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Show #28/3702
An Historic Garden Gem

Summary of Show

Rock Quarry

The 1st garden they visit has a significant change in elevation. People who visit and view the garden can actually walk around the perimeter and look down inside. And, it is a tremendous view. It shows the pond, the bridge and the gardens. There is a real change in elevation because this was an abandoned ROCK QUARRY. It is an historic site and inspired some members of the Memosa Garden Club. They came here, saw this quarry filled with many invasive plants and decided this spot would be a great home for a native plant garden. They have over 600 species of native Georgia plants.
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Blooming Plants

There are some outstanding BLOOMING PLANTS here as well. Sarah shows us a camellia. It can be difficult for many gardeners to grow. They are fortunate because they have a microclimate here and the area has incredibly quick drainage because they are on slopes.
For More Information Click here

Perennials

They next discuss PERENNIALS. There are many perennials in bloom right now. It's hard for Sarah to pick a favorite. Asking about a favorite perennial is a lot like asking about your favorite child. But, in a really wet boggy part of the quarry garden they have some beautiful Iris Virginica or Blue Flag. It's a great substitute for the more invasive Yellow Flag.
For More Information Click here

Smith Family Farm

The first part of the garden they examine definitely captures the look and feel of an EARLY AMERICAN PERENNIAL OR BORDER GARDEN. It is complete with its own swept lawn. The swept lawn is very traditional of the old south. This type lawn kept rodents and insects away from the house and of course was lower maintenance.
For More Information Click here

Ornamental Garden

So, in the front of the house, the lady of the house might have had some things she thought ORNAMENTAL and pretty and would have planted them around the borders. Specifically Roses, perennials and reseeding annuals and perennials. What were some of the perennials they might have used during that time period? Bearded Iris and peonies both are really tough plants; day lilies, the old species, Lychnis flos-cuculi, which is ragged robin and has frothy pink flowers and is all around this garden, it seeds everywhere.
For More Information Click here

Vegetable Garden

150 years ago the VEGETABLE GARDEN would have been a very important garden for any working farm but homesteads as well. They have done a great job of collecting a number of heirloom vegetables and displaying them in the way they would have been grown in the 1800's.
For More Information Click here

Growing Tomatoes

Many vegetables they use in this garden can be grown from seed. Lettuce, of course, is easy to grow from seed. Basically any vegetable is easy to grow from seed although Sarah finds with some it is just easier to buy starter plants. Many today buy their tomatoes as young plants. Here they do GROW TOMATOES FROM SEED. They have a greenhouse, they have heat mats, thus can start them before the last frost, about 8 weeks before the last frost. They plant them in biodegradable cow pots, which Sarah feels are superior to peat pots which often don't break down in the soil as well as the cow pots. They plant the entire pot and about 4 inches of the stem of the tomato in the ground.
For More Information Click here

The Swan House

This is the SWAN HOUSE and it is probably one of the most famous homes in Atlanta. As one views it from Andrews Drive and looks all the way up the sweeping terraces it is truly impressive. It was designed by Philip Trammell Shutze who was also a landscape architect and was a genius at directing the eye. He uses evergreen shrubbery, Elaeagnus, to fence the property from the woodland beyond and to sculpt the view up to the house itself.
For More Information Click here

High Shade Garden

The last stop on our garden tour is a classic example of a HIGH SHADE GARDEN which is typical in many parts of the country, especially so here in the southeast. They do have a lot of gentle topography, rolling hills, a lot of pine trees, oak trees, a lot of root competition. This can be a challenging area for plants to grow. Eric can relate because he has a lot of shade in his garden and finding the right plants that will work well in this environment can be tough.
For More Information Click here

Correct Method For Pruning Azaleas

One of the most common gardening mistakes Eric has encountered is AZALEAS PRUNED at the wrong time of the year or pruning them incorrectly. Sarah offers her advice. Since there are a lot of Azaleas in the south, pruning azaleas is one of the things she too often sees done badly. One does not want to use the hedge trimmers, don't make them square, don't make them gum drop shaped, don't give them bad haircuts. By shearing azaleas you will only get the growth of leaves and flowers on the outer couple of inches. Instead there are 2 other types of pruning cuts.
For More Information Click here

 

LINKS:

Atlanta History Center
Atlanta History Center - Located on 33 acres of history in Buckhead, Atlanta

Atlanta History Center Gardens
Atlanta History Center | Gardens | Buckhead, Georgia

Plant List

 

 

Transcript of Show

In this Episode GardenSMART visits a public garden that's devoted to preserving the history of gardening while keeping an eye out for new and exciting plants. A lot to learn, join us as we GardenSMART in Georgia.

In 1926 the Atlanta Historical Society was formed to help preserve the history of Atlanta. Over the past 82 years the organization has grown substantially and in 1990 it became The Atlanta History Center. Now located on 33 acres in historic Buckhead, the Center is home to numerous museums and 6 beautiful, historic gardens that represent Georgia's distinctive flora, both native and introduced. Each garden tells the story of of a particular group of people who interacted with the land and its plants in distinguishable ways. The gardens are often overlooked gems on the campus of the History Center. In this episode we explore the history of this great city through the lens of 6 unique gardens.

Sarah Roberts is the curator of these historic gardens and has a long and decorated career in public and private gardening. Sarah takes us back in time showing us heirloom plants and design principles that have persevered for generations.

Eric next meets Sarah and thanks her for joining GardenSMART. Sarah has quite a bit of experience with public gardens. She feels she has been fortunate and worked at the Blooms of Bressingham, in England, at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University, plus had 5 years at the New York Botanical Garden as their Curator of Herbaceous Plants. During those times she had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people.

Sarah grew up in Atlanta, learned horticulture from her dad, just following him around the garden learning about ornamental plants. Her mom is a great vegetable gardener and learned a lot from her as well. When it came time to go off to college she didn't go far away, it felt quite natural to go to Barry College in Rome, Georgia where she received her Bachelors in Horticulture. She then spent a year abroad in England working and studying horticulture.

This is Eric's 1st time at the Atlanta Historical Society and is anxious to learn about these gardens. Sarah explains - They have 22 acres of green space, there are 6 historic gardens, 2 historic houses and miles of trails. Eric can't wait to get started so off they go.

The 1st garden they visit has a significant change in elevation. People who visit and view the garden can actually walk around the perimeter and look down inside. And, it is a tremendous view. It shows the pond, the bridge and the gardens. There is a real change in elevation because this was an abandoned ROCK QUARRY. It is an historic site and inspired some members of the Memosa Garden Club. They came here, saw this quarry filled with many invasive plants and decided this spot would be a great home for a native plant garden. They have over 600 species of native Georgia plants. The quarry is most known for the state champion Franklinia Altamaha. Some call it the lost camilla. It is unusually tall for the species and is extinct in the wild. It was discovered in Georgia on the banks of the Altamaha River by John and William Barchum and last seen in the wild in 1803. John and William collected seeds and plant materials on their explorations then brought them back to their home. All the descendants of this species are from their original collections.

There are some outstanding BLOOMING PLANTS here as well. Sarah shows us a camellia. It can be difficult for many gardeners to grow. They are fortunate because they have a microclimate here and the area has incredibly quick drainage because they are on slopes. There is plenty of rainwater running down the side of the rock face which provides a great place for plants to grow and thrive. One of her favorites is Aesculus pavia, a red flowering buckeye. Chionanthus virginicus is a plant we don't often see yet is an impactful flowering plant. It is one of Eric's favorite understory trees, very graceful and has delicate flowers that are fragrant. They also have a very big specimen, a Fringe Tree. It is about 20 feet tall which is large for this tree.

They next discuss PERENNIALS. There are many perennials in bloom right now. It's hard for Sarah to pick a favorite. Asking about a favorite perennial is a lot like asking about your favorite child. But, in a really wet boggy part of the quarry garden they have some beautiful Iris Virginica or Blue Flag. It's a great substitute for the more invasive Yellow Flag. It grows in colonies, it's roots can actually grow under water which is ideal because this area is consistently moist and seasonally will often flood. Another plant that does well in this area is another native, Zephyranthes atamasco, the Rain Lily. It grows in boggy soil, looks great with Golden Alexander, Zizia aurea, because they flower at the same time. It's bright and white and looks great in the shade.

Eric likes the fact that public gardens, when done well, are a great place to learn what plants look good together and to learn what plants will thrive in certain conditions. The boggy area here is a good example, one can come here and learn what plants will handle tough situations.

Dawn Cypress, the Redwood, grows knees in swampy soil. Agarista populifolia, a low maintenance evergreen, shrub stands out. As does Tiarella, the foam flower, which has a frothy white flower, it's a ground cover, spreads by rhizomes, has a handsome foliage and is a favorite of Sarah's. And all are in the Quarry Garden.

The next area is an interesting departure from the Quarry Garden. It was a working farm, the Smith Family farm. The house was built in 1845. Originally the farm was 100 acres but now is compressed to this site and several acres. It is interpreted to the period of the Civil War in the 1860's.

The first part of the garden they examine definitely captures the look and feel of an EARLY AMERICAN PERENNIAL OR BORDER GARDEN. It is complete with its own swept lawn. The swept lawn is very traditional of the old south. This type lawn kept rodents and insects away from the house and of course was lower maintenance. The perennials grown were mostly for cut flowers. They use "A Southern Cultivator," or heirloom periodical that they actually have at the Cherokee Garden Library on site. It was a periodical that might have been read by the Smith Family during their day. Sarah and others read those periodicals today to gain insight into what plants they grew, what cultivars they tried and their methods and techniques used in growing. So, in the front of the house, the lady of the house might have had some things she thought ORNAMENTAL and pretty and would have planted them around the borders. Specifically Roses, perennials and reseeding annuals and perennials. What were some of the perennials they might have used during that time period? Bearded Iris and peonies both are really tough plants; day lilies, the old species, Lychnis flos-cuculi, which is ragged robin and has frothy pink flowers and is all around this garden, it seeds everywhere. Move it around a little and it will fill the gaps between other perennials and shrubs. They are sturdy plants and have withstood the test of time. Byzantine Gladiolus has a hot magenta color, it doesn't like to be overly wet but give it some sun and good drainage and it will thrive. Heliotrope is wonderful and back in the day would have been called cherry pie, which was its common name. It smells a little like vanilla, is a deep, rich purple and can grow from seed. Actually they grow a lot of things from seed because the material they want isn't typically found in the big box stores. These one must find for themselves, something you must start yourself.

150 years ago the VEGETABLE GARDEN would have been a very important garden for any working farm but homesteads as well. They have done a great job of collecting a number of heirloom vegetables and displaying them in the way they would have been grown in the 1800's. Sarah thinks it's incredibly important to grow your own vegetables, then and now. The heirloom vegetables they recently harvested are cool season crops. They have now gone past the last frost free date and are starting to put in their summer vegetables. The cool season vegetables coming out are - white icicle radishes, it's an early variety, pretty hot, if you pick them when they are smaller they are a little bit milder. They also have Bloomsdale spinach which is the same variety Sarah's mom grows at home today. One can pick it up at big box stores or find it in seed catalogues. Here they special order most of their seed and grow it themselves. This one has withstood the test of time and is still very popular. Those were some of the cool season crops, Eric wants to know about some of the summer vegetables they grow here.

People during this era grew vegetables. They then would preserve them whether in a root cellar, by drying or by canning. Popular during this era, and today, were squash, eggplant, cayenne peppers, bell peppers, garlic, leeks, parsnips, salsify, all kinds of old timey vegetables that we can use today. They grow a lot of tomatoes because people from that time grew tomatoes, it's just that today Sarah grows different varieties.

Eric notices that the beds where the vegetables are planted are essentially makeshift raised beds. They are not that dissimilar to the kind of raised beds we might use in our gardens today. Sarah agrees, these could be considered the precursor to modern day raised beds. What these beds represent is the fact that Georgia farmers during an earlier time realized how tough this soil was to work. They would plow it up, then hill it up in ridges in order to get better drainage for vegetables. The crops today are grow in a similar fashion, both here and in their fields.

Many vegetables they use in this garden can be grown from seed. Lettuce, of course, is easy to grow from seed. Basically any vegetable is easy to grow from seed although Sarah finds with some it is just easier to buy starter plants. Many today buy their tomatoes as young plants. Here they do GROW TOMATOES FROM SEED. They have a greenhouse, they have heat mats, thus can start them before the last frost, about 8 weeks before the last frost. They plant them in biodegradable cow pots, which Sarah feels are superior to peat pots which often don't break down in the soil as well as the cow pots. They plant the entire pot and about 4 inches of the stem of the tomato in the ground. Sarah digs behind where she wants the plant to go. It doesn't need to be really deep because she 1st takes off the lower leaves. Of course, it's never too early to scout for insects. She notices an aphid and goes ahead and squishes it. She then picks off all the lower leaves and sets the tomato in the ground on its side. This is a technique her mother taught her and she has Georgia's most productive tomato garden. So it works, Sarah is not going to change her planting approach. She sets it in the ground, holds the tip upward, then just backfills the hole. All of their soil they amend with horse manure and compost, so it's very rich. This is important because Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Tamp them down, make sure the soil has contact with the roots and stem. It's very simple, that's all you do. One important thing to remember is which way you put your pot or the root ball if just sliding it out of the pot. Sarah always puts the plant facing forward, that way she knows she can put her stake at the back. If you don't remember and plant them in different directions you might end up spearing the root ball. She next uses 8 foot tall stakes, drives them into the ground at least a foot, then grows the tomatoes accordion style. This is an 1800's method of saving space in the garden. Here they only allow 2 main vines of the tomato to grow. Tie it up with cotton strips which is what they would have had available during that era because they didn't have wire cages. This is the method they use here today and Sarah loves it. By following this procedure one will get a lot more tomatoes per square foot. After tying them up she pinches out the extra growth, otherwise you will get a lot of vine production but not as many tomatoes. This is a great space saving way to grow tomatoes and Eric thinks an attractive way to trellis tomatoes. There are certainly other ways to grow tomatoes but this is a good method for a small garden.

Eric is impressed with all the borrowed views. The quarry was an unusual structure, the colonial home, as well, and now they visit a grand mansion. This is the SWAN HOUSE and it is probably one of the most famous homes in Atlanta. As one views it from Andrews Drive and looks all the way up the sweeping terraces it is truly impressive. It was designed by Philip Trammell Shutze who was also a landscape architect and was a genius at directing the eye. He uses evergreen shrubbery, Elaeagnus, to fence the property from the woodland beyond and to sculpt the view up to the house itself. Along the way one notices the beautiful fountain which was based on the Villa Corsini in Rome. It draws the eye up to the door at the top. He definitely wanted the house to be the star of the show. There is not a lot of color, mostly shades of green. That basically provides a nice picture frame for the amazing vista. The greenery is the backdrop in this case, rather than having a lot of ornamental flowering plants. There are some roses in the garden and they are beautiful when in flower in the summer but really it is about the structure of the garden, the peaceful, tranquil nature of the house, the land and the architecture. Shutze was challenged by his clients to make this garden look instantly old, which is something we struggle with even today. We want our gardens to be instantly big and beautiful. So in the 1920's they had elaeagnus which is what he used for evergreen hedges and running bamboo which serves as a screen in certain parts. And of course it grows rather quickly. The price one pays for getting that instant gratification is in the long run you will have more maintenance. You get rampant growth and an invasive nature. Eric thinks it important for a gardener to think about what the garden will look like in 5 or 10 years. A 2 year old garden does not need to look like a 10 year old garden. Thus we must address how we space plants. Do not plant them too close together. Look at things like boxwood that have a more controlled growth and in the long run will require a lot less maintenance. And, boxwood was a plant that Schutze did use here in the landscape. There are some very large specimens that have aged very gracefully with the home which is what one wants in their home landscape. Here in the boxwood garden and around the side of the Swan House they use the cultivar Korean Boxwood called Justin Bowers. It's a great little intimate space and this boxwood is slow growing. It responds well to pruning, is sun tolerant though it does get some shade which it does need in the south. As long as it doesn't have wet roots in the winter or a hard winter wind it will be fine, very low maintenance.

The last stop on our garden tour is a classic example of a HIGH SHADE GARDEN which is typical in many parts of the country, especially so here in the southeast. They do have a lot of gentle topography, rolling hills, a lot of pine trees, oak trees, a lot of root competition. This can be a challenging area for plants to grow. Eric can relate because he has a lot of shade in his garden and finding the right plants that will work well in this environment can be tough. This garden provides a wonderful opportunity for gardeners to find what plants will work in this type environment and as well what plants work well together in this type environment. Some favorites are the Japanese Maples, Eric loves the burgundy foliage. The oak leaf hydrangeas, which are native, do well here. They tolerate the drought and clay soil. Chamaecyparis has a feathery foliage and the rhododendrons and azaleas are the backbone of this garden, they provide the structure. In this garden Sarah is not bound to the historical authenticity of the plants. Here she can be a little more playful, she has more freedom she doesn't have to worry about using a plant pallet from a particular era and she doesn't have to stick with a formal or cottagey style. This is just a naturalistic, typical Atlanta or southeastern space and she gets to play around, make some mixed borders in a naturalistic setting. One plant they want to discuss is Distylium. It is a new and emerging plant and Sarah has some planted on the slope. It is a tough plant, has wonderful foliage and really neat to see in a garden. It is Eric's favorite new plant on the market. This is Distylium, Blue Cascade, a hybrid and has a great blue green sheen and dark green leaves and a natural cascading habit. They planted it on a slope where nobody wants to climb, or plant or prune. So anything that would be high maintenance wouldn't work. So they picked this evergreen with its natural, cascading form and worked it down the slope. It will cover all the ground in a short period of time and be very low maintenance. It's not an easy plant to find but definitely well worth seeking.

Sarah feels that Epimedium or Fairy wings is a wonderful plant for tough dry shade. They look so delicate but are tough. The new growth emerges with some bronzy oranges and burgundy tones. The foliage is handsome, it lasts all year and will grow to only about 6 or 8 inches tall. The flowers appear in winter providing winter interest, they are dainty, just dangle above the leaves. There are yellow, pink or white varieties. You can cut off the old winter foliage and showcase the new growth that is coming up under the flowers. That's Sarah's top pick. For a shrub she would select Fatsia japonica, it has great glossy dark leaves. She has actually grown it under magnolias, in tough spots where nobody wants to be and it does fine.

One of the most common gardening mistakes Eric has encountered is AZALEAS PRUNED at the wrong time of the year or pruning them incorrectly. Sarah offers her advice. Since there are a lot of Azaleas in the south, pruning azaleas is one of the things she too often sees done badly. One does not want to use the hedge trimmers, don't make them square, don't make them gum drop shaped, don't give them bad haircuts. By shearing azaleas you will only get the growth of leaves and flowers on the outer couple of inches. Instead there are 2 other types of pruning cuts. The 1st is called a heading cut, it would be used to rejuvenate the plant. With this procedure you are cutting a branch all the way back, not to where there is another branch union but to basically a stub cut. This will produce a lot of new growth right below your cut. This will create a new canopy for the azalea. You could even take 1 or 2 branches out to make a more dense shrub. But typically the only thing most people need to do is thinning. With thinning all you're doing is taking a branch that you think has grown a little outside the canopy, thus getting a little bit big, and you just make it a little smaller. So take the branch, prune it back to a union with another branch. It's a small cut, you reach in and are just feathering the cuts. This will enable more sunlight to get into the azalea, it will stimulate more growth and importantly you won't have any ugly pruning cuts that are going to be an eyesore.

Sarah wants to make one point. Since azaleas come in such a riot of colors-pinks, lavenders, oranges, it's very easy to plant a raucous mix of azaleas. To make it easier on yourself buy just one cultivar or go to your garden center and buy azaleas when in bloom, when they are fully flowering. That way you can see what you're buying, importantly not buying a combination that's not going to be pleasing to the eye.

Eric thinks that is great advice and thanks Sarah for spending the day with us. The gardens look amazing and we've learned a tremendous amount. Thanks Sarah.

 

LINKS:

Atlanta History Center
Atlanta History Center - Located on 33 acres of history in Buckhead, Atlanta

Atlanta History Center Gardens
Atlanta History Center | Gardens | Buckhead, Georgia

Plant List




   
   
 
   
   
   
   
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