Newsletter

March 2020 Print

Welcome

Welcome to the Scoop, the official newsletter of the Garden Club of South Carolina, Inc. 

We suggest you read this online by clicking here

Back to top

Calendar of Events

We are still planning to take our summer tour of New England gardens and attend the Rhode Island Flower Show. 

Newport, Rhode Island Tour - June 18-23, 2020 - join us as we tour the gorgeous gardens of New England and attend the Newport, RI flower show.

SUMMER EXPO - August 1st at Midlands Technical College

Back to top

President's Message

Yes, life as we know it has changed on a dime. All of the things that we took for granted three weeks ago are now either cause for alarm or totally restricted until further notice. 

And yet, aren't we the luckiest ducks? As gardeners, we are forced to stay home and do our favorite things. 

As I walk my dog around my neighborhood I notice more people connecting with their green spaces than ever before. It's almost like we've stepped back in time before cell phones and video games, before hyper-stimulis and snapchat, back when people actually spent endless hours in their gardens, waved to passersby, made eye contact, and smiled.  

Of course, as garden clubbers, we smile back knowing what a wonderful journey our neighbors are just beginning. And we can help them by sharing our knowledge, our experience and maybe even a few spare plants.  Most of us have something to share. I encourage each of us to do so in the next few weeks. 

Happy Gardening! 

 

 

 

Back to top

Month by Month Gardening

March is opening season for most of South Carolina gardens. Peak Charleston azaleas, redbuds and daffodils in the upstate and leaf buds on the peaches in the Midlands!

 

Piedmont  

Plant: Bulbs. Remember those spent potted amaryllis you received for Christmas gifts – it’s time to put them to bed in your garden!

Chores: Continue preparing your to do list for spring.

Enjoy: the amazing camellias while they last!

 

Sandhills Districts 

Sow: annual seeds, tomatoes and summer vegetables.

Plant: Carrots, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas and Irish potatoes.

Feed:   Roses and shrubs.

Harvest: Winter Collards, mustard and turnips

Prune: Dormant shrubs. Do not prune azaleas until after they have bloomed. 

Chores:

  • Clean up under your camellia bushes. Remember to remove spent flowers from under camellia shrubs and dispose, don’t compost.
  • Mow lirope before new growth emerges in the spring.
  • Top dress flower and vegetable beds with compost.
  • Divide and share perennials.  

 

Low Country  & Coastal 

Sow:  These are easy to grow from seed or starters – sweet and Irish potatoes, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, beans, squash, radishes, onions, basil, parsley, hyssop, zinnias, cosmos, fennel, savory.

Plant: These are easier to transplant from starter plants – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant,   tarragon,  milkweed, joe pye weed, climbing aster.

Feed:  If you didn’t fertilize last month, go ahead and fertilize your roses, shrubs, palms and fruit trees. Check your soil and add alum to your blueberries to give them a boost before production.

Prune: This is the last month to mow liriope and cut back winter grasses like oats and wheat. Keep in mind that bees may be nesting inside so move these to your wild pile.

Harvest or let go to seed: lettuce, collard, mustard, dill, winter parsley, radishes.

Enjoy: Most of the Asian varieties of plants will flower this month through April: Azaleas, Camellias, Lorepetalum, Wisteria, etc.  Native hollies and viburnums will begin to flower early this month.

 

Back to top

Pollinator of the Month

Mason Bees - by Paul Thompson 

Aside from honeybees which are not native to the Americas, we have many other bees that are native and can be utilized for the pollination of our vegetables and fruits grown in the home garden. Other than about five species of bumblebees, the rest of our native bees are not social insects that live in large colonies but are solitary bees that use nest chambers to raise a very small brood of young that they will never see.

One of these solitary bee groups are the mason bees. These bees do not excavate their brood chambers but take advantage of existing holes such as hollow dead stems, or holes in wood caused by borers, both insect and human types. The female bees are very efficient pollinators due to their wallowing within the flower. They carry pollen on the underside of their hairy abdomen and scrape the pollen off within the nesting hole. The pollen is carried dry on her belly and it falls off easily as she moves among flowers.      

Mason bees are so-called, because they use mud to build cells within a nesting cavity. Most mason bees are smaller than a honeybee, dark colored (often blue or black), and hairy along their sides. The female is busy her entire short life of 3 to 6 weeks gathering nectar and pollen to create little balls of “bee bread” where she lays an egg, and then seals up the chamber with a plug of mud, more food, an egg, and another plug of mud until the cavity runs out of room for any more. The male bees live a life of leisure for about two weeks, sipping on nectar and waiting around for a cute female to fly by.

            A female mason bee may lay about 35 eggs during her life. Eggs hatch in 1 to 3 weeks into larvae which feed on the bee bread. They grow quickly and then form a pupa which lasts through the winter. The adults emerge from the pupa early the next spring to start the process again.

            You can easily create nesting opportunities for these industrious little insects, or you can find plenty of nesting block supplies on the internet.  To make your own, use a block of any type of untreated wood. Holes can be drilled into the block that are a minimum of 3 inches deep. Holes should be spaced ¾ inches apart.  The blocks can be mounted under the eaves on the east side of a house or shed for protection. All species have a preferred hole diameter. Drilling an assortment of holes sizes from 3/16  to  3/8 of an inch will attract whatever species is nearby, and then you can create more blocks with the proper sizes of the holes that are being occupied.

            Drilling holes five to six inches deep will ensure a larger population. Eggs which become females are the deepest ones in the chamber. Males are usually several cells deep from the entrance. If all of your holes are shallow, you will have a larger proportion of males in the brood and a smaller population potential the next year.

            If blocks are to be reused each year, you either need to utilize paper tubes in the holes so that everything can be pulled out, or you need to devise another way to clean out the holes by having a removable back or something in the design that allows you to clean the chambers. Failure to clean out the blocks can lead to a build-up of parasite populations detrimental to the bees. You can also use sections of bamboo stuck in a can or other large cylinder for a simple bee house – just replace the tubes each spring as the bees emerge from the older tubes.  Paper tubes can be purchased online at bee supply companies, or you can make your own by rolling up parchment paper around a pencil or use paper drinking straws which have made a comeback in recent years as an alternative to plastic.

            Native trees, shrubs and perennials that flower anywhere from March to June will attract mason bees, although they will also visit many non-native flowers, especially if they produce a lot of pollen.

Mason bees are not aggressive – they have no colony to defend, and usually mom’s out getting groceries anyway and nobody is home. They have the ability to sting, but not the inclination to do so.

Back to top

Pollinator Habitat Gardening

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Mason Bees 

  1. Don’t be afraid  Male mason bees don’t have stingers, and, because all of the females are fertile, they’re not aggressive. It’s still possible to get stung — female mason bees have stingers, but they will only sting if they get trapped or squeezed — but the sting is more akin to a mosquito bite than the typical bee sting.
  2. Pollen is important  If there isn’t enough pollen in your yard, mason bees will move on to other areas. Check out Rent Mason Bees for a full list of common pollen-producing plants that work well.
  3. Keeping nesting boxes   South-facing garage, house or garden shed walls are ideal areas for establishing your nesting boxes. Families will also want to make sure that food is available within about 300 feet of the nest — this is as far as the bees will travel. Make a note of all of the plants on the list that you see in this area, and remember: These bees won’t stop at your property line — they’ll go across the street or into a neighbor’s yard for pollen if they need to.
  4. Mud is a must   Since female mason bees require mud for their eggs, it’s important to have open ground (without grass or bark covering) nearby. Families can also make a “mud pie,” with the soil moist but not soupy. Your little ones might be the right “chefs” for this project! Bees are weak when they first emerge from hibernation, so it’s best not to keep the mud pie directly under the nest (they could fall in).
  5. Choosing nesting materials  Pull-apart wooden blocks, cardboard with paper lining, drilled blocks and homemade paper tubes can all work well for nesting. Pull-apart wooden blocks can be a great material since they’re porous (allowing moisture to escape), and they’re easy to clean, sanitize and reuse.
  6. Observing your bees  Mason bees are fascinating to watch; they can be educational for kids in addition to being eco-friendly. Here are some fun things that kids can observe about their small and industrious new friends.
  7. Be on guard for predators Robins, crows, starlings and woodpeckers prey on adult mason bees as they emerge from their nests. The bees are especially vulnerable in the early morning when they bask in the sun to warm up enough to fly, or while they’re out in the open gathering mud.  For the birds, these sweet little bees are like candy — especially if they find a nesting block that happens to be filled with a lot of bees. The best way to avoid predators is to store the nest in the garage or shed at the end of the active period. If you’re using a paper product and have lots of squirrels, chicken wire can be added around the box to prevent them from pulling the tubes out and devouring the contents.
  8. Setting your materials out in the spring Nesting units need to be protected from rain and wind. Keeping them mounted with the cavities tilting slightly down will prevent rainwater from entering and creating harmful mold. Securing the nesting units will also prevent movement that could dislodge eggs or young larvae. The space left may be a mere three-eighths of an inch, but the babies are too weak to crawl back in. Nesting materials need to be set out before nesting begins (mid- to late March), since the females lay the most eggs in the beginning of the season. However, it’s also important to note that if the materials are set out too early, the progeny could be mostly males.  Placing the nesting units on the south-facing side of the building is key; the bees need to warm up to 80 degrees for their wings to function. Mason bees’ black bodies can soak up rays even when it’s only 58–64 degrees outside, making exposure to direct sunlight very important.
  9. Caring for your bees Just like caring for a fish tank, the bees and nesting materials need to be cleaned each fall, or families could risk losing their colony. Pests, mites and chalkbrood disease (caused by a fungus) can be greatly reduced by opening and sanitizing the nesting material each October.
  10. Attracting a variety of pollinators  Fruit trees are not required in order for you to be a beekeeper; plant for all seasons, and not just for March–June. Native wildflowers with colors such as blue, purple and yellow (clover, dandelions) are recommended, along with one of the best sources for pollen: big-leaf maples.

 

Back to top

Garden FOR Life

by Linda Geronilla and Trish Bender

Below the canopy and understory layers, shrubbery completes the bones of your landscape. With a little imagination and some sweat equity, shrubbery can be used to create living walls, fences or hedgerows, amassed into shapely groupings, trained into topiary, espalier or coppices, or simply allowed to create naturally dense thickets. Shrubbery is the magical component in landscaping that allows for maximum creativity in your GardenFORLife garden.  Providing essential shelter, food, and nesting sites for wildlife, shrubs also provide ornament, fruit, flowers, fragrance, shade, privacy, a barrier to wind and sound, and as a great “fill in” because they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Pound for pound, shrubbery is the most important layer in your garden to create year-round visual appeal, habitat and architectural interest.  

GREAT RESOURCES FOR YOUR BROWSING PLEASURE

BY ZIPCODE - In his latest book, Nature’s Best Hope, Doug Tallamy introduced a collaborative project with the National Wildlife Federation to help gardeners around the country maximize habitat effectiveness.  By searching your zipcode at https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinderyou can learn about keystone species that attract butterflies and moths as well as the birds that feed on their caterpillars.

BY WILDLIFE SPECIES - If you already know what you want to attract in your yard check out the South Carolina Wildlife Federation website has a shrub plant list which can be found at  http://www.scwf.org/native-plant-list. There are 4 Evergreens and 8 Deciduous shrubs that can grow taller and 4 Evergreen and 9 Deciduous that will stay smaller. Another good idea is to Google the name of the specific animal or insect you want in your yard and “feeding” or “best shrubs for.” For example, typing in “Feeding Cardinals” can result inCardinalsprefer plants including sumac, mulberry, and blueberry which can provide double duty for both shelter and food.”

BY SHRUB NAME - If you want additional information about a shrub, such as drought or salt tolerance, then the Clemson Extension Carolina Yards Program has a data base based on region, soil, sun, and water. https://www.clemson.edu/extension/carolinayards/plant-database/index.html

BY NATIVE PLANT NAME - Another good source of information is the South Carolina Native Plant Society which is a non-profit organization committed to the preservation and protection of native plant communities in South Carolina. They have regional meetings and plant sales once or twice a year where you can get shrubs at reasonable prices. The Coastal Native Plant Region maintains a plant list of 30 shrubs and has their bloom months which can be helpful if you want to feed a variety of animals all year long https://scnps.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/CoastalNativePlantList.pdf. If you are removing plants and want to plant natives, then Upstate has a good brochure that shows alternative natives to use instead of ornamentals https://www.upstateforever.org/files/files/CAW_LIDFact_NativePlants.pdf,

SHOP - Many shrubs can be bought at native plant nurseries such as Roots and Shoots in Charleston, Naturescapes of Beaufort, Native Plants Garden Center in Chapin,Southern Heritage Native Plant Nursery in Greer, Woodlanders in Aiken, Natives Plus Nursery in Long Creek, and Carolina Wild in Anderson.  If none of these are close to you, then call some of the traditional nurseries and see if they can order in what you want. Online nurseries can also ship plants such as https://www.growingwildnursery.com/in North Carolina. 

 

Back to top

Camellias Make Great Hedgerows

by Anna Sheets

Hedgerows can be created from many different shrubs and small trees. Instead of the more common types seen today such as holly, tea olive or arborvitae, an  older variety is the Camellia sasanqua.  Although the sasanqua is not a native species having been imported from China and Japan in the 18thcentury, it is a naturalized evergreen, non- invasive and long-lived  shrub/small tree here in the West Low Country. It creates a thick, dark green, small leafed hedge that can be pruned to the height and width wanted and does well in the sun. A bonus is the numerous flowers that bloom on it in the otherwise drab wintertime. It’s best to obtained specimens that are multi-trunked, instead of a single trunk. Plant in the fall, 3-4 feet apart in a row. Water regularly until established. Feed with a basic fertilizer. Prune after the hedge blooms around December or January. Just a word of reality, even though your plant tag may state “fast growing”, in the camellia world, that claim is  relative. Probably by year 6, the hedge will be 6 feet tall and provide the privacy  required and be a long -lived addition to any yard.

 

Back to top

Blueberry Hedgerows

by Bonnie Disney 

Can a hedgerow be created to function as both an edible and ornamental?  A blueberry hedge can function as an edible by supplying the owner with an abundance of delicious and nutritious blueberries throughout the summer.  Blueberry bushes can also function as an ornamental.  They make excellent hedges if planted correctly and the right varieties are used.  Creating a row of closely planted blueberry shrubs can form a hedge to soften a fence line or can to be used as foundation plants.  The blueberry hedge may be tall or compact, depending upon the variety used and the height needed for the location of the hedge.  As an ornamental, blueberries are attractive in all seasons. They have bell-shaped blooms in the spring and glossy green leaves with varying shades of blue fruit during the summer. Some blueberry varieties have fiery fall color and most have interesting wood and silhouettes during the winter. 

Blueberries bushes need five to six hours of sun and soil that is high in organic matter.  They also like acidic soil that is rich, moist and well-drained.  Like many other plants, blueberries can be vulnerable to pests and diseases, but these problems can be addressed.

Back to top

Viburnums make great hedgerows

by Kay Williams 

Viburnums make ideal hedgerows in the midlands of South Carolina. Coveted for their blossoms, berries, foliage and growing habits. They are deciduous and evergreen with year- round appeal. Some varieties are slightly perfumed. There are numerous varieties of viburnums to choose from, pinks and whites. They need at least a half a day of full sunshine to prosper and like well-drained soil enriched with well- rotted organic matter several weeks before planting. If you have a problem with the viburnum beetle spray in the late spring. Information obtained from “ The Complete Garden Flower Book” Murdock Books.

For more information, go to Clemson Viburnum Factsheet 1075

Back to top

Hollies Make Great Hedgerows

Mr.& Mrs. Poppins - The Perfect Colorful and Creative Hedgerow Couple!

by Gina Ginther

Still feeling the glow of Valentine’s Day, one might consider using Ilex (verticillata) as the perfect Mr. & Mrs. to create a hedgerow, border presence or perimeter planting. Also known as Ilex Mr. Poppins and Ilex Berry Poppins, the two make a lovely compatible compact pair that grow 3 ft to 4 ft high with an average width of 3 ft. Commonly known as winterberry holly, this plant is native (L48) to eastern Canada and the entire eastern half of the United States. It grows well in full sun to part shade and can be “ignored”, allowed to run free and flourish, or pruned in late winter or early spring to develop a formal shape such as a hedgerow. Both can be planted in damp or even wet soils and are carefree. Amend the soil with compost or peat moss to holdmoisture. Ilex does best in alkaline soils. They are heat tolerant and unfazed by cold and most pests. Rather than shallow daily watering, you should water deeply, 10” to 12”, every 3 to 5 days in the early morning. During our hot southeastern summers, add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to aid in water retention and protect the roots.  

Mr. Poppins is a beautiful rich green broadleaf male and the ideal pollinator for Mrs. Poppins and other female winterberries. Mrs. (Berry) Poppins is compact and very heavily branched. Mrs. Poppins produces beautiful blazing red berries in autumn and winter that can be used in cut flower arrangements and are a winter food source for birds, especially the American robin. Mrs. Poppins needs a good hard pruning every winter because it blooms on fresh wood.

Remember, that you will need BOTH a MALE and a FEMALE to produce flowering and berries! Plant the male plant within 50 feet of the female plant. One male Ilex can pollinate up to five female plants, so use that to be creative with placement of your more colorful Mrs. Poppins plants!

Caution! While wild animals, especially birds, can eat the berries, winterberry is generally considered toxic to humans and children are especially sensitive to this toxicity. Also, according to the Human Society of America, Ilex berries can be toxic to pets.

 

Back to top