February 2020 Print


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

We suggest you read this online by clicking here

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Calendar of Events

Hold onto your hats because spring offers 3 major garden club events that you don't want to miss! 

District Spring Meeting

West Piedmont      March 4, 2020

West Lowcountry  March 10, 2020

East Lowcountry  March 11, 2020

Coastal                March 12, 2020 

East Piedmont    March 24, 2020

West Sandhills    March 25, 2020 

East Sandhills     March 26, 2020

South Atlantic Regional Meeting  - March 19-20, 2020, Greenville, SC

This is our 5-state regional awards convention featuring two awards banquets, a special tour, and several workshops.  Our region includes: North and South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.

Keynote Speakers: NGC President Gay Austin, SAR Director Patricia Arndt, Dr Patrick McMillan and Neal Sanders.  

GCSC 90th Anniversary State Meeting & Awards Event - April 23, 2020 Riverbanks Botanical Gardens, Columbia South Carolina 


We also have a few spots left in our summer tour of gardens

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. 


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President's Message

From December to March, there are for many of 
us three gardens:
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye.
-  Katherine S. White

Happy February, the month of love and a super moon!  Par for the course, this month offers crazy temperature bounces ranging from 30s to 70s, snow days followed by shorts weather, and approximately ten more hours of South Carolina sunshine. (source 

Despite the erratic nature of our February weather, the warm days seem to outweigh the cold snaps and most of us are pulled outside to the call of the garden.  Indeed, February is THE month to prune and plant! 

As gardeners we all know that feeling. It pulls us outside on warm days to survey our space for new spring planting beds and down the seed aisle where plans quicky go out the window in place of just one more packet of delicious seeds.  

Even in my 1/3 acre garden, I couldn't possibly sow all of the seeds my heart convinces me to purchase but somehow that doesn't deter me. Fortunately, like you, I have lots of garden club friends with whom to trade packets or share my extras. (Don't be surprised if you see some at your district meetings.)


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Garden FOR Life

Layers in Our Gardens:  Canopy and Understory

The GardenFORLife Initiative’s main goal is to garden to enhance life at all levels of the landscape.  This is best achieved by a layered landscaping approach. We start with the canopy and work down to the groundcovers and vines. In a natural system, this is most apparent in a deciduous forest.  We are often taken aback as we look up at the tall trees (canopy), then notice the smaller trees underneath (understory), then the shrubs, herbaceous plants, and finally the ground covers and vines

Layers in a food forest





The Canopy Layer consists of taller timber trees, shade trees, and full-sized fruit and nut trees which require the most space and require more sunlight and water. Several hundred years ago, the Longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, occupied most of the canopy of upper South Carolina, and Live Oaks, Quercus virginiana and Magnolia grandifloras occupied the coastal areas. Today only remnants remain due to the exploitation of timber, fire suppression, agricultural land conversion and urban development.

Because the canopy is the first to catch sun, its photosynthetic production is higher than any other layer and causes prolific flowering, fruiting and seed production. In photosynthetic process, canopy trees take in huge amounts of carbon dioxide and release the oxygen we breath at a 20% level which is important to maintain life. They also store carbon in woody tissue, produce sugars that feed the soil organisms and provide ample shade in summertime when leaves complete the canopy cover.

Since trees are incredibly valuable in controlling rain water, a strong canopy can also benefit flood-prone areas. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that on average, 100 mature trees, the equivalent of one acre of mature forest, capture about 140,000 gallons of water per year. This provides significant value in preventing the need for waste water treatment, flooding and damage. In your yard, onemature white oak tree can absorb 50 Gallons of water per day.  Red oaks like our native water oak, Quecus nigra, can absorb up hundreds of gallons.  

Canopies also provide valuable habitat for squirrels, raccoons, birds, invertebrates, spiders and a multitude of insects such as katydids, walking sticks, and acorn weevils. Allowing dead trees within the canopy layer can maximize habitat, food and shelter for these animals.

In South Carolina, canopy communities vary greatly based on soil moisture levels, soil types, elevations and slopes. Wind and fire also influence the canopy growth patterns.

As the largest components of the landscape, canopy trees will define the major patterns of light through the garden and should be chosen and planted carefully. Consider their mature size when planting and the shade they will cast upon the areas south of its location. To maximize sunlight for other productive plants like fruits, vegetables and flowers, plant tallest trees at the northernmost end of your landscape.

The Understory Layer consists of shorter growing trees, larger shrubs and immature canopy trees.  Light requirements vary with species but are generally more shade tolerant since most species evolved under the canopy cover of taller evergreen and deciduous trees. This layer tends to leaf out earlier than the canopy to secure more opportunity for spring growth and typically blooms in smaller, lighter colored flowers.

Species vary depending on location, elevation and disruption from agriculture and development. Understanding the formation of each area of South Carolina is very helpful to determine which understory species are native to your area.

SC physiography map At the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge in the northwest tip of our state hardwood forests of maples, beech, yellow buckeye, and birch dominate the canopy.

This understory features American hornbeam, flowering dogwood, eastern redbud, sourwood, and serviceberry.

As elevation decreases, the rolling plains of the Piedmont province shift into a forest system that has drastically changed over time. Prior to European settlement, it consisted of mixed oak-hickory forests with occasional pines. Over the last three hundred years of agricultural use, this changed into loblolly pine groves grown for pulp and timber. Since the 1970’s, a natural reversion to oak, hickory, pine and hardwoods has emerged. Typical canopy and emergent species are currently white oak, post oak, hickories, shortleaf pines, and loblolly pines. The understory here includes mixed communities of immature varieties of these trees as well as hollies, arbutus (Strawberry tree) and other ericaceous shrubs like mountain laurels, rhododendrons and azaleas.  

A drastic change in species occurs slightly south of here along the Fall Line, the dividing line between the Piedmont and Coastal Plains regions of South Carolina. The Fall Line is so named because it represents the boundary of encroachment by the ocean during the Cretaceous period 145-166 million years ago. Vegetation below this line has been significantly shaped by the marine remnants of limestone, clay, sand and silt, subsequent natural fires, hydrology and more recent agricultural practices.

The region closest to the Fall Line stretches across South Carolina at an angle from southwest to northeast and is often referred to as the Sandhills. This strip of grasslands and longleaf pine savannahs were originally home to longleaf pines and cactus with little diversity. Historic sandhill understories are filled with immature longleaf pines, scrub pines, scrub oaks and turkey oaks.  Modern sandhills include tenacious plant communities that thrive in xerophytic conditions and large agricultural expanses of peach farms, one of the few species that thrive in poor soil.

From the Sandhills to the ocean are the Inner and Outer Coastal Plains, two regions which covers half of our state landmass. Because these regions were created by the receded ocean, the land is extremely fertile and offers the highest diversity of species. Forests, bottomlands and maritime strands in these regions were all shaped by lower elevations, natural fires and wide floodplains that are often adjacent to marshes.

Prior to agricultural and timber conversion, fire maintained longleaf pine forests dominated. Coastal canopies were historically low in diversity despite numerous understory communities embedded within including bottomland forests, swamps, wetlands and pocosins. Each of these communities feature their own set of native understory trees including magnolias, hollies, oaks, and loblolly bays.

Native Trees of the Southeast, L. Katherine Kirkman, Claud L. Brown and Donald J. Leopold 


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Month by Month Gardening


February is still winter with cold nights and some ugly weather possible, but it is also a great time to start seeds and finish that winter pruning before spring weather arrives. So, February in the garden includes:

1: Sow: lettuce, peppers and tomatoes. Perennials are also good to start in February as they take longer to germinate and grow than most annuals. Give your seedlings lots of light to grow and keep them moist but not wet.

2: Find some compostable seed starting supplies: Plastic fills up the trash can quickly and there is no reason for you to add to that with your seedling trays. Peat pellets, peat containers and recycled paper seed cells are all available and they can be planted along with your young plants.

3: Prune: roses, gardenias and other summer blooming shrubs. The flowers are formed on new wood so it is best to prune before that new growth starts. Do not prune early blooming camellias, forsythia or spring blooming shrubs. These all form flowers on last year’s wood and if you prune the shrub now, you take off the flower buds. Note that it does not kill the shrub to prune it now, but if you don’t know if your shrub flowers on new or old wood, it is best to leave it for a year and see when the flowers arrive.

4: Garden Cleanup: Warm days of late winter are perfect for taking off the old, dead growth of last year’s perennials. Take your clippers and a bucket and have a fun day in the garden clearing things up.

5: Repot Indoor Plants: As the days get longer, indoor plants also put new growth. Before this happens, take the plant outside and check to see if it needs repotting or dividing. Look for roots circling the container, particularly at the bottom. Not all indoor plants need larger pots each year but most benefit from a rinse on a mild day and a some new potting mix in the container.


The Old Farmer’s 2020 Almanac’s forecast for February includes the following words to predict February 2020’s weather:  “cold, then mild, rainy periods, showers, sunny, warm, cool, cold.”  Obviously, February’s weather varies suggesting on warm days that spring is coming but reminding gardeners on colder days that winter is not finished. 


  • Valentine’s Day is often the recommended day to prune roses in the Coastal Plain region. Prune ever blooming roses, bush (hybrid teas), grandifloras, floribundas, and repeat-flowering climbers that produce roses on the current season’s growth.
  • Plant bare-root roses and move established roses to better locations, if needed


Trees and Shrubs

  • Plant bare-root deciduous shrubs and trees while they are dormant
  • Move shrubs that need to have a new location.
  • Prune crape myrtles by removing broken and diseased limbs and branches that rub or cross branches.
  • Remove dead branches/stems from Hydrangea macrophylla. The dead stems will pop off easily with a gentle tug.
  • Fertilize hydrangeas if they were not fertilized in the fall.



  • Sow mustard, turnips, spinach, garden peas, and radishes outdoors in the Coastal Plain.
  • Plant hardened-off vegetable transplants of broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce outdoors.
  • Cut lemon grass to the ground.


Ornamental Grasses

  • Cut to the ground.



Month-By-Month Gardening in the Carolinas, Bob Polomski

Hydrangeas for American Gardens, Michael A. Dirr

Earthly Delights Gardening by the Seasons the Easy Way, Margot Rochester


Despite a few beautiful days of teasingly warm, spring weather, upstate temperatures can still bounce down into extended freezes all the way into next month. February gardening is best kept indoors with sowing, garden planning, and transplanting of houseplants. 

Sow indoors: warm season annuals like mexican sunflower, flowering tobacco, ageratum, and sweet alyssum as well as tuberous begonias. You can also start your summer herbs for transplanting in April. These include parsley, basil, fennel, dill, sage, marjoram and savory. 

Sow outdoors: garlic, short day onions, poppies, milkweed, lettuce, mustard, peas, spinach, beets, radishes, carrots. 

Plant: Asparagus crowns in 8" deep furrows, covered with 2" soil. As they emerge, continue to cover every 2 weeks or so until the furrow is filled.  

Order: summer blooming bulbs now. Don't forget your native crinums! 

Enjoy: Crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, hellebores, camellias, red buds

Prune: Best to leave tree and shrub pruning for next month despite your urge to neaten up on warm days. Cut ornamental grasses to 4"-6" and remove dead stems from perennials. 


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crepe myrtle in snowAre you guilty of Crepe Murder?  An unfortunate trend in blow-n-go landscaping is to prune crepe myrtles down to the nubs. This results in a tree with stubby, knotted bareness until lush growth appears in spring time. In reality, this growth is the tree’s attempt at restoring its crown as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, we often mistake this growth as confirmation that we’ve done the best pruning when, in fact, we have forced the tree to grow against its natural patterns. The vigorous growth is actually structurally weaker and leaves the tree more susceptible to fungal diseases.  Yes, flowers will appear more visually appealing, but the proliferation of flowers comes at a heavy cost.  Crepe myrtles offer more than flowers. They add texture to the landscape with their beautiful, mottled bark and graceful, shapely branches.



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Pollinator of the Month


bumble bee
 by Linda Geronilla, PHD, MG, MN, PP 
Bumble bees are one of the first pollinators seen in late January and one of the last seen in November because they are able to fly in much cooler temperatures than many other bees. They are also unique in their pollination technique. Implementing a special skill called "buzz pollination”, bumblebees vibrate their bodies and wings inside the flower at a high pitch. Click here to see a video.
This is essential for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, blueberries, and cranberries that can only be pollinated in this manner.  These flowers keep the pollen tightly packed within their anthers and require a specific vibration frequency to burst the anthers so the pollen grains come out covering the bee’s body.
brassicas It is estimated that roughly 28% of native bumblebees are endangered or near extinction. As gardeners, we have the power to reverse this devastation by simply making smarter, bee-friendly choices in our landscaping practices.
Habitat Bumble beeslive in colonies in a cavityand complete several generations of reproduction in one year, then overwinter to being the process again.These cavities can be found in an abandoned rodent hole in the ground, a hollow tree, an abandoned bird nest, a rock wall, or even under a tussock of grass. If you find a nest, try to tolerate it for a year, and don't try to move it. Better still, install a bumble bee nesting box at ground level under shrubbery. Fill it partially with wool to encourage females to nest inside.  
 Food – Because they don’t store their food like honey bees, Bumble bees are most vulnerable to starvation in winter to early spring.  You can help them by providing blooming plants all year long, but especially in the winter months. From September to November, one can plant a monthly succession of a variety of brassicas (broccoli, broccolini, and bok choy) and let these plants go to flower just to feed pollinators and beneficial insects during winter. The pictures show brassica rows in bloom on 1/27/20 with a close-up of a bumble bee feasting on the blooms. In fall, plant dill and cilantro that will bloom after the brassicas have stopped, for bumble bees to continue their feast until most of the spring flowers and vegetables are in bloom in April. In fall, Mexican tarragon and groundsel blooms through late November. Some Salvias will bloom all winter long.
 Find more  information on helping bumble bees at you will find a list of plants they love and how to help a bee that won't move by feeding it.

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Pollinator Habitat Gardening


Letting your winter vegetables go to seed and providing a shallow watering dish filled with marbles or rocks can really save the bees this month. In mid-day look for bees and early season butterflies to flock to blooms like this radish.

BEE CAREFUL - Many of your perennials are sheltering winter homes for bees and other beneficials. If you do trim perennials, relocate the stems into your wild piles or tuck under shrubbery to prevent removing the spring pollinators by mistake.

February is the perfect month to survey the pollinator garden for late winter blooms and supplement your plans for next year. Remember, the key is to provide water, nectar and pollen all year long. Take inventory of native "weeds" like henbit, dandelion, and chickweed. These are often the saving grace for winter pollinators. 

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Native Plant of the Month

Lowcountry  - by Kate Copsey

Arnolds Promise WitchazelWitchHazel - Hamamelis In the north where camellias don’t grow, witch hazel is the star of the winter garden. This versatile shrub, native to the eastern uplands, is hardy to zone 4 while still being happy in our zone 7 & 8. In its native range the shrub can grow to about 25 feet in the understory of forests. In the garden it rarely gets above 10 feet.

There are two main varieties that are native to the USA – Virginiana, which bloom in late November/December, and Virnalis which is native in south central USA and blooms in January/February. The two Asian varieties are Japonica and Mollis and both of these are used to produce the intermedia varieties. All the shrubs, native and any varieties available, have a shaggy blossoms which are yellow to red in color. The early blooms of witch hazels provides much needed food for wildlife as well as being wonderful in the garden.

Being understory by nature, they grow well in part or dappled shade and generally are happy with very little extra care. For the first year, keep the ground moist particularly in dry summers but after that, treat the same as your other landscape shrubs.

In the landscape, I like to put my witch hazels at the back of perennials so that the pretty blooms are seen in winter when the perennials are dormant. In summer, the somewhat coarse green leaves provide a nice backdrop for the perennials when they are in flower.

Coastal by Bonnie Disney 

Florida AniseIllicium Floridanum

Florida anise Florida Anise is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that has glossy, dark green leaves between 2 to 6 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The leaves have an anise scent that is most noticeable when they are torn or crumpled.  This shrub can grow from 10 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide, and, in fact, may be trained and shaped as a tree by removing some of the lower limbs. Maroon flowers, which can have a fishy odor, appear in the spring and produce seeds which can germinate and propagate easily.

Florida Anise is considered an understory shrub.  As such, it likes shade to partial shade and well-drained, moist, acid soil with organic matter.  Typically grown in gardens in the Deep South and in naturalized areas in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, Florida Anise can live in USDA Zones 7-10.     

Piedmont - by Gina Ginther

mahonia  Finding just the right understory plant may be a challenge, but consider Mahonia (USDA Symbol: maaq2 / USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N).

Mahonia is a genus of approximately 70 species of evergreen shrubs and rarely small trees. It grows well in USDA Zones 5-9. It has a rich native American medicinal history. It has a special value to native bees (Ref: Xerces Society) and the berries are relished by a variety of wildlife. Mahonia is a perennial, generally pest free and are virtually deer proof because of the sharp, spiny leaflets. Showy fragrant, bright yellow flowers are borne in dense rounded or spike-like clusters in late winter/early spring and followed by blue, blue-black or red berries that attract birds. The scent of Mahonia flowers is reminiscent of lilly-of-the-valley.

Mahonia can be used for an amazing understory addition or for a number of other uses from a grand ground cover, an effective privacy hedge, barrier or border, pruned for a palm-tree effect or to dress up a wall. With approximately 70 species, the possibilities are endless!

Although the best time to prune Mahonia is after they finish flowering (March-April), Mahonia can be pruned at any time of the year without damaging the plant so you can start working your “blank canvas” and adding color and interest to your garden right away. For beautiful photographs and to research which species would be best for your “canvas”, please visit the many sites on line that speak to Mahonia in the southeast. This can help you select a species and give you instructions on planting and care.


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