Friday, October 30, 2009

Bluebells Seem Like Fairy Gifts

There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.
                                                                       The Bluebell,
Anne Bronte

It was early spring and I was walking through a wood near Munich.  Gray clouds had induced in me a pensive mood, when I came upon a clump of bluebells.  The forest at once became enchanted.  In the words of Bronte, they "seemed like fairy gifts."  Such was my first experience with these delightful plants.

Well, I thought they were bluebells.  They could have been squill.  They are very much alike, and the names are practically synonymous.  Let me explain.

Plants are grouped together because of similarity or affinity.  But sometimes, upon closer examination, they are set apart because of certain differences.  This is the case with bluebells and squill.

Most squill are properly of the genus, Scilla, a member of the Hyacinthaceae family.  The genus consists of about 90 species native to Europe and parts of Asia where they grow in woodlands and meadows.  The flowers are somewhat bell-like or star-like and are found in shades ranging from blue or pink to nearly white.  Most bloom in spring, though some bloom in fall.  Plant size ranges from under 6" to 12".  The name, Scilla (pronounced "SILL-uh"), is thought to have come from a Greek word meaning "to excite."  They certainly do.

Another squill, formerly of the genus Scilla, has been set apart into its own genus, Puschkinia.  This, too, is in the Hyacinthaceae family.  Pronounced "push-KIN-ee-uh", it is named for Count Apollo Mussin-Puschkin, an 18th Century Russian chemist and plant collector.  The genus consists of two species that are native to Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.  Flowers are very similar to scilla in colors ranging from pale blue to white.  Plant size ranges from under 6" to 12".

Hyacinthoides is another related genus - so related in fact that it also used to be included among the Scilla.  But taxonomists, doing what they do best, separated it from the others.  Hyacinthoides (pronounced "hi-ah-sin-THOY-deez") means "resembles hyacinth", and by golly it does.  No surprise that it is also in the Hyacinthaceae family.  These are the true bluebells, though colors actually range from blue or pink to white.  Plant size ranges from 6" to 18".  Bluebells, sometimes called Wood Hyacinths, are native from the Iberian peninsula, across south central Europe and northward to Britain.  Each species has its own range.

Bluebells and squill require very little maintenance.  They are wonderful for bulb gardens, perennial gardens, container gardens as well as for naturalizing in meadows, around the margins of lawns, and in woodlands.

Planting of squill and bluebells begins in fall.  As always, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office before planting.  They will send it to a lab for analysis and recommendations.  Expect to pay a nominal fee.  If you don't understand the report, ask the County Agent to interpret it for you.

Unless you are naturalizing them in the lawn, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 8" deep, removing all traces of weeds.  A good all-around practice for bulbs and such is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden.  Repeat the application when growth appears, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

After blooming, be sure to let the leaves yellow and die before cutting them.  Leaving them alone will allow the bulbs to build up food reserves for a glorious show the next year.

Following are specific information and planting tips for some of the most popular species.

Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) - Flowers appear in late spring to early summer.  Thrives in USDA climate zones 4 to 8.  Prefers average garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 6.5.  Plant in light shade to full shade.  Plant bulbs 4" deep and 4" apart.  Water needs are average.  They are somewhat drought tolerant; avoid over-watering.  The plants are toxic to mammals, so are deer and rodent resistant.

Striped Squill (Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica) -  Flowers appear in late winter to early spring. Thrives in USDA climate zones 3 to 8 or 9.  Prefers average, well-drained garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8.  Plant in full sun to partial shade.  Plant bulbs 2" to 5" deep and 3" to 6" apart.  The plants are toxic to mammals, so are deer and rodent resistant.

Early or White Squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana or S. tubergeniana) - Flowers appear in late winter to early spring.  Thrives in USDA climate zones 4 to 8.  Prefers average garden soil with pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.8.  Plant in full sun to partial shade.  Plant bulbs 4" deep and 4" apart.  Soil should be consistently moist, so avoid allowing it to try out.  The plants are toxic to mammals, so are deer and rodent resistant.

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) - Flowers appear in late winter to early spring.  Thrives in USDA climate zones 2 to 8.  Prefers average garden soil with pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.8.  Plant in full sun to partial shade.  Plant bulbs 4" deep and 4" apart.  Soil should be consistently moist, so avoid allowing it to try out.  The plants are toxic to mammals, so are deer and rodent resistant.

No matter which you choose, you'll be delighted with these elegant, enchanting "fairy gifts."

Return to goGardenNow.com.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Flurry Of Snowdrops In Spring


Springtime brings a flurry of favorite flowers, and among them are Snowdrops.  Snowdrops belong to the genus Galanthus which comprises about 20 species ranging from the mountains of France to western Turkey.  The pop up in so many places around the world, however, that you'd think they belonged just about everywhere.  Perhaps from as early as Roman times, they were carried about and planted as far away from their native habitat as Britain.  They are still so popular that plant hunters can't resist the urge to dig them up.  In fact, some species are so threatened that it is illegal under international trade agreements to disturb them without a permit.  (Be assured that those we market are sold legally and not harvested from the wild.)

The most widely available species is Galanthus nivalisGalanthus (pronounced guh-LAN-thus) means "milk-flower", referring to its color.  Nivalis (pronounced niv-VAL-iss) means "growing in snow."

Snowdrops are perennial plants that grow from bulbs.  Long, narrow leaves resemble narcissus foliage.  Flowers are produced in late winter to early spring on stems about 12" long.  After flowering, the leaves yellow and die.

Like very many ornamental plants, Snowdrops are toxic and must not be eaten, so care must be taken if planting where "muchkins" might be tempted to sample them.  Sensitive persons should consider wearing gloves if handling any part of the plant, especially the juice from cut stems or bulbs.  Interestingly, though, they contain a substance called galanthamine which is used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.  Bear in mind that it is not a home remedy.

Because they are toxic, Snowdrops are deer and rodent resistant.

Snowdrops thrive in full sun to partial shade in climate zones 3 through 8, and require slightly but consistently moist soil that is high in organic matter.  Best pH should range from 5.6 to 7.5.

As always, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office before planting.  They will send it to a lab for analysis and recommendations.  Expect to pay a nominal fee.  If you don't understand the report, ask the County Agent to interpret it for you.

Planting begins in fall, and must be done soon after you receive them.  They will not be happy if left to dry out.

Unless you are naturalizing them in the lawn, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 8" deep, removing all traces of weeds.  A good all-around practice for bulbs and such is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden.  Repeat the application when growth appears, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Plant the bulbs about 4" deep.  Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole.  Recommended plant spacing is 2" to 3" apart.  Figure on planting 10 bulbs per square foot.

The plants require very little maintenance.  Plant them and forget about them.  They are wonderful for bulb gardens, perennial gardens, container gardens as well as for naturalizing in meadows, around the margins of lawns, and in woodlands.  After blooming, be sure to let the leaves yellow and die before cutting them.  Leaving them alone will allow the bulbs to build up food reserves for a glorious show the next year.  Believe me, a generous planting of Snowdrops is a wonderful sight that will quickly chase the winter blues.

Return to Galanthus at goGardenNow.com.

Afternoon Of The Fawn Lilies


Before hardwood forests begin to leaf in spring, Fawn Lilies grace the forest floor.  I'll never forget the first time I saw them.  I was a college student at the time, hiking with a friend.  As we explored a small stream in the foothills of east Tennessee, we came upon the charming yellow blossoms of Erythronium americanum nodding in the breeze and reflecting the dappled sunlight.  Enchanted, we stopped to sit and enjoy them for awhile.  I remember it as the afternoon of the fawn lilies.

Erythronium (pronounced er-ih-THROH-ni-um) refers to the reddish stems or mottling on the leaves on most of the species.  Native to parts of Asia, Europe and North America, they are also characterized by bell-shaped flowers (usually yellow) with recurved petals. Common names also include Dog-Tooth Violet, Trout Lily, and Deer-Tongue.  The most widely available species is E. revolutum.  "Revolutum" (pronounced re-voh-LOO-tum) refers to the petals which appear rolled back.  It can be found growing wild in most of eastern North America.  The most popular cultivar is 'Pagoda', a hybrid of E. tuolumnense, a California native, and E. revolutum.

Fawn Lilies are not believed to possess any medicinal qualities.  But N. J. Turner in Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples reported that American Indians used to harvest the bulbs for food.  They must have done so when food was otherwise scarce for the bulbs have a bitter taste.  Aboriginal diners washed them down with water to avoid feeling sick.  (Reminds me of my childhood experience with soy burgers.)  I haven't tried them myself, and don't recommend you do so either.

Erythronium x 'Pagoda' produces 3 to 5 yellow flowers on reddish stalks up to 12" tall.  It prefers partial shade in climate zones 3 through 9, and consistently moist soil that is high in organic matter with pH ranging from 5.1 to 7.5.

As always, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office before planting.  For a nominal fee, they will send the sample to a lab for analysis.  The analysis will normally be sent to you through the mail.  If the test results seem somewhat cryptic and difficult to understand, don't hesitate to call your County Agent for explanation.

Planting begins in fall, and must be done soon after you receive them.  They will not be happy if left to dry out.

Unless you are naturalizing them in the lawn, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 8" deep, removing all traces of weeds.  A good all-around practice for bulbs and such is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden.  Repeat the application when growth appears, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Plant the bulbs about 5" deep.  Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole.  Recommended plant spacing is 3".

The plants require very little maintenance.  Plant them and forget about them.  They are wonderful for bulb gardens, perennial gardens, container gardens as well as for naturalizing in woodland and shade gardens.  When they bloom in the spring and nod their heads in the breeze, each day will bring new delights.  Be sure to include them in your garden, and enjoy spring afternoons among your fawn lilies.

Return to Erythronium at goGardenNow.com.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Behind A Garden Wall: The Maclay Gardens

Tall pines and a thick hardwood forest conceal one of Florida's best gardens from heavy traffic on Thomasville Road in Tallahassee.  But behind a fence and beyond a brick entry, the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens is open for all to enjoy.  Now an urban oasis, it was once the hunter's paradise.  The scene is not typical of what one imagines when thinking of Florida.  Rolling hillsides and forests resemble the upcountry of the eastern U.S.  Indeed, the geology of the Appalachians is rooted here.

Fertile soil and rich diversity of flora and fauna attracted humans to this site from prehistoric times.  Native Americans inhabited the area, followed by Europeans.  Encompassing this region, Spanish missionaries developed the largest and most enduring system of missions in North America.  Control was later seized by the English.  Following the War of Independence, the U.S. government deeded land to the Marquis de Lafayette for his assistance during the conflict.  The Marquis never visited, so later sold his property.

In 1882, another Frenchman bought a parcel and developed a vineyard which, by 1890, was producing 4,000 gallons of wine per year.  He sold it when the county voted to go "dry" in 1904, before Prohibition.  Colonel John H. Law, an insurance businessman from Chicago, bought the property and established a hunting lodge which became the site of lavish parties.  New York financier Alfred Maclay and his wife Louise acquired the land in 1923, joined "house to house and field to field", and established a large estate of over 3000 acres as a winter home.  Later it was acquired by the State of Florida and now is operated as a state park.  Join me now as we visit this garden treasure.

A picturesque brick walkway flanked by native plant species including Coontie (Zamia integrifolia) and non-native azalea cultivars such as 'Christmas Cheer' leads to the house.  Laid in 1968, the bricks were salvaged from an old street in Tampa, but were made in cities as distant as Baltimore, MD.  Because this was a winter home, plantings were designed for late-winter and early-spring bloom.

From the house, a short walk leads to a lakeside pavilion which affords a fine vista of Lake Hall.  Native trees include Gleditsia triacanthos, Magnolia grandiflora, Nyssa sylvatica, Taxodium distichum and Quercus species.  Further along the path, Aucuba japonica, Magnolia species, azaleas, camellias and native hollies provide seasonal interest.

The Camellia Walk is one of the most notable features of the Maclay Garden.  Sloping away from the house toward the Walled Garden, the path is flanked by an extensive collection of these lovely plants.  It is said that the oldest camellia, purchased and moved to the site in 1923, is nearly 200 years old.  Thousands of lovely blossoms adorn the shrubs and strew the path during colder months.

At the end of the Camellia Walk, one comes to the Walled Garden.  Ficus pumila covers the walls with soft evergreen foliage.  Sculptures of magnificent lions guard the entrance and stately peacocks perch atop the walls.  One notable feature is the blue medallion of infants inset into the wall.  The artwork was created by Florentine sculptor, Andrea Della Robbia, and was acquired by Mr. Maclay during one of his travels to Italy.

Mr. Maclay also returned from Europe with an increased knowledge and appreciation of landscape design.  Collaborating with his gardener, he designed special effects into the landscape such as the "disappearing" walk from the point of view of the reflecting pool.  Pansies are planted in the walled garden every year, continuing the tradition begun by the Maclays.  Century Plants (Agave americana) are also featured in the garden as well as repeated in the fountain's design.

From the Walled Garden, a path beneath large hollies leads to the Secret Garden.  This delightful little space features antique wrought iron benches and table, creating an intimate atmosphere.  Asarum, Selaginella and Cyrtomium are planted within the cozy scene and bordered by Mahonia.  During fall, winter and early spring, Osmanthus fragrans scents the air with its delightful citrusy perfume.

The visitor will also enjoy another pleasant walk.  The Pine Needle Path meanders between walls of large camellias, gardenias, osmanthus and viburnum.  Of special note is the native Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum) which produces lovely star-shaped blooms, and releases a spicy fragrance when the leaves are crushed.

Another narrow path leads past Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum), cherry and redbud (Cercis canadensis) to a scenic pond.  This water feature is designed to reflect the azalea covered hillside in the distance, and is especially effective when the shrubs are in bloom.  Daylilies, iris, liriope, ornamental grasses and bulbs are planted at the water's edge.  The Azalea Hillside is magnificent in season, but it also features Magnolia x soulangeana, conifers, holly, dogwood and Halesia (Silverbells).

Beyond the Azalea Hillside is the site of the former nursery where many of the plants in the garden were produced by the Maclays.  One is impressed by their level of involvement in the process, from production to design and installation.  Their inspiration, exploration and devotion resulted in this peaceful garden which all may now enjoy.  There is so much seldom understood and seen that grows behind a garden wall.


Return to goGardenNow.com.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Spring Starflower Like Grandma Used To Grow


Ipheion uniflorum (pronounced IF-ee-on you-nee-FLO-rum) is a lovely old-fashioned plant that your grand-mother may have grown.  It's native to Argentina and other parts of South America, but it seems so natural that you'd think it was from around here.  In my town, it pops up early- to mid-spring in lawns throughout the older neighborhoods.   It was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, then apparently passed along from one gardener to another.

Its common name is Spring Star-flower, and as the name suggests, it is shaped like a star, pale to medium blue or purplish in color.  Plant height is about 6 to 10 inches.  Foliage is grass-like and smells like garlic when crushed under foot.  Perhaps because of the fragrance, Ipheion is deer-resistant.

Ipheion is perfect for naturalizing, alpine and rock gardens and containers.  Wonderful for edging garden paths.  I recommend you plant at least a couple hundred of them.

Ipheion is hardy in USDA climate zones 5 to 9.  They prefer full sun to partial shade in average garden soil. Ideal pH ranges from 6.1 to 7.8.  Though drought tolerant during summer months, they benefit from slightly moist soil during the growing season. Use a high quality grade of potting soil if growing in containers.

Before planting, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office.  For a nominal fee, they will send it to a lab for analysis and return a report to you.

Unless you are naturalizing them in the lawn, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 12" deep.

Your soil sample report will include fertilizer recommendations based upon the results of the test.  A fine all-around practice for spring-flowering bulbs is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden.  Repeat the application when shoots appear, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Plant Ipheion about 2" to 4" deep.  Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole.  You can plant them as close as 3" apart.  Unless rain fall is inadequate, irrigation should not be necessary.  Because the plants are damaged at temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, gardeners in climate zones 5 - 7 should plant them 5" deep or cover with mulch for added protection.

Planted liberally, Ipheion will make a wonderful, long-lasting show in your spring garden.  You'll be glad you planted this lovely heirloom.

Return to Spring Starflower at goGardenNow.com.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Magic Of Persian Buttercups

Ranunculus asiaticus, also known as Persian Buttercups, are fabulous perennials with a most unlikely name.  Ranunculus (pronounced ra-NUN-ku-lus), you see, means "little frog."  They are so called because some of the other species within the genus are native to watery places.  But this magical plant bears no resemblance to its salientian namesake.  Reminds me of Der Froschk√∂nig.

Persian Buttercups are native to the eastern Mediterranean region and nearby Asia, southeastern Europe and northwestern Africa.  Flower colors range from white to shades of pink and red, orange and yellow.  Plant height and spread are approximately 12" to 18".

Though they are cold hardy in USDA climate zones 8 through 11, there is hardly a gardener who can not use them.  The tuberous roots can be dug when the weather begins to cool, and stored until the following spring, but gardeners who live in cold climates often save themselves the trouble and treat them as annuals, planting fresh ones each year.


Flowering begins in late spring and continues into early summer.  Persian Buttercups are excellent in container gardens, perennial and bulb gardens, and absolutely fantastic for cut flower arrangements.  They are particularly beautiful when planted in lavish beds, or tucked here and there among other flowers.

Plant in full sun and in average, well-drained soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.5.

Before planting, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office.  They often provide collection bags.  For the most basic recommendations, you may be charged a nominal fee.  For more information such as micro-nutrient and organic content you may be charged more.

Ranunculus planting begins in fall for gardeners in warmer climates.  Gardeners in colder climates should plant them in spring a couple of weeks or so before last frost.  Prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 10" deep. Poorly drained sites can be improved by raising the height of the planting beds.

Your soil sample report from your local Cooperative Extension Service will include fertilizer recommendations based upon the results of the test.  Following instructions should be a good bet.  A fine all-around practice for Ranunculus is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of garden.  Repeat the application when shoots appear, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.  Apply 2 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer per ten square feet of garden area every two weeks until flower buds appear.  Bone meal is often beneficial.

Like many popular ornamental plants, Persian Buttercups are toxic to mammals.  Some chemicals in them can also cause skin irritations for sensitive persons, so avoid prolonged contact.

The tuberous roots are attached together at the top and somewhat resemble claws.  Plant them "claws" down about 2” deep, and 8" apart for a lush appearance.  They don't look like much, but know that they will soon be transformed into something handsome as if by magic.  Cover them with soil and add a top-dressing of mulch about 2" deep to suppress weeds.  Water regularly, but do not over-water.

To induce new blooms, remove (dead-head) spent flowers.  Of course, cutting them fresh for arrangements is perfect for encouraging more.  When hot weather arrives, the plants will begin to yellow and go dormant.  After leaves have dried, the roots may be dug and stored.

Plant a box of them.  When your "little frogs" bloom, you'll be astonished and wonder, "Where have you been all my life?"

Return to Ranunculus at goGardenNow.com.

Figuring Planting Distances

I'm often asked about plant spacing.  "How far apart should I plant them?"  Frankly, there is no precise answer for any particular species.  Important factors to consider include the size of the plants at planting time, the approximate size of the plants at maturity, whether you want them to grow together or maintain space between, how much money you can afford to spend, and your own degree of patience.  Because variable factors are involved, I would more than likely give you a range of possible distances.  But it's not that difficult to ascertain for yourself.

To figure planting distances, begin by determining the mature spread or width of your plants. You can get that information from garden books, our planting guides, nurseries and the internet. Conclude whether you want the plants to fill in or if you want space between them at maturity. If you want space between them, how much? Add the approximate diameter of one mature plant to the desired space between two mature plants. The distance you decide upon need not be precise, but it should be consistent. When you begin planting, measure from the center of one plant to the center of the next.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Exotic Fritillaries

If you have a passion for the exotic, Fritillaria will give you lots of satisfaction. Pronounced "frit-ill-AR-ee-ah"), they are named for the checkered or "dice-box" pattern displayed on many of the species. There are about 100 species in the genus. Most of them are simply called "fritillaries." All are native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe, the Mediterranean region, Asia and North America. Plant height can range from less than 12" to 48", depending upon the species. Flowers are often bell-shaped and pendulous, and can range in color from bright orange or yellow to pink or dark purple. Most bloom mid-spring or early summer. Many of them produce disagreeable fragrances.

A few Fritillaria species are highly regarded in Chinese medicine, but as is often the case, some Fritillaria species are toxic. It's good to remember that herbal medicines can be quite dangerous if used without proper training. Because some fritillaries are toxic, be cautious if planting them where children may nibble them.

Fritillaria are wonderful subjects for perennial and bulb gardens. Sometimes only a few plants such as Fritillaria imperialis can make quite a visual impact. Smaller species are often very effective in large groups and for naturalizing.

Because there are so many species with different characteristics available, it is beyond the scope of this article to describe and give growing instructions for them all. Better for you to read the descriptions of various species in our online catalog. But a few general tips are appropriate. Plant in full sun to partial shade and in well-drained, humusy garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8.

Before preparing your planting site, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office. They will send the sample to a lab for analysis. The analysis will normally be sent to you through the mail. If the test results seem somewhat cryptic and difficult to understand, don't hesitate to call your County Agent for explanation.

Planting begins in September or October, depending upon your area. Unless you are naturalizing them, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 15" deep, removing all traces of weeds.

A fine all-around practice for bulbs and such is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden. Repeat the application when growth appears, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

You might think that plants bearing flowers as extraordinary in appearance as Fritillaria would be difficult to grow. But they are not. Include some in your garden. You'll love showing them off to the admiration of all.

Return to Fritillaria at goGardenNow.com.

Answers To Our Community Poll Ending Sept. 30

Our Community Poll at goGardenNow.com asked the question, "If you are growing more fruits or vegetables this year, are you doing so primarily because:
  • It helps to stretch the grocery budget?
  • Home-grown food is better for you?
  • Fruit and vegetable gardening is pleasurable?
  • Fruit and vegetable gardening is educational?"
71% of respondents said they are growing more fruits or vegetables because it helps to stretch the grocery budget.  29% of respondents said they do so because fruit and vegetable gardening is pleasurable.

No respondents answered that they grow fruit and vegetables because they are better for you or that fruit and vegetable gardening is educational.  Very interesting, indeed.  Of course, this is not a scientific survey, but only reflects the opinions of a select group.

Our current Community Poll asks the question, "During the present economic downturn, do you view gardening in general as:
  • An unnecessary expense?
  • A necessary expense?
  • An inexpensive pleasure?
  • An expensive pleasure, but worth it?"
Let us know what you think.  Go to goGardenNow.com, navigate away from the Home Page; our Customer Testimonials page is as good as any.  You'll find the Community Poll in the right hand column.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Behind A Garden Wall: The Old Unitarian Cemetery, Charleston, SC


Cemeteries often hold a strong fascination, perhaps because they remind us of our mortal end.  Not for me the wide open lawns with metal plaques flush against the turf, and pop-out vases for easy maintenance.  I much prefer those steeped in history with draped monuments, melancholy epitaphs, lambs, roses, willows and ivy carved of stone.  Very much like death itself, they are inconvenient but all the more gripping when concealed.

In Charleston, South Carolina a stone plaque set into a brick gateway on King Street marks the site of the oldest Unitarian Church in the South, founded in 1787 and "avowedly Unitarian since 1819."  Beyond the portal, behind the wall, its cemetery beckons the ambler like a ghost at the end of a darkened hallway.  Through a dark passage beneath an arching green canopy, one emerges into the burial ground teeming with herbs, shrubs and trees in wild abandon.  But neglected it is not.  Meandering among the stones we came upon a gardener drenched with sweat, at peace with himself, futilely pulling weeds.  But, this churchyard is known for its weeds; it simply would not do for many of them to be removed.  I was tempted to "search for truth and meaning" in that.

Well-rooted in and nourished by the past, typical species of a vintage southern garden flourish.  Among them we found Althea, Aspidistra, Azalea, Bignonia, Camellia, Campsis, Canna, Clerodendrum bungei, Crinum, Cyrtomium, Eryobotria, Euphorbia heterophylla, Ficus pumila, Hedera, Hedychium, Lagerstroemia, Lantana, Ligustrum, Liriope, Lonicera, Magnolia, Malvaviscus, Mirabilis, Nephrolepis, Parthenocissus virginiana, Pittosporum, Platycladus, Plumbago, Rosa, Sabal, Viburnum, Vitis, Wisteria, and much more.  If you have a moment, consider our images of that poignant place.















Return to goGardenNow.com.