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GardenSMART Episode

Show #13/6313. Cornerstone Gardens

Summary of Show

Cornerstone Gardens Is A Hidden Gem
Vaughan joins Eric and GardenSMART and walks us through his little slice of heaven. Eric welcomes Vaughan, thanks so much for joining us, welcome to the show. Vaughan Drinkard reciprocates - Thanks Eric, it’s good to be here. CORNERSTONE GARDENS is one of those little tucked away, hidden gems. For More Information Click Here

British Garden
The first garden that we'll walk into is an informal BRITISH GARDEN. And the reason Vaughan says informal is that it has plants other than boxwood and holly which one typically finds in a true British garden. For More Information Click Here

Formal Gardens Are Peaceful
Eric finds something very PEACEFUL about formal gardens. There's a structure and an order to them. They have a way of just putting ones' mind at rest and ease because there's not a chaotic nature, not a lot of texture and color going on. For a meditation garden, this has a very natural element and that's what Vaughan designed. For More Information Click Here

Garden Laid Out In Quadrants
The garden is LAID OUT IN QUADRANTS. The plants he's chosen, such as the Indian hawthorn and the gardenias and the sasanquas make it an informal British garden, at least by Vaughan's definition. And they all come together by closing the quadrants. So it's ordered in a very special way. And again, all the plants that bloom from the gate to the koi pond are white and white has a peacefulness to it. Eric loves white gardens and one reason why he loves white gardens is because some of the most fragrant plants on the planet are white flowering plants. For More Information Click Here

Japanese Garden
Eric thinks some of the most tranquil and peaceful gardens he has ever been in are JAPANESE GARDENS. And, of course, the thought behind that kind of gardening is to create a sense of tranquility and peace. Vaughan has water features, hardscape, even the way that the garden path winds around corners and opens up into quiet, almost private rooms in the garden, is all part of the thought that goes behind this garden. Eric would like for Vaughan to talk about the design of this Japanese garden. This is a small woodlands Japanese garden, and it's made up of a half path. For More Information Click Here

Camellias
There's hardly a corner in this garden that does not feature a CAMELLIA and there are hundreds of them here. Eric is assuming that is because Vaughan comes from a long line of camellia devotees. It's in his blood. His grandfather, Cliff Harris, bought the Longview Nursery in the early '50s from the Rubles’. Mr. Ruble was one of the earliest camellia hybridizers in the country. Pop developed, among other flowers, the Queen Elizabeth II. For More Information Click Here

What Is A Cultivar
There are so many amazing cultivars that exist in the world of horticulture. Eric thinks it's important to briefly talk about WHAT A CULTIVAR IS. A cultivar is a clonal copy of that plant we love. So, if in your garden you find a seedling camellia that has all the attributes that you want, you might want to propagate it by taking a stem from that plant and vegetatively propagate it by cutting. For More Information Click Here

Grafting
But GRAFTING is what has dominated the industry for many, many years. Especially if you go back 80, 100 years, that was the way it was done. And Vaughan has now been grafting plants for 60 years. And that is his method of choice for propagating camellias. Vaughan has been kind enough to offer to show everyone how it's done. Vaughan is working on a "Bob Hope” that we talked about earlier. He takes a cutting, camellia people call it a scion. Vaughan is the scion of his dad. This is a scion of Bob Hope. This will have Bob Hope DNA when it takes in the graft. Vaughan uses a sasanqua which is not a beautiful plant to most people. It's a pretty camellia, but it's a hedge row basically, but it's root rot resistant and it's a hardy grower. So, that's what he calls the mother plant. For More Information Click Here

Fertilization
Vaughan feels that FERTILIZATION of camellias is very important. If you want the blooms that we had this year, that just burst out and were lovely, you want to use a 12-6-6 solution, or 13-6-6, depending on where you buy it. For More Information Click Here

Pruning
PRUNING - you prune right after the blooms stop blooming, and you can prune a camellia back almost to half of its size if you want to. Eric adds it just shows the incredible flexibility of the plant. For More Information Click Here

Staghorn Fern
Eric comments that every time he visits a new garden and meets a new gardener friend he loves to pick their brain for their gardening stories. Everyone has a plethora of really neat gardening stories or just the interesting people that they've met along the way. He knows that Vaughan must have a million stories. But Eric wants Vaughan to leave us with one story that particularly makes you smile. One of Vaughan's favorite stories in the Cornerstone Gardens is about a STAGHORN FERN. For More Information Click Here

LINKS:

Cornerstone Gardens
Cornerstone Gardens & Arboretum | A place of meditation, rest and reflection

Plant List

Show #13/6313. Cornerstone Gardens

Transcript of Show

In this Episode GardenSMART visits a beautiful garden just blocks away from the bustling heart of Mobile, Alabama. And we find a beautiful garden built for respite and retreat. Cornerstone Gardens was built as a retreat for ministers, missionaries, and evangelists who come to stay in the adjacent carriage house to reflect and recharge. A collection of gardens, it features a formal British garden, a fragrance garden, a woodland Japanese garden, and a Camellia garden. Scattered throughout are quiet places for visitors to sit, reflect, and simply enjoy the breathtaking views.

The vision for the garden was born when Vaughan Drinkard broke ground on a vacant lot adjacent to his home to pursue his dream of creating a place of beauty for the weary to recharge and a place where people can come explore beautiful and unusual plants.

Vaughan joins Eric and GardenSMART and walks us through his little slice of heaven. Eric welcomes Vaughan, thanks so much for joining us, welcome to the show. Vaughan Drinkard reciprocates - Thanks Eric, it’s good to be here. CORNERSTONE GARDENS is one of those little tucked away, hidden gems. Eric loves finding these gardens. This is one of those gardens where you know there's going to be something fantastic on the other side of the gate. Eric is so happy to be here. Vaughan Drinkard says it's great to have y'all here and looking forward to y'all seeing what Cornerstone Gardens is all about.

Eric would like talk about how Vaughn got this garden started. He knows Cornerstone Gardens is a garden with a bit of a mission and a vision. Tell us about that. Vaughan is glad to do so. When he retired from law practice the first time, he's back in it now a little bit, his wife said, "What can we do to give back to the Lord other than our church work?” They had a back house behind the old house called the carriage house. They decided, "We'll bring pastors in for short periods of time for respite and repose” and build a garden in this old green space they've had and let that be a meditation and prayer garden for the pastors."

One thing led to another. They built a British garden and the public immediately wanted to come in and see what this green space was. And the rest is history. Eric notes that in larger cities green space can oftentimes be limited. In Atlanta that is definitely an issue. So as folks in Mobile discovered this garden it became a garden for the community. It's a private garden open to the public. Since there aren't private green spaces in downtown Mobile Cornerstone Garden became a popular spot. And as people are going down Government Street they see it and wander in. It has continued to attract visitors and now they come in all the time.

This garden is located on just over an acre and has a lot of action packed into a very small space. The first garden that we'll walk into is an informal BRITISH GARDEN. And the reason Vaughan says informal is that it has plants other than boxwood and holly which one typically finds in a true British garden. Everything in this British garden that blooms is white, so it's a white informal British garden with additional plants other than boxwood and holly. Then in the back of that is the next largest garden, the Japanese garden. Then smaller gardens that contribute to the larger garden. Eric wants to see it all, they’re off to take a look.

Eric finds something very PEACEFUL about formal gardens. There's a structure and an order to them. They have a way of just putting ones' mind at rest and ease because there's not a chaotic nature, not a lot of texture and color going on. For a meditation garden, this has a very natural element and that's what Vaughan designed. Vaughan feels the human mind wants order and peace and that's what he has tried to do in this English garden. 

The garden is LAID OUT IN QUADRANTS. The plants he's chosen, such as the Indian hawthorn and the gardenias and the sasanquas make it an informal British garden, at least by Vaughan's definition. And they all come together by closing the quadrants. So it's ordered in a very special way. And again, all the plants that bloom from the gate to the koi pond are white and white has a peacefulness to it. Eric loves white gardens and one reason why he loves white gardens is because some of the most fragrant plants on the planet are white flowering plants. And fragrance oftentimes is an underrated aspect of gardening. It engages that other sense. So we're engaging our ears with this fountain and our eyes with this beautiful color and texture, but then introducing fragrance with gardenias, jasmine, roses, many, many fragrant plants in here. It's just another layer to the garden that soothes you, puts your mind at rest and really adds that third dimension.

Vaughan reports that this property has over 175 different species of flowers and trees as best he can figure. And more are under propagation, so they have about 7,000 plants in the garden. It's a nice size, small but Vaughan calls it a botanical garden.

Eric would like for Vaughan to talk about the design of the British garden. It has gone well beyond just the traditional formal boxwoods. Vaughan has introduced some real boxwoods and hollies, what we would expect in a British garden but he has introduced a lot of other plants that would not typically be incorporated into a traditional formal garden. The Natchez lagerstroemia or crepe myrtle, the Indian hawthorn, it also contains Mine-No-Yuki C. Sasanquas, that are a favorite of Vaughans, it has  white loropetalum and camellias are dispersed throughout. Eric thinks Vaughan has done a great job with this beautiful garden.

Eric thinks some of the most tranquil and peaceful gardens he has ever been in are JAPANESE GARDENS. And, of course, the thought behind that kind of gardening is to create a sense of tranquility and peace. Vaughan has water features, hardscape, even the way that the garden path winds around corners and opens up into quiet, almost private rooms in the garden, is all part of the thought that goes behind this garden. Eric would like for Vaughan to talk about the design of this Japanese garden. This is a small woodlands Japanese garden, and it's made up of a half path. While many Japanese gardens are an oval path from start to finish, this is a half path from the torii gate to the lotus pond. And then it comes back with a dry stream bed or a simulated dry stream bed. They used four tons of river rock laid side by side to make that stream bed effect. And the lotus pond in the rear is one of the three garden features. Another garden feature is the slate pond that was created with excess slate off the roof of Vaughan's 1903 house. When Katrina came through, they made a nice fountain out of that. Then another interesting fountain called a shishi-odoshi, which in Japanese is interpreted deer chaser. It's made to make noise to chase the deer away from gardens as well as other rodents and things. Vaughan tells people that tour through here that it must be working because he's never seen deer in here. And it is a very peaceful place, he comes out in the morning and has meditation study and his coffee. And it seems to always be cool in this garden. It is nicely shaded which is important in the southeast. There are lot of live oaks in here. And some old tallow trees and the like.

Eric would like to talk about the plants Vaughan has selected for this garden. Of course one would expect to find mostly Japanese or Chinese plants here, but what are some of the ones that have worked particularly well? 80% of the plants in this garden are Japanese and Chinese. And of course it has camellias, which he loves, that come from both places. And they're throughout all of the garden, including the British garden. There are five species of Japanese maple trees, which are appreciated and loquats are in the garden and other things such as that. Eric loves the juxtaposition of the different colors and textures. And for a Japanese garden, there are a lot of lively, more variegated plants and purple foliage along with a weeping fig. This area does have little peaceful areas to kind of rest and meditate, but then really nice feature plants throughout. And as discussed earlier there are rooms in the garden, even though it's a very small garden, because of the available space, as you make the various turns, you come into another area that is often surprising depending on what you've come up on. And that's great design, very good design.

There's hardly a corner in this garden that does not feature a CAMELLIA and there are hundreds of them here. Eric is assuming that is because Vaughan comes from a long line of camellia devotees. It's in his blood. His grandfather, Cliff Harris, bought the Longview Nursery in the early '50s from the Rubles’.  Mr. Ruble was one of the earliest camellia hybridizers in the country. Pop developed, among other flowers, the Queen Elizabeth II. When the new queen ascended to the throne the monarchy sent an emissary over to get her plant. And interestingly Vaughan corresponded with the Royal gardener about five years ago and the progeny from that plant is still in the Royal Palace Garden. Among others, Walter D. Bellingrath was a friend of pop who he called Mr. Bell. Pop named his plant “ Walter D. Bellingrath.” His dad, Blanding Drinkard, was a long time camellia man, worked at Longview Nursery as the foreman of the nursery and also learned a lot from Mr. Ruble. He named many camellia plants, including the Earl Stanley Gardner of Perry Mason fame. They have about 225 cultivars on the property and many of them either his grandfather or father developed. Eric does not want to fail to mention there's a Vaughan camellia as well. Vaughan's grandfather named one after Vaughan, his grandson, when he was about three years old. Awesome, and a wonderful legacy.

Camellias are a great hobby for Vaughan. Most of the camellias have a history. There is a Bob Hope across the way, we know him as the great comedian. Every camellia has a namesake. The reason one grafts is to recreate the exact plant. If they take a Bob Hope cutting, they are going to create the exact Bob Hope camellia. The DNA, just like Eric's, is the one and only DNA in the world and Bob Hope is the one and only. So, that's the fun of camellias. Eric finds camellias a very rewarding category of plants. It'd be hard to imagine a Southern garden that didn't have a camellia in it.

And they're very long lived and, of course, super colorful. One thing that Eric has always loved about camellia's and why he's always had them in his garden, is the wonderful, shiny green foliage. Year round, it has a wonderful show of flowers, but additionally it's a great structural plant for the garden. And, of course, they're abundant here, it's wonderful to see. Plus they're evergreen and hard to kill. They're disease resistant for the most part and have wonderful queen flowers many years.

There are so many amazing cultivars that exist in the world of horticulture. Eric thinks it's important to briefly talk about WHAT A CULTIVAR IS. A cultivar is a clonal copy of that plant we love. So, if in your garden you find a seedling camellia that has all the attributes that you want, you might want to propagate it by taking a stem from that plant and vegetatively propagate it by cutting. So, take a cutting, dip it in a rooting hormone, put it into a potting soil, put it into a greenhouse, and then perhaps it will form adventitious roots. That plant is now going to be clonally identical to its parent. Or we could use air layering. We see that a lot of times with Japanese maples and many other difficult to propagate plants. 

But GRAFTING is what has dominated the industry for many, many years. Especially if you go back 80, 100 years, that was the way it was done. And Vaughan has now been grafting plants for 60 years. And that is his method of choice for propagating camellias. Vaughan has been kind enough to offer to show everyone how it's done. Vaughan is working on a "Bob Hope” that we talked about earlier. He takes a cutting, camellia people call it a scion. Vaughan is the scion of his dad. This is a scion of Bob Hope. This will have Bob Hope DNA when it takes in the graft. Vaughan uses a sasanqua which is not a beautiful plant to most people. It's a pretty camellia, but it's a hedge row basically, but it's root rot resistant and it's a hardy grower. So, that's what he calls the mother plant. Vaughan has shaved off and exposed the wood by angular cuts two ways. By doing that he’s exposing the cambium layer or the growth cell layer of the plant. He's also done that on his scion of Bob Hope. He next soaks that in some fungicide while he cuts his mother plant. What he is going to do next is to make a cleft graft, a cleft incision, in the mother plant and exposes the cambium layer. The cambium is only a few cell layers deep. It's that little layer between the phloem and the xylem. That's actually what translocates the nutrition from the root stock to the top of the plant. And the cambium layer between the phloem and xylem is the growth cell of the plant. Vaughan makes a cleft graft now with his knife, takes the blade of his knife right below the cambium layer, about a quarter of an inch. He next uses some growth hormone. Some people don't do this but Vaughan has done it for 60 years because his dad did it. And he has about an 80% success ratio, sometimes 85, if lucky. So he continues to do the same thing he has done for all these years. It's not broken, don't fix it. That's his theory. This is just a standard hormone you can get in any store, any hardware store. On the rootstock he lines the wood up, opens it with the blade of his knife. Then what he does is puts it in angularly so it will cross the cambium layer. When he first started grafting, Dad would put it straight down and try to catch the cambium layer. If you angle it, put it in at an angle there's no way you're going to miss the cambium layer and that's why he puts it in at an angle. It just improves the probability that those little, like three or four cells deep, actually that green on green has to touch. Vaughan then brings the end of the scion out the other end of the cut and actually runs his finger across it. It’s obvious that the cambium layer of the scion has crossed the the cambium layer of the mother plant. For added tensile strength Vaughan puts a rubber band around the joint. Some grafters do not do this. Vaughan does it just about every time because, again, his dad did it. Even though they're in a greenhouse, Vaughan puts this in an additional, little small greenhouse, nothing more than a styrofoam 32 inch cup. He then builds a base to the greenhouse with wet sand. That does two things. It's a foundation to his greenhouse and it retains moisture for the plant. One big thing with camellia lovers is identification. As soon as he cuts off this scion from Bob Hope he wrote Bob Hope under the highest leaf. And then on his new, small greenhouse, puts Bob Hope on it so he'll always know exactly what this graft is until it sprouts growth.

Vaughan believes the new plant needs to stay under this greenhouse about eight weeks. At that point the growth will be coming out of the growth bud if it has taken. Next cut a small hole in the top of the greenhouse with a pencil. That growth will go to the sunlight in that hole. As it starts bumping the top of the cup, Vaughan will cut that hole out larger and larger so the top of the cup will eventually be cut out totally. He also cuts these leaves so the growth will be going to the growth bud and not to support the leaves. Plus that limits transpiration or water loss through the leaf, so you help keep more of water inside of your cutting. Vaughan next wants the sun to do the photosynthesis deal on top of the leaves, thus orients this pot toward the morning sun. He uses his Bob Hope scionage to show where those leaves are pointed toward the sun. Some people will go six weeks Vaughan believes that if it's growing, it's going to still be growing in eight weeks. With all of the pots around the greenhouse, and he has about a hundred now, he waits eight weeks. So there is an art and a science to this but it's not super complicated. And with just practice and trial and error, pretty much everyone can learn how to graft their own plants. Vaughan thinks it's a great pastime.

Eric comments that many of our viewers don't have an acre to plant plants. What if they only have a brick courtyard or a patio? Small spaces are very common nowadays. We don't have large estates. And a couple of things he noticed here that he thinks are great solutions for those kinds of spaces are, of course, growing in containers. Containers are so good for things well beyond annuals, perennials. And then also raised beds. Vaughan’s dad really was one of the first ones, learning from Mr. Rubel, who did container gardening. Particularly container growing of camellias. And the way they did that was by utilizing a specific kind of soil. Vaughan recalls it was three parts pine bark, one part peat, one part sand. And, of course, a little lime as necessary and 8-8-8 is necessary. And that is the constituency of his container gardening and the raised beds.

Vaughan feels that FERTILIZATION of camellias is very important. If you want the blooms that we had this year, that just burst out and were lovely, you want to use a 12-6-6 solution, or 13-6-6, depending on where you buy it. And then you want to fertilize the 1st of April, then the 1st of June, two times at least. His dad would do it sometimes one more time, the first of September. And, of course, because his dad did it and was very successful, Vaughan does it. 

PRUNING - you prune right after the blooms stop blooming, and you can prune a camellia back almost to half of its size if you want to. Eric adds it just shows the incredible flexibility of the plant. So prune them right after they bloom, because they set buds on new wood. Prune then to make sure we don't ruin our next season of flowers.

Eric comments that every time he visits a new garden and meets a new gardener friend he loves to pick their brain for their gardening stories. Everyone has a plethora of really neat gardening stories or just the interesting people that they've met along the way. He knows that Vaughan must have a million stories. But Eric wants Vaughan to leave us with one story that particularly makes you smile. One of Vaughan's favorite stories in the Cornerstone Gardens is about a STAGHORN FERN. Several years ago, he had a small Staghorn fern about a foot diameter and somehow it disappeared. He mentioned to a fellow master gardener that he had lost that Staghorn fern. She said with kind of a wry grin, "Would you like a new Staghorn fern to replace that?" He said, "Sure," thinking he would get one about the same size. Well, she and her husband drove up and in the back of a pickup truck was this huge, at that time 37 year old Staghorn fern. The story is Carol Dorsey and her husband, Bob, were given this Staghorn fern now 39 years ago as a wedding present. As you know they're extremely cold sensitive. So every wintertime they would take this Staghorn fern up two stories to their unused bathroom on the second story to keep it out of the cold. So Carol and Bob gave Vaughan this new Staghorn fern. And it's a great species, one of the best species Vaughan has seen of the Staghorn ferns. And, it's a beautiful specimen. And since he has a greenhouse he doesn’t need to take it up two stories every winter. A good thing for Vaughan and most likely Carol and Bob.

It's difficult to underestimate the impact of a beautiful garden on the human soul and how important it is to have places of beauty where we can reconnect with ourselves and nature. Eric thanks Vaughan, we've had so much fun today and we've also learned so much. Thank you for spending the day with us. Vaughan thanks Eric and GardenSMART, it's been a privilege having y’all visit.

LINKS:

Cornerstone Gardens
Cornerstone Gardens & Arboretum | A place of meditation, rest and reflection

Plant List


   
 
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Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

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