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November Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass at Callaway Gardens
when my Children were small
The most beautiful of all the ornamental grasses to me is Muhlenbergia capillaris, usually called Pink (or Purple) Muhly Grass.

When not blooming, Pink Muhly Grass just disappears into the background. No one would notice it at all. But in late Summer or early Fall when the pink to purple seed heads develop, all I can think is WOW! 

Usually Pink Muhly Grass comes into bloom in September but is blooming much later this year, I'm guessing due to the drought. The plants are just now in full bloom. Everything has behaved differently this year. As I wrote in my last post, we've had no rain in our Georgia garden in more than two months. None. 

That just goes to show you what a tough plant this is. Most ornamental grasses are truly easy to grow, requiring nothing special in the way of soil or water. But most ornamental grasses just don't appeal to me. I love flowers.

Pink Muhly Grass gives me the look of flowers in the big beautiful fluffy clouds that look like cotton candy held high above the foliage. When in bloom, Pink Muhly Grass can be in excess of 3 feet tall. This plant is truly spectacular in the Fall garden.  And by the way, Muhlenbergia capillaris comes in White too. What I mean is there is white blooming form, but to me it is not so eye-catching.

Muhlenbergia is a clumping grass so it will not spread all over your garden. It is a very well-behaved plant native to the Eastern United States, and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-10. 

Muhly Grass also attracts beneficial insects. I'm not sure why, but ladybugs like it. 

Muhlenbergia capillaris needs very well-drained soil, so I recommend mixing in some compost when you plant it. And although it is drought tolerant once established, water it weekly during its first Summer in your garden.
 
Pink Muhly Grass is spectacular enough to be a specimen plant, but I like the drama of a large mass of them, if you have the space. It is particularly lovely if you can plant at the top of a hill where it will be backlit by the sun.

November Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Osmanthus fragrans, Sweet Tea Olive

Osmanthus fragrans
I've been anxiously awaiting the blooms on my Tea Olives ever since Fall arrived. We've been under a severe drought here in Georgia for a couple of months now. Most of our plants are suffering, and many have refused to bloom. Some established shrubs and trees might even die. 

But there she is, my Tea Olive, blooming anyway. I admit, the blooms are not as plentiful as usual, but they are still there, and I can smell their sweet fragrance. 

Osmanthus fragrans is one of my favorite evergreen shrubs. When in full bloom, my whole garden smells like fresh apricots! 

Osmanthus fragrans 'Fudingzhu'
I must say Osmanthus fragrans is one of the easiest plants to grow. This evergreen shrub grows very large over time and does well in full sun to part shade. Not picky about soil, the tea olive tolerates clay soil and is drought tolerant (once established.) 

The most sensational bloom is in fall, but Osmanthus fragrans blooms sporadically year round. The fragrance is most notable in the evening on warmer days. Blooms are so tiny that you'd never suspect the heavenly fragrance is coming from them!

An exception to that is Osmanthus fragrans 'Fudingzhu', which has showy clusters of the tiny blooms--still with that same sweet fragrance.

Osmanthus fragrans 'Aurantiacus'
Orange Blossom Tea Olive
Evergreen foliage is a rich green that holds up well in floral arrangements. 

Osmanthus fragrance is hardy in USDA Zones 8-11, but is often seen in Atlanta which is Zone 7. Can withstand temperatures down to 10 degrees with no foliar damage.

Although we have some blooms on the Osmanthus shrubs that have been in the garden several years, I fear the we'll see no blooms this year on our Orange Blossom Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans 'Aurantiacus.'

November Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Sasanqua Camellia

Right in the middle of the Fall harvest season not much thought is given to flowers. This is the time when our homes and front porches are decorated with hay bales, pumpkins, and scarecrows.  Fall or Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons, and I love decorating with the usual harvest items like pumpkins and gourds. But I still want to see flowers in my garden.

Sasanqua Camellias give me just that. Available in many bloom colors, Sasanquas bloom reliably in the Fall every year. 

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Camellia in bloom. I was young, and I was new at gardening. I was driving through a residential area when I noticed a large, bushy, green shrub with large red blooms that looked like roses. Believe it or not, it took me a while to find out what it was! You’re probably laughing at me now, but thank goodness I’ve learned a few things about camellias since then. 

It wasn’t until attending the Master Gardener Course that I learned of the Sasanqua Camellia. Sasanquas are early bloomers, usually blooming October – December, so there is less chance of frost damaging the blooms. The fall blooming Sasanquas make great holiday decorations and gifts. Sasanqua camellias seem to be faster growing and are often larger growing than Japonica. Dwarf Sasanquas are available too--great for small gardens or even containers. Some varieties bloom so profusely that the blooms hide the foliage! 

Sasanqua Camellias prefer a sheltered site away from drying winter winds. The blooms are more delicate than those of Japonica Camellias. Bright, filtered shade beneath tall trees is ideal. Moist, well-drained soil is best, but camellias are drought tolerant once established. 

Although our garden has received no rain in over 8 weeks and Troup County is under a severe drought , the Sasanquas are beginning to bloom anyway. 

Remember that deer will eat the blooms on all camellias, so consider using a deer deterrent around them. Your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter has plenty of inexpensive deer-deterrent—the all-natural kind. Just ask the attendant which dogs are frisky enough for deer control!