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.

March 13, 2014

Camellia, the State Flower of Alabama

Filed under: Alabama, camellia, flower, garden, japonica, sasanqua, shade, state — shadygardens @ 1:21 pm
Although Alabama’s State Flower is the Camellia, this popular Southern shrub is native to Asia. The first Camellias were brought to Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1700’s by the French botanist Andre’ Michaux. Camellias are one of my favorite winter blooming plants. Camellias are often thought of as the Rose of Winter. There are thousands of different types of camellias, but most often what you see falls into one of two categories: Japonica and Sasanqua.
Camellia Japonica has glossy evergreen leaves and large blooms that may be any shade of white, red, or pick. Some even have “variegated” blooms that are spotched or striped. Blooms which can sometimes be very large come in several forms: single, double, semi-double, or peony type. Flowers hold up well indoors. I like to display them in a clear glass bowl.
Sasanqua Camellias have glossy evergreen foliage too, but the Sasanqua has different characteristics. Blooms are looser and appear more delicate, but the plant itself seems easier to grow. Sasanquas tolerate more sun that the Japanese Camellia, and they grow faster and larger too. 

By having a variety of both Japanese and Sasanqua Camellias in the garden, one can have blooms from Fall all the way into Spring. All camellias prefer some shade. Morning sun is okay, but give your camellias some protection from hot afternoon sun. They are all surprisingly drought tolerant once established, but you’ll need to water regularly the first few years to get your shrubs established.

A good reference book to add to your collection would be Camellias: The Gardener’s Encyclopedia, by Jennifer Trehane.
Although I do love camellias, personally, I think the State Flower should be one that is native to that state. But that’s just me. What do you think?

June 6, 2010

Alabama State Wildflower: Oakleaf Hydrangea

Filed under: Alabama, Hydrangea, native, Oakleaf, quercifolia, shrub, state, wildflower — shadygardens @ 1:50 pm
Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea
I am glad to learn that my favorite native shrub, the Oakleaf Hydrangea, is the State Wildflower of Alabama. Since I was raised in Alabama and we now live in Georgia very close to the Alabama state line, I am naturally drawn to plants native to Alabama.
The Oakleaf Hydrangea is very easy to grow, tolerating a wide variety of conditions. This deciduous shrub is native to the southeastern United States.
Hydrangea quercifolia gets its common name of Oakleaf Hydrangea from the large leaves shaped like those of our mighty oak tree. Deciduous foliage turns red in autumn and later falls from the plant but can hang on for quite a while when grown in shade during a mild winter. Once foliage falls from the plant, cinnamon colored exfoliating bark adds to its beauty.

Large blooms appearing in panicles in May and June last all season. Blooms begin white in color but change gradually to a rosey pink or purple and finally age to a soft brown persisting into the winter. Blooms are also quite long lasting as a cut flower.
The Oakleaf Hydrangea will grow large and can reach a size of about 8 feet tall and just as wide. 
This deciduous shrub is not picky about soil, even tolerating heavy clay, but grows best in well-drained soil with moderate moisture. The Oakleaf Hydrangea is very drought tolerant once established and was the only hydrangea that bloomed in our garden during the severe drought of 2008 and 2009.
Hydrangea quercifolia can be found growing wild in all areas of Alabama, making it the ideal choice for the official wildflower of the state of Alabama.

May 29, 2010

State Wildflower of Georgia: Native Azalea

Filed under: azalea, Georgia, native, rhododendron, state, wild, wildflower — shadygardens @ 4:09 pm
Since 1979, the native azalea has been the official state wildflower of Georgia. A certain variety was not chosen since several different species occur naturally in every county in Georgia.

Native azaleas are a member of the rhododendron family and are deciduous shrubs. Most varieties of these wild azaleas have highly fragrant blooms. Bloom color is spectacularly diverse and can be white, pink, yellow, orange, red, or any combination of those colors. With several species planted, you can have blooms in your garden from March all the way through August. 

These wild azaleas naturally occur in the woods, but they will often flower much more profusely when planted in full sun. Some species cannot take direct sunlight, but most varieties can tolerate morning sun or filtered sun beneath tall deciduous hardwood trees.  Beneath large oak trees is an ideal location for native azaleas, since the fallen oak leaves contribute to an acid soil favored by all azaleas.

Native rhododendrons will become more drought tolerant once established, but water regularly the first few years. 
Well-drained soil is necessary for the survival of all azaleas, but Rhododendron viscosum, commonly referred to as the Swamp Azalea, can grow in wetter soil where it will receive ample water to grow large and full.

Rhododendron viscosum
The early spring blooming native azaleas form their bloom buds in late summer, right when Georgia is usually experiencing a drought. To insure that you have fragrant blooms to enjoy in March and April, water your azaleas weekly during August and September unless it is raining regularly. 

A very popular native azalea species is Rhododendron Austrinum, the Florida Flame Azalea.  The Florida Azalea is prized for its colorful fragrant blooms appearing in early March. This is one of the easiest wild azaleas to grow, since it tolerates heat and drought once established. 

Rhodendron austrinum

If pink is your color, you have more than one choice. Most often seen in the woods of Georgia is the Piedmont Azalea, Rhododendron canescens. This wild azalea is also easy to grow and will eventually become a large specimen. Bloom color on this one can actually vary on individual plants though, and you might end up with flowers that are more white than pink.

That is also true of Rhododendron colemanii, the Red Hills Azalea. Native to the Red Hills of Alabama, this azalea can also be found growing wild near the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. Blooms on this one can be white, pink, yellow, or orange. 

As you can see in the photo above, the Red Hills Azalea can have both yellow and pink on the same plant. If you prefer a pink bloomer on either the Piedmont or the Red Hills Azalea,  choose your plants in spring when they are in bloom.

For a white garden, you have several choices. In addition to the Swamp Azalea, you might choose either the Sweet Azalea or the Alabama Azalea for fragrant white flowers. Rhododendron arborescens is often considered to have the loveliest flowers of all. Solid white blooms are deliciously fragrant, which is probably the reason for its common name of Sweet Azalea. 

The Alabama Azalea, Rhododendron alabamense, can be found growing in Georgia as well. White blooms with a bright yellow blotch smell like lemons. This wild azalea is very drought tolerant once established, making itself at home on dry rocky slopes in Alabama and Georgia. Even if summer drought kills the topgrowth, this shrub will usually send up new stems from the roots the next spring.

Alabama Azalea

One of the more difficult to grow native azaleas is also one of the most beautiful. Made famous by Callaway Gardens is the red blooming Plumleaf Azalea, Rhododendron Prunifolium. This plant occurs naturally only in a few counties in Georgia and Alabama in the Chattahoochee River Valley. Blooms are a vivid red or orange red. The Plumleaf Azalea needs a spot in the garden more shaded and cool. Rhododendron prunifolium wants no direct sunlight whatsoever. Don’t forget to water this one during periods of drought or you’ll lose it. 

Rhododendron Prunifolium, Plumleaf Azalea

The most common problem with growing native azaleas is actually finding some available for sale in the first place.  Most varieties of wild azaleas are either protected or endangered, so it is unlawful to dig them from the wild for transplanting in your garden. Online nurseries are a great source for native plants of all kinds, including native azaleas. A good selection of these fragrant native azaleas and many other native plants can be found at Shady Gardens Nursery.

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