Tour offers something for everyone

June 12, 2011 

  • Sun City Garden Tour chairwoman Eileen Lehrer's prescription for armadillo riddance: Spray tunnels with a mixture of 16 ounces ammonia and 14 ounces Murphy Soap.

"I may have to move that ginkgo tree. It doesn't look well; I think it's too wet there."

So spoke Sue Roderus as I stood in her and husband Rod's vast garden in Sun City Hilton Head. Their garden was one of six on the 11th annual Sun City Garden Tour that took me through Sun City and included Riverbend and Reflections.

Too wet? On this spring day in May when it appeared we were having a severe dry spell and already talking about water restrictions, how curious to find a garden with spots too wet for conditions. The hundreds of other plants in the Roderuses' garden were thriving. I set out to find unusual varieties; there was a surfeit.

The odd yellow flowers on stiff stems were Mexican hats (Ratibida); the spreader plants, Lysimachea; the furry ones, lamb's ears; scented flowering tobacco (Nicotiana); forsythia sage (madrensis); a Gloxinia; variegated milk thistle; and more, all tucked in and around popular summer annuals.

Sue and Rod use "Deer Buster" to keep deer at bay. Sue brings home unusual plant finds from the Hilton Head Island Greenery, where she helps out two days a week.

Thanks to my excellent tour guide, Irene Randall, who knew all the shortcuts between gardens, I could concentrate on the tour gardens and why the garden of Jane and George Munster is called a "gardener's garden."

It could be the 90 pounds of mulch around 100 different varieties of plants. These two don't ask how a plant does here; they buy it and find out for themselves. Not often seen are Weigelia, the clumping perennial Russian sage (Perovskia) and zebra grass (Miscanthus). The unusual Mexican bamboo in the backyard came from the celebrated Plant's Delight Nursery. There's a "bat face" Cuphea and the seldom-grown, red flowering pineapple sage.

The tropical garden of Marguerita and Skip Rickerson features an arch formed by oleanders that leads to a patio and water feature. There are 150-year-old Crinum lilies; salvias "Black and Blue"; the long-flowering indigo spires; and an herb and vegetable garden with fall-flowering mint marigold and the fun kangaroo paw.

A sweep of red dragon's wing begonias across the front and up the side of the house welcomed me to Doria and Pete Binazesju's unique backyard garden, done entirely by Doria. This includes a cascading pool and numerous, unusual urns that Doria finds in Charleston mansions. Doria buys what she likes, including foxgloves and Delphiniums. Come fall she pulls everything out and plants a winter garden.

What with the way the beautiful native azaleas are disappearing from our landscape, I bowed down before those in the tranquil garden of Elaine and Richard Donohue that overlooks the Okatie River.

I walked down the deck that overlooks the marsh, then turned to view what master flower arranger Elaine has put together in the colorful garden. The giant fun Farfugium (or Ligularia), bird of paradise and brilliant orange flowers of the shrub lion's tail (Leonotis) are perfect foils for the red cedars, ferns and azaleas.

An "aha moment" happened in the backyard gardens of Toni and Payson Perkins when Payson told me that Toni loves roses, gardenias and hibiscus. Payson said when wielding a shovel, the ground is like cement. He added that when digging a hole, it may fill up with water before he can get a shrub planted. I puzzled this out.

For the past two hours, I'd been surprised to see the flowering annuals and perennials with which I'm familiar, large and loaded with flowers. They seemed to be further along in their growth pattern than the same plants in gardens I've been in on Hilton Head Island. Could it be that the clay content in the Sun City gardens is retaining moisture from the few rainfalls we've had?

More moisture makes for more vigor in plants. The Perkinses' garden in Jasper County is but a year and a half old. It overlooks Argent Lake, a new nine-hole golf course that is reputed to be challenging. Golfers will have a beautiful view of the Perkinses' colorful garden.

The "4 Hands On Garden" of Mary Anne and Fred Gebler was recently on the All Saints Garden Tour and much enjoyed by visitors for its design. It's textbook for new gardeners to the Lowcountry. No doubt it will be repeated on yet another tour.

Congratulations to all gardeners and to Eileen Lehrer who put it together so well that she's chairwoman again for the next two years. Her creed: Something for everybody, everywhere. Go and see, and go home and do.

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