Plant Damage from Severe Cold Temperatures

I don't know where Global Warming is, but it certainly is not in Georgia! Wew, it's cold! Here it is the end of February, and it's still cold. I have had just about enough Winter to last me for awhile. Although we will certainly have some warm days, we can expect another month of cold weather. All these days and nights below freezing have been too much for some of my plants.
Creeping Fig damaged by Severe Cold
Shrubs and perennials that are normally evergreen here in our climate have lost their leaves this winter. The creeping fig covering our front brick wall has turned brown. The plants climbing a pine tree behind the greenhouse are growing in a more sheltered location, so parts of those vines remain green.

Leaves on our Lady Banks Roses have all given up and fell off. Even the leaves of our Purple Loropetalum have curled up and turned brown in protest to freezing temperatures. The bright fuschia blooms that normally would have opened even during the winter remain on the shrubs but are withered and ugly. Foliage on the Tea Olive is also crispy and brown on the more exposed plants.

This winter has been unusually severe here in the Southeastern United States, so when you walk out into your garden, you might see damage you haven't seen before. We had nice warm weather this past week. But the cold we feel outdoors today reminds us that winter is not over.

On your next warm day in the garden, don't be tempted to prune away those damaged stems. Not yet, anyway. Wait until Spring is really here. Pruning encourages new growth, and if you prune now, new growth will appear. That tender vegetation will most certainly be killed with our next frost. Furthermore, those crispy stems that are already damaged can help to protect the undamaged and still green undergrowth. When all danger of frost is passed, you can trim away any dead stems, and you might be surprised at what you find.

Unfortunately, some plants might not recover. We grow several shrubs and perennials that are borderline hardy here in West Central Georgia, and some of our plants might not "come back", as we say. We will have to just wait and see.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is February 23-28, 2014. Invasive species involves more than just plants, but as you know, plants are my thing. Seeing invasive plants being sold in big box stores to uninformed gardeners is my pet peeve. 

I've written about these before, but I despise these invasive plants that are still commonly sold and planted right here in Georgia:

Chinese and Japanese Wisteria should never be planted here

Chinese Privet is dispersed when birds eat the berries

Privet in the garden center might also carry the name Ligustrum, so beware.

For what to plant instead of these invasives, please read Alternatives to Invasive Plants in the Garden.

Japanese Honeysuckle and Japanese Privet photos borrowed from Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area.

Arbor Day in Georgia

The day Arbor Day is celebrated differs from state to state due to climate differences. Georgia celebrates Arbor Day on the 3rd Friday in February. I'm running a day late, since that was yesterday. 

If you know me at all, you know I preach planting native plants, and it's no different with trees. However, we need to take it a step further. Preserving our native birds and insects depends on planting what they need, and they need diversity.

When choosing a tree for your yard this Arbor Day, look around you. There's no need to plant another of what you already have. Oaks are popular and they are a good tree to plant, with all those acorns for the mammals. But if you are like us, you probably have oak trees all around you. Take note of not only what you have but also what's growing in your neighbor's yard. Try to find something different. But native, of course. You might have to do a little research. Try doing a google search for "georgia native tree." You could stay on the internet all day if you click every link you find.

The University of Georgia has an excellent publication on Native Plants for Georgia

There are some beautiful native trees you might not have considered. If you don't already have one, I recommend you pick from these:

Sourwood in Fall

Oxydendrum arboreum
White fragrant summer blooms with vibrant red fall foliage. A much better choice than Burning Bush.

American Chestnut - Almost extinct, so if you find one for sale, buy it and plant it.

Red Buckeye in March

Red Buckeye
Aesculus pavia
Red panicle blooms in early Spring   develop large buckeye nuts that are food for wildlife. This tree might bloom as early as February when our Winter is mild. Looks like it will be March this year.

3 Grancy Graybeard Trees massed, Shawmut, AL

Grancy Graybeard
Chionanthus virginicus
Fragrant fluffy white blooms in early Spring with blackish drupes on female plants. Unfortunately the trees shown here were cut down to make way for the new burger joint.

We love wildlife of all kinds, pollinators, birds, and even deer and squirrels, so I consider them when I choose a new plant for our garden. We enjoy the blooms as much as the bees do, but I like to see berries, nuts, or some other kind of fruit develop later on that is not only beautiful, but food for wildlife. I hope you will also think of the birds and the bees along with furry friends when you choose what to plant for Arbor Day.

Plants for Pollination: Helping the Bees Year Round

Interested in providing plants for bees year round? I just found a list and thought I'd share it with you. Although the list claims to be "incomplete," it certainly is a great starting point. Perhaps you will find that you have a great number of these plants already in your garden or growing nearby. This list is for Georgia gardeners, but if you live in another state, you might find a similar list on your state's university website. I found my list on the website for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences.

Unfortunately, some of the plants on this list are very invasive and I would never recommend you plant them. Privet should not be planted in Georgia, but I bet you either have it in your yard or as in my case, on a nearby neighbors property. Privet has escaped into the wild all over the Southeast. Although my neighbor probably did not plant this invasive shrub, it is everywhere.

Also, bloom times on this list might not be the same for you. According to the list Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter Honeysuckle) blooms in April, but it blooms here in January or February, depending on the winter we get.  Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina Honeysuckle) is listed for March and April, but this native vine also blooms in Winter here, and has usually finished blooming by March in our area.  These differences are probably because UGA is in North Georgia.

Elderberries: Nature's Remedy for the Flu

If you live in the Southeastern United States, you've probably seen an Elderberry Bush, but you might not have known what it was. Elderberry plants grow in moist ditches and creek banks all over Alabama and Georgia but is native to almost every state. It's a beautiful plant with a graceful habit. Elderberry shrubs will grow up to 10 feet tall in one season, even after being cut to the ground.

The large deciduous plant has soft stems with lovely pinnately compound leaves that are bright green. 

In summer, flat white flower clusters form which develop into purplish black berries in late summer.

Elderberry is very easy to grow. The plant likes moist soil in full sun, but it is very drought tolerant. It spreads by suckers, so give it plenty of room. To control its size, you can cut it down in late winter, but it will still get very tall.

My favorite setting for Elderberry is beside a creek or a pond, but we don't have one. Our first plant was a gift from the birds, after we built our greenhouse and opened the nursery. I like to think they were showing their appreciation to us for growing native plants for them. Now elderberry shrubs keep popping up in the moist soil all around the greenhouse. You can order one from us at Shady Gardens Nursery .

Elderberry is a great shrub for attracting wildlife to your garden. The large showy flowers attract pollinators, and birds love the delicious berries.

Elderberries make excellent jelly, pies, and even wine.

Recently I learned that Elderberries have medicinal value as well. Do not confuse Elderberry with American Elder or Elder Flower. When ingesting plants or their parts, it is important to know the botanical name and not just the common name. American Black Elderberry is Sambucus nigra or you might see it sold as Elderberry canadensis which is a common sub-species.

Dr. Oz recommends Elderberry Syrup for inflammation. And recent studies show that Elderberry Syrup can greatly reduce the length and severity of colds and flu. One study even revealed that Elderberry Syrup works better than Tamiflu, cutting sick days drastically, and without nasty side effects. Additionally, Elderberry syrup might also help with sinus infections, sciatica, chronic fatigue, cancer, and even aids. Elderberry sounds like a miracle cure to me. For verification of this remedy, check out Web MD

Natural Elderberry Syrup can be purchased from health food stores, but you can make your own. I got my recipe from Kelly the Kitchen Kop. If you don't have an Elderberry Bush or are reading this when the berries are not in season, you can order Elderberry Syrup from Amazon

My husband has always said he believes God put a natural cure out there for every ailment we can have. And I think he is right!

February Pruning Tips for Alabama & Georgia Gardeners

When to prune is a question I am asked almost every day. The best time to prune a flowering shrub is usually determined by when it blooms. Typically, a plant that blooms in Spring should not be pruned in Winter. The rule is, if it blooms before May, wait and prune after it blooms. If it blooms after May, that usually means it blooms on new wood, so if it needs pruning, do it in Winter.

Here's a list of plants to prune in February:
  • Crepe Myrtle
  • Lilac Chaste Tree (Vitex)
  • Pomegranate
  • Summer-blooming Hydrangeas such as Annabelle and Peegee
  • Abelia
  • Holly
  • Summer Flowering Spireas like Anthony Waterer and Little Princess
  • Grapes and Muscadines
  • Roses, except the ones that bloom only once in Spring. Examples of roses that should not be pruned in Winter are Lady Banks and Caldwell Pink Climber.

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