7 Sun-loving Perennials for a Pollinator Garden

A pollinator garden uses specific plants to draw pollinators-like bees, wasps, butterflies, and hummingbirds to a specific area.

My 7 favorites for full sun beauty, and pollinator draw in my garden are:

1. Echinacea

This simple Southeastern native Purple Coneflower is one of my all time faves. It keeps the bees very happy, and a smile on my face all summer.

Bee & Echinacea

Pollinator planting is especially useful for me because I also grow vegetables in my raised beds, and the nearby pollinator garden helps draw more pollinators to my veggie blooms-therefore increasing my yields! I also try to pick plants that have beautiful blooms, or are Georgia native plants, or both.

2. Buddleia

Butterfly Bush-not to be confused with Butterfly Weed a native plant, is not a native plant & some people are very against the use of this plant at all. But I think one is ok, as long as you mix them with other native perennials the pollinators can also enjoy.

This variety, ‘Buzz Magenta’ is a dwarf, compact variety that doesn’t take over your whole yard, and the butterflies love it.

3. Agastache

One of my favorite new herbs, and therefore found all over my garden is the deer proof wonder Anise Hyssop. Delightful, long blooming, anise scented leaves, and pollinators all year make this a superstar favorite.

4. Lantana

‘Sonset’ Lantana oozes summer heat & the colors cant be beat. I bought three of these native, gorgeous, drought tolerant, pollinator magnets while working at Cofer’s last year, and they are one of my favorite plants, ever.

There are a very small lantana-unlike that ‘Miss Huff’ showoff. These are 3-4 feet max and stay smaller if keep minimally pruned. Their flower color changes throughout the day, from emerging morning yellow, to evening petals featuring more orange and supposedly pink hues, but I’ve never seen pink on mine just orange and yellow?

5. Gallardia

Another beautiful US native plant. These blooming beauties are very charming, and bloom profusely all season, especially if deadheaded from time to time.

6. Goldsturm Rudbekia

This Goldsturm variety is spectacular. It is blooms everywhere. I am impressed with its growth and spread in just one year. A beautiful plant that needs little maintenance and will fill an area with light and pollinators.

7. Abelia

Finishing off this pollinator plant list is one of my few shrubs that is a huge pollinator draw. This ‘Edward Goucher’ pink blooming Abelia variety is always humming with bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and others all season long, from first blooms in May until chilly fall nights.

E. Goucher Abelia, Echinacea Purpurea, Blue Eyed Grass, Nelly Moser Clematis, Peppermint, Gallardia

With a delicious honeysuckle smell (same family), it makes sense how much activity happens here. This one over is 8 feet tall, but newer varieties are much smaller and are more compact like ‘Kaleidoscope’. Most other varieties are white blooming.

Check out this fantastic resource from USDA US Forest Services web publication.

“Gardening for Pollinators”

Happy Gardening!

5 Veggies for Raised Beds and Hot Summers

The growing season here in Georgia is super long & super hot for summer veggies. April through November yields lots of produce.

Few memories of mine are more pleasant than those of my childhood in the garden with Dad, with salt shaker in hand. We would spend hours out there. Fresh, homegrown, heirloom tomato plucked off the vine, and then devoured with a sprinkle of salt is as good as it gets.

In small spaces, I have grown some fantastic produce. I’d like to share 5 of my favorites discovered over the past seven years, chosen for best growth in small spaces, tastiness of produce, and quantity of yields.

#1. Tomato- top two varieties

Best Cherry Tomato Award goes to

Husky Cherry Red Tomato

These indeterminate plants are super sturdy and aptly named as “husky’ They are tall and strong vines that need minimal support and just keep producing the most delicious little 1 inch delights. I am instantly transported back to being a kid in the garden, with all the possibilities of the world ahead of me when I eat a fresh , homegrown tomato plucked from the vine.

While I don’t have the huge, in ground gardens Dad & Mom always made, I do have three, 3′ x 8′ x 1′ foot raised wooden beds, a collection of containers, and a small in ground veggie growing area out back.

Best sandwich slicing Tomato award goes to

Parks Whopper Improved Tomato

My brother Johnny asked me a few weeks ago while chatting on the phone, “oh you’re growing ‘tomatoes’ in your garden, or are you growing ‘tumadas’?” I laughed hard, realizing I had said the word too proper for my brother’s taste, cause I’ve been away from the mountains of western NC for too long.

#2 . Peppers Please!

Chili Pie Peppers

Chili Pie Pepper

All American Selection Chili Pie Pepper is a fabulous slightly hot, mini bell shaped pepper that reddens as it ages. These plants produce loads of peppers. They need a bit of support as they spread a little wide. There are somewhat shorter plants however and are well suited to raised beds.

Jalapeno

I could go on for hours about my love of Jalapenos. But, I already have many times on this blog before. So, I will just say they are tall and beautiful plants that produce an incredible amount of peppers in one season. A Bonnie Plants link 6 pack grown in my raised beds in about 10 square feet of bed produced over 200 peppers last year!

#3. Herbs

My two favorite herbs, 1 perennial and 1 annual

Annual-Basil

Oregano

Perennial Oregano is a fantastic drying herb, and gives lots of leaves for many years from one plant.

I dry oregano every year and we use it so many things we cook. I bought one plant 7 years ago when I first began blogging and raised bed gardening. I harvest it and prune it back in the early spring before new growth. It is beautiful and very good for you. Oregano has been used for many thousands of years to enhance flavor and is touted for its herbal medicinal qualities as well.

#4. Beautiful Beans -Two Varieties

Cherokee Wax

Pole Bean Kentucky Wonder

was my Dads favorite and also one of mine. Check out this UGA publication on best home garden green beans for Georgia.

#5. Crunchy Cucumber

Arkansas Little Leaf

is a fantastic pickling cucumber. Vines are very productive, with delicious firm cucumbers.

Quick Link to my Best Raised Bed Construction post & Also to Espoma Fertilizer -my favorite fertilizer.

Gardens of Charleston

I didn’t know this first visit to Charleston would be our last trip for awhile. It was a spectacular city, and the gardens were incredible.

There were Holly Ferns, Cyrtomium falcatum growing from the brick walls everywhere. One can see why they are considered invasive. My husband Hal & I spent an entire day walking all around in the city. We left bustling downtown, walking along King Street full to the brim with commerce and shops. Then, onto the parks along the waterfronts. The Battery Park was interesting, but the gardens glimpsed through the gates along the way were magical.

The College of Charleston was otherwordly, and there were Resurrection Ferns-according to my friend Issac, covering every tree branch and trunk on the live oaks. The pictures I took don’t do justice to the spectacular gardens there. They’ve had some time to grow.

There were huge spectacular Fatsias down by the waterfront at the Battery Park.

Thanks to Sheldon, at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, for identifying this plant for me as Cassia Augustifolia. They were draped languidly (even in December) over the walls of gated courtyards, and along the cobbled sidewalks and streets.

I’ve chosen the Magnolia as the transition plant between the city and country gardens further inland.

Magnolia captured by Spanish Moss-not moss at all!

Camellias at Magnolia Gardens

This is the last Romantic style garden in the US. Romantic means wild and free feeling, and seemingly untamed in this context. They have the largest collection of camellias in US.

Ashley River

This is my 100th post! Next post will be about the spring raised bed and in ground vegetable garden planting!!!

Georgia Power Presentation

Created & Presented by Cari Misseri & Karin Blankenship

Presentation delivered to Georgia Power Retirees, March 2020.

Notes on Georgia Power gardening talk. 30 mins. This is a very rough copy of the notes I made for our presentation. I will include them with the presentation file itself soon.

Gardening for Fun, Form. & Function

Gardening should be fun! Don’t stress or try to make it perfect. Just be creative and enjoy it.

Sun, Soil, Water Simple

We will talk about: Spring Basics, Seeds & Plants, Container Gardening, Raised Beds, and Pest Control.

1. Spring basics

Organizing, Planting, and Dividing

Plants to add for spring interest-1 perennial & 1 shrub/tree for each season

Spring- Tiarella-Native Plant. & Azalea

Pink Azalea

Summer Interest/Great native pollinator plant-Echinachea-Coneflower. Abelia

Summer/Fall/Butterfly attractor-Salvia. Beautyberry-native 

Salvia Greggii Magenta

Winter- Pansies. Camellia

Planning

Take stock of your seeds or supplies, and see what you want/need for the upcoming year. Our last average frost is April 15th, so I usually wait until then to plant my raised beds. Now is a great time to plan for & plant seeds indoors for your spring and summer veggie garden. 

2. Seed starting vs buying plants

3. Container gardening.

ALWAYS HAVE DRAINAGE HOLES IN CONTAINERS

4. Raised beds.

My beds are 3’ x 8’. I have 3 wood beds. Leave bottom open to native soil-no landscape fabric wanted. Untreated wood for edibles

Dirt is ⅓ native soil, ⅓ soil conditioner, ⅓ compost-I like mushroom compost. Add in an organic fertilizer like Espoma garden tone when you build the soil. Can also use a pre mixed soil, or straight compost. Plant dwarf or smaller varieties.

Fertilize throughout the seaon. I like organic fertilizer for many reasons but here are three:

Better for plants- slower release, no burning, slower more even growth and better plants

Better for people-natural fertilizer creates tastier vegetables hands down, no chemical concerns

Better for the environment-only use what you need, and not more. Then the excess does not run off into the streams, rivers and lakes, and create problems.

5. Responsible Pest Control

Hornworm covered in Eggs?!

Encourage good stewardship and organic gardening and pest control where possible.  Pick them off, or spray with water as 1st pest control method. Always read the instructions thoroughly before treating anything

late July Harvest

Growing Summer Veggies & Herbs in Raised Beds

I planted only two raised beds this year due to time constraints. Some of the pics are from April at planting time, and I am including new pictures from the end of June to show how much growth has happened over the last month and half.

Repair and planting of the beds April 20th 2019

I planted some Bonnie plants from six packs along with some seeds that I bought, or already had. Bed #1 has Bonnie Jalapeno, Bonnie Homestead Toms, and Bonnie Yellow Bell Peppers. See links to those three below. I also planted for the first time Jalafuego plants from Papa Joe’s Naturally Grown line from Sunbelt Greenhouses in Douglas, GA.

I did a soil test and realized I was totally nitrogen deficient in the beds. I fertilized with an Organic fertilizer from Espoma called PlantTone about a week ago, and am seeing very good results. Updates to follow soon.

Next post will be about planting my Dad’s Memorial Garden in North Carolina.

Landscape Perennials for Spring Blooms

My favorite Spring blooming plants from March & April include a few old favorites, and some new plants. I work at Cofer’s now, and I haven’t had much time to write, but will soon. My next post will be about the fifth year of raised bed garden planting-which I finally got done this past week.

Early March Bulbs sleep all winter & then awaken to Spring Sunshine

Link to Daff Seek There are like 30,000 cultivars!

Late March-Early April Shrubs, Perennials, & Vines

mid April Link to Iris Mythology

late April After studying her reflection Nature improves upon her artwork

Wow! So much happens in the garden in those few months.

Link to Landscape Perennials Native & Non publications.

The blooming is over now, but the plants live on growing & storing energy for more blooms.

Camellia Sasanqua, October Magic ‘Orchid’

Camellia Sasanqua, October Magic, Southern Living, Orchid, Zone 7b, Georgia
Camellia Sasanqua ‘October Magic’ Series Orchid

I received this very special plant as a gift from my Mother-in-law, Margaret. She is so thoughtful, and kind, and generous. She had this beautiful plant delivered to me, in memory of my Dad, Kenneth. He passed away at the age of 92, in early Nov. 2018. I could go on about him for hours. He was a teacher, a pilot, a gardener, a WWII Navy veteran, a great father, and a person of the highest possible honor and integrity. He loved gardening, growing vegetables, and canning and preserving them. And, he was really knowledgeable and skilled at it all.

The History of the Camellia is a very old, and quite magical story. I found a great wealth of information at the American society for Camellias website. They are located in Fort Valley, Ga.

Camellias like dappled shade, but will tolerate some sun. They hate wet feet. Plant them high, and keep them away from areas that are too wet.

This Camellia named October Magic ‘Orchid’ is from a collection by Southern Living. This camellia is a Camellia Sasanqua, in contrast to a Camellia Japonica. Japonicas are larger plants, with larger leaves, and much larger blooms. They bloom later in the winter and into the early spring. Blooming from about January- March. Sasanquas are smaller shrubs that have more profuse blooming, but not as large blooms. They also bloom earlier in the season-from say October to January.

Wow, what an amazing plant. My new favorite, and it will always remind of my Father, and of my Mother-in-law, and the love of family.

This is a photo of a Camellia Sasanqua October Magic Orchid variety with delicate pink and white petals.

I found a bit of folklore from Japan regarding the Camellia. It is said the spirits, and Gods come down from heaven to make their earthly home inside the camellia blossoms, when they visit those on earth. I hope that Dad and Mom will have many Camellia blossoms to choose from should they ever come to visit me. Their spirit lives on also in my love for gardening, vegetables, and all the astounding gifts nature provides.

Ga Native: Woodland Sunflower

Now, for a touch of summer sunshine to warm up these cold, grey days of January. It took a good bit of searching online to finally identify this particular sunflower growing under one of my huge white oaks as, Woodland Sunflower or ‘Helianthus Divaricatus’. I knew it was some type of sunflower or aster, but wasn’t sure exactly which. I was able to identify it thanks to the multi branching blooms, the size of the plant,  the appearance of the blooms and leaves, and photos of different varieties online at the USDA’s plant ID website. 

This plant has a spreading habitat, and fills the shady area under the great oak. It does get some afternoon sun here, and the plant seems happy to take over the whole area. The long lasting summer blooms make the lackluster foliage as it dies back bearable. This sunshine yellow perennial returns early every year, and since it grows about 2-3 feet tall it makes a great plant for height at the back of a shady bed or border.

I saw many of these native Woodland Sunflowers while visiting the mountains at Black Rock Mountain State Park, in Mountain City, GA. I will write more about that amazing adventure in an upcoming post. I visited 10 state parks in Georgia in 2018, and am working on articles about hikes at those parks, and the plants I found along the way.

Purple Coneflower

The summer garden work is over, and this crazy fall heat wave has broken. Now, I have time to catch up on writing about the plants that bloomed for the first time this year.

Georgia Native Plant, Zone 7b, Echinacea Purpurea, Giant Purple Coneflower,
‘Echinacea Purpurea’

One of the spectacular native plants I bought at NightSong Native Plant Nursery’s Plant Sale last year, the Giant Purple Coneflower or ‘Echinacea Purpurea’, bloomed from June through August. There were five blooms total, and I recently cut off the dried seed heads to save for planting next year. I planted it in a 6 inch container last year, and am transplanting to in ground location today! (October 12th, 2018)

I found some fascinating info at my favorite wildflower site, US Wildflowers. The photos on this site are fabulous, and this site is an incredible free resource for plant identification.

Also, Southern Living has a great article by Gene B. Bussell on Purple Coneflower, detailing new hybrids being created, along with their uses in the southern garden.

I moved the plant from the container to the in ground location, where it will get good southern sun exposure. I will also be able to see the blooms through the deck railing. I transplanted on October 12th. All the leaves are gone now, but hopefully it will return next spring! I sprinkled one seed head all around the base of the plant, and saved the other four for planting next spring.

Organic Raised Bed Veggies

The three raised beds have produced more this year than I hoped! I harvested many beans, peppers, and herbs. I will give descriptions & details, with links, for all plants soon. Here are a few photo galleries & brief info for each month from June through August, 2018.

June

July

August

I planted new fall & winter seeds the week of Sept 19. See my previous post for detailed information about the raised bed building process, seed starting, and garden harvests from earlier this year. Also, my next post will feature some of the gorgeous, Georgia native plants that finally bloomed in my garden this year!