Pages

Winter Garden in Georgia with Native Plants



Since a Georgia winter has frequent warm days, we enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors even in January and February. Finding native plants that are showy in winter can be challenging.

We do have many non-native evergreens in our garden, but we find it important to choose native plants whenever possible. After much searching, I have come up with a few suggestions of American native plants you should add to your winter garden:


  • American Holly, of course for the berries!
  • Pachysandra Procumbens, often referred to as Allegheny Spurge, is a non-invasive groundcover that develops a silvery mottling to its leaves in fall and winter.


  • Lonicera fragrantissima begins blooming in January with sweetly fragrant and delicately beautiful blooms. This large growing shrub is commonly referred to as Winter Honeysuckle.


  • Evergreens are an important addition to any garden. One I like in particular that looks just as good in winter as any other time of year is Arizona Cypress.

  • Yucca provides spikey interest year round and provides contrast in the garden. I like 'Golden Sword' for its bright yellow stripes appearing like sunshine in the garden. The top photo shows Golden Sword Yucca in its January splendor.
In addition to being beautiful year round, these plants offer the added benefit of being drought tolerant and perfect for xeriscape gardens, which is an important asset to consider during today's uncertain water conditions!

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.

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.

Global Warming: Where Is It?

Global warming has been a topic of much discussion for quite a while now. Former Vice President Al Gore even won a prize for his movie on the subject.


If global warming is actually occurring, it isn't anywhere near our garden. We've endured early morning temperatures in the twenties for over a week now, and early morning temperatures in the teens for 3 days. In fact, the predicted high today is 28 degrees, which is, if I heard them right, according to our local weather station, about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year. 




When temperatures are this low, a gardener and owner of backyard chickens must take many precautions for the safety of his animals and plants.


First and foremost is water. All water in our garden has been frozen now for over a week. Although most of the days have been sunny, water in our birdbaths and pet waterers has not thawed, even during the warmest part of the day. Water is necessary for survival, even when temperatures are in the teens. Make sure your animals have access to fresh, clean water at all times.


Provide an area of shelter out of the wind for your animals during these freezing weather episodes. If possible, provide heat or a heated blanket or even allow your pets indoors at night.

About the plants, I don't know what to tell you about that.  Container plants should be watered at least every few days, but I can't make myself stand out there with a hose when it's this cold.


Here at Shady Gardens, we're all eagerly anticipating next Wednesday, when temperatures are supposed to climb into the 50's that afternoon. And still, the night time temperatures will again drop down into the teens... 

Fragrance in the Winter Garden



Lonicera fragrantissima is an American Native Honeysuckle Shrub that blooms in winter, hence the common name, Winter Honeysuckle. Another nickname for this shrub is Kiss Me at the Gate. I'm not sure how that name came about, but I'm sure it's an interesting story!

The blooms of Winter Honeysuckle are small but very fragrant, and they simply cover the shrub in January and February, making walks in the garden eagerly anticipated on those warm winter days we often have here in Georgia. My shrubs are already covered with flower buds and I can't wait to enjoy the aroma! Drought-tolerant and easy to grow, this native shrub should be in any garden if you have the space for it. Lonicera fragrantissima will ultimately reach a height of about 10 feet with an equal spread.

Winter Honeysuckle is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9 and is mostly evergreen. This shrub is also very drought tolerant, making it perfect for Georgia gardens.

Red berries form in summer, but they're so well-hidden behind the leaves that they usually go unnoticed by all but the birds who seem to know where to look.