By Wendy Sang for The Island Connection
When it comes to the challenges of gardening on a barrier island, local gardening expert Patti McGee summed it up this way: “Well, in the two short years since we’ve had this property, we’ve gone through one hurricane and two major floods.”
Fittingly, the theme of Charleston Horticulture Society’s Gardens for Gardeners Tour last Sunday was just that: the challenges of gardening on the coast. And if the Sullivan’s Island gardens featured on this year’s tour were any indication, clearly these challenges have certainly been masterfully conquered.
Water is one of those universal challenges faced by gardeners everywhere. Often there’s not enough, but here on the islands, the opposite is true. Our low-lying paradise makes adequate drainage difficult to come by, especially during record rainfall. This year’s tour featured many imaginative solutions to the issue of drainage, ranging from rain gardens and French drains, to simply finding plants that are tolerant of occasionally having wet feet, like Stemodia Tomentosa. When the water finally receded after the rains of hurricane Irma, it was abundantly clear which plants were worth their salt, so speak.
There was certainly no shortage of variety on the tour, either. From a low-maintenance, naturalized beachfront garden to a linear, architectural space with an Asian flair, to a lush semi-shade garden filled with flowering ginger and torenia, there was definitely something for everyone’s taste and wish list. And every step along the way, there were plenty of helpful and knowledgeable Charleston Horticulture Society docents to help identify a particular plant, answer questions or give directions.
Beautiful, mild weather also helped make this year’s tour thoroughly enjoyable. When it was all said and done, one thing is abundantly clear—the gardeners of Sullivan’s Island are every bit as resilient as they are ingenious. Even Mother Nature’s recent excesses haven’t been able put a damper on their spirit or their love of gardening.