Garden tour planning starts early

Special to Lowcountry LifeAugust 19, 2012 

Expect color and drama in Tim Drake's garden on Hilton Head Island.

PHOTO BY BETSY JUKOFSKY

The garden tour search and research ladies were out and about Hilton Head Island last week. I know because our paths crossed more than once.

Why are they looking at mature, full-flowering summer gardens when they are representing the annual All Saints Episcopal Garden Tour that traditionally takes place in May? Why, when island gardens are showing spring flowering shrubs, trees and newly planted spring/summer annuals?

It takes months to put together the garden tour. Garden selection members are experienced gardeners who are able to visualize what a garden will look like in May.

If they can do it, I can do it, and I took myself over to Tim Drake's house. I'd been there before; Tim's garden has been on the tour before. I've known him for years and figured he'd be up to something plant-wise. Expect drama, I thought, and was not disappointed.

Question. Tim, you've enlarged your garden big time since I was here last. Is your yard larger?

Answer. Yes it is, and there is less lawn to have to take care of. And there's a water feature.

Q. There is so much color. I've heard that the color yellow "pops." Do you find this to be true?

A. Yes. The garden is all about foliage of various colors, but yellow does stand out. I'm using much coleus, the new Discolor and Wasabi coleus, the Stella de Oro daylily that has bloomed since May, and the chartreuse Barberry. (They) contrast with the purple flowers hanging on the potato bush.

Q. I'm familiar with this unusual upright growing holly. I've only seen one other. It's in a pot in my yard. How long have you had yours?

A. (Laughing) As long as you've had yours. They are Yaupon hollies, variety Sky Pencil, and you won it two years ago when I brought it along with other plants to a meeting of the Hilton Head Island Garden Club.

Q. You have lots of good-looking ferns. What is your favorite?

A. That would be Southern wood fern. I should add that one of my favorite plants is the Foxtail fern. In winter its texture and lime-green color are standouts. Further, it's drought-resistant, and you need not feed it. It has a sort of Medusa quality.

Q. What new plant did you add this year?

A. That would be the Ligularia gigantia that has leaves up to 3 feet across. It reminds me of "Land of the Giants."

Q. You have several container-grown plants, huge Angel Wing begonias and impatiens. Do you feed them anything special?

A. No, I don't feed much; whatever is on hand. I usually have 60 or so planted pots that I place around the garden. Wherever I need a spot of color to complement the foliage. The garden as a whole? It's the texture that catches your eye.

After an hour or so in the afternoon August sun, I was happy to be indoors with ice water and Butch, the small mixed-breed, friendly dog. He was followed into the room by a Chihuahua, who was followed by four more. On the counter staring at the hulabaloo below were two handsome, disdainful cats.

Mentally, I added Tim to my list of 300 or so gardeners with great gardens and affectionate pets.

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