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Archive for December, 2009

Conifers for Shade

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Recently at a holiday party a friend commented to me that one doesn’t hear much about evergreen gardens.  I have thought about this and wondered why when there are so many great plants that offer evergreen foliage year around including varieties for sun and shade.  Garden designer David McMullin put it well when he said that December is the time when conifers “emerge out of the dead brown stuff.”  Yet, they are not usually the first choice for gardeners when it comes to selecting evergreens that appreciate shade.   By integrating some of these conifers into your landscape and combining them with broad leaf evergreens as well as  deciduous trees, shrubs and perennials  you can create a landscape that offers beauty and interest throughout the year.

Aucuba and Cephalotaxus

Aucuba and Cephalotaxus

The Atlanta Botanical Garden boasts a good variety of conifers for both sun and shade .  Jamie Blackburn, a curator of horticulture at the garden, shared some of his thoughts about conifers that are well suited for the shade.  One that may be familiar to some  is Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata,’  the prostrate Japanese plum yew,  an effective groundcover. (It is also reported to be deer resistant but experience tells us that results may vary depending on how hungry the deer are)    If  you want a more upright plum yew, like a Christmas tree, look for seedlings that have a central leader, as these are more likely to form a pyramidal shape as they mature.  The  upright fastigiate cultivar of this species  is typically  much more narrow than it is tall.   Some shade tolerant conifers on display at ABG, although not widely available,  are worth seeking out.  These include Torreya grandis,  Taxus chinensis, Chinese yew, and Tsuga chinensis, Chinese hemlock, which is resistant to the wooly adelgid, a devastating insect that attacks our eastern native hemlock Tsuga canadensis.  There are cultivars of Tsuga canadensis that appear resistant to the adelgid  like ‘Gentsch White,’ a rounded compact plant whose branches have  silvery tips; it grows 4’ tall and wide, perfect for smaller shade gardens or containers. 

Thuja koraiensis 'Glauca Prostrata' and lilies

Thuja koraiensis 'Glauca Prostrata' and lilies

Below is a list of additional  conifers that tolerate shade. 

Podocarpus lawrencii- Mountian plum pine as it has been called grows only 12 to 18inches tall.

Thuja koriensis ‘Glauca Prostrata’- Korean arborvitae is low growing with silvery blue foliage. 

Thujopsis dolobrata ‘Nana’- Hiba dwarf arborvitae has  a shrubby rounded habit and shiny foliage.   It grows 3 to 4’ tall and wide. 

Torreya nucifera- Japanese Torreya grows 20 to 30’ tall and 8 to 12’ wide. 

Tsuga yunnanensis-Yunnan hemlock grows 30 to 40’ tall and 18 to 25’wide, forming a graceful pyramidal shape. 




Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata'

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata'




GardenHood, 353 Boulevard SE, Atlanta, GA 30312, 404-880-9848

McMahan’s Nursery, 5727 Cleveland Hwy.,Clermont, GA 30527, 770-983-3666

 Scottsdale Farms, 15639 Birmingham Hwy(Hwy 372), Alpharetta, GA 30004, 770-777-5875

Tsuga canadensis

Tsuga canadensis

 Mail Order Sources

Woodlanders Inc., 1128 Colleton Ave. SE
Aiken, SC 29801-4728, 803-648-7522

Yucca Do Nursery, P.O.  Box 1039, Giddings, TX 78942, 979-542-8811

Holiday Gifts for Gardeners

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

     I enjoy shopping for the plant lovers in my life.  Whether it’s a container garden, a pair of pruning shears, a truck load of compost, a shade tree or a conifer, it’s easy to shop for gardeners.  I prefer to select gifts in person but if you shop online there are also many options.  Let’s start with the obvious choice of plants.  Winter is the perfect time (provided the ground is not frozen) to plant a deciduous fruit or shade tree  or conifer (Chameacyparis, Cedrus, Pinus and Cryptomeria to name a few)  in the south.  Of course, the  best gift is when you purchase and plant the tree for the recipient.  At the end of this column I have included a list of garden centers and nurseries in Georgia that offer a variety of choice plants for sale as well as other gift items mentioned here.  Bird houses, watering cans, garden sculptures, decorative containers, water gardens, bat houses, owl houses, tools, gardening books and gloves are just a few ideas. 

Chameacyparis obtusa 'Sunspray' with violas, thyme and sweet alyssum

Chameacyparis obtusa 'Sunspray' with violas, thyme and sweet alyssum

  If you like the idea of giving a gift that also helps the community, there’s still time (until December 18) to purchase a tree to be planted in honor of someone special in your life.  For just $25.00 you can order a tree from Trees Atlanta ( a membership is also an good gift idea ) that they will plant in a part of town or neighborhood  where they determine trees are needed. They will send  a holiday  card to the person you are honoring informing them of the gift.    A one-year membership to the Atlanta Botanical Garden (  is only $55.00 for individuals and $75.00 for a dual membership; which gives you unlimited admission for 12 months.  For me it’s a bargain  as I visit the garden at least  once every two weeks.   If you know someone that likes to visit private gardens, consider a membership with The Garden Conservancy   By joining you can “help ensure that America’s treasured gardens remain intact as part of our natural and cultural heritage.”  And, with a $50.00  membership you receive a copy of the Open Days Directory- a source for finding out about outstanding private gardens throughout the US,  and the days that they are open to the public (for a fee).  If you want to splurge for a magazine that is bound to inspire,  a gift subscription to the British publication Gardens Illustrated  is $75.00 for 12 issues.  (It sounds like such a good idea that I just ordered a subscription for myself)  For the practical gardener, consider the American publication Fine Gardening at $29.99 for 6 issues (one year),  a Taunton Press publication;  full of  ideas about garden design, noteworthy plants, and lots of other useful information.

Pinus bungeana bark

Pinus bungeana bark

  What about a garden design consultation to be used toward a landscape plan.   If there’s a garden designer who’s work you admire contact them about a gift certificate.   A gift certificate for your favorite mail order nursery also makes a great gift.  


Call ahead for hours of operation.  Most of the nurseries listed also have websites.

Ashe-Simpson Garden Center, 4961 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30341


GardenHood, 353 Boulevard SE, Atlanta, GA 30312


 Habersham Gardens, 2067 Manchester St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30324


 Land Arts Nursery, 809 North Broad St. (Hwy ll at 78), Monroe, GA 30656


 McMahan’s Nursery ,5727 Cleveland Hwy., Clermont, GA 30527


 Scottsdale Farms, 15639 Birmingham Hwy,(Hwy 372),Alpharetta, GA 30004



Deciduous holly 'Sparkleberry' in container with parsley

Deciduous holly 'Sparkleberry' in container with parsley