Savannah Botanical Blog

Looking for Pearls: Camellias a beautiful discovery at Savannah Botanical Gardens


Early on a cool, damp morning last week, I met Ron and Belinda Jacob at the Savannah Botanical Gardens on Eisenhower Avenue. The fog had crept in on little camellia feet.

We were alone there, whispering in the quiet mist, with only the clear call of a tufted titmouse echoing from the bare trees. The Jacobs were leading me to see the Ann Reinhard, a camellia that grows only in the Savannah Botanical Gardens. Against its dark green leaves, its red blossoms seemed to cascade like a haunting flurry of poppies on Armistice Day.

The camellia was discovered growing in the Savannah Botanical Gardens some 20 years ago, but until it flowered, no one knew what variety it might be. Last February it bloomed, and local camellia expert Gene Phillips determined it was a hitherto unknown variety.

It is what is called a “chance seedling,” a plant that has come from a natural pollination, a seed formed by serendipity. On some past warm winter day, the right encounter of a bee carrying pollen from the anther of one flower to the pistil of another started the Ann Reinhard life cycle.

The Jacobs and the staff of the Savannah Botanical Gardens began the process of submitting the previously unnamed camellia for inclusion in the national Camellia Registry. They cast about for an appropriate name, when everyone seemed to have the same thought at once to name it in honor of Ann Reinhard.

The beautiful circa-1840 German-vernacular building that sits on the edge of the 10-acre Savannah Botanical Gardens is named the Reinhard House. It first stood on the Reinhard Farm near Wheaton Street downtown. Indeed, eight acres of the farm were purchased in 1853 to become the Catholic Cemetery.

The house was slated for demolition to make way for the Truman Parkway. It was saved and moved in 1992 by the Savannah Area Council of Garden Clubs. It now serves as the SACGC headquarters and as the information center for the Gardens.

A year ago, I saw the Ann Reinhard at the Jacobs’ invitation. She had only a few blooms then, but she is covered with flowers now. Ron said the bitter winter of 2018 seems to have caused Savannah’s camellias to rebound mightily this year.

He was captivated from the beginning with the simplicity and elegance of the Ann Reinhard’s single (one row of petals) blossoms. Camellias originated in Japan, where simplicity is valued aesthetically. Indeed a small, red, single camellia can be seen at Magnolia Gardens in Charleston, where it was imported from Japan in the 1700s.

The Savannah Botanical Gardens have 67 varieties of camellias, all but one identified. The Jacobs took me on a magical tour of singles, doubles, anemone forms, peony forms, rose forms, formal doubles — an enchanted walk, close to nature, next to Hospice House.

We visited the Tama-no-ura variety, a red-and-white single, similar to the Ann Reinhard. It was found in the wild on an island of the Nagasaki Prefecture in 1947 by a charcoal burner. With its white edging and golden stamen tops, one bloom seemed to float above the palm of Belinda’s hand.

The fluffy rose-pink blooms of the R.L. Wheeler variety hovered over a lush stand of azaleas. The Jacobs knew it originated in Macon in 1949. They showed me the reticulata hybrid Crimson Candles, its dew-covered rose-pink petals resembling a music-box ballerina.

I was struck by the Charlean, with large, pink-orchid petals and airy pinkish filaments. Ron pointed out that there is a story behind every camellia, and Belinda said they had met the flower’s namesake. The woman Charlean is the granddaughter of the originator, William Stewart of Savannah.

Ron showed me the Betty Sheffield with its loose peony form. It is whitish with blotches of red and pink and is noted for “sporting,” where different colors appear on the same plant. Like the Ann Reinhard, it was a chance seedling from Quitman found in 1949.

Our camellia journey took us to the majestic white Sea Foam, which originated in Fernandina Beach, the fluffy High Society from Albany, the luxurious Royal Velvet from California.

The Jacobs knew the names of every camellia we passed. They knew the legacy carried in those names. They knew the ethereal beauty. They themselves helped name the Ann Reinhard, who passed away in the 1800s. I saw on Phillips’ website a just-introduced pink lavender camellia, the Jennifer Ross, who has been in heaven since 2005.

Ben Goggins, a retired marine biologist, lives on Tybee Island. He can be reached at 912-786-6181 or

Spring is near and that means it’s time to start planning that vegetable or botanical garden you’ve always dreamed of. But you have one problem and it’s got four paws. Don’t let your curious canine thwart your proposed plot -- you can keep Spot safe and show off your green thumb. Here’s how:

Plant this…

One thing you can count on is that your dog will want to explore the garden. It’s in his nature and he is fully equipped to inspect (and dissect) every bloom or bud. Unless you plan to install a barrier around the entire garden, you’ll need to focus on dog-safe flowers and edibles.


  • Cilantro
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Ginger
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon balm
  • Parsley
  • Chamomile


  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Celery
  • Garlic


  • Snapdragon
  • Aster
  • Marigold
  • Hibiscus
  • Sunflower
  • Tiger Lily
  • Zinnia
  • Impatiens
  • Spider Ivy

Not that…

Even if you fence the perimeter, it’s best to avoid the most toxic plants. Here are the worst offends and why they should be nixed:

  • Carnation – Causes gastrointestinal disturbance
  • Iris – Southern Living notes that Irises can cause vomiting and lethargy
  • Lily of the Valley – May cause serious health issues including seizures, heart arrhythmias, and death
  • Peony – Causes excessive drooling and diarrhea
  • Begonia – Ingestion may trigger issues swallowing
  • Geranium – As beautiful as it is, geranium is toxic and can cause low blood pressure, skin rashes, and loss of appetite
  • Aloe vera – While good for the skin, aloe vera can cause tremors and upset stomach if eaten
  • Azaleas – One of the most beautiful flowering shrubs, azaleas are a big “no” for homes with dogs since eating them can cause digestive issues and weakness
  • Boxwood – Causes vomiting, often to the point of dehydration
  • Amaryllis – This bulb produces glorious blooms but is extremely dangerous to dogs and can cause abdominal pain and hypersalivation
  • Caladium – Large and interesting leaves are an open invitation for dogs that can trigger respiratory distress and trouble walking
  • Daffodil – We know them as “buttercups” but these sweetly scented spring bloomers can cause convulsions and cardiac arrest
  • Hyacinth – Dogs and cattle should steer clear of hyacinth, which can cause damage to the esophagus

 Avoid dangerous chemicals and mulch

Pesticides don’t discriminate. Certain chemicals, such as 2, 4 dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (also known as Agent Orange, according to Dr. Karen Becker), are in widespread use in popular lawn care products. Unfortunately, this and many other pesticide and herbicide chemicals have been linked to a number of health issues in dogs including canine malignant lymphoma and bladder cancer. Scientific American offers more information on how pesticides affect animals and also provides advice on which pesticides are safe for humans and pets.

Give Rover other interests

One of the best things you can do for your pet during the spring, summer, and fall, is to allow him access to areas where he can roam free without worry of accidentally ingesting toxic plants or chemicals. There are numerous dog parks throughout most major municipalities. These planned recreational areas will allow your dog to run free, explore, socialize, and burn off pent-up energy so he or she isn’t quite as likely to nose around in your garden. To find the nearest dog park to you, refer to a site like, which lists dog parks on a city-by-city basis, such as: Madison, Knoxville, Indianapolis, Albuquerque, San Jose, Portland, Miami, Calgary, Saint Paul and Raleigh.

Other tips and ideas

Start training your dog is early as possible to stay away from off-limits areas. If possible, secure your dog on the deck or in another fence-in area while you are planting, weeding, or harvesting in the garden. Make sure to take a time out every half hour or so to play with your pet and keep plenty of toys handy so that he will always have something to do while you’re digging in the dirt.

Don’t let the fear of hurting your beloved furry family member stop you from enjoying the bounty of a southern summer. Take preventative measures to keep him – and your garden – safe and always call your vet immediately if you believe your dog has ingested anything he shouldn’t have.


Maria Cannon

Gardening comes with a steep learning curve. Everyone makes mistakes, especially in the beginning. If you want your garden to thrive, jump ahead of the learning curve by learning from the common mistakes of many novice gardeners.

1. Putting Beds in Wrong Place

Whether you place your bed in an overly-shady area or in one that does not have good drainage, putting your bed in the wrong place can hurt your plants. Try to choose an area that has good drainage and gets at least six hours of sunlight. This will give your garden the best possible chance of survival.

2. Not Preparing Soil

Plants grow best when soil has the right pH. Simple soil testing kits can be bought at any home center. A pH of around 6 to 6.5 should work for most vegetable gardens. Also, amend the soil with organic materials like compost to ensure that it has the nutrients it requires. Adding your favorite mulching option is vital to protect the precious soil underneath.

3. Not Considering Weather and Climate

If you plant at the wrong time or in the wrong area, your plants may not thrive. Different plants have different needs and will tolerate different things. You should not plant a plant with a long growing season too early or too late. Similarly, if your plants need a long growing season they will likely not be happy in a place like Minnesota. Be sure to check guides online for what will grow best in your area.

4. Over- or Under-watering

It may seem simple enough that your plants need water. Not giving them enough water will cause them to wilt and die. Too much water can result in mold or rot. Water at regular intervals and look for signs of a problem. If leaves yellow or dry out, the plant is not getting enough water. If leaves become brown and stems are “mushy,” your plant may be getting too much water.

5. Neglecting Pruning

Certain flowering and fruiting trees or shrubs need to be pruned each year to ensure they are at their best. Left to grow wild, too many branches will grow and sap the plant of the energy it could be putting into nourishing the select flowering or fruiting branches. Judicious pruning with proper technique will keep your yield strong

6. Not Labeling Plants

If you start seedlings and do not label them adequately, it can be easy to get them confused. You may be able to tell a tomato plant from a kale plant, but can you tell one type of tomato from the other? Make sure you keep your plants clearly labeled and then keep rows marked once planted in the garden.

7. Planting Invasive Plants

Mint is a wonderful herb. It smells nice and it's easy to grow. Unfortunately, left unchecked, it will take over. Do a little research before planting. If a plant is known to be invasive, do not plant it. Another option is to plant it in a pot to keep it under control.

8. Not Following Instructions

Seed packages come with instructions for a reason. Trust the experts – the company that produced the seeds – to know when to sow them and how to care for them. Chances are good if you read the directions and follow them, you will not be steered wrong.

9. Using Too Much Pesticide

Pesticides can keep unwanted insects out of your garden. Unfortunately, they can also scare away the useful insects that help your garden. Some insects, like bees, help to pollinate your garden. Instead of pesticides, investigate non-chemical ways to scare away pests, like planting marigolds or inviting other friendly insects. Ladybugs eat aphids who damage plants. Ducks and guinea birds also eat pests without destroying your garden.

10. Growing Too Much Food

This might seem like a problem everyone would love to have. If you harvest more vegetables than you can consume or can and give away, they will go to waste. Try starting off small and with vegetables that you know you like. You can always expand next year.

If you are new to gardening, you will find you have a lot to learn. Starting with these tips will help you avoid some of the most common frustrations of gardening.

Olivia Warfield is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Distinctive Outdoor Spaces. She writes for a variety of home and garden blogs and strives to learn more each day to cultivate the green spaces in and around her home.


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Fall is the time of year for pumpkins and hot cocoa, sweaters and boots. It’s also the perfect time to winterize your lawn and garden so they’re ready for spring. With a few good hours of maintenance, you’ll maximize your lush lawn and beautiful flowers and veggies next year.

Preparing your lawn

If you haven’t yet, rake your yard or vacuum up the leaves with a leaf catcher attachment on your mower. You can compost them or spread them out on the lawn and mow over them to shred them into pieces, which can then be raked into flower beds for mulch. Remove any broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, which can compete with grass for nutrients and water.
If you are raking your leaves, you can dethatch the lawn at the same time by running the tines through the top level of soil to loosen it. If you mow instead or have turf that will be disturbed by dethatching, aerate the soil to remove small plugs of dirt. This also loosens the top soil, allowing for better absorption of water and nutrients. This should be done approximately one month before the first frost, so mid-October for the south and earlier in northern climates. Finally, lower the blade setting on your lawn mower to the lowest setting for the last two mowings of the year to enable the grass to absorb the most sunlight.

Fertilize your lawn to feed it before the winter, preferably with a slow-release, all-natural fertilizer. Caution: If you need to use herbicide, note that selective herbicides target specific seeds or weeds, whereas non-selective herbicides destroy everything green. When you can, use spot treatments of all-natural formulations such as horticultural vinegar or clove oil. Not only will these do less damage to surrounding plant life, but your bees and beneficial insects will thank you as well.

Fill in bald spots in your yard with a lawn repair mixture of grass seed, quick start fertilizer, and organic mulch. Water these patches thoroughly and every other day for two weeks, and water your lawn weekly if you’re not getting rain. This time of year, plants absorb as much water and nutrients as possible to prepare for winter. This is also the time of year to plant trees and shrubs so that they develop deep roots before summer’s heat. Lightly prune any dead or damaged limbs, and protect the trunks of small trees and shrubs with wire mesh to keep away pests.

Preparing your garden

If you have a vegetable garden, pull any remaining plant life after you harvest. Till the soil and cover with mulch or fall vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and spinach. Walk around and assess your flower garden. Which plants did well? Are any overgrowing their space? Now is the time to divide perennials or overgrown plants and replant the more vigorous clumps, throwing away any diseased plants and composting the rest. Weed your garden area and deadhead spent blossoms. Remove annuals and dig up non-hardy bulbs, and consider planting garlic or cool weather annuals. Apply mulch after the first freeze to protect the soil and keep weeds away.

In cooler climates, plant spring flowering bulbs in October. In warmer areas, refrigerate the bulbs and plant in mid-to-late November. Clean out debris under roses and protect them by mounding dirt over their central crown or bud; don’t prune them. Replace summer plants in window boxes with cool weather flowers.

Other Fall maintenance tips

Prepare your tools for winter by cleaning the mower and gardening tools and oiling the metal. Clean your storage area and get rid of dated materials such as insecticide. Cover your compost bin or pile. Drain and bring in your garden hose and turn off the water at the source. Empty fountains and drip irrigation systems. Refill bird feeders to encourage birds to stick around and eat insects. Move container plants indoors. If you’re growing herbs, harvest and dry them or move them indoors to a well-lighted setting. Finally, prepare your snow blower for use.

This seems like a lot of work, but it’s not. You’re literally laying the groundwork for a stronger lawn and garden system in the spring. Your plants will be sturdier and you will be happier. 

Maria Cannon

Treating Depression With Gardening

Millions of Americans suffer from depression, and while there are many different ways to keep it at bay, more and more people are discovering that the simple act of gardening can really make a difference.

“There’s no doubt that being outside in the fresh air, being in touch with nature, feeling the seasons and watching plants grow and flower can do your mental wellbeing wonders. Having good mental wellbeing (or mental health) is just as vital as physical health, reducing your risk of depression or anxiety. In fact, why not prescribe gardening for depression? Doctors prescribe gym referrals; why not allotment referrals? Not only can gardening boost mental health, a good stint of digging and wedding is also great exercise,” says Dr. Paul Zollinger-Read.

According to several studies, playing and working in the dirt--and specifically, a bacteria that grows in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae--can boost your mood and serotonin levels, which keep us happy. Serotonin is a natural anti-depressant and can help keep your immune system in good shape, so it might just be that gardening is good for you all the way around.

If you have a spot on your property, clear a little room and figure out what you want to grow. Specific breeds of flowers can help with depression, too, so do a little research and find the right seeds and roots. Read on to find out more about how gardening can help with depression.

It’s great exercise

People who suffer from depression usually have a very hard time getting up and moving. Depression is more than just a mood disorder; it affects us physically and mentally and can make even simple tasks like taking a shower seem monumental. However, daily exercise is extremely important, and gardening is a great way to get in a workout. Thirty minutes of working in the dirt per day can help boost your mood, keep you focused, and leave you feeling accomplished, which is great for your self-esteem.

It can help you get healthy

Depending on what you choose to grow, gardening can help you get healthy and stick with a healthier lifestyle. That’s because you can plant veggies and have a harvest when they’re ready, meaning you can eat organic and take pride in what you bring to your table because you used your own two hands to grow it. Eating a balanced diet is extremely important for individuals who live with depression, and when you start eating what you grow, it can help you start looking for healthy choices elsewhere, as well, such as switching to whole grains and cutting refined sugars from your diet.

It can help you sleep better

Working out in the sun and getting your hands dirty tires you out, which means you’ll sleep better at night. Many people who suffer from depression have a hard time with sleep and often, their sleep cycles trade places without warning. Spending time in the garden can help even things out.

It’ll make you happy

Working in the garden can boost your mood simply because you’ll be amongst the beauty of nature, working hard and seeing the fruits of your labor. Plant colorful flowers, and healthy veggies to get the full effect of an instant mood boost.

Depression is a life-altering disorder, and there is never an easy fix. It’s imperative that you push to find relief, though, as depression can sometimes lead to addiction and other life-threatening conditions. Many people use therapy, counseling, and medication (or a combination of the three) several times a week and still battle the effects. However, if you enjoy working outdoors and are interested in finding a way to lift your mood that can provide you with a healthier lifestyle at the same time, consider starting a garden (If you’re new to gardening not to worry, here are some great tips to help you get started). Go ahead and test out your green thumb! It might just be the best thing you ever did.
Maria Cannon

SACGC Information

Savannah Botanical Garden
1388 Eisenhower Drive
Savannah, Ga. 31406
(912) 355-3883


Contact: Betty Ward

(912) 355-3883


Access to all public areas of the garden is FREE, however, a small fee may be required for groups of 10 or more.


Open daylight hours 7 days a week - year round.

Savannah Botanical Gardens

The SACGC, Inc. Botanical Garden is owned and operated by Savannah Area Council of Garden Clubs, Inc. The site was conceived and designed in the late 1980's as an all volunteer effort and is located just minutes from Savannah's Historic District.

The garden includes both formal and naturalistic plantings as well as a two acre pond, amphitheater, nature trails, archaeological exhibit and the historic Reinhard House.

Savannah Botanical Gardens Info

1388 Eisenhower Drive
Savannah, Georgia 31406
(912) 355-3883


Mon - Sat: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sun: 8:00 am - 8:45 pm


Access to all public areas of the garden is FREE, however, a small fee may be required for groups of 10 or more.