Gardener’s Corner with Director of Horticulture Eric Kimbrel

August 6, 2018

flowers, gardens, native plants, liatris

With its warm weather and long days, summer beckons us outside and into its fruits of full bloom. We have been adding to the abundance by planting perennials for more even color throughout the garden.

Another object of plenty has been rainfall. Few days have been without any, and many days have been filled with hard, soaking rains. One side effect is leaf gall (Exobasidium vaccinii) [1]—a fungal disease common to native Rhododendron species and Leucothoe, exacerbated by rain. We have spent much of the summer removing this pest before it spreads further. We have also been spraying Rhododendron buds with ecologically friendly horticultural oil to control leafhoppers which transmit bud blast—another fungal pathogen that kills the buds [2]. We continue to monitor our hemlocks for adult woolly adelgids, the non-native insects that are decimating the hemlock forests due to the lack of natural predator. We use dormant oil in this case as well to treat the pest, but we don’t stop there. Healthy trees are less susceptible to infestation, so we check the soil to see what may be at the root, so to speak, of the cause. And summer is always the season for pulling and spraying weeds.

In effort to help reduce our carbon footprint, we have been spreading wood chip mulch back into the woodlands and onto our trails. The natural process of decomposition does not occur when we remove deadwood and fallen branches from the landscape, so any additional that we can add back is a benefit.

With regards to the Core Park design, ground truthing for a new short trail from Rattlesnake Trail to the Nursery Complex is complete, and construction is soon to be underway. We are renovating the Sunken Garden by adding Perma Till to increase drainage within the walls, as well as adding more coneflowers. Phase two of the Vaseyi Trail boardwalk is soon to begin to help protect the delicate ecosystem through which it passes. Finally, ground truthing is in progress in preparation for water mitigation work that will take place over the fall and winter. We are flagging high priority areas needing to be addressed based on recent analysis from Sitework Studios and Robinson Engineering.

native plants, pollination, flowers, gardens

Butterfly Weed at Southern Highlands Reserve

We recently hosted a tour for this year’s Cullowhee Native Plant Conference, and also attended conference workshops for continued education on all things native. One note of interest is that $43 billion per year is spent on the necessary control of invasive non-native species—more than is spent in disaster relief. Lecturer and author Claudia West spoke on the importance of using a small number of species within a single garden design for a distinct concept, thereby producing a stronger emotional response. Also, in this post-wild age, nature creates syngameons—groups of like species able to exchange genes indirectly and produce hybrids—as survival a technique.

Summer is also the season of seeds which we have been collecting for propagation—Trillium, Heuchera and others. Many of these will go back into the Reserve, while others will be available at the 2018 Native Plant Sale! It is scheduled for August 24 from 9 am to 3 pm. This is your opportunity to bring home some of the native plants featured in our gardens. We hope to see you there, and touring the gardens at summer’s end!

Image at Top: Liatris spicata

[1] Source: Clemson Cooperative Extension

[2] Source: Royal Horticultural Society