Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Local nursery with native trees

As an advocate for more native plants in our landscapes, I am often asked, "Where can I find these plants you are talking about?" And often, I am at a loss. Most of the plants for sale at the garden center, while beautiful, are not native to the southeastern United States. And while these exotic plants have many exceptional attributes- shade creation, aesthetics, erosion reduction, bird cover- they are not adequate hosts for many of the insects that our bird species need to complete their life cycles. Natives are important.

Well, I have a great nursery for y'all to go visit- Specialty Trees. A good portion of the trees available are natives and I've listed them below:

Southern Red Maple....Acer rubrum
Red Buckeye....Aesculus pavia
Bottlebrush Buckeye....Aesculus parviflora
Sweetshrub....Calycanthus floridus
Eastern Redbud....Cercis canadensis
Texas Redbud....Cercis texensis
Kentucky Coffeetree....Cladrastis kentukea
Swamp Cyrilla....Cyrilla
Loblolly Bay....Gordonia lasianthus
Carolina Silverbell....Halesia tetraptera
Spicebush....Lindera benzion
Tuliptree....Liriodendron tulipifera
Large-leaf Magnolia....Magnolia acuminata
Southern Magnolia....Magnolia grandiflora
'D.D. Blanchard'
Black Gum....Nyssa sylvatica
Sourwood....Oxydendrum arboreum
Swamp White Oak....Quercus bicolor
Overcup Oak....Quercus lyrata
Chinkapin Oak....Quercus muehlenbergii
Nutall Oak....Quercus nuttalli
Live Oak....Quercus virginiana
Bald Cypress....Taxodium distichum
Weeping Bald Cypress....Taxodium distichum
'Cascade Falls'
Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum....Viburnum 'Rusty Blackhaw'

Now, I have a plan for your trip to Specialty Trees (you need to make an appointment before you go to make sure Tony is there). The nursery is off of Highway 174 on the way to Edisto Beach, south of Charleston. Call 843-324-1437 or e-mail to schedule a trip to this wonderful nursery.

I recommend meeting with Tony around 10 or 11. If you don't have a truck, he'll deliver your tree to town later.

Afterward, head towards Edisto and eat lunch at Po' Pigs BBQ; It's so delicious. On your way back, stop at King's Market for some cut flowers, chicken salad, tomato pie and double-yolk eggs for later. Once you get home, consider a nap.

Trust me on all of this....I have done this itinerary before.

Here are some of the Redbuds that are currently flowering at the nursery:
Mexican White Oak, just leafing out. The new growth is pink and downy:

Hope y'all will listen to me and visit Specialty Trees. If you go, be sure to tell Tony that you heard about it here.

Happy Spring!

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -John Muir

Monday, March 29, 2010

I love my job

Over the last two weeks, I had the privilege to teach a 3-day workshop for the Charleston Parks Conservancy. We met for two evenings in a classroom at Hazel Parker Playground (on lower East Bay Street) and spent our final class in the spectacular garden of CPC Executive Director, Jim Martin.
Being able to really interact with eager gardeners on such an intimate level (5 participants) was really a treat for me. I hope that they got as much out of it as I did.....

Leslee Johnson-Allen of the Charleston Examiner was a faithful participant of the class and I think that she captured the feel of the workshop perfectly: Secret gardens reveal gardening secrets in Parks Conservancy workshop. Be sure to check out the slide show at the end of the article.

Leslee wrote another article about the class as well (Charleston Parks Conservancy sows the seeds for beautiful, healthy gardens) and has a collection of other nature-based articles that are worth checking out. She has a wonderful perspective.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

On life and death

It is the new year (in my book), a time of renewal and rebirth. Bees are in a frenzy, trying to visit many flowers as they possibly can. Pollen is falling in lazy drifts from the pine trees. Lawn mowers are clogging the air with the sounds of their motors.

Spring is not a time you expect death but it was at my doorstep yesterday afternoon. It is the second songbird that has fallen prey to my windows. The first was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. This time, one of my beloved Cedar Waxwings.
They have been devouring the berries off of the Eleagnus growing along the woodline over the last few days.

After admiring her beauty, I gave her a proper burial and said a little prayer.
I love that yellow color of their underbellies.

On a brighter note (literally), I have a Painted Bunting frequenting my feeder. Amazing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

And it was all yellow

My favorite color may well be yellow. I try to tell myself that it is a turquoise-ish shade of blue, but when I step back and look at the colors that dominate my home, it seems to be a golden hue. I think that I once read that yellow is predominately the favorite color of people with mental I have been reluctant to adopt it as my own!

But I'm accepting it for now! This first weekend of spring was a weekend of bright, sunlit yellow and I am happy.

The equinox began with 30 stems of daffodils which I bought for a mere $5. Possibly the best $5 I have ever spent.
My golden-themed weekend continued during a kayaking excursion on the Wambaw River Saturday when a Sulfur butterfly landed on my hand. It was a very "Snow White" moment.
Ahhhhhh, Spring. Thank you for returning. I was worried you had abandoned us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Underutilized Native Plant- Inkberry

Last week I gave a lecture to the Charleston Horticultural Society about nonnative invasive plants and the impact they have on habitats in our area. The feedback was very good- most attendees were not aware that when invasive plants are allowed to "naturalize" and escape from our gardens that it harms the established ecosystem.

It's a complicated issue because you can't talk about invasive plants without then addressing the need for more native plants in our gardens.

One that should be used more is Inkberry, Ilex glabra. This native evergreen holly is an excellent alternative to Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata) and Japanese Boxwood (Buxus microphylla)in the landscape. Indigenous from Nova Scotia to Florida, this plant is found in coastal plains and pine forests and is well-adapted to wet soils.

In the animal world, Inkberry can be considered a "superfood." According to an article in American Nurseryman (March 2010), the fruit are eaten by birds and mammals in the spring- including wild turkey and quail. Thirty-four species of moth and butterfly larvae are able to forage the leaves. In turn, these caterpillars become an important food source for many of our songbirds.

In addition to supporting birds, mammals and herbivorous insects, Inkberry is an important nectar and pollen source for honeybees. The nectar that is collected from Inkberry contains high levels of a particular enzyme that prevents the honey from crystallizing. A prominent botanist and beekeeper from the 1920's, John H. Lovell, referred to Inkberry as "the most valuable honey plant" (Root and Root, The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture).
Incidentally, due to development, Ilex glabra is becoming more scarce, particularly in the Northeast. As we inhabit larger areas of the United States, our gardens become the natural habitat for birds, insects and other animals; We can no longer pretend that our personal landscapes are not part of the bigger picture. Incorporating great plants like Inkberry into our gardens can help sustain our native fauna.

For more information about this great native shrub, check out the article by Emma Van de Water and Dr. Tomasz Anisko ("An Adaptable Shrub for a Changing Environment) in this month's American Nurseryman.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Rules of Good Gardening

#1 Do not buy mulch from the gas station.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


A small dead bird was on my door mat this afternoon, presented almost as if it was a gift. I had hoped she was still alive when I picked her up, but her eyes were lifeless and her feet were curled up towards her heels.

I took her inside to check her out. While I don't know for sure, I think she died from flying into one of my windows.

She was about the size of a wren or chickadee, but I didn't know what kind of bird I was holding. Her colors were muted, dominated by browns and blacks, so I assumed it was a female. The most telling mark was a bright gold patch at the base of her body, right above her tail. This yellow dollop made her really easy to identify (with help from Peterson's Guide Book)- Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Birders call them "Butterbutts."Later in the day, I peeked out my kitchen window into the Weeping Yaupon Holly and saw her lonely mate. I wonder if he knew what happened to her. Or if he thought she was just off on a short trip. It broke my heart to see him waiting patiently for her to return. It must be hard to lose your mate.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Upcoming Lecture

"The Nonnatives are Restless: Preventing the Spread of Invasives in the Lowcountry"
Charleston Horticultural Society: Charleston Museum March 8, 2010 6:30-7:30

Knowing which plants are invasive in our area is a challenge because many exotic species have established themselves in our landscapes decades ago. To make things more complicated for the gardener, many plants that are designated as invasive are still sold at garden centers and nurseries. This lecture will explain the real impact of invasive species on our natural areas and dependent animal species. In addition to identifying the plants that are invasive in the Lowcountry, suitable alternatives to these plants will be covered. Plant alternatives will not be limited to native species, but the benefits of natives will be a focus of this presentation.
This lecture will be useful to homeowners trying to make conscientious decisions in their personal gardens, hunters who are concerned about natural habitats and food plots, landowners who are battling invasive plants on their property and naturalists who are concerned about preserving our indigenous plants.

A free copy of the book Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests: A Field Guide for Identification and Control (James H. Miller) will be available to each attendee. This 93-page, full-color book has images and descriptions of invasive plants and detailed instructions for their control. It is a useful addition to any gardener's or naturalist's library.
I promise to have all of you out of there by 7:30! And if you come, you have a chance to win some great plants- I'm going to bring some flowering natives for the giveaway. Hope to see you there!


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