November Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass at Callaway Gardens
when my Children were small
The most beautiful of all the ornamental grasses to me is Muhlenbergia capillaris, usually called Pink (or Purple) Muhly Grass.

When not blooming, Pink Muhly Grass just disappears into the background. No one would notice it at all. But in late Summer or early Fall when the pink to purple seed heads develop, all I can think is WOW! 

Usually Pink Muhly Grass comes into bloom in September but is blooming much later this year, I'm guessing due to the drought. The plants are just now in full bloom. Everything has behaved differently this year. As I wrote in my last post, we've had no rain in our Georgia garden in more than two months. None. 

That just goes to show you what a tough plant this is. Most ornamental grasses are truly easy to grow, requiring nothing special in the way of soil or water. But most ornamental grasses just don't appeal to me. I love flowers.

Pink Muhly Grass gives me the look of flowers in the big beautiful fluffy clouds that look like cotton candy held high above the foliage. When in bloom, Pink Muhly Grass can be in excess of 3 feet tall. This plant is truly spectacular in the Fall garden.  And by the way, Muhlenbergia capillaris comes in White too. What I mean is there is white blooming form, but to me it is not so eye-catching.

Muhlenbergia is a clumping grass so it will not spread all over your garden. It is a very well-behaved plant native to the Eastern United States, and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-10. 

Muhly Grass also attracts beneficial insects. I'm not sure why, but ladybugs like it. 

Muhlenbergia capillaris needs very well-drained soil, so I recommend mixing in some compost when you plant it. And although it is drought tolerant once established, water it weekly during its first Summer in your garden.
Pink Muhly Grass is spectacular enough to be a specimen plant, but I like the drama of a large mass of them, if you have the space. It is particularly lovely if you can plant at the top of a hill where it will be backlit by the sun.

November Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Osmanthus fragrans, Sweet Tea Olive

Osmanthus fragrans
I've been anxiously awaiting the blooms on my Tea Olives ever since Fall arrived. We've been under a severe drought here in Georgia for a couple of months now. Most of our plants are suffering, and many have refused to bloom. Some established shrubs and trees might even die. 

But there she is, my Tea Olive, blooming anyway. I admit, the blooms are not as plentiful as usual, but they are still there, and I can smell their sweet fragrance. 

Osmanthus fragrans is one of my favorite evergreen shrubs. When in full bloom, my whole garden smells like fresh apricots! 

Osmanthus fragrans 'Fudingzhu'
I must say Osmanthus fragrans is one of the easiest plants to grow. This evergreen shrub grows very large over time and does well in full sun to part shade. Not picky about soil, the tea olive tolerates clay soil and is drought tolerant (once established.) 

The most sensational bloom is in fall, but Osmanthus fragrans blooms sporadically year round. The fragrance is most notable in the evening on warmer days. Blooms are so tiny that you'd never suspect the heavenly fragrance is coming from them!

An exception to that is Osmanthus fragrans 'Fudingzhu', which has showy clusters of the tiny blooms--still with that same sweet fragrance.

Osmanthus fragrans 'Aurantiacus'
Orange Blossom Tea Olive
Evergreen foliage is a rich green that holds up well in floral arrangements. 

Osmanthus fragrance is hardy in USDA Zones 8-11, but is often seen in Atlanta which is Zone 7. Can withstand temperatures down to 10 degrees with no foliar damage.

Although we have some blooms on the Osmanthus shrubs that have been in the garden several years, I fear the we'll see no blooms this year on our Orange Blossom Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans 'Aurantiacus.'

November Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Sasanqua Camellia

Right in the middle of the Fall harvest season not much thought is given to flowers. This is the time when our homes and front porches are decorated with hay bales, pumpkins, and scarecrows.  Fall or Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons, and I love decorating with the usual harvest items like pumpkins and gourds. But I still want to see flowers in my garden.

Sasanqua Camellias give me just that. Available in many bloom colors, Sasanquas bloom reliably in the Fall every year. 

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Camellia in bloom. I was young, and I was new at gardening. I was driving through a residential area when I noticed a large, bushy, green shrub with large red blooms that looked like roses. Believe it or not, it took me a while to find out what it was! You’re probably laughing at me now, but thank goodness I’ve learned a few things about camellias since then. 

It wasn’t until attending the Master Gardener Course that I learned of the Sasanqua Camellia. Sasanquas are early bloomers, usually blooming October – December, so there is less chance of frost damaging the blooms. The fall blooming Sasanquas make great holiday decorations and gifts. Sasanqua camellias seem to be faster growing and are often larger growing than Japonica. Dwarf Sasanquas are available too--great for small gardens or even containers. Some varieties bloom so profusely that the blooms hide the foliage! 

Sasanqua Camellias prefer a sheltered site away from drying winter winds. The blooms are more delicate than those of Japonica Camellias. Bright, filtered shade beneath tall trees is ideal. Moist, well-drained soil is best, but camellias are drought tolerant once established. 

Although our garden has received no rain in over 8 weeks and Troup County is under a severe drought , the Sasanquas are beginning to bloom anyway. 

Remember that deer will eat the blooms on all camellias, so consider using a deer deterrent around them. Your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter has plenty of inexpensive deer-deterrent—the all-natural kind. Just ask the attendant which dogs are frisky enough for deer control! 

October Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata

Lycoris radiata is most often referred to by one of its common names. We always called them Spider Lilies, but in other parts of the South, it is known as Hurricane Lily, since it blooms at the height of Hurricane Season. Each summer we are plagued here in Georgia with a drought that goes on for weeks (if not months), and in September we'll finally get a drenching rain. It is after that good soaking rain that Spider Lilies pop up in old gardens of the South. This year, we did not receive that soaking rain at all, so the Spider Lilies finally bloomed without it--in October.

Lycoris radiata blooms have extremely long anthers that give them a "spider-like" appearance, hence the common name Spider Lily. Once the flowers fade, dark green basal leaves appear that look much like liriope (or "monkey grass", as it usually called around here.) Its leaves will stay green all winter here in Georgia, absorbing nutrients from the sun to convert into energy for the next summer's blooms.

Lycoris radiata is hardy only in the Deep South, in USDA Zones 7-10, but it is still easy to grow. Like other members of the Lycoris family, it tolerates any soil in either sun or shade and needs no supplemental water to thrive. 

I have only the red blooming Spider Lily, but it also can be found in white. I'm still looking for some.

All species of Lycoris should be divided or transplanted only when dormant, so as not to interrupt its bloom and growth. Early summer is the optimum time for this task. Once the foliage has withered, it is safe to dig the bulbs.

Lycoris does extremely well beneath large established trees.

The flowers make excellent cut flowers and hold up well in a vase, lasting for several days in a floral arrangement. 

And one more thing: Deer won't eat your Spider Lilies!

October Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Asters

Aster 'Raydon's Favorite' in October
If you see me when I come home from pretty much anywhere this time of year, you'll find me unloading at least one mum. I bring one home almost every time I go to the store. But where do they end up? Well, I do plant them of course. But they just don't last very long in my garden here in Georgia. Our summers are very hot and dry. This year, the drought has extended into Fall. This is the driest Fall I can remember. We haven't had any rain at all in over 2 months.

Unlike Chrysanthemums, Asters, will live on for years, in spite of the drought we usually suffer here in Georgia. There are many Fall blooming Aster varieties to choose from, and I intend to add them all to my garden! There are asters for full sun and asters that will bloom well in shade.

Symphyotricum oblongifolium 'Raydon's Favorite' is covered with lavender daisy-like blooms every Fall in September and October. The aromatic foliage reminds me of mint and deer do not like it.

Butterflies and other pollinators love all varieties of aster. In mid-Fall, most other flowers have finished blooming, but the Fall asters are just getting started. Most aster plants are just covered in flowers this time of year. Asters make excellent cut flowers, lasting a long time in a Fall floral arrangement.

Our native asters are much easier to grow than chrysanthemums. Once established they are quite drought tolerant, thriving on sunny hillsides even in the midst of a drought. Asters tolerate just about any soil--dry, clay, or sandy.

This native plant can be grown anywhere in the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 3-8. Most asters like full sun, but there are asters that bloom even in shade.

This year The Garden Club of America named Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite' as the 2016 Plant of the year, so it definitely deserves to be in your garden.

The only negative I can think of with Raydon's Favorite is that it will grow quite tall and flop over if it isn't pruned early in the summer. I am bad about forgetting to prune.