Friday, February 27, 2015

March Calendar of Triangle Gardening Programs

The historic Gardens of Eyre Hall, Cheriton VA, will be highlighted
at the NC Botanical Gardens, March 19.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St., Durham, NC.  
Please call 919-668-1707 to register.

Plants of Distinction: Hellebores in the Winter Garden Tuesday, March 3, 2-4 p.m.
Instructor: Jason Holmes, curator of Duke Gardens’ Doris Duke Center Gardens. Fee: $7; Gardens members $5. Fee to register for all five "Plants of Distinction" sessions : $30; Gardens members $20.

Durham Garden Forum - Bulletproof Plants: Tough Nuts for the Landscape

Tuesday, March 3, 6:30-8 p.m.
Guest speaker:  Bryce Lane, a two-time Emmy Award winning television personality, retired horticulture instructor at N.C. State University, interim director at the JC Raulston Arboretum and accomplished garden speaker.
Lecture fee: Forum members free with annual membership; $10 per meeting for non-members payable to the Durham Garden Forum. For membership information, please email

Plant Propagation: Seeds
Tuesday, March 10, 10 a.m.-noon. (one of four propagation sessions in the year)

Instructors: Jason Holmes, curator, Jan Watson, horticulturist, Lindsey Fleetwood, horticulturist, and Sara Smith, volunteer propagation team, Duke Gardens. Fee: $20; $16 for Gardens members & Duke students/staff. Complete series: $72; $56 for Gardens members & Duke students/staff. Location: Greenhouse classroom

Getting Started: the fundamental steps to create a garden
Tuesday, March 10 & 17, 6:30-9 p.m. Course meets for 2 sessions.
Make better choices by beginning with a scaled drawing of your garden area.
Instructor: Jan Little, landscape architect and Duke Gardens’ director of education and public programs. Fee per section: $45; $35 for Gardens members & Duke students/staff. Fee for complete series: $160; $120 for Gardens members & Duke students/staff.

Organic Vegetable Gardening: Spring
Class times: 3 Wednesdays, March 11-25, 6:30-8:30 pm, and Saturday, March 21, 9:30-11:30 am
Instructor: Andy Currin, avid vegetable gardener and Duke University campus horticulturist
Fee: $110; $90 for Gardens members & Duke staff/students. Textbook provided for those beginning the series.

Plants of Distinction: The Spring Awakening
Thursday, March 12, 2:30 - 4 p.m. (one of five "Plants of Distinction" sessions this year)
Instructor: Stefan Bloodworth, curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, Duke Gardens
Fee: $7; Gardens members $5. Sign up for the entire series for $30; Gardens members $20.

BONSAI: Create your own bonsai plant
Saturday, March 14, 9:30-1:30 p.m.
Instructor: Harold Johnson, Triangle Bonsai Society
Fee: $100; $80 for Gardens members & Duke students/staff. All materials included, but bring a lunch.

Durham Garden Forum: Organic, Sustainable Vegetable Gardening
Tuesday, March 17, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Topic/instructor: Organic Sustainable Vegetable Gardening with Keith R. Baldwin, Ph.D., farm services coordinator, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Landscape Plants for North Carolina Gardens: Spring
Class dates: 4 Wednesdays, March 18 & 25, April 1 & 8, 4-6 p.m.
Instructor: Jan Little, director of education and public programs, Duke Gardens
Fee: $110; $90 for Gardens members & Duke students/staff.

Attracting Bees, Butterflies and Birds
Thursday, March 19, 6:30-8 p.m.
This is part of the Extension Gardener Series with Durham County Master Gardeners. Advance registration requested.
Instructors: Faye McNaull and Lynne Nelson, Durham County Extension Master Gardeners
Fee: Free, drop-in event. No parking fees after 5 pm.

The Triangle Camellia Society will host its
annual flower show March 14 at the JC Raulston Arboretum.
Spring Plant Sale 
Saturday, March 28, 2015, 8-noon
JC Raulston Arboretum
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, NC.

Plantsmen's Tour: "Stop and Smell the Roses—Winter's Rose"
Tuesday, March 3, 1–2:30 p.m.
Tim Alderton, Research Technician
Camellias and hellebores have both been called winter's rose. Come and take a tour of some of our favorites in these
groups and a handful of other flowering friends. Note: Due to the cold, the JCRA's camellias are not flowering
. We're only highlighting hellebores on this tour as a result.

An Evening with the Explorers: Triumphs and Tribulations of the Plant Hunters Friday, March 6, 5:30–10 p.m.
Celebrate the start of spring with the JC Raulston Arboretum and six noted plantsmen. Hear extraordinary plant collecting tales from Andrew Bunting, Dan Hinkley, Ozzie Johnson, Greg Paige, Scott McMahan, and Mark Weathington. Enjoy hors d'oeuvre, wine, beer, other drinks, and a silent auction and a live auction featuring numerous rare plants and a two night visit with Dan Hinkley at his home and garden in Indianola, Washington.
Cost: $125.00 for members, $150.00 for nonmembers.
Douglas Ruhren, Ironwood Gardens and JCRA Volunteer
North Carolina Botanical Gardens
100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC.

LUNCHBOX series: Protecting our Forests from Pests and Diseases
Thursday, March 12, noon-1 p.m.
Bring your lunch and learn about the impact that serious pests and diseases have on forest health, some of the major threats to our southeastern native trees and what you can do to help prevent their introduction and spread. Free, but registration required.

Identifying and Controlling Invasive Plants
Thursday, March 12, 1-4 p.m.
Through classroom and field demonstrations, students learn the tools and methods needed to identify invasive species and effectively remove them under various scenarios. No prerequisites. $30 ($25 Members).

16th Annual Evelyn McNeil Sims Lecture: "Arborescent!: An appreciation of the trees of the Southeastern United States"
March 15, 2:30-4 p.m.
This lecture will explore the evolutionary history of the trees of the Southeastern United States, and their aesthetics, economics, and medicinal uses. Free, but registration required.

The Historic Gardens of Eyre Hall: The 5th Annual Herb Society of America and NC Botanic Garden Spring Lecture
Thursday, March 19, 2- 3 p.m.
Laurie Klingel is the head gardener at Eyre Hall, an early 19th century historic garden in Cheriton, Virginia. Eyre Hall boasts a formal garden which includes extensive Boxwood parterres, crape myrtles, and contemporary mixed garden borders. Historic outbuildings within the garden include a 1758 dairy, 1807 Smokehouse, and 1818 Orangery. Registration fee: $10.00 Free to HSA and NCBG members, but please register in advance to reserve a seat. For more information: NC Unit, Herb Society of America, Inc. Mary Jo Wilson—336-674-2424

LUNCHBOX Series: Diversity and Natural History of the American Oaks
Thursday, March 26, noon-1 p.m.
Bring your lunch and join us for a presentation emphasizing the patterns of species diversity in the oaks. The lecture explores the interface between the structure and function of traits and the significance in the natural history of this important genus throughout various woodlands of the Americas. Free, but registration required.

The Craft of Woodturning
Sunday, March 29, 3- 4:30 p.m.
As a former forest manager, Michael Thompson appreciates the trees of the SE in their native habitat. Upon retirement, he shifted his appreciation to using wood as material for wood turning and the creation of fine art pieces, especially from burl wood (wood grown in a deformed manner). He explains his art of woodturning through demonstration. A number of his pieces will be on display.
Free, but registration required. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Beekeepers' Bibles Times Two

Durham Garden Club members are busy bees preparing for the Durham Council of Garden Club's March 3, 2015 Joint Meeting. In preparation for the Durham Beekeeper Association's program and to enhance general knowledge of our pollinator friends, here are two (edited) Amazon reviews of widely consulted beekeeping reference books.

The Beekeeper's Bible:  Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses

Authors: Richard Jones, Sharon Sweeney-Lynch
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori and Chang; first U.S. edition (April 1, 2011)
SBN-10: 1584799188
SBN-13: 978-1584799184

The Beekeeper’s Bible is as much an ultimate guide to the practical essentials of beekeeping as it is a beautiful almanac to be read from cover to cover. Part history book, part handbook, and part cookbook, this illustrated tome covers every facet of the ancient hobby of beekeeping, from how to manage hives safely to harvesting one's own honey, and ideas for how to use honey and beeswax. Detailed instructions for making candles, furniture polish, beauty products, and nearly 100 honey-themed recipes are included. Fully illustrated with how-to photography and unique etchings, any backyard enthusiast or gardener can confidently dive into beekeeping with this book in hand (or daydream about harvesting their own honey while relaxing in the comfort of an armchair).

The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture: An Encyclopedia Pertaining to the Scientific and Practical Culture of Honey Bees Hardcover

Authors: Amos Ives Root, Ann Harman, Dr. Hachiro Shimanuki, Kim Flottum
Hardcover: 911 pages
Publisher: A I Root Co; 41 edition (May 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 093602822X
ISBN-13: 978-0936028224

The 41st edition of The ABC & XYZ Of Bee Culture has over 900 pages and more than 1,000 photos. It was compiled to serve as an easy-to-use and comprehensive encyclopedia of most everything in the beekeeping world: from African Honey Bees, beeswax, comb honey, G. M. Doolittle, essential oils, Karl von Frisch, extracted honey, more than 50 of the most popular honey plants to laying workers, honey bee mites, nucleus colonies, Queen piping and Queen rearing, the A. I. Root Company history, smoking colonies, top Bar Hives, Varroa, to wintering to worker cells.

The 16-page Glossary is user-friendly and contains hundreds of entries to make learning the science and art of beekeeping easier and faster than you can imagine. No other book contains a more comprehensive listing of the people and events that make up the history of keeping bees. Hundreds of individuals are highlighted and their contributions to the beekeeping community. Most prominently mentioned is the A. I. Root Company with an in-depth look at the family and the extensive role it played in American and global beekeeping development and manufacturing advances. More than 50 authors were pulled in to assist with this book, each contributing the most up-to-date information in their respective fields.

The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture offers readers both the science of honey bees and  practical beekeeping instruction: how to lay out a small, medium or large honey house and choosing equipment, how to equalize colonies, assemble equipment, collect pollen, instrumental insemination, make nucs, rear queens, harvest honey, use smokers and how judge honey for show. A wealth of beekeeping how-to exists alongside the science of beekeeping that supports why beekeepers do things the way they do. Often called The Beekeepers Bible, The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture should be on every beekeeper shelf....for emergencies, for background, and for fun.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Medicinal Herb Spotlight: Holy Basil

By J.S. Corser (Forest Hills G.C.)
Durham Co. Extension Master Gardener
Holy basil Ocimum scanctum  or O. tennuiflorum is related to the herb sweet basil O. basilicum that's used in cooking and it is one of 35 basil species to the genus Ocimum. It is an aromatic, annual or short-lived perennial subshrub (up to 3' tall) with upright, branched, basally woody, hairy stems. Leaves are grey-green and have a somewhat hairy appearance with pink or white flowers(1). Holy basil leaves, which have a spicy, lemony flavor, are used widely in food in Southeast Asia, such as in Thai stir-fried dishes(2).
 O. tennuiflorum.
Holy basil has long been used as a traditional medicine in China and India. Some Hindu cultures regard the plant as sacred(3). Supplements of holy basil are available over the counter in many health stores and pharmacies(4).
Why do people take holy basil?(5)
Holy basil has a history of use for treating:
  • The common cold
  • Bronchitis
  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Flu
  • Improvement of energy and general health
It's also been used in attempt to treat a range of additional health concerns, including:
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Insect bites
  • Kidney problems
  • Skin problems
  • Snake bites
  • Stomach problems
In addition, holy basil has seen anecdotal effectiveness:
  • As an antioxidant
  • For protecting the liver
  • For treating diabetes; in one study, people with diabetes had lower blood sugar while they were taking holy basil.
(However, more clinical research is needed to actually measure the usefulness of holy basil for these health conditions.)
What are the risks of taking holy basil supplements? (4)

Research on animals indicated that holy basil may cause the following side effects:
  • Cause low blood sugar
  • Promote bleeding
  • Decrease fertility
Risks: Avoid using holy basil if you're allergic or sensitive to it or members of the Lamiaceae (mint) plant family. In a human clinical trial, holy basil caused gastrotintestinal problems.
Cautions: Persons should avoid taking holy basil supplements if they have low blood sugar, are trying to get pregnant, take anticoagulant (blood-thinning). Women who are pregnant should avoid holy basil, since it might cause the uterus to contract.
Interactions: Research on animals suggests that holy basil might change the effect of many medications, including these drugs: Diazepam (Valium), Pentobarbital (Nembutal) and Scopolamine (sold as generic only).
Fusarium wilt of basil (Fusarium oxysporum  f. sp. basilicum)
Debbie Roos, NCSU Agricultural Extension Agent,

Chatham County, NC.
Growing Holy Basil
Holy basil requires the same conditions as other basil varieties. Grow in light, fertile, well-drained soil in full sun, but on a sheltered site such as next to a house foundation. Water adequately during hot summer months and pinch blossoms to stimulate leaf growth(1).
More detailed information on growing basil can be found in the NC Cooperative Extension publication, Basil Production, AG-477,
Pests and Diseases
Basil varieties are susceptible to: aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, Fusarium wilt, gray mold, bacterial spots, root rot and downy mildew(7). For a more detailed description of treatments for fungal and bacterial infections, see the Clemson Univeristy Cooperative Extension fact sheet on basils,
1.  Brickell, C. & Cathey, H.M. (1996). A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants (rev. U.S. ed. 2004). New York: The American Horticultural Society.
2. Hakkim, F. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Oct. 31, 2007.2. 
3.  Mondal, S. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, October-December, 2009.3 4. Kiefer M.D., D. (2014, December 27). Holy Basil: Web Retrieved February 22, 2014, from
5. Natural Standard Professional Monograph: "Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum L.)."
6. NC Cooperative Extension. (1995, January) Basil Production, AG-477 (reprinted). Retrieved February 22, 2015 from
7. Clemson University Cooperative Extension. (2015). HGIC 1327, Basil.  Retrieved February 22, 2015 from

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Floral Paperweights: Dose of Spring and a Capote Connection

David Graeber Asian Rose Bouquet Paperweight, $1,850,
Leo Kaplan Ltd., 212-355-7212;
Photo by F. Martin Ramin WSJ, Styling by Anne Cardenas.
By Alexa Brazilian
WSJ, Feb. 20, 2015

It's funny which images remain imprinted on our minds, like vivid snapshots, for years and even decades after we’ve first seen them. They can be of anything—the soft weave of a childhood blanket, a great aunt’s tea set, the wallpaper at a long-since-gone summer house.

One of mine is the memory of my grandmother’s glass paperweights: crystal clear globes with kaleidoscopic patterns of glass flowers floating inside. I remember her house in balmy Bal Harbour, Fla., where a few of them rested on bookshelves in the living room like colorful raindrops. I would sit on her orange shag carpet holding them in my hands, staring into their secret worlds, as a breeze filled with the fragrance of jasmine, avocado and kumquat trees floated in from my grandfather’s garden.

That scene came rushing back to me on a recent cold, rainy Saturday in London. I was browsing in the impeccably curated boutique Mouki Mou, a clothing and décor shop on
Chiltern Street in Marylebone, when I spotted a small globe with a single dandelion suspended inside, captured just before you’d make a wish and blow.

It had come from Hafod Grange, a family-owned paperweight company that preserves wildflowers, mostly handpicked at its South Wales farm, in clear bubbles of resin. And while they differed from my grandmother’s antiques—these were real, not glass, flowers—they made me feel the same way I did as a child.

Maria Lemos, the store’s owner and founder of an agency that represents fashion designers such as Peter Pilotto and Lisa Marie Fernandez, first fell in love with these floral orbs at designer Christophe Lemaire ’s shop in Paris. “It seemed to freeze a moment in time,” she said, “something impermanent that is made permanent.”

Capturing blooms inside paperweights is an old tradition, beginning in the 1800s with Venetian glass blowers who made paperweights according to the millefiori, or, thousand flowers, style—the rather psychedelic glass blooms my grandmother favored. The finest French crystal houses, such as Baccarat, Clichy and Saint-Louis, soon followed with paperweights containing glass flowers rendered with varying degrees of realism, inspiring a host of American and English companies to take up the craft. Over the years, both the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and Argentine first lady Eva Perón succumbed to these orbs’ humble charms. 
Groovy Baby: Millefiori paperweights originated
 with Venetian glassblowers in the 1800s
and experienced mass popularity in the 1960-70s.
Truman Capote became an avid collector of antique examples at the age of 23, when the French writer Colette (another devotee) gave him one of hers—a crystal Baccarat weight with a snowy rose at its center. In his essay “The White Rose,” he recounts first seeing Colette’s collection at her Paris home: “I concentrated on what seemed like a magical exhibition, some fragment of a dream.”

Alan Kaplan, owner of Leo Kaplan Ltd. in Manhattan, which deals in contemporary and antique paperweights, said they began
as functional décor and evolved into an art form. “There was obviously no air conditioning in the 19th century,” he said. “And when it was warm you left your windows open and papers would blow around. They were prettier than using a rock.”

These days, modern, hyper-realistic arrangements filled with honeybees, wildflowers, peonies, berries and fresh spring blossoms have become de rigueur—a cross between the globes I fell in love with as a child and the all-natural ones that stole my heart in London. Mr. Kaplan attributed this naturalistic movement to Massachusetts artist Paul Stankard, who got into the game in the 1970s and has influenced a crop of contemporary glass artists such as David Graeber, Colin Richardson and Rick and Melissa Ayotte.

In the deepest, darkest months of winter, a floral paperweight can give your eyes a small but potent dose of summer. An assortment of Hafod Grange’s wildflowers would make a beautiful (and lasting) centerpiece on a wooden farm table at a rustic country house. Individually, they’d be sweet in a guest room atop a stack of good books on a bedside table. Mr. Stankard’s more intricate designs, with their bolder and moodier presence, would stand out nicely in stark surroundings, such as an all-white bathroom next to some fresh linen hand-towels, or on the cool marble mantle of a roaring fireplace.

Mr. Capote would even bring a few with him (individually wrapped in flannel, of course) when he traveled, to spruce up a dreary hotel room, or, as he described in “The White Rose,” to lull him to sleep. To him, they made “the most sinisterly anonymous hotel room seem warm and personal and secure.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In the Garden: Get Ready for Our Feathered Friends

Spring is just around the corner, so don't forget to create safe housing for our feathered friends!  
Bluebird houses can be purchased from the Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group:
 PHOTO: Eastern bluebird scouts for housing in east Durham. Photo by J.S. Corser, Durham Co. Master Gardener.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Floral Prints Rule Spring Runways

WSJ Magazine, Feb. 12, 2015
Designers from Fendi to Valentino welcomed the spring season on runways with floral prints ranging from neon, techno botanics to sumptuous Pre-Raphaelite blooms. Here, a trio of bouquets and the runway looks that inspired them:

From left: Saint Laurent, Michael Kors, Céline Photo: Flowers: Photography by Cara Howe, Floral Styling by Livia Cetti; Runway: Courtesy of Vendors.

SAINT LAURENT:  Hedi Slimane tempered his gritty Los Angeles-in-the-’70s style with a retro pattern—albeit one in Day-Glo pinks and electric blues—that looks not unlike the tweedia, scabiosa, peonies and two types of ranunculus.

MICHAEL KORS:  For his eponymous line, Michael Kors departed from the neutrals he showed for the previous spring season and instead opted for bright, preppy flowers such as the yellow garden roses and daffodils here.

CÉLINE:  Roses, gloriosa lilies, tulips, sweet peas, raspberries, ranunculus and gentians are all in the posy above, which references the romantic, modern-fairy-tale dress that Phoebe Philo showed in her refined collection.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

'Royal Welcome' to the GCNC Annual Meeting, April 19-21

Program Highlights 

Sunday, April 19, 2015
3:00 p.m. - The Trash Lady
An exciting expose of how Craven County Landfill contributes to the welfare of our area.
3:30 p.m. - History of the New Bern Lily
How did the spider lily come to New Bern? 

Monday, April 20, 2015
Luncheon and Program - Noon
John Grady Burns, nationally acclaimed designer and author of floral design books, will outline his latest book. John studied with Ralph Null and will give a unique insight on the art of creating an arrangement. 
A Fashion Show will be presented after the luncheon program by Alluring Illusions. Afterward attendees can visit the Vendor Rooms to shop and purchase. Reminder: some vendors only take checks and cash.

Monday, April 20, 2015
3 - 4 p.m. All About Tea
This is a skit by two local docents from Tryon Palace who will present all about tea in colonial New Bern. Cake and tea will be served. The Tryon Palace docents will mingle with their guests, and rest assured, there will be fun for all! To make it a true “tea party” attendees are encourage to wear hats and gloves, whimsical or proper, all appreciated.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Backyard Stream Repair Workshop, Feb. 28

Workshop will take place near the Ellerbe Creek, Durham.
Do you have a stream on your property? Are the banks eroding? Are you losing property and trees?

A backyard stream repair workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 28 (rain date March 7, from 9 a.m. to noon) at: 618 Sybil Drive, Durham, NC 27703.

About this FREE Workshop:

Learn how to stabilize your backyard stream, improve the natural environment, and enhance your property. Learn about causes of streambank erosion and how to use native plants to create a healthy streamside environment. Participate "hands-on" in enhancing an eroding streambank using various natural plants at a local stream. Attendees will have the opportunity to watch, ask questions, and even plant trees using the ‘live staking’ technique to stabilize and beautify a streambank.

Who Should Attend:  Homeowners, local government personnel, landscapers, utility workers, park managers.
Sponsors of this stream repair workshop include: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, the City of Durham, NC Cooperative Extension, Durham County, Durham Soil & Water Conservation District and NC State University.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Valentine’s Day Flowers: Red Blooms Beyond Roses

A simple arrangement of lush red peonies.
Photo by Judy Parker, Gertrude & Mabel.
Bronson van Wyck
This year, look beyond traditional red roses for a Valentine’s Day surprise. I love peonies, ranunculus, anemones, dahlias, and carnations in deep bloodred, bright fuchsia, and coral. I’m nuts about carnations, a flower that often gets snubbed but blooms in every color of the rainbow and lasts well past cupid’s day. And I love that as peonies bloom, they look different each day. If you insist on roses, though, select the ‘Hearts’ rose, whose lush petals often bloom in a symbolic and holiday-appropriate heart shape. They are priced reasonably enough to allow for splurging on the vase or a nice wine instead. I always sneak an herb or two into the bouquet for added meaning. According to ancient lore, rosemary signifies loyalty and fidelity, marjoram alludes to joy and happiness, and angelica implies a bit of magic.
For the vessel, hand-select a special vase—perhaps one that will find a permanent home on your Valentine’s sideboard or cocktail table—and take it to your local florist. (How many glass containers does he or she have under the sink? Don’t add to that pile!) I always love the contrast of red blooms in a blue-and-white chinoiserie vase. A simple arrangement in a silver julep cup is a small gesture that any gentleman can handle. Place it on a tray when you present breakfast in bed, or beside a collection of perfume bottles on a dressing table. And while you’re at the florist, don’t forget to handwrite the card. Don’t allow anything to be lost in translation, or worse, communicated in courier font! Inscribing your message is a necessary personal touch.

Dahlias, Hydrangeas, and Tulips
Besides peonies, other good options include dahlias, hydrangeas, and tulips.
Photo by David X. Prutting.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Durham Beekeepers Theme of Council Joint Meeting, March 3

Garden Club members of the Durham Council of Garden Clubs are in for a sweet treat of a spring Joint Meeting, March 3, 2015. The beekeeping theme and presentation by the Durham Beekeeping Association will shed more buzz on the virtues and necessity of beekeeping to our environmental landscape and national economy. Information on Durham city regulations will also be covered. Speaking will be Liz Lindsey, Journeyman Beekeeper; Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, third-generation beekeeper; and Liz Wilson, Journeyman Beekeeper and Secretary to the Person County Beekeepers Association.

The 2015 Joint Meeting will be held 10 a.m. at the St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1200 West Cornwallis Road, Durham, NC 27705.

Council members please R.S.V.P to Marcia ( by Feb. 25 to reserve your spot in our busy hive!

Don't forget to bone up on your bee trivia in advance with articles concerning colony collapse disorder and the importance of beekeeping found in The National Gardener magazine, Fall 2014 issue. Prizes awarded to those most in the know!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Garden Spotlight: Charleston Author Restores Antebellum Garden

A Charleston author restores an antebellum garden—and makes history along the way. Oyster shells and boxwoods form a whimsical pattern in the historic space.
By Allston McCrady - South Carolina
Garden and Gun - December/January 2015

Margaret Bradham Thornton is no stranger to buried treasure. The author of the recent novel Charleston, she grew up in the South Carolina city, frequently hunting for Native American artifacts along the Edisto River. Later, as the editor of Notebooks, a collection of Tennessee Williams’s journals, she spent a decade elbows-deep in documents and diaries. So when she and her husband purchased the historic Pineapple Gates House in Charleston, she couldn’t help but wonder what might lie within the soil. Although the house was built around 1801, the property dates back to a 1694 Lords Proprietors’ Grant. Perhaps this dirt had stories to tell.

Thornton spent her childhood just a few blocks away and liked to bicycle past the house, curiously peeking through the wrought-iron gates. For as long as she could remember, the expansive lawn was just that, a lawn. Though school and work would take her away from Charleston, the acquisition of the property enabled a homecoming—and the chance to return the garden to its nineteenth-century glory.

Before picking up a shovel, Thornton assembled a team headed by architect Glenn Keyes, restoration expert Richard Marks, and C. Allan Brown, a landscape historian renowned for his academic rigor. At the time, she was also working on the Williams project, what she calls her “no-stone-left-unturned phase.” “I spent a lot of time trying to separate fact from fiction,” she says. “I would only write what I could prove. We had that same approach here.”

All agreed that the lawn was not original. After all, lawns in the modern sense didn’t exist until the invention of the lawn mower, in 1830, and didn’t come into vogue in Charleston until fifty years later. The size of the lot and the configuration of the walls implied something grander in scale and style. So they started digging. Archaeologist Martha Zierden, who had excavated land beneath dozens of historic Charleston structures, began by sectioning off the lawn into quadrants. Her team sifted through dirt layer by layer, uncovering the usual lost or discarded suspects—hair combs, buttons, coins, wine bottles—as well as more significant finds: two Revolutionary War cannonballs, 1760s delft tableware, and the most stirring of all, a brass slave tag from 1803.

View of the house and garden.
Photos by Garden and Gun magazine.
One and a half feet down, the dirt gave way to a faint pattern. Crushed oyster shells hinted at ornate winding pathways: the ghostly imprint of an antebellum garden. “The expectation was that Charleston was conservative and we would see rectangular beds, so this was a real surprise,” Zierden says. “The discoveries changed the way we think about garden structure in early-nineteenth-century Charleston.”

Meanwhile, Brown combed through diaries and letters of the period for any mention of the garden. He examined Civil War photographs taken by Mathew Brady and found an image of one of the garden walls that had crumbled by the early twentieth century. With painstaking detail, he reconstructed the original circa 1818 garden design, attributed to the home’s second owner, George Edwards, a wealthy planter.

Three “rooms” divide the length of the property, beginning with a formal garden most likely intended to be viewed from above, when family members and guests socialized on the second-story piazza. Loquat trees hug a trellis, while oyster shell pathways frame petite boxwood lozenges in a rosary pattern, with a restored folly as its focal point.

By contrast, the second garden, accessed by hidden doorways cut through the tall hedge, seems spare, accented by an unearthed double serpentine pathway fronting a small grid of orange trees. The rear garden, originally dedicated to vegetables and barnyard animals, remains in its 1950s redesign by landscape architect Benito Innocenti. (Downtown residents aren’t as accepting of cows and goats as they were in the nineteenth century.) Otherwise, nothing is permitted that did not exist in 1818.

“I remember a twinge of regret when Allan and Martha presented the garden plan because the lawn I had bicycled past as a child would be gone forever,” Thornton says. “But the uncovered garden feels as if it has always been there. Which, in fact, it has.”