We 1st heard of the Southern Garden Symposium at a lecture by Dr Neil Odenwald professor emeritus from LSU. He has been the Master of Proceedings over the symposium for years. A couple of years ago we went for the first time but had to rush home because our dog sitter was in an accident (she is fine.) Last October we were able to attend both days and had a grand time. It was the 30th year of the symposium and the theme was The Changing Nature of Gardening.
Every year they gather amazing speakers who are well know authors and gardening experts. This year Rick Darke, Doug Tallamy and Andrea Wulf, were the featured speakers. We started Friday with Nicholas Staddon. He has worked for Monrovia Nurseries for 27 years as a plant breeder, hybridizer and plant explorer. He gave a lively and highly visual presentation filled with excellent selection of plants for smaller gardens and containers. It was held in the hall at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church Parish, which is near the center of town on a lovely property. Of course I was taken with the lichen and Spanish moss on the old wrought iron fence. Nicholas brought many live plants which he raffled off. We came away with a beautiful ‘Lemon-Lime’ Nandina, Nandina domestica ‘Lemon-Lime’ PP24749 . It is now happily planted in our garden.
The plant I lusted for was the ‘Angyo Star’ Fatshedera x Fatshedera lizei ‘Angyo Star’. I love vines and fun leaf shapes that are variegated. I tracked it down online at The Nurseries Caroliniana Inc. and received two very happy health plants. They are now planted on our welded wire arbor.
Several of the talks and social gatherings over a meal are given in nineteenth century historic plantation settings. You learn some of the history of the area while experts share their specific knowledge. The committee that puts on the SGS is amazing. Every thing goes off perfectly and you enjoy southern hospitality at every turn. All the stops are on a map and there are signs to guide you as you look for the next venue. On the 1st day we had lunch under the giant oaks at Afton Villa Ruins Gardens, 9047 Highway 61. It is a fun place to stroll the gardens and imagine a different time. You can visit with the speakers and fellow gardeners. There is also a book and tool sale set out on the lawn.
After lunch we attended a workshop by naturalist Bill Fontenot on identifying natural habitat components that are crucial to bird life and how to translate those components into human-built landscapes in a way that is both functional and beautiful. This was right down my alley. I love including plants and habitats for birds and pollinators in my garden designs. Following the program one of the park rangers gave us a guided tour of the grounds of Oakley Plantation. We learned the artist and naturalist John James Audubon lived here briefly as a tutor to the plantation owners’ children.
Many of the plantations have beautiful Oak Allées. We learned in the time when the plantations were working farms the areas were open fields. The oaks came later when the children of the plantation inherited wealth and built more elaborate homes.
The highlight of the symposium weekend is the Speakers’ Gala. This year it was at The Oaks, the private home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Daniel III. It was a beautiful evening out on the lawn under the graceful oaks. We enjoyed lovely live jazz in the background and delicious food set up buffet style in the main rooms of the home. I did not take any photos but the last time we went the home we dined at had a beautiful pond. This might give you a sense of how lovely the evening can be on a moonlit night in Louisiana. The next day started with a fabulous breakfast buffet on the terrace at Hemingbough Cultural Center. In the lobby you can browse the book sale. Inside the hall were tables set out with tantalizing items for the silent auction. Out on the drive was a big plant sale. I know we bought a few plants. Must help the cause : ) During breaks we toured the Arlin Dease’s gardens.
The 1st speaker was Andrea Wulf giving us insight and details on her newest book “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World ” She is a scholar, thorough researcher and engaging speaker. Her slides included original drawing done by Von Humboldt. She goes back to original documents and his own writings to explore the history and character of this visionary and naturalist. He is credited with changing the way we understand nature today. He was one of the amazingly brave plant hunters and adventurers that risked their lives to explore unknown parts of the globe. I highly recommend all her books.
After a refreshing lunch we had a two part lecture. The Changing Nature of Gardening: given by Dr. Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke. They are co-authors of the book The Living Landscape. Part One given by Dr. Dough Tallamy. He talked about the specialized relationships between animals and plants and how they are the norm in nature rather than the exception. He explained why our personal gardens are important to the ecosystems that sustain us and how we can use our residential landscapes to connect the isolated habitat fragments around us. He used his own garden as an example with pictures of how it has evolved over the years.
was given by Rick Darke He explored concepts and ethics that should change the way we think of “Nature” and how we garden.
“In an era when human activity is the primary factor disrupting ecological communities, the notion of Nature as a sentient other capable of restoring essential relationships is no longer helpful. Gardeners – who practice the art of nurturing life – will be key agents in repairing and sustaining living landscapes.” -RD We finished off the day with afternoon tea at Hillcroft, the private home of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchel Brashier, It is a lovely and lovingly restored home (circa 1905). The same year as our home but much grander. We got to tour the grounds and inside the home downstairs. I would have loved to see the view from the widow’s walk.
They even had a portrait of the home like we do.
This has been a long post. I wanted you to get the feel of this symposium since it is open to the public. It does fill up quickly along with the local hotels. If you are interested you can sign up for email notices. We enjoyed it so much we are going back next year.
P.S. Dear Readers,
I have been out of pocket, as they say in the south, for a long time. I have been spending my blogging time and energy hanging out with my young granddaughter, ever since she was born 8/16/17. She is 17 months old now and enjoying her few days a week at daycare. I will continue to spend at least one day a week with her as long as I can. I will now have more time to blog.
Next up, our weekend in Nacogdoches Texas, attending the Southern Garden History Society program, 300 Years of Plants on the Move in Texas.
Happy Gardening from Laurin and Shawn