Author Archives: Ben Martin

Health Benefits of Gardening

health benefits of gardening

By Kathy Torres

We live in a world in which good physical and mental health is emphasized and encouraged constantly, through what we watch, read, and hear.  It seems a basic intention for us to try to be healthy and happy, even though the goal is at times difficult to reach.  Eating the right foods, getting adequate sleep, and exercising are at the top of the list to help us get there, however, as humans, we have needs outside of the physical that directly affect our happiness, for example, the desire for accomplishment, friendship, love, excitement, challenge, affirmation, and quiet.  It’s a complicated formula, different for each of us, however, there are some common threads. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this blog, you have an interest in gardening, but, did you know that gardening is beneficial to your health?  Here are some positive effects, for both physical and mental well-being.

Good Exercise:

Gardening is great for 3 types of exercise – aerobic, strength building, and flexibility.  Digging, squatting, reaching, pushing, and lifting burns calories providing a workout that is good for the heart.  Decrease your anxiety after a bad day, by getting out in the yard and pulling a few weeds to release your frustration and anger.  That will give your blood pressure a break!  For older folks, gardening keeps you moving, so important for maintaining mobility.  Also, working hard will often help to get a good night’s sleep.

All of the activities mentioned above also work the other muscles and joints, contributing to overall strength and flexibility.  For some very scientific data on the effects of gardening on your physical health, check out this study published by the American Society for Horticultural Science (Click HERE). The study concludes gardening tasks performed by adults are moderate to high-intensity physical activities.

Vitamin D – Too much sun is not good for the skin, we know that, but we need sunlight to give our bodies enough Vitamin D.  The body makes vitamin D when direct sunlight converts a chemical in skin into an active form of the vitamin (calciferol).  A healthy dose of vitamin D increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which benefits bones and  the immune system.  Studies suggest that people who get enough vitamin D and calcium can slow bone mineral loss, help prevent osteoporosis and reduce bone fractures. 

Growing Your Own Food – The most obvious health benefit of gardening is growing your own food.  You will have access to the freshest fruits and vegetables, fertilizers and pesticides can be controlled or eliminated, and you’ll save the money you may have spent on expensive organic foods in the grocery store.  Last, vegetables allowed to ripen in the garden have more nutrients than some you buy at the store that may have been picked early.  

Connecting with Nature – If you feel good when you walk through a park, botanical garden, or your own landscape, taking in the fresh air, birds singing, and the colors of spring, fall, or any season, you are connecting to nature.  The enjoyment of watching a hummingbird at a feeder, digging in the soil, planting seeds and watching them grow, or watering a garden, is connecting to nature.  Finding this escape from the hectic pace of life can relieve anxiety, improve mood, and bring about a calming force by helping you to let go, take a deep breath, and just relax.  Connecting with nature is therapy for the heart, mind, and soul.  

Gardening Makes us Happy – Shopping for plants always makes me happy – I would much rather survey racks of annuals and perennials rather than clothes or shoes.  Planting flowers or shrubs and trees to create a garden room or improve the curb appeal of your home offers an opportunity to use those creative instincts, and a little hard work can be very satisfying.  The planning, purchasing, and planting of a new garden bed or simply adding to what you’ve got, gives pleasure and a sense of accomplishment and pride.   And, honestly, getting a little dirt under the fingernails feels pretty good!  Gardening is good therapy for depression.  Being outside in the fresh air can be a good distraction while digging in the dirt and planting something beautiful provides a feeling of hope and encouragement.  

Family Activity – Gardening is a wonderful family activity, providing kids and adults an opportunity to get outside (away from TVs, phones, computers, video games, etc.), to learn about plants and what is needed to care for them.  A vegetable garden is a way to see exactly where food comes from and can hold interest, by checking each day on the progress and then, finally, harvesting and eating!  By working together, a family vegetable garden becomes a place to gather, work, and discover.  

Builds Self-Esteem and Encourages Friendship – Many people will say, “Oh, I just don’t have a green thumb.”  A few failures can certainly diminish confidence, but often it’s just a matter of learning the ropes on proper planting, fertilizing, light requirements and watering.  Once educated, success is much more likely and can provide confidence and self-esteem.  Talking to others who have the “gardening bug” in common offers an avenue to friendship and sharing.  

Dementia Benefits – National Institute of Health (NIH), the National Library of Medicine cites research conducted on the benefits of gardening for people with dementia.  “The usefulness of activating the senses, particularly those of touch and smell; the significance of being occupied in meaningful, productive work; the importance of cultivating a sense of curiosity, wonder, and learning; the positive gains derived from socialization in a group context; the peace and hope derived from being ‘in the moment’; and the positive mental and physical well-being derived from participating in the outdoor garden. Our findings support the integration of therapeutic gardening as a valuable practice for people with dementia.” To access this article and additional resources, click HERE.

The Dirt on Dirt – Believe it or not, there is evidence that certain microbes found in soil can contribute to a decrease in stress and even asthma.  Those of us who enjoy digging in the dirt are not surprised.  See the links below if you’d like to read more.  Covid certainly brought about an enhanced effort to keep our hands clean, but maybe we need to adjust a bit, unless we are ill.  

Fat in soil bacteria may protect against stress (

Hygiene Hypothesis: Could More Dirt and Germs Boost Your Health? | US News

Other than just a hobby to enjoy, gardening IS actually good for us. The benefits are many and can go a long way to improve physical and mental health.  I love this quote from Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States.  “All growth depends on the activity.  There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”  Staying healthy and happy takes work, so let’s get busy! With spring right around the corner, it’s time to make a plan for planting flowers, creating a new plant bed, or starting a family vegetable garden.  Get the kids involved in researching and planning.  Staff at Wingard’s Market are available and ready to assist you in selecting plants, soil, and everything else you need for a spring project.  Go ahead and get your hands dirty…. you will reap many rewards!


There’s always something blooming at Wingards!

Surviving the Cold, Our Poor Plants!


Freeze Damaged Distylium

Freeze Damaged Distylium

Freeze Damaged Gardenia

Freeze Damaged Gardenia

By Kathy Torres

The Blizzard of 1973, the worst snow storm in South Carolina history! Nearly two feet of snow accumulated in the Midlands in February over a 3-day period, at the average rate of an inch per hour in the first 24 hours. My family had just moved to South Carolina, our driveway was on a slope and we couldn’t get the car up the hill for a week. We never, in our wildest dreams, thought severe winter weather would impact our lives so dramatically in South Carolina. I can’t think of a better example to use to demonstrate the unpredictable and traumatic effect of severe weather. A winter storm of this nature is certainly not the “norm” for us here in South Carolina, but sometimes… it happens! A more recent example of abnormal weather here is the 6-day cold spell we had last Christmas. shows the low temperatures between Dec. 23 and 28, 2022 all below freezing, with 4 nights from 12–18 degrees. Casualties of this cold spell were our power bills and our plants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a guide for planting by distinguishing zones throughout the country directly related to the average low temperatures. Click HERE for the map. South Carolina is divided into the following zones which include the upstate, midlands, and coast:

Primarily for farmers, this information provides a guide for selecting crops that will grow and thrive in various regions throughout the U.S.  In addition, most ornamental (landscape) plant growers provide a zone recommendation, which can usually be found on the plant tag.  At Wingard’s, our inventory consists of plant specimens zoned for the Midlands (8a), however, we include some plants that will need to be protected in winter, such as citrus and other tropicals.  Keep in mind, the zoning recommendation is provided with the “typical” climate in mind.  Because of the possibility of unpredictable severe weather, there is not a guarantee that all plants zoned appropriately will survive.  How many times over the years have the peach farmers in SC suffered loss of crops because of a late frost or freeze.  If we have our typical seasonal weather, all is good, but Mother Nature can be quite fickle and decide she’s just not yet in the mood for warmer days and nights.

It’s painfully obvious now… many plants that usually do fine in winter here were damaged by the extreme cold we recently experienced, some, even beyond help.  Covering vulnerable plants may have helped, but potentially may not have been enough in these lower than normal temperatures, especially with consecutive days.  Camellia buds may have dropped without opening into full flowers.  Plants such as Palms, especially the Sago, as well as Oleander, Bottle Brush, Farfugium, Acanthus and even Lomandra Breeze ornamental grass are showing signs of damage.  I’ve noticed my Mediterranean Palm and Distylium are looking burned.  These are plants that typically handle our “normal” cold weather without an issue.  I moved my Meyer Lemon to the garage, so it’s ok.  There is nothing to do about plant damage right now.  Do not prune!  Be patient and wait until spring to see if new growth appears.  After the danger of frost has passed (usually April), fertilize and prune away the brown foliage.  If new growth does not appear, cut a branch or two on the plant to determine if the plant is dead.  If the inside of the branch is green, it may just need a little more recovery time.  If the inside is brown, you are out of luck.  Sometimes, only a portion of the plant may have been affected.  Then it’s up to you to determine whether to remove the dead part and see if the plant will regain shape and fullness, or dig it up and start over.

Sometimes plants such as Azaleas, Pittosporum, Hollies, Gardenias, and Mimosa trees won’t reveal winter damage until the heat kicks in about June.  If you see branches beginning to yellow and die out this summer, look closely at the bark on the dying branches.  If you see the bark has split, this is due to the sap freezing.  When the plant tries to function in the summer, it can’t get enough water and nutrients in its stems, so it dies back.  If the affected areas are just some of the limbs, you can cut out the dead material and let the plant recover.  If the primary trunk is affected, the plant may not survive.

At Wingard’s, we guarantee our plants after purchase, as long as proper planting and care are indicated.  We do not, however, guarantee their survival in extreme winter weather.  It’s only February, and we may have more cold weather ahead, so here are a few tips for protecting plants that are vulnerable:

  • Do not cover plants with plastic.
  • Cover with sheets, burlap or frost cloth when below freezing temperature is expected.  
  • Anchor cloth with bricks or rocks to keep it from blowing off.
  • Remove cover when temperature is above freezing.
  • Wrap plant with outdoor low voltage lights, underneath cover (be sure to turn them off and remove cover when temperature rises above freezing).

Spring is a bit far away at this moment in time, and as much as we want to be outside, it’s often more sensible to stay in.  So, in that case, embrace the winter … sit by the fireplace, grab a blanket and a good book, a cup of hot chocolate, and RELAX.  Be mindful of any freeze warnings in the weather forecast and cover plants that need protection, but don’t stress over it.  And let’s all cross our fingers that Mother Nature is in a good mood for spring 2023!

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Wingard’s Lawn Care Program Blog


By Kathy Torres

Happy New Year everyone – here’s to a happy and healthy 2023!  January is a time of year for resolutions and organization, a period to begin anew, in which most of us are inspired to make changes and improvements.  We were too busy in December, but now it’s time to get back to the gym to the exercise class or workout routine. Taking down the Christmas tree and packing away the decorations encouraged us to clean, organize and put things back the way they were.  It’s a time for pondering what is ahead of us in the coming months… tackling a project at work, focusing on a home improvement idea, planning a family vacation, or thinking about your summer garden. This is also the best time of year to get organized and prepared to care for your lawn. You can’t wait until the weather gets warm or you’ll be scrambling to catch up!  Lawn care can be over-whelming and complicated, but not if you follow Wingard’s 4-Step Lawn Care Program.  Wingard’s has taken all the guess work out of the equation by recommending exactly what is needed for your type of Southern grass and providing the timeline for application of products to keep your lawn looking it’s absolute best during both the dormant and growing seasons.

Wingard’s 4-Step Lawn Care Program was established to provide customers with a SIMPLE, easy-to-follow guide to lawn applications, and has proven to be a dependable, cost-effective solution.  A discounted price (25%) is offered if you sign up each year in January and pay for the steps in advance.  It’s your choice to either take all the products with you at the time of purchase, or let us hang on to it for you until it’s time for the application.  Either way, you will receive an e-mail reminder from Wingard’s to remind you when it’s time to apply.   Whether your grass is Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda, or Zoysia, our program can help you be the envy of your neighborhood!

You have a homework assignment to complete before you get started.  First of all, you need to know what grass or combination of grasses you have in your landscape.  It all looks green to you?  Bring us a clump and we will try to identify the variety. If we’re stumped, we will refer you to Clemson Extension.  Next, measure the square footage of your lawn.  A rough estimate is sufficient.  In addition, consider having your soil tested, front and back.  It’s not absolutely necessary, but will give you the best results.  Stop by one of Wingard’s checkout stations to pick up the soil sample bag(s) and form you need to provide for Clemson Extension to test for you.  We can also assist you with filling out the form, but you will need to mail the sample to Clemson University or deliver it to the Clemson Extension office in Lexington.

Another important prep is to make sure you have the best type of spreader and that you understand the settings.  We highly recommend the broadcast (disperses in a circular motion) versus the drop spreader.  Broadcast spreaders provide a more even application, reduce your passes by more than half, and you won’t end up with stripes. Here are a few more spreader specifics: 

  • When spreading fertilizer, put the setting a notch or two above half.  For example, if there are 20 notches on the spreader, 11-12 would be the setting.  You don’t have to cover every square inch of turf to get good results, so if you think that’s too much, drop to a notch below half.  With hand-held spreaders, if there are 5 or few settings open it all the way.  If a hand-held spreader has 10 or more settings, put the setting a notch or two above half.
  • For pre-emergent herbicides, put the setting on, or a notch above, one quarter.  (If there are 20 notches, 5-6 would be the setting.)  On hand-held spreaders, if there are 5 or fewer settings lower the setting to 3, or even 2.  If a hand-held spreader has 10 or more settings, put the setting on, or a notch above, one quarter.  If your gut tells you the dosage is not enough – you don’t think it’s covering the zone that needs to be covered – then up it a notch or two.

Don’t overthink the math on this. You can be off by a notch or two without fear of over doing it.  Lastly…always wash your spreader after every use to prevent corrosion.

The 4 STEP PLAN:  Each step in Wingard’s Lawn Care Program is designed for the season or time of year and the needs of each type of grass. In addition to the recommended products for weed control, fertilizer, and nutrients, the plan includes the appropriate pH, mowing height, and water needed for each type of grass.  There is no “one size fits all” for lawns, however, when a combination of grasses exists, the best solution is typically the care plan for Centipede grass.  All of the information on the Lawn Care Plan is available on the Wingard’s Market website.  (CLICK HERE).

Just to give you some basics, let’s talk a little about each step:

Step 1:  Application of pre-emergent weed control is recommended for February to March, usually when the Forsythia begins to bloom, or when temperatures remain above 65 degrees for 4 consecutive days.  Fertilizer is NOT applied this early!  The same product is used for all grass types on this application.

Step 2:  In April or May, after you have mowed your lawn two times (mowing early-sprouting weeds does not count), it is time for weed & feed. This is applied when grass is fully out of dormancy and ready to absorb and use the fertilizer.  The “weed” component will prevent germination of new weeds, but you may need contact weed control for spot treatment of pesky weeds.  More about that ahead.  This is also time to apply product to prevent this particularly pesky weed… Chamberbitter (CLICK HERE) that shows up in August.  

Step 3:  The grass is really looking good in June and July because the main ingredient, warm weather, has arrived.  The goal now is to give the lawn the nutrients it needs to stay green and healthy.  St. Augustine needs an application in June, however, Centipede, Zoysia and Bermuda will wait until July.  St. Augustine and Bermuda need iron, which is included in the product for this application.  Because of the ideal growing conditions for the grass, the weeds also are on board, so a bit of contact weed control may also be necessary.  It is nearly impossible have a completely weed free lawn, but you’ll get as close as you can with this lawn care program.  

Step 4:  September to October is time to prepare for overwintering the lawn.  Another application of pre-emergent weed control is recommended because of the mild temperatures and the ability of some weeds to germinate in cooler weather.  For St. Augustine and Bermuda, potash is applied to provide nourishment needed in winter.  Step 4 (a) is an optional application of pre-emergent weed control applied in November/December for lawns with Poa Annua (Annual Bluegrass) issues. (CLICK HERE for more info on Poa Annua).

Contact weed control (spot treating for weeds) can be tricky, so it is VERY IMPORTANT to read the label on any product you use.  Staff at Wingard’s can provide assistance in identifying a particular specimen, as well as directing you to the appropriate product for your type of grass.  There is no “one size fits all” here either!  

There are basically 2 kinds of weeds…broadleaf and grassy (the name pretty much describes the beast), and the weed killing products are for either broadleaf weeds or grassy weeds. When spot treating the lawn with products to destroy persistent weeds, you must identify whether broadleaf or grassy first, then find a herbicide that is safe for your type of lawn AND works on that particular type weed.  Broadleaf weeds are easier.  For most of them, use Fertilome Weed Free Zone, which is safe for all southern grasses. Grassy weeds are more complicated. For Centipede or St. Augustine, use Atrazine, and for Zoysia or Bermuda, use Weed Out w/Crabgrass Killer.  The label will indicate which weeds are controlled.  There are some very determined specimens like nutsedge that need a more specific product like Weed-Out with Nutsedge Control.  When in doubt, ask one of Wingard’s knowledgeable staff. 

Now, if all that weed talk makes you scratch your head, don’t panic.  It’s just an example of the complexities of lawn care.  From nutrition to fertilizer to weed control, there is a lot to know.  Educating yourself is key to success in just about everything, so don’t be discouraged, just push up your sleeves and meet the challenge.  OF COURSE…if you want to make lawn care just a little easier, rely on Wingard’s 4-Step Lawn Care Plan to give you an outline to follow.  We still want you to learn, but we will lead you through the process!

Take some time to review the plan at then give us a call or come in and sign up for the pre-pay option in January.  You’ll save a few dollars AND be reminded of the exact time to make appropriation applications for your lawn.  That means less doing and thinking for you and more time for those other New Year’s resolutions and projects!

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!


Camellia sasanqua ‘Shishigashira’ (Kathy’s)

Camellia sasanqua ‘Shishigashira’ (Kathy’s)


By Kathy Torres

Cherished in southern gardens, the Camellia has no actual “native” significance here. In fact, its journey began in the ancient temple gardens of the Orient. Before the westernization of Japan, Camellia, known as “Tsubaki” or “tree with shining leaves” was believed to provide a home for the gods in spirit form when on an earthly visit. Plantings of Tsubaki were an essential feature of temple gardens, graveyards, and other areas associated with religious life in the community. Camellia is the symbol of love in Eastern culture. The reason is due to the inseparable parts of the flower, which represents everlasting love. In Korea, camellia has been a part of traditional wedding ceremonies since 1200 BC because it symbolizes happiness, longevity, and faithfulness. We may find OUR historical connection to the Camellia through the most economically important species, Camellia sinensis, the common tea plant. The East India Company brought tea from China to Europe where it became very popular in London in the 1700’s. I think you’ll remember the next part of this story. Tea becomes universally popular, the government decides to tax it, leading to the Boston Tea Party, and the American Revolution. So…while one of our favorite southern plants is not native, it is “rooted” in our history!

The Camellia was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), in honor of a Jesuit missionary, pharmacist and naturalist in the Phillipines, Joseph Kamel. Linnaeus is known for developing the binomial system of nomenclature used to classify plants (the idea that all organisms should be described by only two Latin words: one denoting its genus, and another its species). The Camellia genus now includes over 260 species and over 30,000 ornamental varieties according to the International Camellia Society. Thanks to the beauty of their flowers, ornamental camellias have spread from Asia to the whole world.

Camellias flourish in the southeastern United States, where winter temperatures are typically mild. Some new varieties may be cold hardy, but often the blooms will be smaller, especially if temperatures drop quickly below 28 degrees. Lucky for us in South Carolina, the climate is perfect! If you’re on the lake, however, it’s a good idea to plant in an area that has some protection from the wind, and in any landscape, be mindful of too much afternoon sun exposure.

The two species most prevalent in our area of the country are Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua. Both are evergreen, have glossy leaves and grow fairly slow (sasanquas, a bit faster than japonicas). The descriptions below note the differences.

  • Camellia japonica varieties typically reach 6-12 ft. tall; the leaves are large, 3-4 inches long; they prefer more shade (however, in dense shade, blooming may be hampered; morning sun, afternoon shade, or filtered sun is best); and they bloom December to March.
  • Camellia sasanqua varieties are usually smaller in size, some only 3-4 ft. tall at maturity, but some may reach 10 ft. The leaves are smaller, 2-3 inches; they can handle more sun; and they bloom in the fall.

Other species exist like Camellia vernalis, a hybrid between japonica and sasanqua, but very few are known. Camellia reticulata were brought over from southern China in the 1940’s and have the largest of all camellia flowers. Mentioned earlier, Camellia sinensis is the common tea plant. It grows well, but the blooms are not significant as an ornamental. Camellia oleifera, was used for its oil in China and Japan and is used in the US as a parent in hybrid varieties. Camellia chrysantha or nitidissima has been used successfully in hybridizing yellow camellias, however, it is not cold hardy. There are many Camellia hybrids that combine features resulting in more colors, bloom types, fragrances, and hardiness. Selecting a Camellia is one of the most difficult plant choices to make because there are SO MANY in beautiful shades of red, pink, yellow and white. The American Camellia Society has established official classifications of the flower forms for Camellias. A variety of flower forms is just another attractive feature of this shrub.

Class I, SINGLE, One row of not over eight regular, irregular, or loose petals and conspicuous stamens

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Class II, SEMI-DOUBLE, Two or more rows of regular, irregular, or loose petals and conspicuous stamens

Greensboro Red

Greensboro Red

Greensboro Red

Class III, ANEMONE, One or more rows of large outer petals lying flat or undulating; the center a convex mass of intermingled petaloids and stamens

Victory White

Victory White

Victory White

Class IV, PEONY, A deep rounded flower of either a Loose Peony Form consisting of loose petals, which may be irregular, and intermingled stamens, and sometimes intermingled petals, petaloids, and stamens in the center (Betty Sheffield) or a Full Peony Form consisting of a convex mass of mixed irregular petals, petaloids, and stamens or irregular petals and petaloids never showing stamens (Debutante).

Betty Sheffield

Betty Sheffield

Betty Sheffield




Class V, ROSE FORM DOUBLE, Imbricated (layered like scales) petals, showing stamens in a concave center when fully opened




Class VI, FORMAL DOUBLE, Fully imbricated, many rows of petals, never showing stamens.

Guest Star

Guest Star

Guest Star

Fall is the best time for planting Camellias, and Wingard’s is stocked up right now with a large selection for you. All of the varieties shown above are available and many more! Make sure you add soil amendment if you have clay or sandy soil. Mulch and water weekly after planting if we don’t get a good rain. Don’t fertilize until next spring. Not much pruning is needed with Camellias, except for occasional shaping – do this after blooming. Keep an eye on foliage in the summertime. Humidity and overhead watering can cause fungus. Try to stay on top of it and spray as needed before buds begin to form.

Camellias bloom about the time we are removing our summer annuals and feeling the loss of all that rich, bright color in the yard. As we face the bleakness of winter, it’s so nice to bring in lovely Camellia blooms and float them in a shallow vase, or just enjoy them as they appear on the shrubbery. They also make a wonderful Christmas gift for a friend, especially a new homeowner. With their rich history and distinct characteristics, Camellias add so much beauty and elegance to the landscape. Even though its native homeland is far, far away, it remains a classic in the southern garden.

Here’s a little something extra that I found in my research…

The University of South Carolina has one of the major collections in the United States of rare, illustrated books about the camellia, it’s history, cultivation, and early varieties. The collection was formed by Mrs. Sheffield Phelps (Claudia Lea) of Aiken. Mrs. Phelps was the first president of the Garden Club of South Carolina (1930-33), and her daughter Miss Claudia Lea Phelps succeeded her as the Club’s third president (1936-38). The exhibition tells the story of how camellias were brought to America, how they were identified and named, and how the major varieties were developed by 19th-century specialist growers. It includes some of the very earliest published depictions of the camellia, from as far back as 1702, as well as gorgeous hand-colored copperplate engravings from the heyday of camellia books in the early and mid-19th century.

How cool is that?

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!


bird standing on bird feeder


By Kathy Torres

No fewer than 63.1 million people fed birds in their backyards in 1991, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, $2 billion was spent on bird seed alone, a figure that does not include money spent on bird feeders and other equipment (reported by The Washington Post – Click HERE for the article.) I believe it’s a safe bet that the numbers have only increased in the last decade and that birding is alive and flourishing in the United States standing firmly in the outdoor recreation economy.

Turning our homes into our playgrounds became very popular recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did we spend more time at home, but we also spent more money on our landscapes, gardens, etc. to enhance our experience while stuck at home. The appeal of a bird feeder or two, combined with a bird bath, also inspired us, as our interest in the beautiful wildlife right around us expanded. Of course, as the numbers above illustrate, there was a hefty population already on the birding bandwagon. It’s certainly not new, and a hobby enjoyed by many, but the interest has risen to new heights. Humans seem to be realizing the pleasure and reward found in observing and caring for birds, our charming neighbors of many colors, sounds, and characteristics!

The Post also reported “when just two bird fanciers get together, they can talk at length about the relative merits of different kinds of bird seed and the myriad ways to foil squirrels bent on snatching seed. Further, bird fanciers proudly list the kinds of birds that visit their backyard feeders as if they were counting precious pearls.” The variety of birding merchandise available to the consumer in local garden centers has opened up a whole new world of choices for bird enthusiasts. Because it has become so popular, new creativity in products available has emerged on store shelves over recent years, providing an upgrade in feeders and seed, and the conclusion is that the benefits of spending a little more are definitely worthwhile.

Many of us have learned the hard way, that good seed is a must in our feeders. The first feeder that I added to my yard was quite inexpensive and so was the seed I purchased. I had no clue what was in it or what varieties of birds it would attract. What I realized quickly, was that a lot of the seed was being discarded, creating a lovely patch of weeds under the feeder. The last thing you want is for the seed to create a mess. The primary reasons this happens are… (1) Seeds may have inedible hard outer shells. Birds crack open the shell to get to the meaty kernel inside while the outer hulls drop to the ground below, and (2) Not all birds like all seeds or foods. Birds will eat their favorite first and throw the rest out of the feeder and onto the ground. Buying a better seed or seed mix gives you more bang for your buck and cuts down on creating additional work for yourself cleaning up the ground around the feeder.

So, what is better birdseed? If you want to keep it simple but attract a variety of birds, black oil sunflower seed reigns supreme in the backyard bird-feeding world and is a great way to get started. (There will be some cleanup of the discarded shells, so, if you would rather not go there, consider the shelled version.) “Black oil sunflower seeds are related to regular sunflower seeds, but they’ve been cultivated to have a higher fat content,” says John Rowden, the senior director of bird-friendly communities at the National Audubon Society. For more information on black oil sunflower seed, including what birds it attracts, check out the Birds and Blooms website HERE.

When selecting quality seeds, you’ll find combinations that attract a variety of birds, as well as seeds created to attract specific birds, for instance, thistle, for finches. If you’re a beginner, it’s wise to choose the “one size fits all” version, then as you gain experience, you may wish to add a feeder with a more selective following. Most important in selecting good bird seed is making sure it doesn’t contain a lot of stuff the birds DON’T eat. Many of the less expensive seed combinations have large portions of milo, a cheap grain harvested from the sorghum plant. It is used as “filler” and most backyard birds don’t like it. Here’s an easy GUIDE from Cornell University Ornithology Labs to give you some direction on seed types to look for and the birds they attract.

The easy path to good seed will take you to Wings-n-Things, Wingard’s Birding Department, located in the Produce Market, where you will find Cole’s Wild Bird Seed brand. Like Wingard’s, Cole’s is a family business with an interesting history. To read all about it, click HERE. Their philosophy is “Birds can be very picky eaters and if you put out the wrong feed, they’ll snub their noses at you and move on to your neighbor’s feeder looking for something better.” Cole’s offers quality seeds that will bring you success at the feeder with ingredients, thoughtfully produced to meet the wants and needs of many different species of birds. The seed contains no added synthetics, no added chemicals, and no artificial flavors. And most importantly, the birds love it, so you won’t be wasting your money!

Cole’s Wild Bird Seed has a great website to access all the information you need on their products, Check it out and if you have any questions, call Zach Steinhauser, Wingard’s wildlife conservationist, and he will get you headed in the right direction. In the meantime, here are a few of the Cole’s seed products at Wingard’s, just to get you familiar.

blue ribbon blend coles bird food

BLUE RIBBON BLEND: Contains sunflower, white millet and cracked corn. Guaranteed to bring the best combination of perch and ground feeding birds.
Attracts: Cardinals, titmice, chickadees, Goldfinches, juncos, White-throated sparrows, Indigo Bunting, wrens, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, towhees

blazing hot blend coles bird food

BLAZING HOT BLEND: traditional mix with most preferred seeds of backyard songbirds, combined with a habanero chili oil formula to discourage squirrels. Harmless to birds.
Attracts: Woodpeckers, grosbeaks, buntings, cardinals, chickadees, bluebirds, goldfinches, song sparrows, titmice, wrens

sunflower meats coles bird food

SUNFLOWER MEATS: No waste, no mess, pure sunflower. You will get more feed per pound and no messy hulls to clean up. Perfect for decks and balconies.
Attracts: Bluebirds, chickadees, cardinals, titmice, finches, woodpeckers, wrens, buntings, grosbeaks, towhees, nuthatches, song sparrows, and doves

safflower bird seed coles bird food

SAFFLOWER: Favorite of Cardinals. Squirrels and large “nuisance” birds don’t like it!
Attracts: Cardinals, nuthatches, titmice, and chickadees

blue ribbon blend coles bird food

SUET BLUE RIBBON BLEND: Bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, warblers, buntings, nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens
Attracts: Cardinals, nuthatches, titmice, and chickadees

Cole’s DOES NOT use filler seeds like Milo, Wheat, Red Millet, Flax, or old crop leftovers. Only the top 1-2% of each crop is used and cleaned a minimum of 4 times to ensure you get good quality seed – not sticks and dirt. Seeds are kept as close to a natural state as possible and never washed with chemicals or oil to make them look better.

As winter approaches, it’s time to think about helping the birds get through. By providing food, we can increase their capability to survive and flourish. And while giving this aid, we are paid back in full, and then some, by the beauty of wildlife right in our own backyards. If you really get the birdwatching fever, you can participate in Cornell’s FeederWatch tracking program. The season begins November 1. FeederWatch – Count Feeder Birds for Science.

Just to entice you, take a look and listen HERE.

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

The Language of Plants

The Language Of Plants

By Kathy Torres

I think I inherited the “gardening gene” from my Grandmother and my Dad. As a young girl, I
witnessed my Grandmother’s love of roses. When my sister and I visited in the summer, we
watched her tend to her small rose garden, and after the work was completed, she would bring
in her cuttings, fill a vase and place it on the kitchen table. In the fall, we also helped collect the
pecans that had fallen from the two enormous pecan trees in the front yard. Then, of course,
we helped to “crack and pick” them, munching on a few here and there. In his later years, my
Dad built a greenhouse where he spent time in the spring rooting clippings and making
gorgeous hanging baskets that he gave to friends and neighbors (and daughters). He even sold
a few. He was especially proud of the Christmas cactus baskets that he would deliver in full
bloom during the holidays. I cherish these memories. I didn’t realize it then, but these
experiences and, maybe, that “gardening gene” stoked some kind of CRAZY desire in me to dig
in the dirt and tend to the trees, bushes, and flowers. And, tomato plants! Either way, I began
to notice, appreciate and understand the language of plants.

Plants really do speak to us in what they represent, how they make us feel, and the messages
we apply to them. Actual flower codes were established in the Victorian era. During a time
when social etiquette (for the upper class) was quite restrictive. A nosegay or tussie-mussie, a
combination of flowers and herbs, was a popular choice when expressing interest in a particular
young lady. Suitors presented tussie-mussies and watched to see if the recipient held it at
heart level, indicating happiness and acceptance. Holding the bouquet pointing downward was
a sign of rejection. Not only did a certain flower have significance, but colors also expressed
variations in intent or emotions. Even today, a red rose is considered an expression of
passionate or true love, a pink rose is a sign of affection, white roses are associated with purity,
and yellow roses with friendship. Several floral dictionaries were published to explain the secret
language of flowers (floriography). Sweet freesia signifies trust and friendship in floriography.
Thrift or armeria symbolizes sympathy. Hollyhocks stand for fruitfulness and ambition. The
earliest flower dictionary was written in Paris in 1819; it was titled, Le Language de Fleursand.
In 1879, a book written by Miss Corruthers of Inverness, became the guide to the meanings
behind flowers throughout England and the United States.

Understanding the characteristics of plants guides us to place them properly, understand their
family history and relation to other species. Another way of looking at the language of plants is
through botanical names, a Latin combination of at least two names that have been assigned to
every single plant in creation. Many of the Latin names translate in English so that we
recognize the meaning. For instance, Juniperus horizontalis is a Juniper that spreads over the
ground. If the second word in the botanical name is odoratum or odoratissimum it is fragrant.
Color is sometimes identified… Red is rubrum, as in the red maple (Acer rubrum); purple is
purpureus; white is albus. For most of us who are limited in our understanding of Latin, the
common name, is how we identify plants, but unless the color is included, the name doesn’t tell
us much. The common name is more like any other name; it is a title, not necessarily a
description. Magnolia, Azalea, Boxwood, are a few examples. Educating ourselves and
becoming familiar with a plant’s name and features allows us to get acquainted and connect.
Various ideals and characteristics are often associated with certain plants, and they are given as
gifts in that spirit. Here are a few in the house plant category symbolizing a particular theme or

Air Plant (Tillandsia) – Freedom and creativity – For people who like change or live in small

Bonsai (Juniperus procumbens) – Harmony, wisdom, and calm – For someone who needs more
balance in their life.

Cactus (Cactaceae) – Protection and endurance – For someone who is very determined or going
through a tough time.

Ficus (Ficus microcarpa) – Abundance and peace – For someone who is a leader to symbolize
unity and success.

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena braunii) – Good fortune and longevity – For someone who is entering
a new chapter in life.

Money Tree (Pachira aquatica) – Wealth and good fortune – For someone who is career-driven
or starting a new business.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) – Peace and sympathy – For someone who went through a recent
loss or needs a reminder of peace in their life.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) – Cleanliness and tenacity – For someone who is creative or
as a housewarming gift because it naturally purifies the air.

Succulent (Sedum morganianum) – Loyalty and endurance – For someone who’s trustworthy
and always there for you.

If you’d like to go further with this, check out these plants and what they symbolize. Click HERE.

The holidays are the best example of plants sharing a message. Lilies give us the hope of spring
at Easter. Mums, pansies and brilliant fall leaves remind us it is time to be thankful, and then
Christmas! Nothing makes the home feel more festive than bright red Poinsettias, fresh
wreaths, Christmas cactus, and of course, the fresh cut Fraser Fir. The Christmas tree is a focal
point in our home that holds cherished ornaments and warms our hearts with bright lights and
feelings of nostalgia. It may take us back to years past and sometimes we may even drift back
to childhood. Nature softens the harshness of the world in a way that we really need at these
busy times. And what better way to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” than by giving
a live plant as a gift.

Life presents many joys and sorrows. Plants are often a messenger of love, thanks,
congratulations, best wishes, holiday greetings, as well as sympathy, to provide encouragement
as we navigate through our time on earth. Not only do plants help us to convey our feelings,
they often help us hold on to a memory. For instance, the first time your special guy sent roses,
the chrysanthemum corsage you wore to Homecoming, the pink carnations sent by friends
when your daughter was born, the tree you planted when you bought your first home, the rose
bush sent by a friend when you lost someone you love. My Mom passed away a few years ago
and a friend sent a miniature yellow rose plant. It was about 8 inches tall. I have tried to take
particularly good care of it over the years and have since transplanted it at least 3 times; it’s
now about 3 feet tall. The small yellow roses are a beautiful reminder of my Mom and the
friend who gave the plant to me.

Plants are accents we use to soften and enhance the look and feel of our homes, both inside
and out. Garden rooms are created to entertain, spend time with family, to enjoy quiet time
alone. Of course, it’s about making a pretty landscape, curb appeal, etc. but at the root is our
intention to provide a “welcoming” environment. If our shrubs, trees, and flowers could speak,
I believe that is what they would say. Plants make us feel happiness and joy; they feed us, give
us a wonderful hobby, all the while painting a picture that accents important times in our lives.
Receiving good wishes from others or sending good wishes, feeling satisfaction and joy from
working the garden is hearing the language. Investing yourself in the flower bed or the
vegetable garden or simply creating a collection of container gardens offers a relationship with
nature, a connection to growth and beauty. Through caring for the plants you maintain a sort
of friendship, which, like human relationships, thrives with care or suffers with neglect. Think
about extending that friendship to a neighbor by giving away plants you are dividing. Sharing
brings joy on both ends. I had a special friend, Mrs. Carrie, who taught me all about day lilies
years ago. She gave me quite a few from her garden. When they bloom, I think of her and how
she inspired me. That’s the language of plants.

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Shade Trees

by Kathy Torres

There’s a great old jazz song titled Up a Lazy River, written in 1930. It has been recorded by many artists over the years, from Hoagy Carmichael, Louis Prima, the Mills Brothers, to more modern day singers like Bobby Darin and Michael Buble. The lyrics are timeless and invoke feelings of a sultry, summer afternoon, and a cool place to slow down and escape.

bar of music

Up a lazy river by the old mill run.
The lazy, lazy river in the noon day sun.
Linger in the shade of a kind old tree.
Throw away your troubles.
Dream a dream with me.

While most of us, unfortunately, don’t have a river in our back yard, a kind old shade tree is a definite possibility! During this time of year in South Carolina when the summer heat is at its peak, we are struggling to even go outside and water the plants, and can certainly use some relief. An early morning cup of coffee or a late afternoon glass of iced tea under a beautiful, wide canopy of shade is just the ticket to escape the heat, and maybe even slow down a bit.

There are lots of options for shade trees that do well here, and some that grow pretty fast. With fall approaching, it’s time to begin thinking about what you may want to plant. Fall is the ABSOLUTE BEST time for planting trees and shrubs and here’s why: (1) It’s about to get cooler which means less watering will be necessary because the ground doesn’t dry out so fast, AND, the plants are not so stressed. In addition, rain is typically more abundant, another way we get a break from watering. (2) Because the winter is fairly mild here and the ground doesn’t freeze, plants can get rooted in, even though they are dormant and not producing new growth above ground. Establishing the root system will increase chances of good growth in the following spring and summer. (3) Disease and pests are not an issue, for the most part.

Following is a list of trees that will grow big enough to provide significant shade for you to enjoy any time, but especially in the hot, hot, summer. It will take a few years to get there, but the wait is worthwhile!

WILLOW OAK – I’m starting with this one because it is my personal favorite for a very fast growing tree. Grows to 40-60 ft. tall with a 35 ft. spread; Willow-like leaves; Deciduous (drops leaves in winter); Grows in a pyramid shape in its youth, then an oblong-oval to rounded shape at maturity. Foliage is light to bright green in summer and yellow, yellow-brown and russet in fall; Tolerates poorly drained soil.

willow oak shade trees

LIVE OAK – Mature size is 40-80 ft. tall with an 80 ft. spread; Round shape; Evergreen, however some yellow leaves will drop in spring as new growth emerges; Grows rapidly when young and may live to be centuries old; Adapts to almost any soil; Does well in coastal areas; Historical significance CLICK HERE.

live oak shade trees

PIN OAK – Mature Size is 40-60 ft. tall by 35-40 ft. wide; Fast-growing; Deciduous (drops leaves in winter); Pyramid shaped growth habit. Foliage displays scarlet to russet fall color.

pin oak shade trees

RED MAPLE OCTOBER GLORY – Mature size is 40-50 ft. tall by 30-40 ft. wide; Moderate to fast growth rate; Deciduous; Round shape; Tiny, conspicuous red flowers bloom in spring; Showy red fruit attracts many birds and other wildlife; Radiant red leaves in fall.

red maple october glory shade trees

RED MAPLE AUTUMN BLAZE – Fast growing; reaches 50-60 ft. tall by 40 ft. wide; Deciduous; Brilliant, long lasting, orange-red fall color; Upright, uniform branching habit.

red maple autumn blaze shade trees

SUGAR MAPLE – Grows to 60-75 ft. tall with a 40-50 ft. spread; Medium to dark-green leaves turning yellow, burnt orange or red in fall; Deciduous; Slow to medium growth rate; Tolerates shade; Produces small, greenish-yellow flowers in groups that curve downward on long, delicate stems, blooming in April and May; Round or oval shape.

sugar maple trees

PRINCETON AMERICAN ELM – Fast-growing; Deciduous; Upright, symmetrical growth habit; Good resistance to the Dutch elm disease, which has been a problem for the American Elm; Height 50-70 ft. by 30-50 ft. wide; Inconspicuous blooms in spring; Yellow foliage in fall.

princeton american elm

SYCAMORE – One species and one hybrid common in SC are American planetree and London planetree; Massive tree that grows 70-100 ft. tall with a similar spread; Deciduous; Pyramid form in youth, developing a spreading, rounded crown with age; Moderate growth rate; Handsome exfoliating bark; Yellow-brown fall foliage; 1-inch fruit hangs from the tree on long stalks through most of the winter.

sycamore tree

TULIP POPLAR – Mature height is 70-130 ft. by 30-60 ft. wide; Fast-growing; Deciduous; Tulip-like, fragrant yellow flowers with green to yellow petals and reddish-orange bands appear in spring to early summer (after foliage appears); Supports pollinators and is a larval host plant; Yellow to gold fall foliage.

tulip poplar

Several of these trees require a large piece of property and may not be suitable for your landscape. Always make sure you make selections based on the mature size of the tree and the space you have available. All of these trees need a minimum of 6 hours of sun, but can handle full sun all day. In the first year or two, especially during periods of drought, use a Tree Gator (available at Wingard’s) to keep it watered adequately.

Another trick is to use a 5 gallon bucket with a small hole in the bottom; fill it with water, place it over the root ball and let it slowly leach into the soil. If you plant this fall, wait until next year to fertilize.

The trucks will soon be coming in at Wingard’s to stock up the inventory of trees for fall planting. If you have the space in your landscape, think about planting one of these large trees that will offer a shady resting spot for you and your family in the years to come.

Now…if you’ve never heard the song, check it out HERE.

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Food – It’s Complicated

By Kathy Torres

We spend a lot of time these days reading labels on food products for the health and safety of our families, and also to satisfy our taste buds.  At Wingard’s Market, we continue to provide fresh produce and gourmet food items, with the same ideas in mind.  We thought it might be a good idea to expand on some of the categories, labeling and certifications you will observe when you shop, for instance Heirloom, Hybrid, Organic, Non-GMO.  You’ve probably become familiar with these terms in our market, as well as your local grocery store, but maybe you have found them to be a little confusing.

Heirloom vegetables are old varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation.  Native Americans have been saving seed since the pre-Columbian era while old European crops may be over 400 years old. They have a history, and are a tribute to families who have planted, harvested and passed the seeds on.  To be capable of being saved, all heirloom seed must be open-pollinated, so that it will grow true to seed.  Open-pollinated plants are nearly identical to the parent plant because it (the parent plant) was pollinated by wind, birds, or insects—not from a neighboring plant.  The big advantage of OP plants is that gardeners can save their own seed. If you grow an Heirloom variety you particularly enjoy, that does exceptionally well in your garden, it is nice to be able to save some seeds, plant the same variety next season and enjoy the same results.  The more you save the seeds and replant, the better adapted future plants will be to your growing conditions.  While Heirloom vegetables are grown for their superior flavor, they typically have a shorter shelf-life and may not be as disease resistant as hybrid varieties.

A Hybrid vegetable is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties, with the intention of producing an offspring that contains the best traits of each of the parents.   Pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve the desired combination of characteristics, such as dependability, early maturity, bigger size, higher yield or better disease resistance.  Seed from hybridized plants tends to revert to the qualities of the parents, so saving the seed and replanting is not advisable. Hybrid seeds/plants should not be confused with genetically modified (GMO) seeds/plants, which have been genetically altered using molecular genetics techniques such as gene cloning and protein engineering. 

Organic is a certification that indicates that the food has been produced through U.S. Dept. of Agriculture approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

With some minor exceptions, organic meat, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones. While the term “natural” can be used on any product label without third party verification, a product must be certified by USDA if it is to be labeled as “organic.”

The emphasis is on farmers using renewable resources and mimicking natural ecosystems to conserve and maintain the soil and water without polluting the environment.  Some examples of organic farming practices include using compost, manure, and crop rotation to keep the soil healthy naturally. The healthy soil helps keep the plants resistant to disease and pests. Crops are usually grown according to the climate and organic farmers often grow a variety of crops instead of one. While organic farming doesn’t allow many dangerous chemicals to be used, certain pesticides derived from natural sources are allowed in producing organically grown food. Organic farming helps to prevent soil erosion and protects local wildlife, streams and watersheds instead of conventional farming which can harm local ecosystems with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  For additional information, go to this USDA webpage.  What is Organic.pdf (

The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer cannot plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.  

Non-GMO suggests that all ingredients were derived from plants, animals, or other organisms whose genetic material has not been artificially altered in a laboratory.  Meat, poultry, dairy and eggs with a Non-GMO claim are from animals that were not fed a diet containing genetically engineered crops.  Non-GMO, however, is NOT certified by the USDA.  As indicated above, all certified Organic foods are Non-GMO, however, all Non-GMO foods are not necessarily Organic.  For more details on recent USDA allowances and labeling regarding Non-GMO foods, click HERE. 

Food is complicated and highly regulated, but for good reason.  The more you know and understand, the better equipped you are to make decisions on what you grow in your garden and what you buy for you and your family to eat. 

Here are additional resources for more on this subject:

Heirloom Vegetables | Home & Garden Information Center (
GMO Crops, Animal Food, and Beyond | FDA

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!




By Kathy Torres

So… Here we are in the “dog days” of summer when it’s hot and dry and hard to get motivated to get out in the yard that we were so devoted to in spring.  We just want to sit by the pool and sip on a nice, cold drink, right?  Unfortunately, it’s the time of year when disease, pests, and weeds begin to affect the beauty of the landscape, and we have to muster up the will to take care of a few problems.  For example:  Our gorgeous rose bushes were just attacked by japanese beetles (they visited in June); the foliage on the azaleas is being eaten; the crape myrtle has powdery mildew; and brown patch is beginning to rear its ugly head, along with nutsedge in the lawn.  Hopefully, you don’t have all of these issues, but it’s likely you’ve “been there, done that” with at least one of them.

The heat and humidity are culprits, for sure, and, when combined with overhead watering, can encourage fungus on shrubbery.  A drip system, which waters beneath the foliage, is best.   Other than proper watering, there are additional things you can do to minimize fungus problems.  Prune inner branching on dense shrubs to provide air and light (best in early spring), especially roses.  Remove any “sickly” foliage that has fallen to the ground to prevent the spread to other plants.  Look for plant varieties that are disease resistant. 

A lawn care program (Wingard’s has one! Click HERE) will go a long way to eliminate weeds in your grass, but a few persistent ones may pop up. Nutsedge and Chamberbitter are very hardy, aggressive weeds appearing in summer.  Of course, overhead watering is the only way to water the lawn, however, watering too much can bring on the fungus.  Typically, 1 inch of water per week is sufficient for most southern grasses.   

Warm weather invites a variety of insects to visit the garden, many of them beneficial, however, some control may be necessary to avoid damage to foliage and fruit.  You don’t want to harm the good insects, so make a practice of using organic products or apply pesticides in the early morning before bees are flying.

When faced with all of these challenges, it becomes necessary to take action, (1) to maintain the health of plants and lawn, (2) to protect fruits and vegetables so they can be harvested and (3) to preserve the beauty of the landscape.  Many organic and chemical products are available, but it’s important to choose the right one and apply it correctly, potentially more than once.  Be aware when choosing what to use on edibles.  Some products are safe for your vegetable garden and fruit trees, but NOT all of them, so be sure to read your labels.  Requirements relative to temperature are extremely important during the summer.  Don’t use oils when the temperature is above 85 degrees, and for those products that can be used in the heat, apply in early morning or evening.  ALWAYS read the label carefully and following instructions as indicated. 

It can be quite overwhelming finding your way through the Medicine Chest of products available to solve these problems.  CONTACT products are available and will have an immediate effect.  SYSTEMIC products are absorbed into the root system or the foliage and take a little longer, but are very effective, and can often be applied as a preventive method.  At times it may be necessary to use both a CONTACT and a SYSTEMIC product to eliminate the problem if it is severe.  We have developed a few CHEAT SHEETS to provide recommendations on product use in dealing with insects, fungus and weeds.   Click on the links below to access them.  As always, you can rely on staff at Wingard’s to answer any questions you may have, to help you through the problems and keep your landscape at its best. 




There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s

Growing Blueberries

By Kathy Torres

Blueberries are often labeled a “superfood” because they are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  The deep blue color comes from anthocyanin, an antioxidant that can help protect the body from heart disease and cancer, reduce inflammation and increase immune function.  Research also suggests the compounds found in blueberries may boost brain health, lower blood sugar levels, and improve insulin sensitivity.  A half cup of blueberries a day just might be what the doctor ordered!  Wouldn’t it be great to rely on your own backyard blueberry bushes to provide them?  Did I mention they are also low in calories?

There are four types of blueberry plants: Northern Highbush, Southern Highbush, Rabbiteye, and Lowbush.  Rabbiteye varieties are hardiest in the south, producing sweet fruit with high yields of large berries, and are not problematic with regard to diseases and pests.  Various cultivars are available, including Brightwell, Climax, Delite, Pink Lemonade, Powderblue, Premiere, and Tift Blue.  Pink Lemonade is the smallest, with a maximum height of 4.5 ft.  Brightwell and Delite can reach 10 ft. tall, and the others will mature at about 6.5 ft.

Rabbiteye blueberry bushes can be grown successfully in a sunny spot and they prefer acidic soil.   It’s a good idea to test the soil to determine the pH, which should be between 4.0 to 5.3.  This is lower than many plants will tolerate, even camellias and azaleas.  If soil test results show your soil pH is over 5.5, you may need to apply aluminum sulfate or sulfur to the soil.  Stop by one of our Wingard’s checkout stations and we can provide a soil sample bag and process the paperwork and payment to Clemson Extension for you.  Check out this Clemson Extension fact sheet for more information on changing soil pH.  FACT SHEET 

Blueberries grow best in well-drained soil that has plenty of organic matter.  We recommend Stout Ollie, a mixture of three different organic composts. If you have heavy clay soil or poor drainage, amend the soil by mixing in soil conditioner (finely ground pine bark).  Mounding the soil 6”-12” high and 2’-3’ wide is another way to improve drainage in clay soil.  Keep plants adequately watered, especially during the first few years while they become established.  Blueberry bushes can retract water from berries during fruit production, so it is essential for the plant to receive adequate water through the roots in order to produce plump, juicy berries.  Next year’s buds are set in late summer and early fall, another reason they must receive adequate moisture.  Add mulch to help retain moisture and reduce weeds.

Although fall is the absolute best time to plant, inventory in garden centers is plentiful in the spring and the chances of finding varieties you want are better.  As long as you are diligent about watering in the heat of summer, you will be OK.   Be sure to plant at least two different varieties for cross-pollination to occur.  This will bring you the best yield of berries.

It will be painful for you, but cut off the blooms that appear in the first spring.  Not producing fruit will put the plant’s energy into root and stem growth, which will make it bigger and healthier the next spring.  Rabbiteye blueberry bushes, during the first five years, require very little pruning.  During dormancy (Dec-Mar), remove lower, twiggy growth, dead shoots and spindly growth.  Cut back excessively long shoots to stimulate lateral branching and to thicken the shoots.

Mature plants require more dramatic pruning to maintain health and ensure maximum yield.  Generally, remove all but seven canes, eliminating the oldest or largest canes.  Selective cuts should be made to open up the center of the plant to allow light penetration and discourage disease.  Pruning of older plants should take place immediately after harvest.  

Do not fertilize blueberry bushes when first planted.  Wait until the following spring.  From that point, fertilizer should be applied twice a year.  Apply Holly-tone when spring growth begins and again in June.  Do not use nitrate forms of fertilizer for blueberries as this will cause root damage.

We often have a late freeze or two in spring that can harm blooms or young fruit, so pay attention to the freeze warnings and cover the plant with an old sheet.  Anchor it down if it’s windy. 

Your first harvest will be in late May or early June.  Wait until the berries are plump and deep blue.  Let them sit out a few days after you pick and they will become sweeter.  You will harvest several times as the berries ripen.  Be prepared to lose a few to the birds that visit your yard, however, netting is available to cover the plant and discourage the birds, if you’d rather not share.

One of the most enjoyable treats of early summer is fresh picked blueberries.  A nutritious snack to eat just as they are, or mixed into delicious pies, cakes, and muffins.  Click on this link for one of my favorite Blueberry Muffin recipes.  To Die For Blueberry Muffins Recipe | Allrecipes  Try them and it’s highly likely you’ll want to plant your own blueberry garden!

Getting Started Growing Fruit

by Kathy Torres

Peaches have been grown in South Carolina since the 1860s and are designated as the official State Fruit.   SC peach farmers grow over thirty varieties, ranking second in the United States (behind California) in production.  Other than the occasional late frost and freeze that may occur, a peach tree is a good bet for your landscape, and there is nothing better than a ripe, juicy peach on a hot summer day.  In addition to peach trees, many other fruiting plants and trees will flourish here in the midlands.  You can enjoy beautiful, often fragrant, spring blooms, and fresh, delicious fruit from your own yard. Dwarf varieties even make it possible to harvest from a container on your patio!

There are a few basics you should be aware of if you are considering fruiting plants and trees…

POLLINATION:  Most strawberry, raspberry, grape, blackberry, peach, nectarine, sour cherry and apricot varieties are self-fruitful, which means they do not need a pollinator.   Generally, blueberries, pears, apples, plums and sweet cherries must have a different variety planted nearby to cross-pollinate and ensure a good harvest.  Most citrus are self-pollinating (except tangerines). For more pollination information, check out the charts provided HERE.

CHILL HOURS are the minimum hours below 45 degrees F that a plant is exposed to during dormancy. Reaching the needed chill hours sets off the plant’s internal alarm clock to wake up in the spring instead of summer or fall, so that it can take advantage of the warm weather to blossom, set fruit, and finish the seed cycle before the coming of another winter’s nap. A fruit tree may grow well where winters are mild, but if there are not enough chill hours over the course of winter, the tree will not fruit properly. Some fruit trees need as few as 100 chill hours, others need as many as 1,000 chill hours or more. Average chill hours for Lexington are 370-490 according to


  • Peach scab is a fungus that attacks twigs, leaves and fruit of peaches, nectarines and apricots. Proper pruning that allows good air flow into the tree helps to prevent and manage the disease. The second step is application of fungicide sprays, from the time petals fall until about a month before harvest.
  • Fire Blight is a bacterial disease that attacks apple, crabapple and pear trees. It’s best known for making leaves look like they’ve been burned. Treatment includes planting a resistant variety, avoiding high nitrogen fertilizers, and gathering and destroying fallen fruit, leaves and twigs. Copper and antibiotic sprays can also help control the disease.
  • Suckers are stems that grow from the root system and steal nutrients from the main stems and branches. To remove suckers, dig down to find the origin, and cut it cleanly. Clip a sucker at soil level, and next year two or more stems will appear at that same location.
  • Codling Moth, Aphids, Borers are three common pests that create problems for fruit trees. Treatment is necessary immediately to minimize the damage to tree and fruit.

The absolute best way to avoid issues with disease and pests is a preventive plan.  Ask for Wingard’s Fruit Tree Care plan on your next visit and get ahead of potential problems. 

TRAINING and PRUNING: Untrained and unpruned trees become entangled masses of shoots and branches that produce little or no fruit and harbor insects and diseases. Light pruning can be done throughout the growing season to remove broken, injured or diseased branches and to improve air circulation to control diseases. Major removal of twigs and branches should be done during the dormant season, before active growth begins in the spring.  Clemson has a great Factsheet on training and pruning apple and pear trees HERE.   

FERTILIZING: Spring is the best time for fertilizing fruit trees because spring is when trees need plenty of energy to push out new leaves and nurture baby fruit. Feed the trees before they break from dormancy, during bud-break, or during the growing season.  If it’s July or August already – you’re too late – wait for next spring.  It’s always a good idea to test the soil every 2 or 3 years to ensure the pH is right.

This blog is entitled Getting Started Growing Fruit because we have “touched” on some basics. There is really a lot to learn to be successful growing fruit, so continue to research and dive in to the subject.  Check out Wingard’s blog on Growing Citrus in South Carolina HERE and these Clemson fact sheets that may be of interest:

Peach Diseases | Home & Garden Information Center (

Fig | Home & Garden Information Center (

Blueberry | Home & Garden Information Center (

Pomegranate | Home & Garden Information Center (

Growing Strawberries | Home & Garden Information Center (

Muscadine Grape | Home & Garden Information Center (

Of course, the first order of business is to decide which fruits you love to eat and take it from there!

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Aquatic Plants

by Kathy Torres

The sights and sounds of water provide a relaxing, soothing atmosphere in the garden.  An extra reward is the attraction of pollinators, frogs, butterflies, and other beneficial wildlife.  As water gardens and ponds have gained popularity, so has interest in plant life to enhance the natural appearance of these landscape additions.  There are many aquatic plants for use in natural, as well as man made water features that, in addition to just being beautiful, add oxygen, help to control algae and provide a home or hiding place for wildlife. 

Different aquatic plants require different depths of water, so it is important to do a little research and choose plants that will best suit your particular conditions.  Some aquatic varieties just like to have wet feet, as in a bog situation. Other plants need to be fully submerged, and some float on the surface with their roots hanging in water.  You can achieve the proper level for one or multiple plants by placing bricks, cinder blocks, etc. under the pots. 

Specialty pots, soil, gravel, and fertilizers are available for aquatic plants.  Soil should be loamy and heavy so that it won’t float away when the pot is placed in water.  Potting mix is not suitable, as it will float out of the pot and muck up the water.  Aquatic or pea gravel can be added on top of the soil to hold it in place.  Some water gardeners also plant completely in gravel.  It’s good to experiment to see what works best for you. It may be appropriate to plant bare root directly into the pond or water feature, using rocks to hold the plant in place.  Just be sure to remove all the dirt from the roots before it goes in the water. 

An aquatic garden will require some tending, as far as plant growth is concerned.  Because many water plants are bulbs that will multiply, it will likely be necessary to divide them as they outgrow their space.  Avoid cultivars that are invasive.  Go to for a listing of nuisance (and illegal) water plants in South Carolina. 

With any plant, it is key to be aware of the mature size as you make plans to include it in any part of the landscape to make the most of your space and avoid overcrowding.  Plant a variety of heights, leaf shapes, and blooming specimens to give dimension and interest to your water garden. Also key, is the sunlight requirement. Many aquatic plants like full sun to part shade, but make sure before you put them in place.  Of course, one really great benefit in a water garden is the ability you have to move plants around!  Make sure taller plants don’t block sunlight to smaller ones.  Know which plants are vulnerable to colder temperatures in the winter months; you may need to take them out and keep them in a warmer place.

Consider the following categories and examples when making your selection of aquatic plants:

BOG &  MARGINAL AQUATIC PLANTS – These specimens bridge the gap between water and dry land.  Bog plants enjoy moist soil around the edge of ponds, with water just covering or slightly below the soil.  Marginal aquatic plants, the most abundant of water plants, thrive in the shallow waters at the inside edge with an average water depth up to 6 inches over the crown.

Saururus cernuus AKA Lizard’s Tail – Deep green heart shaped leaves.  Gracefully arching spikes of tiny white flowers 4-6 in. shaped like a lizard’s tail.  Will flower even in dense shade. The plant grows to height of 3-4 feet. Plant in a medium pot with water from 1-6 in. over crown of plant.  

Lobelia fulgens ‘Queen Victoria’ AKA Cardinal Flower provides interest all season with rich burgundy foliage.  Upright stalks can grow to heights of 2-3 ft.  Striking red flowers in late summer.  May be planted in 1-3 inches of water. Grow in sun to part shade.

Juncus effuses ‘Spiralis,’ commonly known as Corkscrew Rush has attractive corkscrew stems which are both upright and prostrate, cylindrical, green, and smooth.  They grow in 1-6 inches of water over the crown into a clump 12-18 inches tall and wide with late summer yellowish-green flowers.  Full sun is best but some shade can be tolerated. 

Juncus effusus / Soft Rush – Soft, grass like stems grow in clumps that rarely intrude upon other plants.  Each stem bears a cluster of very small, greenish brown, scaly flowers that bloom in July through September from a point on the stalk near the top.  Grows to a height up to 1 ft. tall.

DEEP WATER PLANTS – These water plants flourish in the deeper recesses of the pond. With the crown fully submerged beneath water, many (such as Water Lilies) produce foliage on long stems that float at the water’s surface.

Water Lilies are a group of plants containing about 70 known species. They are either tropical or hardy and grow in water 3 inches to 2 feet deep. Larger plants need larger water gardens or ponds. They prefer non-moving water without fountains or currents. Most prefer full sun but some will tolerate shade. The flowers are showy and usually fragrant with showy lily pads for leaves.

Nymphaea ‘Georgia Peach’ is a hardy, free-flowering, showy water lily with a long bloom season. Blooms stand 3-4 inches above the water surface. It is very adaptable to different growing situations. Use in medium to large water gardens.

Nymphaea Pink ‘Sensation’ is considered one of the best hardy pink water lilies. Blooms are held above the waterline, stay open later in the day, are free-flowering and have a slight fragrance. Use in any size water garden.

Nymphaea Albatros has beautiful, star-shaped, snow white flowers. A free flowering hardy white water lily, it will perform well in full sun or partial shade. The new foliage is deep burgundy and turns a deep olive green as it matures. Flowers stay open later in the day.

Thalia Dealbata AKA Hardy Water CannaPurple flowers on top of tall, graceful stems.  Large blue-green leaves.  Will grow to heights of 4-6 feet.  Do not allow crown of plant to freeze during winter. Plant in a medium pot with water from 1-2 ft. over crown of plant.  

SUBMERGED OXYGENATORS will create a healthy pond with well oxygenated water, essential for fish and wildlife to flourish. Many submerged aquatic plants are sold as bunches of stems that can be weighted or planted into pots to anchor them at the bottom of the pods.

Vallisneria americana AKA Water Celery is an evergreen perennial with clusters of ribbon-like leaves, about 1 inch wide that can grow up to 3 ft. long, producing single white flowers that grow to the water surface. After pollination, the flower stalks curl into spirals and pull the flowers underwater, where they form capsules containing many tiny seeds.  Very fast grower, able to reach full height in 2 months.  Performs best in full sun to light shade in water 12-48 inches deep.

Come in and check out the inventory of aquatic plants and supplies at Wingard’s.  We’re showing them off in a brand new display! 

There’s always something blooming at Wingard’s!