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
Pre-Spring  

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)

 

 

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Goldenrod - Good for Gardens
by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 09/30/12

Goldenrod is the common name for plants in the genus Solidago. Goldenrod is blooming now in north Georgia all along roadsides and in gardens. This bright yellow wildflower is often considered to be a problem for allergy sufferers. One allergy clinic even has it as a picture on their website. But goldenrod is not the culprit - the real allergy plant is ragweed. Here is what goldenrod looks like - nice bright yellow blooms full of pollen. But the pollen is heavy, available only to insects, too heavy to be blown about on the wind to bother humans.

Canada goldenrod, Solidago canadensis

 

Ragweed has green flowers (you hardly even notice the plant) and very light pollen that is picked up by the wind and blown from one plant to another. It is wind pollinated (hence the lack of showy flowers because it has no need to attract insects for pollination). Goldenrod flowers are covered with bees, beetles and even butterflies that benefit from the many nectar and pollen rich flowers that the plant produces.

A monarch butterfly samples some goldenrod

 

But even those that know that goldenrod is not the cause of allergies might hesitate to put goldenrod in their garden. That's because the goldenrod shown in the first picture is a rhizomatous plant - it spreads aggressively by roots that shoot out from side to side and create new plants. In a field, a roadside or a meadow, such behavior is not a problem. But in a garden, especially a suburban one, such an aggressive plant will cause the gardener to regret choosing that plant. I am here to bring you good news - there are many clumping forms of perennial goldenrod that you can choose to light up your fall garden. Because who wants to be without those wonderful wands of yellow this time of year?

 

Clumping forms of goldenrod in north Georgia include gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis), wand goldenrod (Solidago erecta), anise-scented goldenrod (Solidago odora), and downy ragged goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris). In coastal areas of Georgia, seek out seaside goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens.

Solidago nemoralis

Solidago erecta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modestly rhizomatous goldenrods for north Georgia include showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), wrinkled leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa, including 'Fireworks'), and dwarf goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata, including 'Golden Fleece'). Restrict rhizomatous goldenrods to drier areas of the garden to discourage spread.

'Fireworks'

'Golden Fleece'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While most goldenrods require full sun, there are several shade tolerant ones. My favorite is blue-stem goldenrod (Solidago caesia).

Solidago caesia

Goldenrod combines well with other flowers

I hope you can find a place for goldenrod in your garden. The pollinators will like it and you'll appreciate it come fall.

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Clematis virginiana - the REAL one
by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 08/28/12

This time of year brings out two forms of Clematis that tumble over adjacent plants with small white flowers. One species is native and is known as virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana). The other one is not native and is often called sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora). The plants are so similar in bloom time and habit that you really have to examine them to determine which plant you are looking at.

 

Clematis terniflora, non-native

Clematis virginiana, native

Both have small white flowers with four petals. Both have 3 leaflets (as many forms of Clematis do). Notice that the margin of the leaflets on the non-native one is smooth. The margin on the leaflets of the native one is toothed.

 

While both vines are considered aggressive, I find the non-native one to be more aggressive than the native one. I hope this tip will help you learn to distinguish the two so that you get the one you want. The native vine is an ideal plant if you are looking for a late summer flower to support pollinators. This one was alive with insects while I was photographing it.

Clematis virginiana, our native late summer clematis

 

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Gardening Rewards
by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 08/01/12

I'd like to take a moment to recognize some of the critters that make their way through my garden. I consider them one of the "rewards" of gardening and am happy to share my garden with them.

 

The green anole is green when he is on green plants and brown when he is not. We have a few other "lizards" that come through - such as the 5-lined skinks that are always too quick for a photo!

Butterflies are special but caterpillars are even more special to me. You see, caterpillars mean that I have the right plants for them to eat and I am actually helping the population to reproduce and make MORE butterflies!

 

Birds bring beauty and music to the garden. I love to hear their calls even when I can't see them. When I get a chance to see them enjoying one of my plants like this hummingbird or raising babies like this nest of Carolina wrens, I feel really rewarded.

 

Frogs, turtles and toads are welcome too. This is a baby tree frog - we have lots of them. Toads help keep the snail and slug populations under control while turtles love my leftover tomatoes.


I won't show you any pictures, but you can even be glad when you see spiders and snakes. Everything has a place in maintaining the balance of nature. So when you see some critter visiting your garden, take a moment and feel rewarded that you created a place that was welcoming to them.

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