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.

June 2, 2013

Eucalyptus Silver Dollar Tree in the Garden

Filed under: apple, argyle, cinerea, dollar, drought, eucalyptus, fragrant, hot, silver, sun, tolerant, tree — shadygardens @ 1:54 pm
Most of you know that Eucalyptus cinerea, also known as the Silver Dollar Gum Tree or Argyle Apple, is commonly used in floral arrangements. But you might not realize how easy it is to grow your own.



Eucalyptus has very fragrant but also beautiful blue-green foliage with a silvery cast. During cold weather, leaves often turn a rosey burgundy. Eucalyptus makes a great specimen plant, but also looks great massed in groups of 3 or more. Bark is cinnamon-colored and exfoliating, adding to the beauty of the tree.

Warm summer breezes send the fragrance of eucalyptus all over the garden.

Eucalyptus cinerea is an evergreen tree that will grow up to 60 feet tall fairly quickly. 

Eucalyptus cinerea
 Shady Gardens Nursery
This variety of Eucalyptus is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 11, tolerating light frosts with no leaf damage. When temperatures dipped down into the teens here, our trees showed some damage but quickly rebounded. This species has been known to survive winter in Zone 6, where it will die to the ground and resprout if dead foliage is pruned away. Can also be grown indoors in a large container. Just prune it regularly to keep it the size you want.

Eucalyptus cinerea grows rapidly in an irregular form. Give it plenty of space, because the branching can grow quite wide horizontally–this tree can be up to 15 feet wide. A height of 50 or 60 feet can be expected.

Eucalyptus needs full sun and well-drained soil. Hot dry sun is not only preferred but enjoyed. 

When you plant, amend the soil with soil conditioner and sand to insure the soil is very well drained. Then water once, at planting time. Do not overwater. That’s all there is to growing Eucalyptus in your very own garden.

December 8, 2012

Christmas Trees: Is a Real Tree a Good Thing?

Filed under: Christmas, farm, fresh, live, nursery, real, tree — shadygardens @ 7:24 pm

Fresh cut Christmas Trees are enjoyed each year by 30 million people. I have often been saddened by this practice, since taking a cut tree into the house for decorating means that a tree must die.


However, purchasing a cut Christmas Tree for your home can be a good thing for several reasons.

Many people are still out of work, and any time you purchase something grown here in the United States, you are helping provide jobs for American workers.

Most fresh cut Christmas Trees are from Christmas Tree Farms near you–farms that are owned by small business owners. Purchasing your tree from a Christmas Tree Farm near you helps to keep your neighbors in business! Local farm produce stands and locally owned garden centers often sell fresh cut trees or even potted ones you can plant to enjoy for years to come.

Christmas Trees are often grown on land that is unsuitable for other types of farming. The kinds of trees grown for Christmas trees can be grown on poor soil. By using these fields, tree farmers help to control erosion and provide year-round homes for wildlife.

One acre of Christmas trees produces enough oxygen for the daily needs of 18 people. (Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.)

Trees help filter dust and smog from the air.

Christmas Trees are 100% biodegradable. There are several ways your tree can be used after the Christmas season is over. The tree can be ground into mulch for the garden, it can be moved to the edge of your property as a nesting area for small wildlife, or the branches can be cut small for use as firestarters.

On Christmas Tree farms, for every Christmas Tree harvested, usually up to three seedlings are planted in its place.

Choosing your tree at the local Christmas Tree Farm can be a very fun family outing!

So if you’re in the market for a Christmas Tree this year, consider helping a local business owner by choosing a real cut Christmas Tree!

For more information about real tree farming, please visit Real Trees 4 Kids.

And for even more fun and interesting information, go to the
National Christmas Tree Association website where you’ll find a link to help you find a Christmas Tree farm near you.

December 5, 2012

Christmas Tree for the Birds

Filed under: birds, children, Christmas, garden, nature, tree, wildlife — shadygardens @ 2:55 pm
Decorating for Christmas is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Once we get the inside of our house decorated each year, we try to involve the children in providing for our wildlife friends outdoors.


Decorating an outdoor tree for the birds is a great way to spend an afternoon. We use a cedar tree that happened to plant itself close to our dining room window, but any tree can be used, as long as you and your children can reach its branches. When you put your imagination to work, you can come up with all kinds of decorations made from things birds can eat. Materials can be berries, nuts, seeds, and breads along with natural items found outside like pinecones and sweet gum balls.

Fresh cranberries can be strung on cotton twine to be hung throughout the tree.


Using regular loaf bread, we used cookie cutters to to cut out shapes and a straw to poke a hole so we could use twine for hanging them on the tree. We then toasted the bread slightly to make it stiff before spreading with chunky peanut butter. A sprinkling of seeds makes the ‘cookie’ appealing to the birds. We looped cotton twine through the hole in the top and hung these from the tree.
Additional decorations were made using pinecones. We applied peanut butter to the pinecones before rolling them in birdseed.
Sliced apples and oranges and pineapple can be hung using twine. 
A walk through the garden gave us more ideas. Nandina berry clusters made beautiful ornaments. Creampuff, one of our red hens, likes those.
Popcorn looks beautiful on the tree, but I’m surprised to find the birds are not eating that. The peanut butter toast was gone the next day, so we had to make more!
This is a Christmas tree that will be enjoyed by all types of wildlife, and watching to see who visits your tree is a great way for your children to learn more about nature.

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.

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. 

December 4, 2009

Christmas Tree for Birds

Filed under: Berries, birds, Christmas, natural, nuts, ornaments, peanut butter, peanuts, pinecones, seeds, tree — shadygardens @ 3:40 pm
Our Christmas Tree usually goes up the weekend right after Thanksgiving. This year we’re still involved in a major home remodel, so we won’t be putting up the tree for another week or so.
Decorating for Christmas is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Plus, we try to involve the children in providing for our wildlife friends outdoors.
Decorating an outdoor tree for the birds is a great way to spend an afternoon. When you put your imagination to work, you can come up with all kinds of decorations made from things birds can eat. Materials can be berries, nuts, seeds, and breads along with natural items found outside like pinecones and sweet gum balls.
Fresh cranberries can be strung on cotton twine to be hung throughout the tree.
Using regular loaf bread, we used cookie cutters to to cut out shapes and a straw to poke a whole to string twine through for hanging. We then toasted the bread slightly to make it stiff before spreading with chunky peanut butter. A sprinkling of seeds makes the ‘cookie’ appealing to the birds. We looped cotton twine through the hole in the top and hung these from the tree.
Additional decorations were made using pinecones. We applied peanut butter to the pinecones before rolling them in birdseed.
A walk through the garden gave us more ideas. Nandina berry clusters made beautiful ornaments. Creampuff our newest little hen likes those.
Popcorn looks beautiful on the tree, but I’m surprised to find the birds are not eating that. The peanut butter toast was gone the next day, so we had to make more!

April 5, 2009

Florida Anise: Evergreen, Drought Tolerant, Deer Resistant!

Filed under: Anise, bloom, blooms, Deer, evergreen, Florida, garden, native, nursery, proof, red, resistant, shade, Shady, shrub, tree — shadygardens @ 3:04 pm


One of my favorite native shrubs is Florida Anise. Illicium floridanum actually makes a tree about 10 feet tall.

The evergreen leaves are dark and shiny. Very unusual red flowers appear in spring and have star-like petals. Once flowers fade, large star-shaped seed pods develop–very unusual.

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 more sun if planted in a boggy area.

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.

Illicium floridanum is not the culinary Anise used as a spice–Florida Anise is poisonous if ingested, which is why deer won’t eat it.

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 a little less common than a camellia or gardenia, Florida Anise is perfect.

March 21, 2009

Red Buckeye – Native Plant for Hummingbirds

Filed under: Aesculus, buckeye, Callaway Gardens, dwarf, gardens, native, nursery, online, pavia, red, Shady, tree, woodland — shadygardens @ 2:47 pm


Dwarf Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, is one of the most showy native plants in our garden. Blooming very early in late winter or early spring, the large red panicle blooms are visible from a great distance, attracting hummingbirds as they return from their trip down south.

The Red Buckeye is among the first of the woodland plants to reawaken in spring, sending out tender new leaves as early as February. Lavish flowers appear early too, usually sometime in March for us.

The large luscious blooms attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators to the early spring garden. The Red Buckeye begins blooming at a young age when only about 3 feet tall. Red panicle blooms are up to 6 inches long!

This deciduous tree is the perfect specimen for the edge of a woodland, offering a focal point to draw you into the garden. It is especially lovely when underplanted with early spring blooming wildflowers.

The palmately compound leaves are deep green and keep their attractive tropical look all season long.

Red Buckeye is very easy to grow. You will enjoy this lovely little tree in your woodland garden!

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.

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