Savannah Garden Diary

May 6, 2008

Sweet Peas

Filed under: In bloom now, Vines — Tags: — karen @ 9:57 am


Sweet peas in full flower. And they are VAST–about 10 foot tall. I don’t think I have ever seen them as tall as this. It must be the cow manure I dumped on the veg garden last fall.


January 9, 2008

Prunus mume


Prunus mume ‘Pegggy Clarke’ is in full bloom in back and half in bloom in part shade in front of the house. I’ve always thought PG was a rather virulent purple. It looks purple when you drive past the one in Forsyth Park. But this doesn’t look so bad. Maybe it’s not really ‘Peggy Clarke.’ ‘Bonita’ is a softer pink, so maybe this is it. How confusing. Can’t remember where I bought this one. The ‘Bonita’ is Woodlanders, and I think they usually get their varieties right.

A few days ago, I noticed there was a cluster of blooms on the Lady Banks. This morning there is another. I suppose spasms of warm weather are the cause. Someone should tell her she’s a couple of months early. The swamp jessamine and honeysuckle aren’t even in flower yet.

The says, “Prunus mume should be pruned after flowering; cut half of the long shoots back by one-half to two-thirds so that each year you will have both encouraged long shoots on which more flowers will be produced in the future and still saved enough flower buds for the coming winter. ” I realize I have probably just done it wrong on my tree in back by cutting back all the long, non-flowering shoots by half. We shall see.

December 31, 2007

Podranea ricasoliana

Filed under: In bloom now, Patio, Vines, Weather — Tags: , — karen @ 4:46 pm

Podranea ricosaliana still has a few flowers. This one is behind the shed, but there are some on the pergola as well. All my plants were cuttings from ones Jane had growing up telephone poles at her B&B in Homerville. I now know that growing them up telephone poles is not a good way to go, since they have no climbing mechanism, so would need to be tied in all the time. Also, they are much too aggressive for such a location.

(which is where I first discovered what this was) says “Plant in sunny site with well-drained soil and allow ample space to grow.” True, I’m sure, but this gives no idea of what a friendly vine this is. Yes, it gets big. But it is not invasive, in that it doesn’t spread underground. Now that it has reached the top of the pergola, it doesn’t need to be tied, but just sprawls over the pergola. I never water it, and the only maintenance is chopping off the branches that come drooping down between the rafters. And the flowers are very showy. All in all, an excellent vine for a big pergola. (Of course this may be famous last words and it will turn out to be a wisteria-mimic, eventually tearing the pergola down.

December 28, 2007

Cleaning up the Patio


Killer afternoon making the patio more respectable. Don’t know that my tendonitis-ridden ankle will ever recover. The toughest bit was dividing the Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo).

Here is one in a pot looking beautiful soon after the patio was built. But I drowned this one with irrigation when we were in California. Although they like plenty of water, they also need drainage! That left one pot. I was inclined to kill it off and put something really easy like skyrocket junipers in the pots. But when I hacked the survivor to the ground in November, it bravely put up lots of new growth, so I decided it deserved to live. They’re horribly expensive, so I had to divide it to fill the other pot. This took half an hour with the (blunt) axe.

I went to Ace this morning for paint for the blue bench in front, but got distracted by Hester & Zipperer. So instead of just weeding, hacking the vines, and getting leaves and crud off the patio, I also had annuals to plant.

Also a Daphne odora over which to dither. I think it needs dry, dense shade, and I can’t decide where to put it. The one out front is not a doer, perhaps because it gets too much sun. That’s the second one that’s let me down here, and I can’t think why. The one at Walthour Road was spectacular, stuck under a live oak and never watered.

Flats of violas and snapdragons, but I also wanted something that might survive on the patio. The beds near the house have got awfully dry and shady, what with all the vines, and the usual annuals don’t do well there. I’m trying Nemesia fruticans ‘Compact Innocence’ and Diaschia x ‘Flying Colors Orange.’ I was going to add some Lamium maculatum, which I keep meaning to try, but I think it likes loads of water, which it ain’t going to get in a flower bed, so I put that in a couple of planters over by the shed.

Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’ is blooming in back. Or at least it has a few flowers fully open. I guess it gets more sun than the one in front. I find this a slightly vicious pink, so the two I bought from Woodlanders this year are ‘Bonita’ instead. My absolute favorite, I think is ‘Rosemary Clarke,’ which is nearly white, but I have managed to kill both of mine. I really can’t imagine why, since they are said to dislike wet feet, which nobody gets in my garden outside of the bog.

December 20, 2007

Clerodendron thomsoniae

Filed under: Vines — Tags: — karen @ 12:19 pm

I have just moved this Clerodenron thomsoniae, which I got as a cutting from Connie, from the jungle around the bird house in the front to the veg garden fence in back. Everything climbing up the bird house post had to go because the jasmine had got completely out of hand and was invading hydrangeas 50 feet away. (Controlling that is another story.)

I absolutely love these flowers. They are right up there with Kalmia latifolia (which we can’t grow here, alas) on my all time favorite flowers list. But I haven’t completely figured out the plant’s likes and dislikes. It is a well-behaved small vine, that requires a bit of training to climb. And it obviously likes a bit more nutrition than is native to our sandy soil, because mine has a tendency to yellow. Being tropical, it probably likes a lot of organic matter.

It’s the pruning and sun exposure I’m not sure about. Connie slashed hers to the ground and it flowered magnificently on short stalks, so it doesn’t mind heavy pruning. The books say it needs lots of light, but mine flowered best when it was practically invisible under the jasmine foliage, as in this photo from last summer. I guess a bit more trial and error is indicated.

December 19, 2007

Fence and Chinese Gate

Filed under: Design, Vines — Tags: , , , — karen @ 10:44 am
Chinese gate

Gardening Gone Wild has a (which is an excellent idea), so I’ll chip in with my most recent fence.

This is the entrance to the service area and vegetable garden. The mess in that corner of the garden is past praying for, what with compost piles, our johnboat, Richard’s dinghy, and piles of lumber from tearing out the deck. So I decided to screen it off with a fence, made largely from timbers recycled from the deck.

I also needed somewhere to put the dragon fountain Richard gave me, which is not really designed for the great outdoors, being made of plywood with a coating of fiberglass. But I had to rescue it because he commissioned it specially and I have developed a fondness for that foolish head. I made some repairs to the top half, which seemed rescueable. It was obviously not going to last long if exposed to the elements, so I decided a roofed gateway would give it a bit of protection.

The red paint was to give the gateway a vaguely Chinese look that would make the dragon feel at home. The pond beneath the dragon looks all right in this photo, but it has not proved a success. I am going to have to rethink that.

This photo was also taken before the Clematis armandii on the right died. That’s the second one that has died in the same position. I don’t know why. I put them there because they do so well in England that I assumed they liked it wet, and that is the vegetable garden, so it gets plenty of water. Tom has a lovely one just a few blocks from here, so it’s not that you can’t grow them in Savannah. I think I will just conclude that armandii is not for me, and give up on it.

December 15, 2007

Cherokee Rose

Filed under: Vines — Tags: , — karen @ 6:03 pm
Cherokee Rose

This is a rather nice photo of a Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata). Although not native, this is the state flower of Georgia. It was imported from China about 200 years ago to be used as fencing, because it is amazingly prickly and fast-growing. (Which was why it was amazingly stupid of me to plant it on a pergola Thom and Richard built at Hilary Road right outside the patio door.)

I have just ordered one from the

Thom has found a pine tree between the lawn and the marsh where, with any luck, it can ramble without tearing anyone to pieces.

I think the loveliest example I have every seen was at the north end of Jekyll Island, where wisteria and Cherokee roses from abandoned homesteads scramble in their dozens up the pine trees.

April 6, 2006

Lady Banks Rose

Filed under: Design, In bloom now, Patio, Vines — Tags: , , — karen @ 9:32 am
Lady Banks Rose

Here is the Lady Banks rose on the pergola one year after it was planted as a scraggly little plant that had never flowered. This has to be absolutely the best shade vine for this part of the world. What’s not to love? It is a thornless, evergreen rose with gorgeous flowers. Admittedly, it flowers only once a year and you have to prune occasionally to keep it from dripping and drooping all over the place. (The largest tree in the world is believed to be a Lady Banks in Arizona that covers about an acre of land.)

Culture is easy in this climate. She needs full sun (as I discovered with one partly under a live oak at Walthour Road which did not flower as well as its neighbor 6 feet closer to full sun). Not fussy about water or fertilizer. (Which means I have never watered or fertilized a Lady Banks more than 6 months old.)

The book says that outdoor ceilings should be higher than indoor ceilings not to feel claustrophobic and I believe it, so the pergola “roof” is almost 12 feet from the ground. This presents a problem when pruning and painting. The pruning problem I have solved with a truly excellent pruning shear-like gadget with a sliding trigger supplemented by a rope. It is powerful enough to prune the bougainvillea, so it makes light work of the Lady Banks.

March 25, 2005

Patio: More Plants


It’s now so late in the season that getting plants in the ground is more important than finishing the paving. On the right is the Yoshino cherry in flower with the ‘Nelly Stephens’ holly looking very tiny on its left.


This trellis (left) hides the mess around the back door from the patio. I decided it was unrealistic to think the back door’s surrounds would ever be attractive. It is where everyone washes paint brushes, and drops pipes, hoses, junk when coming in for a meal or escaping from the rain. Better to hide it than hope to tidy it up. The main vine on it is Bignonia ‘Shalimar Red.’


In retrospect, this was a mistake. Crossvine is native, and gets much larger than I realized until I saw one climbing 3 stories up the naked concrete wall of the parking lot at the South Carolina Aquarium. Two years later, I am still hacking it back twice a year to prevent it taking the roof off the house. Why does it grow toward the house instead of our toward the sun as I’d hoped? I need to replace it with something more manageable. I also stuck in some morning glories for a little rapid cover.

To the right is the planting area by the breakfast room steps. (I have already started tiling the steps.) It contains the Lady Banks rose (Rosa bansksiae), which has languished in the front bed for two years because it gets no sun, as well as Gelsemium Rankinii, (swamp jessamine, from Secret Garden).

This is native, but less common and larger-flowered than the Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jessamine or jasmine) which scrambles all over our pine trees in February and March. As its name suggests, it is supposed to like lots of water, which it won’t get here.

The little boxwood on the right hides the outlet from the a/c system.

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