Monday, March 17, 2014

Talisman and Merry Weather Tour Bisham Manor

On Thursday, March 13th the Merry Weather Garden Club joined the Talisman Garden Club in LaGrange to tour Bisham Manor.  The Talisman club had joined the Meriwether club last fall and found the camaraderie of the tandem meeting lots of fun.

 The clubs toured Bisham Manor, the home of Neil and Trish Liechty that they purchased at auction last fall.  The home was built by Peck Brumby on property that had been in the Young family since 1868. In 1974, the US Army Corps of Engineers took the property for West Point Dam’s resulting development.

 Peck Brumby, whose family has manufactured Brumby rockers since the Civil War, acquired the available land in the 1990s and with it the Tudor home where Mrs. Young had lived. Brumby began building a larger Tudor that doubled the size of the earlier home. Ben Parham of LaGrange did the construction of what became known as “Brumby Castle” which includes magnificent brickwork and details, groined arched ceilings, and unique details such as the original roof tiles from the historic Grove Park Inn.

 Owned jointly with Keith and Jessie Crozier, the Liechtys renamed “Brumby Castle” in honor of Trish Liechty’s great (x 14) grandmother, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, and her estate in England. 

The Talisman ladies welcomed the Meriwether club with coffee and brunch nibbles plus handmade floral nametags.  The guide through the gardens was Patricia Striplin of Blue Meadows Farm near Pine Mountain. She explained some of the Liechty’s goals for the estate which are to share them with the community such as the upcoming Art in Bloom fundraiser for the art museum. Striplin explained that she hopes through garden club use, the gardens and estate will be part of the registered listing of national horticultural sites in the U.S. and regularly used by plant enthusiasts.

Liechty explained he bought the estate for a bargain, $2 million, compared to its approximate cost to build and develop, $17 million, but the estate costs him about $600 a day to maintain. The Liechtys have booked a number of weddings and parties, and they hope the manor as an event venue will continue to increase.

The garden tour was impressive.  Descending the steps into a sunken garden area where stones mark off a parterre wheel design, the path leads to a unique swimming pool and fountain area. One currently undeveloped area of forest leads to West Point Lake with great potential for the family and for outdoor entertainment. Another garden path leads through a secret hidden gate and onto Old Young’s Mill Road and the river, mill, waterfall, and shop that was in use until the mid-1900s.

Striplin was a delightful guide pointing out the carefully chosen arbor and shrubbery that because of our long and lingering winter were identifiable only by shape, bark and buds. The delightful touch of spring was the brilliant green winter rye lawn that made those touring note that warmer days were imminent.

The Tudor home interior was a delight as well.  Brumby had duplicated the living room of his mother, who owned a classic Neel Reid home in Atlanta. The wood paneling through most of the rooms and on the stair railings adds to the castle’s grandeur and has a beautiful patina.  Most impressive is the basement’s series of groined arches that create a monastic feel to the area.  Liechty plans to use this lower level-that is complete with hot steam and dry saunas, Jacuzzi, tiled bathrooms and weight room-as a spa facility with masseuse and hair and manicure facilities for the bridal parties and guests’ enjoyment.  The downstairs “man cave” is complete with large screen TV and masculine accoutrements. Outside of this area is a vine draped covered porch with a number of scattered outdoor tables and chairs for al fresco dining.

The upstairs main dining area of the Tudor home echoes the castle feel with a long dining table, high backed chairs, wall sconces, and wooden accents. The kitchen area can accommodate several chefs and the kitchen storage facilities superb with extras like drawers for linens and oversized cabinets for silver.

From the time the club entered the manor’s iron gates and followed the curving drive to the home to their departure, the ladies felt transported to a centuries old European estate.  All agreed it would be a delight to enjoy regular access to the property for special events and for its planned future as a spa.

The Talisman club members then hosted the Merry Weather Garden Club for lunch at Re/Max Realty, formerly the restaurant In Clover.  The ladies found it delightful to again be in what was one of LaGrange’s most beautiful dining venues.  The downstairs was just as all had remembered it and many stories were told of events and special occasions that had taken place there.





Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Laissez les bon temp rouler"

Carnival and Mardi Gras


An intrepid and brave group of members of the Merry Weather Garden Club braved the melting ice and snow and met on Thursday, February 13th, 2014, in the Fellowship Hall of the Greenville United Methodist Church. “Laissez les bon temp rouler” or “Let the good times roll” was more than just the “joie de vivre” of the moment because the ladies were released from the housebound bondage of three days of ice and snow, but because the club learned and celebrated Jeudi Gras (Fat Thursday) as a homage to the Carnival season and the upcoming Mardi Gras, March 4th.

Hosting the meeting were two with Louisiana roots: Ros Gabriel, from the Rayne, Louisiana, the Frog Capital of the World and Babs Gordon,  who grew up in New Orleans. Ros and Dan Gabriel’s presentation began with the history of Mardi Gras going back to Rome and Venice to France and the Bourbons. In the US, Carnival was celebrated in the early 1700s, but it was not until 1856 when the first Krewe, or Mardi Gras paraders, began.

Dozens of Carnival parades are held from January 6th Twelfth Night’s Feast of the Epiphany which marks the end of the Christmas Season to Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. The parades peak during the weeks prior to Mardi Gras with different parade routes running throughout the day. With the beginning of the Lenten season, frivolities like chocolate, alcohol, and “fat” foods are often given up until Easter so hence the great feasting finale on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.

 Ros Gabriel explained that the different krewes throw different items.  While many think of beads, food, candy, and doubloons as common even coconuts and shoes are thrown by certain krewes.

The colorful beaded and feathered costumes are worn by the native Mardi Gras participants with their krewes while some krewes are specifically for celebrities and others feature very techie floats. Some krewe names are Krewe of Bacchus, Rex, Endymion, there is even a Krewe of Barkus, featuring man’s best friend!

In 1872, the Grand Duke of Russia, a Romanoff, was visiting and was allowed to choose the official Mardi Gras colors: green, gold, and purple. Purple represents justice; green represents faith; gold represents power-colors you may see in LSU and Tulane colors! Babs Gordon brought two King Cakes to the club meeting that were colorfully decorated with the three colors.  Explaining the legend, Babs told the group that a baby Jesus was baked in the cake and the lucky one to have it in their slice of cake hosted the next Carnival party.

Babs explained when she was growing up in the forties, they enjoyed King Cake parties every Friday night and they used a bean not a baby in the cakes. They attended the lovely parades not known for the bawdy drunkenness you often see now in New Orleans. The floats then were pulled by horses that were draped in white attended by grooms dressed in white carrying flambeaux torches that made for a magical experience and a beacon for parade attendees and party goers.

The fleur de lis is the official emblem of Mardi Gras and Ros Gabriel explained its lily originals. Club members shared their Carnival experiences with stories about being in Venice’s during its elaborate Carnival season, Rio’s rowdy parades and simple Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday dinners in the United States.

The club enjoyed nonalcoholic Bloody Marys and Hurricanes, classic New Orleans beverages along with Ros Gabriel’s delicious pot of gumbo, Babs’ King Cakes, and Dan Gabriel’s beignets hot out of the grease!

The next meeting will be in March when the club joins the Talisman Club with Patricia Stribling of Blue Meadow Farm as guide and tours the gardens and home of Bisham Manor in LaGrange.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Getting the vegetable garden ready for spring

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday 9th of January, 2014 at the home of Laura Underwood and in her garden, Country Road Farm, in Greenville. Members mingled and enjoyed host Jane Morrison’s “Redneck Caviar,” a recipe using black eyed peas she chose in keeping with the farming theme.  Sausages of wild boar, elk, and antelope were served with smoked Gouda and stilton cheeses and sandwiches. Host Toot Hobson brought an international flavor to the refreshments with stollen from Germany, shortbread cookies from Scotland, Italian cookies, and delicious fruity Glogg beverage from Sweden. Underwood contributed some of her delicious Greenville grown and pickled beets to the table.

A short business meeting informed members of the upcoming tourism tour to the county, and members signed up to host programs for the 2014 year. Sally Neal reported on meeting Neil Liechty who recently bought “The Castle” in LaGrange, renamed Bisham Manor, and its gardens will be available for the garden club to tour in February.

Neal introduced Laura Underwood and her friend Bobby Hamby who operate Country Road Farm and raise natural produce and flowers on the half acre property Underwood inherited from the property from her great aunt Louise Herring. Laura was born in Meriwether but grew up in Winder then attended UGA. Her work in Florida with trees and park services soon made her realize her love and talent for growing plants.

In Greenville, she has had three full growing seasons to perfect the produce business. Currently she sells at the LaGrange and Columbus Farmers Markets. The LaGrange Market operates May to October but Columbus is open on Saturdays year around. Underwood’s garden starts producing heavily in March at which time she begins to sell at market and also locally to citizens who contact her.  She washes, bags, and has the fresh produce ready on Fridays for purchase.

Currently much of her garden has a cover crop of rape, rye, and clover but there is evidence of kale, onions, and garlic.  Left over or cold weather damaged produce feeds the chickens, ducks, and geese on the property.

Hamby and Underwood are not certified organic but clearly grow that way using natural remedies for problems.  She has lady bugs to solve any aphid problem; she plants yarrow, marigolds and feverfew plus sunflowers to keep the natural predators away.

Their time is spent doing a lot of weeding. When asked if she uses straw or hay for mulch she said no because almost all hay today has Graze On sprayed on it and the residue kills the vegetable plants. Without mulch she has the nuisance of nut grass though.  She does not use pine straw which makes the soil acidic and in need of lime.  She does use it on strawberries but admits to not growing strawberries well.

Everything they grow, the remains get composted unless there is disease or bugs. The potatoes especially like mulch and she grows red, white, and gold varieties that she plants in March. She uses Johnny’s Seeds some but reminded the club that Johnny’s is in the far northwest so not entirely suitable for our area. Southern Exposure Seed Catalogue plus the farmer supply store in Imlac are her prominent seed sources for Southern seeds.

Country Road Farm grows heirloom varieties of produce and everything comes from seed.  She creates plugs and blocks of germinated plants.  She refrains from using plastic pots because of the cost and instead uses plug trays or makes her own soil blocks with a neat tool that can be purchased. The soil blocks leave the root exposed somewhat but then the plant undergoes no transplant shock.

Plugs are used for small herb seeds like dill, basil, parsley, and lettuce.  She uses a heat mat for germination and then they go in the ground around 6-7 weeks. She uses an innovative tool to get the small plugs out of the trays-the broken end of a plastic spoon!

Some of her favorite lettuces are mini-Romaine with its pretty head and tendency not to bolt, red and green butter lettuce, and the popular oak leaf salad variety. Heirloom tomatoes she likes are Cherokee Purple and Georgia Streak but she grows the common beef steak and Big and Better Boys too.

The club toured the greenhouse she and Hamby made from discarded windows. The greenhouse allows them to start seeds earlier and get plants in the ground earlier than most gardeners.  She starts the seeds three ways: plugs, blocks, or in a large pan and then separates the plants. She uses Fafard Promix, peat moss, and cow manure for her soil and she enriches it with worm castings and liquid fish emulsion. She fertilizes with Organic Plant-tone 3-3-3.

Underwood told her bad luck stories with one being about pumpkins that were developing beautifully when she discovered mice holes in them.  Her dogs are trained to stay out of the beds, but she cheerfully turned them loose in the pumpkin area.

The month of January is time off for Underwood who enjoys curling up on the couch with a good book as the cold and wet preclude much gardening chores. Members happily left their email addresses with her for communication when the growing season produced harvests available for purchase.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Merry Christmas


Enjoying friends and the Christmas season at the luncheon on December 5th are Carla Snider, Christy Mattocks, and Mary Beth Tsoukalis. The Sniders opened their beautifully decorated home to the Merry Weather Garden Club plus friends from the surrounding communities.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at the home of Sallie Mabon.  Angie Williams and Diana Norris cohosted with Mabon.

Mabon began the November program reflecting on our blessings and how our needs are met by the harvest time bounty God provides. She read from James Weldon Johnson’s poem about the creation and the forbidden fruit. Mabon and Norris prepared for their program by going to the International Farmer’s Market and purchasing lesser known, unusual fruits and vegetables that are available to us from around the world. 

Today’s globalized economy and the long ago Oriental trading trails have made available unusual foods that we can enjoy today. Mabon and Norris had the garden club members and guests play a game guessing and naming the eleven fruits and vegetables.

Indian bitter melon is a member of the gourd family that contains lutein, lycopene and is thought to fight cancer and diabetes and help with the digestion. Those disease fighting properties make it very popular today.

Chayote fruit or merleton (Cajun name) is cooked like a squash but tastes like a potato. Chinese okra or luffa is eaten and has a squash-zucchini flavor. The dragon fruit was a colorful piece that stands alone as a table decoration with its red shell and green tips that give it its dragon like skin. The cactus blooms several times a year and the fruit tastes like a strawberry and pear cross.

Prickly pear cactus contains lots of Vitamin C and fiber and grows on sand dunes from Florida to the North East. The fruit can be made into jelly and its juices flavor many candies and jellies.

Thai eggplant, small and purple or purple and white is used in curry dishes. Horned melon fruit, kiwano, or hedge gourd looks like a blowfish but is a delicious fruit snack. One fruit from the mulberry family, breadfruit, has a distinguished literary history as you rarely read a lost at sea, Captain Bligh, or Pacific boating-island hopping-sea adventure story that does not involve eating breadfruit.

The South American pepino melon is grown for its sweet fruit that reminds one of cucumbers with their large seeds. One of the most intriguing fruits at the program was “Buddha’s Hand,” a fragrant citron variety that features twisted fingers that can be broken off and steeped for a lemony tea. When the stems tips curl inward the fruit is thought to look like the praying hands of Buddha.  Joan Allen identified the fruit and said she sees it at Whole Foods where cooks use it as a lemon substitute.

Cherimoya, native to the Andes, but is so popular it is now grown in North and South America and throughout California. The flesh is creamy white with black seeds that must not be eaten because they are toxic, but then a peach pit and apple seeds also are toxic. The flavor is a blend of pineapple, banana, papaya, peach and strawberry and Mark Twain called it the most delicious fruit known to man. Some call it ice cream fruit and say its tastes like bubblegum.

No club member was able to identify more than two of the unusual fruits and veggies, but all recognized and sampled the slices of colorful papaya. The program was fun and a wonderful learning experience.

Several quick announcements were made before breaking for refreshments: Mt. Venus serves its Thanksgiving fundraiser the next Saturday from 12-3 at Mt. Carmel. The funds raised goes to families in need. Menlia Trammell told about being recognized for her book Team up for Turtles and presenting her book at the Redbud meeting. The state garden club is actively following the state allowed development at Jekyll Island and its certain effects on the sea turtles population.

December 5th from 12-3 a Christmas tea is planned at Carla Snider’s and December 14th from 10:30 – 12:30 is Sallie Mabon’s annual Christmas Coffee. Sally Neal announced she will be decorating the Greenville railroad bridge and hanging the Christmas wreaths at the courthouse during the Thanksgiving holidays. The Hobsons will be decorating the courthouse with the lighted trees again this year.

Mabon, Norris and Williams treated everyone to a delicious luncheon of homemade chicken vegetable soup, pimiento and chicken salad croissant sandwiches, and chocolate bread pudding.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Merry Weather and Talisman Garden Clubs Meet

October 2013

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, October 17th at Thunderwood Nursery north of Woodbury. Joining the Merry Weather Club was the Talisman Garden Club from LaGrange brought to Meriwether by Helen Phillips from Garden Solutions.

Gray and Lanie Riner, owners and horticulturist at Thunderwood since 2008, are making their mark on the garden industry by providing local plant stores with thriving healthy plants and by being on the cutting edge supplying those stores with the latest varieties being developed by plant breeders. Three brokers nationwide currently sell their plants with over ninety reps encouraging sales. Their retail business sells plants from Chattanooga to Valdosta but sells to independents only. Thunderwood plants are easy to recognize as there are in terra cotta colored pots at stores in our area.

Club members from Talisman and Merry Weather had numerous questions about how the Riners keep their plants through the winter.  The cold frames protect and keep plants about five degrees warmer than the outside temperature. Frost blankets are used as well but most of their plants are cold hardy.

The new plant varieties that were most impressive were the pink Sheffield mum and the purple aster English Countryside bred by Dr. Armitage in Athens at UGA.  He earns six cents royalties on every plant sold.

Schizostylus or Kaffir lily is a popular red flag lily that the Riners propagate. New from Australia is a white and coral salvia that Lanie says has brought out some pretty aggressive hummingbird in their greenhouses.

A common question for Georgia gardeners is what is deer resistant? Lanie Riner pointed out that nothing is resistant if the deer are hungry. They get most of their deer damage in the spring when they are growing hostas. Some plants less tasty to the deer are asters, salvia, stokesia, coreopsis, and yucca. Plant sprays like Liquid Fence are very good but repeated applications are necessary after rains.  Deer, armadillos, and pests do not like the rotten eggs or sulphur smell.  Homemade remedies that use eggs can be made that repel deer.

A last popular plant the garden clubbers purchased was the Southern Riverwood fern.  Shade and moisture loving, the plant is a perennial and comes back after cold weather and rarely dies back during mild winters.

Both garden clubs traveled to Gay where Merry Weather hosts Jackie Reynolds and Joan Allen prepared a feast of delicious recipes-an appetizer of Mexican layered dip, main course with a tangy apple and greens salad, grape salad, and shredded chicken and spinach salad, chocolates and chocolate lace cookies were for dessert.

Touring the Reynolds home and garden were added delights. Jackie provided before and after pictures of their home that was bought as a simple brick ranch.  Their additions have given the home charm and added space plus they updated the front entry with a new pediment with siding of cedar shakes and stacked stone. The gardens were most delightful with winding paths and flourishing beds of color.  The purple asters and pink mums were in their full glory along with the red flag lily. Vines and climbers cover walls and trellises giving a romantic, mature look to the garden.  The Reynolds have recently cleared the jungle behind their house leaving the tall hardwoods for shade, and the ladies were quick to make recommendations of low maintenance woodsy plantings for them to enjoy.

In business, the club announced the upcoming luncheon and wreath making in Woodbury which is being done this year in lieu of a Christmas tour of homes. Carla Snider announced her Christmas tea will be December 5th.  The Talisman Garden Club was given brochures of the upcoming Expressions of Meriwether Event and the ladies were invited to come back to visit.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Aging Gardener

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Wednesday 25th of September, 2013 at the home of Marilyn Carter in Woodland.  Lynda Woodall was the cohost for the meeting. Members and guests were welcomed inside with refreshments and to meet Terri Edwards from Columbus and a member of the Windsor Garden Club.

When Edwards joined the Windsor club she noted she was twenty plus years younger than all the members, and they were at an age where they could no longer work in and enjoy their gardens. The club was a social one but not a working garden club.

Edwards, wife of a chiropractor, studied up on ways the aging gardener could maneuver outside, tools that made work safer and easier, plus exercises that helped the aging frame. Whether the aging problem is arthritis keeping the joints from full function or losing eyesight, balance or memory, Edwards had helpful tips that can keep avid gardeners in their element.

Raised beds and vertical gardens allow better accessibility to plants. They mean less stooping and bending and also allow wheelchair access. Marking paths is an easier way to find your way around the garden when the feet shuffle more than take steps.  Smooth surfaces improve movement; indicator strips mark pathways for those with memory loss, reflectors and focal points help aging eyes.

Using larger seeds allows arthritic hands to handle the seeds better also bright plants are easier on aging eyes. Gail Coffee seconded one tip that gave a positive review to hand massagers that are a proven help for arthritic hands.

Overall a change in garden routine is beneficial: work one hour a day for five days rather than five hours in one day.

Edwards had a list of tools that also help the aging gardener: power and ratchet loppers make trimming and pruning easier; longer handles increase reach instead of the gardener stretching and getting off balance; D shaped handles on spades and digging tools; fluorescent paint sprayed on tools so they may be found when lost in the garden; and hospital foam to spray on tool handles. The foam makes a handle that hardens into a custom grip. Battery powered weed eaters and blowers were a popular suggestion because of their weight, no gasoline smell, and no cords to trip over.

Edwards finished by showing the club exercises that help the legs and spine and core. Because our heads are our heaviest part, she recommends throwing back the head, stretching back the spine and opening the vertebras to let fluid in. She pointed out we are up to an inch and a half taller when we lie horizontal than when we stand.

To improve balance she recommended raising the knee then the arms and closing the eyes. Balance exercises are a key to staying healthy and active as we age and yoga helps with balance. To strengthen the back, Edwards demonstrated pelvic lifts. Rotating the ankles is a good way to keep strong ankles. One member shared a tip from her doctor to discourage spider and varicose veins: prop feet and wiggle the toes for ten minutes. This discourages the pooling of blood in the legs. Edwards also said don’t cross your feet when you sleep as that encourages blood clots.

After the program the club walked Marilyn Carter’s garden that is scenically curved around the end of a lake.  Beds and borders and unique art keep the eye focused and amused. One bedding area has lavender and purple flowers blooming in every season. Carter collected and painted bicycle rims in matching violet shades and they support the taller willowy plants.

Carter’s eye catchers sparkle in the sun. They are made from cut glass dishes she picks up at estate sales and thrift shops and then wires onto bike rims. One favorite area for the club is her woodsy outdoor gazebo anchored by a large metal machinery wheel over five feet in diameter. Hanging pots of blooms close in the outdoor room and Carter divided and shared ground covers and ferns with garden clubbers. Her blue wine bottle beds and art are attractive eye catchers whether on a bottle tree or lining the flower beds. Glass and pottery art and bowling balls add interest and color to the beds.  Her newest area is dedicated to Alice in Wonderland and features checkered paver walkways, elegant silver tea services, roses, and croquet mallets marking off the flower beds.

            After the garden tour members wound through Marilyn Carter’s equally intriguing home where they enjoyed lunch.  The day happened to have lower temperatures and we felt the first chill of fall. The huge pot of homemade soup and plate of sandwiches and tiramisu dessert were a perfect finish to the meeting.

          The next meeting of the garden club will be in October where the group will take in the fall plants at the Riner’s at Thunderwood Farm in Woodbury. We will be joined by master gardeners from LaGrange along with Helen Phillips.  Jackie Reynolds and Joan Allen are hosting the meeting.