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.

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.

Georgia Trees & Shrubs – Pruning & Maintenance 2018

Crabapple –

My husband & I pruned heavily with the new polesaw, in Spring 2017. The Crabapple has filled out beautifully since the great pruning, and the smaller size and shaping fits the front of the house much better. 

I identified this crabapple tree as a Centurion variety. Thanks mostly to the Colorado State University Extension Crabapple Identification page & Southern Living. I also looked at pics online. I didn’t know there are so many different varieties.

Abelia- 

Prune twice per year. First prune heavily in early Spring & then again in late Summer if necessary to shape prune. They smell so good, probably due to being related to honeysuckle. I love, love this shrub. Blooms from May til frost!

Dave’s Garden gives more details about this gorgeous plant.

Gardenia-

Only bloom on Old Wood, so I usually prune lightly in the Spring before blooms emerge in May. I don’t have the heart to cut the beautiful, fragrant flowers while they are open. I prune after it blooms, if not before.

Gardenia

I pruned the huge gardenia last week finally -early May 2018. See pic below. No blooms yet, and lots of fill in growing to do this season. It will help stimulate new growth and make a healthier shrub in the future.

Zone 7b, Georgia, Gardenia
After the great pruning. Looks a little sparse, but will fill in.

Loropetalum-

I prune every few years as needed in the early Spring. I pruned heavily in early March of 2018, but it is still very big, and has crossing branches. This shrub needs a major cut back again either later this year or next spring, maybe both.

Loropetalum March 2018 Before pruning, currently blooming

This post by Walter Reeves on pruning Loropetalum makes me laugh about the “needs little pruning” statement. Mine always has a natural look, especially now immediately after pruning, but I would like a more rounded appearance eventually.

Tools used: Long Pole Saw, Long Handled Loppers, Hedge Trimmers, Greenworks Chainsaw- this is new, and awesome. Quiet & No Gas & Powerful.

2018 Delaware Valley White Azalea. Not a native azalea, but beautiful!

I didn’t prune this azalea this year, but included it because it was spectacular this Spring. I will posts pics and details soon about all the great Native Plants I have planted in my landscape the last few years, like the Native Azaleas & Oakleaf Hydrangea. I love the Georgia Native Plant Society’s website for information on Georgia Native Plants. Also Raised Beds, Seeds, and 2018 Garden post to follow soon!

Ga Native “Sweet Shrub” ‘Calycanthus floridus’

The shrub of many names known as Sweet bubby, Sweet shrub, Carolina allspice, Spice shrub, & Spice bush lives in the eastern US, and is a native plant to Georgia.  I remember from my youth the scent of sweet shrub (as it was known to us in the mountains of Southwestern NC).

Your nose leads you to the unassuming sweet shrub. You see the dark burgundy tasseled flower pods. The perfume permeates the air, a unique, deep aroma. Reach out, rub the burgundy pods to release more amazing fragrance – unlike anything else on earth I have smelled so far. Tangy and pungent, but sweet and spicy.

Spring 2017 Ga Zone 7b Sweet Shrub, Spice Bush, Native Plants
Spice Bush, Sweet Shrub, Sweet Bubby-early Spring 2017

Researching this post, I discovered a wealth of info about these fascinating plants. More info than I can address in this one post, but I will follow up with this plant. I bought the one pictured last year at a native plant sale, in late April. I planted it in a mostly shady spot, under a huge hickory facing southwest – with the hickory’s shady protection from the scorching afternoon sun.

I was excited when leaves appeared early in March. I thought the plant died in the extreme drought of fall 2016, but it returned!

Georgia, Zone 7b, native plants, sweet shrub, sweet bubby, spice shrub
Sweet shrub pic taken today 5-23-17. No blooms yet, but getting bigger!

I wondered if the plant was used medicinally, as many native plants were, and still are.  I discovered that this plant does have Toxic alkaloids. Use caution. The Cherokee are known to use it for some medicinal properties. It may also have been used as a wolf poison.

I don’t remember the dried fruits/seed pods George Ellison discusses in his article, “Sweet bubby bush,” from the “Smoky Mountain News” online. I eagerly await their arrival to refresh my memory.

Ellison also talks about ladies putting blossoms in their bosoms (bubby morphed from boobies) for perfume. I don’t remember them being in bosoms, but it probably helped cover the odor of snuff on the wind. Granny Hazel would dry them out, then put them in sachets for drawers, or bowls of potpourri.

Azalea- Jewel of the Southern Garden: Native & Non

White Azalea 2017 Georgia zone 7b
2017 Closeup “Delaware Valley White” Azalea

azalea white 2016
This year is spotty blooming, so here is the pic I took last year on April 21, 2016

Through the process of writing & researching this post, I made some lovely connections to my past, and some new roads into the future. I started to post some pretty pics, and talk about the white azalea in the front yard. I found myself thinking about my Mom Alawayne and her love of the native, wild azaleas that grew around our home, in the Appalachian mountains of Western North Carolina.

I wanted to find her favorite wild azalea. A brilliantly orange beauty we hunted the mountainsides for on every walk or drive. They are rare and magical. When you encounter a towering, wild, native azalea, a moment is taken to honor the blooming beauty. They stand very tall in my memory- not much like the lower growing bush above. The flowers too are quite different, with flowers in clusters and longer stamens. Mom & granny Hazel called them wild honeysuckle. Well, Mom’s “wild honeysuckle” is ‘Rhododendron calendulaceum’ or the “Flame” azalea. (links to a photo from ARS Website)

The photo is from the Middle Atlantic Chapter ARS Species Study Group’s website – a fantastic azalea identification tool. As a bonus for me, there is info. and pictures of the Flame azaleas from Macon Co. North Carolina. They kinda resemble the honeysuckle with the extended stamens, but are not related. Also, there is a “Honeysuckle azalea” to make things more confusing. But the Flame azalea is not the same as the Honeysuckle azalea.

Native Azaleas vs Non Natives

The native to the East Coast azaleas are deciduous-they lose their leaves in the winter, but not the evergreen cultivars like the ‘Delaware Valley White’ or the ‘Formosa’ magenta one below-which are originally from Asia.

I have identified these varieties to the best of my ability, but if I am wrong please let me know! Deer don’t seem to like them at all. The leaves are poisonous. But the deer definitely eat my rhododendron leaves? Since azaleas are in the Rhodo family that seems odd. Butterflies seems to like them.

hot pink azalea Georgia Zone 7b with butterfly wings extended
pic from 2015 ‘Formosa’ magenta azalea/butterfly

The ‘Delaware Valley White’ bloomed this year on March 28th- a full 3 weeks earlier than last year. Must be the warmer winter and mild early spring.

Future post Teaser. These two “Southern Indian (or Indica)” cultivars were created at a place called Magnolia Plantation. I’ve just discovered the pre-Revolutionary location has an incredible “Romantic Garden”- one of the only ones left in the US. I am going there, and will document my garden findings soon!

See the link below to the University of Georgia’s Extension Offices Publication

Selecting and Growing Azaleas (B 670)

hot pink azalea Georgia zone 7b
‘Formosa’ magenta Azalea 2015

This is an incredible and comprehensive guide. I’m very thankful for the great resources provided by UGA about gardening in Georgia.

Woodland Sunflower 2013

OxEyePatch

Oxeyedaisy

This patch of Woodland Sunflowers is bright & pretty at the base of the grand Oak tree that towers over the back deck. The pop of yellow “sunshine” has really brightened the dreary, rain soaked days around here. I think we’ve had rain every day for nearly two months. I did manage to capture these in a sunbeam but, I guess the “appearance of the sun” will have to do for now.