Dec 29, 2014

Fruitmania Garden School for Home Gardeners

January 17, 2015
Cypress Gardens- Dean Hall - 9 am to 4 pm
Classes-Strawberries, Blueberries, Citrus and Native Pollinators. Jam and Jelly Contest with cash prizes.  Pie and cobbler contest, Limited to 125 students -Lunch included. Vendors selling fruit tree, plants and honey.  

35$ Limited to 125 students Lunch included – no ticket sold at the door, pre-register Go to:
Or Call Loretta at 843 553-0515. Or Mail Check (made to: LFGS)  to : Zennie Quinn, 1106 Woodside Dr. James Island SC 29412

Dec 1, 2014

Fruitmania Garden School 1/17/15

The Hidden Virtuoso in the Garden

Many years ago I was walking past a tall tree in my garden; a mocking bird was in the top of the tree singing. As I passed the tree, it occurred to me the mockingbird was singing rather odd. I do most of my birding by ear while I am working in the garden.  This bird was repeating phrases only twice and moving on to the next song.  Mockingbirds will repeat a phrase 3 or more times.  I decided to stop and look back at the bird in the top of the tree.  It was no Mockingbird, but a Brown Thrasher, a close relative.  I wondered how many times I had made this mistake. 
In the spring, male Brown Thrashers will find a high perch to sing. This is always an odd sight to me, for Brown Thrashers spend most of their time foraging on the ground under bushes.  Ornithologists agree that the Brown Thrasher has one of the largest repertoires of any bird in North America.  A single bird knows over 1000 songs which are clear and loud. They often mimic other birds, but are not as good a mimic as the Mockingbird.  Both male and females are identical and both will sing.  I assume that it is the male who sings in the spring from a tall perch to find a mate.  Just the other day, I heard 2 Brown Thrashers singing under a large azalea bush.  They were not singing in harmony or even copying each other. Was it a mated pair singing together or was it 2 dueling males?  Without warning, the 2 birds flew up into a large camellia tree and chased each other around and around.  Was this courtship display or a territorial fight? 
Brown Thrashers are not often seen in suburban yards, but if you manage  your yard as a wildlife habitat you may have a pair. They like to forage under thick bushes and hedgerows with plenty of leaf litter.  In the summer, they eat insects and worms. In the winter, they will dine on berries like dogwood, pyracantha, rosehips and Virginia creeper.  They nest in thick bushes rather close to the ground.  Both parents incubate the eggs and take care of the young.  Young birds leave the nest less than 2 weeks from hatching.  

I have traveled around the country to observe wildlife; especially looking for birds. I think one of the most remarkable observations I have ever witnessed was in my own front yard.  One spring day a few years ago, I was sitting on my front porch. With binoculars in hand, I was hoping to see a few warblers passing through during spring migration.  The only bird in view was a Brown Thrasher under the loquat tree.  There is no grass under the tree and we leave the leaf litter as mulch.  I put my binoculars on the bird to see what it was eating.  It was picking up sticks and tossing them down.  I first thought it was looking for nesting material.  Then it found a stick about 4 inches long with a fork at the end.  Next, the bird put the stick down and picked it up again this time holding the stick near the end opposite the fork. To my amazement, the Brown Thrasher began sweeping the leaves with the forked stick.  Brown leaves flew off the ground as the bird swept the ground. Suddenly it dropped the stick and grabbed a bug and flew off. In 1835, Charles Darwin observed the Woodpecker Finches of the Galapagos Islands using tools. This was an important scientific discovery.  I have seen YouTube videos of crows using tools, but I had never personally seen a bird use a tool until that day.  Since that day, I always take the time to watch Brown Thrashers, but have never seen one use a tool again. 

Nov 6, 2014

The 3 Mimic in the Tree

Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird.

Not too long ago, I saw a small flock of Starlings land in the top of a tree. They were not foraging, but just seemed to be enjoying the morning sun. The Starlings had entered the territory of a Mockingbird who was none too pleased to see these illegal aliens. The Mockingbird began to scold them and drew the attention of a Brown Thrasher who decided to join in. The Starlings paid no attention to their chatter.  To my surprise, a Catbird flew up into the tree and joined in the verbal assault on the Starlings.  In all my years of bird watching, I do not think I have seen these three members of the Mimidae Family all together in the same tree. Starlings are originally from Europe, so I was surprised to learn that recent genetic testing reveal that they are related to our local Mimidae Family members. Starlings seem so different from Mockingbirds, Thrashers and Catbirds and I wonder if this had caused the family feud I witnessed.
Mockingbirds have thrived in the suburban habitat. They are as common as mailboxes in any neighborhood and not just here in the South. I am often asked “Why is it called the Northern Mockingbird when they live in the South?” The Northern Mockingbird ranges from the southern Canadian border to the southern tip of Mexico. They also can be found throughout the Caribbean. They do not migrate. There are other mockingbirds that live in Central and South America and that’s why ours is the Northern Mockingbird.  
Our gardens are well suited for Mockingbirds. They like to perch in a tree and fly down to the lawn to catch a bug. Their hunting behavior is similar to Bluebirds but Bluebirds like more open spaces. They will often flash their white shoulder patches to scare up insects in the grass. When I dig in the soil and find a grub, I like to toss it to the Mockingbirds. I have had Mockingbirds follow me when I pick up a shovel.  They are famous for their singing and infamous for singing at night.  Males who do not find a mate will sing all night. It is illegal to kill a Mockingbird but temporary insanity from sleep deprivation would be a good defense and the jury will be sympathetic.  They not only mimic other birds, but will repeat a phrase over and over and that can really drive you nuts.  Mockingbirds are very territorial and singing is also a way of declaring a territory. During nesting season don’t even think of going near a nest, especially if you are a cat. These feisty birds know to attack you from behind.  My Mockingbirds like to nest in my overgrown antique rose bushes.  Perhaps they know the thorns will deter predators. 
Mockingbirds often cause trouble around bird feeders by keeping other birds away. They normally are not seedeaters but they will eat mealworms, suet and peanut butter.  I think they do not like a bunch of other birds eating a free buffet in their territory.  If Mockingbirds become a problem at your feeders, move the peanut butter and suet to the other side of the house.
What I really love about Mockingbirds is their scientific name - Mimus polyglottos.  Mimus is Latin for mimic and from the Greek we have Polu or poly meaning many and glotta which is Greek for tongue.  So the Mockingbird name translates to mimic many tongues.  I like it when a scientific name is so well suited.

Aug 28, 2014

Still Summer

Getting ready for cooler days in the garden
I always tell my friends from off, we have 4 seasons in the Lowcountry, Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer and Christmas. Summer will end soon along with the daily thunder storms followed by the outdoor sauna we all enjoy. The temperatures of Still Summer are hot in the day but will drop a little at night. September and October can be some of our driest months. The only rain will be from hurricanes and tropical storms. The skies will be blue again and the humidity back down to a tolerable range. It’s a good time to start a fall vegetable garden. Go ahead and pull out the old tomato and squash plants. The peppers might last a little longer.  It’s a good time to amend your soil with Charleston County Compost from the Bees Ferry Landfill. At $10 a ton it is a bargain. They also have it in bags if you do not have a truck. Or you can add other types of organics to the soil: worm castings, mushroom compost and cow manure are just a few things you can add. I like to add some calcium to the vegetable garden too. Calcium will prevent blossom end rot and make vegetables crispier and help them last longer in storage.  Pelletized gypsum comes in a 40 pound bag.  It is the mineral calcium sulfate. Gypsum will not change your PH like lime. How much gypsum do you need?  I put about a 1/4 cup per vegetable plant and mix it in the surrounding soil.  Young plants take up calcium better than old plants, so it is important to get it in the ground before you plant.
Still Summer (Fall) is a good time to plant greens, root crops and cole crops.  These vegetables, planted in the fall, will be sweeter than when they are planted in the spring. Plants in the fall will store sugar for the winter making them tastier. Collards are the most popular cole crop in the South, but broccoli, kale and cabbage can also be grown. Carrots and radishes are popular root crops, but turnips are an old favorite. Root crops should be grown from seed but be careful not to plant too deep. Barely cover the seeds with soil and firm the soil down then water gently. There are many types of healthy greens that can be grown during the fall and winter.  Just the different cultivars of kale are mind blowing. Blue scotch kale, redbor, Tuscan and Siberian are just a few. Some cultivars take the cold better and some can stand the heat better. Since our winters are unpredictable, plant some of each.  I think kale is beautiful. I like to plant it in the flower beds in the winter along with pansies and violas. Other great greens you can plant are southern giant mustard, seven top turnips and upland cress.
Buy your seeds now while they are still in the stores.  I sometimes buy seed in the spring when the selection is good and keep them cool and dry until fall planting time.  Don’t plant them all at once save some seeds for early spring. If you are interested in heirloom or gourmet vegetables there are plenty of seeds available on the internet. Do shop around, I have found there is a wide range of prices out there. 
Try Southern Giant Curled Mustard this fall in the garden. Easy to grow from seed this green has a tangy mustard flavor very different from collards. It can be harvested in about 50 days from seed. 

Jul 24, 2014

A New Spin on the Spider Plant


Common house plant makes a good shade garden perennial. 


By Kathy Woolsey

The spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, is a common house plant found in hanging baskets, on porches and in sunrooms around the island, but did you know it also makes a great perennial groundcover? I have been growing spider plants at the gardens for several years and was happily surprised when they survived last winter despite the record-breaking cold.  

Chlorophytums are native to tropical Africa and grow on the edges of the rainforest in part shade. Around here, it makes a good substitute for Hosta and will live in part sun to deep shade. When the temperature drops below 32, the tops will die, but the plant will come back in the spring.

 Chlorophytums have thick roots which hold water, making the plant very drought tolerant. It’s one of those houseplants you can forget to water without worry. However, spider plants are not tolerant of chlorine or fluoride. These chemicals, found in most municipal water supplies, can turn the leaf tips brown. Use rain or well water to prevent tip burning.

If you have a hanging basket with a spider plant, starting plants for your garden is easy. Simply cut off the larger spiderettes and stick them in the ground where you want them. Keep them watered for a few days until the roots spread out.

There are 4 types of spider plants commonly available: solid green, green with white edges and green with a white center stripe. A new one called ‘Bonnie” has curly variegated leaves. It looks good in a hanging pot, but I am not sure how it will look on the ground.  I grow Chlorophytum comosum 'Vittatum' in my garden. That’s the one with the white center stripe. This summer they started sending out scapes with spiderettes. The first few years the plants spend time growing and filling out before sending out babies. 

I think spider plants are a good companion plant for my daffodils. In the winter, when the daffodil foliage comes up, the spider plant foliage dies down. In May, the daffodil foliage dies down just when the spider plants come back up. My daffodil beds are under deciduous trees so they get winter sun and the spider plants get shade in summer.    

In this and previous articles the word scapes is flagged by spellcheck. I thought maybe I should explain a few horticulture terms not in common use. Scape is from the Latin for stem, and in general describes a stem with a flower with little or no foliage or nodes. The flower of the Daylily is on a scape.  A stolon is a stem with nodes which runs along the ground or just below ground from which new plants and roots emerge. The strawberry plant sends out new plants via stolons. Since the runners on a spider plant also have small white flowers it is considered a scape.  Spiderette is just a word I made up to describe young spider plant dangling from the mother plant.

Jun 30, 2014

 Sand Cast Leaf Workshop at Cypress Gardens
August 15-16  Using real leaves,
collected from Cypress Gardens as molds, learn to make decorative ornaments for your garden. Saturday 1pm to 3 pm  learn to mix a special Portland cement formula and cast 3-4 leaves depending on the size. Sunday 1-3 unmold your leaves and learn to trim and paint them. Large leaves make great bird baths and small leaves make good soap dishes or wall art.  $30 Call 553-0515 to sign up. Limited to 18 students. 5$ off for active volunteers.

Jun 29, 2014

Hypertufa Workshop

Hypertufa Workshop
Garden Ornament Workshops at Cypress Gardens
 Learn to make garden ornaments with Portland cement at a workshop scheduled at Cypress Garden
August 15-16

The Hypertufa Workshop is Saturday morning 9 A.M to 11:30 A.M. Learn how to make molds and mix tufa cement. Students will make a stepping stone and a flower pot that will end up looking like old tufa stoneware.  Return Sunday 1P.M to unmold your projects and learn concrete carving and finishing techniques. $35. Limited to 15 students. 5$ off for active volunteers.

To sign up or get more info call Loretta 843-553-0515  or  or for more info .

Wear old clothes, bring rubber gloves, bring broken china, marbles, tiles, sea glass, pebbles if you have them, if not we have plenty of stuff to decorate your stepping stones and pot. 

May 24, 2014

Plant & Daylily Sale June 21

We have over 200 named cultivars of Daylilies for sale. Plus many other unusual plants  Saturday from 9-3 pm. 

May 23, 2014

The Modern Daylily

Not Your Grandmother’s Daylily
By Kathy Woolsey
In the days of my youth there were orange daylilies growing alongside of the small creek I played in. They could also be found in ditches and along fence lines just about anywhere. In some gardens, yellow and double daylilies could be found, but little variety of colors. In Girl Scouts, I became interested in wild edible plants. Daylilies, although not native, were easy to identify, plentiful and very edible.  Daylily buds were a great little trail nibble too. Visit an Asian grocery store today and you will find dried daylily buds often called “golden needles” or “Gum Jum”. Personally I prefer fresh buds sautéed in a little butter; they taste like green beans.
            But a lot has happened since those days of orange daylilies in the summer sun. Plant hybridizers have been busy--very busy. Today’s daylilies are far from the common orange flowers of my youth.  There are now over 70,000 daylily cultivars; colors range from nearly white to deep purple and from pink to deep red. To add to the color explosion of daylilies, new cultivars are rarely solid colors. There are bi-colors, blends, color bands and contrasting edges. The form of the daylily flower has also changed.  Now there are re-curved petals, flat flaring petals, ruffles and curls. Then there is something called chicken fat (not a scientific term) which is thick pale ruffling on the edge of a petal. You can find miniatures for small gardens and giant spider-form flowers with long strap-like petals that are 9 inches across to add drama to the garden.  
Now for some technical stuff and a little Greek. Daylilies are not true lilies like Easter lilies. They are members of the Hemerocallis genus. The word Hemerocallis is made from the 2 Greek words: hēmera meaning “day" and kalos meaning "beautiful". The only drawback to daylilies is the fact they only open for one day, but they make up for this flaw by having many flowers. One stem, called a scape, can have over 30 blooms and there are many scapes per plant.
The biggest development in daylily hybridizing in the last decade is extended bloom and re-bloomers. New daylilies listed as extended bloomers open over a longer period of time--usually 16 or more hours. Some will open up in the evening and stay open all the next day. Re-bloomers bloom early to mid-summer and again in the fall. This all adds up to more color in the garden.

The American Hemerocallis Society website is full of information including a data base with some 70,000 cultivars with more added every day. The Society also lists display gardens that are open to the public.  There are 26 display gardens in the Carolinas, and they will be coming into bloom soon. If you really wish to learn more about daylilies you will be glad to know we have a Lowcountry Daylily Club. This is a great bunch of folks who are eager to share their knowledge and maybe a few plants as well. 

May 13, 2014

May 9, 2014

Cypress Gardens Big Spring Plant Sale is Saturday May 17.  The sale is from 9-3pm in the parking lot. Bring cash or checks.  All Berkeley County Residents can get in FREE to Cypress Gardens on the 3rd Saturday from 9-12. PLEASE tell your friends and bring the family. Please remind everyone about the detour through the Navy Weapon station.
  Many other plants not listed but here are a few.
Fantastic selection of Names cultivars of Daylilies. Pinks, purples, reds  and more.
Angels Trumpet Yellow White & Pink
Purple Trumpet Datura
Purple Night Shade Solanum quitoense
Tropical Hibiscus
Pumpkin on a Stick
Purple Salvia (Butterfly Plant)
Marigolds(Butterfly Plant)
Cleome - Spider Plant (Butterfly Plant)
Pentas(Butterfly Plant)
Curly Spider Plant
Confederate Rose
Porter Weed (Butterfly Plant)
Flame Violets
Mexican Flame Vine (Butterfly Plant)
Native Red Honeysuckle (Hummingbird )
Stromanthe sanguinea "Triostar"
Calathea lancifolia “Rattle Snake Plant”
Ruby - Joseph Coat
ABUTILON: Flowering Maple
 Banana Peppers
Dill (Butterfly Plant)
Fennel (Butterfly Plant)
Sage Herb
Thai Basil (Butterfly Plant)
Cuban Oregano
Curry Plant
Black Prince Echeveria
Mules Ear Succulent
Ghost plant – Succulent
Thornless Pear Cactus
Sansevieria trifasciata "
Mules Ear Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri 
Ornamental Sweet potato
Hardy Gloxinia
White Native hibiscus
Yellow  Native hibiscus
Princes flower tibuchina
Varigated Butterfly bush

Chicken gizzard plant.

Apr 2, 2014

The Bottle Tree

    The bottle tree ‘Ampulla arborii’ can be found in quite a few gardens around the lowcountry of South Carolina. We have 2 planted at Cypress Gardens, one near the parking lot and the other in the wildflower meadow.  This central African plant is cherished by the well cultivated gardener. The bottle tree like many other common southern garden plants may have come to us though the slave trade along with black-eyed peas, field peas, okra, and watermelon.  Traditionally bottle trees were planted in the yard to capture troublesome spirits before they entered the house.  It is said curious spirits or “haints” will enter the bottles and get stuck inside thus preventing them from causing mischief.  Since we planted our bottle trees we have had no trouble with the haints.
     ‘Ampulla arborii’ is such an easy plant to grow I wonder why more people don’t plant them.  It is true they can be hard to find, but it helps if you have friends who drink plenty white wine. Bottle trees will live in almost any kind of soil and can be planted in sun or shade.  They are extremely drought and flood tolerant but will not withstand hurricanes.  The trees are almost maintenance free requiring no fertilizer or pruning.   Cleaning bottles once a year with Windex and paper towels is all that is needed to keep your tree looking healthy.

    Although there are many different cultivars of bottle trees the most popular is the Blue Bottle Tree, ‘Ampulla arborii caeruleus’.  In Africa, blue is considered a powerfully good color because it is the color of the sky and water.  Blue bottle trees are said to be the best for capturing spirits.  Good companion plants are yellow daffodils for spring and coreopsis or marigolds for summer.  Yellow flowers planted around blue bottle trees make the blue color pop in the garden.  If you are looking for a unique specimen plant in your garden give the blue bottle tree a try.   

Feb 18, 2014

Our swamp talent show has become very popular
Be a Swamp Celebrity!!
 Sunday, March 16, 2013  
at Beautiful Cypress Gardens

Two Categories
17 and under and 18 and older 
Each category gets awarded 3 prizes!!!
1st place - $100
2nd place - $50
3rd place -1 season pass to Cypress Gardens 

Special $50 "Peoples Choice" prize awarded by audience votes
The music starts at noon, the competition starts at 1:00pm 

Jan 12, 2014

Renowned Rosarian Coming to Charleston SC

Dr. Malcolm Manners will be at Cypress Gardens  February 22 to give a lecture in the morning at Fruitmania GS and he will give a program in the afternoon on Old Garden Roses at 2 pm. Tickets for just Dr. Manner’s rose program will be $10 which includes admission to the Gardens.

Dr. Malcolm Manners is a Professor of Horticultural Science at Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida, where he teaches courses in general horticulture, tropical fruits, horticultural pests and diseases, plant physiology, and plant nutrition. Since 1984, he has managed FSC’s rose mosaic virus heat therapy program, which cures roses of virus disease and makes healthy propagating material available to the nursery industry.  In conjunction with that program, he manages a collection of approximately 200 rose varieties, in two campus gardens and the college greenhouses. Most of the certified mosaic free old garden roses now grown in the U.S. came through the Florida Southern program. In 2013, Dr. Manners was honored as a Great Rosarians of the World.  The Great Rosarians of the World™ lecture series was founded in 2001 to honor and celebrate the men and women who have contributed to our understanding and love of our national flower, the Rose. In 1990, he imported a collection of Bermuda’s “mystery roses,” and it is from FSC’s gardens that much of the U.S. stock of these roses has been propagated. He has also worked closely with molecular biologist D. Nancy Morvillo at Florida Southern, researching the relationships of various roses, especially the older Noisettes, with DNA analysis.