May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Mock Orange

Philadelphus coronarius
Sweet Mock Orange or English Dogwood
Blooms are spectacular this year on my Philadelphus coronarius, most often referred to as Sweet Mock Orange or English Dogwood. Our established shrub is completely covered with the fragrant dogwood-like white blooms.

Philadelphus coronarius is a deciduous shrub that grows quickly into a large shrub, so give it plenty of room. 

Because of our very mild winter, Mock Orange bloomed a little earlier than usual this year. Usually blooming in late May, the Mock Orange reached its peak bloom the first week of May here in our Georgia garden.

The white flowers with 4 petals smell like orange blossoms, hence the common name Mock Orange and resemble blooms on the Dogwood Tree. Leaves are tender and dark green. On the Sweet Mock Orange, even the bark is lovely, which is exfoliating and orange-tinged. 

This large growing shrub will eventually be up to 12 feet tall and just as wide with a rounded habit, so it's perfect at the edge of the property. 

Philadelphus coronarius can be grown in full sun to light shade, but ours is in pretty much full shade here in Georgia. It might get a little peak of morning sun, but I don't think so. 

Although rich fertile soil is best, our soil is hard clay, and our large shrub gets no supplemental water. This year we received more than enough rain during the Winter and Spring, which might be why our plant showed out so well this time.

Mock Orange is a popular old-fashioned shrub in the Southeastern states, and although it might look delicate, it can be grown in most of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4-7.

If you want a hedge of Mock Orange, for Summer privacy perhaps, space them about 5 feet apart for good screening. The shrubs will quickly grow to fill the space. 

If pruning is needed, do so immediately after blooming by removing old canes at the base and cut back remaining branches to create a rounded shape. If your space allows it, don't prune your Mock Orange at all. 

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Fruit Shrubs and Trees

Before we can feast on the fruit from our growing collection of fruiting shrubs and trees, we get to enjoy the flowers. Some of the prettiest flowering trees in the South are fruit trees. 

Blueberry Flowers
Blueberry Bushes have cute little white blooms in clusters that attract pollinators. Blueberry Shrubs are all-around attractive, really. In Spring you have the blooms against newly developing blue-green leaves. In mid-spring the blueberry fruits develop, beginning as green drupes that gradually ripen into dark blue juicy fruits loved by people and wildlife. Attractive foliage remains until Fall when leaves turn all shades of orange, red, and burgundy. Some or all foliage remains into winter, depending on the temperatures of that particular winter or which part of the country you are in. Blueberry Bushes are gaining in popularity as the word gets out about how nutritious the fruit is and how easy the shrub is to grow. Homeowners are even incorporating Blueberry Bushes into their flower beds and foundation plantings. I've seen a few local businesses adding Blueberries to their commercial landscaping. How exciting!

Crabapple Trees have been used in landscaping for years. The flowers are beautiful, covering the tree canopy with loads of flowers in various shades of pink. But many Crabapple Trees produce a fruit that is not only loved by wildlife but edible for humans as well. 

Peach Trees are not known for being easy to grow. Some maintenance is required. But when you bite into that beautiful peach and feel the juice running down your chin, you know it was worth all that work. 

Plum Trees are beloved by children everywhere. We love to eat the plums either green or ripe, if we can get to them before the squirrels do. 

Our Ponderosa Lemon tree is huge. Originally purchased as a Meyer Lemon, this tree produces huge lemons that have a rough, knotty skin that is very thick. The fruit is very sour and the juice is great for a marinade. When I looked up recipes to decide what to do with the abundant fruits, I found that ours was not a Meyer Lemon after all, but a Ponderosa. Oh well, I'll keep looking for the hardy Meyer Lemon I guess.
Nanking Cherry in Bloom

Our newest fruiting plants are the Bush Cherry or Nanking Cherry. Not usually grown around here, the Nanking Cherry Bushes are growing well, and we are getting lots of fruit from them this year. These bushes will grow to be about 10 feet tall and just as wide, and they produce a small red cherry that is tart and delicious. 

We have other new fruit trees that haven't yet bloomed or produced fruit, and I intend to add as many new fruiting plants as I can until I run out of room.

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Lady Banks Rose

One of the easiest roses of all to grow is the Lady Banks Rose. Rosa banksiae is a thornless rose producing soft fluffy blooms in early Spring. Lady Banks Rose is almost evergreen here in Georgia, if temperatures don't drop below the 20's. 

Lady Banks Rose is drought tolerant and disease resistant by nature. This lovely rose tolerates poor soil too.

Lady Band Rose is an easy care rose that is thornless and almost evergreen here in Georgia. It is a climbing rose that is beautiful growing on a pillar, arbor, fence, or trellis. 

Although Lady Banks blooms only once a year, in Spring it is absolutely covered with small fluffy double blooms.  Blooms are slightly fragrant and come in either yellow, Rosa banksiae 'Lutea', or white, 'Rosa banksiae 'Alba plena.' 

Rosa banksiae originated in China but was introduced to Europe in the early 1800's.  Lady Banks was very popular in the Southern United States during Antebellum times and was usually found on old plantations of the South. The largest rose in the world is a white blooming Lady Banks Rose that was planted in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1885. 

Plant your Lady Banks Rose in full sun for best bloom. This is a fast-growing strong rose that will quickly become very heavy, so plant it near a very strong support. Those inexpensive little trellises at the discount store will not work.

Lady Banks Rose is evergreen in USDA Zones 8-10, but is hardy in colder zones 6-7 where it will lose its leaves in winter. Banks Rose is said to withstand temperatures down into the teens, but we have single digit temperatures every so many years and our established plants lived through that. 
Once established, Lady Banks Rose is quite drought tolerant, but be sure to water regularly the first few years. Lady Banks is somewhat hard to find in nurseries, so you don't want to have to try to replace it.

Lady Banks, unlike many other roses, can be grown near the beach since it tolerates salt spray.

Lady Banks is not bothered by diseases and pests that infect most roses, so you won't need to spray at all.

If you don't have an arbor or trellis, Lady Banks can be grown as a free-standing shrub rose, but must be drastically pruned yearly to keep it in check. If pruning is needed, do so immediately after flowering. 

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Japanese Kerria

Kerria japonica 'Plena' or 'Pleniflora'
One of our most sought after plants for early Spring bloom is the Japanese Kerria, often referred to as the Japanese Thornless Rose. Vibrant golden yellow blooms are visible from a great distance. The long green stems of Kerria japonica 'Plena' are absolutely covered with bright yellow flowers that look like pompoms. We also grow a single blooming Kerria known as 'Shannon.' 

Kerria is an arching, shrub-like perennial that sends up many suckers forming a thicket of green stems that remain green even into the winter. Although leaves fall off after the first frost, the green twiggy mass is attractive.

Give Kerria plenty of room to grow, since it will be 5-7 feet tall and up to 6 feet wide at maturity. Kerria loves water, and it will grower larger and larger with ample water. 

Kerria japonica 'Shannon'
Kerria likes some shade, and will bloom quite well with no sun at all. However, regular water is needed for Kerria to grow well. We have a couple of plants in shade that receive no supplemental water, and they need to be moved. We seldom see a bloom on those. If water is available, Kerria 'Plena' will bloom profusely in early Spring and then sporadically throughout the Spring and Summer. 'Shannon' blooms only once, in Spring.

Kerria Japonica looks like a tropical plant but is quite easy to grow and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. That's amazing to me.

Kerria is very popular in Georgia and the Southeastern Unites States, but it is seldom found in nurseries, and we cannot keep it in stock.

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Flowering Quince

When the bare branches of Flowering Quince burst into bloom, I know spring is coming soon. We grow 4 different varieties of Flowering Quince, and all of them are spectacularly showy when in bloom.  Flowering Quince is now in full bloom in our Georgia garden, but flowers began opening well before winter was over. 

Quince Toyo-nishiki
Bright red blooms of the Texas Scarlet Flowering Quince are the first to open in our Georgia garden. Soon after, the salmon-pink flowers of Cameo appear. Scarff's Red is another red blooming Quince that has an upright habit and is nearly thornless. Scarff's Red is a large shrub up to 10 feet tall. Jet Trail is a low-growing Quince with white blooms. My favorite Flowering Quince is Toyo-nishiki with its white, pink, and red blooms all on the same plant. This is another large Quince up to 6 feet tall at maturiy.

Flowering Quince is a thorny shrub that is an excellent barrier plant if you need that quality in a plant. Some varieties bear a small crop of 2-3 inch fruits much like an apple that can be made into jelly, but I never see more than 3 or 4 fruits on my small plants. Birds and other wildlife will eat the fruits, so I just leave them.

When not in bloom, Flowering Quince sort of disappears into the landscape with its scraggly branches, but when in bloom, it will knock your socks off. Birds love to build their nests in the protection of the spiny stems. 

Flowering Quince is one of the most drought tolerant shrubs we grow. We have several plants in our roadside garden bed that I cannot water at all. 

Plant your Flowering Quince in full sun for good flowering. I mistakenly situated some of my Quince plants in too much shade where they have not grown or flowered well.

Noteworthy Features of Flowering Quince:
  • Red-flowered quince attracts hummingbirds
  • Virtually maintenance-free
  • Attracts wildlife
  • Drought tolerant
  • Edible fruits in summer
  • Winter blooms
Everyone in the United States can have Flowering Quince in the garden, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4-10.