Saturday, April 1, 2017

Japanese Aralia Is Very Satisfying

Japanese Aralia - Fatsia japonica

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) might have had Ara the Beautiful, King of Armenia (c. 800 BC) in mind when he named Aralia. According to ancient legend, Ara was so desirable that Queen Semiramis of Assyria wanted him madly. She must have been quite a woman. Many cultural advances of ancient Persia were ascribed to her. Nevertheless, Ara preferred his wife, so refused her advances. Furious, she declared war on Armenia to capture him alive. Alas, Ara died in battle. Semiramis remained semi-satisfied.

Flowers of Japanese Aralia
Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica), a member of the Araliaceae family including other awesome plants, is also known as Fatsia. It is big, bold, glossy and handsome. Large, palmate (like the palm of a hand), evergreen leaves with wide lobes (like fat fingers) lend an exotic appearance to the landscape. Foliage may be deep green to variegated, depending upon the variety. Small white flowers in big umbel (umbrella-like) clusters appear late fall to early winter. Japanese Aralia may grow to 18 feet, though the average mature height is around 8 feet.

Japanese Aralia can be grown in partial shade to full shade in Zones 7 to 9.  Gardeners in Zone 7 should plant it in a protected area and provide extra mulch during winter. Gardeners in Georgia’s higher elevations can easily grow it indoors for its handsome foliage. Loamy, well-drained soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is best. Pests and diseases are few, and usually of little concern. Plants are drought-tolerant when established and deer-resistant. For a bold, beautiful appearance in your southern landscape, Japanese Aralia is very satisfying.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

The 82nd Annual Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens

The 82nd Annual Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens is coming soon. Beginning March 23, the Tour will open doors to some of Savannah's loveliest residences for four fabulous days when the gardens are expected to be in full flower.

Each day presents a new tour and special events. On Thursday, a self-guided walking tour explores the Victorian and Thomas Square Streetcar Historic Districts. As you stroll shaded, tree-lined streets, you'll be surrounded by 19th and early 20th century architecture styles including Carpenter “Box” style, High Victorian Queen Anne, Folk Victorian, Italianate, Neoclassical Revival, Colonial Revival, Beaux Arts, Prairie School, and Craftsman
Friday's walking tour features the Western Historic Landmark District including Madison, Monterey, Chatham Squares and beautiful Forsyth Park. The district was built during the height of the Cotton Era. Here you'll find some of Savannah’s notable mansions in many eclectic styles.

On Saturday, you'll explore the Eastern Historic Landmark. Built closest to the Savannah River, many structures date back to the mid-18th century. The northern part of this district includes Greek Revival and Federal style architecture. Further south you’ll enjoy beautifully restored 19th century homes with wrought iron, unique detailing and charming front stoops. Large and small houses, duplexes and rowhouses in a variety of styles include Romanesque, Victorian, Italianate and others.

Sunday's tour includes the Ardsley Park - Chatham Crescent District. Developed around 1910, the district is one of the first automobile subdivisions in America. Broad, shaded avenues, circular and crescent-shaped parks, a grand mall and eclectic architectural styles characterize the district.

All four days are packed with special events including seminars on gardening, historic preservation, antiques and design. Lunch will be served in some of Savannah's most famous restaurants, or catered by our best chefs.

Take time for Sunday worship in one of Savannah's grand downtown churches. I recommend Historic Christ ChurchAnglican (founded 1733) at 2020 Bull Street or Historic IndependentPresbyterian Church (founded 1755) at the corner of Bull and Oglethorpe Streets.

Christ Church Anglican also presents Compline - Saying Good Night to God (Gregorian Chant by Candle Light) from 9:00pm to 9:30pm. Compline is in the medieval monastic tradition, the last service of the day, invoking God's peace and protection for the night. Compline at Christ Church Anglican is customarily held on Sunday nights, but will also be presented on Friday night, March 24, so tour guests may enjoy this very special service.

For ticket information, visit The Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens web site.

Homes pictured in this article are not necessarily included in the Tour schedule.

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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