RSS Feed

Archive for March, 2010

Spring Ephemerals and More

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden in late March  and headed straight to the woodland garden.  On the way in I encountered a carpet of the daffodils,

Daffodils, Scilla and Puschkinia

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ planted in combination with Puschkinia scilliodes var. libanotica and Scilla siberica.  These perennial bulbs are easy to grow and  a delight in early spring.  Great for the woodland or the edges of borders, they also naturalize easily.  In another area of the garden I was delighted to see the spring ephemeral cutleaf toothwort, Cardamine concatenata,  formerly known as Dentaria laciniata (a name I prefer)This native wildflower not only attracts butterflies but I just read that it  is consumed by the white-footed mouse.   Last year George Sanko, Director of the Native Plant Botanical Garden at Georgia Perimeter College, the Decatur campus gave me a good definition for a spring ephemeral.   As George puts it,  these plants are “living in the fast lane.”   Because they need sun to grow, they come up in early spring and go through their sexual life cycle and then die back before the deciduous canopy puts out its new leaves.  Mission accomplished, they remain dormant until next spring.  In many cases it’s as if the plants have disappeared (no top growth is visible)  even though the roots are storing up sugars for a performance next year.  To keep track of where spring ephemerals are growing  in your garden, George recommends that you combine them with ferns.  The ferns act as a marker and then they provide a transition to summer.    Other spring ephemerals that I spotted included  Mayapples, Podophyllum peltatum  and   Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis.  Patches of  the exotic  Primula veris ranged in color from the typical soft yellow to red and shades of pink. 

cutleaf toothwort in late March

Shrubs like Corylopsis species and the striking Stachyurus praecox   ‘Rubriflora’ were also in full bloom and added to this spring scene. 

In another garden in my neighborhood I discovered a big patch of trout lilies, Erythronium americanum.  According to some the leaves look like a trout but I find the flowers to be charming. 

These are just a few of the delights that let us know that spring is really here.

Each day brings more blooms and new discoveries.  If you have a woodland garden think about adding some of these plants and you will be rewarded next spring and for many years to come. 

Stachyurus praecox 'Rubriflora' in late March

Martha Stewart radio today, March 23, 1pm EST

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Listen to me on Martha Stewart Living Today on  Sirius  radio today when I talk about  Proven Perennials for Sun and Shade.

Here are a few of my favorites with photos

For Sun I like Kalimeris pinnatifida  Zone 4 to 8

Kalimeris pinnatifida

 Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’  Zone 5 to 8

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' and peonies

For Shade

Heuchera ‘Citronelle’  Zone 4 to 8

Heuchera 'Citronelle'

Spring Flowering Trees

Friday, March 5th, 2010

The weather forecast for Atlanta this weekend looks promising for getting out and working in the garden.  It has been a long cold, wet winter and I eagerly await the arrival of my early daffodils which most years would be in full bloom by now.   I realize I have a lot of clean up to do including cutting back my Tardiva hydrangeas (I cut them back to about 10”) and cleaning up perennials.  I will also spread red pepper flakes around my violas in an effort to keep the ubiquitous squirrels from digging and making a mess.  If it rains I’ll spread some more.  It’s not very high tech but it seems to help and requires a minimum of effort. 

red buckeye

During these cold days I have been thinking about some of my favorite spring flowering trees including Aesculus pavia, red buckeye, Chionanthus retusus, fringe tree, Cornus mas, cornelian cherry dogwood, Halesia tetraptera, carolina silverbell and Styrax obassia, fragrant styrax.   I was thrilled when I purchased my styrax from Piccadilly Farm in Bishop, Georgia last fall.  It’s only about waist high so I probably won’t get many blooms this spring but someday soon it will be a beautiful specimen.  It produces masses of fragrant white bell shaped flowers. 

 fragrant styrax

Among the earliest bloomers Cornus mas (typically from mid-February to March) produces vivid yellow flowers on bare peeling  branches.  The selection ‘Golden Glory’ matures at about 25,’ making it perfect for small gardens.  For carpeting under this beauty I recommend Helleborus x hybridus and early blooming varieities of daffodils.  Blooming in April, the red buckeye  has handsome palmate  leaves and bright red to red-orange blooms.  (This native is poisonous if eaten so keep it away from animals and small children.)  While our native fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus , also known as grancy grey beard is beautiful in its own right , it’s Asian counterpart Chionanthus retusus appeals to me for its glossy foliage, fleecy white blooms, handsome bark and sometimes dark blue fruits.  While it makes a fine specimen tree in the garden I have also seen it thriving as a street tree in Savannah, GA. 

Another April bloomer, carolina silverbell is covered with white pendulous blossoms which are beautiful to look up into.  In summer the attractive winged fruits add to its charm.  

In addition to my familiar favorites there are a host of spring flowering trees that are garden worthy.  I recently spoke with Luca Gianturco of Scottsdale Farms and Tiffany Fischer of McMahan’s (and GardenHood) about some of the trees they are excited about for this spring.  Here are a few of  their recommendations.  It’s worth noting that one tree showed up on both of their lists and neither knew what the other had said.  This makes me pay attention to Aesculus x carnea ‘Ft. McNair’ which has light pink flowers with a yellow throat and disease resistant foliage. 

Magnolia 'Butterflies'

Luca Gianturco, Scottsdale Farms

15639 Birmingham Hwy

Hwy 372

Alpharetta, GA 30004


Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance , autumn brilliance serviceberry –flowers are pink in bud and open to white

Cercis canadensis – many different selections of redbud

Magnolia ‘Butterflies’- with canary yellow flowers

Tiffanny Fischer


353 Boulevard SE

Atlanta, GA 30312


Cercis canadensis ‘Appalachian Spring’- the flowers on this redbud are deep purple-red in bud and open to bright, bright pink

Magnolia ‘Jon Jon’- A Gresham hybrid, this late blooming selection has flowers that are deep reddish-purple at the base and lighter towards the tips. 

Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra’- also late blooming with deep dark burgundy flowers (almost black)

Prunus campanulata- early blooming small cherry tree with single  pink flowers

Second Annual Cemetery Shindig

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Mark your calendars for Saturday, March 27, 2010 from 6 to 9pm at Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center.

Live music, cocktail buffet, silent auction with lots of great items plus a live auction.  This event is to raise money for the beautification and enhancement of the Historic Oakland Cemetery landscape, to purchase tickets ($50.00 each) and more info visit