Gardening Blog

Make your Lowcountry gardening life easier with plethora of native plants

Are you fed up with feeding, mowing and trying to kill weeds in your lawn?

Ever think about eradication of the grass and making a small native plant garden? Once planted, it requires no watering except from the sky, no feeding and little pruning.

Finding the natives used to be quite a challenge in the Lowcountry, except for those growing in our roadside ditches, swamps and meadows. Those we did not dig, except when the highway department was widening the road, and we transplanted to save the ladies tresses and fringed orchids.

Instead, we sought out wild flower nurseries to add to those that had come up unaided under the trees and shrubs in our yard. We added wild orchids, maidenhair ferns, blueberries, a tung oil tree and a fringetree (the Grancy Gray Beard variety).

But we wanted more.

Enter Daniel Payne of Naturescapes on Coosaw Island. A grower and seeker of plants indigenous to the Lowcountry, Daniel helped identify the wild plants in my yard, sold me some more and began a career that has taken him from botanical gardens to programs for garden-related organizations to last week's Xeriscape Garden at the Hilton Head Island Town Hall.

There we were, nine of us, digging and planting for four hours in heat and humidity, after helping Daniel unload his truck and carry 97 wildflower plants to their designated plant places.

Not breaking a sweat were Master Gardeners Becky Yearout and Sherry Wojtulewicz, who have worked in the garden for more than three years, and recent graduates Frank Moriarty, Rosemary Staples, Annette Depietroe, Christine Thumm and Laura Lee Rose, a Master Gardener class instructor. Yep, that local celebrity was down on hands and knees, digging and planting and carrying water with her star pupils.

Placing the wildflower order with Daniel was the fun part. We planted in groups of three when possible. There were 25 varieties chosen; some to be planted in full sun, others in a mix of sun and shade. Favorites that made the list include Star of Bethlehem, lizard's tail, Cherokee Bean, lady's eardrops and that beautiful scarlet, small-flowered Hearts-a-Bustin'.

Soon, we will be adding identification signs so visitors may learn to recognize the plants that succeed in our climate.

The Xeriscape Garden is like a dream come true to me. Many years ago, I cut out this paragraph from a nature book that had been sent to me for review: "Every day we see soil being ruined, and I fear for the future. Government rules aren't the answer since government road and construction projects are as bad as development in destroying the land, along with nearby streams and rivers. Cost effectiveness is more important than survival."

Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.