Tag Archives: Written by Susanne Kessaris

I Passed My Master Gardening Exam!


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My Training Is Almost Finished

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Here I am potting some plants to help prepare for the Master Gardeners’ Spring Plant Sale.

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Sunbonnet Sue working in a garden.

For anyone that has been following my blog, you are probably wondering what I have been up to since I haven’t been posting much lately.  I have been taking a class to become a Master Gardener. Right now I am referred to as an intern seedling.  We have had 10 classes so far and have 3 to go then the final.  We have had tests at the beginning of each class to cover the material from the previous week.  We have learned to identify about 30 plants by their leaves so far and have about 20 to go.  We have covered ALOT of information on pest management, fruit trees, landscaping design, turfgrass  installation, vegetable gardening, annuals, perennials, herbs, composting, mulching and tree pruning. We have had field trips to Black’s Peach Orchard, Glencairn Gardens, the vegetable garden at Anne Springs Close Farm as well as the garden at the Clemson Extension Office. It has been a challenging but fun journey.  Hopefully, I will graduate and receive my certificate next month.  I will keep you posted. Wish me success!

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Finding My Inner Nerd

100_3605100_3606100_3607100_3608100_3609100_3611100_3612There is a running joke in our house that we are a family of nerds. If collecting things makes one a nerd then we definitely fit the description. It makes life interesting because each of us collects different or unusual items.  My husband enjoys reading and has a big library of books. He also collects Viewmaster reels for their spectacular images in 3-D. My daughter is a musician and music lover.  She plays the piano, flute and guitar. She owns an organ that she bought from a former teacher and a cherongo drum that she brought home from South America. I think that she would make room for even more instruments because she enjoys playing them and having them around her. My son is a sports fan.  He began collecting baseball cards when he was a little boy.

I have always enjoyed being outside and like to learn about plants.  I am in my element now since I am taking a master gardener class. Part of my studies have focused on identifying plants by their leaves. Plant identification becomes easier once you are familiar with different leaf shapes, margins, arrangement on stems, and coloration. Some plants are so similar that it takes a well-trained eye to distinguish the leaves of one plant from those of another in the same variety.

A lot of my home decor  is adorned with nature or botanical images. I have a renewed appreciation for this collection now as I understand more about the uniqueness of each plant specimen and its contribution to God’s beautiful creation.

Like the plants, we each are “…..fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14.

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My Quest To Be A Better Gardener

I haven’t posted a lot on my blog site lately because I am taking a gardening class to become a Master Gardener. I hope to be a better gardener once I am finished. Perhaps I can avoid making mistakes monetarily or physically in the garden. I know that over the years I have experimented by planting things that did not survive because they were not tolerant of the conditions in the southern part of the country where I live. Planting disease resistant plant varieties best suited for South Carolina which are hardy and drought-tolerant will make gardening a more satisfying experience.


Crepe myrtles and Knock Out roses do very well in the south and should be a feature in every southern garden. You can find them in a lot of different colors. Crepes are usually pink, white or red but occasionally you will see a lavender variety. Some people are guilty of crepe “murder” which is very harsh pruning, almost down to the nub. It takes the plants a long time to recover from this type of pruning and they never achieve a natural look again so drastic pruning should be avoided. Knock Out roses come in red, pink or yellow.

So far I have studied basic plant botany and physiology, soil science, entomology(the study of insects), and plant pathology(the study of plant diseases). I am learning to identify a wide variety of plants by looking at their leaves. I am looking forward to learning about landscaping, perennials, pesticides and vegetable gardening. I still have a long way to go but am looking forward to growing myself in the knowledge of plants.

It is amazing to think that God made a vast variety of plants each with uniquely different  features. God’s creation includes interesting plants, insects and microscopic creatures that we are not aware exist in the world around us. We can help beautify our little part of the world by growing plants suited for our region, improving the growing conditions of the soil, and keeping our plants healthy and free from pests or disease.

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List of Gardens -“Just for Fun”


The Bok Tower in Lake Wales, Florida.


The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California.


The mission at Carmel-By-The-Sea, California.


The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.


The Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.

I thought it would be fun to list the gardens I have visited over the years.  I would be interested to know of others that you have visited as well.

Starting in Florida…..In Miami there is Vizcaya Estate and Gardens as well as the Orchid Garden and Parrot Jungle.  In Fort Myers one can find  the home and gardens of Thomas Edison. The Ernest Hemingway house and garden is in Key West.  Cypress Gardens was in Winter Haven but has become Legoland.  Silver Springs is in the town of the same name.  The Bok Tower Gardens are in Lake Wales. The Disney Institute has a gardening center which offers classes at Disneyworld in Orlando. Lakeland has Hollis Garden.  St. Augustine has the Fountain of Youth and surrounding gardens.

In Georgia….Callaway Gardens are in Pine Mountain.  The Augusta National Golf courses grounds and gardens are a must see in Augusta.  Savannah has many public and private gardens to see by taking walking or driving tours. The Little White House was a summer home and hot tub rehabilitation facility for FDR in Warm Springs.

In South Carolina….Charleston is home to many beautiful homes with gardens including Magnolia Gardens, Middleton Place, Dreyton Hall and Boone Hall Plantation. There is a garden at Charles Towne Landing.  Another Cypress Garden is located in Moncks Corner where one can paddle a boat through a swamp filled with alligators. Brookgreen Gardens are at Myrtle Beach.  Columbia has the fabulous Riverbanks zoo and garden. The Park Seed Co. has an outstanding garden in Greenwood. There is an asian tea garden on Furman University’s campus. Sumter has the beautiful Swan Lake Garden. There is a very interesting garden known as Pearl Friar’s Topiary Garden in Bishopville.  Glencairn Garden is a wonderful attraction in my home town of Rock Hill.

In North Carolina……Charlotte has Wing Haven. Winston-Salem has Old Salem and the Reynolda House and Gardens. Asheville has the Biltmore Estate and Gardens. The Carl Sandburg estate and gardens are in Hendersonville.  New Bern has Tryon Palace and Gardens.The Elizabethan Gardens are near the coast at Manteo. Durham has the Duke Botanical Gardens. Chapel Hill has an arboretum and Gastonia has Stowe Botanical Gardens and Conservatory.

In Virginia…..one can behold small-scale colonial backyard  gardens in Williamsburg. Thomas Jefferson’s home, expansive vegetable and flower gardens are in Charlottesville. The Greenbriar is a fabulous resort and garden in White Sulfur Springs.

In Washington, DC…..  one must see the White House and famous Rose Garden. The U. S. Botanical Garden has an outstanding array of plants both in the outdoor gardens and inside in the conservatory.

In New York…..I have visited the botanical garden at Niagara Falls.  I have also toured the home and gardens at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Hyde Park.

In Massachusetts…..I have been to Nathanial Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables and Garden in Salem. Louisa May Alcott’s home and garden known as Orchard House, are in Concord.  The Mount, is Edith Wharton’s elegant home with gardens in Lenox.

In Rhode Island……I have visited The Breakers, the grandiose Vanderbilt mansion and grounds in Newport.

In New Jersey……Ringwood Manor, expansive grounds and formal garden are in Ringwood.

In California…..I have been to San Francisco and have seen The Japanese Tea Garden, The Conservatory of Flowers and the Palace of Fine Arts.  In Carmel-By-The-Sea, there is a wonderful walled in garden next to a stuccoed spanish-style Roman Catholic mission church. It has its own resident western quail that wanders throughout the tropical native plants.

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary


Here is my front porch. The ferns are about to take over.


The pink crepe myrtle and yellow Knock Out roses are in their splendor now.


I took a photo of Old Glory during the 4th of July. She proudly waves near our garage.


I began adding little miniature garden elements to my pots this year. Here are some mushrooms that I found. I know, I am entering into my second childhood.


While it was hot outside, I decided that I would work on some indoor gardening projects. Here is a “fairy” garden scene that I made from ideas I found on Pinterest. The house is an upside down flower pot and the mushrooms are wooden door knobs.


Here is my succulent plant collection. The aloe plants are very hardy. I keep giving away starters by twisting off the babies. I don’t know the names of all of them but each variety is very interesting.


Here is my herb collection. I have some thyme and chocolate mint growing in pots with flowers on my deck. It smells heavenly out there.

For those who are wondering about the progress of my garden, I have been meaning to post pictures during the summer while the flowers are at their peak.  Here is how it looks right now.

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Newly Discovered Gardening Haven





100_3438100_3439100_3441100_3442100_3447100_3449I recently discovered a gardening center in Charlotte, NC. It has been there awhile. I am surprised I didn’t know about it until now as I have lived in the area about 25 years. A master gardener at the garden tour in our town mentioned it to me.  It is called Roundtree Plantation and is well worth the trip if you are in town.

You will get a certain delight for your senses as you see  brilliantly colored flowers. The textures of different plants will amaze you. The scents of gardenia blossoms or confederate jasemine will lead you along garden paths where you will hear trickling sounds from fountains and amazing water features. The gardening displays are spectacular. You will find just about any plant on your home garden wish list but the whole sensory experience can not be beat.

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