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Gardeners’ Concerns
Jerry W. Weise, GCSC, Inc. Horticulture Chairman

Finally a bit of warmth and drier weather has come our way.  Gardeners are itching to get outside and begin the spring clean-up and planting.  As gardeners we know to be wary of deciduous vines we can’t identify because poison ivy and oak can cause more grief than just an itch.  As well as protecting ourselves and families from poisonous plants we need to keep our pets safe, preventing poisonings.  An excellent article ran in the Post and Courier on 3/7/2014.  Following are some facts I learned from this article.
Many human medications are toxic to both dogs and cats;  anti-inflamatory drugs like ibuprofen and Tylenol, O.T.C. cough/allergy medications, ADD-ADHD medications.  Make certain you store pet medications in a different place than your own.
Common substances toxic to dogs are chocolate (with dark chocolate being most toxic so beware where you put the Easter candy), artificial sweetener xylitol, rat poisons, glucosamine joint supplements and silica gel packs used to absorb moisture.
Toxic to cats are lilies and plants containing calcium oxalate crystals such as philodendron.Lilium speciosum var. rubrum  Cats like to chew on plants but very small ingestions of 2 or 3 petals or leaves or even pollen licked off a cat’s fur can result in severe potentially irreversible kidney failure.  The lily species to keep away from your cats are tiger, day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese show.  Additional common houseplants dangerous to cats are cyclamen, Kalanchoe species, Dieffenbachia (known also as ‘Dumbcane’ because it paralyzes the vocal cords if chewed), daffodils and lily of the valley.
Human foods harmful to dogs are sugarless gum and candies sweetened with xylitol which can be life-threatening even in small amounts.  Also toxic to dogs are macadamia nuts, raisins, grapes, garlic, onions, yeast-based dough and table salt.
Be safe and keep your pets safe.  They can jump/climb onto counters and tables so keep household cleaners, insecticides, jewelry, 7-day pill cases, glow sticks and yes, ladies, your purses stored in tightly closed cabinets.
For information send questions to petdocs@postandcourier.com or veterinaryspecialtycare.com 
A recently produced video titled “Handbag Hazards” is available at www.petpoisonhelpline.com/Ask-the-Vet-Videos
Enjoy Spring Gardening!


“A Little Latin Goes a Long Way”

Common names of plants can vary from region to region and different plants can bear the same moniker.  The binomial or botanical name eliminates this confusion.  The first part of the name is the genus which names a group of plants that share a wide range of characteristics.  The second name is the species or specific epithet.  (When I was a kid reading books from the adult section of the public library I thought that meant a curse word!)  It actually means an identifying trait or fact about a plant. 
Most of you know the most frequently occurring epithets like alba (white), contorta (twisted), or rubra (red).  You can sleuth out the meanings of many more by thinking of a related English word.  Your dentist would recognize dentata as ‘toothed’ (like many oak leaves).  Speaking of oaks, their genus is Quercus  so does ‘Oakleaf’ Hydrangea’s name, Hydrangea quercifolia now make sense? Folia is the root word for foliage so longfolia means having long leaves.  Perforate you know so perfoliata meaning ‘though the leaves’ makes sense.  Opposite leaves are actually joined with the stem running through them, as in the bloom bearing stem of our native honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens or Coral Honeysuckle or Woodbine, to quote a few common names.  Guess what erecta means?!!  The US Marines’ ‘Semper Fi’, short for ‘Semper Fidelis’  or always faithful is a well known slogan.  So sempervirens is an identifier for an evergreen.

GCSC, Inc. Horticulture Chairman Jerry W. Weise
Information given at GCSC, Inc. Board meeting on June 6, 2013


Horticultural Trivia
(and not so trivial information)
reported at the GCSC, Inc. State Convention
on April 26, 2013.

  • Research in plant DNA frequently causes botanists to re-classify a plant’s genus.  Coleus has been re-named.   The genus is now Plectranthus so Flower Show schedules and entry cards should read Plectranthus scutellarioides. The common name continues to be coleus, which may appear in schedules or on entry cards in addition to the genus, species and cultivar.  For example:  Plectranthus scutellarioides ‘Bronze Pagoda’  (coleus).

  • Lady GaGa now has a fern named for her.  Don’t you love researchers with a sense of humor?  They found one part of the fern’s genome sequence was GaGa!  As our former GCSC President Maida Dantzler quipped, it is easier to say than guanine adenine guanine adenine!

  • Dolly Parton has gotten into the act.  Collaborating with her uncle Bill Owens, country music singer/songwriter, she has immortalized the comeback of the chestnut tree.  The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was nearly wiped out in the 1900’s by a fungal blight from Asia.  Thanks to the long years of breeding efforts by the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF), fungal resistant trees have been created.  This valuable source of lumber and forage for wildlife and humans was and is important to the Smoky Mountains area and throughout Appalachia.  The recently released song “Oh, Chestnut Tree” spreads awareness of the near extinction of this magnificient forest giant and its comeback.  For a free download of the song and to learn more about ACF, go to www.acf.org


Tulips In the Tropics?????

This query was passed along to me as Horticulture Chairman for The Garden Club of SC.

Because we do not have the necessary chill and cold soil temps, most of SC treats tulips as annuals. Plant your bulbs immediately! Hopefully you will get a few blooms. I, too, love tulips and long for the yearly bloom and multiplying I got from my bulb garden in Ohio. I have decided not to spend my $ on tulips in this warm soil of Mt. Pleasant.

Narcissus thrive, especially if in a well drained soil, and bloom profusely each year. The beloved daffodils (yellows, peaches, Pheasant's Eye, etc.) will give you multiple years of bloom but I have
found that most eventually succumb to our hot amd moist soil. Mid to upstate where soils are cooler and have more clay content have better survival rates.

Right plant, right place is good advice. We have many bulbs that produce beautiful blooms but it takes a readjustment of timing in your thinking when moving to the south. Glads are corms that can be planted
in spring for early bloom, late spring for summer bloom and in August for fall bloom. Daylillies thrive here. Iris species produce fabulous blooms (bearded, Japanese near a pond, Louisiana in a damp area). The Dutch iris prefer cooler summer soils than the Lowcountry affords so they usually only repeat one or two years.


Lycoris or Spider Lillies come in shades of red, orange and ivory and they reliably bloom each fall, have green foliage all winter, disappear in summer and multiply almost like rabbits.


Another great bulb for our coastal gardens is the Crinum. This huge bulb almost grows above ground. Leaves are 2-4 feet long and bloom stalks with multiple flowers of white, pink tones to bright reds can
stand 3-4 feet tall. Amaryllis bulbs will also survive our hot summers and reliably bloom for years in the garden.

I miss the spring bloom of lilacs and peonies but would not trade my camellias, the south's 'winter rose', for all the tea in China! Enjoy the thrill of exploring new plants.

Jerry Weise, Horticulture Chairman
for GCSC.



When Do I Prune Hydrangeas?


  • First, what species of hydrangea do you have?  The four most commonly grown are:  Hydrangea macrophylla, the Mopheads and Lacecaps;  H. arborescens, the best known variety is ‘Annabelle’;  H. paniculata, the PeeGee/Limelight types; H. quercifolia.

  • Hydrangeas that bloom in shades of blue, mauve, purple and pink are H. macrophylla.  White blooms could be any hydrangea.  Blooms of Oakleaf are white and cone shaped and the large leaves are shaped like red oak leaves.  H. paniculata (PeeGee) is the only hydrangea that can be pruned and trained into a tree form.  PeeGees prefer cooler weather than our coastal area, flourishing in the mountains and piedmont areas.  H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ has very large white blooms made up of tiny individual blossoms that open green, turn white for 2-3 weeks and slowly turn green again.

  • Prune Mopheads, Lacecaps and Oakleaf hydrangeas in the summer only before August.  This timing is for hydrangeas that bloom on old wood, or growth that occurred before the current season.  Like azaleas and camellias these plants set buds for next year’s bloom in August to October.  If pruned in fall, winter or spring the season’s blooms are lost.  Dead stems may be removed anytime.  Dead blossoms may be cut off with short stems to make the plant neat.  For better air circulation and to revitalize the shrub about 1/3 of the living stems may be cut to the ground each summer on older (at least 5 years old) plants.

  • Annabelle and PeeGee types bloom on new wood so they can be pruned anytime except spring for Annabelles and summer for PeeGees because they are readying for bloom then.

  • Happy Gardening

Jerry Weise  GCSC Horticulture Chairman