Since the Beaver decimated most of my big Hollies, there aren't many berries this year. However, this Holly near the front yard escaped the furry lumberjack's mayhem and is loaded with festive berries!
Did I say I liked having a beaver colony in my backyard? I still do like the industrious creatures but there are a few drawbacks. I didn't know that they loved hollies, but they have a seemingly insatiable appetite for the lovely shrubs. I had some big beautiful Nellie Stevens and Savannah hollies but the Beaver has decimated them. I found two more gone last week. Now nature's lumberjack is at it again! Last night the Beaver burgled another big Savannah Holly.
He didn't take it with him but look how clever he was to submerge the end of the trunk in water so his prize will stay fresh and tasty until his return .
I'd hate this creature if he wasn't so interesting!! I'm getting out the chicken wire to save the rest of my hollies!!
There are dozens of wild willows he could snack on but obviously he prefers cultivated trees.
The spicy-sweet scent wafting through the yard signals that the Sweetshrub, or Carolina Allspice, is in bloom. This native plant grows wild along the east coast from Pennsylvania to Northern Florida and west to Mississippi. Sweetshrub can tolerate full sun but part shade is much better. The one in the pictures is a true native--it somehow escaped the bulldozer when my house was built. Lucky for me--it's nice to have such a lovely fragrant shrub in my yard.
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!!
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.
The thick, tangled branches of hollies are especially attractive to birds that nest in trees, providing protection from the elements and cover for the nestlings. The Yaupon continued to grow wildly throughout the summer and I wanted to cut it back, but waited, not wanting to jeapordize another nest. Besides, December is the perfect time to severely prune hollies. So, this week I had all my tree pruning done and for the first time saw the intricate Cardinal nest that almost wasn't. Pruning will be done on time from now on!
The Loropetalumshrubs have finally bloomed and are covered with hundreds of hot pink fringy flowers. I always look forward to seeing that big splash of color, but I was especially impatient this year. Even though the mass of color is beautiful, these shrubs are now too large. They need a good pruning because they’re crowding out other plants. Buds are formed in the summer so it’s best to prune right after flowering. Cutting them back in the fall or winter will affect next spring’s flowering.
Very soon, my Loropetalum shrub will get a drastic makeover. This evergreen plant is a vigorous grower and takes well to pruning. In fact, one landscaper said that it could be cut down to 18 inches high and still rebound. Loropetalum is a member of the witch hazel family. Hardy in zones 7-10, it should be planted in light or partial shade.
My Loropetalum shrubs are on a steep bank next to the driveway. The main branches are now too thick to use loppers—I'll have to use a pruning saw to tame them. That will be hard work. Note to self—prune a little each year—it’s a lot easier.
Are you ready for Spring? I am--both mentally and gardening-wise. Last week I spotted the first few blooms on the flowering quince and realized it was time to get busy in the yard.
The flower beds now have a fresh layer of cypress mulch.
While cleaning the bird houses, I found this beautiful Titmouse nest made of moss and cat hair. with A lone unhatched egg was still nestled there.
Pine straw has been spread by the lake to provide easy access to nesting material for birds, especially the Bluebirds. Winter roosts have been converted back to nest boxes and the poles smeared with a fresh coating of petroleum jelly to thwart ants.
Fresh dryer lint and cat hair are often used by birds to line nests so I put it an old suet feeder and hang it in a tree.
Crepe Myrtles, Abelia, Butterfly Bushes, and other shrubs have been pruned. This big chaste tree was cut back significantly this year to control its size.
Dead plants have been removed and new ones planted. I was so sad that my beautiful Yellow Twig Dogwood died last year. It's been replaced with a Red Twig Dogwood.
Trees have been pruned. The lower branches of the Flowering Crabapple were removed to provide more sun for the grass and surrounding flower bed.
So I'm so ready for Spring to pop and it seems the plants are, too. I spotted the first azalea bud today. Now I have to get busy with Spring cleaning the inside of the house. That's not nearly as much fun.
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.