Ellen has been gardening with and appreciating native plants for eleven years in north metro Atlanta. She is especially fond of native shrubs and trees but is willing to learn to love herbaceous plants as well. Helping others to see the beauty and versatility of Georgia's native plants, whether it be in the wild or in the garden, is both a passion and a compulsion -- just ask her kids! Ellen is an active member of the Georgia Native Plant Society and the Georgia Botanical Society. She uses her personal blog, usinggeorgianativeplants.blogspot.com, to share seasonal ideas and pictures about native plants in her area.

Recent Blog Posts

May 19
Plants for Soggy Places  

Mar 31
Signs of Spring   (1 comment)

Feb 28
Hooray for the Lilies of Spring  

Jan 21

Dec 12
A Southern Christmas Tree  

Nov 01
The Colors of Fall  

Sep 30
Goldenrod - Good for Gardens  

Aug 28
Clematis virginiana - the REAL one   (2 comments)




by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 01/21/13

Blue skies and occasional warm days love to tease Georgia gardeners into thinking that spring is here. It's not here. Plants are still resting in their winter dormancy, gathering nutrients and energy for the big push. We won't have to wait until the third week of March (March 20th is the official first day of spring), but we need to at least get halfway through February.

These blueberry buds might look ready, but they will wait until the time is right; their expansion to flowers is a long process.



Use this time to stroll around the garden and yard to evaluate the health, shape and placement of the plants you have. Take a pad and pencil with you to sketch out ideas or jot down notes:

  • is that plant too close to the foundation?
  • has that one failed to thrive in previous years and perhaps needs to be moved?
  • what needs pruning?
  • how to fill that empty spot?
  • that area over there needs more color ...

Take some colored flags, popsicle sticks or plastic knives and forks to mark areas of interest or where you've decided to do something.

Then take your notes back inside and make two lists: A list of specific chores (plants to move or prune), and a list of plant needs to research (perennials for that wet spot, late summer perennials, tall perennials, blue perennials).

The chores list can be tacked up on the fridge for the warmer days ahead (actually some things could be moved even now).

The research list needs to sit next to your computer or a stack of plant books so that you can spend the long January evenings doing that research.


These days of pre-spring are perfect for planning. Get out there and get started!

Comments (0) | Leave a Comment | RSS | Print | Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter |

A Southern Christmas Tree
by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 12/12/12

If you want a truly old fashioned Christmas tree in the South, forget those firs, those spruces, even those Virginia pines. You'll want a Juniper - a Juniper that is known to most people as eastern redcedar. This juniper is Juniperus virginiana.

You can even decorate it outdoors!


For many years the eastern redcedar has been selected by families to be their Christmas tree. It grows all throughout the state. In the southern and coastal areas there is a subspecies known as Juniperus virginiana L. var. silicicola. The naturally pleasing shape, color and fragrance of young trees makes them perfect for Christmas trees.


Many tree farmers still raise these trees for sale in Georgia. For some families, it is the only tree they want. You can also purchase them at nurseries as live Christmas trees. Follow instructions to keep them well watered while in the house (the air is warm in the house and can dry them quickly). Immediately after the holiday, move them outdoors (move them first to a sheltered place, especially if the air is much colder, so that they can get used to the change). Plant them in late January or February. Give them plenty of room as they can get quite big as a mature tree.








Eastern redcedar is a conifer - that is it bears cones - but you might not recognize it as such. That is because the cone has fused scales that result in it resembling a blue berry. Only female plants have these cones, but the birds do love them so you're lucky if you get a female. The birds also appreciate the evergreen branches both in the summer and the winter as a place of protection.


These cones in the spring

Turn into these "berries"

Whether you use for decoration or not, it's a wonderful native tree. And it might just be right for your place!

Comments (0) | Leave a Comment | RSS | Print | Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter |

The Colors of Fall
by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 11/01/12

Parsley hawthorn

In this wonderful season of fall I spend much time soaking up the beautiful colors that nature reveals. I say "reveals" because it is the absence of the production of chlorophyll that creates the colors that were hiding in the leaves all year. Once the plant stops making chlorophyll (which is green), the other colors take over. I could not explain it any better than this:

Chlorophyll normally masks the yellow pigments known as xanthophylls and the orange pigments called carotenoids — both then become visible when the green chlorophyll is gone. These colors are present in the leaf throughout the growing season. Red and purple pigments come from anthocyanins.  In the fall anthocyanins are manufactured from the sugars that are trapped in the leaf. In most plants anthocyanins are typically not present during the growing season. Source

If you'd like to have some of this wonderful color, consider the following native trees to add to your garden:


Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) has good color and is fast growing.
Red maple (Acer rubrum) cultivars like 'October Glory' and hybrids like Acer x freemanii 'Autumn Blaze'. The species red maple is quite variable in color and may not even turn red.
Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) species and cultivars like 'Wildfire' and 'Red Rage'.
Dogwood (Cornus florida) has amazing red color; it is a small tree and needs part shade.
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) has a range of fall color from pinks to purples.
Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) is a family of shrubs; purchase cultivated plants and get both summer fruit and good fall color.

Scarlet oak




Sugar maple


Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is often overlooked until fall when the screaming fall color grabs everyone's attention.
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) has a great fall display as the tree changes from green to orange in a wave of color from top to bottom.


Hickory (Carya spp.) is the tall yellow color in almost every beautiful roadside display. The deep butter yellow leaves remain on the tree a long time, gradually fading to brown.
Smoketree (Cotinus obovatus) has both interesting flowers and good color.
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is a large shrub that has much better color than red buckeye. The yellow drooping leaves make a handsome display for several weeks.
Southern sugar maple (Acer barbatum) turns a soft clear yellow, quite unlike the orange of northern sugar maple. It is at home as an understory tree in the woods around me.

Southern sugar maple



Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is not a tree that most people deliberately plant, but the kaleidoscope of colors on the same tree can make you appreciate the ones you have.
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) has a range of fall color from pinks to purples.
Viburnum (Viburnum spp.) shrubs such as mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) and blackhaw viburnum (V. prunifolium) have wonderful fall colors.
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is handsome year round thanks to fall color and peeling winter bark.
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a shrub; look for cultivars like 'Merlot' and 'Henry's Garnet' for best color. 'Little Henry' is a dwarf form.

Blackhaw viburnum


But don't forget to include some greens. Having green trees like Pines, Hemlocks, and native Magnolias nearby provides an excellent foil for your fall colors. Now is a great time to plant trees in Georgia, so start planning your next fall today!

Comments (0) | Leave a Comment | RSS | Print | Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter |

Jump to page:  <  1 2 3 4 >  Last »