Monday, December 10, 2012

Ho, Ho , Ho . . . Merry Christmas

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, December 6th, 2012 at the home of Carla Snider for a Christmas Party.  The Snider’s home had been used earlier in the Woodbury Tour of Homes and with the house beautifully decorated by Carla and her friends, she invited the garden club plus friends from the Woodbury, Imlac, and Gay communities to enjoy it.
   Guests brought plates and trays of delicious goodies to enjoy. Salads, tea sandwiches, and cheeses made the party a luncheon plus there was a bevy of desserts. One special Christmas tradition is for the guests to sign Snider’s Christmas tablecloth.  Signatures from guests at Carla’s first party in Woodbury were evident in one corner of the cloth.
   Every available corner of the house was decorated by either Carla or her many helpful and talented friends. The exterior was swagged in greenery, berries, and bows. There was a decorated tree outside in the pool house, one in the turret of the back porch, and smaller trees located in almost every room. The entrance hall however was perfectly designed to showcase a large striking tree, and it was spectacular.  The dining room was set with Christmas china and chair covers, table cloths, and decorations carrying out Carla’s Christmas colors.
   Each room in the house had a fireplace, mantel, or table top decorated.  The sheer immense amount of labor came from ladies who had been dropping by for months before the tour to plan and organize. Snider’s neighbor Phyllis Daniel made one upstairs room the “Angel Room.” She also used holiday Barbies, dressed in satin evening gowns, on the mantel along with greenery to give a unique party flair.
   Snider decorated the library mantel with a variety of colorful Nutcrackers. Her living room mantel displayed “stockings hung by the chimney with care.”
   A bevy of friends chipped in and wrapped the foyer stairway and decorated the large tree. Mary Beth Tsoukalas gathered many truck loads of greenery from her front and back yards here in Woodbury and in Marietta.
   A consensus of votes chose the favorite Christmas room the third floor children’s area. All the twin beds boasted Dutch Doll quilts courtesy of Kitha Kierbow. Erma Jean Brown came up with the idea of making the third floor a storybook attic, and Snider and friends each took two dormers and decorated them. One of Carla’s dormers was devoted to Beatrix Potter and displayed bunnies, Potter’s books, and tea time play things. Snider also made one of the dormer nooks into a snowman vignette. Phyllis Daniel did a Mickey Mouse corner and also a nook filled with Dr. Seuss’ Grinch. Erma Jean Brown’s dormer was the perfect setting for a formal Victorian Tea Party. Winnie the Pooh and friends from the Hundred Acre Wood filled Brown’s second third floor play area. Mary Beth Tsoukalas showcased dozens of colorful Raggedy Anns and Andys in one area and the last children’s corner featured adorable farm animals and farming equipment.
    The tables, sunroom and kitchen were a combination of all of the friends coming up with ideas. Erma Jean Brown decorated Sam Snider’s forest animal tree in his room, Carla Snider did the Christmas moose and deer in the study. All chipped in to decorate the craft room together. Snider and Tsoukalas even had a Santa Claus closet!
   The size and number of rooms in the house made it a gigantic challenge, but Snider and friends rose to that challenge. Carla said she was so very grateful to her friends, but that they made a good team and had lots of fun too!
   Garden club members signed up for months in 2013 in which they would host or present a program.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Holiday plants: Poinsettias, Paperwhite Narcissus, Amaryllis

November 2012

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, November 15th, 2012 at the home of Joan Allen in Manchester.  Co hosting with Joan were Linda Latzak and Jackie Reynolds. Members and guests arrived and marveled at the beautiful autumn view at the Allen home on Scenic Heights.  Looking down into the valley, members saw the range of fall colors and along with the dotted pastureland made a stunning fall patchwork quilt.
   Member Marilyn Austen shared her white lily seeds with the club and guest speaker Jo Phillips explained they were Philippine lilies or Formosa lilies, tall, sun loving, hearty, and able to grow anywhere.
   Club members made thorough use of Phillips’ expertise and asked many questions about working with garden and forest greenery in their Christmas decorations as Phillips said they were about to decorate Hills and Dales for the season. Live greenery put in place after Thanksgiving and in cool areas will hold up through the season. If they decorate with live greenery in warm rooms they will amend it through the season or replace it if needed.
   Sally Neal mentioned making boxwood swags and if there was an easier way.  One technique, Phillips said, that prolongs boxwood is to let it imbibe or soak up glycerin for weeks before using it.  The glycerin makes the boxwood pliable and keeps it glossy.  Another decorating trick is to make a ratio of floor wax and water and spray it on leaves like magnolia and mixed greens (not Fraziers) and it helps preserve the luster and slow moisture loss.
   Hills and Dales uses Frazier firs from a North Carolina source for much of its holiday greenery. The eight members on staff plus extra hands at the center help with the holiday decorating.  They will be having a wreath decorating workshops on December 8th but Phillips warned, called quickly as the classes are almost filled.
   Treasurer Jean Biggers who has been suffering with health problems had asked earlier to be replaced as treasurer and Carla Snider volunteered for the job with the club’s approval. Carla had tickets for the upcoming Tour of Homes in Woodbury that benefits the city’s many projects beautifying and decorating the community. The tour is December 2nd from 1:30 to 5:30. Snider also had brochures but unfortunately no addresses for the homes on tour were included so she made those available to the garden club.
   Members noted how lovely the Manchester street lamps were decorated with their wreaths.
   Jo Steele Phillips, the program speaker, was asked about her background in gardening and work. Phillips is a UGA horticulture graduate and her first job was with Farmer’s Supply in LaGrange. When the owner bought West Georgia Nurseries she moved there where she frequently helped Mrs. Alice Callaway with plant purchases. She was asked by Mrs. Callaway to join her staff in 1994.
   The gardens at Hills and Dales precede the Civil War and date back to 1841 as the terraced boxwood garden of Sarah Ferrell. The Callaways wanted the property to be open to the public after their deaths, but it is rare that a garden stays in its original state for such a long period of time. Usually descendents or later owners change the layout or there is neglect, but Hills and Dales is unique in that it is so well preserved from the 1840s.
   Phillips was asked to talk about holiday plants: poinsettias, paperwhites, and amaryllis. The poinsettia is the most popular Christmas plant. Native to Mexico, they are tropical and cannot endure cold temperatures. Careful watering is critical to keeping them fresh and pretty through the holiday season. When the soil is dry, water thoroughly until water runs through the bottom but never leave the drained water in the saucer. The flowers need light but not too bright and they do not like drafts. They are not poisonous as many once thought from their heavy milky sap that flows from a broken stem. The lovely reds and colors of poinsettias are their leaves and the real flower is the tiny button like cluster in the center.  The colored leaves are called bracts.
   Paperwhite narcissus are the easy and fun bulb to force because you simply pot them, water, and watch them grow. The energy is in the bulb, and they don’t need soil. The tall foliage may need support, but they can be grown in a vase with pebbles supporting them. One trick to keep the foliage short is to water them with a solution of alcohol and water. The Grumpy Gardener in Southern Living says, “Buy cheap liquor” but Phillips says you can use isopropyl alcohol (ratio 1:11) or drinking alcohol (one part water to seven parts alcohol).
   Paperwhites bloom four weeks from when they are potted and watered.  Now is the time to pot to enjoy at Christmas or give as gifts. The overwhelming fragrance of the narcissus was noted as giving some members allergies or headaches, and Phillips said the new Israeli cultivars (Inbal and Ziva) have a lighter, fresher scent. Tulips take longer to force-seventeen weeks.
   Amaryllis naturally bloom in Georgia in the late spring, but Phillips encourages gardeners to buy the varieties from South America rather than from Holland because the bulbs are going into their growing season. Buy a healthy plump bulb that has some roots. Amaryllis like to be crowded in a vase or pot but leave the top third of the bulb exposed even if you are planting it outside after the holiday season. Cooler temperatures make the amaryllis taller, but good lighting is important for it to grow.  The plant will pull toward light so rotating it often (daily) is a must. Remove the bloom stalk before planting outside and plant where it will get morning and afternoon shade. Mulch well so the plant does not freeze.
   Phillips had brought three beautiful plants with her to show the club the points she made in her talk. Members always enjoy Jo Phillips’ programs as she is so very knowledgeable yet down to earth and she entertains questions throughout her talk.
   The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club is a Christmas treat as the club will have a Christmas Tea at the home of Carla Snider on December 6th.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Merry Weather Garden Club Tours Thunderwood Farms

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, October 11, 2012 north of Woodbury at Thunderwood Farms owned by Lanie and Gray Riner. Several members brought guests and with two new members joined. Most attending were familiar with Thunderwood’s great reputation. 
   The Riner’s sell their plants nationwide but also stock the nearby garden centers from Taylor Foster’s in Manchester, to Andy’s Nurseries, Tomar in Columbus, Senoia Garden Center, Garden Solutions in LaGrange, Blue Meadows in Pine Mountain, and McCrary in Molena.  Buyers include the beautifully landscaped Hills and Dales in LaGrange.
   Opening in 2008, Thunderwood has expanded since the club first visited. The ladies walked through the new addition while Lanie explained the new varieties they promote that are hardy for our area and our heat and humidity. The Riners attend OFA, the big greenhouse tradeshow for the international association of professional horticulturists where they are introduced to new plants and see the latest trends.
  The new Echo plants are a genetically improved red hot poker.  Echo Rojo, Echo Mango, and the Duo Flamenco are repeat bloomers and aggressive spreaders.
   Helenium or better known and falsely accused by the common name of “sneeze weed” now has the improved mariachi varieties of salsa, siesta, fuego, and sombrero that have lots more blooms.
   Heucheras now include about fifty varieties with Coral Belle a favorite. The Riners new varieties are more heat tolerant, trail about three feet and take a good bit of sun.
   The Riners pointed out their many varieties of ferns: Southern Shield, Ostrich, Dixie Wood Fern, Cinnamon, Autumn, and Christmas.
   One of their most popular new items is the new anemone or wind flower that is bred for heat tolerance and heavy humidity. The three popular ones for our area are Lady Emily, Lady Julia, and Lady Diana. The delightful pink anemones were currently blooming.
   Larger plants like hibiscus that grow into a 4 x 4 bush develop huge blooms and have been proven winners for the growers.
  Very exciting were the new hellebores that now have a bloom that faces upward.  Colors range from white to burgundy. The secret to growing hellebores, Lanie said, is to plant deep and keep cool-shady side of the house or yard. The Riners showed us the small plugs where they have produced the plants from tissue cultures.  Previously only available out of Germany, the new hellebores are now in Georgia.
   Stunning flats of pansies filled one greenhouse room. The “flower with a face” comes in golden yellows, muted burgundy and pinks, purple and white, and stunning oranges for fall and later spring color.
   The Riners pointed out that every grower has their own special color of pot that is recognized in retail garden centers.  Thunderwood's pots are terra cotta colored. Members left happy armed with this information knowing they could be sure of where their plants came from.
   The next garden club meeting will be Thursday, November 15 with Jo Phillips presenting the program on poinsettias.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weeds, pests, and plant diseases

September 2012
The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, September 13th, 2012 at the home of Sally Neal.  Members brought refreshments so the rolling tea cart was a delightful smorgasbord of delicious snacks.
   The Meriwether Extension Service provided the program in the form of guest speaker Randy Drinkard. Drinkard has been filling in ten hours a week at the extension office and splitting his time between Meriwether and Troup Counties.  A horticulturist with vast experience and knowledge, he also writes the gardening pamphlets for UGA available from the Extension Office. Drinkard grew up in Troup County, worked for Pikes and Scotts, and was mentored by some of the fabled horticulturists like Fred Galle and Ben Pace who developed Callaway Gardens. Galle made him learn twenty plants a week and he proved to the garden club he knew his plants.
   Gardening problems and their solutions was the program topic and Drinkard began by identifying eyesores in our yards.  He showed apple tree leaves with cedar rust and recommended gardeners prune and throw away the diseased foliage. Spraying a fungicide also helps. Phomopsis or twig blight is a common disease in juniper and he encouraged owners of the disease to cut off and spray with either Daconil or Funginex. Another problem that could be removed by picking off the damaged leaf was leaf spot on wax leaf ligustrum.
   The good news was Drinkard had samples of each of the plant problems he used in his program; the bad news was all the samples came from downtown Greenville around the county office area or along our city sidewalks. Many plants have brown leaves and dead twigs at the tips of branches that are simply a result of our long term dry weather.  He recommended cutting off the dead parts as well as hoping for a long soaking rain.
   Tulip trees have been especially vulnerable these last years and he encouraged owners to buy the tree spikes that fertilize deep in the ground as the granular fertilizer we use topically sometimes takes years to get down to the roots of a tulip tree.
   Drinkard had samples of tomato blight and told the club to mulch and use Daconil. He pointed out damage done on an oak branch by the leaf skeletonizer and recommended pesticides. 
   “A weed is a plant out of place” and showed a stem of privet that some consider perfect for a hedge and others consider a weed.  Quail love the berries but privet is in the top five of noxious weeds. Round-up gets rid of privet and one club member asked how close you could spray with Round-up. No closer than the drip line of the plant, Drinkard said, because roots are underneath.  He uses a garbage can lid to push foliage aside and to make sure sprays don’t touch the plant.
   Spurge is a common low lying weed that has many varieties to annoy a gardener. Atrazine works well on it and does not damage lawns of centipede and St. Augustine.
   Smilax or “cat’s briar” was another weed he exhibited along with nut grass that not every chemical can kill.  He recommended Image for nut grass and 2-4-D or Weed be Gone for wild lettuce. Carolina dandelion and other broadleaf weeds and grass weed now can be zapped by smart chemicals that don’t kill the grass.
   Drinkard told how Carpenter bees weakened and brought down a barn and encouraged the use of Cyfluthrin as the only bug killer that would finish them off.  They chew into wood and then turn and go several inches through a board so many bees often live down a tunnel.  Applicators are made to be flexible and make the 90 degree turn to ensure the chemical gets to the bees.
  A pre-emergent like Preen may be used in flowerbeds to curb chickweed and henbit, but our hotter temperatures will also finish off the spring weeds. Coffee weeds in the vegetable garden are best removed by pulling them up! Lespedeza, in the pea family, is currently blooming now and is a popular with the DOT to plant on hillsides and areas that are too slanted to be mowed, but the seeds travel great distances and germinate in places gardeners wish they would not-so again, a weed is all in where it is found.
   Armadillos have damaged everyone’s garden and leaving chewed bubble gum was one rumored remedy plus leaving bowls of ammonia around the yard to discourage the armor shelled mammals.
   Drinkard finished by passing out book marks with 1-800-ASK-UGA1 and with web sites provided by the Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture for gardeners to use when they have questions.
   In club business: The club agreed to send out meeting notices by email and for those not using a computer continue sending postcards. Linda Wilburn explained that she had had hired Roy Curtis to pull weeds and maintain the downtown islands on a weekly basis and that she would pay $20 a week for him to take care of the island in front of the Greenville CafĂ© and the Print Shop Art Gallery. The city has not been able to maintain the downtown area since the streetscapes project was completed. $840 was needed for the rest of the year to pay for the other islands.  The club voted to give $200 and individual club members made donations to provide for almost half of the needed amount.  The Meriwether Historical Society and the Methodist Church will be asked if they can make donations as one island is alongside those properties. Donations should be made to the Greenville Economic Preservation Society in order for the donations to be tax deductible.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Senoia and the Southern Living Idea House

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, August 9th at the home of Ellen McEwen in Gay.  McEwen and Patti Acheson hosted the monthly meeting and served a delicious brunch to members.  The delightful brunch gave the ladies time to visit and chat and to share their summer garden success and failure stories. Touring the McEwen’s lovely home and Pump House that Ellen and John are about to renovate was inspiring, and Ellen explained the additions and architectural changes to be made.  
   The club traveled to Senoia to view the Southern Living Idea House, the second such project for the small town that is an anchor for our Georgia movie industry.  Southern Living renovated and landscaped an 1830’s farmhouse and created a charming home with country appeal yet having contemporary amenities.
   The largest exterior changes were the addition a new wing plus a wrap around front porch that is decorated with vintage metal furniture and offers a welcoming “Come on up and set a spell” invitation. The new exterior was covered in fiber-cement siding and larger windows that improve the amount of light allowed inside plus giving better balance to the architecture.
   Half of the original house was able to be used for the master bedroom and bath and SL retained its old wooden floors and walls. The newer half of the house has a popular open floor plan but also carries on the historic white plank wooden walls and stained floor look.  The complimenting color theme for much of the house was grey and allows for bursts of color on furniture, window treatments, pillows, et cetera.  The overall feel given by the interior is one of comforting unity.
   Popular with garden club members was how bathroom and storage areas are neatly worked in utilizing attic space, openings under stair cases, or with clever cabinetry. The clean uncluttered look and naturally lighted areas plus the inspiring decorations and resource material dispensed at the Idea House sent the Meriwether ladies home with renovation ideas for their homes.
   The landscaping around the house included people places anchoring a visual vignette such as a rustic chair grouping around a fire pit, curving sidewalk around the house with easy to maintain beds of Southern classic plants, and beautiful Bevolo historic lighting.  Retractable screens made the back porch a cozy retreat with its potting table, outdoor rugs, and cushioned all weather furniture.
   No visit to Senoia is complete with dropping in on the many boutiques and antique shops dotted along Main Street.  New for club members was the addition of musician Zac Brown’s new restaurant and bar which they found a fun treat especially the “New Country” shabby chic and music themed decor.  They enjoyed one of the restaurant’s specialties: a corn muffin sliced like a burger bun and serving up balsamic glazed pork tenderloin, candied sweet potatoes, and collards alongside slaw all washed down with homemade lemonade.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Landscaping 101

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, July 26th at the home of Carla Snider on Imlac Road in Woodbury. Snider and Erma Jean Brown hosted the luncheon and meeting.
   Members thoroughly enjoyed touring the Snider’s new home and meeting guests and neighbors of Carla plus her sister who came from Haleyville, Alabama for the day. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshing lemonade and tea were enjoyed before the luncheon and gave the ladies a chance to chat and wander through the rooms that Carla has decorated herself and view her artwork that is displayed throughout the home.
   The luncheon menu featured balsamic glazed organic chicken with potato salad and vegetable pasta salad, but the unique dish that had ladies asking for the recipe was for the watermelon, avocado, and feta cheese salad. The Sniders live close to Woodbury’s famed peach orchards so Carla naturally served homemade pound cake with fresh peaches for dessert.
   The program began with guidelines from Bob Oxford from Pike County who teaches horticulture at Southern Crescent. His degree is from UGA, and he began his career working for Wight Nurseries which is today Monrovia a well known company that produces great plant varieties and products. He built the framework for Carla’s endeavor which is to landscape her yard.  He grouped the major points as Physical Layout, Desire of the Homeowner, Function, Emotion, Unity, and Maintenance. Maintenance and cost are primary considerations. Carla likes to do the work herself, but costs are always a consideration and limiting factor to an enterprise.
   Function was explained by Carla as she wants to make the area beautiful, homey and work with the existing swimming pool, pool pavilion, and granddaughter’s playground. As the Sniders entertain a lot, she needs, parking and more driveway options. She also has the AC, pool filtering equipment and tools to hide in one area plus yard and bedding areas versus pasture and pond areas to define.
   Oxford allowed Snider to spell out the problem spots she particularly needs to address and what she wants to see in those areas and so answering the Function and Desire of Homeowner categories.
   Emotion and Unity were more difficult to nail down. As the Sniders build their landscaping dream, the emotion and unity elements will be better able to be realized and decided upon. Unities of color and plant species are part of those considerations.
   The Sniders built on property that is a hayfield. Currently there are no plants other than colorful annuals and potted plants surrounding and bordering the house itself.  Snider wanted the input from the club and the ladies all had suggestions. 
   Trees and creating shade was number one in the drawings the members made on graph paper tablets Carla supplied. Fencing, the driveway and defining the garden were other areas the ladies drew to help create the “bones” of the layout plan. Favorite and dependable plant varieties and species were listed as well as ideas for initial landscaping until plants, trees, and shrubs could mature. The club passed along a variety of do-able suggestions and designs for Carla to consider as well as names of plant sources and expert contacts in the landscaping field. The club hopes each design may inspire and encourage her in her project.
   The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club will be August 9th and will be hosted by Ellen McEwen and Patti Acheson. The club will tour the new Southern Living Idea House, a farmhouse restored in Senoia.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Those Pesky Invasive Plants

June 2012

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, June 7th, 2012 at the home of Sallie Mabon.  Hosting with Mabon was Mary Anne Harman. Members and guests wandered through admiring the Mabon’s Victorian home and ended in the garden beside her koi pond and waterfall where the program was presented.
   Lauren Johnson with the Department of Natural Resources and a naturalist at FDR State Park presented a program on Invasive Exotic Plants. Johnson first defined native versus non native species with the emphasis on those species of plants not native to our ecosystem and by introducing them in our area, we cause harm to our health or the economy or environment.
   We introduce plants that are invasive for the same reason we plant other appealing plants: for ornamental, landscape or agricultural purposes. As the garden club members were all thinking kudzu and privet, Johnson reminded us that for every 100 plant species introduced, only one becomes invasive.
   Invasive plants have several determining characteristics that make them invasive: they produce lots of seed and effectively disperse them, they grow and mature rapidly, they are long lived, adaptable to habitats, easily established, and have no natural predators.
   Invasive plants damage the environment by competing native species, changing the plant community, interfering with plant evolution, impacting wildlife and affecting the recreational benefits of an area.
   There are workshops to learn more about the plants, and federal agencies created an invasive species council. Georgia has an Exotic Pest Plant Council to help control such plants as Chinese, Glossy, and Japanese Privets, Japanese Honeysuckle, Kudzu, Nepalese Browntop, Golden Bamboo, Autumn Olive, Chinese Tallowtree, Hydrilla, Mimosa, Wisterias, English Ivy, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Multiflora Rose. Of current particular interest is Cogongrass that is invading the southern part of our state.  The DNR asks that we report any sprigs of Cogongrass that we see.
   Johnson explained that certain species have a lag time.  While privet was introduced in the 1800’s, its growth habits did not explode and become a nuisance until the 1950’s. Club members also discussed leaving English ivy unmaintained in the landscape as well as the love of Queen Anne’s Lace and managing wisteria.
   After the program the club members and guests were treated to a delicious brunch. The Next garden club meeting will be in July at the home of Carla Snyder with co host Erma Jean Brown and the program will be on landscaping the Southern home. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Breezy Hill

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, May 17th, 2012 and traveled north of Greenville to Rocky Mount Road and Breezy Hill, the horse farm and home of Andrea and Jim Harding.
   The Harding’s home is unique in that it was the Stacy Presbyterian Church located off Court Square in Greenville until just over a decade ago. Originally built in 1886, the church was destroyed by a cyclone on March 3rd, 1893 but rebuilt that year. The Hardings moved the church from Greenville on March 3rd, 1999.
   It was very exciting for the club members to tour the home because the Hardings are nearing completion of an addition to the structure that allows for a large master bedroom and bath, closet space, upstairs bedrooms for the grandchildren and an additional living area on par with the large scale size of the sanctuary.  
   The original sanctuary portion of the church is today’s modern designer’s “great room” and serves as a dining area where the Hardings converted the church pews into chairs for the large banquet table, a living and media area, kitchen, plus office corner.  The magnificent ceiling draws the eyes upward and the dark beaded woodwork with its triangular and box patterns is striking. Andrea, or Baby Sister, said it took workmen only four days of hand rubbing to restore the beautiful sheen and luster to the wood
   The architecturally distinctive turret creates a unique circular guest bathroom on the first floor. Harding has used period Victorian wallpapers, borders and trims alongside rich and gilded colors to accent the architecture. On upper floors, the bell tower room makes for a quaint bedroom with its original stained glass windows and the loft area over the kitchen more sleeping space.
   The sanctuary’s side doors now exit onto a large screened porch affording a panoramic view of the creek side of the farm property.
   Club members marveled out how perfectly matched or “married” the new addition’s shingles and siding are with the original. Inside, warm honey colored wormy pecky cypress is juxtaposed with a rock fireplace creating interesting paired textures. The mantel is an especially worm ridden reclaimed swamp cypress trunk.
   Of equal interest for the club was the garden.  Massive old English oak wooden gates welcome guests to the garden where crepe myrtles shade and tower over the center of boxwood edged squares and triangles of the formal parterre garden.  An iron bench, a gazebo, and the original church bell beckon the wanderer to pause, rest, read, chat or just enjoy being idle.  The views across the pastures from atop Breezy Hill are splendid, and yes, there is a constant cooling breeze.
   Andrea and Jim Harding have done most of the restoration work of the Victoria church and the garden club was surprised to learn that many of Andrea’s favorite finds and older European pieces have come from carefully shopping on EBay. An added delight of the tour was the Harding’s five year old grandson, Andrew Bennett Kirk, who led his own tour version of Breezy Hill and eagerly offered to continue the tour at the creek, barn, peacock pen, and to his other favorite areas.
   The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club will be on Thursday, June 7th at the Mabons with a brunch hosted by Sallie Mabon and Mary Anne Harman.  The program, Creating the Environmentally Friendly Backyard, will be presented by Lauren Johnson.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Merry Weather Garden Club attends Concord Lunch and Learn

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday 19th of April, 2012 and traveled to Concord to attend the Concord Garden Club’s 14th Annual Lunch and Learn.  The delightful format attracts garden clubbers from around the state to the Old Strickland Store which has ample seating space for the hundred plus crowd.  The ladies bring a sack lunch and the garden club provides drinks and desserts.  Several local venders have gardening items for sale and the Concord club has a raffle fundraiser for a quilt, gardening books, and items that help support the Harriette Beckham Fune Scholarship.  Brandi Bishop, a senior at UGA, was the deserving recipient and she will continue her studies at ABAC with the goal of teaching agriculture in high school.
   Three members of the Concord club demonstrated gardening ideas.  Martha Boswell began her program on terrariums by pointing out there are True Terrariums and New Terrariums.  The “True” type is a sealed container whose history dates back to the Edwardian times.  1830’s surgeon Dr. Nathaniel Ward is credited as being the inventor as he scooped up a moth pupa on his travels and noted that a fern sprouted in the case.  His first terrarium was displayed at the World’s Fair in London. The terrarium idea caught on because this was the method of shipping and transplanting plants on overseas voyages.  The terrarium changed plant history as tender plants such as orchids became available worldwide.
   Location is important for successful terrarium gardening.  Experimenting to find the right amount of light is key, and most find a north or northwest window best. Boswell used a simple flower vase first filled with pebbles for drainage and activated charcoal to keep the soil sweet.  The charcoal is found at pet supply stores that have fish items. Moisture and shade loving plants do best.
   New terrariums feature anything in nature in a glass enclosure such as a bird nest on a cake stand. Hurricane lamp shades are great for an orchid display-anything that keeps the wind off the plant. Flowering plants should have their blooms snipped off after blooming as they can cause mold. Boswell had simple tools: a backscratcher to pack the soil into the elongated vases, a hair coloring wand to garden the soil.
   Second presenter, Beth Jones, emphasized using what you found in your yard and forest instead of buying plants. She keeps a standard topiary that can be thematically decorated for any occasion. She used rhododendron blossoms and ferns to brighten the topiary limbs. Two clematis blooms and a native ginger in a cute pitcher made a delightful table arrangement. Native buckeye which fills our woods just now made an elegant statement. Oriental poppies alongside an opened Japanese umbrella adorned with Coosa dogwood limbs decorated one table at the luncheon. Hellebores and deutzia filled another container. Jones brought her son’s flower show winner: the hip bone of a cow filled with green grey succulents.  The arrangement made a rugged Southwestern cowboy theme.
   Anna Evans finished off the program with a whimsical and creative display titled, “Fruits, Veggies, and Herbs, Oh, My.” She placed flowers in cowboy boots for a western theme. Blooms in a pair of stilettos alongside a purse made a chic vignette. She entertained with quotes as she arranged: “Don’t quit playing because you get old; you get old because you quit playing.” She insisted we exercise our imaginations when arranging table displays and begin with an outrageous idea for a container.
   Evans pointed out that it is the women in the family that creates the memories of an occasion so use the imagination.  For one table Evans placed gardening books, tools, and grocery store potted plants wrapped in burlap fabric.  She finds unusual inexpensive pieces for containers at yard sales and then often gives them as gifts or door prizes to her guests. Her favorite fillers in arrangement are the cast iron plant or aspidistra, Indian Hawthorne, nandina, and abelia. Pink carnations perked up and changed the look of a silver begonia potted plant that her guests had seen several times.
   Finishing off her program with humor, Evans took a cabbage, shredded leaves for eyelashes, used peppers for ears, and carrots for the nose and mouth and created a multi use centerpiece.  She added a wig and scarf for the character to be a woman, a cowboy hat, cigar, and bandanna to be a cowboy and rearranged it as needed to be the focal point at a retirement party or to honor a luncheon guest.
   Evans finished by emphasizing their local Wednesday market filled with locally grown With the average produce traveling 1500 miles to get to market and leaving a large carbon footprint it is wise to develop a locally grown food network and critical for healthy eating.
   The Merry Weather Garden Club will meet next in May and tour the home of Andrea and Jim Harding. Formerly the Stacy Presbyterian Church, the historical building is the center of Breezy Hill Farms.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Creating Whimsy in the Garden

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on March 15th at the home of Sally Neal who hosted the meeting and program. The club “walked the garden” as its horticultural talk and noted the early spring blooms.  Besides the usual white and blue wisteria beginning to open, the dogwood, iris, redbud, snowdrops, late daffodils and forsythia were showing their colors. Other plants the club asked to be identified were Neal’s grandmother’s lilac that was beginning to bloom and give off its heady fragrance, Carolyn Gilbert’s Tropicana colored flowering quince she had passed on to Sally, and the showy golden kerria. The members carpooled to the Neal’s farm in Mountville where the speakers for the meeting waited.

   The subject of the program was bringing whimsy to the garden to encourage young gardeners. Neal pointed out the numerous books and web sites that had tips for gardening with children.  “Make it fun” was high on each author’s list with other advice like giving garden space to a child and letting them have ownership of the plot, and sowing popular seeds like sunflowers, lettuces, radishes, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums, bush beans, potatoes, and pumpkins.
   While adults often put composting, insects, and getting dirty at the bottom of their idea of having fun, children think the opposite. Getting dirty or “mucking in the soil” is an important part of growing up. Composting and rotting discards, playing with and counting seeds, having a lab garden, watching cool and weird insects, browsing catalogues, having their own scaled down tools, building frog houses, making tee pees for climbing beans, dressing a scarecrow, designing “pizza gardens” or theme gardens like those for wildlife are all part of the wonderful outdoor classroom that is a garden. Besides becoming a good steward of the earth, children will usually eat their healthy produce.
   Garden art or whimsy in the garden was the topic demonstrated by speakers Mary Ann Rasmussen and Martha Evans, both of LaGrange.  Rasmussen’s daughter Caryn has created delightful fairy houses using gourds.  The unusual shapes of the common birdhouse and dipper gourds are accessorized by Caryn with moss and pebble lined doors and windows, and buckets and gardening tools add to the scene to create magical villages for the wee folk.
   Martha Evans described her experiences growing up as the middle child of six children who regularly were told to go outside and play, and the door locked to keep them outside.  They dug in the dirt and created mail boxes, rock and leaf houses, stick and leaf people and in the process unlocked and nurtured wonderful imaginations all while having great fun.
   Growing up on the fringes of Brenau College, Martha met one of the professors who took her daily constitution through Brenau’s scenic woods.  The teacher introduced Martha to the sprites, elves and fairies that populated the woods and spun stories that have stayed with her.  Today she manufactures and sells fairies that she designed over three decades ago and are more popular than ever.  Her fairies and garden furniture and gardening tools are in demand for creating miniature gardens and inspiring imaginations. 
   Evans placed a layer of moss in a flower pot, added a metal arbor and birdbath and simply transformed an ordinary potted plant into something special. Her gardens have won national awards as she tours with her products.
   Evans echoed the message of the speakers by pointing out her children’s guests don’t get to bring video games, cell phones and movies to their farm but are turned loose to explore and create.  The resulting forts, fairy houses, animals and people made from nature give the children favorite, long lasting memories all the while inspiring their creativity.
   In club business, Neal announced the April meeting would be on the 19th and it would attend the 14th annual Lunch and Learn hosted by the Concord Garden Club with speakers Beth Jones, Martha Boswell, and Anna Evans touting home grown projects. The May meeting will be on the 17th and will be a tour of Andrea Harding’s Breezy Hill home and new addition.
   Mary Ann Rasmussen described the Basic Design Course that was held on March 13th by the Elms and Rose Council which was the first of five daylong classes teaching flower arranging and this class studied line and line mass designs and color harmonies. Four other classes will follow throughout the year.  The cost is $25 and includes materials and lunch.
   Toots and Ed Hobson visited Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground recently.  The spring daffodils were in full bloom and are called the largest mass and number of varieties outside of Holland. The grounds feature a replica of Monet’s bridge and lily garden at Giverny, a Japanese Garden, arbor garden, manor house, summer house, children’s garden, bakery and more.
   Treasurer Jean Biggers gave the fiscal report and Neal distributed the 2007 awards (that had just arrived!) for participating in the Backyard Habitat Category from the Community Wildlife Project to Sallie Mabon, Peggy Jones, Mary Anne Harman, Linda Wilburn, Neal and Karen May.

Monday, January 30, 2012


January 2012
The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, January 26th at Marilyn Austin Carter’s home in Woodland.  She and Lynda Woodall hosted the January meeting that began with a delicious soup and sandwich luncheon.  The group of ladies welcomed new members Joan Allen of Manchester and Carla Snider of Woodbury.  The congenial group gathered in the kitchen for lunch and was so comfortable they remained there for the program in order to view the speaker’s pictures and gardening tools close up.

Georgia and Alabama Master Gardener Ellen Averill from Cataula presented a program on hostas, formerly called Plantain Lilies and named after Austrian botanist Nicholas Host. The herbaceous perennials include over 3,000 cultivar varieties varying in colors of green, blue, yellow, chartreuse, and gold. It is really a wax on the leaves that make them blue, and Averill pointed out that darker leaves mean a hosta needs more shade. The plants are shade tolerant, she said, but not necessarily shade lovers, but hostas never need hot afternoon sun.  Most members’ successful hosta beds receive morning sun as they are planted on the east side of their homes, and the plants are in shade during the afternoon. 

Averill  explained the size designation of the many varieties: dwarf-less than 4 inches tall, miniature-4 to 6 inches, small-6 to 10 inches, medium-10 to 18 inches, large 18 to 28 inches, and giant over 28 inches tall.  There are waist high specimens that are truly impressive. The club members quickly learned  that it takes four to eight years to reach maturity with members admitting to having given up on their hostas or dividing them too early.

Hostas bloom from spring to fall but many gardeners cut off the bloom to encourage plant growth and cause less pull on the roots. Hostas cannot be propagated from their seeds. Fertilizers may be granular, Osmocote, or liquid but Averill recommends fertilizing when the hosta first appears in the spring, six weeks later, and then in midsummer. Like peaches, the plants need thirty days of forty degree and below temperatures.

Moisture is critical to good hosta growth. An inch to 1 ½ inches per week is needed.  Averill offered a master gardener tip to ensure you know how much your sprinkler system is watering an area: use a tuna can under the irrigated area and when it is full, the area is getting an inch of water.  Averill explained what the hosta drip tip is and should it turn brown, there is a moisture problem.

Hostas are edible but unfortunately deer, slugs, and snails really love hosta.  Other than recommending electric fences and having dogs to keep away the deer, Averill did have suggestions for snails and slugs.  She takes a plastic water bottle, cuts off the drinking end and inserts it into the bottle, stapling it firm.  Snail and slug bait is put in the bottle and she places the plastic bottle under the hosta leaves.  The slugs enter the trap and die and the pest poison is not leached into the soil.

Disease common to hosta shows up as yellow spots on the leaves.  There is no remedy and she suggests digging up the plant and throwing it away.  Never compost it as the disease stays in the composted soil.  When dividing plants in early spring, she sterilizes her knife and lifting fork with a bleach solution to make sure fungus and disease are not passed along.

Averill gave the members handouts that listed hostas for beginning gardeners (August Moon, Golden Tiara, Guacamole),and  hostas best for our Georgia area ( Illicit Affairs, Pandora’s Box, Shiny Penny, Night before Christmas). Some of the most popular varieties are Sum and Substance, Saga, Great Expectations, and Patriot. Close to us are Southern Growers in Columbus and Pine Forest Gardens in Tyrone that have hosta displays or nurseries.

Club members ended the meeting by touring Marilyn’s home and admiring her art and unique sculptures.  She always has interesting artwork scattered throughout her garden that supports or juxtaposes nicely with her plants; however in January, few plants were up and so the members clearly could see the “bones” of the garden. Our warmer than usual winter did have hellebores and jonquils in full bloom. The pond with its ducks, the chickens, and bottle trees and artwork made for a colorful walk in January.