Recycling at Home: Reuse your Fireplace Ashes

I don’t know about you, but during the winter, I just cannot get warm without a fire! Every time I build a new fire however, something must be done with the ashes from the previous one. We try to recycle as much as we can, and I hate to waste anything, but what can we do with those wood ashes?

A great way to use them is to apply them to the garden. Before we do that, we must decide which garden area would benefit from wood ashes. Ashes from hardwood trees make great soil amendment for certain types of plants. They contain nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, and other elements that will promote bloom and strengthen roots on plants such as lilacs, rosemary, and peonies, as well as certain vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and collards. Don’t use ashes from charcoal fires or from treated lumber, because they contain chemicals that would be harmful to plants.

The addition of wood ashes can be of great help to you when growing plants that prefer ‘sweet’ soil, especially if your soil is very acidic. The wood ashes will sweeten the soil, making it less acidic. You must be careful where you deposit the wood ashes, because plants like blueberries, camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons all need acid soil, and will perish if you apply wood ashes around them.

To find out what kind of soil you have, for a small fee you can take a soil sample to your local County Extension Service for evaluation. They’ll have to send it off for testing, and for more information, follow this link: Soil Testing or just call your local county extension office.

Also, as with most fertilizers, a little wood ash goes a long way. Apply no more than 20 pounds per 1000 square feet per year. Plus, wood ashes should never be applied too close to tender roots of newly planted seedlings, so it’s best to apply them to the soil well in advance of planting time. (Fall would be great!) Wood ashes are also beneficial to lawns if applied very sparingly and watered in well.

In addition to soil benefits, wood ashes make a good natural slug repellent---just encircle the vulnerable plant with a ring of ashes and the snail/slug will not cross the line.  Since ashes won’t be as plentiful next summer when snails are munching, you might want to save some for later in a galvanized bucket.

Confederate Rose is Really a Hibiscus

Confederate Rose is a very tall perennial that grows like a shrub in most of the South. Near the coast it will leaf out on old stems, but in most areas, the tops will die back, and the plant will regrow each spring from the base.

Despite their popularity and ability to thrive in the Southeastern United States, Confederate roses are not native to the United States but come from China. They thrive in the South anywhere that they have time to open their very late flowers before fall frost. This species is a popular passalong plant not usually available in your local nursery.

Height varies from about 8 feet in the northern parts of Georgia and Alabama to about 15 feet on the coast.

Confederate Rose is an eye-catching foliage plant even before bloom, with large, soft, gray-green maple shaped leaves. Large blooms four to six inches wide open in September or October. Both double and single flowering forms are available. It is the changing of the bloom color that gives the plant its botanical name, Hibiscus mutabilis. The blooms open as a very soft pink and darken gradually to a deep pink the third day after opening. When in full bloom, the plant appears to have 3 different colored flowers all on the same bush.

Confederate Rose grows best in full sun or part shade. Although average garden soil is fine, the plant will grow larger and bloom more in good fertile soil.  As with all plants in the hibiscus family, Hibiscus mutabilis needs regular water to grow and perform well, but can withstand drought. Water whenever you see the large leaves droop.

Once winter frosts burn back the foliage, the entire plant can be cut back to make the garden more tidy. This can be done any time during the winter or early spring. Near the coast, you can let the stems stay if you don’t mind the plant becoming very large, since Confederate Rose will resprout from current branches where winters are mild. Even when the plant is cut to the ground, it will become 10 feet tall by summer’s end. You cannot make this plant stay small and compact, no matter what you do. Confederate Rose is meant to be a flamboyant, voluptuous focal point in the garden. Make sure you plant it where the large size can be appreciated.

Sources for this plant: Shady Gardens Nursery.

Goldenrod is Not to Blame for your Allergies

This time of year, many of us are suffering from nasal allergies. The more time spent outdoors in Fall, the more congestion I have. I look around me, and everywhere I go, I see voluptuous, beautiful, and very bright yellow flower spikes. This is Goldenrod (Solidago.)
Goldenrod on Highway 29 in West Point, Georgia

To me, Goldenrod has always been too beautiful for me to suspect as the culprit for my Fall allergy flareups. For years I have brought in large bouquets to fill my house with the beauty of Fall. (My favorite time of the year, by the way.)

Most people do blame Goldenrod for their Fall allergies, because when they go outdoors and start sneezing, they look around and see Goldenrod everywhere. It's all over the side of the road and in almost every vacant lot around here.

But it is not Goldenrod that is to blame. You probably have not ever noticed the true culprit. Blooming at the very same time as Goldenrod is the insignificant looking Ragweed. I had to borrow this image, because I pull up every piece of Ragweed I see trying to grow in our garden.

Ragweed image borrowed from The Weed Library
Ragweed has very small greenish flowers that you would not notice, but they sneakily put out huge amounts of pollen that floats in the air and into your nose. Here lately, we've had lots of nice breezes, and that breeze is helping the Ragweed Pollen to travel for miles.

Goldenrod is not capable of causing allergies, because it produces no air-borne pollen. Goldenrod is pollinated by insects, and only wind-pollinated plants such as Ragweed can cause seasonal allergies. (Some other wind-pollinated allergy-causers are Oaks, Pines, and Grasses.)

Another piece of interesting information: All parts of the Goldenrod plant are edible. From the flowers all the way down to the stems, each part of this plant has value and importance. The Native Americans had many uses for Goldenrod. The flowers are a lovely addition to salads, both the flowers and the leaves can be used to make tea (it is said to be bitter), and the leaves can be cooked like spinach. I intend to try some today!

For more information, visit the Allergy/Hay Fever Information Center.

Plants I Wish I'd Never Planted

If I could do it all over again, I'd plant my garden differently. Early on, when I heard the words "spreads eagerly", "reseeds freely", or "grows quickly" when it referred to a garden plant, I grabbed one (or two or three) for my garden. For some of that ignorance, I am paying dearly every single day.

1 6 inch pot has taken over and climbed to
the top of this tall pine tree in just a few years
English Ivy should never be planted directly in the ground. It's a wonderful plant for containers and hanging baskets, but if you let it touch the dirt, it will take off running and you will probably never subdue it.

Mint. It smells good when you walk on it or touch it or cut it. But if you plant mint in the garden, it will eventually spread all over your yard and probably into the neighbor's. I used to think it would be okay if you plant it where you can frequently mow, but if you do, it will eventually spread to areas where you cannot mow. That's what happened to me. I permitted Chocolate Mint to escape its container years ago out beside the greenhouse. It now covers just about every square inch of soil on all four sides of the greenhouse. And once it gets tall and begins to flower, mint is not a very pretty plant. I will never again plant anything in the mint family directly in the ground. Any type of mint is beautiful at the edge of a hanging basket, urn, or any other container like this leaky watering can where it can spill over the side, and that is where mine now resides.

Pampas Grass. Years ago, Pampas Grass became popular here, adding a tropical appearance to areas that are several hours drive from the beach. Giant Pampas Grass is very hardy even with winters much colder than ours. This large ornamental grass starts out nice enough. But it will grow so large over time that it can take over a small or medium sized garden. And when it comes time to prune it, all I can say is OUCH! Paper cuts are nothing compared to the burning cuts you'll get when you brush up against Pampas Grass. Pampas Grass is not the plant for a family with small children. If you love Pampas Grass and have a garden large enough to plant it where no one will get cut up with the knife-like leaves, then have at it. But Pampas Grass is one plant I wish I had never put in my garden.

Native Azalea Foliage Discoloration in Summer

It is normal for the Native Azaleas to have many discolored leaves during summer due to excessive heat. Native Azaleas begin losing their leaves in September, but often will drop most or all of their leaves during August in times of extreme heat and drought. Native azalea foliage is not pretty during the summer. There is really nothing you can do to prevent this. Leaf drop is a survival tactic possessed by many of our native plants that helps them survive heat and drought. Many collectors draw attention away from the unattractive summer foliage of native azaleas by interspersing evergreens and summer blooming plants in the planting area to serve as other beauty on which to focus.

Clethra: Sweet Pepper Bush

Clethra is one of my favorite native plants, but more importantly, it's a favorite plant of butterflies and other pollinators! Clethra alnifolia, better known as Summersweet or Sweet Pepper Bush, is wonderful native plant that blooms in late summer. Obviously the common name 'Summersweet' comes from the very sweet-smelling blooms that appear right in the heat of the summer. The other common name 'Sweet Pepper Bush' comes from the attractive seed capsules that closely resemble Peppercorns.

The fragrant blooms which are 6-inch long spikes last for more than a month and attract many pollinators.

There's a Clethra for every garden, since this shrub is available in both large-growing and dwarf varieties. But when I say 'available' I realize that Clethra is truly difficult to find in nurseries. Why, I do not know.

My favorite is 'Ruby Spice' since I'm a fan of pink flowers, but the white-blooming 'Hummingbird' is much sought after, probably due to the beauty of the shrubs planted en mass around Hummingbird Lake at the famous Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

If your garden requires a dwarf shrub, seek out 'Sixteen Candles'--a more compact plant that seems to have more bloom spikes than possible! The name was given to this plant by Michael Dirr because the upright bloom spikes really do resemble candles on a birthday cake. This plant is truly spectacular!

Whichever you find, you can count yourself lucky to have this plant in your garden. It requires only consistent moisture to keep it happy. (I'm sorry, I do know that consistent moisture is hard to provide in Georgia these days, but if you have a wet spot, a pond edge, a soaker hose, or even, as in our case, stopped up field lines because your wife didn't know any better than to plant a Weeping Willow in the wrong spot, this shrub is definitely worth the trouble!)

Of course, my favorite online source for native plants is Shady Gardens Nursery.

Dirt Dobber: Spider Killer

As children we called them dirt dobbers but this insect is also known as the dirt dauber, mud dauber, dirt diver, mud wasp, and solitary wasp. 

The dirt dauber is a bluish black wasp with a very thin waist. After mating, the dirt dauber builds a nest using mud, usually from clay. Here around our house, we have several types of dirt daubers, but the one we see most often is the organ pipe dirt dauber, which builds its nest in long cylindrical tubes resembling organ pipes.

What purpose do they serve? Dirt daubers are a beneficial insect that we like to have around the garden. They are predators, and they love to eat spiders. Well, any creature that kills spiders is a friend of mine. (Sorry, I know spiders are beneficial in the garden, but I come from a long line of arachniphobics). And that is why I allow dirt dauber nests to remain in the garage.

Each species of dirt dauber has its own favorite prey. The blue dirt dauber is the main predator of the black widow spider.

Adult dirt daubers stock their nest with spiders to feed their offspring. They prefer particular types of spiders and certain sizes too. They capture the spider by stinging him, not to kill but to paralize. Rather than choosing a couple of large spiders, they cram their nest with a couple dozen small ones instead. 

Dirt daubers are not aggessive and need not be feared since they rarely sting humans. They really should not be killed, but if the nest is in an unwanted place, you can use a putty knife to scrape it away. For more information on the dirt dauber, please visit

Independence Day

As you celebrate your Independence this 4th of July, remember that freedom is not free. Our military service men and women and their families pay the price for our freedom every day. If you know a current military service member or veteran, or if you see one today, say Thank You for serving you and me.

Pests in the Garden: How to fight them without Pesticides

While our gardens are full of bad insects that bite us and eat our plants, many of the bugs in our garden are not only helpful and beneficial but responsible for much of the food we eat. Many of our valuable pollinators are on the decline due to habitat loss and overuse of pesticides by both commercial farmers and home gardeners. Since pesticides cannot tell the difference between a good bug and a bad one, it is best to not use them at all. 

Yet, insects like aphids, Japanese beetles, and squash bugs can destroy a plant quickly. And fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes? In addition to those itchy bites, they carry diseases which can be fatal. What can we do? It depends on the insect really.

Here in our garden, we use a variety of different methods for insect control. We have chickens, ducks, and guineas that roam free-range throughout the day eating every bug they see. Since introducing chickens to our garden, we have seen a significant decrease in Japanese Beetle damage. Guineas love to eat ticks, I am told. And ducks just eat every bug within reach. Since I have read that geese eat snails, I am entertaining the thought of getting a goose for my garden. (Don't tell my husband.)

Aphids will usually be taken care of by Ladybugs, if you haven't killed them all with pesticides. If you don't have a good Ladybug population, you can order them online from Gardens Alive. Be sure to follow their instructions when you release them. Its really the Ladybug larva that devours the most aphids.

If you can't wait for the Ladybugs to do their job, use the safest insecticide you can, insecticidal soap. You can purchase it ready made or make your own (1 or 2 Tablespoons of pure liquid soap like Castile, not detergent, to 1 quart of water.) Spray on the undersides of leaves and only where you see aphids.

For Japanese Beetles, mix up a cup of soapy water and add a little vegetable oil. Take it outside and as you see a Japanese Beetle, knock it into the soapy water. The oil will prevent its being able to climb out. This is a good job for your little boy, if you have one.

For many plant pests like squash bugs and tomato hornworms, the best method of control is to simply pick them off by hand. Since I don't like to touch bugs and caterpillars, I use my pruners to knock them off. You can then mash them, or if you have chickens, knock the bug on the ground for them to fight over. It's been years since I've seen a grasshopper in the garden here. Our chickens used to fight over them. It was fun to watch.

For ticks and fleas, here is an excellent recipe for homemade repellent.

National Pollinator Week

National Pollinator Week is June 17 - 23, 2013. Additionally, by proclamation, Governor Nathan Deal declared this week as Pollinator Week in the state of Georgia. 

In celebration of Pollinator Week, places all over the country have planned events

Since I can find no formal events close enough for us to attend, we will have our own. This week will be spent in the garden making our environment more friendly and welcoming for the pollinators. 

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, birds, hummingbirds, moths, bats, beetles, and more. We depend on pollinators for much of the food we eat. You have probably heard of the decline of the honeybee due to disease, loss of habitat, and excessive or improper pesticide use. Many other pollinators have shown as much as a 90% decrease in their populations. We all need to do our part in helping to insure the preservation of all of our pollinators. To attract more pollinators into our garden, my children and I will be planting more flowers this week. 

One of the most important things you can do to help pollinators in your area is to plant native plants. Native pollinators need native plants. 

Another thing, do not use pesticides. Pesticides cannot distinguish between a good bug and a bad one. 

For more information and ideas on how you can help, please visit The Pollinator Partnership. There is even a downloadable guide for your specific zip code to help you in choosing plants for your pollinator garden.

Gardening with Bugs

If you are a gardener, you must learn to accept bugs. In the garden, there are good bugs and bad bugs.  Bad bugs, pests in the garden, are the topic for a later discussion. There are 3 types of beneficial insects you want in your garden: predators, parasitoids, and pollinators. 

Predators such as Lady Bugs, Lacewings, and Praying Mantis eat other bugs. Parasitoids like parasitic wasps lay their eggs on other bugs or insects so their young will have something to eat when they hatch. And of course you know pollinators like bees, butterflies, and moths pollinate flowers so we can have fruits and vegetables to eat.

As a gardener, you will understand the importance of attracting pollinators into the garden. Just like birds and butterflies, insects need 3 things for survival: food, water, and a place to lay eggs.

Very important - do not use pesticides. Pesticides don't know the difference between a good bug and a bad bug, and you do not want to kill off your pollinators.

Creating a garden for the bugs is very simple. Brightly colored flowers will attract all types of beneficial insects to your garden. Choose a spot in full sun near your vegetable garden or fruit trees and amend the soil with compost. You can purchase annuals like cosmos, zinnia, marigolds, and vinca from your garden center or grow your own plants from seed.  Sunflowers are available in both annual and perennial plants. Native plants work best. Variety is important. A wide range of colors and flower types will in turn attract a wide variety of beneficial insects. For a printable list of native plants suitable for your own planting zone, click here.

Alternatives to Leyland Cypress

Having been in the nursery business for many years now, we have received many requests for Leyland Cypress. Because of its fast growth rate and thick evergreen needles, Leyland Cypress is commonly planted close together in long rows as a privacy screen. It does make a good screen and very quickly too. However, most homeowners plant them way too close together. Because a mature Leyland Cypress Tree can be 12 to 20 feet wide, it is best to plant them at least 6 feet apart. I have seen local homeowners plant them 2 or 3 feet apart. The trees will grow quickly and just fine until they are wide enough to begin touching each other. Crowding leads to disease and ultimate death, resulting in a large brown dead tree right in the middle of the privacy screen. The University of Georgia has an excellent publication available for free detailing common Diseases of Leyland Cypress.

Rather than offer Leyland Cypress at our nursery and try to educate all on the proper planting techniques, I prefer to offer some more beautiful alternatives to the Leyland Cypress.

While it is true that Leyland Cypress offers excellent screening year round, why plant a tree that is simply evergreen, when you can plant an evergreen that offers additional benefits? Your options are limitless. You can choose from evergreens with berries, evergreens with showy blooms, evergreens with fragrant flowers, or even evergreens with edible fruit. But what I suggest to you is this: why choose at all? I recommend a mixed border. With my plan, you can have privacy, flowers, fragrance, and fruit all, by planting your property line with a variety of evergreen shrubs and trees.

Holly can't be beat for a privacy screen.
Just make sure you choose one that will grow large enough, as there are many dwarf, low-growing, or compact varieties available. Additionally, not all hollies are evergreen. American Holly is the traditional Christmas Holly with spiny leaves and bright red decorative berries. A native American tree, American Holly is a very dense evergreen tree growing up to 50 feet tall. Chinese Hollies grow large also, and the heavy fruit-set attracts all kinds of birds to the garden. I like Lusterleaf Holly, for its large leaves and voluptuous clusters of red berries. Nellie R. Stevens is a cross between Chinese and English Holly. This fast-growing large shrub will provide privacy in no time, while also displaying large red berries against dark green foliage.

Camellias are a favorite for Southern gardens.
Sasanqua Camellias can grow quite fast if soil is rich and water is readily available. Blooms can be had in many colors and if you plant several different varieties, you can have blooms from September all the way to March. Japanese Camellias provide additional bloom types and colors, and with them you can extend your blooms all the way in to April or possibly even early May. Japonica blooms also make a good flower for taking indoors.

Rosa mutabilis Shady Gardens Nursery
Some varieties of shrub roses can get shockingly large, making them another ideal blooming plant for privacy screenings. Roses are mostly evergreen here in Georgia and Alabama. Knockout Roses are available everywhere now, even at the grocery store. Contrary to what is on the growing tag, they will grow up to 10 feet tall here in just 1 year's time. Another shrub rose for privacy would be Mutabilis, an old China rose known as the Butterfly Rose. This rose grows very wide, so if you have a neighbor who wants you off her property, plant this one several feet from the property line. Rugosa Rose is one we haven't got around to planting, but it is on our wishlist. Very thorny, so it will provide a barrier to keep out unwanted individuals. In addition to beautiful fragrant flowers, you and wild birds will be able to enjoy large orange or red rose hips in the Fall.

One of my favorite shrubs of all is Tea Olive. Osmanthus fragrans is so well-loved here that we have planted 6 of them already. When in bloom, our whole garden smells like fresh apricots. Flowers are very inconspicuous, but fragrance is oh so sweet! Osmanthus fragrans blooms heavily in Fall and again in Spring, with sporadic bloom all in between so that you can have fragrance in your garden almost year round. Osmanthus fortunei, also known as False Holly, has prickly holly-like leaves and flowers just as fragrant but that come only in Fall. Osmanthus Orange Blossom has masses of tiny orange flowers that, yet again, are just as fragrant as Osmanthus fragrans.
Orange Blossom Tea Olive also blooms just once a year in Fall, but all 3 of these large growing shrubs provide year round privacy with their dense evergreen foliage that is not usually bothered by any pests or diseases.

Edible plants are gaining in popularity for home-gardeners, probably due to the high cost of produce with the additional threat of food borne illnesses and pesticide contamination on store bought fruits and vegetables. Fruit-bearing evergreens are perfect for a privacy screen. Blueberry shrubs can develop into a nice dense bush when planted in full sun and given plenty of water. While not completely evergreen, blueberries are mostly evergreen in warmer areas of Georgia and Alabama. If citrus is hardy in your climate, Meyer Lemon and Loquat are excellent as an ornamental privacy screen. Fragrant blooms in summer develop into tasty and attractive fruit in winter.

These are just a few of my favorites, but you might also consider Gardenia for fragrant blooms. Evergreen viburnums provide both fragrant blooms and often showy berries too. Loropetalum has deep purple foliage and bright pink blooms in several months out of the year. Actually, I could go on and on. So I will stop here. Go ahead and get started on your beautiful privacy screen and check back soon for some additional recommendations for plants you can add as you're ready.

This last photo is not my own, and the shrubs are not all evergreen. But isn't this a spectacular hedge? Actually, the only time this border would not provide a privacy screen is in the dead of winter. And who's sitting outside then anyway? Not me.

Eucalyptus Silver Dollar Tree in the Garden

Most of you know that Eucalyptus cinerea, also known as the Silver Dollar Gum Tree or Argyle Apple, is commonly used in floral arrangements. But you might not realize how easy it is to grow your own.

Eucalyptus has very fragrant but also beautiful blue-green foliage with a silvery cast. During cold weather, leaves often turn a rosey burgundy. Eucalyptus makes a great specimen plant, but also looks great massed in groups of 3 or more. Bark is cinnamon-colored and exfoliating, adding to the beauty of the tree.

Warm summer breezes send the fragrance of eucalyptus all over the garden.

Eucalyptus cinerea is an evergreen tree that will grow up to 60 feet tall fairly quickly. 

Eucalyptus cinerea
 Shady Gardens Nursery
This variety of Eucalyptus is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 11, tolerating light frosts with no leaf damage. When temperatures dipped down into the teens here, our trees showed some damage but quickly rebounded. This species has been known to survive winter in Zone 6, where it will die to the ground and resprout if dead foliage is pruned away. Can also be grown indoors in a large container. Just prune it regularly to keep it the size you want.

Eucalyptus cinerea grows rapidly in an irregular form. Give it plenty of space, because the branching can grow quite wide horizontally--this tree can be up to 15 feet wide. A height of 50 or 60 feet can be expected.

Eucalyptus needs full sun and well-drained soil. Hot dry sun is not only preferred but enjoyed. 

When you plant, amend the soil with soil conditioner and sand to insure the soil is very well drained. Then water once, at planting time. Do not overwater. That's all there is to growing Eucalyptus in your very own garden.

Chihuahua Rescued

Hallelujah! The Chihuahua we found last week has been adopted! 

A very sweet girl drove about two hours one way last night to get her, after reading my listing for her just yesterday. I was overjoyed to find such a sweet new "mommy" for our little sweetie. 

We could not keep her, yet we were concerned about the kind of home we would allow her to go to. We turned down a few people yesterday, just because we had a bad feeling that they could not care for her properly. I can't help but be suspicious. Pet abuse in the form of neglect seems to be rampant around here. (For the background information on this little chihuahua, please read my previous posts.) 

Why would someone not feed a little dog who depends on them? How hard is it to just pour some food into a bowl for the little thing? If you can't provide a loving and safe environment for a pet, then you should not have one. In this tough economy, I can understand how someone cannot afford veterinary care, although that is a necessary expense when you have pets. But feeding a small animal doesn't cost much. Not feeding a little dog or cat is inexcusable.

Anyway, this story has a very happy ending, and for that I am very thankful. God bless you Suni, for taking our little rescued chihuahua and making her your own.

(By the way, she gained 8 ounces during the 11 days we had her, so I think she will continue to improve and be a very healthy and happy dog.)

Memorial Day: The Real Reason for this Holiday

As you enjoy your cook out today, remember what this day really means.

Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who have died during service in our United States Armed Forces. As you enjoy this day with your family, please take a moment to pause and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Give a prayer of thanks for them and pray for comfort for those who are still grieving their loss. And if you see a veteran today, say "Thank you" to him or her for putting themselves in harm's way for you and for me and for our freedom.
Click the picture for the link to this story

Chihuahua Update

When my husband arrived home to meet the little chihuahua we found, he examined the piece of leash that had been attached to her collar. He believes the leash was not chewed as we thought, but was cut. This further adds to the mystery of why this little dog was running around the neighborhood with a piece of leash hanging from her collar. (For more information, read my previous post.)

One thing for sure though, she has definitely not been eating enough. She is such a picky eater that I can't really be sure her owner was not feeding her. She eats very little.

This morning she has eaten some turkey bacon. She seems to love that. But last night I offered her some chicken and she refused it. Yesterday I scrambled her a fresh egg from our henhouse, and she let it sit there all day until it dried out. Finally I had to let Lady eat it. I've given her two or three different kinds of canned dog food, and she just plays with it. She has eaten a couple of the small Milk Bone Dog Biscuits, but I know she needs something with a lot of nutrition in it.

Little Found Chihuahua will eat Turkey Bacon
To be so skinny, she has an amazing amount of energy. It sure makes me sad to look down at her from above. From that angle, she looks emaciated. Also, she seems very nervous and jumpy. Of course, that could be just from being in a new and unfamiliar place. And we do have other dogs, a beagle and a border collie, and two cats. But when I walk toward her, she runs away at first, and then cautiously waits before finally allowing me to pick her up.

I might offer her some canned catfood in a bit. You know how dogs like stinky 

This is not the first time we have rescued a dog. Usually though, they just show up here. And if we can't find a home for him or her, we just let them stay. But it has been a long time since I've had to care for one so skinny. I've never seen a dog that doesn't eat much. I'm running out of ideas on what to feed her.

Besides being underweight, she appears very healthy. And she seems to be housebroken. So although she was tied out frequently, perhaps she spent some time indoors as well.

If you would like to provide a loving home for this sweet little girl, please let us know.

Chihuahua Found: Underweight and Scared

Last night as we were getting ready to leave from my Daddy's house, a little chihuahua ran up to me, shivering and nervous. I reached down and picked her up, receiving no resistance. She was wearing a new-looking pink collar. Attached was a piece of leash that had been chewed, making me think she had been tied outside unattended long enough for her to chew loose. She has been neglected, for sure.

I've seen this little dog before. Awhile back she ran through my Daddy's yard dragging a pink leash. That time I could not catch her. I was afraid she would get hung up on something or get hit by a car, but instead of coming to me, she quickly ran away.

This time, she came right up to my feet and looked up at me, as if asking for help.

Daddy said, "Aw, just put her down. She'll run back to where she came from." But my daughter said, "Look how skinny she is! She's pitiful. Look, Mommy, she's trembling."

I wondered where she had come from. Daddy said he might have seen her before, but he had no idea who she belonged to. Several of the neighbors have chihuahuas. So we took off up the street to ask around. We checked with all the neighbors in the area. We saw several chihuahuas. But no one knew who this one belonged to.

One neighbor pointed out how skinny she was. "That dog ain't been fed," he said. 

Her ribs are very, very visible. And her stomach is sunk in. 

Then he noticed the leash attached to her collar. "And look at that piece of leash! She's been tied out for a long time. They ain't checked on her. It took a long time for that dog to chew off her leash like that. I'd call Animal Control. Somebody is mistreating that dog. Call Animal Control. They'll come pick her up."

I sure did not want to do that. I know they already have too many homeless dogs to take care of. I don't like adding to that if I can do something myself. So we brought her home with us. On the way home, my son decided she was probably hungry and offered her a goldfish cracker. She wouldn't take it.

We figured she was thirsty. When we got home, we offered her some water, but she didn't drink. Wouldn't eat either. Our dogs are much larger, so the dog food we have is big chunks. Catfood will be easier for her to eat, I thought. But she wouldn't eat it. So my son said, Maybe she's used to table scraps. He offered her a piece of chicken, but she wouldn't take that either. Then he said, "Well, she's a Mexican dog. Maybe she likes Mexican food." So he put some tortilla chips in a bowl and set that down for her. She grabbed one and ate it. Then another. And another. Aha! She likes junk. Oh well, at least she ate something. And finally, she drank a little water. We took her outside on a leash to see if she would go potty. But she ran to the neared porch post, as if expecting to be tied. Poor little thing. No tying out tonight, little sweetie. She never did go to the bathroom that night. I'm thinking she was dehydrated. We kept taking her to the water bowl, but she drank very little.

Finally, it was bedtime, so we put her in a crate to sleep. She whined for awhile and then got on her blanket and went to sleep.

This morning's storms prevented us from being able to take her outside early for a bathroom break. When the storms finally let up, we were able to take her out, but she still wouldn't go potty. We brought her back inside and offered her some water and more of the cat food. She was too excited to eat or drink. Little boys are more interesting, I guess. She's watching their every move.

After a while though, she did go to her water bowl and drank quite a bit. Then back again. I guess we'll spend the weekend waiting to see if anyone claims her. And if not, I'll take her to the vet to see if she has any health concerns. I tried weighing her. It was close to 5 pounds. She appears to be full grown. Hopefully her appetite will pick up soon.

...Reprinted with permission from

Memorial Garden: My Ideas to Honor my own Mother

After the passing of my mother last year, a friend brought me a gift of a lovely garden bench with the suggestion that I start on a memorial garden in honor of my dear sweet Mother.

Mama's sudden death was very painful for me, so it took awhile to be able to bring myself to begin the project. Each time I would think on it, memories would overtake me and I'd be unable to get started toward any real progress. I'm a thinker, a ponderer, a daydreamer. When I begin a new garden area, I spend lots and lots of time just thinking, as I wander around in the garden.

It took a long while to pick the spot for this memorial garden. Recent years of drought kept reminding me of how many plants I have lost over the years because I could not keep them watered enough. I knew I had to choose a spot that could be reached with the hose.

Once I picked my spot, I began to consider plants I wanted to include in my memory garden. Since most available garden space here is in the shade, I would need shade plants. Certainly, I wanted plants that would live and flourish. I wanted plants that would be beautiful in every season. Plants that would provide privacy would also be best, as my intention was to end up with a secluded spot to sit and remember my Mother. And finally, I wanted to include some of her favorite plants and her favorite colors. This would prove to take a lot of time and planning. I wanted shrubs that would grow large over time and fairly quickly. They would need to be thick shrubs that would offer seclusion and screening. Perhaps I might want to hide in there some day to be alone with my thoughts.

I tried to make the area large enough to include a spot for the garden bench I mentioned, as well as a birdbath or some type of statuary which I might want to add later. I ended up lining out a rectangle about 10 feet by 15 feet.

Red Knockout Roses 
Initially I planned on having only white blooms, which is most often used in memorial gardens, meditation gardens, and prayer gardens. But since I needed plants that are dependable, I began with Knockout Roses and Ruby Loropetalum.

Loropetalum Ruby

I placed the evergreens in the foreground for privacy. The roses and loropetalum were planted on the corner of the spot that will receive a good bit of sun. I knew I could depend on them to at least double in size the first year. (Yes, that's right...our climate does that to Knockout Roses and Loropetalum.) 

At the back of the garden, I placed some larger specimens: Mock Orange,
Mock Orange, Philadelphus coronarius

and two types of Doublefile Viburnum, Shasta and Mareisii.
Viburnum Shasta
Although they are not evergreen, they leaf out very early in Spring and will have lush, thick, green foliage until frost. There will be plenty of privacy when weather would permit my sitting out there for any length of time. 

To finish my enclosure, I planted  a few more evergreens.
Banana Shrub, Michelia figo

Leucothoe axillaris

Viburnum Sandankwa

This project will be ongoing. Mama loved hydrangeas, so several types will certainly be included. They will be protected and accentuated by the evergreens.

I will post pictures of the finished project once the shrubs have grown.

Selling Plants Online: How to Package Plants for Shipping

In our previous post, we explored your options for selling plants online. If you missed that post, you might first want to read Selling Plants Online: How to Do It.

Once you have decided what plants to sell online and where you will sell them, you must figure out how to best package the plants so they can reach their destination safely.

We have found the United States Postal Service to be the best fit for our shipping needs, but you might prefer UPS or FedEx. No matter which carrier you choose, every package carrier is harsh on packages sometimes. It is your responsibility as the seller to package your plants safely to protect the plant.

When shipping perishable items such as live plants, it is imperative to use a quick shipping method such as USPS Priority Mail or UPS ground which both take about 3 days to reach their destination. By the way, if you choose to ship with USPS, they offer free shipping materials for shipping with Priority Mail.

Shipping plants bare root is fine during the dormant season, but I prefer to ship plants with the soil ball intact. This means less transplant shock for the plant, and it is important that mail order plants arrive healthy and still moist to insure the plant will adjust quickly to its new home. Shipping the plant with soil ball enables shipping year round, so I am not limited to shipping only during the dormant season.

The plants you decide to sell will be up to you. Once you've settled on what to offer, the following steps will help to insure your success as an online seller:

  1. Prepare the plant for shipping by watering it thoroughly and allowing it to drain. 
  2. Prune away any unsightly stems prior to shipping. 
  3. Make sure all plants are labeled, especially if your customer has purchased more than one plant. 
  4. Remove plant from the pot carefully to avoid damage to the plant and its root system. 
  5. Shake off any loose soil but leave soil around the roots. This will cushion the roots and help roots stay moist during shipping.
  6. Wrap soil ball with a few sheets of newspaper and then with plastic or just do what I do and insert the paper-wrapped soil ball into a recycled plastic bag and tie it up completely.
  7. Include in the package growing instructions for the plants you are shipping, whether it is a general planting instruction sheet or detailed to fit the individual plant. By doing this you will save the buyer some time and they will appreciate the way you do business. Also, it will cut down on phone calls and emails asking you questions about growing preferences for the plant. 
  8. If the plant has tall stems wrap the topgrowth in a few sheets of newspaper to cushion them and also to protect them from tangling with the other plants in the package. 
  9. Securely attach the plant to the box by taping the rootball into the box. This will prevent slipping around and breaking of the stems. Taping the rootballs to each other as well as to the inside of the box will help to keep any sliding from occurring. 
  10. Enclose any shipping papers you intend to include - I include a cover letter thanking the customer for their order. This makes sure they have our information so they can purchase from us again. Any personal information about your company just helps the customer feel connected to you.
  11. Securely tape the package closed using package tape. 
You are now ready to ship the plants to their new home.

Check back soon for our next installment of the series on Selling Plants Online: Shipping Methods.

Shadow: Beloved Dog, Best Friend

Our Beloved Shadow, a few years ago
Shadow, our beloved lab, has left this world. She was our loyal friend to the end. 

Lately, it has been hard for her to walk. Arthritis in her hip made walking painful for her. Yesterday, she had a stroke. Her doctor was kind enough to come out to the house to check on her for us, so that we didn't have to move her and risk hurting her. 

We were lucky that we were all able to be with her. She died peacefully. Her final resting place is in our shade garden. 

Today our hearts are broken. She will be missed. Rest in Peace, beautiful girl. We will see you again one day, in Heaven, because I know you are there.

Selling Plants Online: How to Do It

Sample of Plants shipped
 from Shady Gardens Nursery
These days, almost everyone is looking for a way to make money online. And if you are a gardener, you might have considered selling plants online.

I've done just that for several years. Since I frequently am asked how I ship shrubs, I thought I'd reveal some of my secrets. I don't fear competition, and I enjoy helping someone who might need their own way to make money as much as I did when I started.

It takes quite awhile to receive traffic to your own website. You might consider trying to sell your plants on an established site first, like ebay. I started out by selling my plants at auction on ebay. Later I opened my own ebay store. Selling plants on ebay was surprisingly lucrative for me at first. This went on for a couple of years, until a few sellers ruined it for everyone else by selling their shrubs too cheap. Don't undervalue your merchandise. You will never make any money if you sell everything at far less than it is worth. That's why those sellers are no longer selling their plants on ebay. They put themselves out of business right after they ran everyone else off ebay with their undercut prices. Set your items at a fair price that is not only reasonable for interested buyers, but fair to you. Consider the total cost of growing the plant, the time involved in packaging the plant, and also the cost of supplies and actual shipping. Your time is worth some money too.

I sell plants on Amazon also, from time to time. But there again we must compete with the sellers who are out to undercut everyone else. Also, selling on Amazon is not quite as easy as ebay for a first-time online seller.

Although you might end up building your own website as I did, selling your plants on other established sites can give you the experience you need. Ebay will advertise, and they will help bring buyers to your listings, so you won't have to.  If you've never bought anything on ebay before, I recommend you log on and do that now. That way you'll learn how ebay and paypal both work. Before doing that though, think about a unique user name related to your new business idea. My user name is ShadyGardens, but you should make yours say something about you or more importantly what you sell. Something catchy or cute is always nice.

Don't offer a guarantee on your plants beyond delivery. You are not Walmart and you cannot replace plants because the gardener who purchased from you did not properly care for the plants. And while we're on the subject of Walmart, if the plants you want to sell can be bought at Walmart, there's no need to even start. No one can compete with Walmart on price. They sell items much cheaper than you can, because they deal with huge volume. Grow and sell plants that aren't easily found somewhere else, and you will make money.

Check back soon to learn how I package plants for safe shipping. In the mean time, check out our feedback on ebay and Shady Gardens Nursery online store.

June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Oakleaf Hydrangea

This time of year our garden is always bursting with blooms, but this year has been a little different. Due to a very mild winter, everythin...