When it comes to decorating our homes with beautiful fall flowers and foliage, those of us who live and garden in the Lowcountry have it made. Our mild weather continues to provide.
In mid-November, a cool spell arrived right on schedule. In two days, we were back to normal temperatures and out in the garden cutting colorful vines and branches with orange berries to combine with native flowers of tickweed and oakleaf hydrangeas in vases and wreaths.
A table wreath I put together three years ago has traveled around to countless meetings as a demo of what can be done with materials gathered from your garden: Dried orange and yellow flowers, red hot chili peppers, buckeyes in their polished shells, berries, orange kumquats and tangelos, and bits of moss are fitted in and around the thick stems of the large grape vine wreath.
At the Hilton Head Island Garden Council fundraiser, speaker Benny Campbell's artistry with dramatic props and gorgeous plants and flowers was fast apparent as he created holiday arrangements fit for a party or wedding. His audience loved his humor and tips on arranging:
Soak floral foam in water before arranging so it does not pull water out of your arrangement.
Stick a florist pin into the foam to hold heavy flowers such as hydrangeas.
For added color, use Swiss chard.
Cover mechanics with shell mushrooms gathered from trees.
For Thanksgiving, cover floral foam with greens, add orange spray roses, rose hips and orange bittersweet berries for texture.
A few lucky people went home with an arrangement. My arms were full of gorgeous bittersweet berries that are now making a statement in my table top wreath.
There's a special place in my heart for the Achievers, an herb group that has been meeting, growing and cooking with herbs for almost 30 years. We met, and once we got medicinal herbs -- today's hot herbal topic -- out of the way, we got down to the pleasure part: The wonder of the number of herbs that we can grow here year-round, and how to use a bumper harvest.
With Thanksgiving coming up, we talked what to do with the bird. Herbs play a big role in poultry recipes; the rather bland fowl is married to sage, rosemary and garlic. Uh-oh, now I've gone medicinal: garlic is the No. 1 rated herb for its benefits to the body. From headache to sore throat to athlete's foot, garlic is king. Let's get healthy and cook a delicious turkey: poke roasted garlic, rosemary and sage sprigs under the turkey skin and in the body cavity, where you can also put a cut up onion and apple.
The Canadian air arrived, and I bundled up and drove to Hilton Head Island's Xeriscape Interpretive Garden to meet and greet avid gardeners Sandy Stern and Nadine Korosi and a bus load of children from the first and third grades of Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts. The children toured the garden before planting 30 daffodils, called "paper whites." Known for their intense sweet smell, paper whites are harbingers of winter. They are already poking their heads up out of the ground and will begin to flower by Thanksgiving. They often have five flowers on each stem.
Fingers crossed for a sunny day on Dec. 6, Southern Arbor Day. This year, the Hilton Head Island Council of Garden Clubs will celebrate historic trees of South Carolina by planting a Southern Red Cedar at the Fort Howell Historic National Monument on Beech City Road. There will be a program beginning at 1 p.m. that includes students from Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts under the direction of principal Gretchen Keefner. The red cedar is provided by Bartlett Tree Service.
Cedar trees no longer can be used for Christmas; they are now on the threatened and endangered list. But Fraser firs are special too, and once again may be found at the softball field across the street from the Hilton Head Island Recreation Center. Sugar Mountain Farms will begin selling trees on Nov. 29; they are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. A portion of sales proceeds will go to Hilton Head Island schools.
Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.
Fall planting season in full swing at Lowcountry farmers gardens
'Historic Trees for Historic Places' aims to celebrate existence of trees native to South Carolina
A look back at Hilton Head's past sheds light on how its beauty was protected