Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sunny Days and Winter Blooms

Winter is  the time we replenish our water reserve in the southeast that gets drained quickly in spring, summer and fall. This month we have been making up for lost time in the rainfall department. But today the big yellow ball finally showed itself in a brilliant blue sky and the winter blooms were plentiful.

The hellebore are in their element at this time of year...

The Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Winter Gold' that I have been blogging about is finally starting to bloom.

Witch hazel is also beginning to show its streamers

Some early daffodils were out at the State Botanical Garden when I went to my Native Plants certification orientation. 

And their Camellias' are way ahead of mine.

But the big news in gardening this week (well, other than the marriage of National Wildlife Federation and Scotts Miracle Gro) is that the USDA published their new plant hardiness zone map (click here to view). You can search by your zip code making it very user friendly. Has your zone changed? My zone moved from 7b to 8a. What does this mean for my garden? Well, our average annual minimum temperature has changed from 5 - 10 degrees to 10 - 15 degrees over the past few years.

So I now have a larger variety of plants to choose from and can include plants selectively that grow in zone 8. I certainly won't complain about that.  It also means that my frost dates have moved and my growing season will  be a little longer. My first frost date changed from April 15 to March 15 and last frost date from October 15 to November 15. While the zone is a good place to start in determining if  a plant will survive in a particular area, exposure, moisture, snow fall and humidity also play an important factor.

Since my winter has now officially been cut shorter I'd better get started on my seeds because growing season will be here a little earlier this year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

W4W: Reflection

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air, 
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flowers,
speaks to me.

The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.

And my heart soars.
~ Chief Dan George

Joining Garden Walk Garden Talk for Word for Wednesday.

Friday, January 20, 2012

An Education in Native Plants

This week I attended a Native Plant Symposium sponsored by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the Georgia Garden Club. I heard six speakers that shared their vast knowledge on gardening with wildflowers, trees and other native plants, landscaping and design, conservation, and gardening for wildlife. It was very informative and I came away inspired and excited to get back out in my garden and start incorporating more natives into my landscape.

Of course there were native plants for sale and of course I had to buy some! I am sure that I will blog about my purchases over the next year once they become established and I can show more of the plant than the stalks and minimal foliage that currently grace the containers.  

There is one plant that I am so  excited to have in my possession I will give you a little preview now. Why you ask? Well, it is a native plant to Georgia which is listed as threatened. It is the Georgia Aster 'Symphotrichum georgianum'.

Photo credit: Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources

This is a perennial herb native to Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina. These flowers require cross pollination in order to set seed so I purchased two plants. It is differentiated from the other late blooming asters by its dark purple flowers and white centers.

There are only 30 populations of these plants that have been observed in Georgia but only 15 of these small populations have survived. Eight of them are in State or National Forest lands. Habitats have been destroyed from the use of herbicides along roadsides, the invasion of non-native invasive plants and development. 

The Georgia Aster is threatened and is a candidate to be federally protected so I was issued a certificate showing that the species I purchased was collected legally.

This is just a taste of what I am going to get as I have enrolled in a certification program in native plants from the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. It is a knowledge based, field directed program which requires 80 hours of course work, electives, field trips and volunteer service to complete. My first class starts tomorrow and covers winter tree identification; something I admit I could use some extra study in. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

GBBD: January 2012

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day has arrived. Can you believe we are already half way through the first month of the year? My zone 7b garden has been experiencing a fairly mild winter so far. As I drive around the countryside I am seeing signs of spring....some daffodils and cherry trees are blooming already. But the winter blooming flowers are saying "hold on, not so fast!"  "We haven't had our time to shine".  And Mother Nature answered by blowing in some more winter like temperatures this weekend.

My hellebore have been shooting up new growth, budding and blooming.

The  heather mingled amongst the azaleas are blooming and giving some winter color to the garden.

Erica x darleyensis 'Mediterranean White'

The rosettes of the dragon's blood sedum  are  their signature red and pop against the dull grays and browns of the surrounding landscape.

Sedum spurium 'Dragon's Blood'

The Oriental Paper Bush I showed last month is slowly starting to open. I am so anxious to see these blooms since they are  new to my garden this season. Maybe I will have a full bloom to show next month.

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Winter Gold'

The camellias are also working hard to bloom

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka'

as is the witchhazel.

Two plants, considered weeds by most, are readily blooming. Dandelions, a member of the Asteraceae family, are edible. Often used as a tea it helps kidney function and dissipates gallstones. They are remarkably nutritional being extremely high in vitamins A & C and beta carotene and potassium, iron and copper. If you do eat them be sure that they haven;t been treated with chemicals.

dandelion flower head
The pollinators that were out during our balmy 'winter' days surely appreciated the henbit that is happily spreading in our lawn and the hill garden. Henbit is considered a very invasive annual winter weed that is common throughout the southeast. It is a member of the mint family and is edible, raw, cooked or as a tea.

What is happening in your garden this month? Do you have blooms that are out of season too? Be sure to visit May Dreams Garden to see what is happening in other gardens around the world.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Big Box Surprise

Yesterday I was at a big box store desperately looking for a new coffee maker. We've had the worse luck with coffee makers...they seem to break after about 1 year...just after the warranty expires. Having done a lot of research on line and narrowing down my search I saw that one of the big box stores had a limited quantity. When I arrived at the store, they didn't have the coffee maker I wanted in stock (I guess that would be the limited quantity part). Utterly frustrated I decided to take a walk through the Lawn and Garden department thinking that would make me feel a little happier. Now, normally I don't purchase plants from big box stores because (1) historically I haven't had luck with the plants surviving (diseases or bug infected) and (2) I like to support my local growers & nurseries.

But, while I was walking around my eye was drawn to a rack of blue, no indigo, no cobalt blue colored plants. Whatever shade of blue, they were electrifying... (*note these photos look more violet/purple than blue. I couldn't get my photos to the true color)

They looked like something from the daisy family. The tag identified it is Senetti Pericalllis, commonly called Cineraria. Well, as I was standing there admiring them an employee came up and said that they were 50% off because they had come in too early; making them $6.00. Well, that certainly made them even more appealing.

So I started to justify and at the same time talk myself out of the purchase...Are they native?...No, they come from the Canary Islands. Are they drought tolerant?...No, they like consistently moist soil (don't let them dry out). Is it a perennial?...not sure in my zone (7b); probably more for pots. They can take light frosts and temperatures to 32F. 

What a tough decision. It doesn't really fit the profile of the plants I choose for my garden. However, they were so stunning and for $6.00 hard to pass up. After all, blue is my favorite color, they add some much needed color at this time of year; even though I will have to keep them in the house for a few weeks before the danger of night frosts have past. 

In the end I took the plunge and purchased one.When I got home I read that they can have as many as 200 blooms in a 10 to 12 inch pot. Wow!

The Senetti Pericallis was a nice surprise purchase which brightened my day even though, I am still searching for that coffee maker...