Between the Lines: Gardeners enjoy Magnolia Grove program

On a beautiful fall day at Magnolia Grove in Greensboro last week, the Greensboro Garden Club and the Black Belt Master Gardeners held a fall gardening seminar. The Garden Club hosted a capacity crowd of interested gardeners from locations as varied as Tuscaloosa and Demopolis, as well as visitors from Greene, Hale and Perry counties. The seminar took place on the front porch of the historic home.

Linda Arrington, president of the Greensboro Garden Club, introduced the speaker, Jason Powell, who owns a nursery called “Petals from the Past.”

His nursery specializes in antique perennials, shrubs and fruit trees that are not usually found in chain-store nurseries.

Powell received his undergraduate degree from Auburn University in landscaping and horticultural science and his master’s from Texas A&M. He became interested in antique plant varieties while studying in Texas.

According to Powell, mild weather and expected November rain make fall the perfect time to plant fruit trees and vines, shrubs, bulbs and perennial and biennial flowers. He explained cottage gardening, which is a very informal style, and how to make the yard or garden have interest and color for all 12 months of the year. Knowledgeable about everything from composting to propagation, he gave a very engaging program.

His passion for antique plants was very evident when he talked about his fondness for older specimens, especially roses. The advantage to these plants, besides beauty, is toughness. They will survive a certain amount of neglect. Most gardeners would prefer not to admit to neglecting any area of the garden, but it sometimes happens to gardeners with the best of intentions. For most gardeners, having specimens that do not have to be coddled can be a nice change. Powell is of the opinion that the best things about old rose varieties include fragrance, great shape and disease resistance. Some roses have a sentimental association also, as they may be remembered for an old home place or a beloved aunt or grandparent.

Powell and his family and staff approach gardening from an educational standpoint. Everything that is available for purchase has been grown and tested on site. All the varieties are planted in various types of gardens at the nursery so that it is possible to see how large they become and how they look in a normal setting. The antique plants are also tested for toughness. If they don’t survive on minimal attention, they are not made available to the customer. Powell brought a large selection of plants for purchase after the program.

The seminar was enjoyable and educational, and a picnic lunch buffet of sandwiches, fruit and finger foods was served to guests by the Greensboro Garden Club and Black Belt Master Gardeners.

Another purpose of the event was to help raise money to replace some boxwoods and improve landscaping at Magnolia Grove. It was an enjoyable day all around, and learning about antique roses and other plant specimens seemed especially appropriate on the grounds of a beautiful old antebellum home.

A historic site of the Alabama Historical Commission, the Greek Revival style house was built around 1840 by Isaac Croom. It is also the boyhood home of Spanish-American War hero and progressive statesman Richmond Pearson Hobson.

Magnolia Grove is located at 1002 Hobson Street in Greensboro’s historic district. For more information, call 334-624-8618.

Lynda Ray is a local enthusiast of all forms of art. Her column, Between the Lines, will appear periodically on