Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 2015

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, 19th of March, 2015 at the antebellum home of Allen and Tina Hand on LaGrange Street in Greenville. Allen acquired the home of John Gaston over a year ago and has been steadily restoring the house, outbuildings and gardens-a long labor of love.

The home was built between 1838 and 1840 by Hezekiah Wimbush.  Wimbush owned nineteen slaves at the time with one of them being the very talented untutored Elbert Wimbush, a skilled builder who built several houses in the Greenville area. The hand hewn underpinning of the home and mortise and tenon or peg joints make for a sturdy, well-built home that endures for years and has looked regal even in its past decay.

There have only been three homeowners before the Hands bought the property: the Wimbushes, the Anthonys, and then John and Pauline Gaston who bought the place in 1920 when John (Booker) was two years old. John Gaston lived in the house until he was 94. Allen met John when he, Allen, was eight years old and pretty much visited him every couple of weeks from then on so he is well versed in the house’s history and knows the property that was his friend’s. There are three springs on the back of the property that were the reason for the name of the nearby church, Springfield Baptist Church.

While Allen and Tina are restoring the house, they are living next door in a home that was originally part of the Gaston place. Years ago three rooms were removed from the Wimbush house and rolled next door to make another home. The Hand’s daughters, Theney and Milzie, enjoy the connected backyards and the ample playrooms and playhouses. The back of the house, in typical antebellum fashion, adjusts for the slope of the land and sits high off the ground and is open-perfect for more play area.

The garden club toured the yard noting the smokehouse, pomegranate and rose bushes plants that have been there a long time. Most interesting is the small building that served as a classroom for Joseph Meriwether Terrell who grew up to be one of Georgia’s governors! Allen’s mother some years ago bought the Terrell place in Greenville and gave Allen the portrait of Governor Terrell she found there.  Allen plans for the portrait to have a place of honor hanging in the dining room-an interesting point as the young Terrell boy who played and studied on the Wimbush property had no idea his picture would hang in its home one day!

In clearing out the interior, Hand found newspapers and magazines dating back to 1906 that are a treasure trove of fascinating local information. He also has a hand written account of the Greenville Cyclone of March 3, 1893 and its devastation.

Restoration is a slow process and the club members were most complimentary of the care the Hands are taking with the historical house. It is not always easy, Allen said, as he has run into rats, squirrels, possums, bats, and snakes in the initial clean up.

Garden club members divided and shared with the Hands some plants from their gardens and also presented the Hands with a long handled pruner for fighting the wisteria in the yard. The sides of the front steps became an impromptu table where club members enjoyed refreshments and made club announcements.  The next meeting of the garden club will be April 16 when it will join the Concord Club for its annual Lunch and Learn program.



February 2015

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at the farm of Connie Strickland in Luthersville.  The Stricklands and their neighbor Brian Cash hosted a three day sheep dog trials for the United States Border Collie Handlers Association.

Approximately sixty dogs were put through their paces and a crowd made up of sheep dog enthusiasts as well as curious local folk came out to watch the event. Participants came from as far away as Ireland, Colorado, and Canada for the event, one of three held in Georgia this year.

Some of the garden club ladies brought along husbands, grandchildren, and neighbors for the event and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful spring like day, sunshine and outdoors.

The site of the action for the trials on Saturday was the Strickland’s big hay field where four gates, a small pen, and designated marked area were all on about forty acres. The dogs were sent by their handlers across a large field about four hundred yards away and often out of sight, but not hearing, of their handlers.  The dogs were judged on following the directions given by the handlers to go and retrieve four sheep. The dogs brought the sheep to the handler having to circle the shepherd from a designated side.  Then the dogs were commanded to take the sheep through a gate and then brought back toward the handler and penned.  A last test was taking the four sheep to a designated area and separating them two and two. The course had to completed in eleven minutes.

The crowd thoroughly enjoyed watching a smooth dog and handler pair.  The whistles and hand signals soon became easy to follow, and the dogs put forth such strenuous mental and physical effort they were a joy to see work. Most dogs headed straight for the big water bucket after their runs to jump in and cool off. The black and white border collies and an occasional brown and white colored one were eager to get out there with the sheep and go to work.

It was clear to viewers that a good dog made working with sheep an easier task and a good dog was worth the money. Nancy Schreeder of Vinings explained that most border collies from twelve months to two years are in the training stages with a six year old considered mature and trial worthy. Training is an ongoing process though, Schreeder said. Schreeder lives in Vinings but has her sheep in Dawson County as did a number of entries competing this weekend. 

Sheep farming is enjoying a growth spurt in Georgia just now and folks are seeing mutton on restaurant menus more often. The Stricklands grow what is call hair sheep or the Dorper breed which is a meat sheep, and they don’t have to spend time shearing wool. It is currently lambing time, and Connie Strickland had set up a petting area for the guests to see a few of the adorable babies.

The Greenville Boy Scout Troop provided lunch for visitors at the trials and Connie further treated the garden club ladies to her delicious coconut cake. The next meeting of the club will be an unofficial meeting as the ladies will take in the Callaway Gardens Plant Fair and Sale on Thursday, March 26, 2015 to Sunday, March 29, 2015.




January 2015

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday 15th January, 2015 at Nature’s Tree Farm in Luthersville. Unfortunately the weather was not merry but quite drizzly and cold so the hayride, quilts, cider and donuts planned by host Gail Coffee were postponed. Happily most club members got to view Steve Kinney’s beautiful layout of the tree farm, and several drove through the lanes of potted plants before moving to the home of Gail and Bill Coffee.

Warm cider and a variety of delicious donuts were available there to warm everyone and Gail attractively displayed the donuts in vintage metal lunchboxes that belonged to her children, to her, and to her father. Kinney promised the hayride at a later date as he has a hay wagon complete with drop down steps for an easy climb up.

Kinney grew up wanting to farm, but he had been told by his grandfather it was not profitable. At the age of twelve he started working for P. Skinner at his nursery where he learned a lot as he grafted fruit and nut trees and camellias and handled vegetable plants. He persevered in the field and has made a successful business with nurseries in Peachtree City and Fayetteville before doing what has been his lifelong dream of being in the growing business.

Kinney said he has taken Truett Cathy’s advice in that, “if you do something you like for a living, you will never work a day in your life.” So for fifty years he has been in the nursery business.

Nature’s Tree Farm grows trees in containers. They sell 175 varieties of trees and shrubs to nurseries and landscapers. One prominent client is the Biltmore House where trees grown in Luthersville now have replaced the aging tulip poplars that line the allee leading to the house.

Kinney’s plants can be grown in as large as 45 gallon containers that make it is easy to move, ship, and transport. His program for the garden club was about trees, and he began by stating we should choose the tree to plant by the soil, sun/shade, and of the size the tree will be when mature.  Today’s homeowner wants immediate satisfaction with their landscaping and that does not happen. When asked about trends he pointed out the fifties had its hollies, the sixties red tipped photinias, then came the leylands and Bradford pears. Varieties he enjoys and encourages homeowners to plant are the Fox Valley River Birch, Carolina Hornbeam, gingko, and Persian ironwood or Parrotia.

When asked what to plant on logged acreage, Kinney recommended native trees like hickory, birch, bald cypress, dogwood, and red maples for a variety of color, height, and looks. He pointed out that the Smoky Mountains National Park has more tree varieties than in all of Europe. To stop trees from sprouting after have been logged he said making axe grooves in the stump and brushing Roundup full strength on the stump would kill the tree and not damage the soil.

Kinney finished by pointing out that trees are the bones or structure of the landscape and live long after shrubs and perennials.  They are a great investment so he encouraged club members to plant for the future and have a long range vision for their landscapes rather than selling out to instant gratification. Winter is the best time of the year to plant trees and be sure to dig a wide hole and break up the soil below pot depth. The root ball can be a tad higher than the surrounding soil, but definitely pull apart any pot bound roots. Add organic matter to clay soil but it’s much more important to mulch around the top, but never let mulch touch the trunk. Kinney likes to saturate the root ball with water before filling in the hole so the soil is soaked and  settled.

The garden club handled several bits of business: signing up to host programs in 2015, paying dues, and upcoming events or announcements.  Connie Strickland invited the club to their farm on Luthersville Road as it is hosting a Stock Dog Trials February 6, 7, and 8. The club decided that would be a great February program. Babs Gordon has also extended an invitation to tour the Needle Arts Show at Callaway that runs until January 26th.




Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our Italian Feast and Cooking with Herbs

 October 2014

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at the home of Carla Snider in Imlac. Guests and members were treated to hors d’oeuvres with an Italian twist like bruschetta, garlic bread, and antipasto.

Carla was assisted in her “Italian Feast” by friends Mary Beth Tsoukalis who did the antipasto, Italian leafy salad, chicken Florentine, penne salad, and limoncello; Carla added an entrée of lasagna; Phyllis Daniel made the decorations, rum cake, lemon ricotta cookies and garlic bread; and Patti Acheson brought the cannoli. Each place setting had a card with a map of Italy and the luncheon menu that Carla’s daughter Anne created. The table decorations were carved loaves of bread that held flowers.

Guests of honor, Walter and Chris Citterio, praised the delicious meal and enjoyed the club’s camaraderie. Walter, who grew up in Northern Italy, is a chef renowned for his simple, healthy, and incredibly delicious recipes. His program on cooking with herbs was filled with tips by a true connoisseur who both grows his produce, cooks, and enjoys fine food.

Citterio began by explaining how important a garden is to Italian families. There are always flowers for the house and for the cemetery. Italian cemeteries are colorful and blooming with fresh flowers year around.

Citterio explained there are eighteen regions of Italy and every region differs so that favored herbs in Rome are not the favored ones in his boyhood home of Como. Italy’s history is one of invasion and the Mediterranean cuisine was influenced by invaders with the southern portion having Arab influences and the northern areas more French flavors.

The basic six herbs used most often are parsley, basil, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Citterio uses rosemary to flavor the oil.  When he roasts meat, he puts the stripped rosemary leaves in the oil and then takes them out after they have flavored the oil. He cooks the meat and then adds rosemary again at the end. Too browned or overcooked herbs can ruin flavor instead of enhance it.

He recommends bay leaves for stews, a good chicken broth, and cooking venison.  Bay is strong and can easily overpower food and you want its delicate flavor. Citterio recommends a marinade of sage, bay, and thyme for a good venison loin.

The two thymes, the common and lemon varieties, add flavor to foods. Citterio recommends using lemon thyme in seafood recipes. Parsley is also a favorite with seafood. He roasts a large fish with garlic and parsley and uses the two ingredients with shrimp and clam sauces.

Citterio explained that shrimp scampi is an American invention.  “Shrimp is shrimp, and scampi is scampi,” he said. Scampi is a baby lobster-important to know if ordering a meal in Europe.

Small basil leaves he uses for pesto. He processes and freezes them in ice cube trays then pops them in freezer bags to have when the growing season precludes fresh leaves.

Citterio uses tarragon in béarnaise sauces, as a dry rub for chicken, and chopped fresh into salads. Dill is stripped with the fingers because cutting it with a knife makes the herb dark. Citterio displayed beautiful, fresh, healthy herbs from his garden as he discussed how he uses them in his meals. Chives he uses in fish and soup stock, potato salad, and chopped to finish a dish. He reminded cooks never to use oregano in the cooking process-it is always added at the end or sprinkled on salads and bruschetta.

Many Italian dishes begin with a basic tomato sauce and Citterio shared his: crushed garlic is added to olive oil, then basil is added and then Citterio puts the lid on and lets the ingredients sizzle.  He adds the tomatoes and salt and pepper and simmers it.

Nutritious leafy vegetables he highly recommends are dandelions which he boils or steams and adds oil and lemon juice before serving; spinach, endive, kale and broccoli rabe. He often steams the broccoli rabe with pine nuts, raisins, and serves with pasta. His goal is to always maintain the natural flavor and keep dishes simple.

Garden club members inquired how he grew such green, perfect, and leafy herbs, and he explained he had no extraordinary tips.  He made his garden in what was his bocce field because he had no one to play bocce with. To fend off insects he uses soapy water.

The delicious meal served at Carla’s Italian Feast plus Citterio’s inspiring talk on cooking with herbs made for a perfectly delightful club meeting.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall Plantings of Pansies

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, September 11, 2014 in the Fellowship Hall of the Greenville United Methodist Church on Court Square. Toots Hobson and Jane Morrison hosted the meeting and greeted members and guests with a delicious afternoon tea featuring fresh fruit, tea sandwiches, cookies and chocolates.


While members enjoyed the refreshments and chatting, several interesting announcements and news items were related. The club’s October and November meetings have been confirmed: the Thursday, October 30th meeting will be at 11:30 at Carla Snider’s and will be an Italian feast with the emphasis on cooking with herbs. Walter Citterio will be the speaker. Monday, November 3rd, 5:30-6:30, the club will join the Elms and Roses Council of Garden Clubs on the rooftop at Del'Avant for wine and cheese then the lecture at 6:30 by Staci Catron, Director of the Cherokee Garden Club Library in Atlanta and expert in landscape and garden history. Catron will present a program on important Georgia gardens which are rarely open to the public.  Tickets are $10.


Gail Coffee reported to the club that she had adopted out fourteen cats this past summer from the animal shelter but that recently fourteen more had been admitted. Back to square one, she said. She also reminded everyone that the Chamber’s Business after Hours will meet on November 5th at the shelter from 5:30 to 7, and she requested any garden club members attending to please help with refreshments.


Three garden club members (Carla Snider, Helen Claussen, and Gail Coffee) attended the Keep America Beautiful workshop and training.  They learned how to assess the litter problem, work with the schools, teach awareness of the litter problem, and make behavioral changes.


Meriwether is one of the state’s largest counties and our state has the most KAM affiliates (77) in the nation. The garden club had donated $100 to keep the America Beautiful program whose training session cost approximately $3,000 to hold in our county. The group learned the best methods of positive reinforcement that will make the changes and learned ways to raise the public’s awareness and conscience of the problem.


Trey Gafnea, our full time extension agent in Meriwether, introduced himself noting that his animal science degree from Berry and experience on ranches and with beef cattle did not make him the perfect flower expert, but he researched fall flowers and presented a delightful program on pansies.


Beginning with our new classification as 7b, Gafnea and the club heartily discussed climate change or as Gafnea called it “the variable patterns” that research is showing clearly are happening.


Pansies are best planted when the soil temperatures are 45-65 degrees which is usually October 1-15. Buy pansy flats with plants that have good dark green leaves, not leggy, and abundant white fibrous roots. The best performing beds are raised six to ten inches above ground level. Gafnea warned against using old mulch as it uses up nitrogen in the decomposing process.


Pansies love organic material but not more than 25% of the bed should be organic. He recommended adding three inches of soil above the twelve inch raised bed. Soil samples were recommended as pansies like slightly acidic soil-5.4 to 5.8. Pre emergences are encouraged if the bed has a history of weeds.15-2-20 fertilizer is recommended every two weeks through the winter with no fertilizer spread during September, April or May when it is warm.  


Pansies are hearty through cold weather down to 25 degrees, and if the cold spell lasts a long time, a two to four inch topping of pine straw helps. Remove frost damaged flowers and any diseased plants through the winter.


With Gafnea’s expertise there, the club members discussed a myriad of problems from armadillos to army worms. He explained the invasion by army worms and how they migrate from Florida in moth swarms and usually get to us in July. They are green and brown 1 ½ inch caterpillars that eat grass leaving only a stem. Sevin dust will take care of the currently invading black oak worm that is part of the tent caterpillars in hardwoods. Coral snakes have been spotted in southeast Meriwether County.


The knee slapping story of the meeting was told by Helen Claussen who, like most gardeners, has been at war with armadillos.  She thought she had killed one and bagged it up to dispose of it.  As she was driving, the bag started moving and as she drove keeping one eye on the bag in the floorboard, the bag opens and the armadillo climbs out and up onto her lap! She stopped her car, opened the door and released the pest.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Pine Needle Baskets and Drying Hydrangeas

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Tuesday the 19th of August, 2014 at the home of Patti Acheson in Woodbury.  Ellen McEwen cohosted with Patti. Neighbors or the “Imlac Crew” made up of Phyllis Daniel, Mary Beth Tsoukalis, and Carla Snider, all contributed to the delicious brunch served with shrimp and grits, egg and vegetable casserole, coffee cake, zucchini, squares, fresh fruit garnished with mint and feta, orange yeast rolls, and much more.

Club members enjoyed touring the Acheson home because Patti and her husband A.J. have made much of the furniture and décor themselves. Both have a professionals’ eye and touch. Patti has recently turned her talents to creating a stunning garden which surrounds the new swimming pool and also she has refitted an old camper.  Acheson is part of a group that goes “glamping.” Glamourous camping as the ladies and their campers, eighty plus meet this weekend at Stone Mountain and will enjoy shopping, wine and cheese tasting, and chatting-definitely not the rugged outdoor experience.  The camper has been painted, refitted and upholstered in delightful fabrics.  A miniature crystal chandelier hangs over the bed! The fifth wheel is encased in a box that has been painted to look like an earlier period trunk.  Creative and clever touches in every nook made the Acheson home, garden, and camper a fun and inspiring adventure for the garden club.

In club business Marylyn Carter told the club about entering the flower show last May that was a fundraiser for the art museum in LaGrange. The Downton Abbey theme was furthered by member Jane Morrison who was asked to bring her ancestor’s crocheted handbag, hats, and umbrellas.

Linda Wilburn reported to the club on the state of the Streetscapes in the county seat noting that it took four years to do Phase 1 and she thought this phase would go faster-but no.  The bids are due in September and will be awarded in October and construction will begin immediately.

Helen Claussen reported on the 34 lots that are covenant recorded properties around the airport that she hopes will be developed.  The county owns the land and the lots would make a good fly in community.

Carla Snider reported on the Keep Meriwether Beautiful workshop coming up September 9th from 1-5 at the Commissioners’ Building.  This is training for those who want to see something done about the litter problem in our county.  Many club members plan to be part of this and take the program into the schools and communities to implement.

Linda Wilburn also passed out flyers with information about purchasing a poster or posters of our seven cities. The poster collages currently are on display at the Court Square Café and have received rave reviews. The café and art gallery in Greenville, café in Woodbury, and Refreshingly Country shop in Warm Springs are all part of the Southern Loop now which goes from Fairburn to Warm Springs, LaGrange to Tyrone in its appeal to tourists who want to see the towns that Sherman missed!

Ellen McEwen introduced her dear friend and Cotton Pickin’ Fair exhibitor of approximately thirty five years Patricia Hendricks of Woodland. Patricia, McEwen said, has a beautiful home and garden, was married to the late Dr. Hendricks, a state veterinarian. Hendricks explained she began her hobby of making pine needle baskets when “the empty nest” occurred in her home. She praised her mentor and teacher Mrs. Corley and she has taken classes in North Carolina and Charleston to further educate herself and see how others make the baskets.

Hendricks praised Johnny Walker of Gay who has a long leaf pine and saves her the needles shed every year. Hendricks begins by washing the needles with warm soapy water and drying them. She uses RIT dye to color them saying she had tried natural dyes but they don’t last as well. She uses loblolly needles for smaller baskets and the miniature pieces.

Hendricks does not work from a pattern but visualizes her creation much like a potter with clay. She uses very strong waxed linen thread to sew the needles together.  Club members were amazed at her precise stitches that themselves make a pretty pattern in each piece both on the outside and inside of the work. She starts every piece with six needle leaves sometimes attached to a walnut and builds out from there. She displayed a variety of baskets, a lovely hat, and trays she had made. The baskets each take numerous hours to create.

A second hobby is drying hydrangeas. Club members appreciated that she grew such beautiful large blossoms! Limelight and Snowflake hydrangeas are two especially good varieties for this. She mulches with chipped composted limbs and fertilizes with 10-10-10 in the spring. She adds aluminum sulfate to keep the flowers blue and purple.

Picking at the correct time is the key to drying hydrangeas and she does this in late July and August as the color starts fading from the blossom. She has a log house where she hangs the blooms from the rafters, and they are dry in a few days. She colors some with RIT dye and boiling water.  She dips until she gets the desired color and them dries them by simply hanging them on a clothesline. Fabric softener in water is sometimes sprayed on the bloom to soften it for arranging.

The garden club will next meet in September at Greenville United Methodist Church to hear our Extension Agent Trey Gafnea discuss gardening problems and the checklist to do in the fall and to prepare for winter.




Monday, July 14, 2014

Daylilies in Woodland

The Merry Weather Garden Club met in Woodland on Thursday, July 10th, 2014. Hosting the meeting were Marilyn Austen Carter and Lynda Woodall.

The ladies met at Larkspur Antiques and were disappointed to find the antique store inaccessible for shopping but toured the garden behind the store that was cultivated by Baker Hendricks who won several awards for his daylilies which he propagated and named.  Today the store and property are owned by Larry Lees and greatly appreciated by local plant enthusiasts.

The program was on daylilies or hemerocallis, plants not native to Georgia (from Asia) but perfect for our climate and soil. Named in the top ten of the one hundred best plants, lilies thrive in our Georgia clay. The name means beauty and day as the blooms last just one day. Easy to grow, daylilies reproduce and make clumps that need dividing every three or four years.

The program, given by former Merry Weather Garden Club President Mary Anne Rasmussen, covered digging and dividing the fans, planting, and cultivating. July or just after the lily blooms is the best time to dig and divide the fans, separate each, and replant. Most growers complain that this time of year lilies look awful as the greenery dies.  Frequent grooming of the yellowed and brown leaves rids that neglected look. Rasmussen says she plants her lilies with other plants like black eyed Susan, shrub roses, penstamen, and thyme so there is plenty of interest in the flower bed.

Lilies like full sun, lots of water, fertilizer the first week of March and October, and thrive when they are cut back in winter. The goals of lily growers are, depending on the variety, produce plants that have four to six blooms, double blooms, and blooms with unique colors or details like frothy lace edges.

Most lilies are diploids with a double set of chromosomes (22), but the prized tetraploid lilies or tets have more genetic material (44 chromosomes) which gives daylily breeders or hybridizers more chances for dramatic advances.

After the program at Larkspur, the garden club members retired to tour the home and garden of Marilyn Austen Carter. Marilyn had decorated the tables with centerpieces containing twenty two plants from her garden. Club members were asked to identify them and prizes, a bouquet of sunflowers, were awarded to Mary Anne Harman and Joan Allen who correctly recognized the most.

In upcoming garden club events: the next meeting in August will be hosted by Ellen McEwen and Patti Acheson. The Meriwether club has been invited attend the Elms and Roses fundraising event in October on the rooftop at Del’Avant.