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.

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

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 winter. 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.

GA Native Oakleaf Hydrangea, ‘Hydrangea Quercifolia’

I found this Georgia native plant at the  Night Song Native Plant Nursery plant sale. This is the second year I’ve gone to the plant sale/open house/farmer’s market in Cherokee County, Georgia.

I finally put the Oakleaf Hydrangea in the ground a few weeks ago. This post focuses on the challenges and triumphs of the process-including finding the right location, extreme summer drought and heat, and a little history of the plant.

I have written about William Bartram in previous posts, like my Finding Buffalo Creek project. He was the first to “discover”, and write about the Hydrangea Quercifolia (and many other native plants), in the 1700’s. I also wrote previously about another of the Bartram plants I brought home last year, one of them is known as the Ben Franklin Tree, aka ‘Franklinia Altamaha’.

The Official Site of the Bartram Trail Conference Library page provides further reading links on John and William Bartram. I also consulted the Georgia Native Plant Society.

Today, and the plant already looks greener! Hoping it will acclimate before it gets colder, and be back next year bigger and better.

I am excited to see what happens with this beautiful native plant. Fingers crossed the deer don’t find it there, and that it makes it through the winter into next season. Maybe it will bloom next year. Also, I think the leaves should change from green to red this fall-which hasn’t happened yet. Looking forward to changes, and new growth in the future!

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!

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.

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.

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.