GROOMS GARDENING: Fall Plant Swap and Sale scheduled | News

Wonderful weather has finally arrived. After the many months of sweltering, hot, steaming, roasting, high humidity days, we are enjoying civilized weather.

How great it is to walk outside and not feel like we have entered a steam room where it is impossible to breathe and not feel sweat popping out of every pore. It starts on my head and sweat is running in my eyes before getting to the mail box, before long it drips from every area of my body, burning eyes and causing the nose to start running, too.

These days are heavenly compared to the eight to nine months of summer we suffer through each year. Flowers and plants that are watered do not wilt in mid-day, their colors are more vibrant and blooms last longer.

Potted plants do not dry out daily and perform much better. As I grow older, summers are more of a burden and the thermostat is turned a degree or two lower with passing years.

Finally, cooler days have arrived and the country-side rejoices.

Amaryllis Garden Club’s Fall Plant Swap and Sale will be held on the front lawn of The Crescent, Oct. 23, Sunday from 2-4 p.m. We should have nice weather and the shade of the live oaks makes for comfortable plundering through the plants offered.

Anyone with an excess of plants from the summer is welcome to bring them to offer to the public. There is no charge to sell your plants and no charge to come and browse plants.

Please set up on the north side of the walkway, the club will set up on the south side. Parking behind The Crescent Gardens off Toombs Street or around VSU’s Continuing Education buildings across Patterson Street.

Please do not park in the lot of the furniture store across Gordon Street from The Crescent.

We will have master gardeners on site if you need plant advice or plant identification, bring a portion of the plant needing IDing or a photo showing foliage and blooms.

This a fun, relaxing time to talk gardening and to find plants you have been wanting. Prices are a fraction of garden center or nursery costs. This is Amaryllis Club’s twice-a-year fundraiser to assist us with meeting obligations to The Crescent, state and national organizations.

Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, foliage is up and growing from now until late spring. The foliage is gathering energy to store in the bulb until September of next year when they will bloom again.

If the foliage is cut down, they will not bloom next year. Often a “fall clean up” will result in the foliage being cut or damaged and no flowers next fall.

All bulb foliage must complete the cycle of flowering and then the bulb is replenished by replacing the nourishment used to form this year’s blooms.

This is true from crocus to Amaryllis bulbs. Spider Lily foliage is over 12 inches long, very narrow (strap-like) and has a slightly paler line down the center of the strap. Cold temperatures do not harm their foliage. The straps fade away naturally in spring, the bulbs sit dormant until time for them to bloom in fall.

Sasanqua camellias are starting to flower. Of the two common camellia species they are the earliest flowering one, beginning in fall and continuing through early winter, completing their cycle around Christmas.

C. japonicas bloom later, picking up about the time sasanquas finish. Bloom time is determined by the number of chill hours (below 45 degrees) each cultivar requires.

Early-flowering sasanquas are already starting to bloom. This species of camellia has smaller flowers than japonicas and they are much more fragile. The flowers are rarely used in arrangements because they tend to fall apart. Camellia Shows have small classes of sasanquas due to the difficulty in transporting blooms to the shows.

Camellia japonicas have sturdier blooms and they are much larger, some can reach up to eight to 10 inches across. The largest ones come from cultivars that have been disbudded and treated with jib, a hormone that produces larger and earlier flowering blooms.

Disbudding down to a few bloom buds per branch causes larger flowers, all the bushes energy is directed to fewer buds causing bigger flowers. The average gardener simply needs to keep their bushes pest free, properly fertilized and adequately watered to enjoy abundant flowers in the correct season.

The best camellias for the Coastal South come from local growers. They know the proper varieties for our zone and the plants are acclimated to this area. Plants grown and shipped from cooler zones usually struggle for a couple of summers and finally die.

Loch Laurel Camellia and Citrus nursery has stock grown on site, you can choose from a group of each cultivar, see the size, form and color of flowers (in season) and choose exactly what you want.

You can wander the fields of bushes, see methods of grafting, cloning and cultivation and talk to an expert plant pathologist. In fall and winter, you will be overwhelmed by the beauty and abundance of camellia flowers.

In spring, the grounds are a wonderland of blooming shrubs, trees and bulbs, magnolias of many species, some with flowers the size of a plate. But fall and winter is the best time to plant camellias.

My little community has an awful new arrival, wild hogs, they haven’t been seen, but the destruction is impossible to miss. A large portion of the pecan orchard has been rooted up and tracks have been seen.

They visited a large garden spot I worked three years to clean and plant. Due to summer heat and health it has been neglected since June, the hogs visited it and rooted a five-foot camellia almost up, rooted up daylilies and ruined the latest planting of moon flower vines.

I am having visions of my 12 gauge and dead hogs. The many deer that bedded in the back of the orchard have moved on, haven’t seen rabbits lately, now I am over run with squirrels and even worse, wild hogs.

In Tennessee, neighbors with corn crops had to spend nights beside their field with a dog to alert them to the wild hogs coming in, they slept in their trucks with guns ready, to keep the corn fields from being eaten by the big packs of roaming hogs.

Hogs are an ongoing problem in Great Smokies National Park. They destroy many pristine areas and eat native plants that take years to recover, if ever.

I am out of space and will see you on the 23rd at the Plant Swap and Sale, mark your calendars.

Susan Grooms lives and gardens in Lowndes County.

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