Fall Color

Plants for the garden with beautiful or distinct fall color. A garden should have interest during all seasons, including fall and winter.

See also: Trees and Shrubs
Gardeners in the south looking for small deciduous trees often think of dogwoods and redbuds, but Japanese stewartia can be an inspired choice in the garden. It is a small tree with beautiful flowers and foliage. Japanese stewartia functions well as an understory tree, flowering even in shady areas.

Japanese stewartia small tree for the garden.

Japanese stewartia flowers in early summer. Click for larger.

The scientific name is Stewartia pseudocamellia. The first time you see Japanese stewartia in the landscape the first instinct is to wonder why a camellia is blooming in summer. Pseudocamellia = 'false camellia'. Both camellias and stewartias are in the tea family.

The flowers are refined, 2"-3" across in single form with white petals and gold stamens. The flowers, while beautiful, are only a small part of the charm of Japanese stewartia, as its value spans all four seasons.

Continue reading ‘Japanese Stewartia’

See also: Native Plants, oakleaf hydrangea
'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is unexpectedly great. I had seen photographs in catalogs for years and had reservations. So often mutations and sports of plants are nothing more than curiosities ill-suited for the garden.

My skepticism was unfounded, as 'Little Honey' is beautiful when viewed in person. Leaves are softly colored yet vibrant.

Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea

Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'). Click for larger.

Take extra care with where you plant 'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea in the garden. In my experience, 'Little Honey' is not as tolerant of afternoon sun as the darker-leaved species.

'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea is a sport of the Pee Wee hydrangea. David Jarzynka discovered the unusually colored hydrangea in Olympia, Washington in 1999. It was patented as 'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea in 2001 after two years of evaluation.

Continue reading ‘Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Little Honey’’

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) is very similar to the native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida. There are very definite differences between the two. Kousa dogwood leafs out before flowering. Kousa dogwood reaches full flower a month after flowering dogwood, and has a more upright habit and pointed bracts (see pictures).

Kousa dogwood - Cornus kousa

Kousa dogwood. The pointed bracts and leaves on tree before flowering are qualities that are different from the more rounded bracts of native flowering dogwood. Click for larger.

The white 'petals' are actually bracts. Bracts are normally involved in photosynthesis, but when bracts are large and colorful they serve the purpose of attracting pollinators or seed dispersal (Source: UCLA Botanical Garden). Cornus kousa is a splendid tree, with my only reservation being how late kousa dogwood leafs out.

Continue reading ‘Cornus Kousa – Kousa Dogwood’

See also: Native Plants
There is no finer large shade tree for the American garden than Liriodendron tulipifera. Native to vast tracts of eastern North America, Liriodendron tulipifera is the largest growing hardwood east of the Mississippi River.

Tulip tree gets big, so you need space in the garden to accommodate it.

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree in flower. Click for larger.

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree in flower plus leaf detail. Click for larger.

Known widely as tulip poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera is also called tulip tree, yellow poplar, and my favorite, fiddle tree. Liriodendron tulipifera is not a true poplar, but part of the magnolia family. The 'tulip' refers not to the flowers, but to the shape of the leaves, which are said to resemble tulips (I don't see it).

Continue reading ‘Tulip Poplar – Liriodendron tulipifera’

See also: Native Plants
Fothergilla Mount Airy (Fothergilla major Mount Airy) hangs around in a fairly nondescript manner during summer. At the edge of spring and fall however, this native plant shines in the garden.

Also known at Mt. Airy and bottlebrush fothergilla, this deciduous native shrub is hardy USDA zones 5-9. The native species is found in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and surrounding states. Prefers rich, humousy soil and full sun. Fothergilla Mount Airy can easily tolerate partial shade, and I would consider it very easy to grow.

fothergilla mount airy

Fothergilla Mount Airy. Click for larger view.

Fothergilla Mount Airy was discovered by Michael Dirr, a legendary and much-respected horticulturalist who also happens to be a professor from my own alma mater, the University of Georgia. The discovery itself was at the Mt. Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Continue reading ‘Fothergilla Mount Airy’

See also: Native Plants
Pink dogwood, Cornus florida 'Rubra', is found in gardens to a lesser extent than the white flowering dogwood, but is no less a rite of spring to southern gardeners.

A classic native understory tree, the dogwood is a gardening standard with good reason. After a long winter and lots of squash soup, spring brings the warmth to the soil, and the dogwood trees and azaleas bloom.

pink dogwood flowers

Pink dogwood blooms. Click for larger.

What follows is a bit of insight about how to grow dogwoods successfully as well as any personal observations that might be of use.

Continue reading ‘Pink Dogwood’

It's April in Georgia, so upcoming garden musings may be a little azalea- and dogwood-centric. Without further ado, the subject at hand is the Korean azalea Poukhanense (Rhododendron yedoense 'Poukhanense').

Korean azalea Poukhanense is hardy to Zone 4, so northern gardeners who dream of azaleas in their gardens should take a good look.

korean azalea Poukhanense

Korean azalea Poukhanense has delicate flowers, but it is a tough garden plant. Click for larger.

Regarding hardiness in northern climates, Poukhanense azalea will be deciduous. Even in southern gardens I notice some leaf drop during winter, although down here I would still resolutely consider Poukhanense evergreen. Foliage may turn a beautiful reddish-orange in the fall.

Flowers are of the softest lilac, appearing shell pink in the golden light of late afternoon. Blooms are classic funnel shape, and Korean azalea Poukhanense blooms in April in the south and May at its northern reaches.

Continue reading ‘Korean Azalea Poukhanense’

Undeniably beautiful and undeniably pricey, Japanese Maple Bihou has stunning bark of peach coral and a reputation for winter dieback of the branch tips. We decided to pit our own test specimen Japanese Maple Bihou against winter this year.

japanese maple bijou

Winter dieback in Japanese maple Bihou. Click for larger view.

Winter cooperated. Much of the United States experienced a long and ferocious season of snow, ice, and lower than normal temperatures. Georgia is mild compared to much of the country, but our Japanese Maple Bihou was left outside unprotected in a pot all winter, which included temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. It is worth noting that plants grown in pots are more at risk during winter than those planted in the garden.

I will admit to trepidation in leaving this breathtakingly expensive maple out in the elements. As of 2014, small Japanese Maple Bihou trees can be purchased for the handsome sum of $100 or so. Even for those used to paying relatively large amounts for Japanese maples, prices north of $100 for a three foot tree gives one pause.

So...how did our Japanese Maple Bihou fair this winter?  Continue reading ‘Japanese Maple Bihou – Early Returns’

little bluestemSee also: Native PlantsLittle bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is all around us, a grass native to much of the United States. Its value economically, environmentally, and aesthetically cannot be overstated. Cattle graze little bluestem. It settles areas prone to erosion. It is often the first plant in the process of  succession from open to pines to the hardwoods. Moisture needs are spare, meaning no supplemental watering is required. Birds eat little bluestem's seeds during the cold months when forage is sparse.

Finally, it is one of the most beautiful plants of winter.

little bluestem landscape

Little bluestem in winter.

Landscape design with little bluestem
Little bluestem is one our most valuable and tragically underused perennials. It is rarely found in garden centers…why sell something that is one of the most common plants in the American landscape? The rub in this kind of thinking is that while little bluestem may be common in the rural landscape, it is not often found in the so-called civilized parts of our urban spaces...not in our gardens. If we want to see little bluestem, we drive to the country.

Continue reading ‘Little Bluestem: American Landscape’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Heath aster (Aster ericoides) begins blooming late, in September. When the asters and ironweed come, we know fall is out there somewhere. Summer in the south is tough on gardens and the gardeners who tend them. Just when it seems the heat will never end along comes heath aster, a welcome reminder of why we garden.

heath aster

Heath aster is perfect in woodland gardens on the edges of things...it needs sun.

Landscape Design with Heath Aster
The late summer/early fall asters are most often plants of the prairie and the hillsides. Heath aster's flowers are diminutive, less than 1/2". Heath aster taken as a whole is neither dignified nor conformist; it is a casual species and best in a casual setting. You could choose to juxtapose the natural with the formal.

Continue reading ‘Heath Aster – Late Summer’