Plantation gardens among stops on today’s north Coweta tour
For the first time, the gardens of Hutcheson-Redwine Plantation near Palmetto will be open to the public during today’s Unique Gardens of North Coweta County spring tour, hosted by Coweta County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers.
Also on tour are the Oak Grove Plantation gardens, a treat not to be missed if you have never seen them. Here is a preview of these very special gardens and the dedicated people who created them.
Hutcheson-Redwine Plantation It’s hard to believe that when Keith G. Robinson discovered this 1830s plantation house near Palmetto four years ago, there were no gardens, only a maze of boxwoods installed in 1837.
Today, lush plantings cover almost six acres around the house, all of it installed by Robinson. A whirlwind of activity, he can till and plant a 30-foot-long bed in just three hours.
“I like instant results,” he says with a smile. “I would say my biggest challenge is that I am impatient.”
Robinson describes his garden as “my interpretation of an English garden in the country – loose mixtures of perennials and flowering shrubs bordered by evergreens.”
Robinson has portioned his property into garden rooms featuring Southern plants that might have been found there when the house was young. Accenting the plantings are arbors, gates and other garden “furniture” that he created. A huge 150-year-old magnolia tree highlights the side yard. Its branches sweep down to form a hidden “room” that Robinson has festooned with lanterns and uses for entertaining.
Another highlight is an ancient specimen of Calocedrus decurrens, or incense cedar, that dominates the front yard. Rare for this part of the country, the cedar is native to the western United States.
It’s obvious that Robinson, as a creative person, has to surround himself with beauty. He founded his catering company, Gloriosa – named for a lily with showy blooms – out of his passion for fine art, international cuisine and design. Robinson, who has a background in landscape architecture and environmental design, has used that same touch at Hutcheson-Redwine Plantation to produce beautiful design in a natural setting.
“I garden because I gain gratification from watching things grow,” he says. “Additionally, it’s another medium through which I can express my creativity. I get so much joy from strolling in my garden, foraging from the beds to create beautiful floral arrangements.”
Robinson first picked up a garden trowel when he was 8 years old. He credits his paternal grandmother, Myrtle Robinson, as spurring his interest.
“I have very distinct memories of the yellow garden roses that scrambled all over the wrought iron fences, the fragrance of the lilies in the summer and the large pyracantha in the side yard at her home in Biloxi, Mississippi,” he says.
His grandmother’s legacy continues to bloom in the gardens he has established and now is sharing with the public for the first time.
Oak Grove Plantation The gardens at Oak Grove Plantation are rock stars, A-list celebrities. Southern Living, the bible of gardening ideas for Southerners, has featured the plantings at Oak Grove gardens a remarkable 19 times. Liz and George Tedder open the gardens to the public in the spring and fall to benefit the Arnold Cemetery, which is on the property. Even if you’ve seen the gardens before, come back. There is always something new and different blooming, something unusual to see. When the Tedders bought Oak Grove, a lovely Federal-style house just north of Newnan on U.S. Hwy. 29, more than 30 years ago, there were no gardens, just overgrown fields. Over the years, the couple – primarily Liz – has added 30 different gardens on the 20-acre site. One of the earliest is the Patience Garden, where Liz tries out new plants gathered during her travels to see if they will make it in Georgia’s heat. “Patience is a gardener’s most precious commodity,” she says. Patience is not the only thing that Liz Tedder learned during her three decades of gardening at Oak Grove. She has a lot of wisdom to share. “I figured out a long time ago that with a lot of hard work and patience you can have an abundance of beauty without a lot of money,” says Liz. “I garden with God … I do things the way He designed the Earth. I think people pamper their plants too much, and they don't learn to live on their own.”
Her advice? Dig a big hole and water when you plant. Mulch, mulch, mulch. When the mulch decomposes, it will fertilize at the right time. Keep things under control. And think like a plant: “Give them what they like and they will reward you by being happy." The gardens at Oak Grove were inspired by gardens that Liz has seen in person or in magazines. She has a scrapbook of gardens she likes, and she translates those stored memories to reality at Oak Grove: An Antique Rose Border whose pinks are complemented by Siberian iris and other purple and white blooms. A Secret Garden for tea parties with her granddaughters. A Sunken Garden where all of the flowers are white. A colorful Formal Garden anchored by a gazebo. An Herb Garden lined with granite cobblestones and centered by a sundial – visitors will need plenty of time to see it all.
“Just about every plant in my garden has a story,” she says. “Many are pass-a-longs from friends. Many are cuttings or started as small seedlings and, as one good friend said, not a few got their start from my fishes and loaves ‘division’ system.”
A self-taught gardener, Liz says gardening is “in my DNA.” “I have been gardening since I was a little child, putting things in pots. My mom would bring cuttings home from people, and I would grow them.”
And she has never stopped. Her next project? She is collecting specimens for a native plant trail. "I guess you could call Oak Grove my magnificent obsession.”