Author Archives: Marian St.Clair

About Marian St.Clair

Marian St.Clair, a Master Gardener and Master Naturalist, is a freelance garden writer, public speaker, and garden-tour coordinator who nurtures an earth-friendly garden in Greenville, SC.

Six (Gardens Galore) on Saturday

Some of my blogging friends have adopted a new meme organized by The Propagator, “Six on Saturday,” and I thought it would be fun to follow suit…especially this week when I’m just home from hosting a fabulous garden tour to East Anglia, England, where I visited some of the most remarkable gardens I’ve ever seen.

So, here are six gardens visited in the first days of the tour. If I’m lucky, I’ll have time to tell you more about each of these special places. Not this week, though, as I’m headed to St. Louis soon for another adventure.

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The Old Palace (1485) at Hatfield House, where Queen Elizabeth I lived as a child, and its recently updated garden. (Not in East Anglia, but near Heathrow Airport where we arrived.)

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Beth Chatto’s remarkable gravel garden. Notice how the bark of the eucalyptus tree gives prominence to the silver and gray foliage plants.

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Helmingham Hall, built and owned by the Tollemache family since 1480.

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A stunning scene at Wyken Hall Gardens and Vineyard. Our group also had a fabulous lunch at the café and the gift shop was top-notch too.

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The sunken pool centering the rose garden at Houghton Hall. Imagine how beautiful this scene will be when the lavender and climbing roses are blooming!

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Sandringham House, the much-loved country retreat of the Queen and the home where Prince Phillip, now retired from public life, spends a good portion of his time.

 

Oh, the places we’ll go!

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Hydrangea radiata

There is a suitcase waiting to be packed and I’m excited beyond reason about the trip ahead, but I’m calling a two-minute time out to tell you I had all good intentions of writing a blog post yesterday when I zipped around the garden photographing its May blooms. And though time has slipped away, I had to share this one image–a photo of a native Hydrangea radiata, which is flourishing in the woodland garden among ferns and fading trilliums. It’s such a pretty image of a flower and its shadow, don’t you think?

Now back to that suitcase and happy thoughts of the friends I’m joining at the airport for a garden tour of East Anglia.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

 

Almost Wordless Wednesday–Aphrodite

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Calycanthus chinensis ‘Aphrodite’

I received this ‘Aphrodite’ sweetshrub as a tiny plant from Proven Winners a few years ago at a Garden Writers (GWA) meeting and this is its first flower! The bloom, very similar to ‘Hartlage Wine’, has a lightly sweet fragrance similar to honeydew melon. Don’t you just love it? I do!

April Blooms & End-of-Month View

My, oh my, time has gotten away from me again. Although this post is a few days late, I hope you will enjoy the April blooms (10 again, yippee!) and the surprise end-of-month view! Read on…

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Iris tectorum (Japanese roof iris)

Sadly, iris flowers don’t last long, even in a cool spring such as this one. This photograph was actually taken a few weeks ago, but I had to include Iris tectorum because it’s such a charmer. The flowers are always so fresh and pretty and the foliage looks good throughout the growing season.

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Rhododendron canescens ‘Clyo Red’ (Piedmont Azalea) with Hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish bluebells)

Here is Rhododendron canescens ‘Clyo Red’, the most red of our natives, which looks especially lovely against the periwinkle of Hyacinthoides hispanica in the front garden, mid April.

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Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon’s Seal)

At the end of the month, April was just as exciting in the woodland garden. The Polygonatum is nearly 4-feet tall and the bumblebees are getting their fill. See that pollen pocket on its hind leg?

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Asimina triloba (Paw paw)

I hope some pollinators will visit the nearby Asimina trilobla too. I planted two trees in 2012 and a third one a year later. I saw the first blooms last spring, but no fruit developed. Fingers crossed for round two!

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Disporopsis pernyi (Evergreen Solomon’s Seal)

Back in the ornamental garden near the house, there’s a relatively new introduction from China, Disporopsis pernyi. The foliage is evergreen, as the common name suggests, but it looks terrible by the end of winter and thankfully it falls away as the new foliage begins to grow.

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Speirantha convallarioides (False Lily-of-the-Valley)

This Speirantha convallarioides should be called “sputnik,” don’t you think? Also from China, it’s glossy foliage grows less than a foot tall, but who cares about leaves when you have flowers like this?

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Heuchera

I wish I remembered the name of this dark-leaf Heuchera because the flowers are so pretty. Maybe you know it?

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Rosa ‘Abraham Darby’

This rose was given to me by a friend when my mother passed away. Introduced by David Austin in 1985, the full, old-fashioned flowers of ‘Abraham Darby’ have a fruity fragrance and the perfect color mix of apricot swirled with yellow.

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Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’

And hello gorgeous! If you haven’t heard, ‘Festiva Maxima’ is the very best peony for southern gardens and its perfume is simply heavenly.

Even I’m shocked at how pretty the garden is just now. Luckily, we’ve had a cool spring (the camellias are still blooming, for goodness sakes!) with nights dipping into the 40s or 50s, plus a fair amount of rain. And while this garden is still essentially shady, I’m getting better at finding the sun spots. Plus, there was that infamous hurricane–big, bad Irma–that paid us a September visit, so there are more sun spots than ever.

That’s not the big news, however. Take a look at these “before” and “after” photos of the back garden…pretty much a wasteland since the sun porch was completed in 2016.

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Before!

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After!

This amazing transformation happened within a few weeks! In fact, Joe Zawistowski of Greenhill Landscaping and his crew worked for only three days to set the rocks and build the waterfall. Most of the planting will be undertaken in fall, but even with only a few plants in place, I love it.

I’ll give you a full tour soon, but I want to drop three more quick footnotes here before I need to finish packing my suitcase for an early morning flight to Vermont for a GFWC state convention.

First, there has been a unexpected cancellation on my upcoming tour, “Gardens of East Anglia,” scheduled from May 29 to June 8, so there is space for one person. The tour includes the Beth Chatto Gardens, the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, the private (and plant-filled) garden of one of my very favorite garden bloggers, and so much more. If you want to review the itinerary, email me at marian.stclair@gmail.com. It’s such a fabulous trip, I don’t want to leave any stone unturned.

Second, I will be answering gardening questions and providing two programs, “Arranging Cut Flowers” and “The Secrets of Container Gardening,” at an event in Columbia on Saturday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. I will also be selling a large selection of gardening books from my personal collection.

The occasion will include brunch-like refreshments and beverages and a silent auction of gift totes filled with the most tempting items, plus the sale of strawberries, fruit baskets, cut flowers, hanging baskets, and other garden plants. Tickets, which are $10, can be purchased at the door at 1511 Laurel Street, the headquarters of GFWC South Carolina.

It promises to be a really fun morning! If you live in the Midlands area, come laugh with me and learn something new about gardening!

Finally, did you notice I have a new haircut? I call it the “summer chop.” When a friend saw it for the first time, she said it takes y…e…a…r…s off my age. If I’d only known, I would have chopped sooner.

Smiles!

Garden Tours & Plant Sales

One perk of writing a newspaper column is working with local gardeners and groups to promote events that help the horticulture community grow. In spring, that means lots of fun garden tours and plant sales.

Nearly every weekend this April has featured a sale, but two of the best are still to come…the local Master Gardener sale scheduled for this weekend and the Piedmont Plant & Flower Festival on May 3-6. Believe me, you don’t want to miss these!

Our first local tour, the Christ Church “Joyful Garden Tour,” is also this weekend and will be followed by two more:  “Gardening for Beauty and Wildlife Habitat,” sponsored by the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs on May 11-12, and the SC Koi & Water Garden Society’s Annual Pond Tour on June 9.

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The Whelehan’s garden is on this weekend’s “Joyful Garden Tour.’

Kim and Rory Whelehan’s garden, which is featured on this weekend’s tour, offered a remarkable display of tulips when I visited for an interview. The Van Engelen bulbs, which Rory prefers because they produce the tallest and most spectacular flowers, formed a sweeping arc around other spring-flowering ornamentals, including a flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), a mass of colorful azaleas, and a yellow trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Sulphurea’).

Luckily, the weekend weather forecast is looking great (partly cloudy to sunny with temps in the low to mid 70s), so gather your friends and get ready for a few fun days out.

Here are details for local tours and the remaining plant sales to be held in Greenville:

 

April 27 & 28:  The Christ Church “Joyful Garden Tour,” is planned for 10 am to 5 pm on both Friday and Saturday and will include seven gardens in the Alta Vista and Greenville Country Club areas, as well as the newly renovated Church and its courtyard addition. The work of talented local artists depicting garden scenes will be available for silent auction in the Parish House from April 20 until a reception on April 29 at 12 noon. Tour tickets, which are $25, can be purchased at the Church bookstore, at the receptionist desk in the Parish House, at numerous local businesses, or online. For details, visit the website at http://www.ccgsc.org.

April 28: The annual spring plant sale of the Greater Greenville Masters Gardener Association will be held 8 am to 1 pm at Roper Mountain Science Center. This sale features the best ornamentals, herbs, and vegetables grown in local gardens and a Collector’s Corner featuring heirloom, rare, and unusual plants. Look for the rummage sale, plus hand-crafted art and ornaments. Prices start at $1.00. For more information, visit the website at http://www.greatergreenvillemastergardener.org.

May 3-6: The Piedmont Plant & Flower Festival with more than 30 vendors of plants, plus garden items and equipment, will be held at the Greenville State Farmer’s Market on Rutherford Road, Thursday through Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Call (864) 244-4023.

May 11 & 12:  The Greenville Council of Garden Clubs will offer “Gardening for Beauty and Wildlife Habitat” from 10 am to 5 pm on both Friday and Saturday.  The tour highlights seven gardens in the suburbs of Greenville and Greer, each featuring plants and designs that offer tranquility, beauty, and a safe haven for wildlife. Tickets can be purchased in advance at various locations for $22 or on the day of the tour at any of the gardens for $25. For more information call 232-3020 or visit http://www.kilgore-lewis.org.

June 9: The SC Koi and Water Garden Society’s 20th Annual Pond tour will feature 8 or more gardens open from 9 am to 6 pm. A brochure providing highlights of the gardens plus their locations, all in the greater Greenville area, will be available on the Society’s website. Tickets, $10, can be purchased at the gardens or from various local businesses beginning on May 14. Children under 12 are free. Visit the website at http://www.sckwgs.org.

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Quercus Closeup

In typical spring fashion, our April weather has run the gamut. Luckily, we’ve had more than of our share of “just right” conditions for gardening, with cool temperatures warmed by sunshine. A few days ago, however, our first major thunderstorm swept through with a squall line of strong winds and heavy rain.

Thankfully, we didn’t experience any damage and in the course of picking up the small branches that always litter the garden after high winds, I found something amazing.

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Comparison of mid-April foliage of white and red oaks.

It was the branch tip of a white oak heavy with catkins (the male flowers that produce the wind-borne pollen that fertilize the female flowers) and best of all–tiny, perfectly formed baby leaves.

There are more than 600 species of oak worldwide (60 in North America) and the genus, Quercus, comprises two groups, white oaks and red oaks. White oaks, which typically have rounded lobes on their leaves, produce acorns that mature in a single year, while red oaks have pointed lobes and acorns that mature in two years.

Additionally, the groups can usually, but not always, be distinguished by their bark. In general, white oaks have bark that is a light to medium shade of gray, sometimes exhibiting a scaly appearance, while the bark of red oaks is typically darker in color and lined with deep furrows.

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Comparison of the treetops, with the white oak on the far left.

Here, in my garden, the red oaks break dormancy a week or two before the white, and if you look at the treetops now, you can clearly see the difference. There is an even greater contrast in autumn, as the white oaks cling to their leaves into early December, well after all other deciduous trees are bare.