The Bible of Native Plants
While I wait for spring to arrive, I’ve been spending some time reading up on the many wonderful native perennials, shrubs, and trees for the southeastern U.S. This book is quickly becoming a favorite of mine:
It starts off by discussing the importance of preserving our native plants, and the role that wildlife gardens play in our ecosystems, then gets into great detail about the various families of native plants (hollies, magnolias, maples, etc.) including growing information. I highly commend this book to anyone interested in planting native!
Trying new things this season
Stay tuned! Spring is right around the corner and I’ll get back to updating this blog again with the new gardening season! Two things I’m going to do differently this year: ditch plastic containers for fabric containers such as GeoPots or Smart Pots, that allow the roots to be air pruned so they don’t circle around in the pot. When the tips of roots are pruned, it causes the roots to grow smaller secondary roots that are better able to absorb water and nutrients, and thus a healthier root system and more vigorous plant. The second change I’m making is ditching Miracle Grow for Neptune’s Harvest fish emulsion/seaweed organic fertilizer. The fish/seaweed fertilizer contains many micronutrients not found in chemical fertilizers like MiracleGrow. The reviews I read raved about how much healthier the plants were with increased blooms and fruit production compared to traditional plant food. I will certainly report back with the results!
Fall color has arrived in my garden…many of my shrubs are aglow with yellow, orange and red leaves, as well as berries!
Beware the Japanese holly
I see them planted everywhere…front yards, public gardens and parks, parking lots, and around fast food joints. People love them for their slow, compact, lush green habit and can be easily sheared to any size or shape. But they have an ugly side…entire branches turn copper and die, with millions of tiny bumps along defoliated and discolored branches. I’m talking about Japanese holly, Ilex crenata. This is one plant I despise, and attempt to dissuade clients and fellow gardeners alike from planting. Japanese hollies look great when healthy, but it doesn’t take much for them to go downhill in a hurry. Extreme weather changes from hot and dry to moist and cool can trigger a root rot disease that quickly suffocates the plant and causes entire branches to die back, such as you see here:
Jap hollies are also highly susceptible to spider mites, nematodes, and other fungal diseases that show symptoms that closely resemble root rot. Over the last two years, I can’t tell you how many of these shrubs I had to pull out. From my experience, the odds of a planting of these hollies coming down with a disease are so high, it’s just not worth planting. Instead, I turn to more reliable alternatives like English and American boxwoods, with which I’ve never had problems with disease or pest issues. With boxwoods, you get the same lush green, compact habit and tolerance for being sheared, minus the rampant diseases that plague Japanese hollies. Many folks confuse the two, since they are so similar in appearance. You can tell the difference by looking closely at both the branches and the leaves. The leaves of Japanese hollies are slightly serrated on the edges, while the boxwoods have smooth edges to their leaves. Also, the leaves on Japanese hollies alternate up the stem, while on Boxwoods, the leaves are opposite each other on the stem.
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
Hardiness zones: 3-8
Mature size: 2-3’
Sun exposure: full sun
Soil: average, well drained
Characteristics: this classic perennial native to much of the United States is perfect for the meadow or wildlife garden as bees, butterflies, and goldfinches alike love the nectar, flower petals, and thistle seed produced by the large orange cones. Coneflower is tough…standing up to drought, heat, and clay soil like a champ, and comes in more varieties of shapes and colors than you can shake a stick at. In my opinion, the best coneflowers are bred by Terra Nova Nursery.