Saturday, November 28, 2009

Inspiration at Callaway Gardens

A November visit to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA, is not complete for me without checking out the dazzling holiday displays of living plants at the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center. We spent a couple mid-morning hours there in a delightful detour from our route to Savannah, GA. 

An unexpected but inspiring discovery was a container filled with an unidentified bromeliad exactly like one given to me by Walter’s Aunt Genevieve Cowan several years ago. She had described the blooms I could expect in the fall, but I was still astounded with the vibrant combination of colors. I took the photo above intending to ask one of the volunteers to identify the plant.  With the distraction of all the other plant displays and the garden gift shop, I failed to tap into their expertise. I was inspired, however, to search the Web for the plant’s identity and hints for care. My plant is not as healthy looking or as full of blooms as the Callaway version.

The North Florida Garden Guide provided the best information I found. It described the plant as an easy-to-grow bromeliad native to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay; scientific name Billbergia nutans, also known as Queen's tears bromeliad. But “friendship plant” is the common name that best fits the source of my plant, Aunt Genevieve Cowan. She passed away last year. She was a trailblazer as a nurse and an educator of nurses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She never met a stranger. Her far-flung network of friends and of people and organizations she helped spanned the Gulf Coast and beyond. My friendship plant is a daily reminder of the good times and good example she gave our family.

I photographed several of the center’s other displays of holiday flowers and foliage that I enjoyed before my camera battery drained dry and quit.

Chrysanthemums and coral bells graced the entry of the center.

White Christmas-cactus blooms look fragile and fairy-like.

Poinsettias are among my favorites for inducing Christmas euphoria.

As part of the Sibley Center’s 25th anniversary celebration during 2009, especially commissioned picture frames of living plants showcase outstanding topiary and floral displays featured at the center through the past 25 years. The Sibley Center Web site notes that the frames are planted with succulents, ivy, and/or tillandsia, which I learned from other sites, are air plants, taking their nutrients from the air.  

My favorite topiaries, though were the teddy bear and toy train, pictured below.


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