Have you dreamed of a Southern garden, shaded by a magnolia tree and brimming with hydrangeas, gardenias, crape myrtles, yellow jessamine and camellias?
Welcome to South Carolina, which The South Carolina Native Plant Society calls a “botanically rich area.” This statewide group with regional chapters meets every third Tuesday in Greenville. Visitors are welcome and will gain insight into what’s “easy” because it’s native.
Hot Tip: Most of Greenville County lies within the USDA’s Hardiness Zone 8a, but its very northern reaches are classified 7b due to their proximity to the mountains.
Challenges you’ll face here in Greenville – like lace bugs on azaleas – are a good reason to make a friend at a garden store near your home. A truly fantastic resource, however, is the Greenville County Cooperative Extension office,which works hand in hand with the Clemson University extension. Visit their website, or stop in to the local office. They’ll share information and schedules for online classes and workshops.. It’s in the County Government complex on University Ridge.
While writing this book, I was loaned a copy of the softcover title ‘Durant Ashmore’s Monthly Gardening Guide,’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. Ashmore is a local gardening columnist, longtime landscape designer and nurseryman. His charming book shares an upstate gardener’s most pressing concerns, tasks and considerations for each month of the gardening year, gently coaching readers to have as beautiful and long-lasting a garden as possible. Ashmore adds tips on birds, butterflies, vegetables and life in general: ‘Walk your yard in the morning with a cup of coffee. Walk your yard in the evening with a glass of wine.’ Look for a copy; you’ll really enjoy this book.
Fun Fact: Furman University has its own Asian garden.
If you’d like to get truly inspired, go meet your local growers at one of the farmers markets in Greenville, Travelers Rest, Fountain Inn or Simpsonville (all May-Oct), or the State Farmers Market (year-round). At all but the Greenville market, you’ll find an oh-so-useful Ask a Master Gardener booth, manned by experts who give free answers to gardening questions.
The Clemson Extension Master Gardeners Program offers a wealth of educational events, and February’s popular symposium is a great place to meet new friends, shop and learn. Participate in the program itself and before long, you could find yourself speaking to local garden and civic clubs, or working with kids, seniors or communities on horticultural projects. You’ll also have access to special field trips and lots of opportunities to expand your knowledge and skillset.
For penultimate inspiration, or – as my most avid gardening friend puts it, “to see how it’s really done” – visit The South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University. A visit to the gardens and conservatory at the Biltmore Estate, in nearby Asheville, is also a wonderful trip.
Hot Tip: Azaleas should be pruned just after the blooms fade.
-Libby McMillan Henson is the owner of Greenville Relocation, offering local relocation concierge services, and is also author of ‘The Ultimate Greenville Relocation Guide.’