Sunday, January 31, 2010

Paris Evoked?

If you have an old bistro set on your patio (I do!), consider turning it into a group of planters for sedums and ajugas, as the owners of Evergreen Nursery of Statham, Georgia, did for their WinterGreen 2010 booth. A little difficult to see, but the tabletop included a bottle of wine, two glasses, purple napkins and a vase with a tulip. Nicely whimsical; a good attention-getter.

GGIA Silent Auction

If you have been wondering . . ., neither of my bids panned out. When I got back to the conference on Friday, I immediately went to the Silent Auction table and saw that one of "my" plants already had three higher bidders. For the other one, I was still the highest (read: "only") bidder, but . . . two minutes before the auction closed someone stepped in and offered more money. Oh, well!

Viburnum tinus 'Spring Bouquet'

Another beautiful Viburnum, this one was photographed in the booth of R.A. Dudley Nurseries of Thomson, Georgia. Some web sites rate it for Zones 7 to 10, but I would hesitate to put it in a North Georgia garden. Maybe in LaGrange, Macon, Augusta and farther south?


These bareroot Dogwoods, lined up like soldiers readying for battle, are from Jackson Nursery in Belvidere, Tennessee. I enjoyed talking with Linda Jackson, who extended an invitation to come and visit some time in the spring. The company does not have a web site, but may be contacted at 931.967.3783.


If there was one plant at the just concluded WinterGreen conference and trade show I could have scooped up and taken home with me, it's this one: Viburnum tinus 'Gwennllian'. Described as an evergreen with shiny dark geen, ovate leaves, it progresses from pink buds (spring) to white flowers (summer) to these gorgeous deep blue berries (fall, winter).
Good thing I did not have that chance, because this beauty would not survive Zone 7 winters; it's hardy only in Zones 8 to 10.
The white (washed-out) flower behind it is on a Camelia hybrid 'High Fragrance', and the yellow blooms in the top left are on a Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies'. It's indicated for Zones 7 to 9, so it should work in North Georgia.
The photograph was taken in the booth of Green Nurseries of Fairhope, Alabama.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Georgia's 2010 Gold Medal Plants

Since 1994, the Georgia Plant Selection Committee, comprised of green industry professionals and faculty from the University of Georgia, selects "winners" for our coming season's gardens.

This is the list for 2010:

Summer Annual:
Diamond Frost (R) Euphorbia.
My opinion: Pretty, but not spectacular. I may try it, if I happen to stumble across it in a garden center in the spring, but I won't go out of my way looking for it.

Herbaceous Perennial:
Butterfly Weed.
My opinion: I tried it once before, but it did not take. By coincidence I just bought two packets of seeds from Mary Wenger at last Saturday's Master Gardener conference, because anything that attracts butterflies is welcome in my garden, but now I am distressed to learn that "it can take 2 to 3 years to produce a flowering plant". Oh, well!

Evergreen Groundcover:
Angelina (R) Stonecrop.
My opinion: If I ever get rid of large swaths of Bermuda, this is what I will want to plant in at least part of my landscape. Or, at least something like it. This particular variety is patented, and thus only licensed growers have permission to propagate and sell it.

Deciduous Shrub:
Limelight (R) Panicle Hydrangea.
My opinion: Pretty (I saw it last summer in the UGA trial gardens), but a bit overrated and I've got enough hydrangeas in my garden, so will pass on this one.

Deciduous Tree:
Ogon Dawn Redwood.
My opinion: Fabulous, but not for me. A conifer that grows 70 to 100 feet tall and 25 wide will not work on my 1/3 acre.

Meanwhile, my garden contains or has contained lots of earlier Gold Medals, among them Bath's Pink Dianthus (1994), Wild Indigo (1996), Blue Fan Flower and Pink Chinese Loropetalum (1997), Japanese Aster (1998), Lenten Rose (1999), Ornamental Sweet Potato and Chastetree (2001), Purple Beauty Berry (2003), Chartreuse Joseph's Coat (2004), and Swamp Hibiscus (2007). If I had to pick out a favorite from among them, I would choose two (a gardener is always entitled to "one extra" . . .): the Wild Indigo and the Japanese Aster.

Monday, January 25, 2010

For our Gardens - Must Haves

I am still recovering, in a very good sense, from the Winter Georgia Master Gardeners conference, and want to share some "must haves" with you, for our 2010 gardens. This (above) is an Asiatic Jasmine, called "Snow ' N Summer". Other shrubs that caught my attention were the Camelia 'Crimson Candles', the Camelia 'R.L. Wheeler' and the Loropetalum 'Ever Red'.
There are no Camelias in my garden (I didn't know anything about them when I started my garden and now that I do know a little, I have no space left!), but I do have a Loropetalum in my Western border, between my backyard and my neighbor Angela's, and it's a great shrub.
Those Asiatic Jasmines, meanwhile, are small, compact and very pretty; I might find a space for a few of them this year. :-)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

For Alan and Denise

This picture, of Jim and Vickie Smith’s “JVS Rustic Birdhouses”, is my gift to my friend Alan and new acquaintance Denise in Australia.

What gardening is for me, birding is for them. Alan is an expat-writer colleague and Denise, who is a member of a semi-traditional clan of the Kunwinjku people of Arnhem Land, lectures about birds all over the place. They are both published writers and birding guides.

These birdhouses are absolutely lovely! Decorated with rusty old garden tools, such as rakes, or other iron implements from an earlier age, e.g. railroad spikes, they were among the crowd-pleasers of the just concluded Winter Conference of Georgia Master Gardeners.

I wish JVS Rustic Birdhouses had a web site, but not yet!

'Proven Winners'

How lucky I was today, at the conclusion of the Winter Conference of Georgia Master Gardeners, to win one of the table centerpieces! It's a huge bowl, topped with a bi-color ribbon, of the sweet alyssum hybrid 'Snow Princess' and the supertunia 'Royal Purple'. The growers named Proven Winners had made the plants available, volunteers had arranged them in enormous bowls at Smithgall Woods, and they adorned the tables at yesterday's reception and today's luncheon.

Proven Winners, for sure. It's a company that deserves attention, and thanks. More than the growers, though, the 'proven winners' of the conference are the Hall County Master Gardeners, who put an incredibly powerful and friendly conference together. Even the one speaker who had forgotten she had been invited to give a presentation and instead delivered a sales pitch did not mar the day. It was brilliant!

Walter Reeves - singer/lyricist? Who knew?

Kudos to Hall County Master Gardeners; you are without question 'proven winners' - ahead of the rest of us!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Catalogs, Books & Conferences

Plant and seed catalogs have been arriving in my mailbox at a pretty steady clip the past several weeks, although not nearly in the volume of earlier years. And that’s a good thing. Why fell more trees and print more stuff when everything is a quick click away on the Web?

Of course I want to order just about everything I see! But, I have a small garden and it is pretty much full (would love to dig up the front yard for a vegetable garden, but that is not likely to get HOA approval). The catalogs of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange are all enticing, especially the last, with all those tomatoes on the cover. I swear, though, that this year I’ll think at least twice before growing any tomatoes – too much work, and the local farmers’ market will have everything I need.

I’ve loved reading “Waking up in Eden”, by Lucinda Fleeson, not long ago, and just yesterday read the Fourth Edition of Karen Platt’s “Black Magic and Purple Passion” (available as an e-book directly from the author, but the Third Edition can still be found on Amazon) – more than 600 plants with very dark flowers or foliage. I’ve already decided to go looking for some Actaea (Black Cohosh) and the ‘Twilite Prairie Blues’ variety of Baptisia in the coming months. The book includes lots of Bearded Irises and Daylilies and great photographs of such specimens as Ajuga lupulina, Arisaema, and Primula ‘Elizabeth Killelay’. I love Primulas, as they are so cheerful early in the gardening season.

The Georgia Master Gardeners have their winter conference coming up on January 23, with lots of good stuff to offer its attendees, not in the least a presentation by pre-eminent Georgia gardening guru Walter Reeves.

On the heels of that is WinterGreen 2010, this region’s trade show for the horticulture industry, which I pan to attend. And then, on February 3, Northeast Georgia Writers will hold its first 2010 seminar, with Cecil Murphey as the speaker.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Alternanthera in Winter

Every summer, the Athens-Clarke County Master Gardeners hold a plant sale when the trial gardens of the University of Georgia have an 'Open House' ('Open Garden'? Actually, visits are possible any time). One year, 2006 I think, an Alternanthera 'Gail's Choice' was among my purchases and I have been lucky enough to have it in my garden every year since then.
It's important to keep an eye on the thermometer in October, because this plant will be dead at the first frost. So, the idea is to take cuttings before that happens, keep them in water until they root and then put them in soil in pots, where they can be kept indoors till the following spring. In North Georgia, the last frost day is usually some time in April (I think April 26 holds the record), but one might just as well wait till May and soil temperatures that approach 55F, because this is not a plant that likes the cold at all (I empathize!). During the summer, it grows rapidly and is a splendid edition to a Southern garden. My summer 2010 crop is coming along nicely!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter in North Georgia

The bright red Dwarf Nandina is the only vibrant splash of color in today's dismal winter landscape; even the bird feeders are covered in snow and ice! The Helleborus is frozen, as are the Dwarf Indian Hawthorn and the Hollies. Those pathetic "jellyfish" things are Daisies. Anything with a cold-hardiness lower than 6 may not have survived last night's freeze and tonight it's supposed to get colder still. Now I know why Svetlana and Galina moved here from Siberia. It was not necessarily the business climate that attracted them; it must have just been the climate! They are probably feeling like they're back in their former home today. Brrrr!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In Winter’s Grip

The old-timers at the farmers’ market had it right last summer, when they said this was going to be an unusually cold winter; it was 24F (-4C) when I got up this morning (“Feels like 15”, the weather report said). Not good.

The best thing about early January in Georgia is that late February is not far away. That’s when the first signs of life emerge in gardens and parks and along the highways and country roads. If the copious rains of the past several weeks have not rotted the bulbs, daffodils will be the first to pop out of the ground. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, I’ll just turn the thermostat up another notch and put on an extra pair of socks.