ShadyGardens Blog

November 20, 2008

Sourwood Tree

Sourwood cannot be beat in my opinion. It’s my favorite native tree, because in addition to beautiful maroon foliage in early fall, Sourwood has fragrant blooms in early summer that look and smell like Lily of the Valley!

Sourwood is a very ornamental small to medium-sized tree native to the United States. Leaves of Oxydendron arboreum possess a sour taste, giving the plant the common name of Sourwood.

Lovely clusters of sweet smelling blossoms hang delicately from the tree in early summer. Later the blooms develop into attractive seed clusters that are usually still hanging on the tree in fall when foliage turns its fire-red fall color.
Leaves begin to change from green to red as early as August. Autumn color can be a combination of red, burgundy, and purple!

The photo shows a small tree in my garden in November, but some large specimens can be seen at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Sourwood prefers a semi-sheltered position in partial shade–the edge of a woodland is perfect. This lovely tree also grows well in full sun and is a great choice for a roadside garden.

Although drought-tolerant once established, water regularly the first year after planting, to make sure your tree gets off to a healthy start.

An important source of nectar for honeybees, sourwood is a smart choice for our environment in light of the decrease in honeybee populations across the country.

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.

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.

June 6, 2008

Oakleaf Hydrangea – My Favorite Native Plant at Callaway Gardens!

Filed under: drought tolerant, Hydrangea, native, native plants, Oakleaf, quercifolia, shrub — shadygardens @ 2:46 am

Oakleaf Hydrangea is my favorite hydrangea, because it’s beautiful in every season! In winter, the branches exhibit lovely cinnamon colored exfoliating bark, and the large flower buds already forming are attractive. In spring, the new leaves are a reddish purple. In summer, there are the very large panicles of white blooms that turn purplish by summer’s end, hanging on into fall. In fall, the leaves turn a rich mahogany red, contrasting beautifully with the then dried rosy brown flower stalks used by many in floral arrangements. Oakleaf hydrangea is one of our most beautiful American native shrubs, and should be in every garden, especially native plant gardens! Hydrangea quercifolia is much easier to grow than other hydrangeas. The fact that it is native to the southeastern United States is probably the reason for that. It’s accustomed to our summer droughts, making it more drought-tolerant than other hydrangeas. It isn’t picky about soil. And oakleaf hydrangea can take more sun than most other hydrangeas. And I believe it really is true that you learn something every day, because, although you might already know this, I didn’t realize until this year as I passed our largest shrub that the Oakleaf Hydrangea is fragrant!

June 1, 2008

A Beautiful Garden In Georgia With Native Plants!

Getting the garden ready for a hot Georgia summer can be easier than you think!

Plant selection is most important—choose plants you know will thrive in your area. Planting trees, shrubs, and perennials native to your climate zone means less work for you, because native plants are accustomed to the difficult conditions our Georgia summers offer. They are better able to withstand our drought, and some native plants even prefer our muggy, humid temperatures!

Always amend the soil with compost or composted manure. Plants are better able to tolerate harsh conditions when they have good soil in which to live.

Don’t overlook the importance of mulch. Apply a thick layer of organic mulch such as straw, bark chips, or shredded leaves to conserve moisture, keep the plant roots cool, and prevent weed growth. Gravel mulch is not suitable for our climate, except in a cactus garden, because it heats up too much in the summer.

Finally, if your budget allows, install a soaker hose or drip irrigation watering system. This will get the water down to the roots where it’s needed with less water waste.

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/.

March 30, 2008

Native Azaleas Brighten the Shade Garden

Each year at the beginning of spring, I eagerly anticipate the blooming of our native azaleas. Available in a rainbow of colors–pink, yellow, orange, white, or red, these plants are superior to any other plant, in my opinion. A member of the Rhododendron family, native azaleas are deciduous, and some varieties bloom before leafing out in very early spring. Most of the American native azaleas are fragrant too, with a very pleasant but not overpowering honeysuckle scent. Another important feature is that most of the Native Azaleas are drought tolerant, once established. (‘Once established’ is the key though, since no plant is established the first year!)
The first to bloom in my garden is the elegant Florida Flame Azalea, Rhododendron Austrinum. Drought tolerant, once established, this plant really lives up to its common name, because the blooms can be any shade of yellow or orange, or even a little of both–yes, the colors of a flame! As the name ‘Florida’ implies, the Florida Azalea is well able to tolerate any heat our Georgia climate can dish out.
Blooming at about the same time is our own native, the Piedmont Azalea, Rhododendron canescens. Beautiful pink blooms in late March or early April are exquisite.
If you love Alabama like I do, you’ll love the very rare Alabama Azalea, Rhododendron Alabamense, with its lovely white blooms coming a little later in spring. This plant is native to East Alabama, and is rarely seen in the wild anymore due to land development in that area. We’re fortunate to have a local grower with a love for native plants to propagate this delightful shrub. If you find it in the wild, please don’t try to dig it up to move to your own garden. Several varieties of the native azaleas are endangered plants, making it illegal to remove them from the wild.
Most native azaleas do not root easily, so they must be grown from seed! I admire the well-known Mr. Ernest Koone for having the patience to grow these beauties, because I do believe it’s important to preserve our native plants.
The native azaleas are becoming more and more difficult to find in nurseries, but can be purchased through mailorder. For more information on the different varieties currently available, check back regularly to read updated profiles of native azaleas with their bloom times and unique characteristics.
To purchase some of these rare plants, go to http://shadygardens.biz.

February 29, 2008

Landscaping to Attract Birds

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 & 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 be provided easily too with native plants. 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 be providing many of the things butterflies, birds, and mammals need: 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 into your garden. In the meantime, drop by http://www.shadygardens.biz/ to see if we have some of the plants you need for your wildlife garden.

December 29, 2007

Master Gardener Course

Do you love gardening so much that you just can’t get enough of it? Are you eager to learn all you can about all aspects of gardening? Does the thought of giving something back to your community appeal to you? If you’ve said yes to all of these questions, you should become a Master Gardener! You’ve probably heard the term before, but maybe thought you could not go back to school. Becoming a Master Gardener doesn’t require attending college or signing up for a lengthy course. The Master Gardener course is offered yearly, and is conducted by your local County Extension Office. Classes are held twice weekly for about 8 weeks, and a course fee is required. Speakers are very knowledgeable, and come from all over the state, often including professors from your state University. In exchange for all the instruction you will receive, you will be required to perform volunteer hours in some aspect of gardening. Some volunteers prefer to work with children, others find it very rewarding to work with the senior citizens, and some just want to do office work. Whatever your forte, there is something for you to do that will make a difference in your own home town. For more information on how you can become a Master Gardener, contact your local County Extension Service or read more about the Georgia Master Gardener Program online at: http://www.caes.uga.edu/departments/hort/extension/mastergardener/index.html.
Although we’ve received some rain, we do need more, so please continue to pray for rain. Happy New Year!

November 12, 2007

Native Plant Alternatives to Invasive Species Like Honeysuckle, Privet, Tallow, and Wisteria

Many popular landscape plants seem harmless but are actually invasive plants that are moving into the surrounding areas and crowding 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!
Listed below are some commonly planted invasive plant species with some alternatives.
Chinese Tallow Tree (Popcorn Tree) is prized for its fall color, but is one of the worst invaders into our forests because of the rapidly dispersed seed. It is a lovely tree, but consider these alternatives:
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.
Fothergilla – yet another native American tree/small shrub with showy, sweet-scented, white bottlebrush flowers in spring, and excellent fall foliage in shades of orange, red, and burgundy.
Viburnum – there are many varieties, both native and non-native, that are lovely, consisting of beautiful, showy blooms and many also have berries in shades of white, blue, pink, and red that provide wildlife food, and some ending up with beautiful fall foliage, while others are evergreen—yet they are never invasive!
Sourwood cannot be beat in my opinion. It’s my favorite native tree, because in addition to beautiful maroon foliage in early fall, Sourwood has fragrant blooms in early summer that look and smell like Lily of the Valley!
Chinese Privet is a highly invasive species that is all over the South! The plant is rapidly spread by birds who eat the small dark berries. Privet is very difficult to eradicate, since it’s still sold and planted in enormous proportions. It can be found in almost every landscape. In my opinion, it isn’t even very pretty, and I don’t know why people plant it, unless it’s because it’s evergreen. There are certainly many superior alternatives to this pest. I could go on an on with a list, but any fine, textured evergreen would be better. Here are just a few suggestions:
Boxwood is much slower-growing, which is an asset, since Privet must be pruned every few weeks to keep it tidy. Boxwood is available in dwarf sizes and variegated forms, making it unnecessary to ever plant privet.
Hollies are excellent with dark green glossy leaves and beautiful berries in shades of yellow, orange, and red. Dwarf yaupon holly is a native holly with small leaves giving a fine-textured appearance.
Yew is a lovely evergreen plant that is available in a variety of forms.
Viburnums are available in small-leaved varieties such as Davidii, Compactum, or Sandankwa.
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!
Japanese Honeysuckle appeals to many gardeners due to its fast-growing habit and its sweetly scented blooms, but the fact that it’s fast-growing is 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!
American Native Honeysuckle, shown in the photo above, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come year round in my garden. (There were a few blooms on mine even in January here in West Central Georgia!)

Confederate Jasmine (Star Jasmine) is an evergreen vine with sweetly-scented white star-shaped flowers.
Lady Banks Rose comes in 2 colors—white blooming which is very fragrant, and yellow blooming which is not. Both varieties thrive with neglect, and the largest, oldest rose bush in the country is a white Lady Banks Rose growing in Tombstone, Arizona! That should give you an idea of how easy it is to grow. That bush is over 100 years old!
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.
Clematis is available in many varieties, both native and non-native species.
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.
I hope you will consider some of these suggestions, and plant native plants instead of invasive exotics. Thus you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

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