An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

March 7, 2010

The Tidewater Garden Symposium - 2010

My First Narcissus of 2010

Thursday, I was once again privileged to attend The Tidewater Garden Symposium, and as usual, the line-up of speakers was fantastic (here is my post from last year). The first speaker was Jeff Lowenfels, author of the book Teaming With Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Food Web. As gardeners we all love beautiful flowers, stately trees, historic gardens and fresh fruits and vegetables. I know that all these things result from what happens under the soil line, and normally this is not the most interesting part of gardening to me. But before hearing Mr. Lowenfels speak, I never would have realized just how enthralled I could be hearing someone speak on soil science.

The second speaker, Chip Callaway was perhaps my favorite. Although I am not sure why, I have never previously heard of him nor his company, Callaway and Associates. This prolific North Carolina firm has designed nearly 1000 gardens, and one of their specialties is working on historic properties. Mr. Callaway took us through a small part of his portfolio, all the while injecting a serious degree of Southern humor delivered with a rich Carolina accent. My favorite property he showed us was Wharton Hall, which happens to be within walking distance of the house where my great-grandmother, Mammy Nock lived in Assawoman, Va. Even though the houses are very close, they are worlds away from each other. If you are interested, his web site is here, including a gallery of some of his projects.

Pam Baggett was the next speaker and she spoke about using tropical plants in temperate gardens. She was the owner of the sadly now defunct Singing Springs Nursery, which was a mail order nursery in North Carolina specializing in tropical plants. I still have a Euphorbia 'Sticks On Fire' that I got from Singing Springs years ago. Ms. Baggett was promoting her recent book Tropicalismo! and she had some luscious photography to show us. The bright colors and bold textures were welcome distractions on yet another cold day.

The last to speak on Thursday is one of the godfathers of television horticulture, Roger Swain. His topic was "Vegetables for Every Appetite" and I left ready to pull up my shrubs and perennials in favor for something more edible. We were a PBS family growing up and I remember him from The Victory Garden before it changed and changed and changed again. One thing that was not apparent watching the show was just how funny Roger Swain is. He has a great sense of humor, as well as a vast knowledge of all things horticultural.

The day ended with door prizes, some of which I contributed, or at least my company did. I really would like to commend the ladies from the Garden Clubs of Norfolk and Virginia Beach for once again sponsoring a great host of speakers, I don't know how they do it, but am glad they do. For me this event is always a sign that spring is here, and since my first Narcissus (pictured above) began opening the same day, it must be true.


  1. I loved Roger Swain on The Victory Garden.....wish they woulud run reruns. Gardening is gardening!!

  2. Wow, Roger Swain! Your show sounds great. After being excited about a show an hour away in Rochester that had some good speakers, I heard reports that the show itself was mostly about hardscaping and a big disappointment, so we just stayed home.

  3. What fun to attend this symposium...I liked Roger Swain and miss the heck out of The Victory Garden. The daff is beautiful...loved seeing it and can report that the first is ready to open in my garden. gail

  4. It sounds like a good day to learn and be inspired. I really like these kinds of days and kudos to the garden clubs for setting it all up. All I could think of with Calloway was Calloway gardens. Is he affiliated with them in any way?

  5. Don't go digging up all your flowers and shrubs until you've taken a look through the veg section of a seed catalogue because you will find that there are some veg that make attractive foliage plants and things such as runner beans also have quite nice flowers so maybe you could grow some veg without doing away with the rest of the garden. There is no law in nature to say that you must grow one or the other or that they must be grown seperate, we are the ones that made those rules for some reason. Bob.

  6. What a beautiful photo! The Victory Garden brings back a lot of memories...--Randy

  7. Sounds like a wonderful event! I wish I had been a Victory Garden watcher. Everyone speaks of it wish such fondness.

    Congrats on the arrival of spring, now it gets really exciting!

  8. Janet,
    I agree. I know that somewhere in Boston there must be back issues.

    I would stay home too if they were going to speak about hardscaping. I want plants!

    We are not supposed to have any freezing weather for the next week with temps in the 50's, so I know my dafs will be popping in time for bloom day.

    I do not think Chip Callaway is affiliated with the garden.

    I agree with you, but my toungue was firmly in cheek.

    Randy and Jamie,
    The show is still on, and is enjoyable, but it is just not the same. I will say that last season's shows were much better than what was on a few years ago.

    I am ready for some excitement.


  9. Sounds like a great program. I remember watching Roger Swain when I was first getting interested in gardening. I don't think we get "Victory Garden" anymore - is it still on?

  10. Sounds like a great day! When did Singing Springs go out of business? I will have to check out Chip Galloway's page.

  11. Hi Les, spring has sprung where you are...and I will say the same when my first daffodil opens! The little mounds of snow here and there are gone now (in my yard, at least) but I understand your need to 'do something about them'! I was just letting nature take her course, I guess;-) Love your daffodil...she's a beauty. Hearing talks by these gardeners must have been inspirational and how nice to have seen Roger Swain in person...a real treat, no doubt!

  12. Phillip,
    Yes it is still on, and a little better than it was several years ago.

    Sweet Bay,
    Singing Springs closed several years ago. We were all sad.

    I am glad your snow mounds are gone. The narcissus that opened is a paperwhite type, but today a plain old fashioned jonquil opened.


  13. What a wonderful line-up of speakers! I'm off to check out the Calloway web site ....

  14. Connie,
    Thanks for coming by. I hope you enjoy the link.


  15. A soil science convert...yay! As a microbiologist - and *shudder* a traditionally-trained soil microbiologist (all of my degrees are in soil science) - I still find it absolutely puzzling that I became fascinated with soil science. It was due to a teacher when I was an undergraduate - he deserves the credit. Anyway, soil science is FASCINATING. I haven't yet read the book (Teaming with Microbes) but probably should (but it kinda seems like preaching to the choir).

    Callaway sounds fascinating.

    ps I want to live in Assawoman, Virginia!

  16. Pam,
    Under land or sea, PHD - will travel!

    You are welcome to use that on your resume.


  17. Is there anyone who doesn't miss Roger Swain? I always felt the changes in the Victory Garden were the result of a kind of Martha Stewartization of the show. Since Martha already had a magazine and a show, they ruined a good show for no reason. I stopped watching and never went back. That was the program that got so many of us hooked on gardening.

  18. Linda,
    I think the changes on the show were due to generational changes in the audience. People respond differently these days.