Master Gardeners Making Donaldson-Bannister Plans

Garden Walk Yields Project List for the Upcoming Planting Season


The flowers of a massive winter honeysuckle sweetly perfumed the air as a small group of Master Gardeners set off on a walk though the gardens of the Donaldson-Bannister Farm last week.

Penny Bhim and Janet Hanser led the walk during an off-and-on light mist under a dark and threatening sky. They were soon joined by Rosanne Lutz and Nancy Baldwin. The four braved the elements to identify planting-season projects for the vegetable garden and some of the adjacent areas that the approximately 15 Master Gardeners assigned to the historic site maintain.

The project list they put together during last week’s walk includes:

  • Trim a large camellia that is growing against the house on the barn side.
  • Add new vegetable beds behind the cemetery.
  • Assign someone to seek donations to purchase materials for the new beds.
  • Plant those vegetable beds and the two at the front of the property.
  • Plant berry bushes in the pots that are in the bird-and-critter-proof cage at the back of the property.
  • Install a compost system.
  • Clear ivy from around one of the outbuildings.
  • Maintain the plantings around the pool area.

The next step will be for the Master Gardeners to meet in February and decide what to plant in the vegetable beds and discuss the project list. Their target date to begin those plantings is April 15, Atlanta’s traditional last frost date.

During last week’s walk, Bhim, Hanser, Lutz and Baldwin took time to pause and enjoy the flowers on a winter-blooming plant (a large camellia with red flowers by the pool), a plant that was blooming out of season (a loropetalum), to notice some spring bulbs that have come up and are ready to flower (daffodils in the shade garden) and to admire the winter architecture of a large Grancy Greybeard (Chioanthus virginicus) and another one that has toppled over but appears to be thriving despite its seemingly precarious semi-prone position.

Everywhere they went a sweet fragrance hung in the heavy, humid air. They stopped at various places in the gardens but not find a flower with that fragrance. Finally, all agreed it must be coming from the winter-blooming honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), now halfway across the property and on the other side of the house. 

They also took time to make a mental wish list of sorts for plants they would like to remove. High on that list are four large and improperly sited cedars. They are at the corners of the arbor supporting a large climbing rose that separates the shade and rose garden. Mahonias that seem to volunteer randomly also made that list. 

The Master Gardeners have already accomplished a heroic amount of work in clearing and maintaining garden areas adjacent to the house since becoming involved with the property in the fall of 2006. They originally selected the sun garden, which has fig trees and is bordered by the pool area, the guest house and the shade garden, as their project, said Bhim. This was one of 13 areas designated as garden areas when the Donaldson family sold their property to the county.

A number of organizations were asked to do the other gardens. For instance, the Dunwoody Garden Club selected the shade garden as their main interest and its members do a wonderful job of maintaining it (not the vegetable beds and nearby areas as ).

Since no one took the two vegetable beds in the front of the property that first fall, the Master Gardeners also took those. The first year they did a lot of cleaning up and the next spring they planted the two vegetable beds, Bhim said.

The next year, Bhim continued, they made a deal with Dunwoody Preservation Trust, a site overseer along with the Dunwoody Parks and Recreation Department, to develop the area behind the cemetery as another Master Gardener project. As a result, they cleared the land and built seven beds there. Last year they added the berry bush cage.

Grants from the Georgia Master Gardener Association, the Dunwoody Preservation Trust, the Dunwoody Woman’s Club and the Dunwoody Garden Club helped fund the vegetable bed project. Produce raised in the vegetable beds is donated to the community each year through the Community Action Center in Sandy Springs.

They’ve also worked to clear and maintain other areas -- such as the rose arbor, heirloom garden and pool area. In the pool area, for example, they cleared tangles of invasive vegetative growth from a decorative brick wall and cleared persistent verbena and ivy from the area around the pool. The invasive vines were so thick that a beautiful lace leaf Japanese maple was discovered buried in the tangles of vines and leaves.

Bihm and Hanser both said they would welcome help from any interested gardening clubs or specialty groups such as the rose society. For more information, contact Penny Bihm at psbihm@aol.com.


The 2012 Perennial Plant Symposium will be held on Feb. 25 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Registration fees are $69 for members of the Georgia Perennial Plant Association and the botanical garden and $79 for non-members. There is a $5 charge for pre-paid parking and a $12 charge for a boxed lunch. To receive the discounted parking rate, attendees must register by Feb. 17. Registration is available online at atlantabotanicalgarden.org.


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