BY PAM BAGGETT / Cedar Grove, North Carolina, USDA Zone 7a
Galloway Plant Sales
Frank Galloway holds monthly plant sales of tropicals, natives, and other favorites from April through October at his farm near Wilmington. To get on his mailing list for dates and times, call 910-253-5452 or e-mail email@example.com.
A Family Legacy
On a 1,500-acre farm, Frank Galloway raises cattle and runs a small nursery and gardens. Frank’s is not your typical garden, though. It borders a black-gum swamp complete with alligators, for one thing. It also contains plants brought to this country by Frank’s great-grandfather, Franklin Galloway, a blockade runner who used his knowledge of the tides and inlets along the North Carolina coast to successfully dodge Union ships throughout the Civil War.
Loading his boat with cotton, Franklin Galloway would set sail for Bermuda or Nassau, then return with cloth, coffee, tea, sugar, and other goods, which he sold to local merchants. Many men braved the Atlantic during those years for the same purpose. But both Franklin and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth, so loved to garden that he also sought new plants to bring home to her, despite the danger of his journeys.
Galloway’s ship brought two crinums that still prosper in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. One, a hybrid of Crinum scabrum and C. bulbispermum christened ‘Blockade Runner’ by local ladies decades ago, blossoms in spring. The other, aptly named C. xdigweedii ‘Bermuda Run’ (left), bears fragrant pink-and-white-striped blossoms beginning in early September. Both are popular passalong plants, as is the unusual late-blooming four o’clock Galloway brought from Cuba. It produces swirled yellow-and-red flowers and forms huge 10-pound tubers, hardy only to USDA Zone 8. Galloway brought other tubers to Wilmington as well: edible forms of sweet potato from Nassau, including the white-flesh variety ‘Norton’, a low-yielder that Frank’s father still grows for its distinguished flavor.
I can’t help but think that Franklin Galloway would be pleased with his great-grandson. Frank’s garden abounds with tropicals, a nod of thanks to his great-grandfather’s efforts on behalf of horticulture. Frank also pays respect to the land he inherited by searching out spectacular native plants to propagate and grow—plants such as Liatris elegans, the most beautiful gayfeather I’ve ever seen; a rare natural hybrid of Baptisia tinctoria and B. cinerea; and the late-September-flowering Carphephorus paniculata, whose dried leaves are used to add a vanilla flavor to tobacco. Bringing these natives into the garden, Frank tests their horticultural worthiness, preserves them as more and more natural areas succumb to development, and introduces them to local gardeners, who often struggle to find plants suitable to the region’s sandy soil and hot, humid climate.
Walking Frank’s garden this past Labor Day, I was struck by how natural it seemed to see elephant ears and hardy bananas towering over native asters and goldenrods, and coleus aglow next to camellias, another of Frank’s specialties. (He has over 800 plants, some his own hybrids, and is a certified judge with the American Camellia Society.) And backing it all is that great dark swamp, native duckweed skimming the water like a mint green carpet, Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) flowing in silver waterfalls from the gum trees. In the quiet of Frank Galloway’s country garden, I found both the past and the future. I’m pleased to report they’re tended quite well by the gentle, capable hands of a man with gardening in his genes. H
Hardy banana Musa basjoo
This hardy banana grows to 10 to 14 feet tall with glossy green leaves up to six feet long. It’s hardy in USDA Zones 7-11; northern gardeners can dig and store the root ball in autumn. Mature clumps reach several feet across, and in warmer zones where the aboveground stems overwinter, you’ll see flowers followed by small, inedible fruits. Sources, page 76.