Using Stone For The Bones Of The Garden

Harmony in the garden is created when there’s balance. In Eastern Philosophy it is the gentle balance of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are basically two energies. Yin is the dark, passive, grounding, and a cooler energy. Yang is the light, active, and warmer energy. Notice how the most harmonious gardens will contain a balance of stone, plants, architecture (something man-made), and water (though real water can sometimes be ‘mimicked’ successfully). Occasionally this balance is so subtle, soothing, and perfectly natural, that you may not notice… Bravo!! This is a job well done by the garden designer.

When I see the natural and asymmetrical use of stone in the garden, I’m immediately reminded of how Asian gardens have influenced our western gardens. So often in our Western culture, we naturally want to fill up the space with plants, plants, and more plants. Sure, I’ve been guilty of this too…being a plant addict. But we must remind ourselves of the balance and leave room for stone, water, a dash of architecture, and some ‘space’.

The stone adds structure, grounding, coolness, strength, and mystery of the ancient. Plants soften the edges; add life and light, and sometimes movement when the element of wind is introduced. Water brings animation and the dynamics of activity, an affirmation that your garden is alive! The touch of architecture reminds us of our creativity (though it might be very geometric) and connection to the natural world; an art form created by our hands using Mother Nature’s elements.

We can use stone in a variety of ways in our landscape. Not only is it decorative, it’s highly functional. Stone can be used to create walkways, patios, walls, terracing, architecture, water features, or decorative accents for balance. Stone is available in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Let’s first discuss the different types most commonly available in our area and a few terms you will run across:

  • Field Stone (typically Tennessee or Pennsylvania) – is an aged sandstone rock that is gray to tannish in color. It’s also from the surface, giving it more of an aged and weathered appearance. Its surface is typically more uneven than a flagstone. It can be used for walls, steps, and stack. Thicker fieldstone works well for water features.
  • Flag stone (bluff rock) – is also a sandstone rock that is quarried from sheets of sedimentary layers of rock. Flagstone, in contrast to fieldstone, is
    usually warmer earth tones such as yellow ochre or terra cotta). It has a much smoother surface than fieldstone. It’s often used for dry stacking of barrier walls to sidewalks, pavers, etc. Pavers can be “soft set” (no mortar) or set using mortar.
  • Stack stone – This can be a field or flagstone. It ranges from thick, medium, to thin (veneer) in thickness. The thin pieces are approximately 1 inch thick, medium 1.5 to 2 inches, and thick is 2 to 3 inches. A stack stonewall can be a dry stack (no mortar) or a mortar stack. Boulders- this includes a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and patinas. My favorite is mossy basket boulders. These are somewhat rounded, smoother than a fieldstone, with a natural moss patina on them. They work well around natural looking water features and dry creek beds.
  • River rock – has rounded edges and surface smoothed by the water. It comes in two shapes “rounds” and “flats”. It’s in a variety of sizes from “egg” size on up to basketball size. It has a variety of uses from dry creek beds, to walls, and step stones (for flatter stones and can be sunk into the ground).
  • Cobbles, rubble, and “brick”- are used for stack walls, paths, borders and typically uniform in shape and size making it easy for  installation. The bricks are typically long narrow pieces made from flagstone (used as borders, edging, step risers, walls).
  • Aggregates (gravel) and sand – this would include the smaller stones and chips such as pea gravel, marble chips, granite chips, slate chips, Alabama rose stone which can be used in walkways or between pavers. This also includes crushed granite sand, which is typically used for dry laid (soft set) stone.
  • Natural shape vs. rectangular (geometric) cut- more often you will find flag stone in a natural irregular shape. However, it can also be purchased in precut rectangular shapes, which works well when laying a patio that is of a rectangular shape. Precut also works well when laying steps or stair treads that are of a consistent size and more formal in appearance.
  • Tumbled- typically cobbles (sometimes flagstone) are tumbled in a machine to smooth the edges.

Because it takes years to become a skilled stone mason and a well trained eye to place stone in the landscape, you may want to consult with a professional first and take careful notes as they install your project for you. Or perhaps you can take on a smaller project such as a small terrace, a small soft-set patio, or a small water feature. If you are a Do-It-Yourselfer, here are some general guidelines to follow when using stone in your landscape:

  • When building stack stone terraces, angle the wall slightly so it leans towards the slope you’re terracing. And always be sure to have proper drainage installed at the base of the wall/terrace (you will probably want to consult with a landscape architect and a stone mason when building large walls, terraces, and other structures).
  • Using fewer but larger rocks in a water feature and as decorative accents is much more appealing and natural looking than a lot of little stones.
  • Boulders typically look bigger at the stone yard…so pre measure the space at home to be sure of the size at the time of purchase.
  • When setting large boulders, partially submerse the stone into the earth. They are best when laid into a slope. Don’t lay them on top of the ground as if it fell off of the truck.
  • Typically groupings of 1 or 3 boulders look best. In Japanese gardens, a grouping of 3 boulders represents the Buddha stone (Mida buhtsu- the male stone), the Goddess stone (Kwannon- the female stone), Child’s stone (Seishi). These 3 stones are of 3 different heights. The first, tallest, being a vertical looking stone and the others being progressively smaller and horizontal.

  • Since stone is available in so many colors, be sure it blends with the colors and materials of your home.
  • Avoid laying large boulders at a 90-degree angle perpendicular towards the house or other structures. This is visually unsettling (and a major Feng Shui faux pas!). Rather, lay the boulders parallel or at a slight angle towards the home or structure.
  • Stick to the same color scheme of rock. You can successfully use 2 different types of rock if they are in the same color pallet.
  • Straight lines and symmetrical layout will yield a formal appearance. Use sweeping curves (no squiggles) and asymmetry for a more natural appearance.
  • If laying pavers in a natural area around tree roots, use “soft set” pavers (no mortar). This is a permeable surface that will allow the earth to absorb water. A thin layer (about 1 to 2 inches) of crushed granite sand is evenly spread over the area and the pavers are set on top. Then overlay (by sweeping) more crushed granite sand (or soil if planting a ground cover between pavers) between the pavers.
  • If unsure about “where” and “how” to add your decorative stone accents, look to nature for ideas. Go on a hike in the mountains and look at natural formations…Mother Nature is exquisite!

Stone is in the garden for a lifetime…it is ageless. You don’t have to water or prune it, insects don’t eat it, doesn’t lose its color in winter, and it stays the same size and in the same place year after year. Enjoy the new bones of your garden!

Creating Curb Appeal – Do it Right The First Time!

Is your week hectic like mine? Running from one task to another? Juggling family, career, household, volunteer activities, and more…leaving no time for the landscape? After the day is done and you drive into your neighborhood and approach your driveway, are you squinting your eyes filtering out what uglies lurk in your landscape? As you enter your home, throw your keys and mail on the counter, do you shut the blinds to hide what you don’t want to see outside? If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, you have LAS, Landscape Avoidance Syndrome…………..O.K., I just made that up but many of us suffer from it!

How about making a spring and summer resolution? Thou shalt make thy dwelling beautiful! Perhaps, like many, you’re inexperienced at this, have no idea where to start, and you’re overwhelmed. Hopefully, the following tips will take the fear out of gardening and get you on the right track to creating the beautiful curb appeal you so desire.

Keep a clean edge
Trench around existing pine islands 3” deep and wide. This will help to keep the grass/groundcovers out as well as have a neat appearance. This works much better around pine islands in the lawn than using borders such as pavers or rock. It is much easier to maintain and mow along the edge.

In areas where shade has increased over the years and your lawn is declining, it will be best to expand the bed line and eliminate the declining lawn. When laying out new bed lines, use a hose to create gentle curves. Try to stick to an ‘S’ curve and keep it to two waves. Once you’re satisfied with the shape spray it out with spray paint. Landscape spray paint is available at most hardware stores. If this new bed encompasses lawn, either dig the existing lawn out (I prefer this) or spray with glyphosate (Roundup) prior to planting.

Spruce up the mulch
Keep a good layer of 3” deep mulch on your beds all year. This will help to discourage seed germination, keep roots moist, will break down and amend the soil, and keep soil born diseases from plants. Add your mulch in the winter after leaves have fallen and in mid summer when it starts looking faded. Avoid using gravel as a ground cover in beds. Gravel will act as a heat sink and does not amend the soil. It’s also very difficult to re-work the soil or add additional plants to soil that have a layer of gravel on it. If you have a slope, use shredded pine park mulch; it will adhere to the slope better than pine straw.

Pruning can be very time consuming so avoid plants that need lots of pruning; this also falls into the category of choosing the right size shrub/tree for the space. Prune leggy or sparse looking shrubs and remove any dead or diseased branches. More mature shrubs often look better “limbed up” and turned into a topiary tree-like shape. Winter is usually the best time to prune trees and shrubs. If pruning in the summer, don’t  remove more than 25% of the foliage. If the plant is a spring bloomer (blooms before May), then prune just after it blooms to avoid cutting off bloom buds.

Avoid plants that require lots of watering. Using drought tolerant plants will save you time and money. Remember to water you’re newly planted shrubs, trees, etc. until established. Even during the winter, watering is needed. The best means to water is by soaker hose, especially during a drought. This will save at least 50% more water than a traditional sprinkler.

Use native plants. Plants that are native to our area can tolerate are heat and drought conditions better than most non-natives. They are also more disease resistant than most non-natives. So there’s usually no need to use harsh chemicals.

Stay ahead of “weeds”
The definition of a weed is a plant out of place…so Bermuda grass can definitely be considered a weed at times. Avoid plants that re-seed all over your garden or have underground runners that invade and smother other plants. Use a pre-emergence in mid September to prevent germination of cool season weeds in winter. Use again in late February or early March to prevent germination of warm season weeds in summer. If you’re organically minded, use corn gluten and top with 3” of mulch in garden beds. For existing weeds, use a post-emergence for broadleaf and grassy weeds. Remember to always read the label carefully. If you need help in identifying weeds and diseases, contact your county extension office. Staying ahead of the weed game will definitely lighten the maintenance burden.

Plant in swaths and groupings
Try to group smaller plants together in odd numbers. For shrubs that are 3’ x 3’ and smaller, I tend to put in a group of at least 3-5. Place larger  shrubs, those at least 4’ x 4’ and larger, in groups of 3 or treat the shrub as an accent or focal point (if it is very unusual) and plant it by itself. Don’t have more than one focal point in the same garden “room”. Stay away from planting in rows or perfect circles but plant in “drifts” or triangular shapes.

Repeat plant groupings and balance
Repeat certain groupings for unity and harmony throughout the landscape. Balance your plantings. It can be asymmetrical and still be balanced. Especially balance your evergreens so the landscape looks attractive in the winter.

Selecting the plants
For starters, challenge yourself to stick with seven different species (NOT seven plants total). Mix sizes, shapes, colors, and textures for interest…but remember that simple is sometimes best. You don’t have to have a plant in every space.  Sometimes a piece of sculpture works well to break up, add interest, or just give your eyes a rest.

Remember finer small foliage gives the appearance of being further away; larger foliage (especially glossy leaves) looks closer. So in an area you want to give the appearance of being larger, use finer foliage. In an area you want to look smaller (cozier), use larger, glossy foliage.

Dark colors and shades of blue look further away and cooler. Bright and light colors jump forward. Red, yellows, oranges add warmth. Stick with 1 to 2 main colors and have 1 or 2 accent colors. Try to stick with a total of 3…sometimes 4 will work if you stay in the same or similar hues.

Remember the size relationship between plants. Know the size and shape before planting. Watch for power lines, water pipes, rooflines, walkways, etc. Also know the plants desired growing condition. Does it prefer sun, shade, moisture, dry, etc? Keep in mind that plants that prefer part to full shade can handle early morning sun (eastern exposure) but need protection from afternoon sun.

Plant your largest trees first. These might be a combination of deciduous and evergreen. Then place your large and medium evergreen shrubs so that they are balanced throughout the landscape. If you’re not sure what’s evergreen, plant in the winter to be sure. Then place your deciduous shrubs. Then fill in with perennials and groundcovers.

Do not plant aggressive ground covers (like ivy or vinca) in beds with perennials or low growing shrubs; it will smother them. It’s actually easier to care for a bed in a wooded area with no ground cover than with. In the winter, blow or rake your leaves into the beds (with no ground cover) and top with a thin layer of pine straw for a neater appearance.

A good place to grow a low growing groundcover (such as lamium, creeping jenny, mondo grass, which are less than a few inches tall) is in a walkway or perhaps around stepping-stones. But keep in mind; eliminating weeds is easier to tackle when there is no ground cover to pick  through.

If you are one of those impulse buyers (must have that cool new plant, like me), designate ‘nursing beds’. These are planting beds that can  temporarily house some of those new buys. Last but not least, it’s important to have a landscape design plan so you know what the big picture is.
This way it won’t look like a hodgepodge of plants. You might want to contact a landscape designer to draw up a design (to scale) for your landscape. Once you have a plan in place, then you can concentrate on a particular area and do it at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Important numbers to remember
Call before you dig to get utilities marked! Call 1-800-282-7411 (usually within 2 weeks of installation). Get a soil test to determine nutrient deficiencies. This information and much more is available through your county extension office. To find the contact information for your County Extension office, call 1- 800-ASK-UGA1.

Great Websites
Publication Soil Preparation and Planting Procedures for Ornamental Plants in the Landscape:
Publication Lawns of Georgia:
Walter Reeve’s website:
Georgia Native Plant Society:

Bringing Home The Birds

The pallet of the landscape is transforming from subtle browns and tans, exploding to splashes of hot pink, white, yellow, and purple. The sweet smelling crabapple blossoms, showering down papery petals in a gentle breeze, blanket the landscape. The rustling, hatter, and singing of the   wildlife have filled the once still air. Spring is here!

I peer out my bedroom window to watch the dance of the robins in the crabapple trees. Pecking a few of the faded fruits remaining from winter,
Mr. Robin urgently searches for a home to impress Mrs. Robin. This is a busy time for the migratory birds, just arriving back home after a long
flight. Some species of birds fly thousands of miles from Central America, Mexico, or South America to arrive at their final destination. In the
southeast, our American Robin, Turdus migratorius, is with us all year long. In a matter of days, the male robin scopes out his territory and then
the female arrives (choosing the male with the best nesting spot). They then build a nest, incubate eggs, and raise their young, or brood. In the case of the robin, they have two (sometimes three) broods before winter arrives

You might ask yourself, “What influences Mr. & Mrs. Robin to select their prime nesting spot?” They are looking for the same things that we do to survive: food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young. Birds will often return to the same location year after year if all of these are present. So let’s discuss what you can do in your garden to bring home the birds.

Depending on the species of bird, their diets will vary greatly. In the case of my friend, the robin, his/her diet consists of a mixture of fruits, berries, earthworms, and insects such as beetle grubs, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. Another frequent visitor to my garden is the Carolina wren,
Thryothorus ludovicianus, which does not migrate. He’s also here all year round. The Carolina wren is a ground forager whose diet mainly consists of caterpillars, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, wasps, and flies (I’m sure you can already see the wonderful benefits of attracting birds to your garden!).

There are so many native plants you can place in your landscape that provide fruit, berries, and seeds that our native birds need (see Tables 1.1-1.4). From my own observations in my backyard, the crabapple trees, smooth sumac, yaupon holly, American beautyberry, chokeberry, elderberry, blackberry, and blueberry are very popular amongst the fruit and berry eating birds. And like it or not, poison ivy berries are a favorite. I make sure this vine stays far away from my walkways!

For the seedeaters, I see lots of activity on my swamp sunflower, black-eyed-Susans, purple coneflower, and goldenrod. For nectar loving birds such as hummers, cardinal flower, bee balm, salvia (pineapple, anise & autumn sage), crossvine, coral honeysuckle, and jewelweed are big attractors.

But in addition to our bird friendly plants, it’s always a pleasure to supplement feed our feathered friends at our feeders. I especially make sure the feeders are full during late winter and early spring since the natural food supplies are diminishing and the new migrants are arriving. There are so many feeders available, some bird specific, that it can be overwhelming. The website has wonderful information on the various feeders and more.

My favorites are the standard cylindrical tube on a pole complete with the squirrel baffle, thistle feeder, suet, and nectar feeder. The cylindrical feeder attracts an array of birds from titmouse to woodpeckers. The seeds that are tossed out by the fussy eaters are eaten by the ground foragers (such as morning doves). I usually mix my own seed consisting of black oil sunflower, hulled sunflower, safflower, and sometimes peanuts. I stay away from corn and millet; two foods that appear to attract more rats than birds! The thistle feeder is specific to gold finches. And of course, the nectar feeder is for our sweet little hummers. This is filled with 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and is refilled every few days.

Not only is food essential to your habitat but also water. A simple birdbath that is 12 inches wide and two to three inches deep works perfectly. Also, water drips and fountains are appealing to birds because of the rippling affect on the water surface. A water garden or pond is also inviting. Just be sure to have a very gentle slope (half inch to 4 inches) so that it is accessible to the birds. The placement of your water feature will also determine which birds it will attract. In open areas, bolder species such as robins, jays, and chickadees will visit. To attract the more timid species, such as warblers, place your water source near evergreen shrubs.

For stagnant water, such as birdbaths, be sure to change the water every few days. Not only to keep it clean for our visiting birds, but also to prevent mosquitoes. Mosquito dunks or bits (Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt) are also helpful if added to the water. Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium, which is lethal to mosquito larvae but harmless to mammals and birds.

The next essential element, which encompasses your entire habitat, is shelter. To create a desirable shelter, we must concentrate on vegetation structure and layering. “Many migrants are attracted to thickets, dense masses of fruiting shrubs, vines, briers, and brambles. Native trees and shrubs are best, because they are genetically programmed to leaf out, bloom, and fruit at precisely the right time for the migrants with which they’ve co-evolved.” According to Janet Marinelli, Director of Publishing at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It is also essential to have brush and  log piles, and a small open area or meadow. This is where being a good steward comes into play. Be as organic and pesticide free as possible. If your garden is diverse, consists of plants native to your area, and you practice good maintenance habits, this should come naturally. If you must reach for the bottle of pesticide, please read the label carefully!

For the final element, we must provide places for the birds to raise their young. By providing a good shelter, you’ve probably already created good nesting places. Good nesting places are evergreen trees and shrubs, snags, trees with cavities, brush piles, and artificial nesting sites (such as nesting boxes). I often have robins and wrens nesting in plants on my front porch. Another important aspect of a nesting site is safety. Birds want to feel secure from predators. One of the biggest predators in my habitat is the free-roaming domestic cat. So if you own a cat, please be mindful of this. A bell around the neck does not work when it comes to baby birds. Please, try to keep kitty inside, especially in spring.

This sounds like a lot of work but with time and patience, it can be accomplished. If you are successful, the rewards are endless. The ultimate gift in return is to discover a nest, with 5 bright blue eggs, see them hatch, watch the brood grow, and take their first flight!


All provide shelter to some degree but the evergreens* offer more winter protection

Common Name Botanical Name Resource
American beech Fagus grandiflora Nut, shelter(not evergreen but leaves drop late)
American holly Ilex opaca Shelter, fruit
Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis “Green Giant” Shelter
Blackgum Nyssa sylvatica Fruit
Eastern red cedar Juniperus virginiana Fruit, shelter
Hickory Carya spp. Nuts & nut scraps
Magnolia, sweetbay*, southern*, cucumber tree, bigleaf, fraser Magnolia virginiana, M. grandiflora, M. acuminata, M. macrophylla, M. fraseri Seed, shelter
Oak; note the Sawtooth Oak is considered an exotic invasive Quercus spp.; note the white oaks produce acorns more frequently than red Nuts & nut scraps
Persimmon, common Diospyros virginiana Fruit
Pine* Pinus spp. Seed, Shelter
Sourwood Oxydendrum arboreum Seed
Sycamore Platanus occidentalis Seed
Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua Seed
Tuliptree Liriodendron tulipifera Seed, nectar
Wild or black cherry Prunus serotina Fruit
Riverbirch Betula nigra Seed
Winged elm Ulmus alata Seed
Ash, white & green Fraxinus americana, F. pennsylvanica lanceolata Seed

All provide shelter to some degree but the evergreens* offer more winter protection

Common Name Botanical Name Resource
American beautyberry Calicarpa americana Fruit
American Hophornbeam Ostrya virgiana Fruit
Agarista* Agarista populifolia Shelter, nectar
Arborvitae* Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald Green’ Shelter
Blackberry Rubus spp. Fruit
Blueberry Vaccinium spp. Fruit
Chokeberry, red Aronia arbutifolia Fruit
Clethra Clethra alnifolia Fruit, nectar
Devil’s walkingstick Aralia spinosa Fruit
Dogwood Cornus florida Fruit
Elderberry Sambucus canadensis Fruit
Florida anise* Illicium floridanum Nectar, shelter
Fothergilla Fothergilla gardeni, F. major Seeds
Fringe tree Chionanthus virginicus Fruit
Gray owl juniper* Juniperus virginiana Fruit, shelter
Hackberry Celtis occidentalis Fruit
Hawthorn Crataegus spp Fruit
Huckleberry, some* Gaylussacia spp Berry
Inkberry* Ilex glabra Fruit
Leucothoe* Leucothoe spp. Nectar, shelter
Magnolia Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’, M. ashei Ashe Magnolia Seed
Mountain laurel* Kalmia latifolia Nectar, shelter
Native azalea Rhodendron viscosum, R. canescens, R. prunifolium, R. roseum, R. austrinum Nectar
Osage orange Maclura pomifera Fruit
Possumhaw Ilex decidua Fruit
Red Mulberry Morus rubra Fruit
Rhododendron* Rhododendron catawbiense, R. maxmium Nectar, shelter
Rose, swamp Rosa palustris Fruit
Sassafras Sassafras albidium Fruit
Serviceberry Amalanchier arborea Fruit
Southern crabapple Malus angustifolia Fruit
Spicebush Lindera benzoin Fruit
Strawberry bush Euonymus americanus Fruit
Sumac Rhus spp. Fruit
Viburnum, mapleleaf & Rusty black haw Viburnum acerifolium V. rufidulum Fruit
Wax myrtle* Morella cerifera Fruit, shelter
Wild plum Prunus americana Fruit
Winterberry Ilex verticillata Fruit
Yaupon holly* Ilex vomitoria Fruit, shelter

All provide shelter to some degree but the evergreens* offer more winter protection
P=perennial, A=annual, V=vine

Common Name Botanical Name Resource
Aster, Short’s Aster shortii P Nectar, seed
Shale aster Aster oblongifolius P Nectar, seed
Bee balm Monarda didyma M. fistulosa P Nectar
Black-eyed-Susan Rudbeckia spp. P & A Seed
Cardinal flower Lobelia cardinalis P Nectar
Carolina jessamine* Gelsemium sempervirens V Nectar, shelter
Columbine, wild red Aquilegia canadensis P Nectar
Coral bells Heuchera americana P Nectar
Coral honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens V Nectar
Coreopsis, tickseed Coreopsis auriculata P & A Seed
threadleaf, pink tickweed C. verticillata, C. rosea P & A Seed
Crossvine* Bignonia capreolata V Nectar, shelter
Firepink Silene virginica P Nectar, seed
Geranium, wild Geranium maculatum P Seed
Goldenrod Salidago spp. P Seed
Grasses, native- some* Andropogon spp, Panicum spp, Juncus spp*,Caryx * P&A Seeds, shelter, nesting material
Greenbriar Smilax spp. P Nectar
Indian pink Spigelia marilandica P Nectar
Iris, copper Iris fulva P Nectar
Iris, dwarf Iris cristata P Nectar
Jack-in-the-pulpit Arisaema triphyllum P Fruit
Jewelweed Impatiens A Nectar
Joepyeweed Eupatorium fistulosum P Seed
Lantana Lantana spp P&A Fruit, nectar
Mosses, lichens * Various spp Nesting materials
Mountain mint Pycnanthemum tenuifolium P Seeds
Muscadine, wild grape Vitis rotundifolia V Fruit
Obedient plat Physostegia virginiana P Nectar
Partridge berry* Mitchella repens V Fruit
Phlox, Carolina Phlox carolinia P Nectar
Poison ivy Toxicodendron radicans V Fruit
Pokeweed Phytolacca americana P Fruit
Purple cone flower Echinacea spp. P Nectar
Salvias- anise sage, autumn sage, pineapple sage, Mexican bushsage, Texas sage, lyreleaf sage Salvia guaranitica, S. greggii, S. elegans, S. leucantha, S. coccinea P&A Nectar
Silphium, cup-plant Silphium perfoliatum P Seed & leaves hold basins of water
Solomon’s seal & false solomon’s seal Polygonatum biflorum, Smilacina racemosa P Fruit
Sundrops Oenothera tetragona P Nectar
Sunflower Helianthus spp. P&A Seed
Swamp hibiscus Hibiscus coccineus P Nectar
Trumpet creeper Campsis radicans V Nectar
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia V Fruit

Note-Some bird’s diets are more detailed than others due to research available

Common Name Scientific Name Diet
American gold finch Carduelis tristis Hulled sunflower, niger,suet. White ash, box elder, American elm, American hop hornbeam, red mulberry, most pine, sweet gum, osage orange, grape, sunflower, rose, silphium, and serviceberry.
American robin Turdus mirgatorius Insects, spiders, worms, most berries -chokeberry, wild grapes, crabapple
Blue jay Cyanocitta cristata Black oil, hulled sunflower, nuts. Other bird’s eggs, fruit, nutmeats, acorns, insects
Brown Thrasher   State bird Orpheus rufus Suet, black oil sunflower seed, hulled sunflower seed, nutmeats, fruit. Red chokeberry, flowering dogwood, cedar, Southern magnolia, red mulberry, Southern wax myrtle, black gum, pines, black cherry, devil’s walking stick, serviceberry, holly, juniper, Virginia creeper, pokeberry, wild plum, and blueberry. Also, insects, worms, spiders, small amphibians, caterpillars.
Brown-headed nuthatch Sitta pusilla Black oil sunflower seed, hulled sunflower seed, striped sunflower seed, safflower seed, niger (thistle), suet, nutmeats, fruit, shelled peanuts. Mostly pine seed, but also maple, oak, beech, hickory, insects, spiders.
Carolina Chickadee Poecile carolinensis Sunflower, niger, safflower, suet. Maple, sweet gum, pines, elm, sunflower, insects.
Carolina wren Thryothorus ludovicianus Insects, Bird Cakes, Mealworms, suet, niger. Sweet gum, pine, oak, and osage orange.
Dark eyed junco Junco hyemalis Seed mix, hulled sunflower. A wide variety of seeds. Also, insects, spiders,
Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis Shelled peanuts, cracked nutmeats, suet, raisins, currants, hulled sunflower chips, and live mealworms. Red chokeberry, flowering dogwood, hackberry, common persimmon, red cedar, crabapple, red mulberry, Southern wax myrtle, black gum, black cherry, sassafras, huckleberry, devil’s walking stick, strawberry bush, holly, juniper, Virginia creeper, pokeweed, sumac, rose, blackberry, elderberry, grapes, blueberry, and viburnum. Also, insects, spiders, caterpillars.
Eastern screech owl Otus asio Voles, mice, large insects, crayfish, earthworms, and other vertebrates
Field sparrow Spizella pusilla Insects, spiders, grass seeds
House finch Carpodacus mexicanus Introduced in 1940. Hulled sunflower, safflower, grasses, and ‘weed’ seeds, berries
Mourning dove Zenaida macroura Seed Mix, Hulled Sunflower. Variety of seeds, waste grain, fruit, insects
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis Black Oil Sunflower, Safflower. Maple, ironwood, hackberry, fringetree, flowering dogwood, hawthorn, ash, huckleberry, sweet gum, Southern magnolia, red mulberry, hop hornbeam, pine, black cherry, aralia, sunflower, firebush, lantana, rose, and blackberry. Also, grass seed, waste grain, ‘weeds’. Also, insects, spiders, caterpillars.
Northern mockingbird Mimus polyglottos Suet, peanut butter, nutmeats, fruit. Hackberry, mulberry, flowering dogwood, elderberry, sumac, and serviceberry. Also, spiders, insects.
Red bellied woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus Suet, hulled sunflower, sugar water. Pine, oak, red mulberry, flowering dogwood, maple, crabapple, black gum, American beech, American elm, bayberry, elderberry, sunflower, holly, Virginia creeper, pokeweed, grape, and blueberry. Also, insects, other small mammals & reptiles & bird eggs.
Ruby Throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris Nectar, sugar. water flowering maple, scarlet sage, anise sage, pineapple sage, coral honeysuckle, trumpet vine, cardinal flower, lantana, cross vine, Mexican sage, bleeding heart vine, Carolina jessamine, hibiscus, azaleas. Also, small insects.
Song sparrow Melospiza melodia Most seeds, grains, grass, berries and on some occasions insects
Summer tanager Piranga rubra Fruit, suet, sugar water. Black gum, flowering dogwood, red mulberry, blackberry, black cherry, elderberry, muscadine grape, and pokeweed. Also, many flying insects, especially bees & wasps.
Scarlet tanager Piranga olivacea Fruit, suet, sugar water. Same as Scarlet Tanager plus black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, pecan meats, peanut hearts, and sugarwater. Red mulberry, black cherry, serviceberry, blackberry, sparkleberry, and grape. Also, many flying insects, especially bees & wasps.
Tufted titmouse Baeolophus bicolor Black oil sunflower, suet. American beech, crabapple, red mulberry, black gum, hackberry, oaks, blackberry, elderberry, serviceberry, Virginia creeper, and grape. A variety of insects and other invertebrates.
White breasted nuthatch Sitta carolinensis Black oil sunflower seed, hulled sunflower seed, striped sunflower seed, safflower seed, niger (thistle), suet, nutmeats, fruit, shelled peanuts. Mostly pine seed, but also maple, oak, beech, hickory, insects, spiders.
Yellow-rumped warbler Dendroica coronata A variety of insects and berries. An opportunistic feeder.

The following websites were a great resource of information: -American Bird Conservancy – Your Florida Backyard – Wild Ones-Native Plants, Natural Landscapes – – National Audubon Society – Wildlife Habitat Design

Coleus: Color So Bright “I Gotta Wear Shades”

Most of us gardeners have learned patience through our plant endeavors. Some of us even enjoy being teased for weeks by the swelling buds of something soon to be magnificent, but only lasting days. But sometimes, let’s admit it, we want the instantaneous ratification of instant non-stop color…just add water and presto! I do enjoy creating instant curbside appeal with colors so bright “I gotta wear shades”!

COLEUSIn my landscape, I have my designated annual beds where I concentrate on bold color masses. Though there are many beautiful annual summer blooming flowers, Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), by far, is my absolute favorite! I don’t have to wait for flowers because the color is all in the leaves! With its various textures and colors ranging from purple, red, orange, hot pink, chartreuse, yellow to soft pastels, there are so many possibilities. I have beautiful color from spring to frost with minimal upkeep!

Native to Eastern Asia and Malaysia, coleus has become naturalized in many tropical settings such as Hawaii, Fiji, and the Cook Islands. In the mid 1800’s, Dutch traders introduced the plant to Europe and the plant breeders quickly began to hybridize new, more colorful cultivars. This soon caught the eye of British and American gardeners as well. Coleus is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Don’t be frightened! Unlike true mints (Mentha spp.), coleus does not have runners and cannot survive our Georgia winter temperatures. As soon as first frost comes, it’s history.

I’ve also found that coleus is not just for shade. There are many wonderful cultivars that can handle full sun! Special thanks to Dr. Allan Armitage of the University of Georgia for introducing many of these new cultivars that thrive and stay bright-colored in our southern sun! In fact many of the cultivars that are said to prefer shade, can handle the sun. They just fade to a lighter color usually more yellow or golden) in full sun. They will also require more frequent watering.

COLEUSBe sure to group your annual coleus in masses rather than spotty hit n’ miss plantings. Not only will this have the most impact, but also they will be far easier to care for. To achieve this impact, have designated annual beds. Annual beds look best when the soil is mounded about six to ten inches above ground level. When dealing with an area of poor red clay soil, first till up the area about 2 or 3 inches deep. Then mix approximately 2-parts soil conditioner, 1-part mushroom compost, and 1-part topsoil in your wheelbarrow. dd this mix to the existing soil and till again. Then with a shovel and rake, work the area into a nice mound. At this point, add a slow release fertilizer (such as Osmocote) and water saving crystals (mix according to label) mixing in about three to six inches deep. Then mark the planting holes with your trowel (spacing will depend of cultivar) about six to twelve inches apart and three to four inches deep. Prior to planting, thoroughly water the soil and the individual plants. Now the area is ready to pop the plants in. If the plants look a little root bound, gently pull the root ball apart with your fingers while placing in the hole. Now tuck the soil around the plant eliminating air pockets. To help retain moisture and eliminate weeds, place a thin layer (one half to one inch) of pine bark mini-chips around the plants. Then cleanup the plants with one last misting of water.

There’s no guessing as when to water next. Coleus will do the droopy dance when it gets thirsty. Just water and within a couple of hours they’re perked up again. My coleus beds that are in full sun and next to the street require two thorough watering per week in he summer (if it hasn’t rained). Other than watering, I pinch off the upper third of the plant (about three to four times a season), to keep it from getting leggy and flowering. Yes, this is one plant that you want to pinch off the flower buds. If you decide to let it loom, they do attract all sorts of great pollinators.

COLEUSTo keep the color alive, many gardeners collect root cuttings in fall. It’s easily propagated by taking four inch cuttings of healthy Plants just prior to first frost. Using a sharp clean knife, cut just below the leaf node at an angle. Remove the lower leaves (keeping he top two to four leaves) and submerse about one to two inches of the stem in water. Place the cuttings in a sunny window and be sure to change the water a couple of times a week. Within two weeks, you’ll see roots developing. They are then ready to transplant into a container with good, well drained, sterile potting medium. Keep inside until last frost has passed and ground temperature has armed up to at least 50 degrees F. The cuttings also can be rooted directly in soil. For this, use two to four inch cuttings, removing ll leaves except the top two. Place the stem about one inch deep into moist soil (you can dip first into a rooting hormone such as Roottone). Again, be sure that you are using a good, well-drained, sterile potting medium. Place your containers in a warm sunny window and do not allow the soil to dry out.

Through my various research of coleus, I was actually surprised to see how many cultivars of coleus existed. I had found there to be 922 listed cultivars! There are variations in color, size, form, and leaf shape. There are forms that are tall and thin to short ground covers to full mounds; leaves that are scalloped to twisted, to lacy; and colors of the rainbow that are solid to speckled, to striped.

Just in case you can’t find the variation you desire with coleus alone, there are many other annual companion plants to choose from. For plantings in full sun, low growing verbena is a nice accent around the base of your beds. Other sun loving annuals that do well with coleus are Ageratum, Pentas, and Zinnia. In shade, use Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), Impatiens, and Caladiums. If you
choose to place your coleus in a container, be sure to use a large container at least twelve inches in diameter. Add sweet potato vine at the base of the coleus to fall over the edge of the container.

Now put on your shades and get ready for a blast of summer color!

The following websites were a great resource of information:
Coleus Finder has wonderful images and will help with locating a nursery:
Glasshouse Works also has a great library & catalog:

Common Name: Coleus or Painted Nettle
Botanical Name: Solenostemon scutellarioides
Native Range: Eastern Asia and Malaysia
Cold hardiness: Will not survive frost.
Color: varies from soft pastels to vivid pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, chartreuse, green.
Blooming Period: A mint-like flower stalk usually purple.
Type: Annual
Size: Varies from six inches to four feet.
Exposure: Full sun to shade

When to Plant: After last frost and soil temps warmed to at least 50 deg. F.
How to Plant: Raised bed of six to ten inches well-amended soil.
Spacing: Six to twelve inches depending on cultivar.
Soil: Acid, rich organic, moist.
Watering: About two times per week or when top one to two inches of soil is dry.
When to Prune: Pinch off approximately one-third of plant when flower stalk appears.
When to Fertilize: Use slow release fertilizer at time of planting.
Suggestions for Your Landscape: Plant in masses of at least one foot wide by six feet long.