not the plant for a family with small children. If you love Pampas Grass and have a garden large enough to plant it where no one will get cut up with the knife-like leaves, then have at it. But Pampas Grass is one plant I wish I had never put in my garden.

January 19, 2013

Landscape for the Birds and Butterflies

Filed under: Berries, birds, butterflies, invasive, landscape, plants, shrubs, wildlife — shadygardens @ 1:29 pm

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 and 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 also be easily provided. 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 provide what birds and butterflies need most: 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 and butterflies into your garden. In the meantime, drop by our Shady Gardens Nursery online store to see if we have some of the plants you need for your wildlife garden.

July 17, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #3: Shrubs with Colorful Fall Foliage

As written in my previous posts, many popular landscape plants seem harmless, yet they are actually invasive plants that move quickly into the surrounding areas to crowd out native plant species. Once established, these plants are capable of strangling trees and covering up native plant species on which many of our beneficial insects and wild animals depend for their survival. This change to our environment could drastically alter our eco-system.

In this third installment of my 3 part series on Invasive Plant Alternatives, I intend to share with you my suggestions for a fall color garden using some lesser known native plants instead of invasive shrubs and trees.

Most of the invasive species sold and planted have a native counterpart that is much more desirable in both appearance and behavior!

Chinese Tallow Tree, or sometimes called the Popcorn Tree, (see photo above) is prized for its fall color, but is one of the worst invaders into our forests because of the rapidly dispersed seed. Although Chinese Tallow is a lovely tree, consider these alternatives which are much better for the Southern garden:

 – a native American tree/small shrub that is beautiful in all seasons. Showy and sweetly scented, white bottlebrush flowers in spring, and excellent fall foliage in shades of orange, red, and burgundy.
Sassafras – a native small tree with beautiful fall color and large unusually-shaped leaves. It is easy to grow and tolerant of a variety of growing conditions.

Serviceberry – another native tree noted for its spring flowers and fall color with the addition of beautiful berries which are food for the birds.
Viburnum – there are many varieties, both native and non-native, that are lovely. All Viburnums have beautiful, showy blooms and many also develop berries in shades of white, blue, pink, and red that provide wildlife food. Some viburnums are evergreen, and deciduous varieties develop beautiful fall foliage. Viburnum is never invasive!

And finally, Sourwood cannot be beat in my opinion. It’s my favorite native tree, because after showing off in early summer with fragrant blooms that look and smell like Lily of the Vally, Sourwood develops beautiful maroon foliage that brightens up the Fall garden.

I hope you will consider some of these suggestions, and instead of invasive exotic shrubs and trees, incorporate some of these beautiful natives into your landscape. Thus you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

July 15, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #2: Climbers

Filed under: clematis, Honeysuckle, invasive, Japanese, jasmine, Lonicera, native, noninvasive, Passionvine, vines, wisteria — shadygardens @ 2:01 pm
As written in my previous post, many popular landscape plants seem harmless, yet they are actually invasive plants that move quickly into the surrounding areas to crowd out native plant species. Once established, these plants are capable of strangling trees and covering up native plant species on which many of our beneficial insects and wild animals depend for their survival. This change to our environment could drastically alter our eco-system.

These popular invasive vines have a native alternative that is far superior in both beauty and behavior.

In this second installment of my 3 part series on Invasive Plant Alternatives, I intend to share some information about popular climbing vines and some alternatives to use instead of the invasive varieties.

Japanese Honeysuckle appeals to many gardeners due to its fast-growing habit and its sweetly scented blooms, but that aggressive nature and rapid growth are what has caused it to take over the South. Japanese Honeysuckle is one of the most common nuisance plants, yet it is still sold in garden centers everywhere!

I can think of quite a few good alternatives for this garden thug, but these are my favorites:
Lonicera Sempervirens
Shady Gardens Nursery
  • American Native Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, shown in the photo above, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come almost year round in my garden. (There were a few blooms on mine even in January here in West Central Georgia!) If red is not your color, Lonicera sempervirens is available in a yellow blooming selection called John Clayton.
  • Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is an evergreen vine native to the Southeastern United States with bright yellow blooms in early Spring and sporadically throughout Spring into Fall.
  • Clematis is available in many varieties, both native and non-native species and a wide selection of colors. All are lovely–none are invasive.
  • Passionvine is another native perennial vine with very showy, large purple flowers and attractive, edible fruits. This vine will self-sow, but never crowds out its neighbors. Stems are delicate enough that this plant can be allowed to climb through shrubs and trees abundantly without worry of damage to the support plant.
  • American wisteria (Yes, I did say wisteria!!) is a native vine that is just as beautiful as the Chinese and Japanese wisteria, but is not invasive at all. The blooms are very fragrant. You might see it sold as Amethyst Falls wisteria, but don’t be afraid to plant it. Avoid Chinese and Japanese wisteria, because I can show you how it’s taking over much forestland in Alabama and Georgia, strangling and pulling down trees, much like kudzu.

If you have an arbor or trellis that could use some ornamentation, choose one of these climbing vines for your garden. You won’t regret it.

July 10, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #1: Evergreen Shrubs

Filed under: alternatives, Berries, boxwood, holly, invasive, Itea, ligustrum, native, plants, privet, Sweetspire, viburnum, yew — shadygardens @ 2:30 pm
Many popular landscape plants seem harmless, but they are actually invasive plants which move quickly into the surrounding areas to crowd out native plant species. Once established, these plants are capable of strangling trees and covering up native plant species on which many of our beneficial insects and wild animals depend for their survival. This change to our environment could drastically alter our eco-system.

Most of these popular invasive species have a native counterpart that is much more desirable in both appearance and behavior.

Privet, or Ligustrum, is a highly invasive species found growing all over the South. Once it moves into an area, privet is very difficult to eradicate. It seems this problem will never go away, since to my surprise it is still sold in big box garden centers and planted in enormous proportions by landscapers and home owners everywhere. It can be found in almost every landscape. Once one person plants it, it will eventually be all over the neighborhood, since birds eat the small dark berries (see photo shown below) and drop seeds anywhere they deposit their droppings.
Privet Berries are eaten by birds, therefore privet seeds
are deposited in bird droppings all over the neighborhood.
In my opinion, privet is not even pretty, and I don’t know why people plant it, unless it’s because it’s evergreen. Our property is surrounded by thickets full of privet which, since it is not our land, we can do nothing to eliminate. And believe me, when it blooms, it really wreaks havoc on my sinuses and I keep a migraine until the blooms fade, because I cannot escape the strong fragrance permeating our entire garden.

There are certainly many superior alternatives to this pest. I could go on and on with a list, but any fine, textured evergreen would be better than privet. Here are just a few suggestions, all evergreen, some of which also have beautiful flowers or bright berries for the birds to eat:

  • Boxwood is much slower-growing, making it far superior to privet, since privet must be pruned every few weeks to keep it tidy. Boxwood is also available in dwarf sizes and variegated forms, making it absolutely unnecessary to ever plant any variety of privet.
  • Hollies are excellent in any garden. Dark green glossy leaves in a variety of textures with beautiful berries in shades of yellow, orange, or red provide plenty of interest. Dwarf yaupon holly is a native holly with small leaves giving a fine-textured appearance similar to privet, but without the maintenance.  When choosing holly for the garden, the possibilities are endless. 
  • Yew is a lovely evergreen plant that is available in a variety of forms: upright, conical, or spreading. (Also, deer will not eat it–Yay!)
  • Viburnum is available in small-leaved evergreen varieties such as Davidii, Compactum, or Sandankwa as well as some deciduous species with bright fall foliage color. Many varieties have hydrangea-type bloom clusters and some put on a bright display of beautiful berries in the Fall. 
  • Itea, Virginia Sweetspire, is a lovely shrub available in large or dwarf-growing sizes. Sweetspire has fragrant bottlebrush blooms in spring and one of the showest fall color displays of any shrub, native or not!
Non invasive Native Shrub with Fragrant Spring Blooms and Vibrant Fall Color
Itea virginica Henry’s Garnet
Shady Gardens Nursery
I hope you will consider some of these suggestions, and plant shrubs that are not invasive instead of invasive exotics. Thus you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

July 7, 2012

Wisteria: Romance for the Southern Garden

Filed under: amethyst, falls, frutescens, gardens, invasive, noninvasive, nursery, Shady, sources, wisteria — shadygardens @ 1:50 pm
Wisteria Amethyst Falls
Shady Gardens Nursery
What could be more romantic than sitting with your true love beneath an arbor draped with sweetly scented lilac blooms swaying in the light Spring breeze?

Romantic and old-fashioned,
wisteria vine is often seen in southern gardens climbing arbors, porch
railings, and even trees.

Usually what we find is an imported and very aggressive plant from China or Japan. Beautiful and romantic, yes. Well-behaved and mild-mannered, no. 

Let me introduce you to a true Southern Beauty, the Southern Belle of climbing vines, Wisteria frutescens. This American Native Wisteria is a rare plant native to the Southeast, but she is seldom found growing in the wild. It is not the plant covering up trees along roadsides in Georgia and Alabama—that’s the Asian one. 

‘Amethyst Falls’ Wisteria
is a cultivar of that rare American Native Wisteria. It is much less aggressive
than the Asian counterpart, therefore making it a much wiser selection for your

Blooms are 5 inch long clusters
of lilac flowers appearing in late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. 

American Wisteria can eventually climb to 40 feet, but it is easy to control with pruning. This well-mannered Southern plant is lovely on a strong arbor or pergola, but it is easy to train as a tree-form standard.  An arbor of cedar posts or iron would make a lovely accent in the garden when covered with Amethyst Falls Wisteria.

Our native Wisteria can be grown anywhere in the Southern States, for it is hardy in USDA Zones 7 – 9. It should be sited in full sun or light shade. Morning sun with afternoon shade is ideal for gardens in the Deep South. Any well-drained soil will do. Regular water is needed only in the beginning when the plant is establishing to its new home. American Wisteria is very drought tolerant once established.

Every garden should have a lovely place to sit on a cool morning while planning out the days activities. Or perhaps you would prefer a spot to unwind in the evening after a long day’s work. No matter what your gardening style, make your special place an arbor covered with the beautiful, romantic, yet mild-mannered native American Wisteria Amethyst Falls.

February 8, 2009

Privet Is An Invasive Plant! Don’t Plant It In Your Garden!

Filed under: alernative, invasive, plant, privet, rose, viburnum — shadygardens @ 2:44 pm

Many invasive plants are still commonly sold and planted here in the Southeast. One still popular but very invasive plant that should not be planted in your garden is the Chinese Privet. Once planted, this invasive shrub is difficult to eradicate. Privet produces tiny berries by the hundreds that are eaten by birds and planted all over the neighborhood. Very soon privet begins popping up in nearby woods and meadows, developing tight thickets that crowd out native plants. I find it ridiculous that privet is still so widely sold and recommended for hedge plantings.

Privet is often chosen at garden centers when the homeowner is looking for a privacy hedge or evergreen shrub that is easy to grow. There are many better choices out there, since just about any plant is better than privet. For alternatives to privet, try visiting your local native plant nursery or a locally owned nursery. There you will find a knowledgeable nurseryman that would have suitable alternatives to privet.

Some plants to consider instead of privet:

  • Viburnum – some species are evergreen, most produce large flowers in spring and showy berries in fall, as shown in the above photo. There are both native and non-native varieties.
  • Roses provide showy blooms and easy care, if you choose a carefree shrub rose. In addition to beauty, the thorns on most shrub roses can provide a barrier for intruders if that’s your goal.
  • Holly. Whether you choose an American native variety or not, holly provides berries and beautiful foliage. Some species are evergreen and even variegated. Holly is a favorite of birds as a food source and nesting site.

When planning a hedge, I always suggest a mixed shrub border rather than a long row of the same plant. A mixed shrub border can provide beauty and interest 12 months a year, and with variety, you can provide food and shelter for birds and other desirable wildlife. Plants with berries should be included as a food source, and birds love to build nests in thick bushy shrubs with spines or prickly leaves. When you have a variety of plantings in your garden, you are contributing toward diversity that is important for preservation of the environment.

January 26, 2009

Alternatives to Invasive Plants in the Garden

My gardening goals have changed much over the years. In the beginning I was enticed with plant descriptions such as ‘fast growing’, ‘prolific spreader’, or ‘reseeds freely’, envisioning a lush garden covered with beautiful plants after minimal monetary investment and less work.

Perhaps it was when I enrolled in the Master Gardener Class that I learned of the dangers of planting invasive plants, but it should have been obvious to me sooner. I need only to step outdoors to view the rampant spread of the very aggressive Japanese Honeysuckle. Every time I drive my children to school, I see hillsides overtaken with Kudzu.

Now I view planting invasive exotic plants as down right wrong. Aggressive plants like Kudzu can completely take over a whole field in little time, even killing large trees by blocking sunlight and stealing the very little water we get during drought common to this part of the country.

So as you plan additions to your garden this year, take a moment to investigate a plant’s reputation before adding it to your garden.

To offer a little assistance, here’s a short list of invasive plants that are still bought, sold, and planted, along with a more environmentally-friendly alternative:

  • Japanese Honeysuckle – Plant our native honeysuckle instead, Lonicera sempervirens, commonly referred to as Red Trumpet Honeysuckle or Coral Honeysuckle.
  • Japanese Pachysandranda – Instead, try our native Pachysandra Procumbens, which is variegated, offering much more beauty than the plain green invasive one.
  • Privet – Well, there are many alternatives to Privet. Anything at all would be better. For a non-invasive hedge, consider holly, viburnum, shrub roses, or camellias.
  • Wisteria – Yes, we even have a native wisteria that’s much better than the very invasive Chinese or Japanese Wisteria. Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ is available in many nurseries and home improvement stores. Before buying wisteria, check the label. If it merely reads ‘Wisteria,’ stay away from it. If it’s Wisteria frutescens, it’ll be labeled as such.

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