Horticulture Path

Along the Garden Path

Jerry W. Weise. GCSC Horticulture Chairman

               As winter holds us indoors or bundled up and braving the elements to check our birdfeeders and winter water sources, let’s plan.  Plan to continue planting native grasses, trees and flowering forbs for next spring and summer.  Plan to leave the seed heads and frost-browned native grasses standing throughout winter.  Their movement in winter winds is a delight and many small birds and other critters eat the seeds and use the clumps for shelter.  If you have the space tuck a brush pile in an out-of-the-way place.  This too serves as winter shelter for many birds and critters.  When spring nesting arrives many birds use sticks from the brush pile and line their nests with the soft grasses.  Take a tip from Mother Nature—she doesn’t employ mow-blow-and- go guys to give grasses and plants butch haircuts!

Many cavity nesters, bluebirds and woodpeckers for example, will use these houses and tree hollows to sleep safely or for protection from ice, snow and winter winds.  In colder climates a single birdhouse had many bluebirds packed together for warmth.  Moral:  Leave those dead limbs or snags standing as long as they don’t present a danger and return the bluebird, wood duck or bat house to its mount after cleaning for the winter.

Equally important as food and shelter is clean unfrozen water.  If you live where winter brings long periods of freezing weather you may need to install a warming devise in the birdbath.  Birds’ feathers insulate better when clean and fluffy.  A clean water source may attract more birds and creatures than food!

Happy gardening, planning and bird-watching.  See you along the garden path.





The information presented here was gathered from many sources; Birds and Blooms magazine, National Wildlife magazine, Audubon Society, Internet sites, Carolina Gardener magazine. Since GCSC President, Donna Donnelly’s theme this biennium is birds this poster was as much about birds as it was about plants.

Feed the native birds. Birds and other wildlife evolved with native plants so these native fruits, nuts, seeds, berries are preferred. Birds and other wildlife will eat some non-natives but usually shun them. Following are a few South Carolinian birds and what they eat.

Robins eat insects and worms in warm weather. In fall and winter fruits and berries are their fare: native hollies, native dogwood (Not Kousa!), greenbrier and crabapples.

Mockingbirds eat insects and berries in summer and switch to persistant fruits in fall and winter.

The diet of red-bellied woodpeckers is varied. They consume fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, tree sap, insects and small vertebrates. A feeder that offers suet or a fruit feeder with orange halves is a winter attractor. They also cache food, storing nuts/seeds in crevices for later and I have observed them teaching their fledglings to search for food in crevices using these caches.

The Carolina wren is a very active little bird with a high metabolism. 95% of its diet are insectivores while 5% are seeds and vegetable matter. In the winter wrens prefer suet and peanuts. One peanut equals more than 1/3 of a wren’s daily metabolic need.

A few migratory birds spend varying lengths of time in South Carolina. The Ruby-throated hummingbird’s stay is probably longest. They migrate to the tropics during cold weather, though a few hang around the warmer coastal areas. Their diet consists of nectar from many flowers, especially tubular shaped blooms and very small insects for protein. After the damage caused by our storms recently they may depend on sugar water feeders more heavily as they bulk up for the long non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Keep these clean and replenished as long as you see hummers around. Goldfinches arrive in flocks to visit about 3 months during the winter. They are in their dull greyish non-breeding garb so are not flashy but they will visit water sources and feeders with small openings for black thistle seeds. Other migratory visitors that simply are passing through are the cedar waxwings (I dubbed them bandit birds due to the black mask on their eyes). They will scarf down the native holly berries and dogwood drupes (fruits). Several flocks would clean my 40-foot Ilex opaca in about 2 days (until Hurricane Matthew felled it last fall) as they passed through in the spring.


Jerry W. Weise, GCSC Horticulture Chairman

The new buzz words from NGC are ‘specific epithet’. Of course your plants will grow quite well if you meet their horticultural needs but have no clue about the correct binomial name. However if you wish to enter them in a flower show with the hope of winning a top exhibitor award a correct binomial name is required. Formerly this name was referred to as genus and species. Now NGC refers to this as genus and ‘specific epithet’.

Here, a little Latin goes a long way. Both genus and specific epithet can give you valuable information about the horticultural preferences and/or the form or shape of the plant or parts of it. For example: The filler in wedding and other arrangements is commonly called baby’s breath, a charming rather poetical description. The Latin binomial gives more clues to cultural needs and form. The binomial is Gypsophila paniculate. Gypsophila means “gypsum lover” so the plant grows best in calcareous soil(alkaline). The specific epithet refers to the flowers-blooming in panicles or loose spreading clusters.

A few more specific epithets:

arachnoides—cobwebby (arachnoids are spiders)

rothschildiana—sometimes a plant was named to honor a person (Gloriosa rothschildiana)

californicus, transylvanicus –sometimes a plant’s place of origin

At times describing some attribute

compactus will probably stay small

sempervirens means evergreen

columnaris will make a vertical statement

admirabilis will probably delight you to grow but be wary if the specific epithet is horridus, fatuus or phu

A tidbit to titulate you further: onopordum literally “ass-fart”, refers to the effect Scotch thistle, onopordum, has on donkeys who consume it! Smile as you enjoy gardening.


Report of GCSC Horticulture Chairman, Jerry W. Weise

GCSC Board meeting June 1, 2017

‘Native Plants for Native Birds’

How may you make your yard/garden bird-friendly? Provide these 4 basic necessities:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Nesting sites

As you plan/plant for the birds you will find many species of wildlife are attracted to your garden; pollinators, insects of all sorts, anoles, skinks, box turtles, mammals, butterflies, caterpillars, snails, slugs, moths . . . Various seed blends (supplemental) will bring many birds closer to your windows for observation. These seeds should be supplemental. Birds evolved with native plants so planting natives will encourage biodiversity and halt the loss of species. Sunflowers act as living feeders. Many birds are insect eaters. Flocks of migrating warblers are attracted to the insects in a chemical free grassy area. When feeding their young songbirds use soft bodied worms, caterpillars, slugs and insects. Birds devour fruits also.

Today’s bird is the Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis. This is a familiar bird in SC and throughout the Eastern USA. It is a year-round resident. The male is bright red with a black face and reddish yellow seed-cracking bill. The female is brownish with a browner beak. Attract with tray type seed feeders. They nest in denser bushes especially thorny ones. Cardinals can be secretive but males frequently sing from exposed branches higher in trees.

Below are a few native plants that provide fruit, nuts, larval food, nectar.

Black Cherry                    mulberry                                        oaks

Crabapple                        dogwood                                        hawthorn

Blueberry                         wild azalea                                     holly

Blackberry                       coral honeysuckle                         maypop/passion vine

Clover                              Joe-pye weed                                 milkweed


View The St Louis Cardinals

Sustainable Backyard Plants for Birds


 Horticulture Chairman, Jerry Weise,  has shared one  article written by Laura Courtney of the Camellia  Garden Club of Greater Charleston


Leaf Litter is for the Birds!

Leaves, easily turned into protective mulch, soil-enhancing leaf mold or rich compost, are the fall season’s gift to the composter. After the last tomatoes are picked, and annuals and perennials have died back, nature provides a bounty that assures the next year’s crops will have the best soil possible. Let your non-gardening neighbors curse autumn’s raking tasks. Composters realize that the piles of leaves will produce mineral-rich organic material that trees graciously shed just for them.

I always have more trouble finding ‘brown’ than ‘green’ for my compost piles so I look forward to fall leaves. This year I raked leaves several times and stored them in lawn bags until I had 4 very full bags. Then using our mulching mower with the bag attached my husband mulched all the leaves and then distributed then between my two compost bins.

I don’t rake and mulch all of the fall leaves. I have several areas in my garden where I let the leaves stay where they fall, they are part of my wildlife habitat. Leaf litter may be simple, but it can easily meet all of a bird’s basic needs. In many communities, this material is collected and discarded every autumn to keep landscaping “neat” but leaf litter is vital to birds’ habitat and needs.

* Food: Many insects, including flies and spiders, thrive on leaf litter, and insect-eating birds can feast on the bounty. Other small creatures such as earthworms, salamanders and toads also enjoy leaf litter and can be food for birds, as can the berries, fruits and nuts that collect with the leaves. Some birds, such as jays, will also cache seeds and nuts in leaf litter for later use.

* Water: The moisture that collects in fallen leaves can be an important water source for ground-dwelling birds. If enough water collects, the birds may drink from puddles in the leaves, and many birds will bathe in the dew that collects on leaf litter. * Shelter: Leaf litter provides important shelter and camouflage for ground birds while they are roosting or foraging. This helps protect the birds from predators, and a layer of leaf litter can provide insulation against storms and temperature changes that can be fatal to exposed birds. * Nesting Sites: Ground nesting birds choose areas rich in leaf litter to raise their young because of the shelter and food available in the fallen leaves. Many other bird species will pick through leaf litter for nesting materials such as twigs, leaf stems and mosses.

In North America alone, more than 120 birds have been observed feeding in or otherwise making use of leaf litter. Some of the most popular species that depend on fallen leaves for rich food sources include: * Common yellowthroats and other ground warblers * Dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows and other ground feeding sparrows * Towhees, including the spotted, eastern and green-tailed species * Northern mockingbirds * Thrashers * Jays, crows, and ravens, that eat insects and cache nuts * Large thrushes such as the American robin, hermit thrush and veery * Game birds such as wild turkeys, quail and pheasants

Additional Leaf Litter Benefits In addition to being useful to birds, leaf litter also has other great benefits. * Cost: Instead of buying mulch and fertilizer, leaf litter can be used as free, natural soil supplements for gardens, flower beds and landscaping. * Ease: Save hours of labor involved in raking and disposing of leaf litter by simply letting it decay naturally. * Insulation: Leaf litter will insulate and nourish the roots of plants and trees, keeping them healthier and stronger. * Environmentally Friendly: Thousands of tons of decaying leaves are added to landfills every year, but using leaf litter instead helps recycle material naturally.

With benefits to birds, landscaping and the environment, leaf litter is a valuable material that will attract birds, meet their basic needs and encourage them to stay in bird-friendly landscaping.






Until I got my greenhouse I had given up on growing tropical hibiscus in my garden, it was too much trouble. The joy of growing a potted hibiscus all summer long doesn’t make up for the stress at the end of the season caused by deciding between attempting to overwinter it inside or putting them on the compost pile. Now that I am able to overwinter small potted plants and grow cuttings in my greenhouse I can once again enjoy them in my yard.
One of my favorite is ‘Mahogany Splendor’ Hibiscus.

Hibiscus (Hibiscus Acetosella Mahogany Splendor) –
If you have never grown Hibiscus from seeds, then let this be your first time! This tropical plant shoots up in no time, adds color to the garden for months, and needs almost no care to keep it happy. Grow this Hibiscus seed and you have got one of the showiest red-leaf plants available.

Not only is the dark color of ‘Mahogany Splendor’ beautiful, with their deeply lobed leaves and their serrated edging it has mistaken for a Japanese maple. This hibiscus is suppose to be heat and drought tolerant, and in full sun develop the dark purple coloring to their leaves. But it will thrives in a wet spot as well.

I’ve found ‘Mahogany Splendor’ hibiscus is not winter hardy in our area, though some info on the plant says it is hardy bMahogany Splendor Hibiscusetween Zones 7-11 where it dies back to the ground and emerges again in the spring. Perhaps if it is grown in a very protected spot on on a barrier Island it might come back, but so far, it has not come back for me living more inland.

It can grow from 3-6 feet tall. I’ve found it needs much pruning during the growing season to keep it from getting too leggy and flopping over. (this is a good time to take cuttings.) It does bloom with flowers as dark as its
leaves, but blooms very late. Often a frost or freeze will kill it with unopened buds still on the plant.

If you’ve ever wanted the look of a Japanese maple but don’t have the space or don’t want to spend the money for a Japanese Maple check out ‘Mahogany Splendor’ hibiscus.

(Photo from my plant that started blooming last week and still has some flowers blooming this week.)



Happy Spring!  As you read this I hope the grip of winter has left our state.  Tonight, though, I’m bracing for the coldest blast this winter.  Tender container plants are stashed in potting shed and garage and the wood stove is warming the house. As the truism states ‘Cold hands, warm heart’, so equally true is ‘Warm spring sun, cold soil’.  Cold-hardy spring blooming bulbs and perennials warm our hearts and urge us to work in our gardens but our fingers should warn us that the soil is too cold for heat-loving summer plants.  Feed that urge to work by cleaning up remaining debris from winter kill, finishing pruning chores, turning the compost pile.  I highly recommend reading, saving and using the article “Winter: A Time for Pruning Shrubs” by Bruce Crawford printed in The National Gardener, Winter 2015.

While planning for the health and beauty of your own gardens, make a vow to tread lightly on reduce
this planet by reusing, repurposing (think flower design possibilities), reducing waste and recycling as much as possible.  Below are some eye-opening facts and figures from Charleston County Environmental Management bulletin.   Did you know? ? ?

Recycling 1 Ton of paper SAVES:

20 Trees, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, enough energy to power the average home for 6 months, 7000 gallons of water and 60 pounds of pollutants!

It takes the same amount of energy to make one new can as it does to make 20 recycled cans.

The number of years it takes to decompose:

Aluminum cans-80, Glass bottles- 600, Plastic bottles- 700, Styrofoam-NEVER!

Happy Gardening and see you along the garden path.



Longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, is the ancient giant of southern forests. The longleaf ecosystem is estimated to have historically covered at least 93 million acres. Clues from place names and old botanical records suggest longleaf once grew along the Atlantic coastal plain inland to the fall line from Maryland south to cover about 2/3 of Florida and then west along the Gulf coast. Longleaf grew in a large portion of Georgia, Alabama, south Mississippi and parts of Louisiana and Texas. Today the longleaf ecosystem has been reduced to about 3 million acres. Conservation and restoration efforts are offering some hope that acreage in longleaf is increasing.

Grassstage_8236Longleaf is easily recognizable when young. As a seedling a longleaf looks like a tuft of grass. The seedling can stay in this ‘grass’ stage as many as seven years. While in this stage with no above ground trunk the seedling is growing a long taproot and root network that will nourish it in the rapid upward growth or ‘rocket’ (bottle brush) stage. The seedling now resembles a scaly broomstick covered top to bottom with long green hair. (Bad hair day in the forest?) Over thousands of years longleaf coexisted and flourished with lightning-produced natural fires. This rocket stage lifts the vulnerable whitish growth bud (called a candle) above the reach of flames. Historically, natural fires occurred frequently enough to clear out the flammable build-up of duff and waxy leaved understory forbs that cause such towering infernos today. After years of fire suppression, humans are realizing the value of natural fire and are imitating it with controlled burns. What will the future of the longleaf ecosystem be?

Like the longleaf, the topic is too large for one article. Coming next time: Longleaf maturity, biodiversity in longleaf forests, rare and endangered species, more on the role of fire, forests for the future.