Spring and summer arrive in the Lowcountry with warming temperatures turning practically every blade of grass green. It actually spreads like a contagious disease to a lot of homeowners’ hands, turning their thumbs green, too.
Hordes of gardeners head to local stores to snag some flats of blooming annuals to get their gardens off to a perky start.
For those in search of larger plants and shrubs, as well as a variety of potting plants and gardening essentials, several nurseries offer these items.
Southern Marsh Nursery at 190 May River Rd., in Pritchardville has a vast supply of garden necessities. Owner Andrew Ahmann and salesperson Tori Mikell are on hand to provide gardening information. Another is Sunshine Hardscape Landscape and Nursery at 36 Plantation Park Dr., in Bluffton, with owner Frank Sipala on hand to help you. Taylors Landscape Supply and Nursery is at 36 Cecil Reynolds Dr., off S.C. 170 across from Okatie Village.
“The earth laughs in flowers.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Back in the early 1960s, my mother-in-law Josie Altman Tanner, lovingly referred to as Mammy, lived in a small trailer on our side yard. Born, I believe, with a natural green thumb up in Johnsonville, tobacco-growing country, she prepared small areas on both sides of the walkway leading to her screened-in porch to plant seasonal flowers.
She always had different-colored pansies, with their smiling faces, in the cool months and other annuals during the spring and summer months. One flower she always had was the perennial old-timey petunia, giving off a heady, perfumed aroma on warm summer nights on her porch.
Wanting to have something green year-round, she bought a small, flower-pot-size decorative cedar tree. Well, guess what? When her green thumb went to work planting it in her flower bed, this plant that was evidently related to the genus described in “Jack and the Beanstalk” grew, grew and grew! It completely dwarfed and shaded out all the petunias in that flower bed, and they weren’t seen for years.
After she passed away in 1970, the trailer was moved and a small gazebo was erected to use as a sitting area, honoring her memory. Her flower beds are still there, but we cut down the humongous cedar plant to open up the space. Aha! Another “guess what” moment: The dormant petunia seeds that had been sheltered from the elements for years promptly took life after a good rain shower, sprouted up and have been blooming ever since.
There may be an abundant supply of new varieties of flower that have been cultivated, including the hybrids at local nurseries, but nothing beats the hardiness of some of our old-time favorites. Petunias are among the most popular annuals for good reason. They are bright and lively, bloom from spring until frost, and best of all, are amazingly easy to grow.
The petunia symbolizes anger and resentment, especially when they are presented by someone with whom you have recently had a heated disagreement. But they also symbolize your desire to spend time with someone because you find their company soothing and peaceful.
The meaning of petunias can be contradictory, leading to some confusion, but actually all flowers have various meanings depending on the circumstances and the relationship between the giver and the recipient.
“A flower blossoms for its own joy.” — Oscar Wilde
Several friends contributed photos of their “welcome flowers” for this column. Theresa Westerman, in her entrance garden at Rose Dhu Creek Plantation, has a sign that reads, “Friends are the flowers in the garden of life,” with some ferns, pink hibiscus, purple iris, white and pink geraniums, and a frilly, pink justicia that welcome one and all.
The hibiscus symbolizes love and affection between family members, friends and others. It’s given as a gift to someone to wish them glory and success. Modern studies show promise for both tea and hibiscus plant extract to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Debbie McNeely of Easley, a friend of my granddaughter Cheryl, evidently has more than one green thumb, judging from the multitude of gorgeous blooming plants and flowers overflowing her spacious yard.
Stargazing lilies, lemon lilies, geraniums, roses, purple iris; you name it and she has it. It’s like taking a stroll through a well-manicured botanical garden. I wish all the lovely photos I have of her flowers could have been submitted with this column, but space being of the essence, they would have filled a whole page.
Some daylilies are edible and used in Chinese and Japanese cuisines. The lemon lily, whose name alone sounds appealing, is a native of Siberia and China, where it and other daylilies have been used for food, ornament and medicine for 2,500 years. All parts of the lemon lily are edible. They may be used fresh, steamed, boiled, frozen or dried.
The purple iris in her garden symbolizes faith, hope and wisdom.
“Just living is not enough — one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” — Hans Christian Andersen
Sharon Walters in Levy has a high front deck at her home, so she plants giant “happy-faced” sunflowers all around it, which surely sends out a hearty welcome.
Sunflowers symbolize loyalty. Because of their association with the sun, they are well known for being happy flowers and the perfect bloom to brighten someone’s mood. They are unique in that they have the ability to provide energy in the form of nourishment.
Other benefits of growing sunflowers are that their pest-patrolling birds and bees improve your harvest and actually can help detox contaminated soil.
A field of sunflowers is amazing to see. Every single flower is parallel to the others around it. They stay unified in purpose and position, which is a good way for humans to be, as described in Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.” — Helen Keller
Many, many years ago, when husband Harry and I were at a flea market in North Carolina, he came across a small yellow sign that read, “Howdy-now Git.” It struck his funny bone and he immediately picked it up to buy. But I told him to wait and we’d make one like it when we returned home, and so we did.
This homemade sign still hangs, along with some spider webs, on the end of our carport. Any strangers who drive up might be intimidated and leave, but friends know they’re always welcome when they see the hand-painted “welcome” sign complete with a yellow sunflower that granddaughter Cheryl gave us, hanging by the back door.
In the process of preparing this column, my August issue of “Our Daily Bread” came in the mail. Flipping through it to the last page, this writing by James Banks caught my eye:
“A stately sunflower stood on its own in the center of a lonely stretch of national highway, just a few feet from the fast lane. As I drove past, I wondered how it had grown there with no other sunflowers visible for miles. Only God could create a plant so hardy it could thrive so close to the roadway in the gray gravel lining the median. There it was, thriving, swaying gently in the breeze and cheerfully greeting travelers as they hurried by. Our God is the master of unanticipated mercies. He’s able to cause great good to spring up unexpectedly out of the hard gravel of life’s most unfavorable circumstances. Watch Him closely. He may do it again today.”
Jean Tanner is a lifelong resident of rural Bluffton. She can be reached at [email protected].