Getting a green thumb doesn’t have to wait for March 20, the day spring arrives officially. Local garden clubs and gardening enthusiasts think green pretty much year round.
Three area clubs had their monthly meetings in the past two weekends: the Georgetown Area Daylily Club, Myrtle Beach Orchid Society and Grand Strand Camellia Society. Brookgreen Gardens also has dug in with its monthly lunchtime lecture series all winter long.
A group of 25 people turned out Feb. 10 in Surfside Beach for “Daylilies 101,” a presentation by the Georgetown Area Daylily Club, which in January moved its meetings into southeast Horry County to be in a more central location.
Heidi Douglas, from the all-daylilies Browns Ferry Gardens on S.C. 51 northwest of Georgetown, gave a PowerPoint summary on all the colors, patterns, forms, characteristics and traits of daylilies, for which a bloom lasts just 12 to 16 hours. She called the flower the “perfect perennial” with its “rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes” that open up from late spring into early autumn on the Grand Strand.
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Only two colors have evaded growers as the number of registered varieties has grown to 75,000 through “hybridizing” – a pure white and blue – “but we’re working on it,” said Douglas, a Cincinnati native who met her husband-to-be, Charles Douglas, at a daylilies convention in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Daylilies do best in full sun, but they need at least “1 inch of water a week,” Heidi Douglas said, noting repeatedly a valuable resource at www.daylilies.org.
This flower’s characteristics, Douglas said, include plants’ reblooming, with fragrances in some types; a nocturnal cycle in which blooms begin opening the previous night; and a variety of flower sizes in diameter, from less than 3 inches to more than 7. Her husband even brought up daylilies’ salt tolerance to the point “they will grow on the beach.”
Marie Parsons of Litchfield Beach, after whom Charles Douglas named a “Miss Marie” daylily variety, said she loves these meetings, not only to help care for her daughter’s beds of daylilies, but to get out and socialize. The 85-year-old sat in the front row next to Ella Maugans, who lives near Southport, N.C.
Maugans said she also frequents the daylily club meetings in her hometown Fayetteville, N.C., and finds driving two hours to either club gathering worth it.
“I love reds and purples,” she said of her favorite types, “but there isn’t an ugly daylily.”
Heidi Douglas also cherishes the camaraderie.
“You come for the flowers, but you stay for the people,” she said.
Craving for camellias
Mack McKinnon of Murrells Inlet remembered growing up in Hartsville, northwest of Darlington, where “everybody had camellias in their yard,” the reason why “I had it in my blood early on.”
The member of the Grand Strand Camellia Society chairs its annual camellia show every January. He also makes time for many such competitive shows across the Southeast, such as in Pinehurst, N.C., last weekend, and Columbia and Charleston earlier this month, with 1,200 and 2,000 flowers on display, respectively.
He said he likes to bring 30 to 35 flowers per show, but that “big growers pack 75 to 100, always just “the bloom of the plant.”
McKinnon grows his flowers in a greenhouse, whereas the club president Jack Cundiff raises his outside, hence two major categories at shows.
“Camellias start blooming in late fall,” McKinnon said, “and really start blooming well in January, February and into March.”
The sheer beauty of the flowers has kept him captivated his whole life, and that visiting other garden clubs, such as in Conway and Hartsville, he loves telling “all about camellias,” covering their care and propagation.
A saltwater fisherman, McKinnon said “these two hobbies don’t conflict.”
Camellia growing inside fills his winters, he said, so he’ll be ready to re-cast his lines on “the first of March ... when the outside flowers will still be blooming.”
Eager to ogle orchids
Kurt Hugelmeyer of Sunset Beach, N.C., co-founded the Myrtle Beach Orchid Society, a new affiliate of the American Orchid Society, about two years ago with John Olszewski and Peggy Steptoe – all from a published notice asking if anyone wanted to get together.
“It’s a fledgling group,” said Hugelmeyer, the vice president, describing the monthly gathering to bring plants for display and talk about different topics.
With a son who runs a greenhouse in Long Island, N.Y., Hugelmeyer said receiving some past gifts of orchids and returning them for rejuvenation sprouted this then-vegetable gardener’s interest in the flower.
His hobby has grown to an indoor stable of 120 orchids, Hugelmeyer said. He said spring remains “one of the best times for immersion into orchids .... now through probably May.”
The club members’ interests in orchids also vary widely, but the flower won Hugelmeyer over “because it’s the most fun,” he said.
The turnout every month includes Ed and Nancy Scott, who own Clearvue Orchid Nursery, near Marion.
“He and his wife come,” Hugelmeyer said, “and he always brings a bunch of flowers to give away.”
Hugelmeyer doesn’t need any season to give him an itch for gardening, though.
“There’s no such thing as spring fever,” he said. “It’s a year-round thing.”
No one orchid variety fulfills his appetite, either.
“If you had just one kind of orchid,” he said, “they would all bloom at the same time, then you have nothing for the rest of the year. If you have many varieties, you can have ... blooms throughout the year.”
For Hugelmeyer, maintaining a cycle keeps the pastime lively, “just to try to see what you can do with them.”
“You sort of challenge yourself,” he said, ”so it’s more fun.”
Never out of season
Gardening, or at least planning greenery, goes on year round at Brookgreen Gardens.
Sara Millar, vice president of horticulture and conservation, said although the average date for a final Grand Strand frost falls on April 15, the formal start of the planting season, gardeners have plenty of things to do now or soon to get beds ready, such as cutting back brown parts of any perennials.
“We do that all through the winter,” Millar said.
Adding compost, whether manure or any kind of composite, and organic products, also is advised, along with soil testing for nutrients and pH levels, “especially if you’re installing a new garden,” she said.
Cleaning up beds also extends to removing winter weeds and dead-heading – removing dead flowers.
Some perennials have popped up this month, and Millar said spring brings the best time for gardeners who want to move them.
Other spring-preparatory cleaning includes checking irrigation systems, and cleaning and sanitizing tools, making sure they’re sharp.
“It’s never too early to start working out in the garden,” Millar said, noting that fertilizing fits in as things warm up as well.
Pruningwise, she said Brookgreen staff trim shrubs, “but try not to touch anything else, such as azaleas” and other bushes that flower in spring.
“Wait until after it flowers,” Millar said, “maybe in mid-July, because they flower on old wood, which sets on buds from the year before.”
Millar and her colleagues also make use of the rest of the year, for fall provides the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs, but tropical bulbs don’t hit the ground until mid-April or later.
Brookgreen also will unveil something new this summer, with Caladium Days, lasting through autumn. Millar said 60,000 of these tropical bulbs of 30 different cultivars, from a Florida grower, were ordered, to fill the beds beneath the Live Oak Allee, in shades of pink, red, white and green, “with really bright tropical leaves.”
A month before spring starts, gardens crews have summer on their minds, just as they had spring in their thoughts before winter, for planting spring bulbs. Staying at least a season ahead never goes out of style.
Millar also said Brookgreen hands will plant a few thousand bulbs such as “Asiatic lilies, dahlias and other summer flowering bulbs that we’ve never planted before.”