ShadyGardens Blog

February 22, 2014

Arbor Day in Georgia

Filed under: arbor, day, food, Georgia, native, plants, trees, wildlife — shadygardens @ 7:40 pm
The day Arbor Day is celebrated differs from state to state due to climate differences. Georgia celebrates Arbor Day on the 3rd Friday in February. I’m running a day late, since that was yesterday. 


If you know me at all, you know I preach planting native plants, and it’s no different with trees. However, we need to take it a step further. Preserving our native birds and insects depends on planting what they need, and they need diversity.






When choosing a tree for your yard this Arbor Day, look around you. There’s no need to plant another of what you already have. Oaks are popular and they are a good tree to plant, with all those acorns for the mammals. But if you are like us, you probably have oak trees all around you. Take note of not only what you have but also what’s growing in your neighbor’s yard. Try to find something different. But native, of course. You might have to do a little research. Try doing a google search for “georgia native tree.” You could stay on the internet all day if you click every link you find.




The University of Georgia has an excellent publication on Native Plants for Georgia

There are some beautiful native trees you might not have considered. If you don’t already have one, I recommend you pick from these:

Sourwood in Fall



Sourwood, 
Oxydendrum arboreum
White fragrant summer blooms with vibrant red fall foliage. A much better choice than Burning Bush.







American Chestnut – Almost extinct, so if you find one for sale, buy it and plant it.

Red Buckeye in March



Red Buckeye
Aesculus pavia
Red panicle blooms in early Spring   develop large buckeye nuts that are food for wildlife. This tree might bloom as early as February when our Winter is mild. Looks like it will be March this year.





3 Grancy Graybeard Trees massed, Shawmut, AL







Grancy Graybeard
Chionanthus virginicus
Fragrant fluffy white blooms in early Spring with blackish drupes on female plants. Unfortunately the trees shown here were cut down to make way for the new burger joint.
We love wildlife of all kinds, pollinators, birds, and even deer and squirrels, so I consider them when I choose a new plant for our garden. We enjoy the blooms as much as the bees do, but I like to see berries, nuts, or some other kind of fruit develop later on that is not only beautiful, but food for wildlife. I hope you will also think of the birds and the bees along with furry friends when you choose what to plant for Arbor Day.

January 19, 2013

Landscape for the Birds and Butterflies

Filed under: Berries, birds, butterflies, invasive, landscape, plants, shrubs, wildlife — shadygardens @ 1:29 pm



Attracting wildlife to the garden is a goal for many gardeners. Few things are more relaxing than sitting in a quiet spot, viewing birds flitting around among the plants, locating food, bathing, and dancing around in an attempt to attract a mate.
As gardeners, we look for plants that will bring butterflies to our garden, hummingbirds to our window, and birds to our feeders.
Attracting wildlife to your garden is very simple–birds and butterflies just need a few things to make them happy! When searching for a place to live, animals look for water and food sources, shrubs and brush for safety from predators, and safe places to build nests for raising young.
To attract wildlife into your garden, you must provide what the animals need for survival:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter from predators
  • Safe place to nest and raise young

Water sources are easy to provide. Birdbaths are widely available in garden centers, home improvement stores, discount stores, and even craft and hobby stores. Birdbaths are also easy to make using items found at flea markets and yard sales or purchased terracotta plant saucers. Birds prefer a shallow bowl rather than a deep one. Just remember to place it near a good spot for shelter if the bird needs it, but not too close to a tree or shrub that would provide good hiding spots for predators like cats. Remember to keep the water bowl clean and filled with fresh clean water.
Food and Nesting Sites can also be easily provided. One of the most important things you can do to bring wildlife into your garden is to plant native plants! By doing this, you will provide what birds and butterflies need most: food and shelter. Butterflies will drink nectar from any suitable flower, but each species of butterfly depends on just certain plants for host plants on which to lay their eggs. Some examples are: Milkweed, Asclepias (Commonly known as Butterfly Weed), Dill, Fennel, and Parsley. In fact, herbs attract a number of butterflies and other beneficial insects like ladybugs.
In addition to providing food and shelter for wildlife, when you plant native plants, you’ll be planting plants that will thrive in your climate, thus making gardening with native plants easier than gardening with foreign exotic species.

One other thing to consider when planting foreign species is that many of these exotic plants simply take over and crowd out native plants that are necessary for the survival of our wildlife. Think of how kudzu and privet have taken over in the southeast! One simply has to travel a little way down any highway in Georgia or Alabama to see how these plants have crowded out everything else. When crowding out native plants, they crowd out some of the wildlife species that depend on certain plants for survival.

And what could be more beautiful than a native azalea in full bloom? Nothing smells sweeter than the banana-pineapple scented blooms of our native sweetshrub. Our American native honeysuckle vine with its bright red blooms will attract whole families of hummingbirds, yet won’t take over and pop up all over the community as does the very aggressive Japanese honeysuckle.
I hope you’ll visit again for more plant recommendations to attract birds and butterflies into your garden. In the meantime, drop by our Shady Gardens Nursery online store to see if we have some of the plants you need for your wildlife garden.

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.

September 28, 2012

Callicarpa Americana: American Beautyberry

If you like berries, American Beautyberry belongs in your garden. Callicarpa Americana, the American Beautyberry, is a deciduous shrub native to the Southeastern United States.

In early summer, tiny lilac flowers appear in clusters close to the stem. By autumn the flowers turn into bright magenta-violet purple berries. The beautyberries are ¼ inch drupes and packed tightly together in clusters that encircle the stem. Leaves usually turn a pale yellow shade in September and begin falling off the shrub soon after. Once the leaves are gone, the shrub is left with vividly purple berries encircling the bare naked stems until birds eat the berries sometime during the winter.

Callicarpa American Beautyberry
Shady Gardens Nursery

Callicarpa Americana is sometimes referred to as French Mulberry, although I cannot figure out why. I think the name American Beautyberry says it all. 

The Beautyberry is very easy to grow, thriving in any well-drained soil and even adapting to very poor soil. Plant in dappled shade beneath large oaks and pines. The edge of the woodland is ideal. 
Beautyberry is very drought tolerant once established, but water once or twice weekly the first year or two. After that, supplemental water is unnecessary, except perhaps in extreme drought. If the plant gets full sun, it will need more water.

Beautyberry can be grown in most areas of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 6-10.
Beautyberry is eye-catching either when massed or when planted as a single specimen in a woodland garden or shade garden. Callicarpa is great for a low maintenance natural garden where it contributes year round beauty and food for wildlife. Spring flowers and beautiful fall fruit make this an attractive landscape plant. Use it in semi-shade under tall pines or in full sun where foliage will take on a not unattractive yellow-green color that combines interestingly with the brilliant violet fruits.
Prune back severely in late winter for best berry production. I just cut back branches so all are about the same size and let my bushes grow large. However, Beautyberry can be kept small with an annual pruning in late winter or early spring. This shrub can be cut back as short as 4-6 inches tall every winter with no harm to the plant and without sacrifice of the berries.
To be sure your shrubs are loaded with berries, plant more than one of these beautiful plants.
And if purple is not your color, you might want to try one of the more rare forms.
Callicarpa Lactea has white berries instead of purple. I have encountered many a gardener requesting this shrub for their night garden. Plants with white berries or white blossoms really stand out at night while most other colors are barely visible. Additionally, white reflects the light from the moon. Can you imagine how lovely White Beautyberry would be in the floral arrangements for a Fall wedding? 


If you are partial to pink, you are in luck, because a rare pink-berried form has been discovered. Known as Callicarpa Sautee, it is named for the area in Florida where it was found. The Pink Beautyberry is perhaps the most rare form of all beautyberries. 

Once you see Callicarpa Americana loaded with berries, you will want one for your own garden.

December 31, 2011

Plant in Winter? Yes, You Can!


January is a great time for planting here in Georgia! Shrubs and trees planted before the arrival of hot weather have a much better chance of surviving the drought. I’m afraid it’s time we all adjust our gardens for the return of the drought each year.


Several years ago, our garden was certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. We are very proud of that, because preserving our environment for wildlife and our children is very important to my family and me.

Not only is preserving wildlife and native plant species important from an environmental standpoint, but native plants are easier to grow, since they are able to thrive in our climate!

In addition to being easy to grow, many of our Native American Species offer other advantages over the imported counterpart.

Consider American Euonymus with the unusual red fruits instead of the more common Euonymus that is invasive. The fruit resembles a hard strawberry until the capsule bursts open to reveal bright orange seeds—food for the birds! (See the photo above.)

American Native Azaleas perfume the garden with a lovely fragrance, while Asian Azaleas have no fragrance at all! And what could be more beautiful than a native azalea in full bloom?

Nothing smells sweeter than the banana-pineapple scented blooms of the native Sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus.

The bright red blooms of our American native honeysuckle vine, Lonicera sempervirens, will attract whole families of hummingbirds, yet won’t take over and pop up all over the community as does the very aggressive Japanese honeysuckle.

So as you add new plants to your garden during this great planting time, seek out some of these rare native specimens, and don’t be afraid to plant them now, to give them a headstart before summer! And check back soon for suggestions on how you can improve your garden to help protect your local wildlife.

For more information on these and other plants for your garden, please visit Shady Gardens Nursery.

April 10, 2008

Gardening to Attract Birds & Other Wildlife

Filed under: birds, birdwatching, garden, wildlife — shadygardens @ 3:07 pm

Gardening for Wildlife is becoming more and more popular as gas prices keep many of us from traveling like we used to. We’re staying home more, building outdoor rooms, and planting beautiful gardens to enjoy with our family and friends. More and more money is spent on bird feeding each year, because it gives us so much joy.

Attracting wildlife to the garden is really very simple. Our feathered friends need only a few things to make them happy: Food, water, and a safe place to nest and take shelter from predators.

The best food for all wildlife is natural food sources—plants with berries and seeds are perfect. You can supplement that with feeders containing wild bird seed.

Water is easy to provide—you don’t need a fancy pond or a babbling brook, although that would be nice. A simple birdbath or even just a saucer with fresh water will give the birds a place to drink and bathe. Remember to add fresh water daily.

Nesting sights are equally easy to provide. You probably already have thick shrubs in your garden. Consider adding shrubs with spines or prickles and berries. The spines will help protect the birds from predators, and the berries will provide a convenient food source for them.

Basically, all you have to do is plant a garden, and the birds will come!

February 29, 2008

Landscaping to Attract Birds

Attracting wildlife to the garden is a goal for many gardeners. Few things are more relaxing than sitting in a quiet spot, viewing birds flitting around among the plants, locating food, bathing, and dancing around in an attempt to attract a mate.
As gardeners, we look for plants that will bring butterflies to our garden, hummingbirds to our window, and birds to our feeders.
Attracting wildlife to your garden is very simple–birds and butterflies just need a few things to make them happy! When searching for a place to live, animals look for water and food sources, shrubs and brush for safety from predators, and safe places to build nests for raising young.

To attract wildlife into your garden, you must provide what the animals need for survival:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter from predators
  • Safe place to nest and raise young

Water sources are easy to provide. Birdbaths are widely available in garden centers, home improvement stores, discount stores, and even craft & hobby stores. Birdbaths are also easy to make using items found at flea markets and yard sales or purchased terracotta plant saucers. Birds prefer a shallow bowl rather than a deep one. Just remember to place it near a good spot for shelter if the bird needs it but not too close to a tree or shrub that would provide good hiding spots for predators like cats. Remember to keep the water bowl clean and filled with fresh clean water.

Food and Nesting Sites can be provided easily too with native plants. One of the most important things you can do to bring wildlife into your garden is to plant native plants! By doing this, you will be providing many of the things butterflies, birds, and mammals need: food and shelter. Butterflies will drink nectar from any suitable flower, but each species of butterfly depends on just certain plants for host plants on which to lay their eggs. Some examples are: Milkweed, Asclepias (Commonly known as Butterfly Weed), Dill, Fennel, and Parsley. In fact, herbs attract a number of butterflies and other beneficial insects like ladybugs.

In addition to providing food and shelter for wildlife, when you plant native plants, you’ll be planting plants that will thrive in your climate, thus making gardening with native plants easier than gardening with foreign exotic species.

One other thing to consider when planting foreign species is that many of these exotic plants simply take over and crowd out native plants that are necessary for the survival of our wildlife. Think of how kudzu and privet have taken over in the southeast! One simply has to travel a little way down any highway in Georgia or Alabama to see how these plants have crowded out everything else. When crowding out native plants, they crowd out some of the wildlife species that depend on certain plants for survival.

And what could be more beautiful than a native azalea in full bloom? Nothing smells sweeter than the banana-pineapple scented blooms of our native sweetshrub. Our American native honeysuckle vine with its bright red blooms will attract whole families of hummingbirds, yet won’t take over and pop up all over the community as does the very aggressive Japanese honeysuckle.

I hope you’ll visit again for more plant recommendations to attract birds into your garden. In the meantime, drop by http://www.shadygardens.biz/ to see if we have some of the plants you need for your wildlife garden.

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.

October 27, 2007

Native Plants for Your Garden Landscape

Filed under: garden, native azalea, native plant, plants, wildlife — shadygardens @ 6:43 pm

“What’s so great about native plants?” might be a question you are asking these days. In recent years there has been much discussion about native plants on TV gardening programs and in gardening magazines, due to our increasing drought and concern for the preservation of wildlife. Native plants are a wise choice, because they have acclimated themselves to current growing conditions and can withstand the increasing drought, heat, and humidity our Georgia climate throws at us each summer. The beauty of native plants makes them very desirable, and the ease of growing them makes common sense! They require much less care and water than imported plant varieties. Also, in a time when we’re becoming more concerned about preservation of our native wildlife, native plants should be more widely planted because many of our native plants are important food and nesting sites for wildlife. So instead, a better question might be, “What native plants should I plant this year?”

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