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.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

The ‘Imaginary Worlds’ installation at The Atlanta Botanical Garden had just opened when my husband, mother-in-law, and I visited on May 5th, 2018.  Plants are used to comprise the outer ‘skins’ on the figures. The exhibit is very creative, structurally interesting, and particularly beautiful to me, due to my love of plants.

We first enjoyed an open sun garden bursting with Poppies & Daffodils, Irises, & so many kinds of beautiful blooms. There were chairs set up for a wedding, and a bride taking photos above the garden area. What a lovely & gorgeous place for a wedding! I have not yet identified all of the flowers I took photos of, but will in the future.

Poppies and Wow!

The company that created the ‘Mosaiculture’ exhibit for the Atlanta Botanical Garden is International Mosaiculture of Montreal.  There are some cool photos & video of their work on their website.

I was fascinated by this interesting new art form. I had not experienced plants this way before. This style of using various plants on the outside of a structure is very different than topiary, and added another layer to my enjoyment of plants as functional art.

In addition to the Mosaiculture installation, we also really were amazed by the Fuqua Orchid Center & the Conservatory. I could do any entire separate post on orchids, so I will just include some photos I took for now. The orchids were breathtaking.

I didn’t get a single photo of the edibles garden, unfortunately. I was so glad they included an edible garden, and I remember in particular the espaliered apple trees, the paw-paw tree, and the yellow blooming cabbages as standing out.

I think these tendrils are epiphyte roots, but not sure & will identify later. It was surreal to walk under the super long, thin strands that fell from very high up in the building.

The Oakleaf Hydrangeas were absolutely outstanding, and there was a strong smell of  Jasmine throughout much of garden. The Canopy Walk offered a unique perspective high up in the tree canopy, and the stroll was like a dream come true for a tree and forest lover like me. The entire afternoon was truly a delightful experience, and I can’t wait to return.

GA Native: Dwarf Crested Iris ‘Iris Cristata’

This native Iris, Iris Cristata came from the Night Song Native Plant Nursery plant sale, in Spring 2017. I thought it died last summer, but it came back early this Spring and bloomed two times!

I placed the rhizome on top of a ridge of dirt at the front of the bulb bed, sandwiched between the huge 2-3 foot tall bearded Irises. The Iris Cristata is super tiny, at about 6-10 inches tall.

The Georgia Native Plant Society is a great resource for information on Georgia’s native plants.

2018, GA, Zone 7b, Iris Cristata
Picture from last week. Only about 6-8 inches tall. Lots of new growth since blooming

I have a few new posts in the works about the new 3rd raised garden bed, and all the plants and herbs I am growing this year. Also, a great post to come soon about the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I was super excited to visit the gardens there for the first time, on May 5th, 2018.

In the Woods

 

fall leaves north east georgia
My backyard woods- Fall 2016

Henry David Thoreau

wrote the following in the “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” section of Walden. The first time I read Walden, just a few years ago, I was surprised by the content. The text is full of deep philosophical wisdom, and actual practical gardening advice and data. This quote resonates powerfully with me. Thoreau’s reasons for gardening and writing seem similar to mine. He too sees how living closely with nature can allow people to experience life to the fullest.

” I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, …   “

Project Gutenberg is an incredible resource for free texts, and they have the full text of Walden.

 

I am including a link to one of my favorite pieces I’ve written which is titled

Growing an Essay

It is inspired by Thoreau and Walden, and is written as a New York Times Draft style essay.

Lobelia Cardinalis, GA native

lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, blooming in August

Let’s start off the New Year with a remembrance of the brilliant red fireworks of summer’s celebratory blooms. This stunning (and aptly named) Lobelia Cardinalis was a super special find from the Nightsong Native Plant Nursery sale last spring. Most of the pics are from blooming time which was mid August to nearly October.

Blooms just kept opening, marching up the ever growing stalk. I waited a while to transplant into the ground. I brought it home at the end of April, and planted in ground in mid July. Seemed to be growing nicely in the pot , so I waited. I dug a hole a bit deeper and wider than the current container, added some organic compost from my Earth Machine composter, and soil from my organic raised beds to fill the hole. Plentiful watering required during the super drought we had this summer and fall.

lobelia cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, planting time July
Lobelia at planting time in July
Lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b, Blooming in August,
Mature Lobelia-over 3 ft tall!
Lobelia Cardinalis, Praying Mantis, Ga Native plants, Zone 7b,
Mantis Stalker

The mantis reminded me that there is an entire forest ecosystem at work right here in my own backyard garden. The link above takes you to an amazing paper prepared by Rachel G. Schneider about Georgia’s Forest Ecosystems. The mantis, butterfly, bee, and hummingbird love this plant; so do I, and even the cats (due to increased bird and butterfly activity).

It grew to over 3 feet tall, and I was awed and impressed by this amazing plant. This native to Georgia wildflower grows so well here, and I am thrilled to have in my backyard just under the overhanging shade of the oaks and hickories. It gets mostly full sun, with a touch of late afternoon shade in the worst heat of the summer sun. On some of the blazing hot days, it looked a little wilted in the direct sun, but quickly recovered.

Lobelia Cardinalis, Ga native plants, Zone 7b
Baby Lobelia

This plant became the center of a flourishing ecosystem, in one season. I’m writing an article about the Tallassee Forest (my extended backyard). This area was sacred & special to the Native Americans, and has an interesting history. Many native plant and animal species thrive here – some only here. I’m so fortunate and excited to be able to experience this great state of Georgia, and to write about the native plants and ecosystems in my area!

The Hermitage, Nashville, TN

I was fortunate-thanks to my sweet, lovely mother-in-law, Margaret to visit President Andrew Jackson’s former home, The Hermitage. Located near Nashville, Tennessee, many of the buildings date from the early 1800’s, and the tour of the manor was fascinating. As usual, I’m more interested in what goes on outside, so the gardens this past June were right up my allée.

The Hermitage Gardens Nashville, TN Southeastern Native Plants
Central Sun Garden at the Hermitage

In much the same way the house, grounds, and interior furnishings have been preserved allowing you to be transported back to 1819, strolling the gardens here takes you back in time.

Red Nasturtium from The Hermitage Gardens
Nasturtium

The gravel garden path from the house began with deep shade- extra welcome due the outrageous temps and full sun around the house. The first plant that caught my eye was one of the few plants marked with a nameplate in the gardens. I zoomed in under the dense crepe myrtle branches and captured this cool, shady Nasturtium dressed with red pops.

Giant Purple Coneflower Georgia Native Plant
Purple Coneflower ‘Echinacea purpurea’

Stepping out of the deep shade I encountered purple coneflower, with sun loving iris behind them. This day in late June, the heat had weight. It might have been the hottest day of the year, but well worth it because everywhere was flush with summer blooms. It seemed that every plant was showing off it’s best and brightest beauties that day.

The Hermitage Gardens Nashville, TN southeastern native plants

The gardens are almost exactly the same configuration, and use similar or the same types of plants as were grown here nearly 200 years ago. There are even some original plants, and descendant plants. I found this to be a beautiful tribute to the garden’s original designer- English designer William Frost, and also to Mrs. Rachael Jackson. Rachael was known for her love of plants, and helped to plan and maintain the gardens. The Hermitage Gardens page gives details on the plants, and the garden’s history.

Canna Lily The Hermitage Gardens
Canna Lily

Zinnias The Hermitage Gardens

Many of the plants in the gardens are edible, medicinally useful, and/or native to the southeast-like the first two plants in this post, the nasturtium and the purple coneflower. My focus on herbs and vegetable plants on this blog grows from my desire to showcase plants with a useful purpose. As a bonus, their beauty overwhelms me.

I could go on and on about how I felt to be connected to the history of this place, for both the magnificent and tragic things that happened here. But, I just want to stop here for a minute, just sit for a spell (as my mother Alawayne, and her mother Hazel would say). Just sit a spell here in the sunshine, and enjoy the lovely flowers.

Gibbs Gardens Daffodils

I waited for several years to visit Gibbs Gardens when the spring daffodils were blooming. March 26, 2016 was closer to the end of the season, but there were plentiful daffodils and other blooming plants to enjoy. Gibbs Gardens, located in Ball Ground, Georgia, has one of the largest daffodil gardens in the world.

gazebo & daffodils at gibbs gardens
Gibbs Gardens 

Daffodils appear on my blog often, and I’m excited to finally share the pics of the gardens. It softly rained from time to time that day. The white cherry blossoms and the Japanese garden were stunning. The stroll through the gardens and forest felt magical.

swath of daffodils on slope

unknown daffodil

plants from Gibbs Gardens
What is this plant? Some type of Euphorbia I think.

gibbsblog4

view from the top of the hill

side of pond Japanese Garden
Japanese Gardens – the largest in the Nation!cypress stairstep over pond
Snowy White Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Tree

View leaving the Japanese Garden

I’m currently digging & transplanting crowded daffodil bulbs in my yard,  spacing them out, & hoping they will bloom next spring. I have a post in the works about that process.

Spectacular Loropetalum

Loropetalum, Georgia, Zone 7b, Shrub
Loropetalum

I was shocked to see my huge, 10 ft tall by 6 ft wide, Loropetalum in full bloom so early. The extra warm weather a few weeks ago may have brought this about. I jogged back up the driveway to get my camera and captured this.

Also called Fringe Flower, this beauty is related to Witch Hazel. There are many shapes, sizes and varieties of this great plant. On the left, the 10 ft. monster, badly needing a pruning when finished blooming. The other is a 10 inch tall dwarf, weeping variety. One of my few purchases, I planted it under the Crabapple Tree this past spring. It should only get 2-3 ft. tall.

Lorocrop

DLorocrop

 

Nandina

The drab landscape is spotted with bright color thanks to pretty, red-berried Nandina.

nandinaNo maintenance, deer resistance, and drought tolerance allow Nandina to thrive in Georgia. Growing well in the normally dense shade of the front woods, winter sun caught this one showing off small, red berry bunches and multicolored leaves. Commonly and misleadingly called “heavenly bamboo”, it’s not a bamboo. The only member of it’s own genus, Nandina, the plant is toxic to some animals. While “generally classified as non-toxic to humans”, care should be taken to keep them away from high traffic areas where pets or children could ingest them.