Home Page
Order Books
Featured Plants
Seasonal Advice
News Columns
Other Work

Book Signings and Lectures
by Monica Brandies


Would you like to be notified of new books or website updates?
Join our Mailing List.
It is completely confidential and voluntary. You may Subscribe or Unsubscribe at any time.



A Gathering Garden

The front porch and yard of Sue Powers house is not far from a busy road, but visitors forget that completely as they check out her plantings

Gardens are great for entertaining and Sue Powers' garden near Dover is a favorite, not only of her friends, but of all the Master Gardeners in the area. When she had the annual graduation and Christmas party for the county's Master Gardeners there one year, the largest bit of lawn on the west side of the house was enough for them to set up tables for close to 100 people.

When the Camellia Society had their annual potluck luncheon there recently, the 50 or so people fit comfortably in the shade of the largest trellis.

There was a member by the parking area to direct people through the gate in the hedge to the house and patios. This short walk can take a while because no gardener ever gets too loaded down to notice the plants and the landscaping here.

Eventually all the food wound up in the house where other Camellia Society members helped arrange it in categories. The three dogs who share the garden were closed in one of the bedrooms and the 5 cats in another. The garden is also a haven for fish, turtles, bullfrogs, birds, chickens and ducks.

Most of the guests wandered through the entire garden to marvel again at the old and check out the new before sitting and visiting with friends. There are nine different outdoor sitting areas in this average size yard, not counting the front porch or the breezeway, all of which are full of plants and have lovely views.

This trellis and seating area is covered by a combination of magenta bougainvillea and lavender-blue potato vine.

How does one get and keep a garden party-ready? It isn't easy. "It should be. I volunteered and had three months advance notice," said Sue Powers, who is a full time RN at University Community Hospital and is used to hard work. She spends most of her days off in the garden in any case.

But those three months followed the frost that made much extra pruning and were almost rainless for much of extra watering. Powers took off work the three days before and some of the members helped with the last minute chores.

"I really didn't have time to start gardening much until my children were grown," she said. But she grew up in a gardening and farming family, the Griffin's, and has always had some plants. "The yard was mostly grass with a few flowerbeds and I mean a few!" she said. "The only plants in the yard were the asparagus fern around the oak trees, the grapefruit and orange trees, Surinam cherry bush and the azalea on the east corner of the porch. They were here when my grandmother lived here."

Sue added a camellia bed under the grapefruit tree in the work area last year and has also added camellias and other plants to some of the beds this year. "It is a never ending obsession," she said.

After touring the gardens and going back again when someone said, "Did you see that chartreuse licorice...the blooms on the alstroemeria?" everyone was ready to eat.

"These people are better at cooking than at growing camellias," said one man as he filled his plate.

"I'm just tying to keep the rest of my camellias alive," said another member. Most admitted to killing a few plants. Camellias are slow growers at best.

"The secret is water," said John Shirah of Lakeland who has partly retired from his well known camellia nursery there where his late father grew camellias before him and his children are continuing the tradition. "Camellias are shallow rooted like azaleas and need plenty of water but good drainage and partial shade."

When Sue Powers has a large gathering in her garden, she puts her computer skills to work also and hands out lovely flyers with much information. It gives visitors a nice memento and saves much explaining.

Powers is an artist when it comes to plant combinations. Salvias and coleus brighten one of the front corners of the yard. Chartreuse licorice is set off by shrimp plant flowers. An wheelbarrow filled with thriving caladiums is part of the back garden near the pond. Her rose gardens are mostly antique and low maintenance roses.

Now's the time to... Give you some more tips from Sue Powers.

  • "Weeding never ends,"she says, "But I live by the saying, 'if you have weeks you don't have enough plants.'" Yet her gardens are so well weeded and pruned that there is no sense of clutter of overcrowding, just lushness.
  • She found the chartreuse licorice in Logee's Catalog (www.logees.com) or at 141 North Street, Danielson, Connecticut 06239-1939.) Their catalog costs $4.95 but is worth the price in dreams. They grow tropical plants for containers in the rest of the country, but most will do well in the ground for us.
  • Powers usually fertilizes twice a year with a granular fertilizer, but this year she has used the new Miracle-Gro bottled fertilizer on the hose. It is very easy.