Q: Is it just my opinion or are the daffodils blooming early this year?
A: We don't have a logbook recording many years of all the earliest blooming dates of all the daffodil varieties in Georgia, but we have been receiving reports and witnessing earlier than normal blooming with daffodils this year. In fact, Gibbs Gardens (www.gibbsgardens.com) in Ball Ground opened for the season on Feb. 18 - two weeks earlier than originally scheduled.
Because Gibbs is an official American Daffodil Society Display Garden, where visitors can see a Wordsworthian host of more than 20 million daffodils - the largest daffodil display in the country - we feel confident in answering that the daffodil season is off to an early start.
Visit Gibbs Gardens (1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground, Ga. 30107; phone 770-893-1881) or other public gardens to see all of the daffodil varieties.
If you only know yellow trumpet daffodils, you owe yourself a visit.
There are more daffodil varieties today than ever. They differ in color, form, size, fragrance and blooming time.
Q: I need some evergreen shrubs or trees to block a view in a sunny location. I don't want them to look like a deliberate screen or hedge. I also want to be able to trim them if they get too big. I do not want Leyland cypress or other conifers. Any suggestions?
A: Nature does not plant in straight lines or keep plants meticulously pruned like a Marine haircut, so to achieve a natural effect, stagger your selected plants and keep them pruned (if at all) in an informal style, rather than a tightly controlled, formal style.
This will make your planting more natural in appearance as well as easier to care for. Monocultures are not the norm in the natural world, so select different kinds of trees and shrubs instead of using only one kind. Besides, a mixed screen or hedge will be less likely to be damaged by a disease or insect that could decimate it if it consisted of only one kind of plant.
Although you mentioned you did not want conifers, you may not want to rule them out entirely. They could provide different textures and colors to the planting, making it look more natural and less "heavy" while still screening the view. Incorporating some thick deciduous shrubs, along with the evergreens, will help, too. They might not block the view completely in winter, but can provide more screening than you think, especially if planted in double rows. They also can help an expansive planting of evergreens from being too gloomy.
A few broad-leaved evergreens to consider are sasanqua camellia, Nellie R. Stevens holly, yaupon holly, Fortune's osmanthus, fragrant tea olive, devilwood (Osmanthus americanus), Carolina cherrylaurel, Portuguese cherrylaurel (Prunus lusitanica), Foster holly, Chindo viburnum, non-dwarf forms of English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), Southern waxmyrtle, Emily Bruner holly, dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), Little Gem Southern magnolia, Henry anise-tree (Illicium henryi), Florida anise-tree (Illicium floridanum), Japanese cleyera (Ternstromia gymnathera), lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia) and Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata).
A few conifers to consider are Eastern red cedar and other junipers, arborvitae and cryptomeria. A few large deciduous shrubs to consider include blueberries, mock orange, flowering quince and blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium).
Depending on the lay of the land and your vantage point, the screen/hedge may not need to be as tall as you think. A landscape designer or a horticulturist at your local garden center or nursery may be able to guide you on the plants that will best meet your needs if they visit your site or if you show them photos. They may also offer other plant options than the ones listed here.
If you have questions about agriculture, horticulture, food safety or services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the department's website at www.agr.georgia.gov.