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  • Karen Terhune Duncan

What's Happening in My Garden


Winter pansies and snapdragons got planted in December.


I’ve enjoyed gardening my entire adult life. I am no expert, just an enthusiastic amateur. Trial and error helped me shape 37 years of reasonably successful New Jersey gardening. Yet arriving 6 years ago in Zone 9, my Zone 5 knowledge has proved pretty much useless. I’ve basically started over with the help from membership and friendships in the Landings Garden Club.


My early hands-on gardening began with me crawling around my grandparents Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ garden.

Our Savannah home had some good landscape “bones” from its early 1990’s garden. I was gifted the original landscape architect’s drawing plans, from the previous owners’ children. This helped me uncover what had survived the decades and to get the shallow well working (brilliant irrigation when you live on an island where water is precious).


Perhaps the “aha” moment in southern gardening came when I figured out the seasons. Gardening in Savanah begins in October and continues to June. There is really no gardening in the summer months: July, August, and September. Those months are for weeding, soap insecticides and watering; essentially trying to just keep things alive. Come October it’s as if the garden magically awakens; my cannas, plumbago, curcoma, African iris, ginger lilies, even the salvia and lantana (that thrive in the heat) start looking perkier. By late October the glorious cassia, cape honeysuckle, pinecone ginger come into bloom. In December the winter flowers put on a show when the farfugium, camilla, citrus and cassia bloom. It's then time to plant pansies and snapdragons. Geraniums rebloom beautifully. They love the sunny warm days, and cooler nights.


As the cooler temps dipped in December I began filling my greenhouse with succulent cutting and seedlings. And some things like my shrimp plants, coleus, hibiscus, and begonias. They are all happier under the my little warm green house for few months.

The ducks have reappeared, as they do each winter on our lagoon. Our favorite is the large-headed Merganser’s. And the winter otters are frolicking in and out of the water.

My garden pals in the Landings Garden Club are a fountain of information and sharing. Cuttings and knowledge, field trips, planting sessions, and certification, which I achieved last summer. This was primarily because of my conservation efforts and that I plant what the bees, birds, and butterflies love.

Gardening is enormously rewarding. Right now is a lovely prequel to our March Spring which here in Savannah is beyond spectacular, when my beauties make their grand appearance; gardenias, loquat, lorapetulum, ligustrum, azaleas, magnolias, oleander and much, much more.


I'm going to try and be more diligent about posting what is currently blooming on my Senior Savannah Instagram and Senior Savannah Facebook pages, and what I’m continually learning.


In the meantime, celebrating the New Year, I'm sharing the late fall and winter bloomers of my garden, just before the freak 4 day freeze in late December which stunned most of them. Not killed them. They are just "mad" as my landscape team says. They'll be fine once the temps stabilize in the 70s.


Happy New Year! Here's to a gloriously beautiful year for all.


The Cape Honeysuckle “Tecoma” is an evergreen vine that has clusters of brilliant orange trumpet-shaped flowers. Mine blooms from November to February making it one of my winter stunners. I’ve trained it up one side of a large arbor in the front of the house.


This crazy plant was started by seed, a gift from a Statesboro Georgia nursery. They called it a pinecone ginger, but I’ve seen it called bitter ginger, wild ginger, soap ginger and shampoo ginger. The plant lies dormant through winter-spring and emerges with green narrow leaves that whorl around a central stem. As the stem reaches roughly 4 feet, and flowers look like red pinecones, and they then take on a fragrant, sweet smell. It’s in full bloom by November when I can pick them and “squeeze” out the soap. And it works!


The Cassia Tree is a gorgeous yellow fall bloomer. I’ve trained mine up and around the back arbor gate, and butterflies are drawn to it in droves. It remains green year-round, but it’s real show starts in October and is still blooming today. Mine is young, and will eventually, fill in nicely around that gate.


Camellias have been a part of the southern landscape for decades. The colors of the camellia blossoms found in Savannah range from snowy white to deep ruby red, the later arriving in later December so I call my red variety my Christmas rose.


Farfugium japonicum is a flowering plant known as leopard plant or tractor seat plant. I love the shape, it does best in the shade and has a bright yellow aster-like flower from October to December.


Meyer Lemon trees are gorgeous. These citrus trees require moist, not wet soil and seem to thrive in our conditions. They are heat tolerant and yield bright sweet lemons in December and January. Meyer lemons are mildly acidic and don’t have the same tang as regular lemons; they are much sweeter, being a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. The smell has become synonymous with Christmas for me. Making limoncello has become a hobby for many of us locally. And the fruit is delicious in so many recipes.


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