ShadyGardens Blog

November 11, 2008

Virginia Creeper: Bright Red Fall Color for the Native Garden

I grow Virginia Creeper for its spectacular fall foliage which rivals any bloom I’ve seen. Brilliant red leaves adorn the entire plant from onset of cold weather for a month or more. Once really cold weather arrives, leaves fall to the ground and the vines sleeps for the winter. In spring new growth begins with tiny bronzy leaves unfurling for another season of interest.

Often mistaken for Poison Ivy (Why? I don’t know!!), it has no irritating properties that I know of. Virginia creeper, or Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is closely related to the more well-known Boston Ivy, and is native to the Eastern United States.

Easy to grow and not nearly as invasive as English Ivy, Virginia Creeper is a great plant to grow on a wall of brick or other masonry. This beautiful vine clings to almost anything by attaching tendrils to a porous surface. For that reason, it’s best to keep it away from any wooden areas.

Virginia Creeper is attractive at least 3 seasons of the year, but in fall the foliage attracts attention when it comes alive in a brilliant shade of red.

As is true with many of our lesser known native plants, Virginia Creeper is drought tolerant, thrives in just about any soil, and grows well in either sun or shade. It does not require a structure to grow on, and it is a great groundcover for a bank needing some erosion prevention. Parthenocissus quinquefolia is hardy in USDA Zones 3 – 9 and roots easily from cuttings. Virginia Creeper is a good alternative to the more invasive English Ivy and Japanese Pachysandra. Although it isn’t evergreen in most climates, the vibrant red fall color more than makes up for it!

October 16, 2008

Native Aster: Drought Tolerant Fall Blooming Perennials

Filed under: aster, dought tolerant, drought, native, native plant, native plants, nursery, Raydon's Favorite — shadygardens @ 8:19 pm


Every year with the onset of cooler weather, gardeners in our area flock to the nearest garden center to purchase fall mums for our gardens. Why do we do that again, year after year? Because although perennials, mums don’t always survive our tough summers. Some chrysanthemums planted in previous years are still around, but if every mum I’d ever planted was still alive, I’d have no room for anything else!

So, what’s an alternative? Something that’ll provide eye-catching fall color every single year without replanting every fall? (You know I have one, Honey!) Asters! Asters come in many colors and sizes, so there’s one that’s perfect for your garden.

My favorite right now is Aster oblongifolius ‘Raydon’s Favorite.’ Bright lavender daisy-like flowers with yellow centers show off in our roadside garden although we’re still experiencing drought conditions. I’ll be planting more this weekend. Asters grow very well in our climate, loving hot, summer sun, and not minding our inconsistent winters.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-7.

Deer Resistant – Deer do not like the aromatic foliage!

Soil Requirement: Asters do well in just about any soil as long as well-drained.

Attracts butterflies.

Great cut flower.

With attributes like that, one might find it hard to believe that it’s a native plant, but Aster oblongifolius is found on hillsides and cliffs here in the United States. You can’t beat it for an easy care, drought tolerant plant in full sun.

September 26, 2008

American Euonymus – Strawberry Bush – Hearts A Bustin

Another very unusual native plant is the American Eunymus. Most commonly referred to as Strawberry Bush or Hearts-A-Bustin, Euonymus Americanus goes unnoticed most of the year. Green stems are attractive in winter, especially to deer. Small greenish yellow flowers in spring are lovely, although inconspicuous, but in late summer the American Strawberry Bush begins to show off.


The common name ‘Strawberry Bush’ comes from the dark red seed capsules that look much like strawberries. The seed pods are showy, especially once the plant is large enough to display a large number of the pods. But when the seed capsules burst open, that’s when they really capture some attention. The pods open to reveal bright orange fruits that are a sharp contrast to the dark red outer shell. Breathtaking, really. That’s where the plant gets its other common name, Hearts-A-Bustin.

And, like many of our native plants, Euonymus Americanus is very easy to grow. Requiring only a little shade and regular water to get established, the American Euonymus is drought tolerant. Unlike other forms of Euonymus, American Euonymus is not invasive.

Found in the woods in the Southeast, the American Strawberry Bush is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

If you like unusual plants, try American Euonymus, or Strawberry Bush. Not usually found in nurseries, but available by mailorder or online at specialty native plant nurseries such as Shady Gardens Nursery.

September 12, 2008

American Beautyberry: Callicarpa Americana

Filed under: Beauty Berry, Beautyberry, Callicarpa, dought tolerant, native plant, native shrub. — shadygardens @ 5:12 pm

One of my very favorite plants of all is the American Beautyberry. One of the showiest of all native plants, Callicarpa americana, displays vibrant purple berry clusters all along the stems at a time when few plants are blooming in the garden.

Insignificant tiny blossoms appear in early summer, berries develop later in summer, beginning to change from green to purple in late August.

The bright purple berries are held tightly in clusters along the stems and between the leaves. The berries really begin to show off as they remain on the stems long after all leaves have fallen from the plant. Although we don’t get snow here, I’ve seen breathtakingly beautiful photos of American Beautyberry with snow and icycles. Wow!

Easy to grow and very drought-tolerant, Callicarpa Americana will grow quite large–up to 10 feet tall and wide, but it is easy to contain as a smaller specimen with just one pruning per year at the end of winter or early spring. Since the plant blooms and forms berries on new growth, you can conveniently prune when your climate begins warming up without sacrificing your berry production in fall.

American Beautyberry makes a lovely specimen shrub but is even more spectacular when massed in groups of 3 or more.

An added bonus is that songbirds like the berries, once they begin to shrivel. I suppose they sweeten a bit as they age.

Foliage is large, bright green leaves that are attractive even without blooms or berries. Deciduous leaves fall at onset of cold weather, leaving the bright purple very showy berries to remain well into winter, often as late as January, depending on climate.

One of the most showy American native plants that I know of, the American Beautyberry is worthy to be planted in every garden. Find one for your garden at http://www.shadygardensnursery.com/.

August 27, 2008

Native Plants for Georgia Publication Released by University of Georgia is a Valuable Resource!

I’ve just been made aware of a new very valuable resource on Georgia native plants, and I think you should take a look!

‘Native Plants for Georgia, Part I: Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines’ is the newest publication released by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the UGA Department of Horticulture.
This free publication includes photographs and is available in a printer-friendly version for free download. The images take awhile to download, but they’re definitely worth waiting for.
I’m sure I’ll be referring to this publication often, whether I’m searching for new native plants for our garden, needing help growing something we already have, trying to identify a mystery plant, or writing plant descriptions for my articles and mail order nursery website.

If you love native plants as I do, take a moment to download this publication or at least save it in your favorites for future reference:

http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B987/Vines.htm.

August 24, 2008

Gordonia – Loblolly Bay: Evergreen Native Tree for Wet Soil

Filed under: Gordonia, Loblolly Bay, native, native plant, native tree white bloom, tree — shadygardens @ 1:23 pm

Loblolly bay, an American native plant, is an attractive evergreen tree with large white flowers about 3 inches across, appearing late spring into early fall!
Much easier to grow than its cousin, the Franklinia Tree, Gordonia is long-lived, as long as regular water is received.
The white blossoms begin as a white ball-shaped bud and open into a lovely 5-petaled bloom with a golden yellow center. The fragrant blooms attract many insect species.

Gordonia lasianthus will reach up to 60 feet tall at maturity. It is native to the Southeastern United States and is found in swamps, bogs, and wet woods. Loblolly Bay is the common name for this tree. It will grow well in any garden as long as regular water can be given.

Hardy in USDA Zones 7-9, Gordonia withstands temperatures down into the teens for short periods of time.
The white fragrant blooms resembling camellia blossoms appear sporadically all summer, attracting many pollinators to the garden.
The Gordonia or Loblolly Bay Tree cannot survive drought so water well in the absence of rainfall.
This rare native tree can be purchased directly from Shady Gardens Nursery.

July 19, 2008

Attracting Butterflies into the Garden

Butterflies are probably everyone’s favorite garden creature. They’re beautiful, mysterious, and romantic. It’s a goal of many gardeners to attract these lovely butterflies into the garden.

Butterflies need 3 things: Water, a nectar source, and host plants on which to lay their eggs.

The preferred source of water for butterflies is a mud puddle. This can be easily created by filling a large clay saucer with clean sand. Place this in a sunny spot in your butterfly garden and keep it moist at all times.

Nectar plants are the food source for adult butterflies. You’ll need Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) of course, which is now available in many colors. Lantana can’t be beat for attracting butterflies. Clethra is a large-growing native shrub that produces sweetly scented flower spikes up to 6 inches long in either pink or white and attracts butterflies by the hundreds. These blooms come in August, a time when flowers are more scarce. You’ll enjoy the fragrance as well, which reminds me of fresh honey. Clethra, also known as Summersweet and Sweet Pepper Bush requires moist soil and full to partial sun. Joe Pye Weed comes in many forms. Eupatorium Chocolate has interesting purplish/black foliage all summer and contrasting white blooms in September & October. Eupatorium coelestinum, Perennial Ageratum or Mistflower, displays bright periwinkle blue blooms in August and September. Helianthus is another late-blooming flower that butterflies love—it has large yellow sunflower-type blooms on tall stems. Of course all the beneficial insects, including butterflies, love Blackeyed Susan, Gaillardia (Blanketflower). In September, butterflies are attracted to Stonecrop (Sedums like Autumn Joy, Matrona, and Vera Jamison.) Dianthus flowers just about all summer, and butterflies are particularly attracted to this plant. You can fill in between bloom times of the perennials with annuals like cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias. Just try not to ever use pesticides in your butterfly garden, because then you would kill the butterflies you are trying to attract.

Host plants are those on which butterflies lay their eggs. Yes, the larva will eat the plants, but without a place for the babies to grow into the beautiful adult butterfly, you can’t have the butterflies! So plant extra parsley, dill, fennel, and milkweed, so you can have plenty to share with the butterflies. An added bonus is that these plants also attract many other beneficial insects!

For more information on this topic, contact us at http://shadygardens.biz/.

July 7, 2008

Clethra: Pink or White Fragrant Bloom in Late Summer Attracts Beneficial Insects!

Clethra is one of my favorite native plants, but more importantly, it’s a favorite plant of butterflies and other pollinators! Clethra alnifolia, better known as Summersweet or Sweet Pepper Bush, is another wonderful native plant that blooms in late summer. Obviously the common name ‘Summersweet’ comes from the very sweet-smelling blooms that appear right in the heat of the summer. The other common name ‘Sweet Pepper Bush’ comes from the attractive seed capsules that closely resemble Peppercorns.
The fragrant blooms which are 6-inch long spikes last for more than a month and attract many pollinators.
There’s a Clethra for every garden, since this shrub is available in both large-growing and dwarf varieties. But when I say ‘available’ I realize that Clethra is truly difficult to find in nurseries. Why, I do not know.
My favorite is ‘Ruby Spice’ since I’m a fan of pink flowers, but the white-blooming ‘Hummingbird’ is much sought after, probably due to the beauty of the shrubs planted en mass around Hummingbird Lake at the famous Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.
If your garden prefers a dwarf shrub, seek out ‘Sixteen Candles’–a more compact plant that seems to have more bloom spikes than possible! The name was given to this plant by Michael Dirr because the upright bloom spikes really do resemble candles on a birthday cake. This plant is truly spectacular!
Whichever you find, you can count yourself lucky to have this plant in your garden. It requires only consistent moisture to keep it happy. (I’m sorry, I do know that consistent moisture is hard to provide in Georgia these days, but if you have a wet spot, a pond edge, a soaker hose, or even, as in our case, stopped up field lines because your wife didn’t know any better than to plant a Weeping Willow in the wrong spot, this shrub is definitely worth the trouble!)
Of course, my favorite online source for native plants is Shady Gardens Nursery.

May 25, 2008

Rhododendron arborescens – Sweet Native Azalea

Rhododendron arborescens is definitely one of my favorite native azaleas. Usually called the Sweet Azalea, because of the very sweet fragrance, Rhododendron arborescens can bloom anytime between May and August. The blossoms are usually white and can be flushed with pink.

Arborescens is a large growing plant, reaching heights of up to 12 feet tall at maturity, when conditions are right.

Give this plant regular water, especially during periods of drought. The Sweet Azalea prefers a semi-shaded spot with well-drained slightly acidic soil. One plant can perfume the whole garden when in bloom. R. arborescens is hardy in USDA Zones 4 – 7, so plant one for yourself if you’d like to enjoy a wonderful fragrance while relaxing in your garden!

For information on purchasing this plant, visit http://shadygardens.biz/.

May 15, 2008

Itea Virginica Belongs In Every Garden!

One native plant sure to attract attention in your garden is Itea Virginica, most often known as Virginia Sweetspire.
Many gardeners are completely unaware of its beauty, because Virginia Sweetspire is seldom sold in garden centers. Other than its love for moist soil, Itea is very easy to grow. If you have a way of watering your garden or have a soggy spot, you can enjoy the many attributes of Itea Virginica year-round. Yes, year-round! Itea Virginica begins the spring season with red new growth, blooms in May with very fragrant 3-inch long white bloom spikes that really attract pollinators into the garden and maintains lush green foliage throughout the summer. Leaves, which are on burgundy stems, by the way, then turn a vibrant burgundy red in fall. As if all that weren’t enough, Itea often keeps that spectacular fall foliage all winter (at least it does here in central Georgia.) I know it’s hard to believe that such a glorious plant could be a native, but Itea virginica is native to the Eastern United States. If you have a large garden, Itea is beautiful when massed, especially along the edge of a pond if you’re lucky enough to have one. If your garden is small, Itea makes a great specimen or border planting. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9, Itea can be grown in almost any area of the country. Whether you choose the large growing Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ or the compact dwarf ‘Merlot’, you should plant one in your garden to enjoy all season long! To purchase Itea, you’re welcome to visit http://shadygardens.biz/.

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.