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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.
Fall is the best time to plant shrubs and trees. Autumn weather is cool, making gardening easier on us. In Fall, rain is more dependable, making planting easier on both the plant and the gardener. Here in Georgia, daytime temperatures can still be hot, but our nights are cooler. 

Fall is the best time to plant Azaleas, Blueberries, and Hydrangeas. This time of year just brings better weather for shrubs to establish themselves without having to fight for their lives! 

So if you dream of a garden as beautiful as that shown in the photo above, do yourself and your plants a favor and plant them now, instead of waiting until spring. If your dream includes eating tasty blueberries from your own garden, plant those now too! 

Since we are receiving more regular rainfall, you won't have to water as often, but you should water your newly planted trees and shrubs anytime it hasn't rained that week, especially as long as days continue to be hot and sunny. 

Shrubs planted in fall will have a head start over spring planted ones, and will have a greater chance of survival during our heat wave next summer. Even though the top growth of the plant will be dormant and might not even have any leaves, the roots will continue to grow through the winter. So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather we’re having!

To order unusual shrubs and trees for fall planting, visit Shady Gardens Nursery.

Plant Azaleas in Fall instead of Spring!


Rhododenderon Canescens, Piedmont Azalea
Native Azaleas are definitely a spectacular show in Spring, but don't wait till Spring to plant them! Shrubs planted in Fall have a much better chance to get established and become healthy plants by next summer. 

The American Native Azaleas, species Rhododendrons, are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves for the winter. This defoliation begins quite early in fall, depending on the climate conditions and the variety. Usually the earlier the bloom time in spring, the earlier leaf loss occurs in Fall.  

Fall is the best time to transplant shrubs because they are then dormant. Fall planted shrubs have all winter to become established before time to bloom and grow next year. This is especially important when your plants are received by mail, as is most often true with rare plants like native azaleas.

When planting native azaleas, soil preparation is key. All azaleas prefer well-drained soil. Amend the soil for drainage, especially if your soil is clay.  Prior to planting your native azalea, work in some compost or composted manure and shredded bark to the planting hole. To help insure good drainage, mound up the soil so your azalea is planted high. Be sure that the root collar is slightly higher than soil level so water will drain away when those heavy downpours occur.
 
When planning your native azalea garden, consider the site. Native azaleas naturally occur in the filtered light beneath large trees near stream banks, but will grow in full sun when water is adequate.  They perhaps will bloom more profusely in full sun, but need more water with more sun. 

Make sure you can get water to the plant if drought occurs. Native azaleas are quite drought tolerant once established, however, water weekly the first year or two, as the plant grows in to its new environment.  Also, the blooms buds are formed during late summer on the early blooming varieties, and if your area is prone to a late summer-early fall drought, pay attention to those weekly waterings, so you won’t miss out on your fragrant Spring blooms! 

Finally, obtain some good organic mulch. Azaleas have a shallow root system. Apply a thick layer of any organic mulch such as shredded bark, leaves, or pine straw to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool. Never cultivate around your native azaleas, since this can damage those shallow roots. 
Once planted, your native azaleas will need water at least once weekly to insure good root development and beautiful blooms for years to come. 

For more information on the beautiful and fragrant native azaleas, visit us at Shady Gardens Nursery.

Annabelle Hydrangea: A True Southern Belle

Hydrangea Arborescens Annabelle
Annabelle Hydrangea is a selection of our native American hydrangea, Hydrangea Arborescens.

Despite what you might think when you observe the delicate appearance of Annabelle, she is one of the most versatile hydrangeas in the garden. Much hardier than Hydrangea macrophylla, Annabelle grows well in colder areas of the North as well as the deep South. Since she is hardy in USDA Zones 3-10, Annabelle can be grown all over the United States.

Huge showy white blooms can be up to 10 inches across and can literally cover the shrub in early summer.

Annabelle blooms on new growth, which is good news for those of us here in Georgia where late frosts can prevent macrophylla hydrangeas from blooming at all. If spent blooms are removed, Annabelle will display a second bloom in late summer.

Annabelle Hydrangea depicts qualities that one might expect from a true Southern Belle: quiet beauty, reserved gracefulness, and an unobtrusive nature.

Annabelle is dependable with her bloom. She can be trusted to bloom even in the hottest of summers and during our most severe drought. Buds will form no matter how cold the winter and no matter how slowly spring arrives.

Annabelle hydrangea does not require any sun, and blooms quite well in the shade beneath large trees.

Fall is the perfect time for planting all shrubs, including Annabelle Hydrangea. 

Gardening in Deer Country


Shadow enjoys the shade

As lovers of animals, we welcome all wildlife into our garden, even deer and squirrels. We enjoy seeing the squirrels run and play among the oak trees, and we like it when we awake to watch deer eating fallen acorns early in the morning fog. What angers me, though, is taking a walk in our woodland garden to find that the deer have apparently enjoyed an all night buffet in our hosta bed, or devoured the tender buds of our blueberry bushes that would have developed into juicy berries for our children.


Shadow, our large black lab, is getting older, napping in the shade more and chasing deer less. Actually, I have observed her lying down on a soft bed of leaves to watch deer forage right beside her. We accept that though, since she is a very good dog.


Still, we'd like to enjoy the investments we've made in our garden. Plants can get expensive. So what do we do about it? Getting rid of the deer is not an option for us. Fencing must be at least 10 feet tall and surround the whole garden to be effective. Deer deterrant sprays are too expensive and are just temporary, having to be resprayed after every rain or watering.

The best option we've come up with is to plant things deer do not eat. Many of the plants disliked by deer come with a strong fragrance which will fool the deer into thinking there's nothing there they want. For every plant they like, we try to plant one they don't.

Unfortunately, many of our native plants are tasty to deer. Afterall, God created a food source for the animals when he made the animals. If you have the space, you might just want to plant plenty of the plant, hoping when they eat, they'll leave some for you to enjoy.

But there are a few easy to find native plants deer don't like, and here's a list to give you some ideas:
  • Buckeye
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coreopsis
  • Iris
  • Native Ferns
  • Magnolia
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Sedums
  • Verbena
  • Witch Hazel
  • Yarrow
The deer-resistant plant list can be lengthened if you consider adding some non-native, yet non-invasive, plants to your garden. Herbs are great, since their scent is not a favorite of deer. (Except for basil--deer seem to like basil.) Rosemary has helped us alot, making a great companion for the native plants in our dry roadside garden. The scent permeates a large area of the garden on warm or breezy days.

Beneficial Insects in the Garden

When many people see an insect, the first impulse is to kill it. But not all insects are pests, and many are actually beneficial insects, meaning they do good things like eating harmful insects and pollinating flowers. When we use pesticides to control insect pests, we also kill the good bugs. You probably already know that Ladybugs or Lady Beetles are beneficial insects, feeding on aphids, scales, and mealybugs. But did you know that the larvae of ladybugs look like tiny little alligators and eat even more pests than their parents?



Lacewings are fragile-looking insects with delicate, lacy green or brown wings, large eyes, and very long antennae. Their larvae feed on aphids, scales, mealybugs, whiteflies, and young caterpillars.



The Praying Mantis shows no favoritism and will eat almost any insect (yes, they will eat the good bugs too and will even eat each other!) 


Parasitic Wasps are usually too small for you to see, but you might spot signs of their presence. If you find a crispy-looking brown, inflated aphid attached to a leaf, it was probably the victim of a parasitic wasp that laid its eggs in the aphid so its offspring would have something to eat when they hatched. You might also see caterpillars, cabbage loopers, or hornworms carrying around cocoons of developing wasps. Parasitic Wasps lay their eggs on the back of soft caterpillars so their young will have a convenient food source upon hatching. (Yuck!) 

It's almost time to see the Tomato Hornworm eating up the leaves and even the green tomatoes on our tomato plants. The best control is to pick them off and destroy them, but if you see one with loads of small white things that look like clusters of rice, just leave it alone--the white things are eggs of the Parasitic Wasp! 
Tomato Hornworm with Eggs of the Parasitic Wasp


Grandaddy Spiders, or you might call them Daddy Longlegs, eat aphids, mites, and other garden pests. (No photo this time, because spider photos give me the creeps.)

These are just a few of the many beneficial insects in our gardens. Beneficial insects can be purchased from mail-order sources, but you can attract them into your garden without purchasing them. The best way to attract these beneficial insects into your garden is to just plant more flowers and herbs!

Ashe Magnolia, Magnolia Ashei: Dramatic Focal Point for the Shade Garden

Magnolia Macrophylla, more commonly called Bigleaf Magnolia, is a very rare plant native to the Southeastern United States. It is one of the most beautiful plants I have ever seen. Huge leaves can be up to 18 inches long! The flower is large--up to 6 inches across--and very fragrant. If pollinated, a seedpod will develop that sports very juicy-looking red seeds that are very ornamental, providing food for the birds.

Magnolia ‘Ashei’ is a variety of Bigleaf Magnolia that blooms at an earlier age than others. Shown in the photo above is our own plant with a bloom while only slightly taller than knee high.

Smaller and more bushy than macrophylla, Ashe Magnolia reaches a height of about 15 feet with a spread of about 12 feet, growing in a more rounded form.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9.

Site: Prefers moist woodland soil rich in organic matter.

Light: Partial shade. Tolerates morning sun. (Needs plenty of moisture with more sun.)

Water: Needs regular water.

While some botanists have put this magnolia as a subspecies of Magnolia macrophylla in the past, the new Flora of North America has decided Ashei is a species in itself. It is much smaller & often multi-trunked, blooming at an earlier age (3 to 4 years). Magnolia ashei is the rarest Magnolia in North America.

Magnolia Macrophylla will provide a tropical look to your garden and is at home in any southern style garden. Provide some shelter from wind and hot sun, since the huge leaves are somewhat sensitive.

Source for this plant: Shady Gardens Nursery.

Pomegranate: The Perfect Fruit for the Home Garden


You can grow your own Pomegranates! 

With all the news lately regarding the health benefits of Pomegranate juice, we should consider growing our own! Pomegranates are probably the easiest fruit to grow in the home garden. 

Punica granatum loves hot sunny summers and dry, well-drained soil. It’s perfect for Georgia gardens, as long as we amend the soil for drainage. 

Although we often call it a Pomegranate Tree, the growth habit of Punica granatum is more like that of a shrub or bush. (Many old-timers around here actually call it a Plum Granny Bush.)

In order to set fruit, the pomegranate requires a cold winter followed by a hot summer. That’s us—hot summers and a cold winter! Winter temperatures down into the 40’s is cold enough to get plenty of fruit.

In addition to the health benefits of the fruit, there are many assets to growing pomegranate in your own backyard.

Beautiful bright red orange flowers resemble carnations.


Punica granatum is a drought tolerant plant that actually enjoys hot, dry sun.

Pomegranates also tolerate poor soil, which is handy for me since that's what our garden is made of.

Pomegranate provides a great Autumn display when the bright yellow fall foliage shows off the fruit.

Punica granatum is self-fruitful, so to enjoy the fruit, you need only one plant.


The pomegranate is somewhat thorny, making it a great barrier plant. 

Punica granatum is a fast growing plant that when left to grow naturally, will ultimately reach up to 20 feet tall. But because the fruit will be very heavy, I recommend keeping the plant pruned to only 10 feet to prevent limb breakage.

If you like something different, the Pomegranate Tree also looks lovely espaliered.

Punica granatum is hardy in USDA Zones 7-12. 

As you can see, pomegranate plants are very easy to grow. If you're still not convinced to grow pomegranate in your own garden, I challenge you to visit your local grocery store and swing by the produce department to check out the price of the pomegranate juice!

For more information or to order a Wonderful Pomegranate plant for your own garden, visit Shady Gardens Nursery.





Florida Anise: Small Tree for the Shade Garden

Florida Anise
One of my favorite native plants is Florida Anise. Illicium floridanum is usually thought of as a shrub, but actually makes a tree about 10 feet tall. Florida Anise is native to moist wooded ravines of the Florida panhandle and Southeastern Louisiana. 

Shiny evergreen leaves, single trunk, and compact stature with a maximum height of 10 feet make Florida Anise a lovely small tree. 

Leaves have a spicy scent when crushed, much like anise, which is why deer won't eat it. 

Very unusual red flowers appear in spring and have star-like petals. Once flowers fade, interesting seed pods develop. The large star-shaped seed pods are not a substitute for the culinary anise and are poisonous if ingested, which is probably another reason deer will not eat it. 

Drought tolerant once established, Florida Anise is a good choice for the southern garden. Native to Florida and Louisiana, Illicium Floridanum is too tender for northern gardens as it is hardy in USDA Zones 7-10 only.

Plant in partial shade. Enjoys wet soil, if you have some, and can take a little more sun if planted in a boggy area.




Enjoying the same growing conditions as azaleas, camellias, and gardenias, Florida Anise is a good companion for them. If you've been searching for something unusual for your shade garden, Florida Anise is perfect.




If you find one growing in the wild, do not dig it up to move it to your garden since Florida Anise is a threatened native species.

Spunky likes sniffing the variegated Florida Anise

If red is not your color, Florida Anise is also available in a white-flowering form and a variegated form with soft pink blooms, as shown above. 

Planting Instructions for Native Azaleas

Native Azaleas are definitely a spectacular show in spring, but don't wait till Spring to plant them! Shrubs planted in Fall and Winter have a much better chance to get established and become healthy plants by next summer. 

The American Native Azaleas, species Rhododendrons, are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves for the winter. This defoliation begins quite early in fall, depending on the climate conditions and the variety. Usually the earlier the bloom time in spring, the earlier leaf loss occurs in Fall.  

Fall is the best time to transplant shrubs because they are then dormant. Fall planted shrubs have all winter to become established before time to bloom and grow next year. This is especially important when your plants are received by mail, as is most often true with rare plants like native azaleas.

When planting native azaleas, soil preparation is key. All azaleas prefer well-drained soil. Amend the soil for drainage, especially if your soil is clay.  Prior to planting your native azalea, work in some compost or composted manure and shredded bark to the planting hole. To help insure good drainage, mound up the soil so your azalea is planted high. Be sure that the root collar is slightly higher than soil level so water will drain away when those heavy downpours occur.
 
When planning your native azalea garden, consider the site. Native azaleas naturally occur in the filtered light beneath large trees near stream banks, but will grow in full sun when water is adequate.  They perhaps will bloom more profusely in full sun, but need more water with more sun. 

Make sure you can get water to the plant if drought occurs. Native azaleas are quite drought tolerant once established, however, water weekly the first year or two, as the plant grows in to its new environment.  Also, the blooms buds are formed during late summer on the early blooming varieties, and if your area is prone to a late summer-early fall drought, pay attention to those weekly waterings, so you won’t miss out on your fragrant spring blooms! 

Finally, obtain some good organic mulch. Azaleas have a shallow root system. Apply a thick layer of any organic mulch such as shredded bark, leaves, or straw to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool. Never cultivate around your native azaleas, since this can damage those shallow roots. 
Once planted, your native azaleas will need water at least once weekly to insure good root development and beautiful blooms for years to come. 

For more information on the beautiful and fragrant native azaleas, visit us at Shady Gardens Nursery.