Xeriscape Gardening with Companion Plants

Georgia gardeners are becoming increasingly concerned about water conservation due to recent extreme droughts. But since lately we've received a little bit too much rain here in Georgia, I considered a practice we've tried to stick to here in our garden for a few years now: Companion Planting. Now I'm not talking about  what you might be thinking--companion planting as laid out in organic gardening books to promote heavy yields in the vegetable garden. What I'm talking about is simply planting moisture loving plants all together, to make watering easier with less waste. 

Shown in the photo above is Helianthus angustifolius Gold Lace, our native American Swamp Sunflower, with Colocasia Black Magic. What a striking contrast, and they both enjoy the soaking rains we've received lately.

Choose moisture lovers wisely and sparingly. Then place them in groups, preferably where the occasionally received rain water collects, but certainly where you can reach them easily with a hose.

For a list of plants that enjoy wet soil, visit Shady Gardens Nursery.

Green Gardening

Going green in the garden is becoming more and more important to us as we learn additional dangers of pesticide use. To grow a good garden, we must preserve the life in the soil. Healthy soil is full of microorganisms which help to grow more vigorous plants. Too much fertilizer can kill microorganisms. To grow healthy plants, whether your passion is food crops or beautiful ornamentals, you must build up the soil.
  • Add compost--composted manure contains much more beneficial microorganisms than just regular compost.
  • Mulch with organic or plant based mulches (shredded bark or leaves).
  • Believe it or not, applications of horticultural molasses will feed the microorganisms.
  • Cornmeal added to the soil feeds a certain fungus that helps fight plant diseases. Isn't that fascinating? Now I know what to do with that cornmeal I forgot about in the back of the cabinet.
  • While we are feeding our soil microorganisms, we must also remember to protect them.
  • Synthetic fertilizers harm the soil organisms and should be avoided.
  • Over tilling the soil breaks down the soil ecosystem, so add mulch instead. I know I mentioned mulch already, but application of good organic mulch is important enough to mention twice. Mulch attracts the soil critters like earthworms who will till the soil for you.

Rhododendron My Mary: Fragrant Yellow Azalea

Rhododendron 'My Mary' is a new plant for me. Aside from the large and very fragrant yellow blooms appearing in April, the romantic story behind the name compelled me to plant this one.

'My Mary' is a deciduous hybrid azalea--a cross between Rhododendron Nacoochee and Rhododendron Austrinum (the native Florida Flame Azalea.) As written above, the blooms are large and very fragrant--a beautiful yellow funnel-shaped flower with an orange tube. The flowers are borne in clusters, or bouquets, as I like to call them. As you might imagine, pollinators of every sort just love them!

Rhododendron 'My Mary' was developed by the well-respected Mr. George Beasley of Lavonia, Georgia, who named this plant after his wife, Mary. She must indeed be lovely, to have such a plant named in her honor. I'm proud to have this shrub in my humble garden.

Hardy in USDA Zones 5-8, this deciduous rhododendron can be grown almost anywhere in the United States.
Culture is the same as for just about any other rhododendron or azalea: well-drained soil with a nice addition of humus, regular water (weekly is great), partial shade, and a thick layer of mulch to protect the roots.
For more information on this plant, you may contact us at
Shady Gardens Nursery or consult the Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder, who so graciously permitted us to use their lovely photos.

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