Sunday, January 31, 2016

Native Shrubs in the Georgia Piedmont

The last general native shrub book written, that I know of, was published in 1989: Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast, Landscaping Uses and Identification (Foote and Jones). While shrubs certainly haven’t changed since then, I’m always surprised that someone hasn’t taken a newer run at extolling the virtues of native shrubs, particularly in highlighting their beauty in ornamental landscapes.

Regardless, this book offers good resources for those looking for information. Especially nice are the lists of shrub recommendations by site characteristics: Shrubs for moist or wet sites along stream banks, Shrubs tolerant of salt spray, Shrubs with fruit, Shrubs with good fall color, Evergreen shrubs and several other categories.

For those looking to identify shrubs, identification keys are included. All shrubs mentioned have a descriptive paragraph and most have a picture of a leaf with a bloom or a fruit. Included in the book are some introductory paragraphs about the advantages of using native shrubs. While support for ‘ease of care’ and food for birds is mentioned, lacking is the more recent (circa 2007) emphasis on how native plants can support native insects compared to non-native plants.

This book will always have a place on my bookshelf. It is still a great reference in the Southeast for listing and describing native shrubs and vines.  By the way, there are some books that cover native shrubs in with other plants: William Cullina's Native Trees, Shrubs & Vines (2002), Robert Swanson's A Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Southern Appalachians (1994), Gil Nelson's Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens (2010), and Larry Mellichamp's Native Plants of the Southeast (2014). Unfortunately, the focus on shrubs in any of them is limited because of the need to include other plant groups.

Blueberry shrubs often so many benefits
Shrubs can be an important part of the planned landscape, especially in today's smaller spaces. With careful selection, you can have beautiful flowers, good fall color, and provide plants that support wildlife with pollen/nectar for insects (or hummingbirds), fruit/seeds for birds, and host plants for butterflies and moths.

When it comes to using native shrubs in the landscape, especially in the Piedmont, we might just have to take our written pieces where we can get them. I've done some posts about shrubs in the past and I plan to add to them; you may find them useful:

Evergreen shrubs

Native shrubs for difficult spots

St. John's wort (Hypericum)

Blueberry shrubs

Native Spirea shrubs

Native buckeye shrubs

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