ShadyGardens Blog

May 12, 2013

Memorial Garden: My Ideas to Honor my own Mother

After the passing of my mother last year, a friend brought me a gift of a lovely garden bench with the suggestion that I start on a memorial garden in honor of my dear sweet Mother.
Mama’s sudden death was very painful for me, so it took awhile to be able to bring myself to begin the project. Each time I would think on it, memories would overtake me and I’d be unable to get started toward any real progress. I’m a thinker, a ponderer, a daydreamer. When I begin a new garden area, I spend lots and lots of time just thinking, as I wander around in the garden.
It took a long while to pick the spot for this memorial garden. Recent years of drought kept reminding me of how many plants I have lost over the years because I could not keep them watered enough. I knew I had to choose a spot that could be reached with the hose.
Once I picked my spot, I began to consider plants I wanted to include in my memory garden. Since most available garden space here is in the shade, I would need shade plants. Certainly, I wanted plants that would live and flourish. I wanted plants that would be beautiful in every season. Plants that would provide privacy would also be best, as my intention was to end up with a secluded spot to sit and remember my Mother. And finally, I wanted to include some of her favorite plants and her favorite colors. This would prove to take a lot of time and planning. I wanted shrubs that would grow large over time and fairly quickly. They would need to be thick shrubs that would offer seclusion and screening. Perhaps I might want to hide in there some day to be alone with my thoughts.
I tried to make the area large enough to include a spot for the garden bench I mentioned, as well as a birdbath or some type of statuary which I might want to add later. I ended up lining out a rectangle about 10 feet by 15 feet.
Red Knockout Roses 
Initially I planned on having only white blooms, which is most often used in memorial gardens, meditation gardens, and prayer gardens. But since I needed plants that are dependable, I began with Knockout Roses and Ruby Loropetalum.
Loropetalum Ruby
I placed the evergreens in the foreground for privacy. The roses and loropetalum were planted on the corner of the spot that will receive a good bit of sun. I knew I could depend on them to at least double in size the first year. (Yes, that’s right…our climate does that to Knockout Roses and Loropetalum.) 

At the back of the garden, I placed some larger specimens: Mock Orange,

Mock Orange, Philadelphus coronarius

and two types of Doublefile Viburnum, Shasta and Mareisii.

Viburnum Shasta
Although they are not evergreen, they leaf out very early in Spring and will have lush, thick, green foliage until frost. There will be plenty of privacy when weather would permit my sitting out there for any length of time. 
To finish my enclosure, I planted  a few more evergreens.
Banana Shrub, Michelia figo
Leucothoe axillaris
Viburnum Sandankwa
This project will be ongoing. Mama loved hydrangeas, so several types will certainly be included. They will be protected and accentuated by the evergreens.

I will post pictures of the finished project once the shrubs have grown.

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.

July 10, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #1: Evergreen Shrubs

Filed under: alternatives, Berries, boxwood, holly, invasive, Itea, ligustrum, native, plants, privet, Sweetspire, viburnum, yew — shadygardens @ 2:30 pm
Many popular landscape plants seem harmless, but they are actually invasive plants which 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.

Most of these popular invasive species have a native counterpart that is much more desirable in both appearance and behavior.

Privet, or Ligustrum, is a highly invasive species found growing all over the South. Once it moves into an area, privet is very difficult to eradicate. It seems this problem will never go away, since to my surprise it is still sold in big box garden centers and planted in enormous proportions by landscapers and home owners everywhere. It can be found in almost every landscape. Once one person plants it, it will eventually be all over the neighborhood, since birds eat the small dark berries (see photo shown below) and drop seeds anywhere they deposit their droppings.
Privet Berries are eaten by birds, therefore privet seeds
are deposited in bird droppings all over the neighborhood.
In my opinion, privet is not even pretty, and I don’t know why people plant it, unless it’s because it’s evergreen. Our property is surrounded by thickets full of privet which, since it is not our land, we can do nothing to eliminate. And believe me, when it blooms, it really wreaks havoc on my sinuses and I keep a migraine until the blooms fade, because I cannot escape the strong fragrance permeating our entire garden.

There are certainly many superior alternatives to this pest. I could go on and on with a list, but any fine, textured evergreen would be better than privet. Here are just a few suggestions, all evergreen, some of which also have beautiful flowers or bright berries for the birds to eat:

  • Boxwood is much slower-growing, making it far superior to privet, since privet must be pruned every few weeks to keep it tidy. Boxwood is also available in dwarf sizes and variegated forms, making it absolutely unnecessary to ever plant any variety of privet.
  • Hollies are excellent in any garden. Dark green glossy leaves in a variety of textures with beautiful berries in shades of yellow, orange, or red provide plenty of interest. Dwarf yaupon holly is a native holly with small leaves giving a fine-textured appearance similar to privet, but without the maintenance.  When choosing holly for the garden, the possibilities are endless. 
  • Yew is a lovely evergreen plant that is available in a variety of forms: upright, conical, or spreading. (Also, deer will not eat it–Yay!)
  • Viburnum is available in small-leaved evergreen varieties such as Davidii, Compactum, or Sandankwa as well as some deciduous species with bright fall foliage color. Many varieties have hydrangea-type bloom clusters and some put on a bright display of beautiful berries in the Fall. 
  • 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!
Non invasive Native Shrub with Fragrant Spring Blooms and Vibrant Fall Color
Itea virginica Henry’s Garnet
Shady Gardens Nursery
I hope you will consider some of these suggestions, and plant shrubs that are not invasive instead of invasive exotics. Thus you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

February 8, 2009

Privet Is An Invasive Plant! Don’t Plant It In Your Garden!

Filed under: alernative, invasive, plant, privet, rose, viburnum — shadygardens @ 2:44 pm

Many invasive plants are still commonly sold and planted here in the Southeast. One still popular but very invasive plant that should not be planted in your garden is the Chinese Privet. Once planted, this invasive shrub is difficult to eradicate. Privet produces tiny berries by the hundreds that are eaten by birds and planted all over the neighborhood. Very soon privet begins popping up in nearby woods and meadows, developing tight thickets that crowd out native plants. I find it ridiculous that privet is still so widely sold and recommended for hedge plantings.

Privet is often chosen at garden centers when the homeowner is looking for a privacy hedge or evergreen shrub that is easy to grow. There are many better choices out there, since just about any plant is better than privet. For alternatives to privet, try visiting your local native plant nursery or a locally owned nursery. There you will find a knowledgeable nurseryman that would have suitable alternatives to privet.

Some plants to consider instead of privet:

  • Viburnum – some species are evergreen, most produce large flowers in spring and showy berries in fall, as shown in the above photo. There are both native and non-native varieties.
  • Roses provide showy blooms and easy care, if you choose a carefree shrub rose. In addition to beauty, the thorns on most shrub roses can provide a barrier for intruders if that’s your goal.
  • Holly. Whether you choose an American native variety or not, holly provides berries and beautiful foliage. Some species are evergreen and even variegated. Holly is a favorite of birds as a food source and nesting site.

When planning a hedge, I always suggest a mixed shrub border rather than a long row of the same plant. A mixed shrub border can provide beauty and interest 12 months a year, and with variety, you can provide food and shelter for birds and other desirable wildlife. Plants with berries should be included as a food source, and birds love to build nests in thick bushy shrubs with spines or prickly leaves. When you have a variety of plantings in your garden, you are contributing toward diversity that is important for preservation of the environment.

February 8, 2008

Gardening for Birds, Squirrels, and other Wildlife

Although I do plant in my garden plants that please me, I usually garden with little animals in mind. Birdwatching really does bring alot of joy to my family. We enjoy watching the little birds flitting around, grabbing seeds, diving at each other with their territorial antics, and such. Most of our native birds are very beautiful, and my favorites are the little chickadees! Also, it tickles us to hear the sound the doves make when they fly up to a tree branch. And, although I hear many complaints from others about the squirrels, I don’t mind that they eat so much of the birdseed. It’s worth it to us, for the fun we get out of watching them try to get a little snack before Shadow, our very large black lab, notices them.

So it probably doesn’t surprise you that when I choose new plants for the garden, I look for something that will help me out with expenses–I try to plant shrubs and trees that will make berries and fruits for the wildlife creatures to eat, thus saving me a little bit in the cost of birdseed and corn.


Some of the plants we use are common, but every little bit helps!

  • Holly is a dependable plant for berries each winter. The evergreen hollies with which we’re all so familiar are great, but my favorite is our native Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua. The shiny red berries really stand out against a winter background, the mottled gray and white bark is lovely in all seasons, and the tree is constantly full of birds during the winter.
  • Dogwood provides showy fruit in either red or white, depending on the species you plant.
  • Viburnums are available in both deciduous and evergreen species, but my favorites are the Cranberry and Arrowwood Viburnums. They’re native to the US and provide plenty of colorful berries. Plant several of each for good berry production.
  • Blueberries are devoured quickly by the lucky one who finds them first, so plant as many shrubs as possible, and you’ll need more than 1 variety for cross-pollination.
  • Mahonia, although not a native plant, is a wonderful addition to the winter garden, since the bright yellow blooms appear in January and develop into purple berries in late winter and early spring when all the other berries have been eaten.

So as you add to your garden, plant some of these berry-producing shrubs near a window so you can see the birds and squirrels, and I promise you, you’ll find yourself smiling as you watch them.

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