i have not vanished, as evident by my continuing comments. i’ve
been preoccupied with poetry, and i’m also working on my gardening
grandmother’s life story. she was totally self-taught, yet beautifully
landscaped their farm and 20 acres of grounds during the 40″s and 50’s.
i have fond memories of the many liriope-lined paths under tall pines,
the grassy nooks with statues, her formal rose garden, and wild azalea
collections. she was a “tester” for Park seed Co. for southern range of new
“wild” varieties… and was one of the first to successfully grow their new
rhododendron cultivars in middle georgia.
she created a beautiful traditional Japanese garden in the overgrowth around a
small lakeon the property. it was hacked out of a swamp, with flourishing kudzu and
poison ivy, growing on the rich bottomland. it was a surprise for my grandfather’s
birthday. all the statuary, rocks, bridges and teahouse materials were imported
from korea and japan, as well as careful placing of some of the big native granite
rocks. many garden clubs from all around the southeast came to tour her gardens.
she was a very private person, but gracious enough to open her small paradise to all.
she and my grandfather had great interest in camellias, and both were expert
judges at many camellia shows. she learned to breed, hybridize, and created many
cultivars, now rare, but still in great demand at camellia nurseries today. i recall her
exchanging pollen with friends in california by mail, even from as far away as new
zealand! the extent of her skills was amazing to me- as a young girl. i followed and
watched her in her tall glass hothouse, full of grown camellias too tender for ga. cold
temps, as she worked pollinating and gibbing ( setting in a graft bud) her new creations.
she named them for all her family members- the one she named for me is a tiny
delicate shell pink… at this point in my life, i would be a big sloppy red flower! lol
many of her beauties still grow in the American Camellia Society’s gardens in
Ft. Valley, Ga. she was considered an expert in her field, and wrote many articles
in horticulture magazines of her time.
my grandmother, Emilie Jarasse Witman, was a great lady who never went without
her face cream every night ( she was French) but she was quite handy with a machete
or a hoe. she could kill a copperhead snake with one chop, without blinking an eye….
and then plan a cocktail party for the evening. her extensive horticultural knowledge
as well as her accomplishments left a great impression on me; because of her, i was
bitten early by the gardening bug. she “made” me into a gardening fool, and i am still
most grateful for all her influence, today!