ShadyGardens Blog

October 17, 2010

Georgia Drought is an Annual Event–What Can You Do About It?

Filed under: drought, dry, native, plant, soil, Water — shadygardens @ 2:37 am
Delosperma nubigenum
As our climate here in Georgia becomes more hot and dry, it is important to make wise choices when considering plants for the garden. Inadequate rainfall again this summer caused many of our newly planted garden additions to die. 
If you don’t want to be faced with those same results again every single year, consider plants that actually enjoy hot, dry growing conditions. My husband jokingly states that we live in the ‘Desert Southeast.’ Well, there really seems to be a lot of truth to that new nickname, so we’ve added several plants to our garden that originate in the desert southwestern US. Plants from that region are accustomed to hot, dry climates with poor soil, and most will adapt well to our climate here. 
Southwestern native plants need well-drained soil, though, and for the most part, Georgia soil is heavy clay. Some soil improvements will be necessary to help those plants survive here. 
Now, bear with me for a moment–I know you’re thinking I’m about to suggest you install a cactus garden, but I’m not. Most of the time when we think of the gardens of Arizona, we think only of cactus and yucca, but there’s more out there than that. I’ve compiled a list of garden worthy plants that deserve consideration for Georgia gardens, along with photos to show you how beautiful they are. By the way, some of these recommendations are actually native to the Southeast!
    Delosperma cooperi
  • Delosperma comes in several varieties with different foliage and bloom color, but my favorite Ice Plants are cooperi and nubigenum. Delosperma cooperi has rather large purple flowers resembling asters on a ground-hugging succulent plant. Delosperma nubigenum (shown in the top photo) has sunny yellow flowers resembling daisies on a very low-growing succulent with jelly-bean shaped leaves that turn red with the onset of cold weather.
  • Gaillardia: Blanket Flower
  • Gaillardia, often referred to as Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket, has blooms all summer long that, as the nickname implies, have all the colors of an Indian Blanket. The blooms are quite large and bright, visible from a distance, making this plant ideal for roadside gardens. Some even have ruffly or double petals!
  • Rudbeckia (Black eyed Susan) and Echinacea (Coneflower) are probably already in your garden, but seek out some of the new colors which are hard to find but unusually beautiful.
  • Pink Muhly Grass
  • Ornamental grasses will provide movement in the garden as well as foliage contrast. The blooms which are usually in the form of a plume or seed head offer additional beauty at the end of the season and also food for some of our native birds! An unusual native grass we grow in our garden, Muhlenbergia capillaris or Pink Muhly Grass, goes unnoticed all year until September when billows of pink cotton candy appear above the foliage–simply spectacular!
  • Bulbs tend to be more drought tolerant, so if a native plant forms a bulb, you can usually count on it surviving a drought and returning when more favorable conditions return. One of my favorites is a California native plant, Dichelostemma, commonly referred to as Firecracker plant. This plant is available in either red or pink blooms and likes dry summers! Other drought-tolerant native bulbs are Solomon’s Seal and Rain Lilies. Zephyranthes candida sends up lovely white blooms usually right after a good rain shower, which is the reason for its common name.
  • Amsonia is a native perennial that really looks like a grass to me. In early summer blue flowers are lovely, but in my opinion this plant is most beautiful in fall when the foliage turns the brightest of gold.
  • Baptisia also has many seasons of beauty–soft blue-tinted foliage appears in spring, vivid blue flowers are next, then large seed capsules that turn black in late summer. Wow!
  • Crossvine: Bignonia capreolata
  • Vines are needed in every garden for that vertical interest, and my absolute favorite of all is the very drought tolerant Cross Vine, Bignonia capreolata. Not to be confused with the also beautiful Trumpet Vine which can be invasive if not controlled, the Cross Vine is much easier to manage. And instead of just plain orange blooms, Bignonia has blooms that resemble a flame–yellow, orange, and pinkish red all on the same flower! Shaped like a trumpet, the blooms are a favorite of the hummingbirds here.
  • I wouldn’t be discussing native plants if I didn’t mention my very favorite native tree, the Red Buckeye. Unlike other buckeyes, the Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, grows well in dry soil. The huge red bloom panicles appear in very early spring even before the leaves, and provide food for the hummingbirds just as they are returning from their winter vacation.
    Red Buckeye: Aesculus pavia

    These plants tolerate our winters as well as our hot, humid summers, as long as the soil is well-drained. So as you plan for new additions to your garden this year, remember there will always be a summer drought and plant some of our beautiful native American plants that are even more accustomed to the heat than we are!

October 15, 2009

Climate Change: What Can You Do About It?

Climate change–there’s a lot of talk about climate change these days. And there are many skeptics out there. I’m not a scientist, and in this post I will not pretend to know a lot of facts to either promote or disprove the idea of global warming.
I will say this: we’re having some crazy weather! Two and three years ago, Georgia was under a severe drought. Farmers lost their livelihood, garden centers went out of business, and I personally lost most of my bigleaf hydrangeas–shrubs that had been established for several years. Record breaking heat waves and no rain for several weeks at a time is more than many shrubs can tolerate.
This year, on the other hand, Georgia has had more rain than we want! Severe flood damage occurred just a few weeks ago and threatens us again. (Actually, prior to the drought we had a few years ago, we received too much rain. I remember we received so much rain that area creeks and the Chattahoochee River swelled, washing away roads and bridges.) Yes, it’s a fact–Weather patterns do change.
And it’s that thought that brings me to my favorite topic: native plants! I’ve written many posts advocating the use of native plants. If you’ve followed my writings for long, you know that I love native plants for their tolerance to adverse weather conditions including excessive heat, humidity, and drought.
It is for Blog Action Day that I write my thoughts today. Whether you believe our climate is really changing or not, and whether or not you believe Global Warming is a fact or a myth, the right thing for you and me to do is whatever we can to protect our environment. We must protect the environment for our children and for our grandchildren.
These are simple suggestions, and this is what we do here at Shady Gardens:
  • Plant native plants instead of invasive exotics. In a nutshell, native plants will survive drought causing you to use less water when watering plants is restricted. Please read my previous posts on this topic.
  • Use organic pest control methods instead of poisons which can kill more than just the pest you wish to remove. Biological insect control can be something as simple as attracting ladybugs into the garden. ‘No kill’ rodent traps are available providing good results without the use of dangerous chemicals.
  • Use organic fertilizers instead of synthetic ones. Chemical fertilizers can be poisonous, and they really are junk food for the plants. Compost and other organic soil amendments make plants healthier and stronger. Some organic fertilizers like compost tea even help to ward off plant disease.
We are stewards of this great country we live in: caretakers of all that is around us. As gardeners, we must do our part to protect and preserve nature. I hope you will join me in planting native plants that provide homes, habitat, and food for wildlife. And then do nothing to poison the little creatures!
As always, I welcome any questions or comments.

January 24, 2008

Rain Barrel: Save Water for Future Drought!

Well, we went from no rain in sight with creeks drying up all over the place to large amounts of rain every few days! Wow! It just goes to show you we can never underestimate the power of prayer! The fact that rain is sometimes plentiful and then scarce again has prompted many gardeners to devise methods of saving that precious water for hard times. One method of rain collection that is becoming more popular is the rain barrel. I’ve seen numerous methods of building such a collection system, some quite expensive. One thing we in Georgia must consider is mosquito control, but safety is an important concern as well—it must be impossible for children and small animals to get into the barrel which would contain perhaps several feet of water. In addition to holding down costs on your water bill, it is wise to conserve and protect our most important resource—water. Ready made Rain Barrels can be purchased, or you can build one yourself. The photo above shows how attractive a rain barrel can look, while conserving water at the same time. Walter Reeves has 2 different methods of building a rain barrel online at http://www.walterreeves.com/how_to/article.phtml?cat=26&id=1005. If building a rain barrel is a matter that interests you, and you live near Troup County, Georgia, you’ll want to attend the upcoming Watersmart Program sponsored by the Troup County Extension Service in February. The Watersmart Program is an instructional program presenting many different water smart ideas for homeowners. During this program, Jennifer Davidson will demonstrate how to build a rainbarrel. A very small fee will be charged for the program which will be at the Troup County Agricultural Center at 10 am on February 8, 2008. To register, please call the Troup County Extension Service at 706-883-1675.

January 22, 2008

Rain Collection Barrel is an Important Method of Water Conservation

Filed under: Barrel, Conservation, drought, Georgia, Rain, Water — shadygardens @ 2:35 pm

Well, we went from no rain in sight with creeks drying up all over the place to large amounts of rain every few days! Wow! It just goes to show you we can never underestimate the power of prayer!

The fact that rain is sometimes plentiful and then scarce again has prompted many gardeners to devise methods of saving that precious rain water for hard times. One method of rain collection that is becoming more popular is the rain barrel. I’ve seen numerous methods of building such a collection system, some quite expensive. One thing we in Georgia must consider is mosquito control, but safety is an important concern as well—it must be impossible for children and small animals to get into the barrel which would contain perhaps several feet of water.
In addition to holding down costs on your water bill, conserving and protecting our most important resource is good for the environment.

Ready made Rain Barrels can be purchased, or you can build one yourself. The photo above shows how attractive a rain barrel can look, while conserving water at the same time. You can find online instructions for making two different types of rain barrels at http://www.walterreeves.com/how_to/article.phtml?cat=26&id=1005.

If building a rain barrel is a matter that interests you, and you live near Troup County, Georgia, you’ll want to attend the upcoming Watersmart Program sponsored by the Troup County Extension Service in February. The Watersmart Program is an instructional program presenting many different water smart ideas for homeowners. During this program, Jennifer Davidson will demonstrate how to build a rain barrel. A very small fee will be charged for the program which will be at the Troup County Agricultural Center at 10 am on February 8, 2008. To register, please call the Troup County Extension Service at 706-883-1675.

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