Augusta On My Mind

via Augusta.com | Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

You know the song. Its first three bars practically melts the snow off your tailpipe. It’s like a crocus bloom cuddled in winter’s last blanket of snow; a sure telltale sign that spring is near. If you’re in the golf cognoscenti then you know that the Masters season is upon us. Initially the airtime it usurps in our house is exhilarating. AZALEAS! DOGWOODS! MAGNOLIAS! All in Georgia’s lush splendor. Watching from the chilly northeast I’m assured that buds, blooms, and gentler weather are soon to replace the dormancy of my winter predicament. But, the entire weekend dedicated to eagles, bogeys and pars? C-span would be a welcome relief. The closer we crawl to Sunday’s rituals in Butlers Cabin, the more consumed my husband becomes. Lovingly, he is unrelenting and guards the remote with pugilistic instinct should anyone of us suggest “an alternate channel.”

Staging a home protest as homage to Martha Burk would be futile (and let’s not be foolish, my birthday is on the horizon). So, if you can’t beat’em, join’em. Let’s make April 8-11 a source of inspiration for those of us held captive by David Flaherty and his band of CBS broadcasters. I propose that all of the golf widows join me in turning this television marathon of potential pure boredom into a welcomed education in unique plant selection, innovative pairing gestures and thoughtful placement concepts. The time is now. Pull out those argyle socks and tams with enlarged fuzzy balls. Q up baby, we’re going to school.

Our canvas (aka the Augusta National Golf Course) is steeped with significant agricultural history and rich in specimen plantings that would raise a brow from any garden club enthusiast. Long before Tiger was a twinkle in Tida’s eye, the 365 acre parcel of land was an indigo farm in rural Georgia. In 1857 the land was transformed into “Fruitland Nursery” which supported a variety of imported flowering trees and plant stock. Dividends of this working landscape include an episodic row of 61 magnolia trees and a rare signature of the nursery and the region at that time, the newbie “azalea” species. (These features are iconic to the grounds and now rival celebrity with many in the sweater vest community). During the Depression, a famed golfer named Bobby Jones purchased the land for shekles. With help from his landscape architect, Alister Mackenzie, they amalgamated the highlights from the existing nursery with their plan for a national golf course. In keeping with the land’s lineage, each of the 18 holes was designed to feature a specific plant and the holes were named accordingly. To the delight of the plus-four groupies, Augusta formally opened in 1933.

If you are looking to augment your garden this spring and are undecided on what to plant, use Augusta as your palimpsest. Like a paint chip or fabric swatch, learn from the featured plantings at each hole to nourish your selection. Consider the restricted commercial time a stroke of genius as the eons of dedicated airtime become an addendum to your seed catalogues.

Our leader board is comprised of 10 trees, 6 shrubs and 2 landscape accent plants. For each, I have included a brief description and my personal recommendation and rating on its landscape value for your purpose. My rating scale is a familiar one, or second skin by Sunday:

  • Bogey: Not recommended at all. Avoid it like the plague and apologies if it’s a focal point in your yard.
  • Par: Serves the purpose, but why eat flank steak when you could feast on filet mignon?
  • Birdie: Turf love. You can’t go wrong.
  • Eagle: Hats off to Peter Cetera. “You’re my Inspiration.”

TREES

American Holly

Hole: 18 Size: M Evergreen: Y

Ilex opaca. Zone 5-9. A handsome winter accent. Use sparingly in one project.  Think of it as a “Twinkie,” I would recommend planting it symmetrically in just one pair.  Slow growing. Place in an area that is long on deciduous plantings. Handy if fashioning your own mistletoe interpretation this winter.

RATING: Par

Chinese Fir

Hole: 14 Size: L Evergreen: Y

Cunninghamia lanceolata. Zone 6-9. With few other options, it would be best featured as a specimen tree. Overall, not recommended, as dead foliage remains on branches. Whiff it.

RATING: Bogey

Carolina Cherry

Hole: 9 Size: S Evergreen: Y

Prunus caroliniana. Zone 7-10. When small, white flowers bloom in spring, I can almost hear Peter Cetera. Bark structure is interesting during cold months. Good for wildlife and fast growing. Use as a highlight in the garden. Branches cut and brought indoors for arrangements could be fetching, a sure chip-in.

RATING: Birdie

Flowering Crab Apple

Hole: 4 Size: S Evergreen: N

Malus hybrida. Zone 4-7. Blooms in spring and a nice buffet for wildlife. Full sun is most desirable. Use as a highlight in the garden where space is limited and pair it with smaller scaled plantings.

RATING: Birdie

Flowering Peach

Hole: 3 Size: M Evergreen: N

Prunus persica.  Can be difficult to maintain and conjures bugs and disease. Take a rain delay on this one.

RATING: Bogey

Juniper

Hole: 6 Size: L Evergreen: Y

Juniperus virginianais. Zone 3b-9. Commonly known as Eastern Redcedar. Recommended for screening your neighbor’s swing set.  Break up its monotony with shrubs bearing interesting blooms or fruits. Can be recycled into pencils should a branch fall!

RATING: Par

Magnolia

Hole: 5 Size: M Evergreen: N

Magnolia grandiflora. Zone 6-10. Large white flowers in spring. As luck would have it, this is the most popularly showcased native tree at Augusta (perhaps the 61 magnolias along the lane helped?)  Pair with coniferous plantings to showcase its attributes. Recommended as an anniversary gift to your parents.

RATING: Birdie

Pink Dogwood

Hole: 2 Size: S Evergreen: N

Cornus florida var. ruba. Zone 5. Blooms in spring. The second hole of the course features this species on both sides. Use as a bomb in the garden. Good all year attributes. Best used in areas short on representing human scale. Branch structure adds intrigue to indoor arrangements.

RATING: Birdie

Redbud

Hole: 16 Size: S Evergreen: N

Cercis canadensis. Zone 4-9. Shucks, one of my all time favorites…. Hot pink flowers in spring attack the branches like chicken pox. Attractive green, rounded leaves when in season. Best used as an accent.  Recommended by patios, front entrances and smaller spaces alike.

RATING: Eagle

White Dogwood

Hole: 11 Size: M Evergreen: N

Cornus florida. Zone 5-9. Flowering in spring. Slow to medium growth rate. Can be used with a heavy hand in the landscape (case in point, oops, I have three). All the same, they had me at “hello”.

RATING: Eagle

SHRUBS

Azalea

Hole: 13 Size: M Evergreen: mostly deciduous

Rhododendron species. Zone 5-7. Time on your hands?  Try to count the 30 varieties of azaleas that are on exhibit at Augusta. For an awesome spectacle, there are approximately 1600 azaleas planted at lucky hole number 13.  Flowers in spring.  Strong pink varieties can be overwhelming.

RATING: Par

Camellia

Hole: 10 Size: M/L Evergreen: Y

Camellia japonica. Zone 7-9. Used originally at Fruitland Nursery. Think courtyard rather than windbreak. Seems cantankerous unless you have a garden caddy helping you out and then let it be Fluff’s problem.

RATING: Par

Firehorn

Hole: 15 Size: L Evergreen: Y

Pyracantha coccinea. Zone 6-9. Warn Fluff of its profusion of thorns. Perhaps best used for espaliers (LOVE) and trellises. Who needs an alarm system… plant this one by your basement windows.

RATING: Birdie

Golden Bell

Hole: 12 Size: L Evergreen: N

Forsythia intermedia. Zone 6-8. Tons of yellow flowers in spring and a fast grower. A sure crowd pleaser in season, but gangly in the winter. Plant sparingly, not as a foundation planting. Can be pretty when cut and arranged indoors.

RATING: Par

Nandina

Hole: 17 Size: M Evergreen: Y

Nandina domestica. Zone 6-9. Blooms in spring with red berries in fall and winter. Environmental fortitude, an Arnold Schwarzenegger. Recommended to hide structures such as your neighbor’s silo. President Eisenhower approached the Grand Fromage at Augusta to have one removed as it was throwing off his game.

RATING: Par

Tea Olive

Hole: 1 Size: L Evergreen: Y

Osmanthus fragrans. Zone 6. Small, fragrant white flowers. Place in an area where its smell can be appreciated.

RATING: Par

ACCENTS

Pampas Grass

Hole: 7 Size: M Evergreen: N

Cortaderia selloana.  Blah. Unkempt off-season. Not my favorite as it seems messy. Reminiscent of one of Ronald McDonald’s Fry Guys.

RATING: Bogey

Yellow Jasmine

Hole: 8 Size: S Evergreen: Y

Gelsemium sempervirens. Zone 6-9. A vine that blooms in spring with wafts of Giorgio on its mind. The action hero of the garden, it is equal to many tasks. Use on trellises, as a ground cover, in planters and a wise selection to soften your HAM radio tower.

RATING: Eagle

The Masters Tournament is a wonderful resource for gardeners. Bunkers, drivers, wedges and fairway news is mere white noise as the golfers quibble about firmer and faster greens. Contemplate form, texture, and scale as we promenade through the arboretum (sorry, “Course”) with Michelson as our guide. Get your brain thinking. Imagine (and believe me, you have the time) of interesting ways to potentially use any of the 18 species in your landscape.

With my new approach to bipartisan television appreciation, my husband can enjoy the fruits of Sunday’s Green Jacket Ceremony while I admire my tailored green thumb. I might suggest you take measures now to avoid being caught passenger on the carousel of the PGA Tour. Pray to the higher powers (in this case Punxsutawney Pete) to enable our shovels to break ground imminently. It’s crunch time folks. The Player’s Championship is approaching quickly and during its broadcast I hope to be sowing my own magnolia lane.

I’ll see YOU at Augusta.

Ya Dig?

To learn more about our guest blogger, Lesley B. MacAulay, visit her website or read her blog, Sow and Sow!

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