Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Local color

Many of you in Charleston know (or know of) Jim Martin. As the director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy, he can be found planning and planting throughout the city. On Friday, Jim donated his time to create a container garden for the Charleston Horticultural Society's Plantasia preview party, FETE.

Here is what Jim looks like on a typically Friday morning (during set-up for the plant sale):And here he is on an untypical Friday night:Needless to say, his alter ego was a real charmer. It takes real skill to garden, make daiquiris and wear high heels all at once and Jim (Jamie?) did it with finesse.If you missed Friday night's festivities, you'll have another chance to experience Jim Martin on May 10 at 6:30 (Charleston Museum on Meeting Street). He's the speaker for May meeting of the Charleston Horticultural Society and he'll be talking about and creating vertical gardens.

This is not to be missed. I'm serious.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garden-worthy native

I love this selection of Coneflower, Echinacea paradoxa x purpurea. Given the cultivar name, 'Paranoia,' this plant has strappy yellow petals that arch down from the central cone. I think it would look great planted with a native grass like Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris).
Or you could plant a mass of these Coneflowers near a native Trumpet Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera sempervirens) for a beautiful combination.
Unlike the invasive Japanese Honeysuckle, this vine behaves itself and nicely contributes to the local ecosystem. The rich red flowers attract the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird* and is a larval plant for the Spring Azure Butterfly.

Ozark Coneflower seems to be taller than Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), so plan accordingly. Parson's Nursery in Georgetown, South Carolina sells this selection (wholesale only).
*When I worked at Carolina Nurseries, we used to grow this plant by the hundreds (if not thousands). When they flowered, I would stand in the middle of the field and watch 30-50 hummigbirds at a time zoom from flower to flower and fight for territory. It was amazing to be that close to so many birds. They were so engrossed with the flowers that they didn't notice me there at all.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My landscape orange

I've heard that when tattoo artists are in training, they practice on oranges before they permanently ink someone's skin. Good idea.

In the world of landscape design, your parents' yard is your practice orange. Better to mess up their garden than a stranger's. Thankfully, I designed a very Southern traditional landscape for my parents' Victorian House (circa 1900) so I don't cringe every time I pull in the driveway. It has matured into a lovely garden (mainly because of the sweat equity that my sweet mom and dad have put into it over the last ten years!).

Are there things I would change about it? Absolutely. But as my friend Nathalie Dupree says, "Life is not perfect."

Side of house with 'Natchez; Crape Myrtle, Loropetalum, and 'Gulf Stream' Nandina:
Front of house with Boxwood, Tea Olive, Iris, Spiraea and Gumpo Azalea. When I get around to updating it, I'll remove the Gumpos and add in a coarser texture. And I want to remove the Tea Olive at the corner, too.
Other side of house with Chinese Fringetree, Southern Indica Azalea, Loropetalum and Hydrangea. When the Blue Hydrangeas bloom, they are spectacular against the soft green house.
Thank God the house is gorgeous and the yard is full of mature Oaks, Pecans and Dogwoods. Having these elements to work off of made my novice design look a lot better than it really is.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mepkin Abbey Natives

Mepkin Abbey has been doing incredible things with native plants:
Growth and Renewal

Love Love Love.

Friday, April 23, 2010


You are a Charleston gardener who cares where their plants are grown. And how their plants are grown. And you want to support the nurseries and people who work at these nurseries by buying their plants whenever you can. Am I right?

You can buy these plants tomorrow at the Charleston Horticultural Society's annual plant sale, Plantasia.

I just spent a couple of hours helping to set up with a faithful group of volunteers for the big sale (Saturday 8-12) and it is an amazing floral symphony of annuals and perennials, herbs and vegetables, shrubs and trees. Plant growers include Carolina Nurseries, Church Creek Nursery, Sea Island Savory Herbs, Mepkin Abbey and Nurseries Caroliniana.

The native plant selection is better than ever (all of the plants from Mepkin Abbey are natives) and I have my eye on a gorgeous native Sedum (with deep purple flowers).

If you are a plant lover, this is an event that can't be missed. In the morning, put on some grubby clothes, pour a cup of coffee to go, and come downtown to the lawn of the Gaillard Auditorium (on Calhoun Street).

And leave your guilt at home! This is a fund-raiser for the Charleston Horticultural Society so I want you to spend with abandon. We're not asking you to buy candy bars or donuts. No sir.

We're selling earth-friendly, home-improving, curb-appealing, waist-whittling plants that increase your personal quality of life.

So, I'll see you there?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The bottom line

I read somewhere that you should only keep things in your life that are beautiful, useful, or that bring you joy. I live by this. In my mind, if it doesn't fit into at least one of these categories, it must go. Holding onto something that you don't love or use simply because it was given to you makes no sense to me. A cluttered home makes a cluttered mind.

If you apply this to your daily consumerism, you'll find that you buy a lot less of the things that are quasi-disposable. Instead, you will wait and buy things that you truly love when they become available to you.

This applies to the garden as well. Don't be afraid to edit when appropriate. Just because it is green and growing does not mean that it has earned the right to take up valuable garden real estate. If there is a shrub or plant that seems out of place or is not attractive, you will notice it and hate it every time you see it. As long as the plant will be composted and replaced with another plant, you can remove it without a twinge of guilt.

Remember, your landscape plants should be beautiful, useful and bring you joy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Rules of Good Gardening

#2 Texture and structure are more important than flower color.

Colors are very personal. For some, fiery reds, oranges and yellows dominate their accent pillows and perennial borders. For others, like me, the cool greens, whites, blues and lavenders are woven through our personal spaces.

When selecting the furniture for inside our homes, we seem have a good understanding of how colors and textures play off of each other. For example, if we fall in love with a patterned upholstered chair, we will select a more neutral couch. We make sure that the Persian rug that dominates the living room doesn't compete with wallpaper and the surrounding upholstery. A saturated color, like red or turquoise, is often used as an accent, not as the primary hue.
In this living room, neutrals dominate. The wall color, couch and chairs hold the room together. Remove the flower arrangements and it is still a welcoming and useful room. Change the color of the throw pillows to match the sofa and the room continues to work.

Even though the rug and pillows are the most interesting and eye-catching parts of the room, without the tables, chairs and sofa they don't make a room.

It is not color that holds this room together, it is texture and structure.

In our gardens, we often abandon this principle and let color rule.

A room full of decorative pillows, paintings and flower arrangements does not make a living room! It makes a yard sale.

And a haphazard mixture of whatever was flowering at the garden center that day does not make a garden! It must have structure and texture first.

When I lecture, I often use this garden image as an example. Tucked into a courtyard behind one of the houses South of Broad in Charleston is this sublime garden. Why does this garden work? First, there is structure. Even during the winter months, when this garden is dormant, it is held together by a brick wall, the fountain and two Palmetto trees. Second, there are different textures. The smooth finish of the fountain and walkway, the rough bark of the Palmettos, the large leaves of the banana and coleus and small, fine leaves of the Weeping Willow and Mexican Heather.

The true test of a garden is whether it looks as good in black-and-white as it does in color. And this garden passes with an A+.
Do you have an area of your landscape that just won't come together? Take a black-and-white picture and see if you are missing the crucial element of texture. Hint: If it all kind of blurs together, then you have overlooked the principle of texture. Identify where to add an accent plant or two and watch it all come together.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Horticultural Locavore

Hey landscapers......You know how you've made a conscious decision to support local restaurants that use produce, meats and cheeses from sources that are close to home? And how you've started shopping a the farmer's market more often?

Are you making the same decisions about the plants you are buying for your landscape jobs?

I'm not opposed to plants that are "from off," but when you have a local option I think you should use it!

In Charleston, there are many wholesale nurseries that grow everything from ground-hugging herbs to towering trees. Are these nurseries the first that you call when it's time to place an order?

If you are looking for perennials (including regular and creeping Rosemary, people), look to Parson's Nursery, just south of Georgetown. It's the horticultural equivalent of farm-fresh produce.

I saw a neat Columbine there this week called "Winky Double." (I think a Brit must have named this plant. I don't think that Americans use the work "Winky" very often!)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The website needs lovin' too!

Be sure to check out the Scout Horticultural Consulting website for information regarding upcoming lectures, articles and services offered for all things horticultural.

A plant's natural beauty

Loropetalum has become one of the most popular landscape plants in the southeastern United States over the last ten years. Cultivars like 'Plum Delight,' 'Ever Red,' 'Ruby,' and 'Daruma' are available at every garden center.

Most often, these plants are sold as small shrubs and are used as foundation plantings. I don't think that shearing this plant and keeping it small allows this plant to really strut its stuff.

Did you know that most of these cultivars will naturally grow 15-feet tall if left unpruned? It is a beautiful specimen tree if you allow it to be itself:

Not only it is an incredible sight when it flowers in the spring but the evergreen leaves are a rich, deep burgundy color.What do you think?


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