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.

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.



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.




April 12, 2012

Kerria: Japanese Thornless Rose or Yellow Rose of Texas

Filed under: bloom, double, garden, Japanese, japonica, kerria, nursery, rose, shade, Shady, spring, Texas, thornless, winter, yellow — shadygardens @ 4:19 pm
Every year without fail, one of the first plants to bloom in our garden is Kerria Japonica. Whether you call it Kerria, Japanese Rose, Thornless Rose, or the Yellow Rose of Texas, we can all agree that this plant is spectacular in the early Spring garden. 

Often blooming before Spring has really arrived, Kerria keeps on blooming for well over a month, and then slips in more flowers off and on throughout Spring, Summer, and early Fall as long as it’s happy.

It doesn’t take much to make a happy plant out of Kerria Japonica. Kerria grows well in either sun or shade. Provide well drained soil and regular water, and she will reward you with more blooms each and every year.

Blooms are a bright golden yellow. Our garden is fortunate to have two different varieties of Kerria. Pleniflora has double yellow blooms that resemble pompoms. Shannon blooms are single and look like the flowers of a true rose. 

Kerria Japonica is available online at Shady Gardens Nursery.





September 4, 2009

Native Plants for a Low Maintenance Garden

I am often asked why I focus so much on native plants. Many homeowners really just do not know what a native plant is, so I thought it best to clarify. A native plant is simply a plant type that occurs naturally in a particular area.

Often plants seen growing in abundance on roadsides are mistaken for native plants. The sight of kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle climbing and devouring trees and wooded areas cause new gardeners to turn up their noses at the suggestion to plant native plants. Those plants are invasive exotics and not native plants at all.

Native plants should be planted more often for several reasons:

  • Ease of growing. Native plants require less maintenance. No heavy pruning and no coddling.
  • Pest free, usually. Native plants have been growing with the same insects for years and usually will not die just because of a few bugs. A garden with no pesticides is a good thing!
  • Drought tolerant. Native plants have acclimated themselves to our changing environment and can tolerate whatever conditions a Georgia summer can dish out.
  • Deer-resistant. Yes, most native plants are deer-resistant. Deer will often walk right past a native plant to devour something from exotic lands, such as your prized hosta. Why eat something they see all the time in the woods, when they can try something new?
  • Beauty. A little known fact is that often the native plant is much more beautiful than it’s exotic counterpart. Some examples: Hibiscus coccineus, Hibiscus moscheutos, and Lonicera sempervirens. The image above is Hibiscus coccineus, native to the Southeastern United States. Isn’t it fabulous?

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.

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.

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