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.