Planting perennial shrubs and trees in December

forced spring by Darwin Bell

Where TheGardenLady lives, we are having unusually warm weather. Of course, winter officially arrives on Dec. 21 st. So this is still a good time to be out planting perennial shrubs and trees.

The soil is still soft enough for you to dig ample holes. When your shrub or tree is planted now, it will get enough water in the winter for it to acclimate in your location.

Even though nurseries are filled with Christmas plants, ask if they have shrubs or trees you want and ask to see if they will still give you a discount. One nursery told TheGardenLady that the trees I am looking for are still in their field, so I know the roots will be good. Even though they will have to dig them for me, they will give me 30% off.

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The Dry Dip Method for Propagating Hardwood Plants, Trees or Shrubs

Ume, Japanese plum by autan

My favorite fanciful tree creators, Pooktre Tree Shapers, just notified TheGardenLady that they have put a new video on their website. This video shows how to propagate new trees from branches of the wild plum trees that they use for most of their living tree sculptures. They will be using these newly started trees for making more of their delightful tree sculptures. Readers will see how easy it is to propagate hardwood plants, trees or shrubs.

The method being used is called the dry dip method and is a very simple way to get more plants for your garden. You can use the technique to propagate other plants that you might want to grow in your garden. For example, if a friend has an old variety rose bush, you might want for your garden, you can try propagating some roses from the stems.  See here.  You want an older variety of rose to be sure it is growing on its own rootstock, so that your new rose will look exactly the same as the parent.  See here.

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Identifying Shrubs


Recently a reader of TheGardenLady asked if I could identify some shrubs that grow in her area. TheGardenLady believes she knows the genus of plants they are but is not quite sure of the species. 

Bridalwreath Spiraea by louisa_catlover

The white flowered shrub is in the spirea family. And I believe the species is Spiraea prunifolia. Check out these two sites to see if the photos look like the plant you have seen. See here or here. 


camellia by tamaki

The shrub with the pink flower is in the genus Camellia (see here) which is the largest genus in the plant family Theaceae. One site says that “more than 400 species have been named and published “. I believe the photo you have sent is of a Camellia japonica. But because there are so many, this may not be quite the correct one.  See here. 

Camellia japonica (ヤブツバキ) #5286 by Nemo’s great uncle

Camellia japonica (ツバキ) #5481 by Nemo’s great uncle

If readers of TheGardenLady blog know the correct name of the shrubs, please don’t hesitate to send in your identification.

Shrubs, Perennials and Trees with Chartreuse or Gold Leaves

In the morning light by Quite Adept

Since the email arrived asking for recommendations of plants with burgundy leaves, TheGardenLady has been thinking that some readers might be interested in plants with Chartreuse or golden foliage. When TheGardenLady first saw chartreuse leaves on plants, she couldn’t understand why people would want leaves that look sick. But as the plant producers have created more chartreuse-leaved plants, I have gained a greater appreciation of this color in the garden. The landscape with green, burgundy and chartreuse plants makes for more visual interest, with flowers being almost a gilding to the proverbial lily.

When looking at the name of a plant, if there is the word Aurea in it, it is the Latin word for gold. Of course, the Aurea may refer to the flower, not the leaf.

One example is the Catalpa Tree, Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea” This easy to grow Catalpa tree has big, yellow leaves with white flowers.

Then there are a number of golden Chamaecyparis or False cypress:

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Tetragona Aurea’ the Golden fernleaf cypress
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’ the Golden threadleaf sawara cypress; Golden threadleaf or Lemon Thread Sawara
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Plumosa Aurea Nana’
  • There is Corylopsis spicata ‘Aurea’ the Spike Winter Hazel that not only gets chartreuse new leaves, it has fragrant yellow flowers as well.
  •  Another example with Aurea in the name is the Cryptomeria japonica the Golden Japanese Cedar Elegans Aurea.

Many of the shrubs or small trees that come in burgundy also come in chartreuse or gold. But there seems to be more chartreuse or golden shrubs than burgundy shrubs.

Because all my friends have the burgundy Smokebush, TheGardenLady had to be different. So I bought Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ Smokebush. I think I prefer the burgundy leaves and wish I had the burgundy smokebush instead; but a friend who has four burgundy Smokebushes (3 came from the mother shrub) she wanted one like my chartreuse smokebush as well. Plant lovers want them all. I am limited because my property has so many huge old trees.

Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’by nestmaker

 There are several Japanese maples in chartreuse. Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon is just one of them.

A short list of shrubs with golden or chartreuse leaves are Buddleia ‘Evil Ways’, Tiny Gold Barberry, Hydrangea like Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’, Spirea “White Gold’. There are many others.  See here.

Of course, there are also many gold or chartreuse leaved perennials and grasses like Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart or Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakenachloa macra). And don’t forget all the hostas with golden leaves. See here.  TheGardenLady has some Hosta ‘Bright Lights’ that are chartruese with a dark green border that brightens up a dark spot.

For an extensive list of chartreuse as well as burgundy shrubs and perennials check out the Monrovia website.

Monrovia is a company that produces excellent garden plants- they list 2300 in their catalog. They do not sell directly to the customer but if you type in your zip code on their site, they will tell you where their plants are sold in your area.

Winter Flowering Plants – Part III

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Primavera’ by Tie Guy II

In addition to winter-flowering flowers (see here and here), there are also winter flowering shrubs. Many of these shrubs are hardy in US hardiness zones 5 and warmer.

One of the earliest blooming shrubs is the witch hazel. Witch Hazel, Hamamelis intermedia “Pallida” is considered one of the best to open in mid to late winter.  See here.  Friends eagerly went to view the one that opened early in a local garden. Many of the Hamamelis have the added bonus of fragrance. Plus the witch hazel has fall interest with colored foliage.

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Shrubs that Grow in Little Sun

Aucuba japonica by heathervhogg

TheGardenLady received this question from Kelly.

I live in Georgia where it can get really hot and dry at times. I have a space in back against my house which gets little or no sun during the day. I would like a shrub or two which may live in these conditions. Can you help?

This is a good but difficult question because most plants want some sun and some water. But I think gardeners will be looking for more plants that will thrive in this heat and drought.

One suggestion is Japanese Aucuba – Aucuba Japonica which does best in little sun and will live in semi-arid conditions.  See here.  This plant NEEDS shade in the south. There are a few different Aucuba japonica plants to choose from including a Variegata form that would really brighten a shady area.  See here.

Rhodotypos scandens flower by tmoertel

Another shrub that seems to be able to thrive under any condition, (it is considered an invasive in many states) is the Black Jetbead shrub Rhodotypos scandens.

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7 Easy to Care for Flowering Shrubs

Hibiscus syriacus, “Rose of Sharon” by ConanTheLibrarian

TheGardenLady was asked to recommend some less commonly known flowering shrubs that are easy to care for and will create a hedge or shrub border between two houses in temperature zone 6. “Easy care: to TheGardenLady means that the shrubs are pretty much pest free including pesty deer as well as needing little maintenance after planting. Nothing is completely pest free, deer will try tasting anything and when starving will eat just about anything. And one may have to prune dead or broken branches even if you aren’t interested in shaping the hedge. Though there are other shrubs, here are 7 of TheGardenLady’s favorites that grow fairly quickly, fairly densely and easily.

Bottlebrush Buckeye by Calendar Garden

Aesculus parviflora Bottlebrush Buckeye is a deciduous shrub that will grow 9 to 12 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide -you may get away with planting just one plant. It likes sun to part shade in zones 5 -8. It likes Acidic, well-drained organic soil . This is a deciduous shrub with interesting flowers. It has received the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal award.

Rose of Sharon hibiscus by heart in hawaii

Hibiscus syriacus Rose of Sharon cultivars (Be sure to ask for the noninvasive types ). These deciduous shrubs grow in zones 5 to 9 in full sun. They grow to 10 feet tall and about 5 feet wide. They like almost any soil but prefer neutral to alkaline soil, sun and heat. These bloom late in the summer. Some of the selections that might not be so invasive are ‘Aphrodite”(dark pink), ‘Diana’ (pure white and a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society award winner) , ‘Helene’ ( white with a red “eye” ), ‘Minerva’ (lavender with a red “eye”) and ‘ Blue Satin’ which is a “proven winner.”  See here.

Japanese Andromeda / Pieris japonica by carsten de

Pieris japonica Japanese Pieris will grow to 12 feet and up to 8 feet wide. It will grow in zones 5 -7 and will take full sun in the North and part shade in the warmer zones. They like well-drained organic, acidic soil. This is an evergreen shrub with up to 6 inch long panicles of what looks like lily of the valley flowers. Flowers can be either white or pink. You can get more compact sized shrubs.

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Planting Native Trees and Shrubs

new green ash 3 by withrow

Are readers of TheGardenLady thinking of planting native trees and shrubs in your yards? Are you willing to plant them as seedlings? Especially now, after the terrible storm that blew so many trees down, you might be considering replanting your property.

A place to get them is a nursery in Jackson, NJ that has been in business for 100 years- so they know their native trees and shrubs. This is the only state run nursery in NJ. See here. This nursery raises native trees and shrubs from seeds. If you have a large enough property, this is a place to get your planting done quickly and cheaply. The NJ State Forest Nursery (732) 928-0029 will sell you a bundle of thirty tree seedlings- 3 or 4 different kinds in each bundle depending on where you want to plant these seedlings.

There is a:

Watershed Packet: These species like moist soils and prevent runoff.

Wildlife Packet: These species provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Beautification Packet: These species are aesthetically pleasing.

The trees in the groups include:

Green ash by Fr Antunes

Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) – Fast growing tree to 50-60 ft tall

Pin Oak Leaves – Quercus palustris by maxi millipede

Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) – Grows to 60-70 ft, 25-40ft ft wide, red fall color

Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum) – Grows 6-10 ft, 6-10 ft wide. Creamy white flowers in spring

Cephalanthus occidentalis, Common buttonbush, Roanoke, Virginia by shyzaboy

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) – Shrub grows to 12 ft. Small, white flower clusters in late summer

Pitch Pine by Jim Frazier

Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) – Grows to 60ft. Hardy and fire tolerant

White Pine (Pinus strobus) – Grows to 50-80 ft, 20-40 ft wide. Fast growing

Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum) – Grows 6-10 ft, 6-10 ft wide. Creamy white flowers in spring

Oak Alley by Lake Fred

Oak (Quercus spp.)

White Pine (Pinus strobus) – Grows to 50-80 ft, 20-40 ft wide. Fast growing

Picea abies ‘Acrocona’ 031012-063 by Tony Rodd

Norway Spruce (Picea abies) – Hardy, aromatic, and fast-growing to 60 ft tall

The seedlings have to be ordered no later than March for an April or May delivery or you will have to wait for next spring for delivery. Though this is basically for NJ residents, when I called them to see if they would sell these bundles to people in other midAtlantic states, they seemed to say they would. Tell them that TheGardenLady recommended them. Out-of-staters have to phone or visit the nursery. If you live in NJ you can order on line here.

This nursery also offers all sorts of interesting classes about trees such as how to identify trees and tree care. Classes are for children and adults. And if you drive to their nursery, they have miles of hiking trails. Make this a day’s outing.

8 Things To Do For The Garden In December


                                      (Photograph by Daniel Starrason)

Here are 8 things you can do for the garden in December:

1. Plant bulbs until the ground freezes or during a thaw.

2. Put burlap on stakes for winter protection of broadleaf evergreens or shrubs like roses that you want to protect.

3.  Apply winter mulches to bulbs, perennials, strawberries or shrubs AFTER the ground freezes.

4. Divide spring and summer blooming clumping perennials (Those that are fall bloomers can be divided in the spring or season opposite to bloom time.)

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