There's no better way to tour gardens than to be escorted by the tour coordinator. The third annual Master Gardener Educational Tour on Oct. 16 was put together by Betty Manne and Chris Rosenbach, publicity chairman, whose gardens have been on display in the past. They introduced me to seven Master Gardeners and their gardens, which will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
They could not have known last spring when they accepted the challenge of presenting a show garden in fall, that the summer would bring record-breaking heat with an accompanying dry spell.
One gardener returned from summer vacation to find her garden burned out; another had leg surgery that required wearing a boot that made it difficult to move around.
Problem solved: Manne called out the troops, culled from the 110 men and women who make up the Master Gardeners Association of the Lowcountry. They came, planted, staked, sprayed and built.
Visitors to these gardens will see plants not often seen. The emphasis is on plants that will perform well despite our capricious Mother Nature. There will be Master Gardeners at every garden to answer questions, and each plant will be marked with identification.
The simultaneous plant sale at Hilton Head Island High School from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16 will offer hundreds of flowering perennials, shrubs and trees grown from seeds, stems and roots by Master Gardeners. Annemarie Kinsky and team will offer guidance and council at the sale.
THE MULLER GARDEN, MOSS CREEK
We began our tour in Moss Creek with the garden of Linda Muller, which offers a textbook picture of fall flowers. Muller's cosmos and zinnias are interspersed with a rose-colored Rose of Sharon, two golden cassia native shrubs, autumn sedum "Joy," Pokeberry and a huge shrub-like Confederate rose. Unusual and worthy of a place in all gardens are the ever-flowering firecracker plant and the "hops all over the place" jewels of Opar, a sedum.
THE ROBACKER GARDEN, WINDMILL HARBOUR
Two gardens in Windmill Harbour demonstrate what can be done to make a small, stylish yard look like a magazine cover. Gardener and artist Susan Robacker clearly shows her talents in both fields with plants used in unusual ways. Robacker gardens with compost, then needs a ladder to pick tomatoes off her 12-foot plants.
THE REILLY GARDEN, WINDMILL HARBOUR
You might find it difficult to get past the garage, but if you make it to the backyard, you'll find Vicki Reilly's vine-covered veranda, a pool, an unusual "Drake" elm and a stunning variegated Osmanthus heterophyllus.
THE HILDEBRAND GARDEN, INDIGO RUN
It's the tropical courtyard and resident colorful bird you'll remember at Nancy Hildebrand's home in Indigo Run. This herbalist also will remember the vegetable and herb garden designed and planted by fellow Master Gardener, Ginny Collins. See for yourself the winter edibles you grow here and all in peak condition. They are surrounded by the color of cosmos and coneflowers. In the back garden there's unusual chocolate ajuga, a Pagoda plant and Clerodendrun pink "Pincushion." All are set off by 10 varieties of palm.
THE WOJTULEWIEZ GARDEN, PALMETTO DUNES
When Sherry Wojtulewiez moved into her home in Palmetto Dunes three years ago, there were only foundation plantings and a few azaleas and camellias -- hard to believe, as you walk through the gardens bursting with color. You'll remember the "What's that?" -- a Clerodendrum that's 4 feet tall and with brilliant red flowers, a green variegated copper plant and a Strobilanthes "Tri Star" from Bruno's Nursery. A new bulkhead at the lagoon makes for a new garden, this one featuring native spiderworts, purple mistflowers and black-eyed Susans, huge hanging baskets of dragon wing begonias and unusual ginger plants from The Greenery.
THE JACOBS GARDEN, SEA PINES
The first thing you'll notice at the Sea Pines residence of Mim Jacobs and her garden helper Bob is the standard lantana in a huge courtyard that rises above the driveway. The second are the steps leading up to it; they are edged with fig vine. We talked to the Master Gardener intern team planting the Cajun lagniappe garden with salvia, rubella and elephant ears. The palm alley that Bob designed takes the eye back to the Sea Pines Ocean Course. There are steps that lead down, surrounded with a spreading, unusual ground cover of creeping wire vine. Bob was building a garden of rare, old Savannah brick that is being planted with a variety of ferns. The New Orleans balcony in the back looks down on the secluded pool and courtyard. The balcony and surrounding brickwork is by designer Alan Jenkins of The Greenery.
THE MOSS GARDEN, HILTON HEAD PLANTATION
Bill Moss in Hilton Head Plantation is a longtime resident and gardener. His garden is noted for the largest tea olive tree in the county and the nine spectacular crape myrtles that are pruned as they should be; that is, they are not pruned at all.