Monday, July 19, 2010

July 2010
Merry Weather Garden Club learns about Agritourism

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday 15th of July, 2010 at MeadowGate Farm and the home of Patti and A. J. Acheson in Woodbury.  Hosting the meeting were Patti and Ellen McEwen.
   Club members were first treated to a tour of the Acheson home that Patti and her husband A. J., a retired Delta pilot, began building in 1996.  The “new old home” was designed by Patti, and she and A.J. lived in a camper the four years they built it together. The architecture and every detail is early American down to the tongue and groove wide pine boards and simple and elegant furniture made by A. J. or collected and refinished by Patti.
   The tour began with the “keeping room” where ladies kept company while they did farm chores. The Achesons built a true cooking fireplace that spans one wall complete with a Dutch oven.  A screen door at the pantry opening allows guests to peek into a wooden shelf lines room stored with crockery, canned goods, and cooking utensils.  Patti mills several types of wheat and grains and bakes her own bread for a healthy diet.
   The kitchen cabinetry that A.J. built is made to look like the individual pieces that a Colonial farmhouse would have had. The wide pine floors are from a 1850s warehouse and the large exposed beams were milled from the oaks Hurricane Opal knocked over on their property.
   Patti sews and quilts and her window treatments and hanging quilts were not only lovely but contained sentimental records and family items. Her sewing and crafting room was one of the largest rooms in the home and was fully appointed. The club agreed the Acheson home should be featured in Southern Living and that its beauty and attention to architectural details surpass many of the homes featured in house magazines.
   A.J. Acheson brought the group together to define Agritourism and began by pointing out the Cotton Pickin’ Fair and Carroll Farms Peachers are forms of agritourism as are the spate of new vineyards and wineries and home grown/homemade markets. Agritourism brings people to the farm setting to help the small farmer-a dwindling enterprise today. Acheson said it is important for today’s child to know where eggs come from and to see sheep, goats, pigs, and cows in their habitat and to see a working farm. 

MeadowGate Farm is opening this September to school groups and parties to offer this kind of education.  In addition to the many animals, they have the old fashioned corn grinder, a corn maze and will offer hay rides and bonfires plus a country store.
   The Achesons have five grandchildren who would live on the farm full time if they could.  They love to get away from the TV and computer to enjoy farm life and to see the baby pigs or rabbits being born, collecting eggs, or shearing the sheep.  The Achesons even have a three story playground for the pygmy goats to climb. Worm composting and raising corn are part the educational lesson plans, Patti says, as she points out the first thing planted by settlers was corn and it was and is used in feed, eaten, used for bedding, stuffed into pillows, corn cobs used in pipes, in stoves and at the outhouse (!), plus corn husks brooms for cleaning.  The zillion uses of the corn itself seem limitless as it is used  in adhesive, aluminum, antibiotics, aspirin, cylinder heads, ink, insect repellant, instant coffee, paint, leather tanning, firecrackers, dyes, cosmetics and much more.
   After touring the barn area, the club members enjoyed touring Patti’s raised bed vegetable garden and then walked over to her herb garden located right outside her kitchen and keeping room for convenient use. The club finished with a treat of a delicious slushy cold punch and refreshments. The August meeting will be a tour of the Southern Living home in Senoia and lunch at Founders.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

June Excursion to Columbus

Helen Phillips from Garden Solutions in LaGrange contacted us about a sudden summer excursion to see two of Columbus' finest gardens: Sally Foley and Betsy Leeburn's at Green Island.  Both gardens had masterful "bones" or layouts.  Full time gardeners managed the estates so nary a weed was in sight.  Irrigation systems kept everything cool, green and lush and even the very hottest day had green ferns and shady nooks.
   Leeburn's garden had pathways that wound up or down a formidable hill surrounding her Italianate home that looked like it was right out of the book Jumanji! Bronze statuary of a mother bear and cubs were in one turn, a magnificent stag in another.  Rock borders, paths, steps, faux wood benches and seating, mosses and moss ferns made the setting complete.
   Sally Foley was a delightful host who enjoys the out doors, hunting sports, dogs, and gardening.  Her garden was like stepping from one room into another with different colors, foliages, and textures.  The highlight was the giant water feature that guests could reach using steppingstones.  Several waterfalls spilled into scenic pools that were surrounded by ferns and crossed by bridges. Statuary was interesting and a nice focal point but the blooming native plants were arranged beautifully.

June 2010 Herbs and Spices at the Mabons

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at the home of Sallie Mabon.  Mabon, Mary Anne Harman, and Angie Williams hosted the special summer soiree luncheon and program. Club members gathered around the outdoor water feature and enjoyed refreshing drinks, caught up on one another’s news and club matters.
   The theme for the day was Herbs and Spices and Sallie Mabon and Angie Williams played the roles of Julia and Julie with their cooking knowledge but adding lots of humor to the program.
   Mabon used the books, the Woman’s Book of Healing Herbs, Cook’s Encyclopedia of Herbs, and Southern Living’s Herb Dictionary to point out herbs touted to help with memory problems, concentration, stress, fatigue, and exhaustion. Edible flowers like pansies and daylilies were also discussed. Club members enjoyed finishing with a fun herb and spice quiz and winners took home potted citronella plants.
  Playing the role of Julia Childs, Angie Williams used internet sites and for recipes and inspiration to prepare the dishes for the day’s luncheon: Garden Club Crepes one filled with Chicken Florentine and the other a delicious seafood medley of crab and shrimp that were served alongside Mabon’s frozen fruit salad and Mary Anne Harman’s herb encrusted bread.  The crepes themselves were purchased at Publix and located in the fresh fruit section. Jim Mabon contributed with homemade peach ice cream. The Mabon’s elegant Victorian dining room made the luncheon a delightful setting for the June meeting.

May 2010 Georgia Inn

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, May 20 at the Georgian Inn, home of member and host Shari Triche.  The ladies gathered outside under the cool canopy of shade trees and enjoyed ice tea and chatting and catching up on the news of families and local events. 
   Linda Wilburn reported that the garden club is paying the Better Home Town program which pays the gardener to weed the downtown islands in order that insurance coverage is available.  Garden clubs around the state have been encouraged to form their clubs into a 501C3s in order to be tax exempt under the Internal Revenue Code and again the garden club allows itself to be under the Better Home Town and Greenville Economic Preservation Society umbrella in order to receive tax exempt donations.
   Wilburn reported on the status of the Greenville streetscapes project.  “We are close,” Wilburn said, “and we have been trying through our private consultant to accelerate the process with the DOT.” There is a chance the project would get underway this summer.  “It will be a four month project,” Wilburn added, “and it would be nice to have it finished in the fall and not go into the winter.”
   Shari Triche, whose program was on peaches, asked members what they knew about peaches: deer liked to eat them, regular spraying was needed for best results, thinning the young peaches so that the weight does not break the branches, the first peaches of the summer are not freestone which all prefer. 
   Triche mentioned other facts about peaches: they are a stone fruit and member of the rose family and cousin to apricots, cherries, plum, and almonds. Clingstone clings to the pit and are a softer, sweeter, juicier fruit whereas freestone peaches do not cling to the pit and are larger.
   Pick a peach by its even golden color and look for a well defined crease, Triche said.  Avoid if the stem area is green as it was picked too early.  Smell the peach-it should smell like you want it to taste.
   Members shared their ways of peeling and Triche recommended marking an X on the bottom, submerging for 40 seconds in boiling water and placing them in an ice bath and rubbing away the skin just like peeling tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables.
   In her kitchen, Triche demonstrated how to make peach scones. She first combines dry ingredients (3 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 ½ t. of baking powder, ¾ t. salt, ½ t. baking soda).  Triche uses self rising but then says the recipes usually call for regular flour but she is used to buying self rising from her years living in the high altitudes of Colorado. Triche uses butter in all her recipes-1/2 cup-and demonstrated working it into the flour mixture along with ½ cup shortening. She works it with her hands until the lumps are smaller than peas. She keeps thin shavings of orange peel in her freezer at all times for the zest recipes require and she added 1 T. of orange peel along with 1 cup plus 2 T of buttermilk to the recipe.  She prefers whole buttermilk, not skim or reduced fat.
   One cooking trick she showed was to lightly moisten the countertop area before sprinkling flour on it as the wet area does not hold the flour. She kneaded the dough until firm and patted it into a round and then added ¾ cup peaches which she worked into the mixture.
  She cut the 1 inch round into 10 wedges dipping her knife into flour to make the cuts smooth.  The triangles were placed on an ungreased cookie sheet, brushed with buttermilk and then she sprinkles raw sugar on top before baking at 425 for 15 minutes. Triche uses this recipe varying it to make blueberry scones and her favorite cranberry walnut scones.
   While the treat baked, members enjoyed a peaches, nuts and green salad with peach dressing.  The members each sampled a peach scone and then finished off with classic peach cobbler. Made using the traditional cup of sugar, cup of flour, stick of butter, and cup of milk recipe, Triche often increases the amount of butter to make a crispier tastier crust. Club members thoroughly enjoyed dining on such delicious food and chatting with friends in delightful surroundings and sharing their gardening triumphs and woes.
   The next meeting of the garden club will be Tuesday, June 8th hosted by Sallie Mabon and Mary Anne Harman and will be a morning and luncheon event.

April 2010 Garden Solutions

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday the 15th of April, 2010 at the home of Sally Neal. Angie Williams and Sally hosted the meeting and members and guests carpooled to LaGrange to Humphries’ Garden Solutions on Hill Street. They were met by Helen Phillips, formerly a horticulturist with Callaway Gardens and owner of Rocky Branch Garden Center which the club had visited for a program years ago.
   The warm spring afternoon in the greenhouse was perfect for ice cream cones and bottled water as the group worked its way through the rows of flowers and shrubs where Phillips pointed out new varieties of annuals and perennials plus made suggestions of where to plant, how to use color, create texture, or add surprises in the garden or flower box.
   Phillips pointed out a new variety of mahonia named Soft Caress that has the same dependable bloom but no sharp stickers.  She urged the club to come back in May to see the hydrangeas coming in as this year LaGrange will be hosting their Hydrangea Festival.  A popular new variety is Limelight with its chartreuse bloom that opens to white. Also popular is the gold liriope with a distinctive chartreuse color.
   The club viewed witch hazel or loropetalum which we have planted on our island in Greenville as a ground cover.  Some varieties grow as tall as two stories. Grancy Greybeard is a first sign of true spring and the delicate fringe on the shrub was most fragrant. Phillips also had a Chinese fringe tree that has glossier foliage and blooms later than our native greybeard.
   The outdoor shrubs and vines were most interesting and Phillips encouraged planting five leaf akebia as a climber. She does not confine blueberry to the garden as the pink and blue colors are delightful to have in the landscape.  Thornless blackberry varieties were shown as well as the American native wisteria which is not as invasive as the common Chinese variety we have blooming through our countryside right now.
   Cotoneaster she recommended for slopes and problem areas.  Euonymous or “burning bush” was a great shrub with its bright red fall foliage. Old fashioned Abelia, variety “Rose Creek,” had pink brachts all summer and the new variety is much bushier than your grandmother’s. There are now yellow varieties and “Silver Anniversary” has all the colors and the little white blooms look like wedding bells. Cryptomeria is a popular replacement for Leyland Cypress and the small variety “Gold Mop” is very globelike.
   The lilacs fascinated the club and had everyone leaning in and sniffing the gorgeous fragrances. Japanese kerria is a great plant that blooms yellow more continuously than forsythia. Gaura attracts the butterflies and the new dwarf variety is great in pots or for edges.  The burgundy foliage and pink bloom lure in the whirling and dancing butterflies for which it is named.
   Finishing the tour the club viewed citronella plants, papyrus, drought tolerant gaillardias,  Joe Pie weed, plumbago, agastache, blue eyed grass, hibiscus and mandevilla, fatshedera-a cross between ivy and fatsia, bush ivy, impatiens, bachelor buttons, black eyed Susans, Sweet William, and a wonderful display of herbs and fresh vegetables.
   Club members opened their car trunks and rearranged the seating to hold their purchases as the ladies left inspired and ready to add color to their gardens.

March 2010 Hills and Dales

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 and traveled to Hills and Dales, the historic home of Fuller E. Callaway in LaGrange, and toured the estate’s greenhouse.  The program was arranged by host Erma Jean Brown. Jo Phillips of Warm Springs and the horticulturist at Hills and Dales led the tour plus talked about orchids.
   First constructed in 1916, the greenhouse is today maintained much as Alice Callaway kept it.  Mrs. Phillips knew Miss Alice well and worked closely with her in the gardens and so was a treasure chest of her sayings and ways of managing the plants.
   The first section of the greenhouse toured was filled with ferns and the varieties were just delightful to study.  Maidenhair and the footed larger frond ferns are part of Miss Alice’s original collection. The pond and fountain centering the section of hothouse were a wonderful focal point with papyrus in the water.  The greenhouse has slatted blinds inside for shade and lattice outside to knock out the intense Georgia sun but it was delightful to have the light on a cold March day that sprinkled snowflakes during the meeting.
    Begonias, bougainvilleas, orchids, geraniums, and the large variety of portulaca were admired for either their color, size, or fragrance.  The portulaca was so large many thought it a jade plant. Bordering the planting tables were pots of ivies of numerous varieties.
   The orchids were impressive with Jo Phillips explaining and answering questions as the group wandered from plant to plant.  The best fertilizers, Phillips said, were one that did not contain urea.  She pointed out that orchids do rebloom with one or two blooms spikes per year.
   Many members have tried and not succeeded with orchids and considering now you can purchase them at the grocery store, toss poorly performing ones away unless expensive or rare, and try a new one. When the spray has finished blooming you can cut back to the first node from the bloom stem end, but then again Phillips said you don’t have to cut the bloom stem-it’s a personal preference. She showed varieties where they had and had not pruned and showed how you are going to get more blooms by not cutting.
   At Hills and Dales they do not stake orchids like growers do. Also orchids often look pot bound but they don’t mind it as their roots adhere to the pot.  When repotting, trim the roots, but Phillips recommended keeping them in a six inch pot which is easier to manage.
   Just after blooming when the crowns can be seen, divide and repot and then the flower will start a new bloom stem. The key to good orchids is not to let them stay soaking wet. Water them at the sink wetting leaves and all, non chlorinated water is better but the key is to drain thoroughly.  She feeds the orchids regularly cutting to half strength fertilizer once or twice a month through the winter. She waters early in the day and does not water on rainy or cloudy moist days. The orchid rule is it’s better to be too dry than wet.
   Phalaenopsis, Cymbidium, Epidendrum, and Cattleya were the varieties seen and discussed. Cattleya is the corsage orchid with thicker stems for storing water and it needs a lot of light. The club viewed a beautiful brilliant orange ruffled cattleya that was hybridized by the Whitehead family. Cymbidium are best left outside during summer and not brought in until the first frost as they need chilling.  They are often packed in ice in warm states.  Phalaenopsis or moth orchid is the common one grown at home and the long blooming one.
   Kalanchoe and Miss Alice’s famed calla lilies were toured before going to view a demonstration on repotting orchids.  Horticulturist Joanna Lee showed how they used a three part mixture of charcoal (to filter bacteria), perlite (volcanic rock) and ground tree bark (fir) which you can buy as a special orchid mix (Taylor-Foster carries it). She teased the orchid out of its root bound pot cutting off the dead roots and shaking off the old dirt. Orchid pots have large holes around their edge for drainage. Lee used a piece of old window screen to plug the middle drainage hole and filled the pot a third or inch and a half with orchid mix before placing the orchid in and sprinkling in the mix until it supported the roots.
   They water well and let drain.  Hills and Dales uses Better-Gro Orchid Bloom Booster which is a 11-35-15 mixture.  They showed the ladies grow lights made from simple lights bought at Wal-mart that are handy for the home so that orchids can be under light 12-14 hours a day. UV protectors on many home’s windows do filter out some elements of the light spectrum that orchids need. East and north windows usually give enough light while south and west windows may be too hot.
   Trays with water help with humidity needs as long as the plant is not sitting in the water. Phillips pointed out a keiki or baby plant growing from the stem that you can snip and plant.  They dip scissors in alcohol to make sterile cuts.
   Walking past the herb garden with its pillars of climbing roses, boxwood parterre, and cold frames and then touring the terraces all wrapped in the grays of winter was a stark reminder of how nice having a greenhouse is.  The colors of the blooming plants were a warm reminder spring is on its way. Club members finished off the delightful morning by dining at the Lemon Tree restaurant.

February 2010 Southeastern Flower Show

The Merry Weather Garden Club held its monthly meeting on Thursday, February 11th at the home of Sally Neal with Angie Williams and Neal hosting.  Members enjoyed Angie’s wonderful dessert of chocolate bread pudding using Paula Dean’s recipe.  While enjoying Valentine refreshments, the club members also heard garden club news from around the state and issues clubs are supporting.
   “Beautify Blight” is the national garden club’s endeavor to create teams within a town, city, or region to develop a vegetable garden on a formerly unsightly piece of property chosen by the group.  Members discussed the Greenville park on LaGrange Street which has the potential of being a wonderful community garden area.  Sally Neal noted that Laura O’Neal has drawn up a plan for the area if monetary backing and support can be found.
   The Georgia DOT also has information available for clubs to support the Wildflower Project. Club treasurer Jean Biggers urged members to pay their dues as she sends the membership list to the state at the beginning of March.
   The program was a slide show of the 2010 Southeastern Flower Show that some members attended only the weekend before.  Suzanne Tigner, Mary Anne Rasmussen, Sally Neal, and Sallie Mabon enjoyed the show at Cobb Galleria.  The group took in the presentation and educational lecture by Ryan Gainey, landscape architect from Decatur.  The slide show featured Gainey’s garden that covers three city lots and how it has matured and changed over a twenty year period.  The various garden rooms, passageways, knot gardens, and whimsical features have recently been given landmark status to preserve the garden permanently as a public greenspace.
   Gainey’s gardening expertise has taken him all over the world: six years in France designing and creating a garden for an historical chateau and numerous trips to England. The Concord Garden Club was selling his children’s book on gardening through the months of the year.
   The Southeastern Flower Show was not as large as it has been in year’s past with entries and exhibits less than half of what has been the norm.  However the exhibits and arrangements displayed were as beautiful and inspiring as ever.  Forced bulbs and blooming flowers were part of the landscapers’ vignettes with curving paths, stone walks, bubbling fountains, and outdoor firepits and patio furniture displayed.
   The flower show did not have some of its popular categories like miniatures and the large vase displays, but the doorway entries and window boxes were unique.  One class was named “Rabbit in the Garden” and exhibits used wheelbarrows packed with garden greenery and tools and all had a rabbit invade the setting.
   Always popular, the table settings drew a crowd.  Often composed and exhibited by a garden club instead of an individual, the table settings had themes of Dr. Seuss, Kermit the Frog, Green Acres, and the blue ribbon winner, Alfresco Dining with Mother Earth.
   The photography category numbered larger than ever with unique photos taken from around the world.  Shopping the vendors at the garden show is always a delight as specialty tools, plants, clothing and containers, etc can be found.
   Mrs. Greenthumb was on hand to discuss chickens in the garden as well as the benefits of having worms in your soil.  Rain barrels and the newest watering devices were available.  Seed and book seller booths had large crowds looking and buying, and amid the browsing and shopping tumult a children’s orchestra performed.
   The Southeastern Flower Show is put on solely by volunteers and they manned a crowded children’s area as children hammered and made pot holders, birdhouses, and spread fat and birdseed on pinecones for our feathered friends in the garden.
   The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club will be in March and hosted by Erma Jean Brown and Kitha Kierbow who may be making arrangements for the club to tour Hills and Dales and view the newly restored upper floors of the Callaway home.

January 2010 High Cotton Antiques

The Merry Weather Garden Club held its first meeting of 2010 on January 21st at High Cotton Antique Mall in Woodbury.  Hosting the meeting were Babs Gordon, Linda Wilburn, and Sally Infinger.
   The new mall is operated by four owners Sally Infinger,  Cathy Crouch-Oliver, Lane Farmer, and Alan Brown.  Sally, nicknamed the “basket lady” moved here in July and is the Woodbury Methodist minister’s wife.  Her basket shop in the mall displays her woven creations.  She began weaving baskets in 1986 and held basket parties which were much like Tupperware parties but three hours later the guests each had created a basket.
   Infinger gave a history of the building now holding the antiques.  Built as the showroom for a car dealership in the early 1900s, the building is best remembered by people in Woodbury as being owned by Mr. Fred Durand.  Walker Chandler bought the building and remodeled it last year and the mall opened in October.  The four proprietors thought the location ideal as it sits along the busy thoroughfare of Woodbury and has constant traffic.
   Most of the vendors at High Cotton are in the antique or furniture business and drop in weekly to “tweak,” rearrange, add or subtract items. Vendors booths along the walls are 10 by 12 feet and interior display spaces are 8 by 10 feet. Currently thirty two vendors have their wares for sale.  There is room for forty six.  The mall is open seven days a week from 10-6 and 1-5 on Sundays.
    Infinger pointed out that it is not a flea market and garden club members thoroughly enjoyed the shopping experience as the pieces are a history lesson or walk down memory lane or reveal clever talents of the artist.  The mall displays everything from tools, quilts, china and glassware, old farming tools, and furniture to unique clothing.
  The mall owners provided the club members delicious refreshments as well as sending the members home with a potted herb. During the business meeting led by Linda Wilburn dues were paid and the club meeting year was planned with members choosing months to host or provide the programs. Members will be attending the Southeastern Flower Show at the Cobb Galleria the first week in February.


Hi there! 
We are the Merry Weather Garden Club, based in Greenville, Georgia. We have started this blog as a place to record of all the beautiful gardens and plant life we find which inspire us. We also hope to record the work we have done in our community and the fun plant life we've nurtured in our own gardens.
In the meantime, here's a quick shot of Georgia's state flower:

The Cherokee Rose

Till we meet again, may your weeds be few and your flowers aplenty.