Spreading enthusiasm: OCtech Foundation Home and Garden Symposium inspires folks to get planting

2013-05-11T02:00:00Z Spreading enthusiasm: OCtech Foundation Home and Garden Symposium inspires folks to get plantingBy MINNIE MILLER, T&D Garden Columnist The Times and Democrat

Inspiration and enthusiasm ran high at Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s ninth annual Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Foundation Home and Garden Symposium.

Judging from comments made by those attending, many are likely outside in their gardens at this very moment, revved up and ready to get the planing season underway.

Three inspiring speakers shared not only their knowledge, but their enthusiasm for plants, digging in the dirt and taking the gardening experience to a higher level.

A plethora of plants, from amaryllis to zinnias, were either on display or available for sale at the two-day symposium. Proceeds from the event will benefit the OCtech Foundation’s scholarship fund.

Flower show participants displayed their horticultural expertise, and many left with blue ribbons in hand.

Ruthie Morgan Lacey, who grew up in Orangeburg, felt right at home with the audience. She spoke of her grandfather, who had helped design and develop Edisto Memorial Gardens, which she described as a magical place, and of her personal gardening roots.

“My earliest gardening memories began right here in Orangeburg,” Lacey said. “Our mom had us in the garden helping her all the time, weeding and planting — lots of weeding.”

Lacey then dug into a demonstration on how to create spring containers full of colorful foliage and flowering plants. A planter for sun included Kimberly Queen fern, Eye Bright iris, angelonia, million bells, euphorbia, verbena and bacopa.

“It’s important to choose plants that are happy bedfellows, that like the same amount of light and watering,” Lacey said.

A second pot planted for a shady location combined dwarf lady fern, strobilanthes, caladiums, torenia and variegated ivy. Both containers were put on display for the silent auction to benefit the OCtech Foundation.

Joan McDonald introduced the audience to a concept that few had explored — growing beautiful plants that are also edible. Her presentation, “Front Yard to Table,” highlighted a dozen or so of her favorite plants to grow in the landscape that balance beauty and utility.

“Some of these are old-fashioned favorites used in new ways,” McDonald said. “By planting everything from seed, I am able to find and grow a much wider range of varieties.”

McDonald encouraged gardeners to incorporate as many annuals, perennials, vegetables and fruits in their landscape as possible. Some of her favorites that she described included nasturtiums, kale (five varieties), bok choy, lettuces, edible hibiscus, dune sunflower, yard-long asparagus bean, butterfly pea and Sun Gold cherry tomato.

“Gardening is an ongoing canvas — a continual process of taking things out and putting things in,” said McDonald, who has a degree in fine arts.

A collection of purses that McDonald had potted up with various herbs and flowers were on display, along with a bouquet of her homegrown flowers. These were given away as door prizes, along with McDonald’s encouragement to “always list the plants and flowers in a collection when you are giving them as a present so that you are also sharing your knowledge.”

After demonstrating how to make a succulent wreath and a unique “cake” topiary, McDonald directed the audience to her blog at http://charlestongrit.com/joan-mcdonald for specific instruction on creating the two unique projects.

Contact the writer: 138 Nature’s Trail, Bamberg, SC 29003.

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