In the dog days of summer bee, butterfly, and hummingbird activity has increased dramatically. The lantana and butterfly bushes are swarming with skippers and swallowtails busily gathering nectar while it lasts.
I thought winter was over, but we still have snow here in Georgia—but it’s the good kind. The Snowball Viburnum is heavy with dozens and dozens of showy white flowers. Don’t they look like Hydrangea blooms?
I didn’t prune it last year so the shrub is now 10-12 feet high. This is the most flowers I’ve ever seen on it, too. The Snowball viburnum can flourish in in full sun or partial shade, but needs at least 6 hours of sun a day to flower. The only maintenance I give this one is fertilizer. The Snowball Viburnum can be pruned after flowering to control the height or shape it up.
The Snowball Viburnum always makes me think of my Mother. She didn’t have one, but it was one of her favorite plants in my garden. She always looked forward to seeing it bloom every year and enjoyed bouquets of the big white flowers. That makes it a very special plant.
Here in the South we always look forward to seeing the first daffodils, but what really defines Spring for us is the Azalea. Almost every yard, no matter how grand or humble, has at least one of these hardy flowering shrubs.
But just because they’re common doesn’t make them any less arresting. Azaleas come in riot of colors and sizes to suit any space and purpose. Now they’ve been improved—there are varieties that bloom multiple times a year.
Azaleas are hardy in zone 6-8 and once established, need little care. Plant them in part sun in moist well-drained soil--they don’t like wet feet. Fertilizers especially formulated for azalea are readily available. Azaleas bloom on old growth, so pruning should be done after the flowers fade.
It’s rainy and cool today, but seeing the yard filled with big areas of pink, red, lavender, and white flowers says Spring is really here!!
I was admiring the Canada Select Red Chokeberry tree and spotted this Tiger Swallowtail butterfly enjoying the nectar. A blooming Chokeberry means that Spring flowering tree season is almost over. It's one of the last trees to flower, but worth waiting for.
This fast-growing native tree sprouts bright green leaves in Spring followed by racemes of delicate white flowers. After the blooms fade, the leaves turn a deep maroon for the summer. Chokeberry blooms attract butterflies and lots of bees. The small red fruits that follow are a favorite of birds and wildlife.
I didn't know anything about the Chokeberry when I asked the local nursery for a tree that would attract birds and butterflies. It's certainly does that, but I had no idea that the Chokeberry would provide four seasons of enjoyment for me, too.
We've been eagerly awaiting springtime here in Georgia and it seems that overnight the flowering trees have burst into bloom. The Flowering Crabapple tree (above) in my front yard is a glorious cloud of fuchsia that can be seen all the way down the street.
The Mayhaw, which I'd given up for dead a couple of years ago, rebounded nicely and is loaded with dainty white flowers and tons of pink buds.
The Princess Diana Serviceberry tree is in full bloom. Each delicate blossom will become a succlent berry. Birds love Serviceberries and swarm the tree when they ripen in May.
The Thundercloud Purple Plum is covered in lavender flowers followed by inky purple foliage making this the most spectacular tree in the yard.
And of course, what Georgia yard would be complete without a peach tree? This Elberta Peach sports lovely pink blossoms, each of which will become a peach. Too bad I won't get any--the deer nab the fruit as soon as it ripens. But I get to enjoy the Springtime show so I'll be content with that.
There’s hope for spring. The Saucer Magnolia, also known as the Japanese Magnolia or Tulip Tree, is in full bloom. This deciduous magnolia looks sensational with its leafless branches covered in saucer sized blooms that are white inside and pink or purple outside.
Hardy in zones 5-9, the Saucer Magnolia prefers moist (not wet) acidic soil and full sun to part shade. Even though it isn’t considered drought tolerant, my tree weathered several years of drought without a problem.
This beautiful tree grows up to 25 feet high and can be cultivated in a tree shape with a single trunk or more shrub-like with multiple trunks. My Saucer Magnolia was a single trunk which kept getting taller and taller until it blocked the view of the lake. Two years ago, my landscaper recommended cutting it down, then when new shoots emerged, let 3 or 4 develop into trunks. He assured me it wouldn’t die, but I was a little skeptical.
As you can see, it worked. The Saucer Magnolia now has 4 healthy trunks and is covered in blooms. I’m sure it will continue to grow taller, but pruning will be much easier. Now this lovely tree will continue to herald the coming of Spring.
Even with us still seemingly stuck in winter, the yard is poised for Spring. The Pieris just burst into bloom. This shade-loving shrub sports clusters of tiny flowers that resemble those of the Lily of the Valley. In fact, that’s its nickname—Lily of the Valley shrub.
Pieris is hardy in zones 5-9 and can thrive in dry conditions and Georgia’s unforgiving red clay soil. Last year I planted seven of these evergreen beauties under the canopy of the Crabapple tree in my front yard. The soil in that shady spot is rock-hard and crisscrossed with tree roots. Everything I’d planted there before, such as hosta, impatiens and coleus, either died or was eaten by the deer.
Amazingly, the delicate pink blooms tell me the Pieris shrubs actually like living in the shadow of the Crabapple. I’m glad I didn’t give up—sometimes it just takes a while to find the right plant for a bad location.
It's been a rough winter by Georgia standards. Weeks of sub-freezing temps and a snowstorm battered my plants. However, when I walked around the yard this afternoon, I saw lots of signs that Spring may not be far away. Daffodils are sprouting all over the yard and the Mayhaw tree is loaded with magenta buds.
The Saucer Magnolia's branches are heavy with fat buds.
Sword-shaped Iris leaves are showing.
Even though Catnip is an annual, this perky green patch somehow looks unaffected by the miserable winter.
And today with mild temperatures, Rusty the stray cat enjoyed a serene morning by the lake.
After some pretty brutal weather (for Georgia, that is), today was amazing--60 degrees and sunny. With a day like that, who'd want to stay indoors? Since many plants should be pruned when they're dormant, I hauled out my trusty red pruning saw and lavender loppers and did some winter pruning.
I began by cutting back the two big Chaste trees to about 2.5 feet. They were due for a major prune this year. Those trunks are 2-3 inches in diameter so my arm will probably be sore tomorrow from hacking away with that pruning saw.
Then I moved on to the Butterfly Bush, Rose of Sharon, Bald Cypress, and Beautyberry bushes. When I was finished, I had this huge pile of limbs and another one the same size on the other side of the yard.
The Hibiscus and Cat's Whiskers overwintering in the garage were looking pretty ragged, so I decided to let them enjoy the sunshine,too.
Tommorrow is supposed to be cold again--temps in the 40's and very windy. It'll be a good day to stay inside and admire how tidy the yard looks after my day in the sun.
Butterfly Bushes (Buddeleia) aren't the most tidy shrubs, but they really attract butterflies. Their branches grow askew in a bushy habit, but the graceful Tiger Swallowtails don't mind a bit. They've been swarming the flowers in the last few weeks because the racemes of richly colored blooms must contain some very sweet nectar.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Eagle Cam 2014 This camera streams the activities of the eagle nest located 110 feet up, in a tree on the grounds of the US FWS National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.