Norman Winter, director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, was the keynote speaker at last week’s meeting of the Richmond Hill Garden Club.
Speaking primarily about his experiences working with trial gardens in Mississippi and Texas and at the University of Georgia, Winter reviewed what he deemed some of the most important plant introductions in recent years and the lessons he thought gardeners should take from trials.
Soil especially is important. In Coastal Georgia, the soil needs the addition of nutrients in the form of organic matter. It also either drains too fast or doesn’t drain at all. Therefore, since wet feet (wet plant roots) aren’t good for most plants, Winter recommended raised beds like those used in trial gardens.
These can be attractively arranged in yards and complemented by bark mulch or gravel paths. They also give gardeners space to arrange plants and try a swatch of color and make adding organic matter easy.
In terms of color, Winter suggested that some of the old rules such as “orange and pink make you stink” should be broken.
Again, he cited the test gardens, but he also pointed out that nature itself combines orange and pink, especially in lantana, a plant that offers a huge variety of colors and draws butterflies all summer. Winter then demonstrated with numerous slides of combinations of orange and pink.
Winter also suggested guests take ideas from the trial gardens and applying them in their own yards. He also urged everyone to incorporate as many pollinators for bees and butterflies as possible in their yards. He deemed adding some native milkweed to gardens especially critical. Citing the greatly reduced population of monarch butterflies, he urged gardeners to do their part to reverse the decline.
He cautioned that although monarch caterpillars will strip a plant of foliage, the leaves will return.
Although Winter recommended many plants for gardeners in this area, he focused on several, noting the qualities that make them good additions to local gardens. Waterfall blue lobelia blooms from mid-April through July and can be used in containers. Sunpatiens, a hybrid form of impatiens, thrive well as they are resistant to the disease that has plagued so many impatiens in recent years.
Wasabi coleus combines well with almost any plant and, most importantly, it doesn’t bloom and, therefore, gardeners can skip the task of pinching back the plants to keep them growing.
Rudbeckia is a favorite with many varieties to choose: tiger eye gold has lots of smaller flowers; corona has large flowers on a compact plant; and gold rush, unlike all the others that must be propagated through seeds, can be propagated vegetatively. Salvia of many types also add the cool of blue from spring to fall.
Many of these plants, along with other new-release and hard-to-find plants, will be on sale at the Botanical Garden’s spring plant sale from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 3-4, at 1388 Eisenhower Drive in Savannah. Annuals, perennials, water plants, Georgia natives (herbaceous and woody) and herbs and vegetables will be available.
Winter also reviewed recently completed and currently under-way projects at the CGBG. A tea garden is under construction, as is a Louisiana iris section. The latter is compliments of a donation from a group of iris lovers in Louisiana. A formal garden is being constructed behind the new education center, and the bamboo maze has been planted.
These features join the many special garden areas already in existence, including the orchid greenhouse, rose garden, water garden and the Judge Arthur Soloman Camellia Trail.
The CGBG will host a gala Feb. 7 to celebrate the opening of the new education center and will have a booth with speakers and kids’ activities at the Low Country Home and Garden Show in February.
Garden-club member Lisa McCann will be one of those involved in the kids’ activities.