LAURA HALL: Cultivate ideas, friendships at the Tri-County Horticulture Studies Group

Laura Hall, Gardens with Annie
Marlana Rice in her Santa Rosa greenhouse.

This Tri-County Horticulture Studies Group covers an area from South Walton to Gulf Breeze.

My initial visit, in South Walton, came the same January day the arctic air decided to kick up its heels and blow its head off. The freezing cold winds penetrated through our hats, gloves and coats. The iceberg goddess was having her laugh at us. In spite of it all, the meeting was filled with approximately 35 brave and stalwart women from Walton County to Navarre.

This group is an outreach of the Valparaiso Garden Club.  I understand that Marie Harrison was the brains behind the formation of the club. This year, Joyce Water-Smith, of Destin, is serving as co-chair and logistics director. The group meets once a month in different locations and there is no membership fee. Anyone is welcome who feels passionate about gardening. I look at this as an intellectual pursuit and a chance to expand those elusive brain cells.

I was one lucky lady to choose this particular program to attend. We visited the home and greenhouse of Marlana Rice in Santa Rosa Beach. Marlana is a home orchid grower of 14 years and her greenhouse is bursting with magnificent orchids. I’ll have a full article on this one later.

I asked Lorraine Pless of Regatta Bay about the Horticulture group and she responded, “I have been in the group for about a year and a half and it is very informative. This group offers an excellent opportunity to view a variety of gardens, see what other people have in their yards and how they are landscaped. You get so many new ideas. Growing anything in this sandy soil is a challenge you know. One of my favorite programs was on growing, cutting and drying hydrangeas.”  I wish I had attended that one.

Some of the upcoming trips and topics will include flowering trees and shrubs, the Milton Flower and Garden Festival, air layering propagation, antique roses, azaleas, mountain laurels and a plant swap and sale. The programs that are offered are done by top notch educational speakers, extension agents and master gardeners. It’s rather like an advanced garden club on steroids! The speakers may be an elite bunch, but I found the members warm, friendly and wanting to learn.  This horticulture group is filled with invigorating ideas.

The next program will be held Feb. 21 at the Forth Walton Beach County Extension Annex at 127 Hollywood Blvd. The speaker will be Sheila Dunning, an Okaloosa County Extension agent. Her topic will be winter flowering trees and shrubs. There will be answers on where, how and when to plant and prune. Sheila is one of the most knowledgeable people I know and this is guaranteed to be a great program.

For more information on this group, check in with Joyce Waters-Smith at 217-4888, or Marie Harrison at 678-2842

Well, I’m afraid I may be hooked on the idea of this group, so I will probably see some of you at one of the future meetings.  Zzzzst… I can feel my nebulous brain matter beginning to rev up for action!

Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident. She explores area gardens with her cavalier spaniel Annie. If you would like to show off your garden, contact Laura at 837-8720.