Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Southern apples

We'll be adding a selection of South Carolina heirloom apples (10 semi-dwarf trees) in the Heirloom Garden, thanks to Slow Food Clemson University (through grants from Slow Food Upstate and Slow Food US). 

Malus domestica
A celebration today at the Student Organic Farm, where another ten are planted, featured comments by Creighton Lee Calhoun, author of Old Southern Apples.

Apples are a storied crop (I mention this a bit more in the link provided above about the celebration), and most of us have apple memories and stories to share.  I remember discovering Gravensteins and Newtown Pippins as a graduate student in California years ago.  We once grew over 2000 varieties in the South according to Lee Calhoun -- we still have about 500 extant.  Remarkable.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fall color

fall color along the Cameron Walkway

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Plant a Row for the Hungry

Master Gardeners' vegetable garden
A devoted Master Gardeners of the Foothills group has been growing vegetables all summer and fall in the Heirloom Vegetable Garden site.  It's resulted in well over 600 lbs. of produce to our local food banks.

In the spirit of the Garden Writer Association initiative, I've titled this post "Plant a Row for the Hungry" -- they've been encouraging this for years. 

But lots of groups are growing food for local food banks on open space in our cities and towns. Often, it's on space previously devoted to lawn;  here it's a highly productive garden area that's been well-tended for many years as the Heirloom Vegetable Garden.

Check out the great fall plantings that they've made.  What a lovely, productive garden!
cool-season vegetables and the last of the peppers

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hayden Conference Center rain garden

This was an excellent project, sponsored by CU Extension's Water Quality programs, Pickens County Stormwater Initiative,  and Pickens County Extension.

I described the plants and process on a recent post on my personal gardening blog.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Small meadow plantings

Junction of Arboretum Rd and the service road to the Hort. Support Area
Don't miss the recently-added small meadow plantings if you have a chance to visit the Garden sometime soon.

Kathy Bridges, one of our staff horticulturists, has been working magic creating small meadow swaths along our entrance road medians, along the Arboretum Road, and the junction towards the horticultural support area.

The small meadow planting at the junction is particularly nice, and looks great in early morning light.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Fall is one of the best times to visit the Garden. Our perennial borders in the Children's Garden, and above the Hayden Conference Center are outstanding, not to mention the Butterfly Garden (just beyond the Children's Garden).

Lots of flower visitors --butterflies, flower flies, bumblebees, honeybees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, wasps, etc. -- check them out!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's time to plant

Yes, it's been a dry late summer and early fall, but we have had a good rainy spell last week, cooler temperatures are ahead, and it's time to plant!

The Garden's Fall Plant Sale begins tomorrow  with our Friend's sale (Sept. 30: 2:30-6 pm; you can join on the spot), and our public sale on Saturday (Oct. 1) from 9 am to 1 pm.

Ryan Merck, our Nursery Manager, has put together a great array of plants, from woodies to perennials, all plants that you're not going to find at a local big box store or garden center.

Check it out!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Drought and fall

The last 6 weeks have been remarkably dry for the Garden.  Before that, it was a nicely wet spring and normal early summer.

Thunderstorms that have helped ease late summer drought elsewhere in the Upstate have passed us by and the unusually high temperatures have resulted in parched-looking landscapes throughout our area. Towards the Blue Ridge Escarpment and the mountains, rainfall is much closer to normal, but here in the Piedmont, it's dry.

Needless to say, we're trying to balance responsible irrigation with a sustainable gardening ethic.

It's interesting to notice what plants are still looking good, too.  Take a look around your own landscape (if you're in an incipient drought region), and check it out.

There are a great number of plants that are still looking good, along with a lot of plants (both natives and non-natives) which aren't looking so great.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Searching for Salamanders

We had a wonderful turn out for Searching for Salamanders, Finding Frogs and Catching Crayfish on a coolish Saturday morning. Despite the numbers I think everyone had a good time and got to explore several different areas of the creek. We counted 67 participants!!

We found 2 salamanders, bunches of frogs, and crayfish and a rather stunned box turtle. Being surrounded by many pairs of feet will to that to a shy, retiring creature!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day Two Fanning Summer Science Camp: Birds

We began day two inside working on a bird mural. Here Blaine is hard at work rendering a robin. The goals for this morning activity were to become familiar using identification guides, to think about rendering details (field marks), and have fun! I discovered they love to paint -

We were extremely lucky to be the recipients of three Identiflyers, made by a local company based in Salem, SC - just down the road from the Botanical Garden. This is an extremely easy to operate bird song identifier. The kids loved playing with them in the Nature Center, almost as much as outside - below is my son James having a great time with one. Just sitting with them began to tune the children into birdsongs. Outside on the trail the Identiflyers were even more fun- as they enticed first a Blue Jay and then a Robin to check out the invading "birds."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fanning Garden Explorations Camp

Today was the first day of the Fanning Garden Explorations Summer Science Camp. Our first exploratory foray into the Garden was in search of insects. We found several different kinds of bees- from teeny, tiny to huge, from pale brown honey bees to iridescent green ones.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's a peak time for birds in the Garden

The chorus of bird songs that welcome me each morning as I walk up the hill to my office is amazing. 

Many are familiar, but they're punctuated with new birds as migrants come home or move through.

I heard a Louisiana Waterthrush yesterday with Patrick McMillan (the director of the Garden) along the streamside trail beyond the Woodland Wildflower Garden  -- it's full of different species of ferns, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and a few trilliums.

I heard the song again today on a lunchtime walk with a good friend.  

Males sing profusely when they're establishing their territories, and I heard the song at the same spot as yesterday.  Hopefully, he'll attract a mate and establish a nest in the eroded bank at that spot -- it seems like the right habitat.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Garden volunteers visiting from JC Raulston Arboretum

It's always great to have gardeners visiting the Garden, and this was a special group.

I hosted a group of volunteers from the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State in Raleigh this morning, showing them as many highlights as I could fit in -- in a couple of hours --a challenge more than ever. 

The Upstate visit, orchestrated by Marian St. Clair (Garden columnist at the Greenville News and SC Master Gardener) and Beth Jimenez (of the JC Raulston volunteers) included visits to private gardens in Greenville, nursery visits in Greenville and Seneca, the visit to SCBG, and a special tour of Chuck and Betty Cruickshank's personal garden in Clemson  (Chuck shared the story of the SCBG Hosta Garden with us on site).

The Garden is alive with colors of green in spring - this has been a wonderful spring for natives and ornamentals alike. 

More trilliums than I've ever seen before were in flower, and later today, SCBG Director Patrick McMillan showed me a Silene polypetala in full flower that's just appeared in the Woodland Wildflower Garden. 

Silene polypetala flower (P. McMillan)
None of us has ever seen this plant in flower there before -- nor do we know its origin -- but some combination of good conditions has supported the flowering of this rare Georgia native in our Garden!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pond sliders and frogs

This evening I heard frogs calling from the Cherokee World View Garden pond coming down the hill from a brief office visit.

I don't know all of their identities,  but there were multiple different calls -- probably including a tree frog in the mix, too.  What a great reminder of spring being here. The crickets have started to sing, too.  Summer is on the way.

red-eared slider

young pond slider (very small!
These pond sliders were hanging out on the Duck Pond dam -- I was looking for the Northern Water Snakes that like to bask there on rocks.  But the red-eared pond sliders were fun to see, too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Second Chance Plant Sale

If you've missed our Plant Sales so far, there's a Second Chance Sale coming up this weekend.  I'm keen on the Sprouting Wings pots, bird's nests, and decorated eggs.

These blown eggs from our Sprouting Wings program are beautiful (I snapped them up yesterday at our Earth Day event).

There's still space in the Psanky egg-decorating class, too, rescheduled from last week to this coming Tuesday.

Sprouting Wings decorated eggs

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First monarchs

I didn't see them at the Garden, but in our front meadow at home (less than a mile away).
monarch on young milkweed shoot
I saw two monarchs flitting around, and one ovipositing (apparently) on our common milkweed plants (emerged and growing nicely).

Milkweed shoot (Asclepias syriaca)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Calycanthus fruits and a morel

Calycanthus fruits (seeds eaten by Golden Mice)
Along the Heusel Nature Trail last Saturday, we took a look at some Calycanthus fruits  -- the seeds totally absent, and the large openings (and chew marks) indicating the cause: Golden mice! Patrick mentioned that he recently did a video piece of a golden mouse eating the seeds for an upcoming Expeditions program.  Something not to miss.

My friend and former colleague at the Garden (Jennifer Bausman) was also part of the Saturday group. She was able to pass on this 'ecological story' to a group of OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) folks in a hiking group this week. It's a nice reflection of how learning about the natural world works.

We even saw a morel (a prized edible mushroom) along one of the woodland trails.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Northern Water Snake

Patrick McMillan took us on a great Garden walk this morning (more sightings -birds, and plants- to come), but I was glad to see the family group of Northern Water Snakes that enjoy the sun on the rocks supporting the Duck Pond Dam.

I'd seen them yesterday, all curled up together.  But today, I had my camera along.  They moved around a bit, but finally one was photogenic!

Northern Water Snake (Nerodia spidedon)

Folks often think these snakes are water moccasins or cottonmouths (they don't live above the fall line of South Carolina, so aren't here in the Upstate).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring is here

All of our native trees are leafing out, the early-flowering Asian speices (think Magnolia, Prunus, and Forsythia) are well along, with native woodland wildflowers in flower, too.

If you can, come spend some time in the Garden.  It's a special place in spring, and in any time of the year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


If you haven't visited the Garden lately, it's starting to shake off winter and embrace spring.  Seasonal change is here, with our native woodland trees just starting to expand their leaves. 

Spring wildflowers in the Woodland Wildflower Garden are well along, with Oconee Bells, Trout Lilies, and Little Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) in flower, and Mayapple foliage quite apparent.

The spring migrant birds are starting to come through, and our winter residents are departing.

It's a great time to visit!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A yellow-bellied sapsucker

A glimpse of a woodpecker on a lunchtime walk turned out to be a male yellow-bellied sapsucker, working through an already marked tree.  The sapsucker 'wells' are used primarily to trap insects, which are consumed, but secondarily serve other birds, such as ruby-throated hummingbirds, and probably insects, etc. 

Hummingbirds track the sapsuckers on their northern migration.   The sapsuckers are still here (they're winter residents), and the ruby-throated hummingbirds have been seen in Texas. 

But spring migration is on the way.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring is definitely here

Oconee Bells, Trout Lilies and Hepatica are flowering now in the Woodland Wildflower Garden, and the mayapple foliage is emerging.

Buds are swollen on hickories and buckeyes, and alders, birches, and elms are producing pollen (achoo!)

We're seeing the first wave of early migrant birds in the Garden, as well as the last of our winter residents, as they depart for their northern breeding grounds.

Star Magnolias and Saucer Magnolias are as nice as I remember ever seeing them.  With a warm February, the buds weren't nipped by frosts so they're in full flower.  The Edgeworthia (Paperbush) pair in front of the Hayden Conference Center are lovely and fragrant;  oddly late this year, probably because of the January cold.

The odd overlaps in flowering times are because of the unusual winter cold, followed by an remarkably warm February, I suspect.

Of course, I didn't have my camera at work today, so I'll try to post a few photos tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spring is coming

This is a great time of the year.  Spring migrants (usually birds) are on their way;  our winter residents are active as they're heading north.

But I'm especially looking forward to ruby-throated hummingbirds returning to the Upstate, and the spring northerly migration of monarch butterflies from their overwintering grounds in Mexico.

Journey North, a wonderful citizen science project, tracks monarchs, hummingbirds, spring migrants (birds) and other seasonal activities, thanks to generous grant funding from the Annenberg Foundation and others.

Check out this amazing image taken by Dr. Lincoln Brower of the monarchs at El Rosario, one of the main overwintering sites.

Overwintering monarchs at El Rosario

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More winter greens

It's been amazing to see what is being produced in our 'cold' Sprouting Wings greenhouse without fossil-fuel assisted heat this winter.

It's been an interesting experiment, with encouraging results.

lettuce mix from the cold greenhouse
I sowed spinach, lettuce, mesclun mix, kale, mustard greens, and corn salad in late fall.  It's been remarkably productive so fall -- we have long days, even in winter, so growth continues.

I'm planning to sow additional vegetables over the coming weeks to experiment with what's possible in this unheated polyhouse.

Lisa Wagner

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lots of winter birds in the Garden

We had a great birding outing this morning in the Garden. 

Patrick McMillan and Matt Johnson (Patrick's assistant on Expeditions and a keen birder) provided expertise.  We were a small group, so were able to see many more birds than I've ever managed to spot in the Garden before, either alone or with other birding groups.

It was more than well worth the contribution to Garden Education programs, too.

There are myriad ways to learn about birds, but digital advances have provided portable field guides with bird songs and calls on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. Totally wonderful.  I've had CD's and chip-based players, but these portable versions --great!

But, regardless of the digital devices, the best way to learn about birds is to go out with good birders, who point out birds and their field marks and cue you in to their calls and songs  -- so, thanks Patrick and Matt!

Birds we saw (and often were able to hear:

Red-shouldered Hawk
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Eastern Bluebird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
Pine Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
American Goldfinch
House Finch

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter vegetables

OK, all we need to do is provide a bit of protection to be able to grow many hardy greens, even in snowy winters like the last two years.

All that means is a polycover of some sort.  I've seen them in Europe and Asia used on a commercial scale. 

And, we have day lengths that will support the growth of winter greens, except for a week around the winter solstice.

A sister post has photos.

Let's start growing!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow days

The Garden is cloaked with snow following the recent storm.  I saw a pair of killdeer investigating the meadow edges, with not much success finding food, as far as I could tell.  The meadow pond was striking, though, with a backdrop of trees outlined by snow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter greens

I posted this on my Natural Gardening blog in December and I'm looking forward to seeing how our winter greens experiment in the Sprouting Wings greenhouse has fared. 

It's been a very cold winter so far (in spite of predictions), so it'll be interesting to see how the young plants have been doing.  The days are getting longer now, so there's definitely more hours of sun to promote growth, when the temperatures are conducive to it.

Ginny reported that the spinach was doing well (this was after the very cold spell in December), so I'm hopeful that a bit of protection will be just enough.