Thanks to David Lauderdale and his recent column on the beautification of Hilton Head Island. It brought back memories of the mistakes we made; the massive planting of trees and shrubs within the media strip of U.S. 278 just before we went into a huge drought; the planting in 1993 of dozens of Kwansan cherry trees that were never meant to grow and blossom in the Carolina Lower South.
The cherry trees flowered each spring for a few years and then gradually declined. In Washington, D.C., they are stars each spring at cherry blossom time, and it's not like they could not take our heat, as those of us who've been to D.C. in summer can attest. Many of us gardeners have discovered -- as we've made our own mistakes -- many plants need a period of winter dormancy to put out the right stuff in the spring.
Did we of the Island Beautification Association learn from our mistakes? We pretty much did; except for the planting of daffodils in the median strip to be seen as you came off the bridge onto the island. It was a beautiful scene that first spring, then it was mowed. The foliage was not allowed to brown and wither, a sure death for the bulbs.
The IBA has continued to help plant the roads and median strips of Hilton Head Island. More then 20 trees have been planted around the island in honor of our annual Arbor Day, and there is strong support given to other local beautification organizations. Annual awards are given to the island's plantations and business establishments that front the highway for their entrance gardens. The committee, under the direction of Steve Tenent, meets each month with landscapers who plant, prune, spray and clean up on and around our roadways.
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Prime time for planting trees is November. It is my time to remind readers that many of the flowering plants they set into their gardens last spring, had difficult getting through the summer. Almost all varieties of plants, trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals could do with some tree shade during the day, including tree fruiting varieties. Example: Our kumquat tree gets sun two hours in early morning and one hour in the late afternoon and its now loaded with green, unripe fruit.
Weather note: I'm not ready to make a summation on the 2013 weather and its effect on plants. However, the 6-year old kumquat tree has, before, budded up in October, set fruit in November, and given us fresh picked fruit for Christmas. This year we'll be eating kumquats for Halloween.
Time to think about and time to order for spring and for summer, keeping in mind that our spring flowering time starts in February. Get smart. Don't plant all those daffodils in November. Save a few to be planted after the December holidays for staggered bloom. Daffodil varieties I've tried and liked and are proven to grow and bloom well in the lower South are: Avalanche, Campernelle, Erlicher, Grand Primo and Thalia. Other Southern spring flowering bulbs are the Southern snowflake Leucojum aestivum (blooms in February). Southern grape hyacinth Muscari neglectum and Spanish bluebell, "This stately Spanish blue bell is found in all old Southern gardens," wrote Elizabeth Lawrence. If you just can't do without hyacinths; grow in a pot or in water; keep in a cool, dry place until you see green growth.
I cannot forget my favorite summer flowering bulbs; the rain lily, Zephyyranthes graniflora. and the Red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata. "They're the most universally happy plants I know," Jim Scott said of the Spider lily that flowers in white or red. The white wanders; it shows up in my yard, here there and everywhere. My original white spider is from a pool of water thick with them.The pool is now gone, in its place is Daufuskie Clubhouse on Daufuskie Island.
The bulb varieties mentioned can be found at www.oldhousegardens.com
Donations to the Hilton Head Island Beautification Association can be sent to IBA, P.O. Box 23573, Hilton Head SC 29926.
Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.
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