May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea
 in Late Spring at Callaway Gardens
I know I've written this many times, but the Oakleaf Hydrangea is my very favorite hydrangea, for several reasons. Hydrangea quercifolia, commonly called the Oakleaf Hydrangea, is beautiful all the time.  

In summer, large blooms appear that attract much attention. The panicles of white blooms appear in May. These creamy white blooms can be quite large, depending on the cultivar. Blooms on 'Alice' can be up to 12 inches long, which makes for a spectacular display.

Late Summer Blooms
at LaGrange College
By late summer the white blooms change to a rosey purplish pink, hanging on into fall. 

In fall, the leaves turn a rich mahogany red, contrasting beautifully with the then dried rosy brown flower stalks used by many in floral arrangements. 

Oakleaf Hydrangea Fall Foliage
 at Shady Gardens Nursery

In winter, the branches exhibit lovely cinnamon colored exfoliating bark, and the large flower buds already forming are attractive. In spring, the new leaves are a reddish purple. So you see, Oakleaf Hydrangea is truly beatiful in every season!

Hydrangea quercifolia is much easier to grow than other hydrangeas. The fact that it is native to the southeastern United States is probably the reason for that. It’s accustomed to our summer droughts, making it more drought-tolerant than other hydrangea. It isn’t picky about soil. And Oakleaf Hydrangea can take more sun than most other hydrangeas.

Oakleaf hydrangea is one of our most beautiful American native shrubs, and should be in every garden.

May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Mock Orange

Philadelphus coronarius
Sweet Mock Orange or English Dogwood
Blooms are spectacular this year on my Philadelphus coronarius, most often referred to as Sweet Mock Orange or English Dogwood. Our established shrub is completely covered with the fragrant dogwood-like white blooms.

Philadelphus coronarius is a deciduous shrub that grows quickly into a large shrub, so give it plenty of room. 

Because of our very mild winter, Mock Orange bloomed a little earlier than usual this year. Usually blooming in late May, the Mock Orange reached its peak bloom the first week of May here in our Georgia garden.

The white flowers with 4 petals smell like orange blossoms, hence the common name Mock Orange and resemble blooms on the Dogwood Tree. Leaves are tender and dark green. On the Sweet Mock Orange, even the bark is lovely, which is exfoliating and orange-tinged. 

This large growing shrub will eventually be up to 12 feet tall and just as wide with a rounded habit, so it's perfect at the edge of the property. 

Philadelphus coronarius can be grown in full sun to light shade, but ours is in pretty much full shade here in Georgia. It might get a little peak of morning sun, but I don't think so. 

Although rich fertile soil is best, our soil is hard clay, and our large shrub gets no supplemental water. This year we received more than enough rain during the Winter and Spring, which might be why our plant showed out so well this time.

Mock Orange is a popular old-fashioned shrub in the Southeastern states, and although it might look delicate, it can be grown in most of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4-7.

If you want a hedge of Mock Orange, for Summer privacy perhaps, space them about 5 feet apart for good screening. The shrubs will quickly grow to fill the space. 

If pruning is needed, do so immediately after blooming by removing old canes at the base and cut back remaining branches to create a rounded shape. If your space allows it, don't prune your Mock Orange at all. 

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Fruit Shrubs and Trees

Before we can feast on the fruit from our growing collection of fruiting shrubs and trees, we get to enjoy the flowers. Some of the prettiest flowering trees in the South are fruit trees. 

Blueberry Flowers
Blueberry Bushes have cute little white blooms in clusters that attract pollinators. Blueberry Shrubs are all-around attractive, really. In Spring you have the blooms against newly developing blue-green leaves. In mid-spring the blueberry fruits develop, beginning as green drupes that gradually ripen into dark blue juicy fruits loved by people and wildlife. Attractive foliage remains until Fall when leaves turn all shades of orange, red, and burgundy. Some or all foliage remains into winter, depending on the temperatures of that particular winter or which part of the country you are in. Blueberry Bushes are gaining in popularity as the word gets out about how nutritious the fruit is and how easy the shrub is to grow. Homeowners are even incorporating Blueberry Bushes into their flower beds and foundation plantings. I've seen a few local businesses adding Blueberries to their commercial landscaping. How exciting!

Crabapple Trees have been used in landscaping for years. The flowers are beautiful, covering the tree canopy with loads of flowers in various shades of pink. But many Crabapple Trees produce a fruit that is not only loved by wildlife but edible for humans as well. 

Peach Trees are not known for being easy to grow. Some maintenance is required. But when you bite into that beautiful peach and feel the juice running down your chin, you know it was worth all that work. 

Plum Trees are beloved by children everywhere. We love to eat the plums either green or ripe, if we can get to them before the squirrels do. 

Our Ponderosa Lemon tree is huge. Originally purchased as a Meyer Lemon, this tree produces huge lemons that have a rough, knotty skin that is very thick. The fruit is very sour and the juice is great for a marinade. When I looked up recipes to decide what to do with the abundant fruits, I found that ours was not a Meyer Lemon after all, but a Ponderosa. Oh well, I'll keep looking for the hardy Meyer Lemon I guess.
Nanking Cherry in Bloom

Our newest fruiting plants are the Bush Cherry or Nanking Cherry. Not usually grown around here, the Nanking Cherry Bushes are growing well, and we are getting lots of fruit from them this year. These bushes will grow to be about 10 feet tall and just as wide, and they produce a small red cherry that is tart and delicious. 

We have other new fruit trees that haven't yet bloomed or produced fruit, and I intend to add as many new fruiting plants as I can until I run out of room.

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Lady Banks Rose

One of the easiest roses of all to grow is the Lady Banks Rose. Rosa banksiae is a thornless rose producing soft fluffy blooms in early Spring. Lady Banks Rose is almost evergreen here in Georgia, if temperatures don't drop below the 20's. 

Lady Banks Rose is drought tolerant and disease resistant by nature. This lovely rose tolerates poor soil too.

Lady Band Rose is an easy care rose that is thornless and almost evergreen here in Georgia. It is a climbing rose that is beautiful growing on a pillar, arbor, fence, or trellis. 

Although Lady Banks blooms only once a year, in Spring it is absolutely covered with small fluffy double blooms.  Blooms are slightly fragrant and come in either yellow, Rosa banksiae 'Lutea', or white, 'Rosa banksiae 'Alba plena.' 

Rosa banksiae originated in China but was introduced to Europe in the early 1800's.  Lady Banks was very popular in the Southern United States during Antebellum times and was usually found on old plantations of the South. The largest rose in the world is a white blooming Lady Banks Rose that was planted in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1885. 

Plant your Lady Banks Rose in full sun for best bloom. This is a fast-growing strong rose that will quickly become very heavy, so plant it near a very strong support. Those inexpensive little trellises at the discount store will not work.

Lady Banks Rose is evergreen in USDA Zones 8-10, but is hardy in colder zones 6-7 where it will lose its leaves in winter. Banks Rose is said to withstand temperatures down into the teens, but we have single digit temperatures every so many years and our established plants lived through that. 
Once established, Lady Banks Rose is quite drought tolerant, but be sure to water regularly the first few years. Lady Banks is somewhat hard to find in nurseries, so you don't want to have to try to replace it.

Lady Banks, unlike many other roses, can be grown near the beach since it tolerates salt spray.

Lady Banks is not bothered by diseases and pests that infect most roses, so you won't need to spray at all.

If you don't have an arbor or trellis, Lady Banks can be grown as a free-standing shrub rose, but must be drastically pruned yearly to keep it in check. If pruning is needed, do so immediately after flowering. 

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Japanese Kerria

Kerria japonica 'Plena' or 'Pleniflora'
One of our most sought after plants for early Spring bloom is the Japanese Kerria, often referred to as the Japanese Thornless Rose. Vibrant golden yellow blooms are visible from a great distance. The long green stems of Kerria japonica 'Plena' are absolutely covered with bright yellow flowers that look like pompoms. We also grow a single blooming Kerria known as 'Shannon.' 

Kerria is an arching, shrub-like perennial that sends up many suckers forming a thicket of green stems that remain green even into the winter. Although leaves fall off after the first frost, the green twiggy mass is attractive.

Give Kerria plenty of room to grow, since it will be 5-7 feet tall and up to 6 feet wide at maturity. Kerria loves water, and it will grower larger and larger with ample water. 

Kerria japonica 'Shannon'
Kerria likes some shade, and will bloom quite well with no sun at all. However, regular water is needed for Kerria to grow well. We have a couple of plants in shade that receive no supplemental water, and they need to be moved. We seldom see a bloom on those. If water is available, Kerria 'Plena' will bloom profusely in early Spring and then sporadically throughout the Spring and Summer. 'Shannon' blooms only once, in Spring.

Kerria Japonica looks like a tropical plant but is quite easy to grow and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. That's amazing to me.

Kerria is very popular in Georgia and the Southeastern Unites States, but it is seldom found in nurseries, and we cannot keep it in stock.

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Flowering Quince

When the bare branches of Flowering Quince burst into bloom, I know spring is coming soon. We grow 4 different varieties of Flowering Quince, and all of them are spectacularly showy when in bloom.  Flowering Quince is now in full bloom in our Georgia garden, but flowers began opening well before winter was over. 

Quince Toyo-nishiki
Bright red blooms of the Texas Scarlet Flowering Quince are the first to open in our Georgia garden. Soon after, the salmon-pink flowers of Cameo appear. Scarff's Red is another red blooming Quince that has an upright habit and is nearly thornless. Scarff's Red is a large shrub up to 10 feet tall. Jet Trail is a low-growing Quince with white blooms. My favorite Flowering Quince is Toyo-nishiki with its white, pink, and red blooms all on the same plant. This is another large Quince up to 6 feet tall at maturiy.

Flowering Quince is a thorny shrub that is an excellent barrier plant if you need that quality in a plant. Some varieties bear a small crop of 2-3 inch fruits much like an apple that can be made into jelly, but I never see more than 3 or 4 fruits on my small plants. Birds and other wildlife will eat the fruits, so I just leave them.

When not in bloom, Flowering Quince sort of disappears into the landscape with its scraggly branches, but when in bloom, it will knock your socks off. Birds love to build their nests in the protection of the spiny stems. 

Flowering Quince is one of the most drought tolerant shrubs we grow. We have several plants in our roadside garden bed that I cannot water at all. 

Plant your Flowering Quince in full sun for good flowering. I mistakenly situated some of my Quince plants in too much shade where they have not grown or flowered well.

Noteworthy Features of Flowering Quince:
  • Red-flowered quince attracts hummingbirds
  • Virtually maintenance-free
  • Attracts wildlife
  • Drought tolerant
  • Edible fruits in summer
  • Winter blooms
Everyone in the United States can have Flowering Quince in the garden, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4-10.

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Eastern Redbud

One of my favorite trees is the Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis. In very early Spring, deep pink/purple buds develop all along the stems before the tree leafs out. When driving along country roads I see these purple budded trees covering the edge of the woods all over Alabama and Georgia. 

The Redbud Tree is one of the loveliest native trees, growing wild all over the Eastern United States as far North as New Jersey and as far West as Texas.

Since Redbud is a small tree, it is beautiful near the patio even as a foundation tree, but also at the edge of the woodland. The Redbud Tree is beautiful even when not in bloom. Leaves are heart shaped and the tree has a graceful habit that is at home in any landscape style. Redbuds are usually multi-trunked, so do not prune away multiple trunks. As a matter of fact, prune your Redbud as little as possible, removing only cross branches immediately after bloom, to allow your tree to grow naturally.

Redbud Trees can be grown all over the country except for the Northwestern States where summers are too cool for them. Redbud is hardy in USDA Zones 4-9.

Mature Size is anywhere from 20-40 feet tall. 

Plant your Redbud Tree in either full sun or part sun. An excellent spot is in morning sun with afternoon shade at the edge of a woodland or naturalistic garden. 

Great companions for the Redbud Tree are Carolina Jessamine and Dogwood Trees which bloom about the same time. 

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: White Chinese Fringe Bush

I wish you could smell the fragrance coming from our White Fringe Bush, Loropetalum chinense, also known as Chinese Fringe Flower. As you can tell by the bloom, it is in the Witchhazel family.

Pink-flowered Loropetalum has been widely planted around the Southeastern United States in the last several years, used in almost every commercial landscape in Georgia. And for good reason! The many different cultivars are beautiful in every season of the year. But here in my Georgia garden, I also love the white blooming form. Although it doesn't bloom as many times per year as the purple-leafed variety having pink blooms, when in bloom, the White Fringe Bush is absolutely covered with fragrant spidery flowers! (I can't believe I called something "spidery" in a complimentary way, but only when I'm speaking of a flower.)

Although Loropetalum thrives in full sun, my White Loropetalum is planted in almost full shade, and it still blooms in a spectacular fashion.

Although I've read that the white-flowering form of Loropetalum was introduced to the United States during the 1800's, it didn't become popular until after the purple leafed varieties were introduced in the 1980's. 

White blooming Loropetalum is just as easy to grow as its purple leafed (and pink blooming) relative. Full sun to light shade will promote plentiful blooms. 

Mature size is large, 10 or more feet tall and just as wide.  Loropetalum can be allowed to grow as a huge shrub, or it can be limbed up into a tree form, depending on your space.

I have not seen this shrub wilt even in the severest drought or the hottest summer.

Loropetalums grow very well in the Southern parts of the United States, as they are hardy in USDA Zones 7-10.

I do not know the cultivar of my White Fringe Bush, since information I find online describes heights of 4 feet and ours is in excess of 6 feet tall.  That doesn't matter to me. All I need to know is what I see when I look at it in bloom in March every single year. 

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Forsythia

Known by many as  the harbinger of Spring, Forsythia explodes with bright yellow blooms in very early Spring, or sometimes even in late Winter here in Georgia. Forsythia blooms reliably every single winter, no matter what the weather conditions have been. I have seen the blooms of Forsythia open as early as January or February, or not until March, depending on what kind of Winter we are having.

Forsythia is a deciduous shrub that blooms in late winter or very early Spring with bright yellow blooms that open before leaves appear. The common name, Yellow Bells, seems fitting, because the blooms do look like yellow bells dangling along the stems. 

Although Forsythia is widely grown in gardens all over the Unites States, it is native to China. 

Forsythia blooms well even in shade
Bloom seems to be most prolific when grown in full sun, but we have a few plants growing in the woods where the bright golden yellow blooms are visible from a distance and draw attention to the woodland garden.

Forsythia does not self-sow and become invasive in the landscape, but stem cuttings root easily if you want to make more plants for your garden.

Forsythia grows very large over time (8-10 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide), so
give it plenty of room. The cascading branches are lovely when allowed to grow naturally with no pruning. Stems will root themselves when allowed to touch the ground, and this is an easy way to get more Forsythia plants. Pruning isn't necessary or desired, except to remove old woody growth or dead wood. When pruning, remove old branches to the ground, making room for the growth of new stems. This should be done in Spring, immediately after flowering, since Forsythia will bloom next Spring on the stems from the previous year.

Forsythia, also known as Golden Bells, can be grown in most of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-10.

Forsythia is a fast grower, so you can start with a very small plant. The Forsythia shrubs in our garden have proven to be very drought tolerant and are growing in poor soil that was not amended at planting. 

Forsythia is a great shrub for forcing bloom indoors before it would bloom outdoors. I like to cut long stems in early January and place them in a large vase of warm water. I can watch the buds develop into blooms that will open indoors much earlier than they would outside, reminding me that Spring is coming!

Loropetalum Zhuzhou 
Purple Loropetalum is a beautiful companion for Forsythia. Not only do they bloom at the same time, but even the foliage will provide nice contrast in the garden--Loropetalum with its purple foliage is striking against the bright green leaves of the Forsythia. You'll have to imagine this vision, since I failed to get a photograph of the two together when in bloom. 

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Japanese Magnolia

One of the showiest trees in our Spring garden is the Japanese Magnolia. Also known as the Saucer Magnolia or the Tulip Tree, this magnolia is a multi-stemmed spreading tree that often looks more like a very large shrub. 

The white, pink or purple blooms are very fragrant and appear in early Spring, usually in March. Large fuzzy flower buds are formed in winter and will begin opening  as early as February during a prolonged warm spell. 

Japanese Magnolia is easy to grow, but it loves moisture, so water it deeply during Summer droughts. Plant your tree in full sun for the showiest bloom.

March Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Bridal Wreath Spiraea

One of the earliest shrubs to bloom in our Georgia garden is Bridal Wreath Spiraea. The variety we grow is S. cantoniensis ‘Lanceolata’, which is absolutely covered with double blooms that look like tiny white roses. The blooms appear all along the stem, also resembling stems of Baby's Breath, which is common of floral arrangements. I have used Bridal Wreath stems similarly in my floral arrangements when the shrub is in bloom. 

Bridal Wreath Spiraea is very easy to grow. For the showiest bloom, plant in full sun where the large-growing shrub has plenty of room to grow. The arching stems will ultimately reach up to 6 feet tall and just as wide.

This spiraea can be grown in most parts of the United States, as it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9b. 

Spiraeas are known to be very drought tolerant, and the one in our roadside garden gets no supplemental water at all. The soil in that bed is very hard clay.

May Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing Hydrangea
 at Shady Gardens Nursery
There's nothing more beautiful right now than the lacy blooms of our Climbing Wild Hydrangea. Decumaria barbara is known by several different common names. You might know it as Wood Vamp, but it is our native Climbing Hydrangea.

Decumaria is a deciduous vine native to the Southeastern United States. Climbing Hydrangea is truly in the Hydrangea family. (Don't confuse this plant with another sharing the same common name. Hydrangea anomala petiolaris is not native to the United States but originates in Asia and blooms a little later in the season.) Decumaria barbara clings to its support with aerial roots, and it will attach itself to a tree or wall without any additional support.

Lacy  clusters of fragrant white hydrangea-like blooms smell just like fresh honey. Blooms appear in late Spring or early Summer on climbing vines. Decumaria makes a fast-growing groundcover too, but it will not bloom unless allowed to climb. Blooms are solely fertile and smell wonderful.

This easy to grow native vine is not invasive and can be allowed to climb a tree with no danger of it smothering the tree as wisteria does. The delicate aerial rootlets won't harm your tree or wall. 

Plant Native Climbing Hydrangea in shade. Decumaria barbara appreciates protection from hot sun and will bloom in full shade. It enjoys moist soil and naturally occurs in the wild on the banks of streams and rivers. It will grow very quickly in rich soil if watered regularly.

Climbing Hydrangea is a good addition for wildlife in woodland gardens. The thick vines provide good cover and nesting sites for birds and small mammals. The fragrant flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators. 

Decumaria barbara is native to Georgia woodlands but can be grown anywhere in USDA Zones 7-11.

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...