ShadyGardens Blog

July 15, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #2: Climbers

Filed under: clematis, Honeysuckle, invasive, Japanese, jasmine, Lonicera, native, noninvasive, Passionvine, vines, wisteria — shadygardens @ 2:01 pm
As written in my previous post, 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.


These popular invasive vines have a native alternative that is far superior in both beauty and behavior.



In this second installment of my 3 part series on Invasive Plant Alternatives, I intend to share some information about popular climbing vines and some alternatives to use instead of the invasive varieties.

Japanese Honeysuckle appeals to many gardeners due to its fast-growing habit and its sweetly scented blooms, but that aggressive nature and rapid growth are what has caused it to take over the South. Japanese Honeysuckle is one of the most common nuisance plants, yet it is still sold in garden centers everywhere!

I can think of quite a few good alternatives for this garden thug, but these are my favorites:
Lonicera Sempervirens
Shady Gardens Nursery
  • American Native Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, shown in the photo above, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come almost year round in my garden. (There were a few blooms on mine even in January here in West Central Georgia!) If red is not your color, Lonicera sempervirens is available in a yellow blooming selection called John Clayton.
  • Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is an evergreen vine native to the Southeastern United States with bright yellow blooms in early Spring and sporadically throughout Spring into Fall.
  • Clematis is available in many varieties, both native and non-native species and a wide selection of colors. All are lovely–none are invasive.
  • Passionvine is another native perennial vine with very showy, large purple flowers and attractive, edible fruits. This vine will self-sow, but never crowds out its neighbors. Stems are delicate enough that this plant can be allowed to climb through shrubs and trees abundantly without worry of damage to the support plant.
  • American wisteria (Yes, I did say wisteria!!) is a native vine that is just as beautiful as the Chinese and Japanese wisteria, but is not invasive at all. The blooms are very fragrant. You might see it sold as Amethyst Falls wisteria, but don’t be afraid to plant it. Avoid Chinese and Japanese wisteria, because I can show you how it’s taking over much forestland in Alabama and Georgia, strangling and pulling down trees, much like kudzu.

If you have an arbor or trellis that could use some ornamentation, choose one of these climbing vines for your garden. You won’t regret it.




August 7, 2010

Hummingbirds Love Native Plants

Filed under: attract, bignonia, campsis, hummingbirds, Lonicera, native, plants, vines — shadygardens @ 5:19 pm
Everyone loves hummingbirds! As a nursery owner, I’m frequently asked for plant suggestions to attract hummingbirds into the garden. Hummingbirds, like other birds, look for food, water, and a safe nesting area when searching for a place to hang out. A good nectar source is very important. I prefer to provide nectar in the form of live plants, since they require less maintenance than a hanging feeder. When I think of plants to attract hummingbirds, these flowering vines are the first that come to mind.

Campsis radicans, Trumpet Vine, or Trumpet Creeper is a very vigorous vine with reddish orange trumpet-shaped blooms all summer long. Hummingbirds adore this vine, but plant with care–Trumpet Vine will take over an area quickly. Best planted away from the house and on a very sturdy trellis or arbor where it’s beauty can be enjoyed without fear of wearing out its welcome. Still, you’ll need to keep your pruners sharp. Watching the hummingbirds chatter and fly around it is well worth the maintenance to me.


Campsis radicans

Bignonia Capreolata, more commonly referred to as Crossvine, is a less invasive but equally beautiful native flowering vine. While Trumpet Vine is seen in profusion along roadsides in the south during the summer, you’ll be lucky to find Crossvine growing freely. Bignonia is in the same family as Campsis, but has a much better behaved and easier to control habit. Blooms are large and trumpet shaped and bloom color can be anywhere from brownish orange to vibrant orange to a deep pinkish red. If your gardening tastes lean more to the exotic and unusual, this plant is for you.

Bignonia capreolata on the Arbor


Lonicera sempervirens usually goes by the name of Red Trumpet Honeysuckle or Coral Honeysuckle because the blooms are a vibrant coral red. John Clayton is a yellow-flowering form found growing in Virginia. Lonicera sempervirens is a vigorous yet non-invasive flowering native vine that hummingbirds love. Evergreen in most of the Southern states, Lonicera sempervirens blooms almost year round. I’ve seen blooms on ours in December here at Shady Gardens in west central Georgia.

Lonicera sempervirens on the Fence

Flowering vines are an important part of every garden, and the addition of a vine is an important layer for small gardens. In addition, these vines can be grown in containers and added to patio or balcony gardens. Next time you consider a vine for your garden, I hope you’ll choose a native plant rather than an invasive exotic one. As you can see by the photos above, imported vines could not possibly be more beautiful than some of our own native flowering vines!


October 31, 2007

Drought Tolerant Plants for Georgia

“Average Moisture” is a term we see often on plant labels and in garden books. Many plants do well with average moisture. If only I had a garden with average moisture! It seems like our drought comes earlier each year. Our garden shows serious signs of stress, since we’re now under severe drought status. Nowadays when I search for new plants, I look for those claiming to be drought tolerant. Once again, I’m drawn to native plants—plants that occur naturally in this part of the country. Many native plants are rare plants, mostly as a result of land development for housing, shopping, and industry, but specialty nurseries have them. Georgia climate poses some problems for many plants—our summers are hot and humid. Most years we receive little rainfall. Yet our winters can be cold. Actually, it’s the extreme temperature fluctuations that cause the demise of many plants in winter here in Georgia. Native plants are accustomed to our temperature fluctuations and our drought. Believe it or not, there are some plants that grow very well in dry soil. For dry shade, look for Columbine, Perennial Geranium, Cast Iron Plant, Rohdea, Carex, Autumn Fern, and Christmas Fern. For dry sun, you’ll be rewarded by Amsonia, Asters, Yarrow, Ice plant and other succulents, Blanketflower, Perennial Sunflower, Blackeyed Susan, Ornamental Grasses, and Red Trumpet Honeysuckle. If you plant some of these drought tolerant plants, you’ll find it easier to have a beautiful garden during this Georgia drought.

October 28, 2007

Native Plants vs Exotics

Many popular landscape plants are actually invasive plants that are moving into our natural areas and crowding 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!
Listed below are some commonly planted invasive plant species with some alternatives.
Chinese Tallow Tree (Popcorn Tree) is prized for its fall color, but is one of the worst invaders into our forests because of the rapidly dispersed seed. It is a lovely tree, but consider these alternatives:
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.
Fothergilla – yet another native American tree/small shrub with showy, sweet-scented, white bottlebrush flowers in spring, and excellent fall foliage in shades of orange, red, and burgundy.
Viburnum – there are many varieties, both native and non-native, that are lovely, consisting of beautiful, showy blooms and many also have berries in shades of white, blue, pink, and red that provide wildlife food, and some ending up with beautiful fall foliage, while others are evergreen—yet they are never invasive!
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!
Chinese Privet is a highly invasive species that is all over the South! The plant is rapidly spread by birds who eat the small dark berries. Privet is very difficult to eradicate, since it’s still sold and planted in enormous proportions. It can be found in almost every landscape. In my opinion, it isn’t even very pretty, and I don’t know why people plant it, unless it’s because it’s evergreen. There are certainly many superior alternatives to this pest. I could go on an on with a list, but any fine, textured evergreen would be better. Here are just a few suggestions:
Hollies are excellent with dark green glossy leaves and beautiful berries in shades of yellow, orange, and red. Dwarf yaupon holly is a native holly with small leaves giving a fine-textured appearance.
Yew is a lovely evergreen plant that is available in a variety of forms.
Viburnums are available in small-leaved varieties such as Davidii, Compactum, or Sandankwa.
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 showiest fall color displays of any shrub, native or not!
Japanese Honeysuckle appeals to many gardeners due to its fast-growing habit and its sweetly scented blooms, but the fact that it’s fast-growing is what has caused it to take over the South! Japanese Honeysuckle is one of the most common nuisance plants, yet it is still sold in garden centers everywhere!
Red Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come year round in my garden. (There are a few blooms on mine now in January here in West Central Georgia!)
Carolina Jessamine is an evergreen vine native to the Southeastern US that produces tubular yellow blooms in late winter to early spring.
Confederate Jasmine (Star Jasmine) is an evergreen vine with sweetly-scented white star-shaped flowers.
Lady Banks Rose comes in 2 colors—white blooming which is very fragrant, and yellow blooming which is not. Both varieties thrive with neglect, and the largest, oldest rose bush in the country is a white Lady Banks Rose growing in Tombstone, Arizona! That should give you an idea of how easy it is to grow. That bush is over 100 years old!
American wisteria, yes, I did say wisteria!!, is a native vine that is just as beautiful as the Chinese and Japanese wisteria, but is not invasive at all. The blooms are very fragrant. You might see it sold as Amethyst Falls wisteria, but don’t be afraid to plant it. Avoid Chinese and Japanese wisteria, because I can show you how it’s taking over much forestland in Alabama and Georgia, strangling and pulling down trees, much like kudzu.
Clematis is available in many varieties, both native and non-native species.
Passionvine is another native perennial vine with very showy, large purple flowers and attractive, edible fruits. This vine will self-sow, but never crowds out its neighbors.
I hope you will consider some of these suggestions, and plant native plants instead of invasive exotics. I truly recommend native plants for every garden, but there are some other plants that have earned respect with their ease of growing and ability to do well without invading our natural areas. Just, whatever you do, don’t plant any more invasive exotics! Where ever you live, when you plant native plants, you will be helping to preserve our environment as it is, for our wildlife neighbors and for our children.

October 27, 2007

Dry Climate Gardening

This time of year has always been my favorite time to work in the garden. I want to plant pansies, mums, and beautiful, crunchy, purple kale! But if you’re like us, the recent rains didn’t soften up the soil any, so digging a garden bed is almost impossible. I just can’t plant anything in the soil we have right now. If the showers you received were not as much as you’d hoped (I was praying for a monsoon), there are still some things you can do to make your garden more beautiful! One very important task that can be done any time of year is to improve the soil. We look forward to the falling leaves, because we chop them up with our lawnmower and spread those on all of our garden beds. If you’ll add composted manure to your beds, earthworms will be attracted to break down all the organic matter to improve the nutrition in your soil. This will lessen soil compaction and will also make it easier for the rain we do receive to reach the roots of your plants. You can sprinkle composted manure and chopped up leaves right on top of the beds around your plants—no need to work it into the soil. This should be done every fall anyway. Landscape supply companies also have available a double-ground mulch that is excellent for improving soil texture, and it’s a beautiful dark brown color that makes the plants look better, retains moisture, and keeps the roots at a more consistent temperature during heat waves and cold spells. If you’ve contemplated adding some hardscape to your garden, now is a great time to build an arbor or rock wall. The cool weather will be pleasant while you work. Then when the rain comes, consider planting a beautiful native vine like Red Trumpet Honeysuckle or American Wisteria at the base of your arbor instead of an exotic vine that will require lots of water and pruning to keep it from taking over! You know, native plants don’t require as much water—they’re used to whatever our Southeastern climate has to offer. When you thank God for the rain we received last week, ask him to send a little more!

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