Welcome to the Scoop, the official newsletter of the Garden Club of South Carolina. We hope you enjoy this issue, written by our members for our members, with guest articles from gardening experts in every district of South Carolina.
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 - Each of our 7 district will host a gathering for local clubs to network, celebrate and learn together. These annual events are a wonderful way to celebrate all of the work that you do as well as meet club members in your area that might wish to collaborate on local projects.
Here are the dates and locations for each District Meeting, with links to the registration information and Call Letters.
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
90th Anniversary Preview Party April 22, 2020
A big shout out to our club presidents and awards chairmen this month. GCSC received 276 club and council award applications from all seven districts.
Ninety one well-deserved first place winners will be announced at our state meeting.
Forty-nine applications and seven yearbooks will be sent forward to South Atantic Region for judging.
Fifty-three applications will be sent for National Garden Club Awards including some outstanding newsletters!!!
Our youth chairman received 284 applications from six of our seven districts. You are amazing.
Your president's reports are due February 1st and we look forward to reading your club statistics. This really helps us quantify and appreciate our collective impact on South Carolina. Forms and instructions were emailed and can be found here.
Welcome New Members
The Garden Club of South Carolina is proud to introduce our newest Affiliate Member, The Piedmont Physic Garden in Union, South Carolina. The Piedmont Physic Garden is an independent horticultural institution. Their botanical garden is home to an expanding collection of ornamental plants as well as plants with historical, medicinal uses, many hailing from the Piedmont and Southern Appalachian corridor.
The Piedmont Physic Garden is passionate about educating and promoting ornamental horticulture as well as educating the community on the impact that plants have on our daily lives. They offer workshops, internships and garden tours for groups such as schools, garden clubs and civic associations in the spring and summer seasons.
For more information, visit their website or plan a garden trip for your club.
Garden FOR Life
To Garden FOR Life is to set the stage for enchantment. It requires a harmonious balance of skill and soulfulness, between work and wonder.
The principle objective is to cultivate life at all levels of the landscape. GardenFORLife gardens are as diverse as the eco-systems they occupy and the gardeners who tend them but share many common attributes.
They provide space for pleasing, natural experiences, are both beautiful and functional, maximize native bio-diversity, embrace the natural lifecycle and minimize footprint.
The appearance can be as wild as a woodland garden or as meticulous as a Japanese garden. The shape and style are up to the garden designer provided they employ native and non-invasive plantings that support the greatest diversity of species.
Gardens are layered from the soil to the canopy in order to provide the largest amount of opportunity for life to flourish. Each layer is designed and organized to become an interdependent plant community and a complete food web. Underground and aquatic life is as important as life above ground and all stages of the lifecycle are allowed to exist within the garden. Most importantly, GardenFORLife gardens are designed to support the harmonious relationship between man and nature by inviting us to reconnect with nature’s splendor. This can be achieved by landscapes that include habitats for wildlife, pollinators and other beneficials while still meeting the needs of the human inhabitants.
Like most sustainable systems, water and carbon are recaptured as much as possible and the soil constantly regenerates itself. Wherever possible, organic methods are used and the system is allowed to dynamically mature over time in order to become a naturally rich, dense eco-system that closely mirrors our local, native interactions.
So where do you start and how do you convert your yard into a GardenFORLife garden? Here is a simple ten step plan:
- See the big picture– Understanding the natural, pre-existing environment is extremely helpful in guiding your landscape plan. Our December issue addressed understanding this concept by viewing your neighborhood through a longer lens. Once you grasp your underlying landscape, your growing zone, and your natural soil system, most of the choices are made simpler.
- Decide to do no harm– To create a wildlife friendly landscape plan that still provides livability, beauty, and functionality is perhaps the greatest challenge. After all, so many of our landscape models are strictly ornamental or designed with a “people first” mentality. GardenFORLife gardens seek just the opposite. Although function and form are important, GardenFORLife gardens consider the most important element to be harmony with nature and wildlife, with special focus given to nurturing native flora and fauna at all levels of the landscape.
- Collaborate don’t control– As gardeners, we often take an overly dominant approach to our landscape plans. As new gardeners, we clear the slate, plan our walkways and open spaces, do a soil sample and start plopping down plants that we were either given or got on sale at the big box stores. We add flowers first for their instant gratification, throw in a couple of tomato plants, maybe hot peppers and definitely herbs of every flavor. While that’s a fine way to get into the hobby, once you’re truly hooked and know a thing or too, you’ll crave more. More order, better flow, predictable productivity, consistent beauty through color and texture, etc. This is where the real magic of landscaping begins. You’ll know you’re there when you grab a pencil and grid paper and start drawing it out. NOW FREEZE! Before you do anything, pause for a few moments and make one critical decision. Decide that your key palette include the plant families that would have been there 150 years ago, most of which may still thrive in wild places all around you. Native plants will become the architecture of your garden. They will form the canopy, fill the understory and cover the ground in all conceivable levels They will control the curves and the lines of visibility. They will provide shade, recapture rainwater, sink carbon. They will create the flowers, protect the wildlife, feed the birds, draw the butterflies and bees. You will organize and artistically arrange them to create the enchantment. This is a collaborative approach.
- Observe, observe, observe– There is big difference between thinking something and knowing it. To know a thing is to experience the thing, to interact with it vigorously but also gently, in a way that let’s nature initiate the action. There are a million ways to be in a garden. Only one requires chores. Learning how to just be while you are in the garden is such a gift to ourselves. It relaxes the mind in a way that allows us to see our surroundings in a whole new light. As observer, you become a student, acquiring knowledge with every visit, every detail noticed, every scent, every picture, every surprise encounter with wildlife. This is graduate school gardening. This is citizen science mixed with spiritual experience.
- Maximize density– Nature abhors a vacuum and every garden wants to be a forest or a prarie, a bog or a dessert. To best way to direct that natural process is through repetition, collectively organizing the plants into groups that repeat species and offer close connection to one another. This provides better nesting sanctuaries and wind protection, a more natural look, stronger texture and more effectiveness. It also prevents unwanted growth in between that creates the desire for chemical intervention.
- Minimize non-function – For the last century, gardening design has been structured around the concept that landscapes should look more like the house they surround than the land that surrounds the house. This is the marketing paradigm of the industry and billions of dollars are invested in training you to want it this way, indeed to prefer it this way. To judge things that are not this way as “messy”, or “unmanicured”. As a result, when the house dominates, we feel better. We’re feel more civilized, more in keeping with the Jones, more like the kindergarden picture on the refrigerator, with house, flowers and family. That’s our American paradigm. But what if we took a lesson from Japanese gardens, or English Cottage gardens, or Irish forest gardens? These are more aligned with the outside picture than the house. In these models, the house become an integral part of the picture and not the dominant feature. When this happens, we join in equal measure with nature and become a partner in the natural use of space. We only choose the space we need for navigating through the space, entertaining, playing or seeing through safely. Everything else is given to nature. In this manner we also maximize density and eliminate the need to constantly mow, weed, blow or exert energy controlling. This frees you to become more of an observer and playful participant than a task master. Another perk that results in more enchantment.
- Native/Heritage/Functional– Once you’ve created the skeletal parts of the garden with local natives, you add the food species that you want to grow for yourself and to share. A fig, plums, citrus, pecan, hickory, berry bushes, herbs and vegetable gardens come to mind. Again, your choice. The more the merrier. Organize these by maximum sun exposure to guarantee production. Next add the plants that you always loved, the nostalgic species that remind you of good times, family ties, childhood: camellias, azaleas, fruit trees, tea olive, rosemary bushes, peonies… We all have a few favorites. These will serve the added function of filling in the color, drawing pollinators, providing visual pop, aroma and food. Lastly, employ the purely functional plants: groundcovers, turf, erosion control, etc. The more advanced you become, the better you will be able to harness native species for this layer too.
- Layer – As you plan and grow your garden, pay close attention to each layer overhead and underfoot: canopy, understory, shrubs and hedgerows, walkways and groundcovers, Try to view your garden from each corner to analyze lines of sight. Turn your chair in a new direction every so often and notice the visual effect. Are there missing layers? Are there large discrepancies of big components and small ones. Does it seem balanced vertically? Horizontally? This is what it means to maximize layering. The more connected your layers, the easier it will be to achieve balance. When there is a stark visual shift between density and space, it stops the eye. That’s sometimes a good thing and can provide direct navigation or clear visibility towards something else. But across a landscape, it can create a chopped look.
- Nurture the wildlife – There are many ways to enhance wildlife experiences in your garden. Adding feeders, water dishes, birdhouses and bee boxes are always fun. But you can also do this by natural design. By add water features, thickets, hedgerows, micro-prairies, woods, beetle banks and wildpiles, you create add the habitat component to your landscape plan. Many of these create People-free zones where flora and fauna can co-exist without human interference. This increases your wildlife biodiversity exponentially and contributes toward the reconciliation concept that preservationists and environmentalists continue to teach us.
- Create Enchantment – One of the best parts of getting lost in a garden is the feeling that you are totally transported to another mental space. You’re not thinking about what you have to buy at the grocery store or making that appointment. You’re not thinking about people or to do lists. You are just there, engrossed in what you smell or by something that catches your eye in a flash or a flutter. Maybe it’s the sound of the wind as it moves through the grass, or the way the light moves in waves across the tree line during the late afternoon. This is enchantment. One simple way to create that potential is to purposely create resting spaces in each layer that are hidden from plain view. Thing of these like miniature forest saunas, places where you can purposely go, or surprisingly happen upon as you journey through your space. They invite you to stop and notice, enjoy and inquire.
Following these steps will help you create a GardenFORLife garden that is sure to please you and all those creatures you love. It will also provide a significant contribution to your health and happiness as well as the health and happiness of the planet.
Join the GardenFORLife Initiative by cultivating life at all levels of your landscape. For more information on this philosophical approach to gardening, go to our GCSC website, Instagram or Facebook pages, or tune in to our podcasts on Podbean. Together, we can restore South Carolina’s natural heritage, one garden at a time.
Month by Month Gardening
Gardening Tips for January
Early January 2020 has brought warm temperatures with rains as well as colder temperatures which emerged later in the month. Gardeners can use January’s unpredictable weather to find indoor opportunities to prepare, plan and determine what needs to be done, such as:
Plan & Prepare
- Create a garden notebook
- Plan a new area in your garden
- Order spring herb, vegetable and ornamental seeds
- Clean and sanitize garden tools with a light bleach solution
- Repair and sharpen tools; service your mower
- Collect a soil sample and send it to the Clemson Extension Agency for analysis
- Top off beds with organic compost or mushroom compost
Prune & Propagate
- Cut out dead and diseased limbs from trees and shrubs; however, do
not prune spring flowering trees until after they bloom (i.e., azaleas, camellias, dogwoods, crabapple, and cherry)
- Prune blueberries and muscadine/scuppernong grapes according to the information at https://hgic.clemson.edu
- Take cuttings to propagate forsythia and flowering quince
Feed & Savor
- Fertilize pansies, violas and ornamental cabbage
- Enjoy winter bloomers such as winter daphne( Daphne odora), camellia blossoms, hellebores, and paper bush (Edgeworthispapyrifers)
- Wax camellia blossoms to preserve them
- Clean out bird houses; bring out hummingbird feeders
- Force flowering dogwood, forsythia, quince, flowering cherry and pussy willow by soaking the stems in warm water overnight, leaving room for three days and then moving the specimens to a sunny location. The branches will show blooms in 10-12 days.
- Cabbage, collards, broccoli, lettuces, dill
Pollinator of the Month
Male rubythroated hummingbird photo taken by Kathy Woolsey of James Island, SC . Kathy has documented the same hummingbird in her yard for the last five years.
Of all of the pollinators passing through this month, hummingbirds have to be one of our most exciting winter encounters. With clear skies and barren backdrops, their electric wings and fanciful flight patterns can easily catch your eye. Hummers appreciate a red feeder but not red food. The red tubular shape mimics their natural food so to them, its just a giant flower.
Hummers may visit only one day while passing through this month, or may choose to call your backyard home all year round. Rubythroated Hummingbirds are native to South Carolina but winter can bring in several Western species during their migration.
Recent Cornell University studies have found that more and more hummingbirds are passing through South Carolina a winter home and many never leave. For this reason, it is important to leave feeders up during the off seasons, when nectar and insect protein is scarce.
If you wish to entice the winter stop-over visitors, try placing the feeders in a highly visible location. I hang hot pink streamers on mine and they seem to love it. Migrating species are usually exhausted when they arrive so they want the same things we'd want on a long trip: food and rest.
If ants are a problem for your feeders, there are ant guards that can be hung above the food that create a mote effect. Some feeders have the mote as integral part of the feeder. In winter, perch feeders are much more appreciated.
As weather breaks, don't be surprised to see larger, long-tongue bees on your feeders, or the occasional butterfly. When moving your feeders this spring, beware of praying mantids. While they are excellent beneficial insects, they can sometime kill hummers. The best prevantive is proper placement, away from shrubbery or vines so the mantids do not have a clear path to hunt.
Got hummers in your yard? Post your pictures on our FaceBook page.
East Lowcountry District
The American hollly, Ilex opaca is an amazing and versatile evergreen native tree. Growing up to 70' tall and as much as 2' in diameter, it promises a lifetime supply of upright conical growth, and fall to early spring berries. In fact, the berries drop off just as new flowers emerge, giving you a year round interest, not to mention tons of floral material just in time for the holidays.
Typically an understory tree, it has graced lawns and gardens of every style for over two centuries. Depending on growing conditions and pruning, it may have an open form, with space in between branches, or it may be as dense as a Christmas tree.
Hollies prefer acidic, well drained soil and benefit from composted leaf mulch, pine straw, and sun to partial shade. The shadier it is, the leggier it may be.
East Piedmont District
Beauty, Function and NATIVE!
With the holidays over and the decorations stowed away, some of you are paying a little more attention to your winter weary gardens, and deciding what you might do to begin preparing for spring. For some of you, your plan will be a clean-up and include replacing trees or plants, for others, it may be a whole new design. No matter what your plan includes, it will take a little thought and research to find the right fit and to get the most value from your plant investment.
What if you could find a deciduous ornamental tree that is aromatic and can be used as an understory accent tree or shrub? A tree that can not only serve as a beautiful perennial addition to your current landscape plan, but also produces fruit that attracts a variety of wildlife, is beneficial to pollinators (Ref: Xerces Society) and in autumn, produces a deliciously sweet edible fruit that YOU can enjoy as well? Even better, what if this was anativeplant and thrives in our USDA South Carolina planting zone? Interested? Then put this plant on the list of possibilities for your garden:
The Persimmon!! Diospyros virginiana
USDA Symbol: DIV15 / USDA Native Status: L48(N)
The word persimmon is of Algonquian origin, while the genus name Diospyros from the Greek, means fruit of the god, Zeus. Often referred to as the Common Persimmon, it is part of the Ebony Family. In old fields it can be found as a low, shrubby tree, about 15 feet tall. In rich, moist soil, it can grow to 75-100 feet and live an average of 60 years. It’s large, oval, mature leaves are dark green above and lighter below and usually turn a striking red-orange-yellow in the fall. For those of you who appreciate the artistic beauty of the bark of a river birch or even the crepe myrtle, the bark of a mature persimmon trunk is thick and dark gray to black and broken into scaly square-like blocks, making it a beautiful visual point in your garden. Persimmon wood is used for making golf club heads, furniture veneers and shuttles for textile weaving.
Persimmon trees grow best in moist rich soil, but can grow in variable soils, such as sandy, sandy loam, medium loam, clay loam, and clay. The persimmon is adaptable to varying pH and soil moisture and is usually free of disease or insect issues. The light requirement is part shade to light full sun and the water use is medium. Young trees are very sensitive to fertilizers.
When ripe, the sweet fruit of persimmon recalls the flavor of dates, but be careful! Immature fruit contains tannin and can cause a strong, unpleasant astringent taste. Persimmons are consumed fresh and can be used to make puddings, cakes and beverages. American Indians made persimmon bread and stored the dried fruit like prunes.
In considering the persimmon for your garden, if you are looking for fruit, there are some important things to consider. Persimmon trees are either male or female. TWO TREES ARE NECESSARY FOR THE PRODUCTION OF FRUIT. Only the females will bear fruit. You can tell male trees from female trees because male flowers are smaller and appear in small clusters, while the larger female flower appears alone. While the persimmon is a native it is also available commercially and your nursery staff or online purchasing source can assist you in making sure you have “a couple”.
So, are you ready to find “a couple” and plan a “Persimmon Wedding” in your garden? Check with your local Master Gardener, nursery staff or hop online for more information and photos of this easy-to-grow tree and it’s sweet and lovely fruit – simply beautiful!
West Piedmont District
The West Piedmont District is lucky enough to be the most geographically diverse area in South Carolina. Ranging from the tallest point in the state on Sassafras Mountain all the way to the Piedmont gives our district an abundance of native trees. There are several conifer and magnolia species that are only found in the northwestern part of our state.
Conifers are a group of gymnosperm plants that produce seeds without fruit or flowers. Huge amounts of pollen, which is produced in the male cones, is transported by the wind with the hope that some pollen will reach the female cones of another tree and fertilize them. Of course, we are all well aware of this- we call it yellow “snow” in the Spring!
According to the AC Moore Herbarium, the Table Mountain pine (Pinus pungens) is one of the most striking pines in appearance and is restricted to the mountains and upper piedmont. The tree has a grizzled appearance and massive cones hanging heavily from the branches. A good place to see this tree is on the summit of the Pinnacle at Table Rock State Park in Pickens County.
Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana) is a common pine in the mountains and piedmont, seen only occasionally in the midlands. It is sometimes called "scrub pine" for its usually scrubby appearance. It is an active colonizer of storm damaged forests and old fields.
The beautiful Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is a long lived tree, reaching up to 200 years of age and growing 75-100 ft tall. The USDA Plant Database reports it can even exceed those stats and live as long as 400 years and reach 150 feet! White pine was said to be a favorite tree of naturalist/author Henry David Thoreau.
The Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is generally confined to the highest elevations in South Carolina. The species is currently threatened by the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), a sap-sucking bug accidentally introduced from East Asia to the United States in 1924, and first found in the native range of eastern hemlock in the late 1960s. The adelgid has spread very rapidly in southern parts of the range and has decimated the entire population in South Carolina. The U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station says the hemlock woolly adelgid is killing hemlock trees faster than expected in the southern Appalachians, and rapidly altering the carbon cycle of these forests. Unfortunately, this magnificent species will go the way of the American Chestnut.
Along with these conifers, the West Piedmont District has several native magnolias. Like conifers, magnolias flowers do not produce nectar but they do produce large quantities of pollen. The pollen is high in protein and several species of beetles use it for food which helps to disperse the pollen. Some species in the Magnoliaceae family aren’t thought of as “magnolias”. There is an easy way to determine if a plant is though. As Tom Atkinson from the North American Native Plant Society points out, the leaves of any plant in the Magnoliaceae family are “eared” or auriculate. This means that where the leaf stem meets the leaf itself, instead of there being a smooth transition forward from stem to leaf edge, that edge does a 360 degree turn around the stem. This feature is quite pronounced and makes it easy to identify any species in this family.
The Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is an example of a tree in the Magnoliaceae family not known as one. It is one of the largest native trees in North America. They are called tulip trees because their large flowers resemble tulips. They are often incorrectly called tulip poplars, but are not in the Salicaceae family, which includes poplars. Other common names include canoewood, saddle-leaf tree, and white wood.
The Fraser magnolia (Magnolia fraseri) is a small deciduous tree named for John Fraser, a Scottish botanist, who introduced many North American plants to Europe. The Fraser Fir is also named after him. It is also called Mountain magnolia, Earleaf or Mountain-oread. (In Greek mythology the Oreads were the nymphs of trees, groves, woodlands and mountain forests.)
Unlike most magnolias, the flowers of the Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminate) are not showy. They are typically small, yellow-green, and borne high in the tree in April through June. The name Cucumber Tree refers to the unripe fruit, which is green and often shaped like a small cucumber.
Umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) is a 15 to 30 foot high tree native to the southeastern United States and found throughout the Appalachian Mountains. The very large leaves appear in clusters at the ends of branches and resemble an umbrella. The flowers are large, appear in the spring and are malodorous. While hiking through the foothills and mountains of South Carolina in the Spring, if you notice an odor, it’s probably the flowers of the umbrella magnolia!
These examples of native trees and many more populate the distinctive region in the northwestern “golden” corner of our state.
Is this where the name Honea Path comes from? This honey bee hive was captured by Kathy Lee Reamey in Honea Path, South Carolina.
Can you identify this creature? It lives underwater and will soon grace your garden with its magical flights of fancy. Photo by Trish Bender, James Island, SC.
This Month's Contributors
Thank you for your contributions to this month's edition of The Scoop. Without you, this newsletter would not be possible!
Many of our articles are written collaboratively by the following Garden Club Officers, Garden Club Members, Master Gardeners and others. Unless cited specifically, you may thank the following Scoop committee members for the content of this newsletter: Trish Bender, Bonnie Disney, Gail Ford, Gina Ginther, Kate Copsey, Anna Sheets, Laurie Churchill, and Rue Lucas,