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Gardening with Stephanie Tames

Follow successful gardener’s advice

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    Most everyone has heard the saying that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” For the gardener, imitation is also the surest way to success. That’s the advice of Bob Randolph, who, for 18 years, has made Georgia Southern Botanical Garden a showplace of old-fashioned southern favorites and native plants of the Southeastern Coastal Plain.  
    As the person most responsible for how the Garden looks, Randolph gets a lot of gardening questions – from the casual visitor to local residents who stop at the Garden regularly to see what’s blooming. Most often, gardeners want to know what and how to plant to ensure a successful garden.  Randolph doesn’t mind – and may be a little flattered — if people point to a flower bed and say, “that’s what I want my garden to look like.”  In fact, he told a group of gardening enthusiasts at a workshop last week to take pictures of gardens or landscaping that work – and don’t work — to use as a guide for their own gardens.
    Successful gardening, Randolph told the group, is learning by what others have done. At the Garden, he enhances all flower beds with organic material (for example composted leaves and manure). Even if beds are already established, “side dressing” plants with organic compost – spreading compost around plants then mulching – will give the plants the nutrients they need and help build better soil.  “It’s all about soil,” Randolph said.  “Poor soil can hurt a healthy plant, while good soil can save a weak plant”

    Knowing what and where to plant is also a key to successful gardening. Randolph suggests taking pictures of what you like, keeping a gardening journal, and researching.  Among the books he recommends for gardening in the coastal plain are “Best Garden Plants of Georgia” (Dillard/Williamson), “Bulletproof Flowers for the South” (Jim Wilson), “Gardening with Native Plants of the South” (Wasowski) and “Georgia Gardener’s Guide” (Reeves/Glasener). Two of his favorite books were written by local garden clubs: “Down to Earth” by the Spade and Trowel Garden Club and “Garden Guide to the Lower South” by Trustee’s Garden Club of Savannah. All of the above books are available from the Garden.

    While choosing what to plant is often based on personal preference, many people look to the successful gardener for their recommendations. Above is a list of some of Randolph’s favorites. Most of these can be found at Georgia Southern Botanical Garden.
    Georgia Southern Botanical Garden is holding its annual spring festival and plant sale on Saturday, March 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 1505 Bland Ave. Many of “Bob’s favorites” will be available at the sale, and Bob will be happy to help you find the right plant for your garden.
    There will also be a Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., where high-quality compost will be available for sale.

Garden Section Editor: Stephanie Tames, Georgia Southern Botanical Garden. If you are interested in contributing a gardening article or have deas for articles, contact Stephanie Tames at or 871-1149.


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