ShadyGardens Blog

March 28, 2014

Attracting Hummingbirds the Natural Way

Filed under: Aesculus, attracts, buckeye, gardens, hummingbirds, nursery, red, Shady, shrub, tree — shadygardens @ 12:34 pm
Many of you put out hummingbird feeders every Spring, having to remember to keep them clean and filled all summer long and into early Fall. I prefer to provide food for hummingbirds the natural way–with plants.

By the way, did you know that because of the high energy of the hummingbird, he eats up to 3 times his body weight every single day?
Hummingbirds can visit as many as 20 flowers in just one minute. In order to have enough food, they must visit hundreds of flowers every day. Woa! That’s a lot of flowers!
Quite a few native plants can provide nectar for the voracious appetite of the energetic hummingbird. We have planted Red Salvia, Turk’s cap Hibiscus, and Red Trumpet Honeysuckle in our garden. But one of my favorite native plants is very important for the early arriving hummingbirds.
The Red Buckeye Tree, Aesculus pavia, blooms in March, or even late February when the Winter is mild. Since the Red buckeye naturally occurs in the edge of a woodland surrounded by large trees, it usually looks more like a bushy shrub. When planted out in the open, it can become a specimen tree up to 25 feet tall. Like most plants, the Buckeye Tree will produce many more blooms when grown in full sun.
March is a great time to plant the Red Buckeye. You won’t see it at the big box stores. Look for it at your local nursery that sells native plants. Young seedlings will begin blooming when less than 3 feet tall.
Your Red Buckeye Tree will become quite a focal point when covered with the large red panicles that come in early Spring. Plant it where all can see and enjoy it.
Source for this plant: Shady Gardens Nursery.

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.

August 22, 2013

Clethra: Sweet Pepper Bush

Filed under: Bush, butterflies, Clethra, fragrant, Hummingbird, native, pepper, pink, ruby, shrub, sixteen candles, Summersweet, Sweet — shadygardens @ 4:50 pm
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 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 requires 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.


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.

September 28, 2012

Callicarpa Americana: American Beautyberry

If you like berries, American Beautyberry belongs in your garden. Callicarpa Americana, the American Beautyberry, is a deciduous shrub native to the Southeastern United States.

In early summer, tiny lilac flowers appear in clusters close to the stem. By autumn the flowers turn into bright magenta-violet purple berries. The beautyberries are ¼ inch drupes and packed tightly together in clusters that encircle the stem. Leaves usually turn a pale yellow shade in September and begin falling off the shrub soon after. Once the leaves are gone, the shrub is left with vividly purple berries encircling the bare naked stems until birds eat the berries sometime during the winter.

Callicarpa American Beautyberry
Shady Gardens Nursery

Callicarpa Americana is sometimes referred to as French Mulberry, although I cannot figure out why. I think the name American Beautyberry says it all. 

The Beautyberry is very easy to grow, thriving in any well-drained soil and even adapting to very poor soil. Plant in dappled shade beneath large oaks and pines. The edge of the woodland is ideal. 
Beautyberry is very drought tolerant once established, but water once or twice weekly the first year or two. After that, supplemental water is unnecessary, except perhaps in extreme drought. If the plant gets full sun, it will need more water.

Beautyberry can be grown in most areas of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 6-10.
Beautyberry is eye-catching either when massed or when planted as a single specimen in a woodland garden or shade garden. Callicarpa is great for a low maintenance natural garden where it contributes year round beauty and food for wildlife. Spring flowers and beautiful fall fruit make this an attractive landscape plant. Use it in semi-shade under tall pines or in full sun where foliage will take on a not unattractive yellow-green color that combines interestingly with the brilliant violet fruits.
Prune back severely in late winter for best berry production. I just cut back branches so all are about the same size and let my bushes grow large. However, Beautyberry can be kept small with an annual pruning in late winter or early spring. This shrub can be cut back as short as 4-6 inches tall every winter with no harm to the plant and without sacrifice of the berries.
To be sure your shrubs are loaded with berries, plant more than one of these beautiful plants.
And if purple is not your color, you might want to try one of the more rare forms.
Callicarpa Lactea has white berries instead of purple. I have encountered many a gardener requesting this shrub for their night garden. Plants with white berries or white blossoms really stand out at night while most other colors are barely visible. Additionally, white reflects the light from the moon. Can you imagine how lovely White Beautyberry would be in the floral arrangements for a Fall wedding? 


If you are partial to pink, you are in luck, because a rare pink-berried form has been discovered. Known as Callicarpa Sautee, it is named for the area in Florida where it was found. The Pink Beautyberry is perhaps the most rare form of all beautyberries. 

Once you see Callicarpa Americana loaded with berries, you will want one for your own garden.

May 24, 2012

Calycanthus floridus: Sweet Smelling Shrub with Many Names

Filed under: betsy, bubby, Bush, calycanthus, floridus, fragrant, gardens, native, nursery, plant, red, shade, Shady, shrub, Sweet — shadygardens @ 7:49 pm

Calycanthus floridus, Sweet Shrub
Shady Gardens Nursery

Calycanthus floridus has many common names: Sweetshrub, Carolina Allspice, Strawberry Shrub, Pineapple Shrub, Sweet Betsy, but my favorite is “Bubby Bush,” since we call our little boy Bubby.

This
beautiful deciduous shrub grows slowly and will eventually form mounds up to 8 feet tall.
As the sweetshrub suckers vigorously, the mounds increase in width and will eventually
form a thicket.

The many common names of Calycanthus floridus refer its aromatic properties. Most of you are probably familiar with the wonderful fruity scent produced by the unusual flowers. Rusty reddish brown or brownish red blossoms are 1-2 inches across. The blooms adorn the plant in Spring and sporadically  throughout the Summer months. Not only are the flowers sweet-smelling, but also the leaves, bark, twigs, and even the roots have a spicy fragrance.

The 4
inch long leaves are rich deep green. Soft and
fuzzy to the touch, they turn bright golden yellow in autumn.

Calycanthus floridus is native to the moist
woodlands of the Southeastern United States. Its range extends from Virginia,
south to Florida, and West to Mississippi.  Sweetshrub is appreciated as a landscape
plant in Europe and deserves more attention from gardeners here in the United States.

Sweetshrub is easy to grow in average soil, is easy to care for, and is
essentially pest-free! Deer do not usually eat Sweetshrub.


Light: Thrives in medium shade or filtered sun.


Moisture: Likes moist soil. Water when dry.
This shrub can survive periods of drought if necessary, but will perform much better with regular water.


Calycanthus floridus can be grown throughout most of the country, as it is hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 9. 


Try drying the flowers, leaves, twigs and bark for use in potpourri.

For an even sweeter fragrance, try Calycanthus
floridus ‘Athens’

– a yellowish white blooming selection favored for its extremely sweet
fragrance.

April 22, 2012

Chapman’s Rhododendron: Rare Evergreen Native Shrub

Filed under: chapman's, chapmanii, evergreen, Florida, gardens, native, nursery, rhododendron, Shady, shrub — shadygardens @ 1:33 pm
Rhododendron Chapmanii, Chapman’s Rhododendron
Evergreen Rhododendron Native to Florida
The rarest rhododendron of all might also be the most beautiful! I have grown native azaleas in my garden for years, but I did not even know an evergreen native rhododendron existed until recently.

The beautiful green foliage has a reddish tint in early Spring.

Rhododendron Chapmanii is the only evergreen rhododendron native to Florida, and actually there are only a few evergreen species of rhododendron native to the United States. 

Chapman’s Rhododendron is very rare, and is probably the most rare of all wild rhododendrons in North America. This rhododendron is an endangered species, so if you are lucky enough to find some growing wild, it is illegal to dig them up or disturb them in any way.

The beautiful rose pink flowers appearing in Spring are exquisite. The blooms are borne in clusters and look like bouquets on the tips of the branches.

Chapman’s Rhododendron occurs naturally only in Florida, but it can be grown anywhere in USDA Zones 5b – 8.

Rhododendron Chapmanii prefers dappled shade beneath pines or hardwoods. 

All rhododendrons need well-drained soil, but Chapman’s Rhododendron will need regular water.

I would not give it much direct sun. Afternoon sun would burn the lovely green foliage. 

To obtain this rare native plant for your garden, please visit Shady Gardens Nursery.





January 26, 2012

What’s Blooming Today at Shady Gardens?

Filed under: Daphne, drought, February, fragrant, gardens, nursery, odora, pink, shade, Shady, shrub, tolerant, winter — shadygardens @ 2:19 pm
Daphne Odora Aureomarginata Pink Shady Gardens Nursery
Daphne odora is in full bloom today at Shady Gardens Nursery. 

Blooming in the middle of winter is just one special feature of Daphne Odora, lending this plant the common name of Winter Daphne. This shrub is also referred to as February Daphne, since blooms often appear during the month of February. 

Another favorite attribute of this plant is the reason for one of its other nicknames–Fragrant Daphne. The strong lemony scent permeates the winter garden even in cold climates. 

The evergreen variegated foliage is attractive year round, making it a beautiful addition to floral arrangements. 

The characteristic you might be most interested in is that Daphne odora is very drought tolerant. These plants have proved to be hardy in our hot Georgia climate even through several weeks of record summer heat and no rain. 

The only problem I have discovered with Daphne is that the roots will rot if allowed to remain wet for a prolonged period. When planting, site on a slight mound or hill and work in lots of organic matter to the planting hole to insure that the soil drains quickly. 

Daphne odora adapts well to containers, but be sure the pot has a drainage hole and no saucer beneath the pot to hold water. Terracotta or cement containers work very well, as they drain more quickly.

Daphne odora is a plant for every garden with a little shade.

October 27, 2011

Annabelle Hydrangea: A True Southern Belle

Filed under: annabelle, arborescens, bloom, flowers, Hydrangea, native, shrub, white — shadygardens @ 5:55 pm
Hydrangea Arborescens Annabelle
Annabelle Hydrangea is a selection of our native American hydrangea, Hydrangea Arborescens.

Despite what you might think when you observe the delicate appearance of Annabelle, she is one of the most versatile hydrangeas in the garden. Much hardier than Hydrangea macrophylla, Annabelle grows well in colder areas of the North as well as the deep South. Since she is hardy in USDA Zones 3-10, Annabelle can be grown all over the United States.

Huge showy white blooms can be up to 10 inches across and can literally cover the shrub in early summer.

Annabelle blooms on new growth, which is good news for those of us here in Georgia where late frosts can prevent macrophylla hydrangeas from blooming at all. If spent blooms are removed, Annabelle will display a second bloom in late summer.

Annabelle Hydrangea depicts qualities that one might expect from a true Southern Belle: quiet beauty, reserved gracefulness, and an unobtrusive nature.

Annabelle is dependable with her bloom. She can be trusted to bloom even in the hottest of summers and during our most severe drought. Buds will form no matter how cold the winter and no matter how slowly spring arrives.

Annabelle hydrangea does not require any sun, and blooms quite well in the shade beneath large trees.

Fall is the perfect time for planting all shrubs, including Annabelle Hydrangea. 

March 16, 2011

Florida Anise: Small Tree for the Shade Garden

Filed under: Anise, bog, Florida, gardens, nursery, shade, Shady, shrub, tree — shadygardens @ 4:52 pm
Florida Anise

One of my favorite native plants is Florida Anise. Illicium floridanum is usually thought of as a shrub, but actually makes a tree about 10 feet tall. Florida Anise is native to moist wooded ravines of the Florida panhandle and Southeastern Louisiana. 

Shiny evergreen leaves, single trunk, and compact stature with a maximum height of 10 feet make Florida Anise a lovely small tree. 

Leaves have a spicy scent when crushed, much like anise, which is why deer won’t eat it. 

Very unusual red flowers appear in spring and have star-like petals. Once flowers fade, interesting seed pods develop. The large star-shaped seed pods are not a substitute for the culinary anise and are poisonous if ingested, which is probably another reason deer will not eat it. 

Drought tolerant once established, Florida Anise is a good choice for the southern garden. Native to Florida and Louisiana, Illicium Floridanum is too tender for northern gardens as it is hardy in USDA Zones 7-10 only.

Plant in partial shade. Enjoys wet soil, if you have some, and can take a little more sun if planted in a boggy area.


Enjoying the same growing conditions as azaleas, camellias, and gardenias, Florida Anise is a good companion for them. If you’ve been searching for something unusual for your shade garden, Florida Anise is perfect.


If you find one growing in the wild, do not dig it up to move it to your garden since Florida Anise is a threatened native species.

Spunky likes sniffing the variegated Florida Anise

If red is not your color, Florida Anise is also available in a white-flowering form and a variegated form with soft pink blooms, as shown above. 

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