Today is a very wet day in North Georgia. This has been a wet spring in North Georgia. And frankly it was a wet winter before that! As a result, some of you may be finding some wet and squishy spots that you didn't have before. Such spots are usually due to poor drainage. Before you start researching how to improve your drainage, let me tell you about some native plants that might just be ok in those spots both when the spots are soggy and when they're not.
Perennials - for Sun
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) - also works in part shade
Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
Carolina spiderlily (Hymenocallis caroliniana)
Joe pye weed (Eupatorium/Eupatoriadelphus spp.)
Ironweed (Vernonia spp.)
Swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) - also works in part shade
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Perennials - for Shade
Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
Cinnamon fern (Osmundacinnamomea)
Royal fern (Osmundaregalis)
New York fern (Thelypterisnoveboracensis)
Lady fern (Athyriumfilix-femina)
Shuttleworth ginger (Hexastylis shuttleworthii)
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Possumhaw (Viburnum nudum and V. nudum var. cassinoides)
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Inkberry (Ilex glabra)
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis)
Florida anise (Illicium floridanum)
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
Doghobble (Leucothoe spp.)
Swamp azaleas (Rhododendron viscosum or R. arborescens)
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
Bald cypress (Taxodiumdistichum)
Blackgum/Tupelo (Nyssa spp.)
Red maple (Acer rubrum)
River birch (Betula nigra)
Swamp dogwood (Cornus amomum or C. foemina)
Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
The signs of spring are bursting out here in North Georgia and I'd like to point out a few of the ones you're likely to see while driving country roads.
The first sign for me is the hazy red fuzz of the red maple (Acer rubrum). The tiny flowers create the hazy effect. Later the tree appears to turn even more vibrant red, but that color is from the seeds - the bright red winged samaras which most of us remember as kids.
Red maple flowers are tiny and close to the stem
Red maple seeds are known as "samaras"
Next to bloom are tall white trees with a very formal shape. Unfortunately, these are NOT native. These are the naturalized "bradford" pears. These seedlings are popping up on roadsides and vacant lots with increasing frequency and often with the thorns that their parents did not have. Help remove these saplings if they show up on your property, they are a bonafide invasive plant now in Georgia.
Next to bloom are the beautiful redbud trees (Cercis canadensis). Often found peeking out from roadside edges, these make handsome garden specimens where ample sunshine allows them to develop a sculptural vase shape. As a member of the pea family (Fabaceae), the seeds produced by redbuds are thin pods with seeds. Wildlife do consume some of the seeds, but you can remove the low hanging ones if you prefer fewer seedlings (which are easily recognized by their heart-shaped leaves).
The pea-like flowers of Redbud
A wild tree hugs the edge of the woods, looking for light
Next to bloom is a white blooming native tree, the serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.). Also often found near woodland edges, the blooms are arranged in racemes (dangling clusters) and are more of a true white compared to the creamy blooms of the non-native pears. Serviceberries do best in sun and form a pleasing vase-shape up to about 25 feet tall. The blooms give way to small berries that turn from green to pink to purple to blue. Although you may never see the blue phase as the birds eat them as fast as they ripen. Serviceberry has a slew of common names: shadbush, shadblow, juneberry, sarvisberry and several others. This tree also has excellent fall color.
Serviceberry fall color
Native plums are also early to bloom. The species known as Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) forms medium sized (up to 6 feet usually) thickets on sunny roadsides with creamy white blooms that turn to white when fully expanded.
Chickasaw plum, blooming on roadsides now
So next time you're out and about you can recognize some of those spring-blooming roadside trees.
I hope the last few days of winter are slipping away. When I go outside, that hope is strengthened. Early trees and shrubs, like the southern crabapple (Malus angustifolia), are budding out. Some perennials have green foliage already, like Stokes's aster (Stokesia laevis).
But the really cheerful sight is the appearance of the spring members of the lily family (Liliaceae). The very early ones appearing now include trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum), a delightful miniature lily with speckled leaves. Sometime known as fawn lily, the bright yellow petals are a welcome surprise in February.
Not long after trout lilies appear, and sometimes at the same time, trilliums force their way through the dried leaves of the forest floor. Named for their 3 parts (3 leaves, 3 petals, 3 sepals), trilliums come in a range of forms and colors. The first to appear are the sessile trilliums (meaning their flower sits directly on the petals) such as this sweet Betsy trillium (Trillium cuneatum).
Other spring lilies that might be lesser known are the native hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) and Clinton's lily (Clintonia umbellulata).
I hope you will keep your eyes peeled for some of these special native spring lilies.