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.

January 11, 2013

Winter Honeysuckle: Fragrance for the Winter Garden

Filed under: bloom, fragrant, fragrantissima, Honeysuckle, Lonicera, shrub, winter — shadygardens @ 4:31 pm
Lonicera fragrantissima blooms small but fragrant

Lonicera fragrantissima is a large evergreen shrub that blooms in winter, hence the common name, Winter Honeysuckle. 


The blooms are small but very fragrant, and they simply cover the shrub in January and February, making walks in the garden on warm winter days even more special. 
We have received plenty of rain so far this winter, which could be the reason my shrubs are covered with so many flower buds. Drought-tolerant and easy to grow, this shrub should be in any garden if you have the space for it. 

Winter Honeysuckle will develop into a large shrub and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. Red berries form in summer, but they’re so well-hidden behind the leaves that they usually go unnoticed by all but the birds who seem to know where to look. 
Although I have received one complaint that Winter Honeysuckle should not be sold due to its invasive nature, I haven’t found that to be a valid complaint, since my large shrubs might produce only one or two seeds each per year, at most. However, before planting this in your garden, you might want to check the Invasive Species list for your state, which might be different from our situation here in drought-prone Georgia.

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.




December 31, 2011

Plant in Winter? Yes, You Can!


January is a great time for planting here in Georgia! Shrubs and trees planted before the arrival of hot weather have a much better chance of surviving the drought. I’m afraid it’s time we all adjust our gardens for the return of the drought each year.


Several years ago, our garden was certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. We are very proud of that, because preserving our environment for wildlife and our children is very important to my family and me.

Not only is preserving wildlife and native plant species important from an environmental standpoint, but native plants are easier to grow, since they are able to thrive in our climate!

In addition to being easy to grow, many of our Native American Species offer other advantages over the imported counterpart.

Consider American Euonymus with the unusual red fruits instead of the more common Euonymus that is invasive. The fruit resembles a hard strawberry until the capsule bursts open to reveal bright orange seeds—food for the birds! (See the photo above.)

American Native Azaleas perfume the garden with a lovely fragrance, while Asian Azaleas have no fragrance at all! And what could be more beautiful than a native azalea in full bloom?

Nothing smells sweeter than the banana-pineapple scented blooms of the native Sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus.

The bright red blooms of our American native honeysuckle vine, Lonicera sempervirens, 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.

So as you add new plants to your garden during this great planting time, seek out some of these rare native specimens, and don’t be afraid to plant them now, to give them a headstart before summer! And check back soon for suggestions on how you can improve your garden to help protect your local wildlife.

For more information on these and other plants for your garden, please visit Shady Gardens Nursery.

August 7, 2010

Hummingbirds Love Native Plants

Filed under: attract, bignonia, campsis, hummingbirds, Lonicera, native, plants, vines — shadygardens @ 5:19 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.


Campsis radicans

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.

Bignonia capreolata on the Arbor


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.

Lonicera sempervirens on the Fence

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 photos above, imported vines could not possibly be more beautiful than some of our own native flowering vines!


January 22, 2010

Winter Garden in Georgia with Native Plants

Since a Georgia winter has frequent warm days, we enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors even in January and February. Finding native plants that are showy in winter can be challenging.

We do have many non-native evergreens in our garden, but we find it important to choose native plants whenever possible. After much searching, I have come up with a few suggestions of American native plants you should add to your winter garden:

  • American Holly, of course for the berries!
  • Pachysandra Procumbens, often referred to as Allegheny Spurge, is a non-invasive groundcover that develops a silvery mottling to its leaves in fall and winter.

  • Lonicera fragrantissima begins blooming in January with sweetly fragrant and delicately beautiful blooms. This large growing shrub is commonly referred to as Winter Honeysuckle.
  • Evergreens are an important addition to any garden. One I like in particular that looks just as good in winter as any other time of year is Arizona Cypress.
  • Yucca provides spikey interest year round and provides contrast in the garden. I like ‘Golden Sword’ for its bright yellow stripes appearing like sunshine in the garden. The top photo shows Golden Sword Yucca in its January splendor.

In addition to being beautiful year round, these plants offer the added benefit of being drought tolerant and perfect for xeriscape gardens, which is an important asset to consider during today’s uncertain water conditions!

January 4, 2010

Fragrance in the Winter Garden

Lonicera fragrantissima is an American Native Honeysuckle Shrub that blooms in winter, hence the common name, Winter Honeysuckle. Another nickname for this shrub is Kiss Me at the Gate. I’m not sure how that name came about, but I’m sure it’s an interesting story!

The blooms of Winter Honeysuckle are small but very fragrant, and they simply cover the shrub in January and February, making walks in the garden eagerly anticipated on those warm winter days we often have here in Georgia. My shrubs are already covered with flower buds and I can’t wait to enjoy the aroma! Drought-tolerant and easy to grow, this native shrub should be in any garden if you have the space for it. Lonicera fragrantissima will ultimately reach a height of about 10 feet with an equal spread.

Winter Honeysuckle is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9 and is mostly evergreen. This shrub is also very drought tolerant, making it perfect for Georgia gardens.

Red berries form in summer, but they’re so well-hidden behind the leaves that they usually go unnoticed by all but the birds who seem to know where to look.

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.

June 30, 2008

Honeysuckle & Plumleaf Azalea: Blooms In Late Summer

By the end of summer, many plants have grown tired of providing blooms for our garden. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find plants that will fill in this difficult time with flowers. A diligent gardener can find quite a few plants that bloom in late summer.

You’re probably familiar with Black-eyed Susan and Butterfly Bushes, providing the garden with blossoms this time of year no matter how hot it gets, attracting butterflies by the hundreds. You’ve seen Japanese Honeysuckle on the side of the road, or perhaps you’re even plagued with its invasive qualities in your own garden.

But have you seen our native Red Trumpet Honeysuckle? Lonicera sempervirens is a non-invasive evergreen vine that blooms almost year round, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and many other beneficial insects. Grow it as a groundcover, let it climb an arbor or trellis, or train it to cover a fence. You’ll be rewarded with blooms from spring to fall, and I’ve even seen blooms on mine in December! It will grow in sun or shade, but flowers more profusely in full sun.

For the shade, try Lobelia cardinalis, our native red Cardinal Flower, loved by hummingbirds. This perennial prefers moist soil, but can be grown in regular garden soil with supplemental water.

If you have a woodland garden, try the beautiful Plumleaf Azalea, an American native azalea made famous by Callaway Gardens. Rhododendron prunifolium is a rare deciduous azalea with bright red blooms in late July and August. Plumleaf Azalea prefers a cool shady spot with regular water.

Perennial hibiscus continues to offer up showy blooms in several colors right up until the onset of cold weather. There are many hybrid forms of our native perennial hibiscus, but my favorite is Hibiscus coccineus, often referred to as Swamp Hibiscus or Texas Star Hibiscus. It has attractive foliage in addition to the beautiful flowers. When I look at the blooms, it’s hard for me to believe that instead of coming from Hawaii, this plant is a native of the Southeast!

And for a little later on in the season, consider adding Swamp Sunflower, a good companion for perennial hibiscus, since they both share a love for sun and water. Helianthus blooms in September with large, bright yellow flowers on tall stems up to 10 feet tall! I hope you’ll try some of my suggestions in your late summer garden as you strive to make your garden more beautiful year round.
For more information on any plants mentioned here, contact us at
Shady Gardens Nursery.
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