Besides a butler, cook, maid, masseuse, personal trainer, and vocal coach, one of the biggest perks that comes along with being Grumpy is getting out and about and meeting really interesting people. That’s what happened a couple of weeks ago in South Carolina.
I was in Columbia, regaling the master gardeners there with my typical wit and wisdom. A friend of mine, garden designer and crinum lily grower extraordinaire, Jenks Farmer, told me that before I went home, I just had to visit this really cool garden out in the country owned by a man named Rick Hager. All the master gardeners revered Rick, because his nursery, Monticello Gardens & Nursery, had been supplying them with much coveted and hard-to-find plants for years.
So Jenks and I piled into his truck and headed out into the country towards Monticello, South Carolina. I’m not sure where it is, only it’s pretty close to a nuke plant, which probably explains why my body nows glows like a night-light. (I don’t mind — it makes it easy to find the toilet in the dark.) When you come to a couple of huge agaves and a rusty disk by the side of the road, you’ve reached Rick’s.
This is the kind of place Grumpy loves to explore. Plants in the ground and plants in pots fill just about every square-inch between barn-red farm sheds. Pictures beg to be taken. Grumpy always responds favorably to begging, so let’s look around a bit.
Whole lotsa stuff just coming up in pots. Does it look messy to you? Not to me. Grumpy is a plant guy.
Doesn’t everybody want a shed that looks like this? Well, except for Donald Trump. He doesn’t have this kind of class. Typical New Yorker.
What do you hang on your barn-red shed? Well, if you’re Rick, it’s a painted window. No, it’s not for sale. Sorry.
I don’t know why Rick calls the place “Le Jardin.” Maybe because it looks so much like France? (In case you’re wondering, the shrub in bloom is star magnolia.)
Every garden needs a place where you can sit and take a load off. And also drink. So let’s rest for a minute and contemplate solutions to the world’s most intractable problems. Finished? OK, now let’s look at some really fine plants.
Behold ‘Avondale’ Chinese redbud (Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’). Grumpy loves our native redbud (Cercis canadensis), but this special selection of its Chinese cousin takes the cake. The upright, shrubby tree grows rather slowly to about 10 feet tall. In spring, thousands of bright purply-pink flowers bloom so profusely that you can’t see the branches and a lot of the trunk. Fairweather Gardens is a good mail-order source.
Here’s the bloom of one of Grumpy’s favorite small, deciduous, native shrubs called dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii). It grows about 2-3 feet tall and wide. In spring, honey-scented white bottlebrushes appear atop the plant before the leaves. In fall, the leaves turn yellow and orange. Again, if you can’t find it at a local garden center, try Fairweather Gardens.
Now here’s a shrub you don’t see every day — or every month or every year, for that matter. Of course, Grumpy recognized it immediately. It’s an import from Asia called stachyurus (Stachyurus praecox). It grows 12-15 feet tall rather quickly. You can’t miss it blooming in early spring. Pendant chains of pale yellow flowers hang like curtains. Hey, this story is starting to sound like an ad for Fairweather Gardens, but I can’t help it — it’s a good source for all kinds of weird plants.
Rick showed me lots of other neat plants too. He has the most extensive collection of epimediums I’ve ever seen and gave me one to take home (thank you — it’s doing well). He also has a number of lilacs that bloom dependably for him, which they’re not supposed to do in the heat of south-central Georgia, Zone 8. One is ‘Miss Kim.’ I suspect another is ‘Lavender Lady.’
Due to health problems, Rick has closed his nursery, but people still drop by all the time and share plants. That’s one of the nicest things about true gardeners. They love to share.
Of course, visiting Rick’s comes with a price. I can deal with the cats and dogs. But I like my pigs lean.
Beautiful window boxes that will make you drool (so read in private to avoid embarrassment).