14 June 2012

Mid-South Hydrangea Society garden tour

The residential neighborhoods of Memphis, TN, are lined with hydrangeas in bloom at this time of year. The 430 members of the Mid-South Hydrangea Society hold their annual Garden Tour each June to celebrate the season.


A typical Memphis street scene - not even on the tour!


Their annual plant sale starts the day with hundreds of hydrangeas of every variety available to take home.





This year, the first garden on the tour was at the residence of Anne and Jerry Riordan – a garden that was recently in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
The slim lot features a front garden with a circular lawn, vine covered arbors, a fountain and a dozen shade loving plants such as begonias, yew, lilies and ferns.  When Anne retired and became a master gardener she created a back yard that is a series of garden rooms separated by planting beds, espaliered fruit trees, outdoor seating, fountains, metal sculpture, a fireplace and a putting green.
One bed featured two Loropetalum standards, pruned to lollipop shapes. Basil and parsley companionably grow in a dwarf- boxwood lined bed of roses and clematis.
The outdoor seating area was a boat storage building when the Riordan’s bought the house23 years ago and the garden improvements have continued ever since.


Tricia and Chip Dudley created the feeling of a country retreat at their 1.3-acre, in-town garden. In addition to huge trees, their lot is surrounded with dozens of hydrangea bushes, azaleas, daylilies, ferns, zinnias and roses.

“We chose this house because of the mature trees,” said Tricia. “I like plants that take care of themselves. I enjoy being outdoors but don’t want to be out here every day working.”

The expanse of lawn, accented with a hammock and whimsical art, is divided by a white fence, behind which there is a garden shed and more flower beds.

The home of Petty and LaVerne Lovell was formerly Lausanne School for Girls. The 1926 building with front-porch pillars has been restored and two buildings have been added. The gardens reflect the home’s history and the homeowners’ modernizations. Flower beds, lined and filled with Mondo grass, hold azaleas, dogwoods, dwarf boxwood and hellebore.

Their herbs are in pots behind the conservatory, along with beds of rhododendron. In the back, there is a 4-level, nature-themed fountain surrounded by shrubs.  One of the seating areas is a modern deck; another is under an arbor of Cleyera Japonica vines.

The Mediterranean architecture of Amy and Drew Taylor’s home is unique in Memphis. Their property is set up for entertaining with pathways, patio, a front garden fish pond surrounded with cold hardy banana trees, large sculptures and a back yard swimming pool.

Amy said that they purchased the home three years ago and other than adding the pool, they have not changed anything that was installed by the previous owners. Even the sculptures came with the house.

The dramatic entrance to the Taylor home is accented with canna lilies. The driveway beds are filled with hostas, mahonia, Japanese maples, and redbud trees.

A raked pea gravel path leads from the driveway through garden beds to the front entertaining center. The lawn is surrounded with fountains and assorted plants such as roses, daylilies, ornamental grasses, tickseed, vitex and Purple Heart.

Memphis homeowners said that they water every other day at this time of year but will water daily when the summer heats up.

Membership in the Mid-South Hydrangea Society is $10 and includes newsletters and 2- free admissions to the garden tour.  A membership form is available on the society's Web site at www.midsouthhydrangea.com.
Dr. Michael Dirr's commentary on hydrangeas is available online at http://tinyurl.com/dyo68ag.

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