Friday, December 17, 2010

Sustainable Agriculture Class

I can't wait to be a part of this experience, learning from those that know more than me, teaching those that want to be a part of the land. Class starts in April!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just had to re-post this.

I love this planting of 'Mine No Yuki' Camellias. I wrote about them last year, but I wanted to share it again. 'Mine No Yuki' continues to be one of the very best Camellias available.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I love this.

I drive all the time. Plants can't come to me, so I go to them. That means that within the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia I know every inch of road, every clean bathroom and every decent (and not-so-decent) place to get a bite to eat.

And I get to see the quirky, off-the-beaten-path places that make the South great. One of my favorites is this building on the way to Bishopville, South Carolina. I'm guessing it was some sort of speakeasy- I don't think people go there anymore because I've never seen a car nearby and it's nothing but cotton fields for miles.Every time I drive by, I think, What drove someone to ban people under the age of 35? Was he sick of hearing the trivial banter of those between the ages of 21 and 34?
Do they card?

I can't imagine the crowd that used to hang out at the "35 and Over" club. I don't think anyone would dare enter without a previous invitation. Cinder block, barred windows, gated door. No thank you.

Still, I've driven past it at least once a month for six years and it makes me smile every time. I'd love to know the back-story.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Next spring, I think I'm going to try to imprint either a fledgling Chickadee or Puffin.

Going to Carolina In My Mind

My first real job (by real, I mean I had made the leap from hourly to salaried) was at Carolina Nurseries in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. I loved it.

I was 24 and new to the Lowcountry. Just a month before, I had finished by master's degree at the University of Georgia and I was long overdue to get my hands in the dirt. It was the hardest work I have ever done and I learned how to drive tractors, fix irrigation pipe and manage the most unruly group of employees that you could imagine.

I worked so hard that between September and Christmas, I lost a noticeable amount of weight and when I returned home for the holidays my dad accused me of having developed an eating disorder. My pudgy grad student body had turned into a lean farmer's physique (oh, to have it now!).

In sadness, I went back to the place that sprouted my career on their last day of operation. I wasn't going to go but the pull of that 700-acre farm was too great and I made the 45-minute drive from James Island to "The Monkey" one last time.

I thought I'd share some memories from my time at the farm. They were the most carefree of my life and I don't know if I've ever laughed and enjoyed myself more.

Scouting Plants.

Jimmy Altman with his prized Hydrangeas.

Perfection, in plants.

Me, driving the biggest tractor on the farm. That's right.

Gorgeous 'Twice as Nice' Daylilies.

My BFF Mindy in her "office" doing paperwork

I'm good at growing plants now because of what I learned then. Graduate school was good, but it wasn't practical. It took three years of dust-covered sweat to understand how to grow all different types of plants. I have much to learn, but my education started at Carolina.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adventures in Agriculture

Okay, y'all! I'm teaching the Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture program in the spring so I'd love a full class. If you are interested, more information is on my website.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A rose is not a rose is not a rose

While I am a total sucker for a dozen roses*, I am fairly ambivalent about roses in the garden.

It's not that I don't love them. When climbing 'New Dawn' is in bloom, I covet those rambling vines. But overall, I keep my distance. Roses are a group of plants that are more susceptible to diseases and insects than other flora. A plant pathologist's nightmare.

Listen up cause I've found a good one: Rosa 'Julia Child.'

Keep in mind that these pictures we taken in late October. Does your rose have flowers and foliage this beautiful in October? No.The young flowers are a delicious golden yellow with the fragrance of cloves or licorice.
As they age, the flowers open and fade to light yellow with pink-flushed edges. The scent changes to a softer, romantic rose scent
I think they are much more interesting than Knockout Roses.

Dark green foliage, good pest resistance, gorgeous flowers and a spicy fragrance. Ten out of ten.

If you are a horticultural professional, you can get them at Dudley Nursery in Thomson, Georgia.

*If you want some long-stemmed roses, try The 'Crown Majesty' roses last forever and have the longest stems imaginable.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sustainable Agriculture in the Lowcountry

Last week, I had the privilege to teach a class of up-and-coming sustainable agriculture farmers and activists through the Lowcountry Local First/Trident Tech continuing education class. It was a treat for me- and made me feel like I was making a contribution to the community. So good.

Growing New Farmers in the Lowcountry of SC from OPP on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pods and seeds

Even though Rattlebox (Crotalaria spectabilis) is a weed in our part of the world, I can't help but have some appreciation for it.

Native to India, this yell0w-flowering plant becomes covered with intriging, bladder-like pods this time of year. It grows along the side of the road or in areas that have been disturbed. It is important to note that Rattlebox is very poisonous to livestock and should be removed from grazing pastures.
Each young seed is attached to the pod by its own little umbilical cord.

Once the seeds mature, they harden and release from the inflated outer pod. These seeds shake around in the dried pod, hence the name Rattlebox.

Aren't the seeds unbelievable? To think that for years, I have walked by this plant without looking inside these pods. These seeds are beautiful enough to be made into jewelry. Spectabilis, indeed.
I finished the day with another podded plant, Okra. My friend Cindy (from Las Vegas!) introduced me to roasted Okra. As with any other vegetable, just toss them in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cook under the broiler. When the pods begin to brown and split (exposing the seeds), they are ready. I crave this.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A sound only a mother could love....or maybe not

I ran across this video I made of Baby eating crickets the other day. I had forgotten that she was totally demanding and voracious. And young Blue Jays are not what you would call "songbirds."

More like miniature Velociraptors.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Butterfly Wing Magnified (a.k.a. Procrastination)

Wow, right? I was thinking that if I was a textile designer, I'd just take objects from nature, magnify them and pass them off as my own brilliant designs.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall Update: Baby Jay

Although she doesn't come when I call her anymore, I still see Baby fairly often in a nearby pine tree or at the feeder by my porch. I'm so glad that she has that distinctive habit of rubbing her beak on small branches because it makes it easy for me to spot her.

Saturday morning, while eating a sinfully lazy breakfast on the screened porch, she came to the feeder to get some seeds and flew to the closest pine tree. We watched her give the seed to another Blue Jay! It was so tender and sweet that I instinctively put my hand over my heart like a proud mother.
I still call for her sometimes when I see her in hopes that she will snap out of her rebellion and fly to my finger. So silly, I know.

P.S. Here are the biscuits I made. I know, right?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Beach Sunflower

I was at Waterfront Park last week (to watch my friend Nathalie Dupree announce her write-in campaign for U.S. Senate!). While waiting for her to arrive and give her stump speech, I noticed that they have used at really great native plant, Helianthus debilis, in the landscape. And it works. Here it is in the background:
Photo Credit: Andy Brack

In fact, Ive noticed that this species has been used in several municipal landscapes around Charleston and it has been a workhorse through the epic summer heat. It's good to see a bedding plant other than Petunias and Impatiens being planted. This spreading perennial is drought and salt tolerant, perfect for non-irrigated or beach locations. The continuous carpet of flowers will draw in the butterflies, too.

In Charleston, you'll find it at the garden centers like Hyam's and Abide-A-While. And if they don't have it, ask for it. They can buy it from the wholesale perennial nursery Church Creek Nursery on John's Island.

It's been too long since I've posted any new information! It's been a hot summer and I had to take a little break from the southern heat.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Late Summer Pest: Foliar Nematodes

As disturbing as it may sound, there are microscopic roundworms called nematodes all around our natural environment. They live in the soil, on roots, in leaves and in many other unexpected places. The ones that I always think about as unbelievable and icky are the nematodes that can be found in bottles of unpasteurized pepper vinegar. They are benign to you and me, but just the idea that they could be there makes me cringe. (Are y'all now going to reconsider before you sprinkle your collards with pepper vinegar this fall? I'm still going to use's like thinking about sharks when you are swimming in the ocean. You just can't think about it.)

My favorite nematodes (as we've established, I am a geek) are the Foliar Nematodes. Each nematode swims into a stomate in a film of surface water and feeds on the leaves within a leaf cell. Once they have eaten all of the carbohydrates from within an area, they swim out of the stomate and into another area of the leaf (They can't chew through the tough leaf veins).

I found nematodes last week on Hostas while I was scouting a nursery. Here is what the damage looks like:The darker areas are show where the nematodes have already been. The lighter yellow-green areas are where they are now.

Hostas are monocots, so the leaf veins run parallel to each other. This explains the pattern of damage that they cause on Hostas.
On dicots the damage is different, as seen on this Viburnum leaf. The injury has more of a stained glass effect because of the netted vein pattern. To diagnose foliar nematodes, you simply cut out a tiny square from an area that is discolored (not brown) and put it in a glass dish with some water. I use a watch glass.

When you look through a dissecting scope, you will see clear nematodes swimming out of the leaf edges and into the water.So what's the big deal about nematodes? Well, foliar nematodes cause leaf damage, stunting and impact the overall health and vigor of the plant. And they are hard to treat.

If you have a nursery or greenhouse, throw away badly infested plants. Spray the rest of the crop with Pylon at the high rate (2 applications, one week apart).

If you are a homeowner, do not buy plants with this type of damage. These nematodes have the ability to live for several years in a state called anhydrobiosis where they dry down completely and go dormant. As soon as moisture returns and conditions are right, they revive themselves and infest plants. You could put an infested leaf in an envelope, file it on a shelf and rehydrate the nematodes years later! Not exactly fair, yet very interesting.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Making your yard into a garden

Ever wonder what you house would look like with a new landscape? When you are going to be doing most of the work yourself, it may seem like an out-of-reach luxury to have a landscape plan drawn by a designer or architect.

While hiring a designer or architect is often the way to go- especially if you are changing the grade or building structures- sometimes just some guidance is enough.

Conceptual landscape plans allow you to see the overall picture at an affordable price using computer-generated images.

This house is simply amazing. Even without a plant in the surrounding landscape, it is a showpiece. The dramatic eves, the paint color, the view-framing windows- absolutely stunning. Love love love it.

Using computer imaging, we can digitally place the landscape, giving you an idea of how it will look with trees and shrubs in place. We take the information you provide about the plants you love and the way you want to enjoy your yard to create a landscape that is you. Conceptual plans are good for new landscapes, landscape revitalizations, specific areas of the garden, and basic layouts (i.e. driveway placement). While they do not replace a landscape plan, they are a helpful way to begin.

Call or e-mail us for more information about how to get started and pricing. All it takes is a few photographic images of your house and the process can begin. And most landscapes can be designed and in your hands within 1-2 weeks!

Remember: If you want a gorgeous spring garden, you need to plant this fall!

Scout Horticultural Consulting

Sunday, August 22, 2010

For more information, check out our website!

Friday, August 20, 2010


I saw this picture this morning on Jenks Farmer's Twitter page and it reminded me of picking vegetables with my Grandpa Whitley. Did you notice the homemade buckets made from Bluebell ice cream containers? My grandpa also made his own buckets, only his were from old milk jugs. I still make them today.

While ridiculously easy to make, I never see them lying around any of my friends' houses. So I'm going to assume that none of you know about this trick and show you how.

Just cut where I marked with the Sharpie using a knife (Cindy, I know you are cringing right now at the thought of me using my dull knives) or a sturdy pair of scissors. If you follow the bend at the top of the jug, you'll get it right.Here's what you get. It's simple and it works. And the position of the handle makes it comfy (some people call that "ergonomically correct" I believe).What's more, like the re-purposed Blue Bell containers, it fulfills the "reuse" part of the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mantra we all claim to follow. Fill them with berries, okra, figs, shells, pecans or anything else you like to pick up off the ground or off a plant.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rose Budworms

Seeing a flurry of small moths around your rose bushes? You may be on the verge of a Rose Budworm infestation. These moths aren't collecting nectar from the flowers; They're laying eggs near the flower buds.

Once the eggs hatch, tiny caterpillars (called budworms) crawl to developing flower buds and bore into the petals. They're using the petals as their food source.

The budworms create perfectly round perforations as they chew through the flower buds.
And as the petals unfurl, the caterpillar will have already moved on to another flower or pupated. The rose petals will look like they've been peppered with bird shot and you'll say to yourself, "I've worked on these roses all summer long through the brutal heat and now their flowers all look like this? Just Great."I wouldn't worry about trying to prevent this pest. They are only around for a couple of weeks so it's not worth the hassle. If you do decide to treat, use a biological product like Dipel (a.k.a Bacillis thuringiensis).

Side Note: Something I've noticed over the last few days is that they favor 'Sunny Knockout' over other types of roses. They still get into the other Knockout roses, but they are definitely more attracted to the yellow cultivar.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What I learned today

First of all, it's really hot. Soul-grabbing hot.

This is Darado (a.k.a. the Luck Dragon) and he's my favorite dog in the world. What's he doing in this picture?He's pushing himself into the floor and making himself as flat as he can get because I just asked him if he wants to go outside. It's that hot.

The second thing I learned today is that Elephant Ears (Colocasia esculenta) aren't great cut flowers. Here are some I cut this morning:What's really interesting is that they have a clear sap that turns the water the color of weak tea. I looked it up, and they are high in oxalic acid; I'm going to assume that's what's causing this reaction.

I was curious to know if there was any way to keep these leaves turgid (I used to grow flowers for wholesale florists in Georgia), so I checked my copy of Specialty Cut Flowers (Allan Armitage) to see if he had any information about it. Nope.

Some flowers have to be handled in a certain way to extend the post-harvest life. This includes searing the cut end with a lighter, plunging in hot water or splitting the stem. I decided to try to seal the ends with a lighter and hot water- it was obvious that they were losing turgidity quickly.And here's what I found. The jar on the top shelf is the original container. I just cut those and put them in regular water. The jar on the bottom left had their stem ends seared with a lighter, closing off the vascular system and holding in the sap. And the stems on the bottom right were put into hot water. I think the water was too hot though cause it made the stems mushy like overcooked asparagus.
The water became a little stained in the two "treatments," but not like the original jar. They didn't wilt as fast either. Next time, I'm going to submerge the stem ends in hot water for 30 seconds, then put into room temperature water.

That's all! Nothing ground-breaking.


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