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Frost patterns bringing blooms together

POSTED: March 30, 2009 9:46 a.m.

According to local plant experts, wisteria can bloom for up to 6-8 weeks.

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After the threat of frost has passed, there are a few weeks each year when Georgia’s coast comes to life. Brightly colored flowers transform the area’s normally muddy and marshy, brown and green landscape into a brilliant, sweet-scented display of blooms.
In Liberty County, the onset of spring is marked by the appearance of purple wisteria, which forms vast networks of violet-flowered vines on trees. However, wisteria isn’t the only bloom alive and well in Coastal Georgia.
Dogwoods, azaleas, jasmine and Cherokee rose are commonly seen plants native to the area.
Mary Beth Evans, president of the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation and Botanical Garden, said this year people might notice the current phenomenon of all the flowers blooming simultaneously — a rarity she credits to odd frost patterns the area experienced the past few weeks.
“Typically, they don’t bloom all at the same time like this,” she said. “It’s really beautiful to see, though.”
According to Evans, however, the myriad of sweet-smelling stems and petals that has taken over the area isn’t completely natural.
“A lot of things got planted and were not supposed to be here,” she said, indicating settlers who inhabited the area hundreds of years ago and built exotic gardens with plants from all over the world.
She said Louis LeConte, one of the brothers who started the LeConte Plantation, tended an elaborate garden. He brought numerous species to the area and shared them with other residents. Many early Liberty County residents followed LeConte’s lead, setting up homes and diverse gardens, which is why most plants found in the area actually are not native.
According to Grant Hawkins, owner of Twin Oaks Nursery and Lawn Maintenance, the bluish, purple wisteria that drapes itself across the county is actually called wisteria floribunda or Japanese Wisteria. He said although, as the name suggests, the plant isn’t truly native to the area, it’s found a great replacement home here.
“Everything we have (in terms of environment), it loves,” Hawkins said. “It’s the perfect microcosm for the plant.”
Hawkins said the species also thrives in Georgia because people love it, and it’s very easy to grow using a trellis or by letting it live on another tree.
Evans said azaleas are another non-native flowering species that appear in abundance around the state.
“There is a native species of azaleas, but it’s not the ones you normally see,” she said.
The native species is called rhododendron canescens and, typically, the flowers are much smaller than their brighter counterpart, which is commonly found in yards and parks.
In addition to the relocated species, Georgia boasts many native blooms, including the state flower, the Cherokee rose, and one of the most recogniznable flowering trees, the dogwood. The white and yellow jasmine that grows in vines around the coast is also native.
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