Monday, March 24, 2014

Jack Johnston's Garden--Magnolia Heaven! (And lots, lots more!)

Words are inadequate to describe what it was like to traverse the fascinating gardens at Jack Johnston's Lakemont property!  We decided that he has a green flashlight for a thumb.  (Thanks to Brent Martin for that description!)

Jack's collection of magnolias could easily make a gardener green with envy.  I daresay it rivals any in the area. On that note, I'm passing this description to Dr. Bob Gilbert.

"Our SAPS trip to Jack Johnston’s garden was a perfect example of a serious plant collector life’s work. We have been to one other example of such intense interest--Tom Cox's Conifer Garden in Alpharetta, Georgia. Both of these people have focused their interests and collecting activities. In Jack’s case he is interested in Magnolias as well as Stewartias. He has also done a lot of plant propagation and was most willing to share. We all came home with specimens to put in our own garden. In this manner he hopes to distribute some of the rarer species to other locations in North Georgia and Western North Carolina. Also in his garden is the state champion of one of the Stewartias. Later on this year we will be investigating state champions of NC with Jeff Zahner.

It was a perfect day even for one member who is healing from a surgical hip replacement."

 And to Patricia Kyritsi Howell, RH for her impressions

  • His obvious passion and love for each plant. 
  • The stories that went with each plant, who had them, how he found them, got them shipped, etc. 
  • The scars on the trunks of each and the stories they told about weather and storms and life. 
  • The fragrance of the flowers at that early time in spring when the sun was just warming the buds 
  • so that they were so aromatic. A fragrance that would be gone as soon as the air warmed. 
  • Fleeting, sensual, exotic aromas."
Here are Angela Martin's highlights of the day:
  • gathering of plant society folk and close friends of Jack, e.g. John Toby - botanist and part-time Burningtown resident, Ben Cash - hiking leader for GA Forestwatch and others. 
  • labyrinth of switchbacks in forested cove with gentle openings 
  • nursery of rarities, botanical 'foodbank' in the spirit of Bartram, (e.g., plants nearing extirpation in the wild) 
  • collection native magnolias from niche Southern appalachian habitats 
  • world class examples of asian originated french cultivars or european cultivars (it was mostly the french that did the pretty girl varieties, e.g., the pink to white hybrids) 
  • his examples of grafts from gifted magnolias 
  • but perhaps the most impressive thing of all is the overwhelming percentage of plants grown, on-site, from seed -- this is the feat that is most remarkable to me… that, and the graftings…"
And Jean Hunnicutt's observations:
  • "Sheer variety of Magnolias - many colors and bloom sizes and shapes
  • the way he's fitted these (mostly oriental) cultivars so naturally into his mountain garden
  • Oconee Bells scattered around
  • Jack's generosity
  • Jack mentioned Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery as a good source for Magnolias.
  • He also encouraged membership in the Magnolia Society where members can purchase / exchange seeds at minimal cost."
Karen Lawrence noted these facts:
  • The Pawpaw attracts Zebra Swallowtails 
  • His Stewartia is the largest specimen in Georgia--as noted above, it's the state champion. 
  • Starry Magnolia blooming..white 
  • Easiest to grow are the Magnolia asheii 
  • Yellow Magnolias will be blooming in two weeks
  • He has plantings of the Torreya Tree that has been wiped out by disease. 
  • Persistent Trillium blooming now at his property

Persistent Trillium
Please see below for more of Karen's photos from the garden.
David Fann provided these great photos:

 Thank you David!  

Here is the link for Ned Kraft 's Photos  Thanks Ned! 

Here are more of Karen's photos:


Thanks Karen!