Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cherry Blossom Time

Every year I look forward to...

Cherry Blossom Time!

With the combination of warmer days, sunshine and a little rain my cherry trees burst into bloom this past week. 

The bees are very happy! As I walk up to the trees there is a lot of buzzing going on! There are hundreds of them on each tree flying from one blossom to the next.  The sun is shining, skies are blue, buds opening, bees buzzing and I am doing the happy dance!

There are twelve of these trees lining our property (we have a corner lot). Amazingly, the builder put these trees in (not your standard builder landscape tree of choice). The tags on the trees identified them as Kwanzan Cherry Trees. But Eve over at Sunny Side Up pointed out that Kwanzan have double blooms. Thank you Eve! So I did a little research and I believe that the trees were mislabeled and I have Okame Cherry Trees. The blooms are the same/similar color as the Kwanzan (vibrant pink) but the Okame are a single bloom variety and the earliest bloomers of all the cherry trees. This more accurately describes my trees.

None the less, the trees are gorgeous this time of year. The show only lasts about two weeks so we have to enjoy it while we can.

For my dear friends who are still under a blanket of snow I hope this brings a little sunshine to your part of the world. For my warm weather friends I am joining you in doing the happy spring dance!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: First Spring Blooms

(taken yesterday)

In order of appearance:
Hellebore Ivory Prince
Kwanzan Cherry Tree Blooms
Japanese Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume 'Kobai')
Emerald Cushion Blue Creeping Phlox

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Arbor Day in Georiga...Plant a Tree

Georgians celebrated Arbor Day on Friday. In 1941, the Georgia General Assembly set the third Friday in February as the state Arbor Day. While National Arbor Day is the third Friday in April, many states dedicate another day in the year as the state Arbor Day (Arbor Day Dates Across America) based on the time of year when it is best to plant trees. In Georgia, trees planted between October and mid-March have the best chance of becoming established before our summer heat sets in.

This weekend Mr. Southern Meadows and I added a few new trees to the woodland garden. Earlier this week, we took a trip to one of our favorite nurseries here in Northeast Georgia, Full Bloom Nursery and purchased two dogwoods (Cherokee Brave and Cherokee Princess), and a coral bark maple.

Here in Georgia our dirt is actually clay, Georgia red clay (a.k.a brick). As much as Scarlet O'Hara learned to love this clay, I haven't found the same enthusiasm. While some plants like kudzu grow ravishingly well in the clay, for most plants the density of clay makes for very poor drainage and provides limited oxygen. For most transplanted trees this is a recipe for death. So, there are several steps we took to make the environment more friendly for the health of our new trees.

First, Mr. Southern Meadows dug a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball of the tree.


We filled the hole with some rich, organic, soil which is enhanced with some nice, smelly, cow manure.

We took the tree out of the growing container and gently loosened the soil around the roots so that they can establish themselves better by making optimal contact with the dirt. Placing the tree in the center of the planting area so that the rootball is just below the ground level.

Backfill the hole with the soil from the growing container, organic dirt and a little bit of the clay soil.

Water the tree with several gallons of water to settle the soil and remove air pockets that may be around the roots.

Cover the entire area around the tree with 2" to 4" of good organic mulch keeping the mulch 1" away from the base of the tree.

The Cherokee Brave Dogwood (Corrus florida) that we planted is native to the eastern U.S. It has pink blooms in mid-May and is considered one of the best red forms with its deep pink bracts that have a white center. The bracts are actually not part of the flower, the actual flower is the small central portion where the bracts join together.

Photo courtesy of Lavalette Nursery

In the fall red berries appear on the tree and the leaves turn deep red to burgundy. I can't wait! We planted this tree in the understory of some larger trees in the woodland garden. This will provide the partial-shade that it prefers but enough sun to allow for a nice show of blooms. A nice addition of this variety is that it tends to be more disease resistant to powdery mildew than some varieties.

Another variety of the Corrus florida that we purchased is the Cherokee Princess. This dogwood has very large white bracted flowers, up to 5" across, and blooms heavily every year.

Photo courtesy of Moon Nurseries

I am so enamored with the Coral Bark maple 'Sango Kaku' (Acer palmatum) that we put in last fall that I wanted to get another one.

The photograph above is the foliage during the spring and summer months. In fall the leaves change to a butterscotch yellow (photograph below).

And then it transforms itself into this gorgeous coral.

It is just an incredible tree all year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. So when Arbor Day comes around in your neck of the woods why not plant a tree!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dragon's Blood & The Bees

Last week Donna at Garden's Eye View did a post on one of her favorite plants, Columbine. Donna has an incredible selection of Columbine and I encourage you to check out her beautiful post. As part of the Project Save the Bees Donna did a seed give away asking gardener's to name their favorite pollinator plant. My answer to this question was Sedum. I have several varieties of Sedum in my garden and they are always covered in bees when they are in their summer bloom. To my delight, I won some seeds! I've never won seeds before so I am really looking forward to receiving them and I will do a full post on them when I get them planted and growing. In the meantime, I thought I would do a post on one of the Sedum I have in my garden...Sedum spurium Dragon's Blood stonecrop.

I am fascinated by plant's names and Dragon's Blood is such a great one! It just seems like something from another time. It makes me think of sorcerers, dragons and wizardry. Maybe something magical and mysterious going on in the garden. The word sedum is from Latin "to sit" and stonecrop refers to their seeming ability to grow out of stone. Stonecrop make great ground cover plants, often seen in rock gardens.

I am captivated by plants that provide great blooms and fabulous foliage. The ruby-red star flowers are stunning and the purple leaves that come on later in the spring are splendid. It has a great pink blooms in the summer time which the bees and butterflies love. These are all shots I took in the garden yesterday. You can see that even in my zone (7b) it provides interest all year round and is also rabbit and deer-resistant as well as a drought tolerant plant.

Whereas it makes a spectacular ground cover it can be invasive as it spreads easily. I have mine in a pot where it can spill over the edge. This keeps it protected from the dogs and the kids who tend to run through the flower beds sometimes rather unobservant of where they are trotting. This pot sits on an old tree stump where it gets full sun and compliments the spring blooms of the azaleas and knock-out roses that surround it.

The blooms that adorn the Dragon's Blood in the summer months are covered with pollinators. The decline in the honey bee population has been in the news lately. As gardeners we need to keep on gardening to provide our local honey bees with the nectar and pollen they can collect from flowers in our gardens. Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist at Mississippi State University in his recent article The Trouble with Honey Bees  published in Georgia Gardening Magazine, recommends limiting our use of insecticides. Don't spray unless all other alternatives have failed. If you need to spray treat at a time when foraging bees are not present which is at dusk after the bees have returned to the hive for the night. If you are interested in reading more about gardening for bees Audubon Magazine has an article about incorporating flowering plants and vegetables into your landscape to help your local bees.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Things You Didn't Know About Me

 Go Right In...My Garden and Casa Mariposa have both awarded me the Stylist Blogger Award. What an honor! I am so very appreciative that they thought of my blog. Thank you!

Here are the rules when accepting this award:

1. Post a link back to the person that gave you the award.
2. Share 7 random things about yourself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered bloggers
4. Drop them a note, and tell them about it!

So, here are seven things you probably didn't know about me...

1. The seemingly easy question "where are you from?" stumps me because
I have lived in 7 states in the United States (Michigan, Washington State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, Georgia, and Texas) and 3 different countries (Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands) and the longest I have lived in any one house is 8 years.

2. I speak 4 languages, some more fluently than others (German, English, Dutch, French).

3. I am a morning person but don't ask me to carry on a civilized conversation until I have had my morning cup of  coffee.

4. Georgia O'Keefe is my favorite painter.

5. My dad was an excellent, amateur photographer and it is because of him that I developed my passion for photography. I use to help him develop his photos in his basement darkroom when I was a child. My dad and Ansel Adams are my idols.

6. Although I love to travel, I equally enjoy being at home. My best days are spent out in the garden, baking and cooking for family and friends or decorating my house.

7. My favorite movie genre is Period Piece Dramas.

I follow many blogs that are smart, funny, intellectually stimulating and full of personality. They all deserve this award. Here are a few blogs that I have most recently discovered.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Images of Love in the Garden

Let love be the sweet elixir that awakens your spirit and moves your soul to dance. -Unknown

Happy Valentine's Day Y'all!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Garden is Awakening

We have gotten past mid-winter. One of extreme cold. But the cold can't last forever. In the next six weeks alone the daytime average should increase by 15 degrees or more and my garden is starting to awake from its winter slumber.

The witch hazel is exploding into bloom as if to celebrate the near end of winter. Each flower flaunts four petals that look like tiny yellow streamers. Yelling "its party time!"

This witch hazel was planted at the perimeter of the woodland garden late last fall and established itself enough to make it through the winter. The blooms started to bud out at the end of January. Just in time for a few warmer days earlier last week which brought out some of the pollinators.

FUN FACT: The horticultural name Hamamelis means together with fruit. A rarity among trees, the fruit, flower and following year's leaf buds all appear on the branch at the same time.

Another winter faithful is the hardy and extremely vigorous hellebore. They are just beginning to poke their heads out of the ground to say "H-E-L-L-O! Did you miss me?"

It won't be long now until they burst into bloom...

This deer-resistant, long-lived tough perennial is a stunner in my shade garden.  Their blooms come in all shades of green, pink, purple and white.

The seeds will readily germinate. However, they do require stratification and typically it takes two years before the plant will bloom.

A new addition to Southern Meadows is a Japanese flowering apricot tree (Prunus mume 'Kobai') which was an impulse buy. Surprise, surprise! But truly, what gardener isn't seduced on occasion by the beautiful plants chanting "buy me, buy me". Sometimes they even start bellowing... "Take me home! You need me!"

The downside to an impulse buy is that it usually takes me a long time to figure out just where to put my purchase and this was no exception. The flowering apricot tree grows 15-20 ft. tall so it needs space. I also had to find a spot with sun to part sun. Another consideration was the bloom color which is suppose to be red. I want it to compliment any other blooms in the area. Needless to say with all these placement factors running though my mind I just couldn't decide on the right spot. Spring passed, followed by a hot, humid and very dry summer, ensued by a dry fall and then an exceptionally cold winter. At long last, with a lot of coaxing by my husband, it got planted this January half way to the woodland garden from the back drive. And yet despite sitting in the plastic nursery pot  all these seasons it is full of buds this spring. I think this is an excellent indication that it will do very well in my garden.

Stay tuned more blooms are on their way soon.

"No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden" 
- Hugh Johnson

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Talk to the Animals

Wreathed Hornbill

If we could talk to the animals, just imagine it
Chatting to a chimp in chimpanzee
Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah
What a neat achievement that would be.

Emerald Tree Boa

If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Maybe take an animal degree.
We'd study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle,
Alligator, guinea pig and flea

River Otter

We would converse in polar bear and python,
And we could curse in fluent kangaroo.
If people asked us, can you speak in rhinoceros,
We'd say, "Of courserous, can't you?"

Low-land Mountain Gorillas

If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Think of all the things we could discuss
If we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals,
Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,
And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us.

Kori Bustard

Lyrics and music by Leslie Bricusse
as sung by Rex Harrison in the movie Doctor Dolittle
(Photos taken at Atlanta Zoo)