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.