Savannah Garden Diary

April 7, 2008

Spring Fling in Austin

A million thanks to , , , , and all the other Austin bloggers who made this such a success.

to Pam’s overview.
Lady Bird Johnson Wild Flower Center
Here we are at the Lady Bird Johnson Wild Flower Center. On the left is our docent, Jenny, who has the most n, immortalized by Pam the day before.
Here is a gorgeous clump of Phlox drummondii in the formal part of the garden. It is gorgeous because it is the wild type, with all those wonderful colors. The ones I grew last year were a horrid assortment of pale pink and browny purple, which was all I could get from Thompson & Morgan. (By the end of this trip, I had acquired what I hope are wild type seeds from Natural Gardens.)
Hinckley columbine
This is the lovely Texas native columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana, another plant I covet, since I miss Aquilegia canadensis, and this Aquilegia is reputed to survive in Savannah. Note that here it is in pretty shady, shade. I see, from Googling it, that dry shade is recommended. (Someone suggests shade of deciduous trees is ideal so that it gets some winter sun.) Now all I have to do is find some seed or cajole some from Pam later this month when she has some.
green roof
I am quite impressed with the environmental consciousness of Austin (although the natives seem to think they are pretty backward). Here is the green roof on a Starbucks in a shopping center. Very sensible plants–grasses and succulents.
Every garden seems to have rain barrels, Vicki is installing a monster cistern in hers, and here are the cisterns at that Starbucks, draining water from a metal roof.

April 2, 2008


Filed under: Annuals, In bloom now, Roses, Weather — Tags: , , — karen @ 8:07 am

‘Blush Noisette’ is in flower. Here it is at daybreak absolutely dripping with dew. Such high humidity is unusual for early April. You can feel it in the air, even though it’s not particularly warm at this moment.
I cannot get over the health and vitality of the California poppies that have seeded themselves all over the gravel and elsewhere. This is a single plant with the flowers all closed up for the night.

March 29, 2008

Amaryllis Colors

Filed under: Bulbs and such, Design, In bloom now — Tags: , — karen @ 7:39 am

amaryllis, Hippeastrum
I love having enough amaryllis to pick bunches for the house. This red one is one of two varieties that have gone native in our suburb. They are in essentially every garden. These I picked from in front of a camellia in front and they need to be moved. They don’t show up against the dark camellia leaves. Moral: plant pale-colored ones there and move the red ones to a sunny area in back.

March 27, 2008

You can’t Fight City Hall

Filed under: Projects, Trees — karen @ 2:13 pm

Wilmington Island Garden Club and allies protest the destruction of 2 mature live oaks by Chatham County, Georgia. The oaks are the first two in a glorious, mile-long canopy of live oaks, each more than 100 years old, that meet over Johnny Mercer Blvd. on Wilmington Island. At the zoning hearing for this site’s development, the site plan showed that the oaks would not be harmed, and all seemed well until a notice of traffic disruption to fell the trees appeared in the paper.

The police, standing dangerously in the road, are arguing with the protesters. About a dozen armed policemen confronting about 15 little old ladies in tennis shoes looked pretty silly, as you can imagine.

The police said, “Move.”

We said, “We’re on a public right-of-way, not private property, and we won’t move.”

Possibly because 2 television cameras were rolling, the police drifted indecisively away to the other side of the road. All this took place at a fairly major intersection with traffic lights. The miracle is that nobody was killed. The inattentive driving as people peered to read the signs and then honked and waved encouragement was a sight to behold. We certainly have the support of the islanders.

One contractor stopped by to chat and told us how contractors and developers circumvent the zoning laws and ordinances of the Chatham County Commission. No surprise, because it’s exactly the same method we civilians use: show the planning board an acceptable plan, get it approved, and then do exactly what you want because never, in the 20+ years I have lived on the island has the county ever enforced building codes, zoning laws, sign ordinances, etc. It doesn’t matter how many rules and regulations you promulgate, if no one enforces them, you might as well not have them.

We stayed until the tree-cutting permit expired, which means the trees are still standing, although not, I imagine for long.

I told a colleague what we were planning and he said, “Oh Bobby Chu owns that property, doesn’t he? In that case, you’re toast. He’s a big contributor to the county commissioners.” As if I didn’t know it.

We got great coverage on 3 TV stations and in the newspaper (with photo) and the Wilmington Island Garden Club gained a little stature in the community, but I’ll bet the trees are toast.


Next day, here are Garden Club members tending some of the 135 live oaks and crape myrtles we planted on Johnny Mercer lo these many years ago. These were to beautify the island for the Olympics. In exchange for the thousands of dollars and hours of volunteer labor we put into this, the county promised that it would complete the bike paths around the island. 12 years later, I need hardly say that the bike paths are incomplete. The only thing the county has planted on the island in the last 25 years is half a dozen hollies, which they put in the wrong place and which are now merely dead or nearly dead.

Ah me, what can you say? The rich get richer and we the people get screwed.

March 16, 2008


It is lovely to have some splashy color in the garden after a gray winter. Whenever I get really depressed about climate change or the end of cheap oil (or rather about our government’s completely inadequate response to same), I go into the garden and it cheers me up. We had a tornado last night (the first in Georgia in 80 years, I believe) which knocked out our power (and that of another 150,000 people) for 12 hours.

I don’t really like this Bignonia ‘Tangerine.’ Although I think that is mainly my fault for putting it on a trellis that is too small for it. I have seen it look quite fine on arbors and on a chain slung diagonally across a space.


This California poppy seeded itself in the gravel beside the path to the pond, and luckily I recognized it before weeding it out. It doesn’t matter how many and what sort of poppy seeds I plant, these are the only ones that come back year after year. The color wouldn’t do in the back in summer when we are all white and pink and purple, but in spring any splash of color is welcome.


The wildlife is in full throttle. Brown-headed nuthatches have stolen the bluebird box in back, wrens are nesting under Richard’s dinghy. Goldfish are laying eggs in the pond, frogs reappearing, and here’s a gecko sunning on the trunk of a crape myrtle.


Here’s Lonicera sempervirens (or maybe it’s not sempervirens?) with Lady Banks on the pergola.


Scylla peruviana flowers for the first time. So-called not because they are Peruvian but because they were shipwrecked on the coast of Cuba in a ship named SS Peru. I’ve had them for 2 years. They must have been getting their strength back after traveling from Oregon or some such. They are of course a much more intense blue than you can tell from this.


I am very fond of these Thunbergia alata on the little trellis. I threw in a handful of seeds some years ago, and they just keep on coming.


This is a color combination that really appeals to me–purple viola and silver lamium.


And here is an amazing jumble of color which could only please me in early spring. Zephirine Drouhin, assorted yellow and blue violas, a species crocus (clusiana?), and alyssum which has seeded itself all over the patio, in the gravel and in ever bed for miles around. I see this color scheme is going to the even more bizarre when the California poppy in the foreground blooms!

March 15, 2008



Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is in flower, the pretty little thing. Although the young leaves are a gorgeous purple, the color fades by midsummer in our heat.

On I-81, somewhere in Virginia (at least I think it is Virginia), there is a straight stretch of road between hillside cow pastures where they have planted forsythia in the median. One year, the forsythia flowered at the same time as redbuds bordering the forest above the pasture. The complementary colors were breathtaking.

March 10, 2008

Zephirine Drouhin and Climate Change

Zephirine Drouhin is in full bloom. What an amazingly saturated color. And what a fragrance. I brought one into the house and it perfumes the whole living room.

So you might think spring has really sprung, but climate change bites again. We had an unadvertised frost last night and I lost half my pepper seedlings. Curses.

The daffodils are nice this year. I didn’t plan to pick them for the house, but they keep getting blown over by really strong winds. There’s no point in leaving them lying on the ground, so I have several vases full scattered about the house.

March 1, 2008


–sigh. Containers. Rather a sore point for me because I very much admire containers that are well done, but I don’t have the design savoir-faire to pull them off myself, except occasionally by accident. However, in looking through my photos, I see many examples of much better gardeners than I am who don’t pull them off very well either.
Here is a bit of a jumble of pots at the Nathaniel Russell House Museum in Charleston. Very pretty, no doubt, when full of flowers at the end of March as here, but hardly a triumph of design.
Here, on the other hand, is the window box on my garden shed about a week ago. Small violas, which don’t need nearly as much deadheading as big pansies, complementary colors, self-watering (from Gardeners Supply Company and, much to my surprise, the self-watering feature actually works). The perfect unpretentious window box? Well, no. If you look closely, you will see that I never cleaned off the black mold that covers the white box. And the lamium has rotting dead leaves that should be picked off every time I happen by there. Pretty uncouth, really.
Here’s a vista in a Savannah town garden that I feel has pros and cons. The pro is that a formal design is undoubtedly appropriate for a small walled garden. Also, that semi-circle of dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) is low-maintenance and attractive year round.

On the other hand the boxwoods that outline the whole design are a real mistake. They’ll get much too big and will need to be pruned viciously approximately every 3 minutes to keep them in bounds. I really hate that pillar, apparently pilfered from an Italian villa. And that trellis is pretty pointless until some vine grows up it.

The containers are just plain dull. That heuchera is all very well now (early April), but it will turn to mush in the heat of summer after putting out some straggly, pathetic flowers.

To be continued….

February 19, 2008

Spring, Perhaps?

never-wet.jpgRather to my surprise, since I hacked everything in the bog to the ground about ten days ago, this never-wet (Orontium aquaticum) has started blooming. The bog was designed as a homage to a ditch in Okefenokee, a reminder of possibly my favorite place on earth, and it is full of unglamorous natives. Never-wet is so-called because its leaves are very waxy and repel water more than most leaves. 


  Viburnum tinus is in full flower in the front hedge. This particular one is a very slow grower, only about 5 feet tall at 5 years from a cutting. 


Lady Banks is in full flower on the pergola. So is Lonicera sempervirens, but I can’t get up high enough for a photo. I know Lady Banks blooms only once a year, but that’s NOT a problem since there are 7 or 8 other vines on the pergola that bloom at other times. And what’s not to love about a thornless rose that is such a glorious yellow.


Chionodoxa luciliae is just beginning to flower. There’s probably something I can do to the camera to produce a better blue than this washed-out affair, but I don’t know what. I should really take a course or get a better camera, or read the instruction book, or something. 


After considerable debate about various species of jasmine, I am convinced that this is pink jasmine, Jasminum polyanthum. I moved it to the veg garden fence about 18 months ago and it is doing just as I hoped, working toward an imitation of a gorgeous fence I saw on a Charleston garden walk:


February 11, 2008


Filed under: Design, Shrubs — Tags: , — karen @ 10:20 am


This is a rather fine flower from a camellia of which I am not fond. It looks better this year because I have disdubbed it every time I went near it. I don’t know the variety. Thom gave it to me years ago. It looked fine when it was in a grove of pines, but now that the pines are gone, it is the most prominent feature of the front garden, at least as viewed from the house. It is large, and red and green with no subtlety.

It is usually said that camellias like shade, but this one is now in full sun and seems to love it. Admittedly the red ones are said to tolerate sun better than paler ones. This one is growing rapidly and never gets mold or scale or any of the usual woes. Despite the fact that it displeases me visually, I can’t bring myself to cut it down because it is so healthy. The other shrubs and trees that have been rather randomly chosen to take over from the pines are still pretty small. Maybe the camellia will be less intrusive when they get bigger.

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