ShadyGardens Blog

May 21, 2014

Cherokee Rose: Georgia’s State Flower

Filed under: cherokee, China, flower, Georgia, native, plant, rosa laeveigata, rose, state — shadygardens @ 12:56 pm

Probably because the Cherokee Rose is Georgia’s State Flower, I am often asked if we grow it. Most have been disappointed or even shocked when I told them that we did not. 

Since it is Georgia’s State Flower, one would assume the Cherokee Rose is native to Georgia, but this plant originally came from China. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although our specialty is plants that are native to these parts, we grow many plants that are native to Asia. However, we do have to be careful with Asian plants, since many can be very invasive here (kudzu, honeysuckle, and wisteria), but that’s a separate post.

If the Cherokee Rose is not native to this state, you might be wondering how in the world it became Georgia’s State Flower. And furthermore, how did it come to be called the “Cherokee Rose”? There is an interesting legend behind that.

One of our nation’s earliest nurserymen, Thomas Affleck, introduced Rosa laeveigata and sold it to landowners all over the South in the 1800’s. Since that time, Rosa laeveigata has naturalized all over the state of Georgia. One of the saddest things in history to me is the removal of Cherokee families from their land in Georgia when they were forced to march on foot all the way to Oklahoma. This tragic relocation of the Cherokee became known as the “Trail of Tears.” According to the legend, every time a tear hit the ground, a rose grew in its place. That rose was Rosa laeveigata, later to be called the Cherokee Rose.

In 1916, the Cherokee Rose was designated as the State Flower of Georgia with the support of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs. Often confused with Rosa bracteata, the McCartney Rose, the Cherokee Rose blooms in Spring and is not invasive.

The Cherokee Rose is a vigorous climbing rose with ferocious thorns, but can be pruned and grown as a hedge. Large white flowers with yellow centers cover the plant in March or April.

Having learned this interesting piece of history, we might decide to produce this beautiful rose after all. If for no other reason than to remind us of an important event in history that should never have happened. Nowadays it seems everyone has something to grumble about. Oh, “Woe is me,” they seem to be saying. Well, imagine if you had been a Cherokee, back in 1838.

Look for us to have Rosa laeveigata in the future. Hopefully in the mean time, I can learn to spell it.

April 14, 2014

Troup County Master Gardeners Plant Sale & Swap

Filed under: county, gardeners, Georgia, LaGrange, Master, plant, sale, swap, troup — shadygardens @ 11:57 am
Saturday, April 26, 2014
9am until 2pm

Location: Agriculture Building on Vulcan Materials Road, 
LaGrange, Georgia – off Highway 27, across from Sam Walker Drive
  • Perennials for sun and shade
  • Vegetable Plants
  • Native Plants
  • Shrubs
  • House Plants
  • Groundcovers
  • Spring Annuals

Buy locally grown plants, grown by local gardeners, that will thrive in your garden.

Get answers for your difficult gardening questions.

Swap divisions of your plants at the exchange area, no money needed.

Proceeds from sale funds local Master Gardener projects and scholarships.

Open to the Public!

The Troup County Master Gardener Volunteer Program is provided by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.

March 23, 2014

Grow Camellia sinensis and Make Your Own Green Tea

Filed under: camellia, green, plant, shrub, sinensis, tea — shadygardens @ 12:50 pm
I’ve been drinking green tea for a few years now. Supposedly it has many benefits, especially for one who is trying to lose weight. A while back I read that the tea bags themselves are sometimes made of harmful materials, so I started using loose green tea instead of tea bags. Although I knew that organic foods are best for many reasons, I had never thought to look for organic green tea until Dr. Oz recently mentioned it on his TV show.

Like many health-conscious Americans, we are trying to grow more and more of our own food. There is no way we can know all the contaminants and pesticides that are in the food we buy. That is why many of us are growing our own food and purchasing what we can’t grow from other local gardeners that we trust. Each Spring we plant as many vegetables as we can, and we try to grow as much salad and other greens as possible to avoid feeding our family contaminated greens. In the last few years we have planted plum, peach, loquat, meyer lemon, apricot, cherry, and almond trees along with blueberry and pineapple guava bushes and blackberries, raspberries, and currants. 
Awhile back I found a grower for Camellia sinensis, the plant that green tea comes from. Did you know you can grow your own green tea?
Growing the Tea Plant
Camellia sinensis grows well in the Southeastern United States. The Tea Camellia is hardy in USDA Zones 7-9, but can be grown in a greenhouse in colder climates. We had some single digit nights this Winter, and our plants suffered some. We had some leaf loss, but they seem to be getting ready to put on new growth. The Tea Plant needs the same conditions as most other camellias: light shade, well-drained acid soil, and regular water.
Camellia sinensis in September
Flowers appear in early Fall and are lovely little white single blooms with a vivid yellow center. Overall size of Camellia sinensis can vary with the site, but it will eventually attain a height of anywhere between 4 and 8 feet.





Harvesting Your Green Tea
Tea can be harvested as soon as it begins to grow in the Spring. That is March or April for us here in Georgia, depending on how soon Winter leaves us for good. Pick 2 leaves and a bud. Leaves will quickly grow back and you can harvest again in a couple of weeks. 
The only difference between green tea, black tea, and oolong tea is the oxidation process or fermentation of the leaves. Green tea is not oxidized at all. Oolong tea is partially oxidized, and black tea is bruised and allowed to dry until leaves turn completely black. 
Drying Your Green Tea
To prevent oxidation of your green tea, steam the leaves a couple of minutes on the stove top before drying. Then spread out your leaves on a baking sheet and place in a 200-250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Once cooled, the tea leaves can be crushed and placed in an airtight container for storage where they will keep for up to 6 months. 
Brewing Your Green Tea
You will need a tea ball. Put 2 teaspoons of green tea leaves in a tea ball and place that in your cup. Heat water in a kettle. Just when water is about to boil, pour the hot water over tea ball containing your green tea leaves. Let steep for 2 minutes or more. The longer you allow your tea to steep, the stronger it will be. According to Dr. Oz, it’s best to steep longer for the most benefits. You can then drink it however you enjoy it most, hot or cold. I like mine sweetened a little.

March 1, 2014

Garden Chores for Late Winter

Filed under: chores, fertilize, garden, Georgia, plant, prune, seeds, winter — shadygardens @ 1:32 pm


In my previous post we established the fact that you should wait to prune away seemingly dead stems from winter damaged shrubs. But this weekend promises to be absolutely beautiful, and I know you are anxious to get out in the garden and do something! “What can I do?” you might be wondering.



Well first, one more “don’t.” Do not fertilize. Fertilizing should be done a little later on, when all danger of frost is past. 
But you can top-dress. Top-dressing is when you spread a layer of compost, composted manure, or worm castings around the plants. Top-dressing can be done any time of year, even in the middle of winter. I use the shavings from our hen house.


Poppies bloom in early Spring


You can spread mulch too, being careful not to cover the crown of the plant. Organic mulch is best–either wood chips, shredded bark, or straw. Gravel is not the mulch to use in Georgia, because it will heat the soil too much during summer and damage the plant roots.

You can plant cool season crops like collards, kale, mustard, and turnips. Sugar snap pea and snow pea seeds germinate best in cool soil. We have 3 batches of peas already coming up, and I plan to sow more today. You can broadcast seeds of larkspur and poppies now too.


June 16, 2013

National Pollinator Week

Filed under: flowers, garden, Georgia, honeybee, national, native, partnership, pesticide, plant, pollinator, week — shadygardens @ 12:05 pm



National Pollinator Week is June 17 – 23, 2013. Additionally, by proclamation, Governor Nathan Deal declared this week as Pollinator Week in the state of Georgia. 

In celebration of Pollinator Week, places all over the country have planned events
Since I can find no formal events close enough for us to attend, we will have our own. This week will be spent in the garden making our environment more friendly and welcoming for the pollinators. 

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, birds, hummingbirds, moths, bats, beetles, and more. We depend on pollinators for much of the food we eat. You have probably heard of the decline of the honeybee due to disease, loss of habitat, and excessive or improper pesticide use. Many other pollinators have shown as much as a 90% decrease in their populations. We all need to do our part in helping to insure the preservation of all of our pollinators. To attract more pollinators into our garden, my children and I will be planting more flowers this week. 

One of the most important things you can do to help pollinators in your area is to plant native plants. Native pollinators need native plants. 

Another thing, do not use pesticides. Pesticides cannot distinguish between a good bug and a bad one. 
For more information and ideas on how you can help, please visit The Pollinator Partnership. There is even a downloadable guide for your specific zip code to help you in choosing plants for your pollinator garden.

June 15, 2013

Gardening with Bugs

Filed under: attract, Beneficial, bug, garden, insect, lady, native, pest, pesticide, plant, pollinator — shadygardens @ 2:02 pm
If you are a gardener, you must learn to accept bugs. In the garden, there are good bugs and bad bugs.  Bad bugs, pests in the garden, are the topic for a later discussion. There are 3 types of beneficial insects you want in your garden: predators, parasitoids, and pollinators. 

Predators such as Lady Bugs, Lacewings, and Praying Mantis eat other bugs. Parasitoids like parasitic wasps lay their eggs on other bugs or insects so their young will have something to eat when they hatch. And of course you know pollinators like bees, butterflies, and moths pollinate flowers so we can have fruits and vegetables to eat.

As a gardener, you will understand the importance of attracting pollinators into the garden. Just like birds and butterflies, insects need 3 things for survival: food, water, and a place to lay eggs.

Very important – do not use pesticides. Pesticides don’t know the difference between a good bug and a bad bug, and you do not want to kill off your pollinators.

Creating a garden for the bugs is very simple. Brightly colored flowers will attract all types of beneficial insects to your garden. Choose a spot in full sun near your vegetable garden or fruit trees and amend the soil with compost. You can purchase annuals like cosmos, zinnia, marigolds, and vinca from your garden center or grow your own plants from seed.  Sunflowers are available in both annual and perennial plants. Native plants work best. Variety is important. A wide range of colors and flower types will in turn attract a wide variety of beneficial insects. For a printable list of native plants suitable for your own planting zone, click here.

March 27, 2013

Indoor Gardening: Houseplants Clean the Air

Filed under: air, house, indoor, NASA, plant, study — shadygardens @ 1:51 pm

According to a study conducted by NASA and the Professional Landcare Network, indoor plants absorb CO2, release Oxygen, and remove polutants from the air inside homes and offices. Carpeting, paints, and cleaning products can all contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) that can cause allergic reactions or even lead to cancer. Although paints and household cleaners without VOC’s are now available, many of us do not use or have them. And if your home is older, chances are that your indoor air contains these VOC’s.


To improve your indoor air quality, NASA recommends an indoor plant for every 50 feet of space.

September 18, 2012

Fall: The Perfect Time for Planting Shrubs

Filed under: azaleas, Blueberries, fall, fothergilla, gardens, hydrangeas, nursery, plant, planting, Shady, shrubs, trees — shadygardens @ 1:25 pm

Fothergilla Mt Airy
In Fall at Shady Gardens Nursery

I cannot say this enough: Fall is the best time to plant shrubs and trees. Our weather usually begins cooling off in September, making gardening easier on both the plant and the gardener! Although daytime temperatures are still hot, our nights are cooler. 

October is a great time to plant Azaleas, Blueberries, and Hydrangeas. This time of year just brings better weather for shrubs to establish themselves without having to fight for their lives! So if you dream of beautiful blooms covering your yard on shrubs like azaleas, hydrangeas, snowball bushes, etc, do yourself and your plants a favor and plant them now, instead of waiting until spring. If your dream includes eating tasty blueberries from your own garden, plant those now too! 
Since we are now receiving regular rainfall here in Georgia, you can take advantage of that and be ready to plant when another shower is headed your way.
Shrubs planted in fall will have a head start over spring planted ones, and will have a greater chance of survival during our heat wave next summer. Even though the top growth of the plant will be dormant and might not even have any leaves, the roots will continue to grow through the winter. So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather we’re having!


(Reprinted with permission from Plant Native)

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:



Fothergilla
 – 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.

June 29, 2012

Texas Star Swamp Mallow: Native Hibiscus

Filed under: gardens, hardy, hibiscus, mallow, native, nursery, perennial, plant, Shady, southeast, star, Swamp, Texas — shadygardens @ 9:08 pm
Hibiscus coccineus, Texas Star, Swamp Mallow
Shady Gardens Nursery
One of the showiest summer bloomers in our garden this time of year is the Texas Star Hibiscus. A native plant of the Southeastern United States, Hibiscus coccineus is also known as Swamp Hibiscus, probably due to its love for moist soil.


Hibiscus coccineus is very easy to grow. It grows well near a pond or stream, and really enjoys a soggy spot. We have no pond, stream, or soggy spot in our garden–our Hibiscus is located in ordinary garden soil (that means dry hard clay in Georgia language). Admittedly, I do water it on occasion, but it grows bushier each year–we’ve had it several years now.


You can grow Hibiscus coccineus if you live anywhere in the south and as far north as USDA Zone 6!




Even before blooms begin in summer, Texas Star is a spectacular presence in the garden. Palmate leaves resemble Japanese Maple foliage and even have a reddish tinge.

Blooms are showy red star-shaped flowers appearing throughout summer and into Fall. The flowers can be up to 6 inches across!
Hibiscus coccineus dies down to the ground in winter but re-emerges in spring. By mid-summer this hibiscus will be 6-8 feet tall and look more like a shrub than an herbaceous perennial.
Texas Star Hibiscus does need full sun to bloom well, and you’ll need to water it weekly when rainfall is absent. Also a regular application of compost or composted manure will keep it growing well for you.

Source for Texas Star Hibiscus: Shady Gardens Nursery.

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