Minutes May 21 — Creative Tinkering

Gardeners Exchange Group Meeting 21 May 2016
Location: Home and Grounds of Bill and Julia Gregg
Topic: Creative Tinkering: A Vision in 1980 to a Reality Today
Submitted by Julie Neely, GEG Secretary

There was a great turnout despite the morning rain showers. Bill Gregg began the day explaining his philosophy and approach to planning and planting all the landscape on his six acre estate located on historic Schoolhouse Ridge. He said his landscape has been a work of science and love since he and his wife moved to the virtually TREELESS lot 35 years ago.

Bill has been amazed by the miracle of planting seeds and involved with observing and growing plants almost his entire 73 years of life. He was lucky enough to work as an ecologist for the U.S. National Park Service, performing environmental analyses, most recently studying the environmental impact of invasive species ranging from mammals to tiny microbes.

He based his home’s site selection on its natural beauty, rich cultural history, small town sense of community, wonderful neighbors, and federally protected forest views. His home and property is an extension and expression of his life as a scientist. He is environmentally green and practices a sustainable lifestyle, using solar, earth shelter technology, and trees and water on the site for fuel and water.

[box icon=”none”]Did you miss the meeting? Bill Gregg welcomes folks to tour his arbor, but requests that you call him at 803-528-7747 to arrange a day and time.[/box]

Bill started his plantings with 30 fruit trees in an orchard at the well-drained crest of his sloping lot. He chose native and non-native specimen trees for aesthetic as well as scientific reasons; these are planted on the Southern slope and river bottom areas of the property. Some of Bill’s trees are the only specimen of that tree growing in the state. Most of his trees are labelled by name. He has compiled an extensive listing of every tree purchased and planted on his property. He planted trees with the intention of learning which varieties thrived and which would fail in his unique location. He advises planning your plantings with the future in mind. What will this site be like and where will you be in 10–20 years from now?

Bill uses a device called the “Lil Sprout Portable Pump System” on his property to harness rain water and pump it up his slope to his raised bed vegetable garden. This pump is solar powered, hooks to a rain barrel, and can pump water up at least 12 feet against gravity. It costs $325 and Bill highly recommends this product.

Bill related this amazing story of his specimen English Oak tree which he grew from an acorn in a perfect spot quite near to his home and windows. A few years ago, during a springtime thunder storm a large bolt of lighting struck the oak, penetrating straight to the crook of the tree. The bolt blew the tree apart, splintering the trunk, shaking the home, shattering all the windows on that side of his home spreading glass and tree parts everywhere inside his house and throwing huge pieces of the tree trunk and limbs over his roof into the front yard. Luckily no one was injured, although Bill was inside the house at the time.

He gave this approach to combating bag worms:
1st: Mechanical defense. Cut out the affected part of the tree or bush and destroy (crush/burn/whatever) the bag worms.
2nd: Use poisonous chemicals to kill the worms—probably a bad idea for the environment.
3rd: Targeted bio-control. Bill uses very tiny (4–5 fit on the head of a pin) predatory wasps called “trichogramma minutum” that attack the eggs of over 200 species of moths and caterpillars including cabbage loopers, Gypsy moths, and tent caterpillars. He purchased the wasp eggs online and so far has had minimal problems with bag worms.

The lecture concluded with the end of the rain shower.  The group adjourned outside where Bill conducting a guided walking tour around the sloping property. The following is an annotated list of some of the trees we saw. Sorry, only the common names are frequently listed.

  • Dove tree, Davidia involucrata: from China, beautiful white bracts in Spring look like fluttering doves
  • Yellow horn, Xanthoceras sorbifolium: small tree bearing delphinium like pink and yellow flowers
  • English locust: no problem with locust beetles
  • Crepe myrtles: many varieties, highly recommended
  • Redbuds: many varieties and bud colors, highly recommended
  • Magnolias: native varieties and others including big leaf Magnolia macrophylla with leaves that can be 12–36 inches long, a very tropical-looking native magnolia with white flowers, and Cucumber magnolia, Magnolia acuminata, a cold-tolerant tall native species.
  • Oaks: including Burr oak, Shingle oak
  • Arborvitae: highly recommended as a pyramidal evergreen (better than Leyland cypress) carefree specimen or use several as wind break hedge; Bill urged to always keep this tree to a single leader as multi-trunked specimens seem to split with snow and ice.
  • Bald cypress
  • Dawn redwood
  • Sour gum
  • Sweet gum
  • Kousa dogwoods: multiple colors
  • Viburnum: flowering varieties
  • Hollies: deciduous varieties with red or yellow berries
  • Golden Rain Tree: NOT recommended, an invasive that spreads by seedlings
  • Japanese tree peonies: highly recommended and hardy
  • Quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides: highly recommended, surprising to see outside of Aspen, CO
  • Kiwi vines on trellises: delicious tiny kiwis
  • Sephora, Styphnolobium japonicum: looks like a locust tree
  • Persimmon: Asiatic varieties
  • Kentucky Coffee Tree: used as a coffee substitute
  • Japanese Angelica Tree, Aralia: variegated variety related to devils walking stick
  • Red Horse Chestnut: beautiful red blooms held erect
  • Goumi berry bush, Eleagnus multiflora: delicious red berries, healthy bushes, unharmed by deer
  • Weeping butterfly bush, Buddleia alternafolia: much more beautiful weeping variety
  • Pistachia chinesis tree related to sumac (not a pistachio nut tree)
  • Japanese raisin tree
  • Bass wood, Linden tree: American and European species with fragrant flowers in Spring
  • Japanese Silver Bell: small tree with beautiful small flowers in Spring
  • Fringe tree: small tree, beautiful white flowers in Spring that hang downward like white fringe
  • California Incense Cedar
  • Seven Sons tree, Heptacodium miconiodes: fragrant Spring flowers with pink sepals
  • Franklinia alatamaha, once found along the Alatamaha River in Georgia, USA, now extinct in the wild and survives as a cultivated ornamental tree
  • Princess tree, Paulownia tomentosa: beautiful purple flowers in Spring, seen growing near railroads, sometimes considered invasive, native of China, Bill grows them with no problems.