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Face cuphea in pot


Text:  Anne K Moore

Photos:  Julia Burnette


Julia's garden in South Carolina might not look portable, but her rocks, boulders, trees, shrubs, and perennials have moved with her from old gardens to new garden. Many are old friends, providing fodder for the wildlife she loves and for art inspiration.


Julia Burnette is an artist with an appreciation of all growing things. She fills her garden with bird feeders and wildlife friendly plants. A pond and stream are integral to her wildlife medley. It is visible from the windows of her studio, where she can see the coming and going of dragonflies, splashing birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. These she captures in watercolor, finding inspiration in the flowers and wild visitors to her garden.


The shrubbery she has chosen is useful as a food source, garden ornament, and watercolor subject. Ninebark has creamy white flowers and exfoliating bark. Chinese Quince and tree-form PeeGee Hydrangea supply cover and food for the wildlife. Trees are a large part of the wildlife equation. Big leaf magnolia, vitex, Carolina hemlock, and vines chosen for leaf and flower all are amenable to nesting. All these specimens and more were moved from her previous garden.


"Many rocks about the garden are from the farm in Campobello where I grew up. I've moved them to and from several houses for the past twenty-four years," she said. Additionally, a number of the plants originally came from that farm, which dates back to the 1800's.


In 2001, Julia's gardens were moved to their newest home in South Carolina even before the house construction was finished. Some of these trees are well traveled, having been moved at least twice in the past twenty-four years.


A contorted black locust, 'Twisty Baby' is one of the most spectacular and unusual trees she moved. In winter, its handsome striated bark and zigzagged branch tips are attention grabbing. In spring, before leaves appear, long fat clusters of flowers hang from stems crinkling off the limbs. The leaves arrive, hanging in clusters also, twisted and turned to resemble grayish-green flowers.


Water swells from what appears to be a natural rock outcropping near the house. It journeys down a rocky stream that narrows and bulges, tumbling from one level to another as it flows past the stone pathway and disappears into a large pool. Bog plants: Cannas, variegated sweet flag and a collection of elephant ears; black, green, and the bi-colored 'Illustris' edge the pond and stream. All are at home at water's edge. Lotus, parrot feather, and water lettuce share space with the friendly goldfish and huge koi.


The crab-orchard-stone footpath widens into a patio with a wooden garden swing. Mazus, with its friendly little flowers, is colonizing the moist areas between the stones. From this quiet vantage point, the gardener/artist could rest in the garden, if she were not busy tending, fluffing, and observing.


Julia's interests span the gamut of gardening. "I like miniature things." She has planted troughs and an old wheelbarrow with dwarf plants. "This old tub came from a farm we developed into a subdivision," she explained. "Over time I've added little things," she said of the appealing miniaturized curios enhancing the settings. Her miniature gardens contain memories as well as plants. "This is a beautiful azalea. I grew this from a cutting. It's at least twenty-five years old, maybe older."

The dwarf plants are well adapted to growing in small containers. Julia also has been dabbling in bonsai for many years. Japanese maples, crabapple, and dwarf crape myrtle live in shallow pots where Julia prunes and wires them into shape. She increases her stock with homegrown trees. "Those are seedlings of my Japanese maples. You get a lot of interesting things if you just let things go to seed," she advised.


Foliage forms add interest to the low landscape. Spikes of iris leaves and stiff grasses play off the ground covers, billowy grasses, and graceful clumps of 'Bowles Golden' carex. The Milk and Wine crinums came from Julia's mother. The unusual two-toned blue flowers of Peruvian scilla are a welcome winter visitor. They die back in summer. The foliage reappears in fall and stays all winter. "In the late winter or early spring, the heads start forming. They are just phenomenal," she observed.


The Chinese wisteria's rampant growth, covering the pergola on the back deck, was its undoing. Its fate was sealed after Julia made too many trips up the ladder, trying to keep it out of trouble. Happily, she thinks she has killed it. The blue passionflower vine is almost as rank growing, requiring constant pruning to keep it in bounds. "I love vines," she said, "and I'm still looking for that perfect vine that is not going to take me over."


Tardiva hydrangeas line one side of the driveway, their huge flower heads bowing down under their own weight. The arbor leading into the garden is host to a well-behaved evergreen wisteria. Its plump blossoms of purple and red would suit any red-hat lady.


Coral bark maple, two-winged silverbell, Chinese fringetree, 'Diana' althea, and Florida anise emerge from the shrub border. In their shade, anemones, toad lilies, hostas, arborvitae ferns, Chinese foxgloves, Lenten roses, hardy begonias, and angel trumpets thrive. Alliums and columbines also pop up from seed throughout the garden.


Julia believes in pushing the zone with the plants she adores.  Some, like the evergreen wisteria, should not survive in her zone 7 garden.  Nevertheless, it thrives and blooms on a sheltered arbor.


Julia's signature quote says it all: 'A garden is where the soul feels at home.' Visit Julia's website: to see some of her original paintings and prints.



Coral Bark Maple Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' Zones 6-8
Two-winged Silverbell Halesia diptera Zones 5-8
Twisty Baby Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia 'Twisty Baby Zones 4-9
Florida Anise Illicium floridanum Zones 7-9
Spiketail Stachyurus praecox Zones 7-9
Sweet Box Sarcococca hookeriana Zones 6-9
Fringetree, Old Man's Beard Chionanthus Zones 5-9
Lenten Rose Helleborus orientalis hybrids Zones 4-9
Blue-eyed Grass Sisyrinchium Zones 5-8
Peruvian Scilla, Cuban Lily Scilla peruviana Zones 8-9
Toad Lily Tricyrtis Zones 5-9
Chinese Foxglove Rehmannia elata Zones 9-10
Mazus Mazus reptans Zones 5-8
Chinese Wisteria Wisteria sinensis Zones 5-8
Evergreen Wisteria Millettia reticulata Zones 10-11
Blue Passionflower Passiflora caerulea Zones 6-9


---Anne K Moore September 4, 2009---


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