Ossabaw Island Views

Recently I travelled with friends by boat through the low country to Ossabaw Island. There is no other way to arrive there. This barrier Island off the coast of Georgia is one of the few unspoiled areas along the 100 mile Eastern coast of Georgia. One family had owned it, until the last heir died this past year at the age of 108.

There is so much history here, but I wont attempt to delve into that in a short post. Our trip was possible through the Ossabaw Island Fooundation, and I recommend visiting their web page for more information, http://www.ossabawisland.org. I would like to show you some photos.

We left from Butter Bean beach near Skidaway Island.

After a 40 minute ride along the river, arriving at the dock, this island was a serene outpost where I could not imagine one woman living alone for decades..”Sandy” Torrey West (1913-2021) was an inspirational and enthusiastic protector of her island, where she lived full time from the age of 75-103.

Waterway to Ossabaw, low country of GA

She loved the wildness of the Island and kept it that way but invited visitors from the world of the arts who were able to retreat to this natural space. She also loved her menagerie of wild animals. Some donkeys remain there, and most certainly some wild hogs.

Alligator tracks?

She was born to a wealthy family in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and her debutant-like upbringing did not prepare her, as such, for the life she was to lead when her parents bought the Island in 1924; 26,000 acres of forest, marsh and wild animals.

She allowed the wild animals to roam free on the 26,000 acres when she inherited the Island from her parents. Some of the donkeys remain along with alligators, hogs and many wild creatures.

We hiked into an area where she housed visiting artists over the years.

The Foundation now invites artists to take up residence, to this day. We walked the paths, and found some remaining slave quartes from a distant past.

Tabby slave quarters

We saw many decrepit out buildings, but were not invited to view the main house which the Torrey family built by 1926. From reports, it was once was a majestic home but is now in need of repair. This Island has 4,000 years of human habitation, from Native American Indians, colonial plantation owners, as well as enslaved and tenant farmers. The stories of those people add to the imaginative mind that is overwhelmed when stepping foot on this magical Island.

I hope to return to this incredible ecosystem which has lessons yet unlearned.

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Shrooming Instead of Zooming

Spring has arrived in Savannah. Azaleas are popping, more people are vaccinated, and human life is catching up with the natural world. All through this pandemic, fungi has been doing its thing, don’t you know? I learned more about that today, when the Landings Garden Club hosted a ‘Shroom Walk with mushroom grower and businessman, Ancil Jacques.

Ancil is the owner of Swampy Appleseed Mushrooms. He is very entertaining and his expertise was shared with some stalwart members of the Landings Garden Club this morning as we took a Mushroom Walk.

We met Priest Head Landing, on Skidaway Island. In this remote area of the island, the walking trail showed its treasures this morning as we learned so much about mushrooms and the importantance of fungi.

Some ladies took home a block of specially formulated sawdust with spores of an edible mushroom, and some like me, were content to buy a bag of mushrooms.

I am thinking risotto tonight?

I think a trip to the Forsyth Farmers Market this Saturday morning in the heart of Savannah’s historic district, is where you will find me, purchasing more mushrooms from Ancil….he is there every Saturday morning to sell his marvelous mushrooms!

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Travels during Covid

After a long, too long, period of consecutive rainy and gloomy days in Savannah, the sun appeared yesterday. We were ready for an adventure. We got in the car, dogs and their gear packed, and took an excursion off Skidaway Island.

This is camellia season, so a return trip to Masse Lane garden, home of the American Camellia Society came to mind. Though it is a 4 hour trip to get there and 4 hours back, we were undeterred. What we did not reckon was our dismay at being inside a car for all those daylight hours on one of the BEST days we have had in Georgia in a long time.

First stop was Lane Orchard Farm store. They were open, with Covid protocols in place. You have to stop for the fresh peach bread, and since peach season is a distant memory, a jar of peach jam found its way into the cart. Lane is famous for its peaches and for its pecans. A croissant stuffed with a delicious chicken and pecan salad was gobbled along with a lemonade. Dogs were walked; they are welcome at Lane Farm store but not in the restaurant area. A row of white rocking chairs is perfect for outdoor dining, but we contented ourselves to eat inside our car, ignoring the drooling cavaliers in the back seat.

Next stop was the Garden itself. The sunshine is so strong in Georgia, but gratefully the camellias are planted along beautiful paths with a high overstory that shades enough to make viewing pleasureable. To me that is quintessential Georgia- bright sun streaming through old shade trees, casting long shadows to make viewing the natural world so pleasureable.

In the last post I made mention of Camellia ‘Debutante’ aka Sara C. Hastie. Another giggle from this camellia because when purchased, the label on my plant said it could make a nice hedge planted with other Debutantes. The missing piece of information was how tall this camellia can become! This one was at least 15 feet tall; that’s a very tall hedge.

We arrived back home in Savannah just as the sun was about to disappear below the Moon River marsh, and then to witness the glow of the golden reflections as we drove over the bridge to Skidaway Island was bliss. A day to forget about restrictions, Covid, vaccinations, masks and separation. Just to drive the open road and regard the camellias in bloom was enough for the day.

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Christening Camellias

When a plantsman has developed a new Camellia and feels certain it is a variety never seen before, that person is compelled to name the plant with a distinguished moniker that will forever describe it.

While walking long, oyster shell paths among mature and stately camellias this past week end, I saw a few labels, but most of the older specimens were a mystery to me. I came back to my study and reviewed my photos and compared some of the blooms against those in older books on camellias. One such book, CAMELLIAS by G.G Gerbing, printed in 1950, is very helpful. Many of the mature camellias found in the Savannah area might have been planted in the 20th century and can be identified using these older books. Some are no longer easily available in modern day nurseries.

The author wags a finger and rightly so – “Another deporable trick, to be chalked up against visitors to Camellia gardens and nurseries, is the habit of taking cuttings from rare varieties while the owner is looking the other way.”

I feel that thievery is beyond reproach, and I was surprised many years ago, when an otherwise quite proper garden club lady proudly gave me a peak into her purse. She had the tools of a practiced garden thief – sharp scissors, plastic bags with moistened paper towels and labels for identification. I was appalled, and wondered how she would feel if a like minded thief visited her noteworthy garden with similar intentions!

One thing I admit to on my garden walks is taking way too many photographs. So, I have devised a method to be able to recall the name of the plant if available. First I take the photo of the bloom with some foliage included.

And then immediately following, I take a photo of it’s corresponding label.

Camellia japonica ‘Silver Wings’

Another interesting section in this book dealt with confusion in Camellia Nomenclature. This goes back to naming a camellia. Apparently there have been some shady nurserymen who will give a different name to a camellia, all in the name of a good sale. Mr. Gerbing named some camellias that have been given more than one name. I was surprised to find a camellia that I just planted last week, Camellia japonica ‘Debutante’ on the list! Apparently there is an identical camellia to be found with the name Sara C. Hastie. So, who is the culprit there? A fashionable lady who dabbled in propagating new camellia varieties? Or some nurseryman of bad repute who lost the label, and just gave the plant the name he liked? It is fun to speculate and wonder about the origins of old camellias.

This is it – 2021 camellias are blooming! Not slowed by a pandemic; they bloom brightly to cheer all those who take a look.

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Thinking about

What am I thinking about this week? I am bursting with garden thoughts. After almost a year of isolation, my Zoom life has taken charge and in just this month, I have attended more live zoom calls and meetings than in all other months combined. So, one thing on my mind is botanicals.

From a garden lecture

I virtually attended the January meeting of the Trustees Garden Club in Savannah GA. Jenny Cruse-Sanders from the State Botanical Garden gave a fascinating Zoom presentation on Plants, Nature and Gorgeous China.

For centuries, the science of studying the plant world has informed through the gorgeous renderings by botanic artists. The life of the plants translated on porcelain is immortalized and we can enjoy these treasures hundreds of years later.

Imagine the time when we can again gather, set a table of beautiful botanic China, and enjoy friends and family in 3D. Until that time, isn’t it great that we can turn to Zoom to stay connected with people, ideas and yes, the garden.

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Paths forward through the pandemic

Christmas is but a few days away. The hustle and bustle of previous years is dissipated, gratefully so. I for one do not miss the frenzy. Record snowfalls in some parts of the U.S. and cold temperatures everywhere encourage Christmas bakers to practice their art. Snowball cookies, or nut butter balls, pressed sugar cookies, chocolate turtles and Christmas buckeyes, are all waiting to be devoured. Gifts of orange and walnut sweet breads are baked and delivered to friends. (The oranges are shared offerings from our neighbor’s citrus trees!)

My New Mexico family will be missed, as will my New York family. Joyfully, Connecticut arrives tonight.

In recent days, walking on our beautiful Island has brought a calm and peaceful feeling. Somehow knowing our New Mexico family is enjoying the great outdoors and walking their own path makes me happy.

Not together, but part of the same and taking time from the business of life to move forward on paths to happiness.

Merry Christmas. Let the sparkle fill your hearts!

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Pandemic Ponderings

When a lockdown occurred in March, did we think that those two weeks would extend to 9 months? The first Pandemic progeny are being born. So what have you been doing? It is obvious to anyone who subscribes to my Blog, that I haven’t found more time for more posting!

November sunset, Skidaway Island

End of the day sunsets still manage to draw me to the water. A golf cart ride away in the summer, and with a jacket and hat, still an appealing before dinner ride on clear nights in Autumn.

There is so much more time spent in the kitchen as we try to make the most necessary activity, also entertaining. The NYT Sunday edition has a new page, suggesting 5 recipes to try cooking at home. Sparking a little more creativity, I have tried many of them.

Endless new series on tv to start and finish. The Queen’s Gambit is enthralling! Maybe it’s a touch of ADHD, but I can’t sit still through all that viewing, so there is a lot of stitching to accompany all the movies and series in the evening. One project completed, another one started.

Whale canvas finished as pillow
Staffordshire dog to be finished as door stop

It is still perfect weather to be working in the garden, both at our farm plot and around our home in Savannah.

Camellia Mine-No-Yuki, propagated 2 years ago

Thanksgiving will be sad this year, with our family staying put in New Mexico, Connecticut, and New York. We plan to have our dinner with a couple in our neighborhood . It will be outdoors, weather permitting. To bring some early cheer into our lives, the Christmas decorating has started.

It begins at the front door, changing the cushion covers, remove the pumpkins, start to add pine cones and pillows. More to come. Those light fixtures need a swag or bow…

I really did feel joy as I pulled out all of past years’ decorations and the memories they hold. It will be a different holiday time this year but one thing that remains… the glory of a sunset at the end of the day.

Sunset Park, Skidaway Island

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Time for Taos

Have you started to travel? Instead of getting in a car or on a plane or boat, are you visiting with friends and family afar through a Zoom call, Skype or FaceTime call? We made a 14 hour car trip in June/July to NY/CT because those virtual visits did not measure up to the REAL thing. That was bliss.

Old Greenwich CT

When our Taos NM family asked us if we wanted to visit them in September, our airline tickets were purchased pronto. Notice I haven’t mentioned the reason everyone has halted non-essential travel? I will attempt to write this post without mentioning the name of the scourge.

I am afraid of flying. And I am as afraid of dying as is normal. But I was more afraid of going another year without BEING with our son and DIL. The love of family and the Land Of Enchantment is a strong pull. The moment I walked out of the Albuquerque terminal, I felt it. A visceral emotion that overtook me as I inhaled the light air; the landscape enfolded me.

The landscape. The Rio Grande.

Sangre de Christo Mountains. The road past hay fields and horses,

the apple trees, Our son’s life. We had been missing all of this. And ….there were puppies to hold, puppies to feed, puppies to clean up after, and puppies to love. It’s hard to start the day without a smile, if there are puppies!

My Own puppies

I hope no one on our 4 flights was sick. I hope that no one on our 4 flights gets sick. Eleven days have passed, since our return, so I think I can say, it was, for us, a safe trip. Who knows when I will follow my heart out West again, but this thing I won’t speak of, can’t stop me from trying.

The road home
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Summer Slides By

Looking back at this blog over the years, you might not know a pandemic swept the world in 2020. This blog doesn’t reflect the life altering event of which no one is immune. Before summer slides by, as three seasons before have done….let me tell you what the quarantine and isolation have been like for a gardener on Skidaway Island.

Actually, we have been among the fortunate ones. So far only 100 or so cases have been reported on our little Island of about 14,000, and for the first few months we didn’t hear of any but two. My Photos file is filled with the usual groups of sunsets, flowers, plants and landscapes. Despite Covid 19, the natural world started to come to life in March, even as the humans retreated and stayed at home. Guess what, the natural world doesn’t need humans!

The stark contrast to pandemic life on Skidaway Island, came when we ventured forth to New York City in July. On the island of Manhattan, humans are needed. Except for a few pockets of green and a good sized pocket called Central Park, the concrete, stone and steel world would take a long time to revert back to a natural place. We parked by our first home together, a condo on the Upper East side. When the street tree died right in front of our ground floor garden apartment, I spent a lot of time getting the City to replace it. I must be old, because that tree has grown so tall!

The only thing similar about our first home and our current home, is a leaning tree and the iron fencing.

Downtown areas in New York were just opening up at the start of July, but the Upper East side was eerily quiet. The boarded up store fronts were so depressing but by now, I hope things are getting back to normal, whatever that will be….

July in New York was anything but normal.

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On The Street Where You Live

On the street where you live, anyone can tell who the gardeners are among the residents. They will have a killer container, one that wasn’t purchased at the local box store, leading to the front door. Or if it is mass produced, that container will be filled with an array of beautifully assembled plants. And if the plants are not an unusual assortment, but maybe just red geraniums, then they are always perfectly groomed, no dead leaves, and predictably blooming with gusto and always the most vibrant you have seen.

On my street, you can find me year round. Not just one container, but 93 (no, not all at the front door.) This month, look for me where the Crinum asiaticum (giant crinum lily) is blooming at the mail box!

What is at your front door or mail box?

Crinum asiaticum
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