Begonia Love. 


I use a lot of begonias in my clients’ container gardens during the summer. Some are used for foliage, while others are used for a proliferation of flowers. Rex begonias have beautiful symmetrical leaf patterns and insignificant flowers, while cane begonias produce long branching arms, dripping with flowers for months on end. Tuberous begonias come in summer-hot sizzling colors like tangerine-orange and ruby-red. These are all shade plants, especially here in Zone 7B, but they stand up to the heat very well. 

Look for the different types of begonias in the garden center. My favorites include Tuberous Begonias, Shrub Begonias, Rex Begonias, and Rhizome Begonias, all of which offer a stunning variety in foliage and flower production. 

Aquilegia (Common Name: Columbine)

The Latin word “columba” means dove or pigeon, and it is said that the petals of the columbine look like birds (doves) in flight which is how the flower acquired its common name. 

But the botanical name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word “aquilinum” which means “like an eagle” because the bright yellow spurs in the center of the flower are said to resemble eagle’s talons or claws.  

Columbines are best utilized in a woodland garden. Flowers appear in spring along with delicate fern-like foliage (which, alas, is susceptible to leaf miner by mid-summer). Once flower production has ceased, allow the seeds to drop and propagate naturally. The plants can then be cut to the ground where they will lay dormant until the following spring. Combine with ferns, hostas, solomon’s seal, and other shade-loving perennials that will fill in the woodland border once the columbines are gone for the season.  

Vaccinium ‘Sunshine Blue’ (Southern Highbush Blueberry)

This beautiful compact blueberry bush is ideal for hot, humid climates, and works well when planted in a large container. Afternoon shade is suggested in regions with particularly hot summers (Georgia, for example). Blueberry bushes are good companions for other shade-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas in a woodland border garden where the soil is naturally acidic.  

Although blueberries are self-fertile, cross-pollination produces larger berries in abundance, so it’s better to plant more than one variety that blooms at the same time to obtain the best crop. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is not an abundant berry-producer and may work better as an ornamental shrub. Spring flowers and fall leaf color are both superb. 

Birds love blueberries, so unless you plan to grow them to attract wildlife, it’s best to put some netting around the bush to protect it. ‘Chandler’ (late-season variety) is a larger cultivar producing cherry-size blueberries. Allow plenty of space for this one.  Blueberries are usually harvested mid-June to late-July, depending on the climate zone and the variety. To extend the harvest season, combine early, mid, and late season cultivars. 

Vaccinium ‘Sunshine Blue’ (Southern Highbush Blueberry)

This beautiful compact blueberry bush is ideal for hot, humid climates, and works well when planted in a large container. Afternoon shade is suggested in regions with particularly hot summers (Georgia, for example). Blueberry bushes are good companions for other shade-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas in a woodland border garden where the soil is naturally acidic.  

Although blueberries are self-fertile, cross-pollination produces larger berries in abundance, so it’s better to plant more than one variety that blooms at the same time to obtain the best crop. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is not an abundant berry-producer and may work better as an ornamental shrub. Spring flowers and fall leaf color are both superb. 

Birds love blueberries, so unless you plan to grow them to attract wildlife, it’s best to put some netting around the bush to protect it. ‘Chandler’ (late-season variety) is a larger cultivar producing cherry-size blueberries. Allow plenty of space for this one.  Blueberries are usually harvested mid-June to late-July, depending on the climate zone and the variety. To extend the harvest season, combine early, mid, and late season cultivars. 

Witch-hazel is a deciduous spring-flowering tree with fragrant fringe-like blossoms that appear on branches before the leaves emerge. Pictured: Hamamelis virginiana, a native to the eastern and central United States. This is another favorite under-story tree for the woodland garden, blooming mid-March here in Georgia, Zone 7B. 

The botanical name Hamamelis comes from two Greek words: one meaning “apple” (signifying a fruit), and the other meaning “at the same time.” Flowers on the witch hazel are produced “at the same time” the previous year’s fruit is maturing and scattering seeds from its branches. As to the common name (witch hazel), the word “witch” is a derivative of an Old English word “wych,” denoting the term “to bend” because the branches of the witch hazel are pliable. The plant is not related to the hazel nut tree at all, but the leaves do have a similar appearance, thus the common name “witch hazel.” 

Colonists and Native Americans used witch hazel for a number of maladies, particularly in the treatment of wounds, sore muscles, and abrasions. Today, plant extract from witch hazel leaves and bark is widely used in skin care products and is especially useful as an astringent. Cosmetically, it is used in the treatment acne, and medicinally for minor rashes, blisters and insect bites. Witch hazel is one of the few native medicinal plants approved by the FDA as a non-prescription ingredient in over-the-counter products. 

Botanical Illustration for the Witch Hazel: Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

More information about Witch Hazel as a medicinal element, here.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’ (Weeping Katsura), a deciduous tree native to China and Japan. Heart-shaped leaves emerge in spring with purple overtones, maturing to a bluish green in summer. Newly planted trees do not tolerate drought well, and protection from scorching sun and drying winds is recommended. The weeping katsura is an excellent under story tree, utilized as a focal point in the garden. 

Autumn leaves have golden yellow to red and orange tones, and have a slight cinnamon scent. 

Weeping Hemlock 

This lovely beast is a Weeping Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), picked up during one of my shopping trips to Iseli Nursery for a client a few years back. It arrived in a 36” wooden crate, and was very carefully installed between the hot tub and the pool. Its finely textured leaves and dense growth habit make it a unique focal point for an intimate, enclosed garden setting. This tree needs protection from afternoon sun, and is best utilized in a sheltered location here in Georgia, Zone 7B.

Weeping Hemlock 

This lovely beast is a Weeping Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), picked up during one of my shopping trips to Iseli Nursery for a client a few years back. It arrived in a 36” wooden crate, and was very carefully installed between the hot tub and the pool. Its finely textured leaves and dense growth habit make it a unique focal point for an intimate, enclosed garden setting. This tree needs protection from afternoon sun, and is best utilized in a sheltered location here in Georgia, Zone 7B.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

Heart-shaped flowers droop from the arching stems in late spring on this shade-loving, woodland garden perennial. It is best used in combination with hostas, astilbe, and ferns, so that when the plant goes dormant after bloom, it has the cover of summer foliage to shield its die-back for the season. Deer and rabbits won’t eat the flowers or foliage, but hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers. 

The plant "Dicentra spectabilis" was re-named Lamprocapnos spectabilis in 2006, after a molecular examination of its genetic make-up determined that a nomenclature adjustment was in order. However, many people, including tradesmen, still use the name Dicentra. 

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

Heart-shaped flowers droop from the arching stems in late spring on this shade-loving, woodland garden perennial. It is best used in combination with hostas, astilbe, and ferns, so that when the plant goes dormant after bloom, it has the cover of summer foliage to shield its die-back for the season. Deer and rabbits won’t eat the flowers or foliage, but hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers. 

The plant "Dicentra spectabilis" was re-named Lamprocapnos spectabilis in 2006, after a molecular examination of its genetic make-up determined that a nomenclature adjustment was in order. However, many people, including tradesmen, still use the name Dicentra.