Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, March 30, 2012

Isn't it Sweet

There is nothing sweeter than the smell of a Sweetshrub on a warm, southern, spring day. Clemson University describes the scent as "fruity often a pineapple, strawberry, melon, banana or bubble gum fragrance". The scent is highly variable from plant to plant sometimes even described as spicy. Those in my garden happen to be amazing. It is very sweet. We still haven't decided exactly which fruit it smells like but it is heavenly. The sweet smell drifts through the woodland garden. The leaves of the sweetshrub are also aromatic. If you run your fingers across the leaves you will detect a spicy aroma. 

Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) is known by many names...Carolina allspice, strawberry bush, spice bush and bubby blossom. The story is that back in the days before deodorant woman would pick these blossoms and stuff them in their bodice of their dress giving rise to the nickname bubby blossom.

Sweetshrub grows naturally as an understory shrub in forests and woodlands in these parts. They enjoy the conditions of native habitats which provide moist, well-drained, loamy soil with dappled shade. The berries are poisonous in large quantities and should not be mistaken for allspice plant used for culinary purposes. The plant is also deer resistant making it an attractive choice in gardens that deer frequent.

When my husband was clearing the land which is now our woodland garden he discovered the Sweetshrub struggling to survive as it was being suffocated by blackberry vines. We have spent the past three years slowly rehabilitating the shrubs to a better shape by letting new suckers grow and then pruning out the older, leggy growth. 

Sweetshrub makes a wonderful foundation plant creating a great backdrop to other perennials and shorter shrubs. Because of its fragrant qualities it is often planted near decks and patios. It is native to the East Coast, found in Pennsylvania all the way to Florida and west to Mississippi. If you live in this region and have the space and proper conditions to grow this plant, I highly recommend it.

Special note: Calycanthus floridus is a protected shrub so it can not be dug up from the woods and transplanted in your garden. However, it does grow easily from seed and plants can be purchased from nurseries. The best time to buy is during spring and summer when the plant is in bloom to ensure you are getting your favorite scent.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

W4W: Tracery

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

Images of stained glass windows and old European churches immediately jump to  mind when I think of the word Tracery. This is the Word for Wednesday hosted by Garden Walk Garden Talk. It brought back memories of a humanities course I took as an elective in college which focused on architecture. The funny thing is what I remember most about the course was the lengthy study of flying buttresses.

Tracery is a term most commonly associated with architecture during the Gothic, Romanesque and Medieval times. It usually refers to windows and some ornamental design elements. Tracery structures often use interlacing and branching lines.  So how does one translate this terminology to the garden? 

I first looked at my plants for inspiration. I found that the Dogwood blooms reminded me of tracery used in Gothic windows. The dogwood bloom is also very symbolic in Christianity. It is said that the four bracts form the cross. The marks on the outer edges of the bracts represent the nail marks. The center of the bloom resembles the crown and the red dogwood berries represent the blood of Christ.  Makes you wonder if it wasn't the inspiration behind the cathedral windows.

The blooms of this Columbine resemble the more intricate plate work of rosette windows.

Aquilegia Winky Red & White

The petals of the iris could also be a vision for a window tracery.

Iris cristata 'Tennessee White'

The leaves of the Ghost Fern invokes images of the tracery work found in the framework of some of the long window of that time.


As does the veining of this decaying leaf.

The interweaving vines of the Lady Banks Rose resemble rambled lines sometimes seen in the more extravagant tracery works. I envision the lines of vaulted cathedral.

Some of the wildlife which call my garden home also have some interesting examples of pattern that could be the inspiration for some tracery works.  

The lizards have wonderful repetition and shape to their scales.

Here is a closer look~

The markings on the monarch caterpillar could be applied to the tracery with complex, interlacing designs.

The butterflies also have some wonderful patterns and symmetry like this zebra swallowtail which is feasting on the dainty blooms of the Coral Bell . It reminds me of a stained glass window with light filtering through reflecting beautiful patterns and colors onto the floor.

Heuchera 'Encore'

Thank you for indulging me as I stretch the imagination to find tracery elements in my garden. For other interpretations and examples be sure to stop by GWGT.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Purple Invasion

The smell is intoxicating. The blooms are showy. And, like the Sirens it can lure you in and fill you with regret later. 

This is Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and as attractive as the blooms may be; beware, it is highly invasive.

It climbs up trees, shrubs and anything that will serve as a support.

Chinese Wisteria covering tree

In spring their blooms are seen draping over tree limbs infesting the roadsides all over Georgia while their sweet smell lingers in the air like a strong perfume.

Chinese Wisteria was introduced to the United States in the early 1800's for ornamental purposes. It is found extensively throughout the eastern U.S. In the South it is often seen decorating porches and gardens. It is from these landscape plantings that they have naturalized and aggressively taken over.

Wisteria prefers moist soil and is shade tolerant but ideally likes sun for its prolific violet-blue flowers which only bloom during the plants transition from a young plant to adult. Since wisteria can live as long as 100 years this transition can take many years.

As it grows it twines upward in a clockwise direction cutting into the bark of the host tree eventually girdling and killing the tree. The weight of these vines can also topple large trees.

Just look at the size of this vine! Poor tree!

It reproduces through seed pods and by sending out runners and roots from its stem.

These vines have the capability of changing the structure of a forest by killing trees and altering the light availability to the forest floor making them a threat to our native flora.

If you find Wisteria growing in your garden be mindful to control it or better yet remove it entirely making sure to get all the roots to prevent resprouting.

If you like this plant consider planting the native American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) instead. Other attractive options include Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla) or Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Making new friends in the garden ~

It is important to always pay attention when you are in the garden.

Because you just never know who you are going to meet, especially when you are down on your hands and knees focusing on your task at hand (in my case weeding).

This guy had himself nicely nestled in the rocks that surround our AC units. He was enjoying the coolness of the soil and warmness of the rocks when we came eye to eye. I think he winked at me. I am sure it was code for move on and leave me alone. 

Of course I had to run in and grab my camera. I wasn't going to let an opportunity to capture this guy get away.

All my pointing and clicking really got on his nerves after a time. And he decided to get up and hop off. Of course not before I could get a few more shots in.

And let me tell you he wasn't all too happy about it either. Look at that scowl.

So to cheer him up I mentioned that there are some toadshade trillium in the woodland garden that he should check out and maybe get some dinner to go. Another wink (code for thank you) and he was off. I think we will be good friends.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Natives Shine

One of my favorite things about spring are all the native plants that bloom in March, April and May. They are the stars of my woodland garden during these months.

Wood poppies are one of the showiest natives. They bloom from March through May and will occasionally bloom during the summer months if the soil is kept moist.

The blooms and new leaves are covered with soft hair.

The columbine are beginning to bloom just in time for the first hummingbirds to visit. The hummers usually arrive in late March so I am expecting them any day now.

The red and yellow, tubular blooms are just what the hummers look for in a flower.

The flowers tend to dance in the warm spring breezes.

More trillium are appearing everyday.

These toadshade trillium are just beginning to put out their blooms.

The trillium blooms have a (foul) scent that attracts flies. I usually see them covered with flies in the early evening hours. Toads are known to sit under these plants and catch the flies, hence the name toadshade trillium.

Even this robber fly is getting in on the action.

A new edition to my garden is Fothergilla 'Mt. Airy' sometimes known as a bottle brush because the white blooms look like bottle brushes. They smell a little like licorice.

A native to the southeast United States and a relative to witch hazel it grows at the edge of my woodland garden where it gets partial sun.

In April I will do a post about the native azaleas that populate my woodland garden. Several are close to bursting into to bloom.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

GBBD: March 2012

It is Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and with the plentiful rains and ever warming temperatures spring is moving full speed ahead in my garden. 
A stroll through the woodland garden reveals all the trees bursting with life. The Japanese Maples are leafing out;

as are the black lace Elderberry

Many of the native azaleas are ready to pop.

Other notable blooms in the woodland garden are trillium and hellebore.

with Heuchera providing more lively color along the woodland paths.

Back in the sunshine, the Euphorbia is heavily covered in pollinators from wasps, all varieties of bees, and masses of flies.

Even one of my dogs was quiet smitten with the Euphorbia and couldn't help but take a whiff .

The wasp are diving in headfirst to the dragon's blood stonecrop sedum.

The variegated leaves of the Wallflower 'Fragrant Star'' are grey-green bordered with creamy yellow and add year round interest in my garden. The sweet smelling, sterile blooms have an extended bloom time from late winter to summer.

The creeping phlox planted 3 years ago are starting to fill the slope of the azalea garden.

The loropetalum is cheering on spring in the front of the house with its pink fringe flowers.

In the kitchen garden the transplanted strawberries are beginning to blossom and produce fruit

The blueberry shrubs have many visiting pollinators

I was very excited when I saw this zebra swallowtail enjoying the fresh soil that fills the raised beds. I spotted the first of these butterflies in my garden in April last year (see post here) and it too had damaged wings. I never saw it again after the one sighting. I wonder if I will see this beauty again.

Rosemary is stunning at this time of year. I love the dainty blue blossoms.

And the pear trees are following the plum trees which bloomed in February.

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! You can visit May Dreams Gardens to see what is blooming in gardens around the world.