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Preservation Celebration at Donaldson Bannister Farm

Enthusiastic crowd tours historic house, grounds and gardens beautified by Master Gardeners

If you attended the Preservation Celebration at the Donaldson Bannister Farm Sunday and your children didn’t get pricked by a rose bush or sprain an ankle in a hole, thank a Master Gardener the next time you see one.

The Master Gardeners assigned to the farm have been busy pruning, spreading compost, filling holes and storing away garden tools such as hoses so that everyone could have a safe and enjoyable time during the Sunday afternoon festivities.

The event was sponsored by the Dunwoody Preservation Trust and a $5,000 gift from Councilwoman Adrian Bonser, her husband, and the Gendell Family Foundation. It featured bluegrass music, games, lots of food and tours of the circa 1870 house, outbuildings and gardens.

"This is a community event to open the house and grounds for the first time to expose people to what’s here and for us to see what interest we have,” said Molly Portis, who with her husband, Sam, serves as co-president of the Dunwoody Preservation Trust.

The interest appeared to be strong. At mid-afternoon, cars were parked all along Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and the gardens, pasture and house were brimming with people.

Just outside the front door under skies that were overcast one minute and sunny the next, Trust volunteers sold some merchandise, including books on the history of Dunwoody, signed up Dunwoody residents for its mailing list, handed out a short survey allowing the community to express their desire for the future of the historic property and accepted donations for the Trust.    

A bluegrass band performed on one side of the barn and vendors sold food on the other side.    

“The city and the Trust are in the process of setting up the agreement for the Trust to manage the property,” Molly said.

The plan is to open up the grounds for events before opening the house, Molly said.

In conjunction with their master plan, the Trust will hire a landscape architecture firm to produce a plan for the grounds. While the Trust will have to hire out heavy work, Molly said the Master Gardeners, for whom she had many words of praise, will continue to be involved in maintaining the grounds and gardens.

Landscape architect bids are being solicited now, Molly said. She hopes to have all the bids in the fall and a decision by Christmas.

Work will be funded through donations and charitable activities. All of the $70,000 the Trust raised at Lemonade Days, for example, will be used on the Donaldson Bannister Farm project, Molly said.

The idea is to protect the integrity of the property and the interest of the taxpayers, said Clare Weaver, who with Jane Henley co-chairs the Trust’s Donaldson Bannister Committee. Weaver compared the funding and management model for the Farm to the one for the Nature Center, which she said is owned by the city and managed by a Board of Directors.

Master Gardeners have relished their role in maintaining the property, and proudly showed off the two vegetable gardens to Sunday’s curious visitors.

Both gardens are thriving, except for the potatoes in the upper garden. These seem to have fallen victim to moles or voles said Master Gardener co-site leader Penny Bhim.

Other critters that are causing problems are deer, which have been munching on the tomato vines.

Master Gardener Janet Hanser, the other co-site leader, installed a scarecrow sprinkler to target these night-time visitors. She set the timer so the sprinkler only runs at night. Once it detects motion, it fires a blast of water in the direction of the motion.

“The deer have figured out just how far that blast goes!” said Bhim.

But Hanser has a surprise for them. She’s getting another scarecrow sprinkler!

With luck, it will installed and operating before the next celebration at the historic property, which Molly said could be in the fall.

In other gardening news

The Community Garden is in third place as the second round of voting gets under way in the Edy’s Fruit Bars Communities Take Root fruit orchard contest.

Edy’s will award 17 orchards nationwide in four rounds of voting. The first round ended last week, when the first five winners were named. Four winners will be named in each of the next three rounds, with those rounds ending on the last day of this month, July 31 and August 31.

With vote totals changing hourly, the Community Garden trailed first place Bridger Community Garden in Bridger, South Dakota and Todd Central High School in Elkton, Kentucky as of Sunday. Fondy Food Center in Port Washington, Wisconsin and St. Ambrose Parish in Brunswick, Ohio remain locked in a see-saw battle for fourth place, just hundreds of votes behind the Community Garden and closing in.

To support the garden, visit the Edy's website and follow the prompts to vote. A voting shortcut is to go to the Leaders tab on the main page.  You can access the Dunwoody garden voting site from this tab.

Remember, you can vote once a day on each of your email accounts.

   The five first round winners announced last week are:

  1. Grace Orchard in Kalispell, Montana
  2. New Hartford FEMA Lot Restoration Committee, New Hartford, Iowa
  3. Alief Community Orchard, Houston
  4. Woburn Agricultural Commission, Woburn, Mass.
  5. Denver Jewish Day School, Denver

Wilkerson Mill Gardens experienced a weekend feeding frenzy by hydrangea growers who flocked to the season-ending closeout sale.

Located in Palmetto, Wilkerson Mill is a favorite destination for outings of area garden clubs such as the Dunwoody Garden Club. This sale was memorable because it is the last time that owners Gene Griffith and Elizabeth Dean plan to open the garden for regularly scheduled retail sales. As such, it is the last sale they are planning to have.

They have 8,000 plants in their inventory and are going to a mail-order-business format. They believe the change will allow them more time to care for their plants as well as to continue to provide outstanding service to their customers, Dean said.

The last retail sale was a popular one indeed. On Saturday, gardeners had to squeeze their cars by each other on the narrow lane leading into the property and then be creative in finding a place to park.

For those who have looked forward to a trip to Wilkerson Mill and enjoyed the display gardens and hunting for treasures in the sales area, don’t despair. Dean says she and Griffith are still figuring out how their new plan will work. And, she adds, they will open the gates by special appointment.

Garden clubs and others can contact Dean and Griffith at 770 463-2400. The website is www.hydrangea.com.

Clarification: The third paragraph of this story originally named the Gendell Family Foundation, and not Councilwoman Adrain Bonser and her husband.

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