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May Blooms in My Georgia Garden: Oakleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea quercifolia

I've always said that my favorite hydrangea is our native Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia. Honestly, this shrub is beautiful in every season! In Spring, new leaves emerge that are thick, rich green, and shaped like an oak leaf. Soon thereafter, bloom buds begin to develop, and you can tell early on which stems will have a bloom. Bloom size varies from plant to plant, but each bloom is a panicle shaped cluster of smaller flowers, all creamy white. With the species, this panicle can be smallish when compared to some of the named cultivars, but it is very beautiful. Pollinators just love it.








Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake'


There are a number of named selections, of which I have only a few. The hardest one for me to find was Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake.' Large panicles of blossoms have one flower on top of another, giving it the appearance of double blooms. This plant took a little longer to establish and bloom for me, because it receives no supplemental water other than the little bit of rain we get. This year we were blessed with plenty of rain, so my Snowflake Hydrangea is sporting beautiful fluffy blossom clusters like the one in the photo.







Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice'









The most spectacular of these Oakleaf Hydrangeas has to be the cultivar known as 'Alice.' Blooms on the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea are gigantic. These voluptuous blooms spikes can be 12 inches long or more. I'd have to say this one is my most favorite of all. If I had to come up with a disadvantage of this hydrangea, it would be that the blooms are so heavy that they weigh down the branch. Some of the branches with the largest blooms are laying along the ground due to the weight of the flower spikes. I should prop them up with something.






As they dry, the creamy white blooms age to a rosy shade of pink, unless your summer heat and lack of rainfall cause them to turn a crispy brown instead. Fall foliage is spectacular on all the Oakleaf Hydrangeas. With onset of cold weather, the large leaves change to a deep burgundy color, quite visible from a distance. And in winter, after the leaves fall, you'll notice the exfoliating cinnamon colored bark.

Oakleaf Hydrangea Blooms Age to a Rose Pink
Oakleaf Hydrangea is my favorite hydrangea, not only for its beauty but perhaps more importantly for its ease of growing. Mophead Hydrangeas are quite fussy. "Oh, it's too hot!", "Oh, I'm so thirsty!", "Oh, my soil is not right!" they seem to be saying to me whenever I glance in their direction. And if I don't give in to their demands, they will punish me, by first wilting, then drying up. Or they won't bloom. And sometimes they even just up and die on me.

Not so, with the Oakleaf Hydrangea. They don't mind our dry clay soil. They don't complain when it doesn't rain. Once established, Oakleaf Hydrangeas are very drought tolerant. And although they naturally occur in the woods, Oakleaf Hydrangeas will grow quite happily in full sun. My Alice gets the worst--full sun in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day. Yes, the Oakleaf Hydrangea is truly beautiful in every season. My gardens are mostly shady, so I have all kinds of hydrangeas, but my most favorite of all is definitely the Oakleaf Hydrangea.

May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Itea virginica Virginia Sweetspire

Itea virginica, commonly referred to as Virginia Sweetspire, is covered with its white racemes today. The honey-scented blooms are not only beautiful but attract numerous pollinators into the garden. Virginia Sweetspire is an easy to grow shrub, as long as you can provide water during dry spells. Itea loves moisture and tolerates wet, boggy, or even soggy soil. But I also know it to be quite drought tolerant, since I have one that has survived years with no supplemental water. That one has grown very slowly and only blooms when we have a rainy spring like we had this year. The Virginia Sweetspire I planted more recently that gets plenty of regular water has outgrown the other at a rapid speed and shows off every year for me whether it rains or not, but it gets regular water. 

Itea likes rich soil and would love it if planted on a creek bank or the edge of a pond.  I have neither, but it does just fine at the edge of my greenhouse garden where I can water it often.

Itea is a plant that is beautiful in all seasons. During Summer after the blooms have faded, the leaves remain a rich green, no matter how hot it gets. In Fall, its leaves turn brilliant shades of burgundy to scarlet red, making it a great alternative to the invasive Burning Bush. In our climate, Itea is semi-evergreen since leaves will remain on the shrub during our sometimes mild winters. So even when not in bloom, Itea virginica is an asset in the garden.

Itea virginica is a native shrub found growing in the Southeastern United States, but can be grown just about anywhere, since it's hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. 

'Henry's Garnet' shows off larger flowers than the species and has excellent fall color. It is a larger growing cultivar reaching up to 6 feet in height.

'Merlot' is famous for its maroon fall foliage and, at only about 4 feet tall, is more compact than 'Henry's Garnet.'

Plant Virginia Sweetspire in your garden, and you'll enjoy it in all seasons of the year.


May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Pomegranate

Pomegranate Blooms
One of the showiest plants in my garden today is the Pomegranate Tree. As you can see, the large, fluffy many-petaled flowers resemble carnations. This cultivar is the very popular 'Wonderful.'

Exotic as it may seem, Pomegranates are very easy to grow in your own garden here in Georgia and Alabama. Pomegranates enjoy a hot dry summer even when planted in poor soil. In fact, Pomegranate just might be the easiest fruit tree to grow! 

Punica granatum, or as we know it, Pomegranate, loves hot sunny summers and dry, well-drained soil. It’s perfect for Georgia gardens, as long as we amend the soil for drainage. Pomegranate trees, or actually the growth habit is more like that of a shrub, require a cold winter to set fruit. That’s us—hot summers and a cold winter—at least cold enough for Pomegranates, because winter temperatures down into the 40’s is cold enough.

Pomegranate is a rapid growing plant that will ultimately be 10-20 feet tall. This large shrub can be somewhat prickly, so situate it where that won't be a problem. The large fruits are heavy, weighing down the branches.  It's best to prune the plant to keep it 10 feet or under, making it easier to pick the fruit and also to keep the branches from breaking with the weight of the fruit. 

The large fluffy bright orange blossoms appear in early summer. The fruit develops in late summer and matures into fall.  The foliage is attractive as well--new growth is red-tinged, and the leaves turn a golden yellow in fall.

With all the news lately regarding the health benefits of Pomegranate juice, we should all consider growing our own pomegranates!

May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Roses Everywhere!

Well, gardening tasks last month got me pretty far behind on my blog posts, and I missed a week in April. It's now almost the middle of May and the garden is in full bloom. Roses are blooming all over the place, so I'll show you the pictures I took this week, beginning with the most common, the very popular Knockout Rose.


We now see Red Knockout Rose every where we turn. There's a reason for its popularity. As its name implies, the Knockout Rose truly knocks you out with it's bright red blooms that completely cover the large shrub. It is so easy to grow that it is used in just about every landscaping project whether commercial or private home. You just can't beat the Knockout Rose--it will bloom almost year round in our climate.  Although the grower's tag that comes with the plant states these roses will get about 3 feet tall and wide, they grow to at least 6 feet tall every summer. I'm sure one of my Red Knockout Rose Bushes is at least 10 feet tall. I didn't prune it at all this year. I'm trying to see if it will grow as tall as the house.






This Pink Knockout Rose called 'Blushing Knockout' is a lovely soft shade that complements everything else. It doesn't seem as vigorous as the original Red Knockout, in that it does not need as much pruning to keep it the size I want. I wouldn't prune this one either, but it's planted below my office window, and I want to be able to see out. Even though this shrub is not as large as the Red Knockout, it's still well over 6 feet tall and just as wide.




We have another Pink Knockout Rose but the blooms are a deeper shade of pink, and they are double. It's eyecatching, isn't it? This one might be my favorite Knockout Rose. I just love a vivid shade of pink. My goal is to have it hide an ugly fence, and I think it'll do just that by the end of this summer, if not before. Pollinators are crazy about this rose. I think I'm not the only one who loves it.



My Yellow Knockout Rose is called 'Sunny Knockout.' Visitors tell me all the time that it's the prettiest yellow one they've seen. The photo does not do it justice, because of my lack of photography skills. I should have taken that class at the library last year. So far, Sunny Knockout has required no pruning to keep it within bounds, not that I'd want to. This one is about 4 feet tall right now, and I've had it a couple of years. I don't want to keep this shrub a certain size anyway, since it has the same job as the double pink one--to hide that ugly fence.







Carefree Beauty is one of my favorite roses. The voluptuous pink blooms are huge! This is a rose that just keeps on giving, because it blooms over and over and over again until the first frost. Blooms are as large as my hand. There is a light fragrance, especially when the bush is covered with her large flowers. Carefree blooms begin opening in April and continue to the first frost when the shrub is always still covered with buds. Large orange rosehips develop and are quite showy into the winter. This rose tolerates our very poor clay soil just fine. It is a lovely specimen rose as shown in my photo, but Carefree Beauty would make a great hedge too. I'm picturing a hedge of different shrub roses with mixed but either coordinating or contrasting colors. 


Mutabilis Rose is an old-fashioned China Rose. Single blooms begin as yellow, change to a peachy apricot, then to a deep pink, and finally reddish pink. These bright flowers in different colors all on the same bush at the same time are quite eye-catching and the reason for the common name of Butterfly Rose. This is another rose that will get much larger than the grower's tag will lead you to believe, because ours is at least 10 feet tall and even wider than that. Although blooms are not fragrant, this shrub rose is definitely spectacular in the garden. Another asset is that this rose has very few thorns, so you can clip it or prune it without gloves. I hate to wear gloves, so this is definitely a bonus for me.



My most recent acquisition is a German Rose known as the Blue Rose. Veilchenblau is a rambling rose that is almost thornless, and as you can see, it really is a shade of blue. The small blue/purple blooms with purple stamens cover the whole plant. Even though this rose blooms just once a year, I am excited to add it to my garden.  The fragrance is very nice too. Veilchenblau is classified as a multiflora rambler. This growth habit offers several growing options. It can be grown as a free-standing shrub by pruning it hard right after it blooms. It is lovely grown on a fence as shown in the photo. Or it can be tied to a pillar or column like a climber. It would be beautiful on a trellis or arbor.