Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Redcliffe Plantation - James Henry Hammond

Redcliffe Plantation House

I was interested to learn more about James Henry Hammond when visiting one of his former plantations near Aiken, SC. Redcliffe is now a S.C. State Historical Site. I was returning from a funeral. It was a dry, hazy, scorching day. The only respite was on the front porch overlooking the Savannah River valley.
Front porch, Redcliffe Plantation

Hammond (Nov. 15, 1807 - Nov. 13, 1864) - Governor, Senator and Statesman of SC - did not reveal everything about himself in his diaries. Who would? Even though he professed his diaries were only for himself, he must've known others would read them. One can't scurry about the house moments before death to eliminate secrets. Indeed, many pages referring to another - possibly a son - were torn out after his death.

He was a tormented man, morose, always feeling ill, expecting his death to be near even in his 40s. He didn't say "I think my liver is diseased. However, I don't know beans about my disease, and I am not sure what is bothering me", but that was the gist of it. Yes, Hammond was a Scorpio as was Dostoevsky.

His wife's family widely advertised his sins. He acknowledged his peccadilloes - especially liaisons with his tempting young nieces - but complained that other great men with more notorious histories were not so reviled. His wife separated from him for five years, but returned. (Her family had warned her about him, but she married anyway at the age of 17.) His indiscretions haunted him for the rest of his life because others begrudged him.

Hammond had political ambitions but refused to advance himself, refused to allow others to advance him, only allowing himself to be dragged into office by universal acclaim. In fact, many of his speeches and writings were widely applauded...according to him. Maybe they were.

Hammond had a love/hate relationship with his Maker. They were never close.

Nothing ever worked out to his satisfaction. Others wouldn't follow his advice. Most politicians were deplorable; a few were misguided. Family, friends, acquaintances were foolish, naive, duplicitous. None loved him entirely. His crops never flourished. His dams broke. Loans made in good faith to others were not repaid. Hundreds of souls depended upon his providence, but he couldn't make ends meet. Slaves got sick and died. During the War for Southern Independence, desperate Confederates took his stores and never paid enough. He expected his slaves to bolt when they got the chance.

Near the end, his diaries referred to the deaths of friends, family and acquaintances in far-away battles. Union troops were advancing.

The Epilogue tell us that knowing his death was near, he wanted more than anything to hear music, so children were gathered around his bed to sing. Apparently, the performance didn't go well. He directed that he be buried near a couple of magnificent trees known to his family, with the proviso that if his property was taken by Union forces his grave would be plowed.

If Southern history and politics - especially obscure and ancient details about South Carolina and neighboring Georgia - interest you, Redcliffe Plantation and Hammond's diaries might. The collection is titled Secret & Sacred. If you expect nothing to go exactly right; if you think that political ambitions, passions, intrigues, subterfuges, out-right lies by public figures are worse now than ever, they are not. Believe James Henry Hammond and me.

There's not much left at Redcliffe that's horticulturally notable. Its long tree-lined avenue no longer exists. A few beautiful specimens are worth taking time to enjoy.

Though not remarkable, the house itself exhibits many of the interesting handcrafted elements that were common at the time. 

Most poignant are the slave quarters and displays of plantation life.


Redcliffe Plantation stands as a stark reminder:

For all flesh is as grass, 
and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.
 The grass withereth, 
and the flower thereof falleth away...

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Cherry Blossom Festivals: Reminders of Friendship Between Two Nations

A reader was kind enough to send a link to this web site celebrating spring cherry blossom festivals and the friendship between Japan and the U.S. which they signify.

The Gift of Cherry Blossoms: Honoring the Friendship of Two Nations.

An interactive map will help you find a cherry blossom festival near you.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How should I take care of bare root plants until I plant them?

Hedera helix - bare root

 If I buy bare root plants from you, how should I take care of them until I plant them? How soon must they be planted?

You will receive your bare root plants from us in bundles wrapped with moist packing medium. When you receive your package, open it. Set the bundles upright in the box. Retain moist packing material around the roots. Avoid exposing the plants to sun, wind and freezing temperatures. Do not let the roots dry.

If you can’t get around to planting very soon, place the bundles upright in moist potting soil. Cover the roots with soil. Water well. Keep the roots moist until planting time. Plant sooner than later. Never let the roots dry.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Must-Have Plants: Sedum x 'Autumn Joy'

Sedum x 'Autumn Joy'

Must-have plants are among the best plants for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Sedum x 'Autumn Joy' or 'Herbstfreude', Hylotelephium telephium 'Autumn Joy', Showy Stonecrop.

Flower Color: Pink to copper.

Bloom Time: Summer to fall.

Foliage: Herbaceous, succulent.

Height/Spread: 15 inches to 24 inches x 24 inches.

Climate Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Sun Exposure: Full sun.

Soil Condition: Well-drained to dry, average to poor, pH 6.1 to 7.5

Features: Drought tolerant, deer resistant, low maintenance, attracts butterflies.

Uses: Xeriscaping, rock gardens, container gardens, ground cover, borders, butterfly gardens.

Comments:  Sedum x 'Autumn Joy', (aka 'Herbstfreude') also known as Hylotelephium telephium and Showy Stonecrop produces large clusters of pink blooms in summer which turn to coppery red in fall. Even when cold weather comes, the plant is beautiful, resembling a dried flower arrangement. Upright stems persist well with age. Mature height is 15 inches to 24 inches, spreading to 24 inches.

'Autumn Joy' thrives in full sun in USDA climate zones 3 to 9, tolerating a wide variety of soil types with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.5. Space 18 inches to 24 inches apart. Sedum is great for perennial borders, rock gardens, container gardens, ground cover and butterfly gardens.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How many bugs can a purple martin eat? I want to get rid of mosquitoes.

How many bugs can a purple martin eat? I want to get rid of mosquitoes. 

I don’t know. Purple Martins are known to have insatiable, indiscriminate appetites for flying insects such as honeybees, mosquitoes, moths, flies, etc.  However, like the rest of us, some grow older, lose their appetites, and don’t fly so fast.

If you fear mosquitoes, I suggest you rid your home and garden of places where mosquito larvae can thrive. Are you catching rain water in buckets or barrels for irrigation? That sounds like a good idea, but mosquito larvae can thrive there. Stop collecting water, or treat the water with organic larvicide.

Don’t expect Purple Martins to rid your landscape of mosquitoes, but make homes for them, anyway. You’ll have lots of pleasure caring for them, watching their aerial acrobatics, and knowing they are doing good.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

National Garden Bureau Announces 2016: The Year of the Delphinium

Each year the National Garden Bureau selects one annual, one perennial, one bulb crop and one edible as their "Year of the" crops. Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile. The National Garden Bureau announces 2016 as The Year of the Delphinium.

"Delphinium is a perennial favorite as the tall spikes of blue flowers in the background of a stately English or cottage garden.  The modern delphinium flower may be a single or double rosette in popular blue or red, pink, white, violet and yellow.  Many of the flowers have white or black centers known as 'bees.'

"Delphinium, a native throughout the Northern Hemisphere includes about 300 species in the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) Family.  The name 'delphinium' originated with the ancient Greeks who thought the shape of the new flower bud with spur resembled that of a dolphin’s nose.  Delphinium is often called by the common name 'larkspur' which is shared between the perennial Delphinium and the annual Consolida species.

"Homeowners can begin their delphiniums from seed or as a plant from a garden retailer. They are very easy to grow in the northern climates with very little maintenance. As a perennial, they tolerate cool northern climates and overwinter with ease as a hardy perennial in Zone 4. Some misunderstanding about non-hardiness actually comes from hot and humid climates, which the plants cannot tolerate for long periods of time. Delphiniums act more like annuals in the southern climates.
"After the first flush of flowers, plants can be cut back and a second set of flowers will appear on shorter stems. Mulching is not recommended, because it can cause stem rot. After heavy frost, late-fall early-winter plants need to be cut back and cleaned up. Winter protection is not necessary, but plants can be covered with hay or leaves to protect the crowns. This protection needs to be removed very early in spring to maintain a healthy Delphinium in the garden. In natural snow-covered areas, no extra protection is needed.
Learn more about Delphiniums from the National Garden Bureau.

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