February Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Camellia Japonica

Yes, we have a camellia blooming just about all the time in our garden from September through April. Right now in the middle of February, we are enjoying the blooms on Camellia Japonica 'Lady Vansittart.' 

Also blooming now is 'Professor Sargent,' another Japanese Camellia.

Camellia Japonica, Japanese Camellia, is an evergreen shrub with large flowers in Fall or Winter, depending on species. There are so many different types of camellias that one can have blooms in the garden from September to April.

Japanese Camellia has glossy dark green leaves that can be up to 5 inches long. If on the underside of the leaves you notice specks that resemble black pepper, spray with insecticidal soap.

Blooms are also large and very showy. Some Japanese Camellias have flowers as large as 5 inches across. These camellias continue to bloom for up to 6 weeks. Flowers may be single, semi-double, or double, and some have ruffled petals or even variegated or striped blooms.

The plentiful blossoms hold up well in a vase for beautiful cut flower arrangements. 

Camellias are easy to grow. Choose a spot with dappled shade or morning sun with afternoon shade. However, some camellias can even tolerate full sun. 'Lady Vansittart' gets hot afternoon sun in our garden.

Camellias are drought tolerant once established. Here in Georgia, I have found that camellias planted before Christmas will do fine through the following summer. Camellias that didn't make it for us were those planted in Spring, so I don't advise Spring-planting for Camellias here in our hot climate.

Camellias like a rich soil, so at planting time, amend the soil with compost or soil conditioner. Water weekly if it doesn't rain, and your camellia will reward you with years of bloom at a time of year when not much else is blooming.

February Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Daphne odora

Despite all this crazy weather we've been having, Daphne odora is blooming right on schedule here in our garden.

Fragrant Winter Daphne…mmm—the fragrance is just lovely. If you’ve never had the pleasure of approaching a Winter Daphne shrub in bloom, just imagine a bowl full of fresh lemons, sliced, right beneath your nose. Scent descriptions vary for these very fragrant flowers. To me they smell like lemons but I've heard others describe the scent as that of Fruit Loops. The fragrance is very pleasing and not overpowering. The scent doesn't annoy even the most sensitive of noses. 

Daphne odora is a small evergreen shrub, reaching only 3-4 feet in height. This Daphne carries several common names. You might know it by Fragrant Daphne, February Daphne, or Winter Daphne. It is available with pink blooms or white and with straight green foliage or variegated. But all Daphne odora is both evergreen and very fragrant. Blooms come in either pink or white. 

The first time I saw it, we were at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It was so cute that we determined to find one for our own garden. That took a few years, actually. Daphne is hard to find in local nurseries and garden centers, probably because it has a reputation for being difficult to grow. Really, it isn’t, if you know what it likes. Daphne will not tolerate wet soil. It needs very little water. That can be a problem during times of drenching rains as we've had this winter. When it rains, our heavy clay soil will remain soggy, so amend the soil for drainage when you plant. Daphne prefers shady conditions, but can tolerate a little morning sun. The perfect spot would be beneath large trees on an incline for good drainage. Mix in some soil conditioner or compost and builder’s sand, and plant high—with the top of the root ball slightly above ground level. Then mulch well to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool. Water the shrub when you plant it, but don’t worry about watering it again. Can you believe it’s that easy? It is! If you live in the South, you are constantly looking for drought tolerant plants, and once you know about Daphne, it will be your favorite.

Daphne odora is a beautiful shrub even when not in bloom. The small rounded form of this evergreen shrub can fit into any garden. You simply must have one!

January Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Winter Honeysuckle

A beautiful day in the garden can be had here in Georgia. One of the things I love most about living in Georgia is our mild winters. Yes, I know it has been bitter cold some days, which can be unbearable for us cold-natured gardeners. But on those nice sunny warm winter days, I love to walk in the garden. A few shrubs are blooming now in my garden. 

One of them is Winter Honeysuckle. Lonicera fragrantissima is covered with small but deliciously fragrant flowers that begin opening anytime from late January to early February. And when I walked outside yesterday afternoon, I found Lonicera fragrantissima in full bloom. This variety of Lonicera is known as Winter Honeysuckle since it blooms reliably every Winter. This old-fashioned shrub is also known as Kiss Me at the Gate.

Although I have received emails telling me Winter Honeysuckle is invasive, we have not found that to be so in our area. I have verified this with my favorite nurseryman. A large shrub will not make more than a couple of seeds, and there are no known areas that have been hugely populated with this lovely shrub. 

An old-fashioned shrub you probably won't find in your local garden center, Lonicera fragrantissima is worth grabbing up if you find one. I'm not sure why it is not widely grown, since it is so easy to propagate and grow.

Winter Honeysuckle is somewhat evergreen here in Georgia, depending on the winter. But the best thing is that Winter Honeysuckle blooms in Winter. The small flowers are very fragrant.

Lonicera fragrantissima grows very large, reaching a mature height and width of 6 feet or more. This lovely shrub tolerates a wide variety of conditions: sun, shade, dry, moist, cool, or hot. Winter Honeysuckle should be more widely available.

January Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Loropetalum

Loropetalum Ruby
Loropetalum has become my favorite non-native shrub. Some varieties bloom off and on almost year round here in Georgia. 

Loropetalum is a Chinese Fringe Bush with pink blooms and usually purple leaves. It complements most plants and provides a nice contrast in the garden. The evergreen leaves are beautiful any time of the year. 

Blooms are a vibrant pink fringe flower and come several times a year here in Georgia. Although some growing instructions indicate Loropetalum needs consistently moist soil, I've found that requirement to be untrue. Loropetalum is quite drought tolerant here, and our summer droughts are brutal. I think the key to survival is to plant the shrub in Fall so it has time to dig its roots in deep before the heat and drought of summer arrives.

Available in a large variety of different mature sizes, there's a loropetalum suited for every garden. Lororpetalums with mature sizes of up to 6 feet according to the grower tag have easily reached 10 feet or more here, and that's even after I pruned them in an attempt to keep them smaller. I eventually gave up on that and decided to let them just be as big as they want to be. Some of our Loropetalum shrubs are actually small trees. 

Zhuzhou is our largest Loropetalum. We are using this variety in a mixed shrub planting to screen out our neighbors wire fence. It's fast growth has been much appreciated here. The vivid fuchsia pink fringe flowers on a large tree-like shrub up to 10 feet tall make this plant an eye-catching specimen in the garden. 

Loropetalum Ruby is special because it maintains its purple leaves year round and blooms profusely several times a year.We have quite a few of this large-growing variety in our garden, and they are easily 10 feet tall.

If you have a smaller garden, you'll like Plum Delight, which is a more compact shrub maturing at about 6 feet tall. Foliage is a striking blackish purple or a deep burgundy, and the dark pink fringe flowers are larger than those on other varieties.   

Purple Diamond is an even smaller shrub considered to be semi-dwarf at a mature size of about 5 feet tall and wide.

The smallest development I know of is Purple Pixie, which is a dwarf shrub with a lovely cascading habit that will only be about 3 feet tall at maturity. This one is beautiful in a large pot. The leaves stay deep purple year round here in our garden.

If you visit our garden, you'll notice I am a collector of Loropetalum shrubs. We have twelve or more, and I keep planting them. Loropetalum is one the easiest to grow shrubs one can plant. And I love anything that blooms several times a year! As far as I know, Loropetalum is not invasive, so it is welcome among our native plants. If you don't have Loropetalum, you should get one. Or two, or three!

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...