Posted by: mew | October 10, 2009

day tripper

My sister arrived for a visit at the beginning of Week Six of The Artist’s Way — and coincidentally right at the beginning of the intense deadline madness.  All summer we’d discussed visiting Park Seed Company and Wayside Gardens, as their trial gardens and headquarters are about a two-hour drive from where I now live in South Carolina.

These companies have had a profound impact on me ever since I caught the gardening bug in college.  I used to peruse their mail-order catalogs until I had practically memorized them, and I learned so much about growing things in my region from them, as they are also located in USDA Zone 7.

In short, I really, really wanted to go see their home territory.  Their famous trial gardens.  Over two acres of them, just to test the newest varieties and seeds in these hot and humid conditions.  The very idea had a pilgrimage feel to it.  And yet… I had all this work waiting for me.  I knew what I “should” do, because my Ego was repeating it sans cesse in my ear:  cancel and stay chained to the desk.

But my heart whispered, “Just go.  The work will be here when you get back.”

I’m so glad I ignored my guilt-tripping internal voices and went day-tripping instead.  I ended up spending time with my sister (one of my all-time favorite people, and a creative fuse lighter for me) and experiencing a portion of the journey as my artist date for the week, as we took off in opposite directions to explore on our own for a while.  (We’ve perfected this art since my teen years, during visits to bookstores when we had wildly divergent interests, finding each other only when there was a find we just had to share — or merely comparing notes and discoveries at the end.)

These gorgeous trial gardens also seemed a particularly apt choice of Artist Date for Week Six:  Recovering a Sense of Abundance.  Nature is abundant even when it’s the end of the season and things are shutting down…as we discovered when we got to the visitors’ welcome center, which had a little sign posted in the window:  Closed for the season.  No signs advised us not to explore the Beauty that was right out there in the open, though.  There was so much to see still, even at the end of September.

And it certainly looked like I made the right choice when we arrived there — if the glorious weather was any indication.  The sky was breathtaking, and the weather was mild and perfect.  Well, mild for South Carolina, at least, which means I only had to escape twice to a bench in the shade.















1. Entrance 2. Nasturtium ‘Salmon Baby’ 3. Late-blooming, ethereal clematis 4. Bi-colored basil* 5. Clematis close-up 6. Mandy getting a closer look at the begonias 7. Begonia blossom 8. The part of the gardens that made me feel better about how bedraggled parts of the Victory Garden are looking lately 9. Chinese flame tree 10. Seed pod of same (doesn’t it look like a sleepy dragon’s eye?) 11. An abundance of gomphrena that made me reconsider my attitude to this plant 12. Close-up of the ornamental grass Mandy wants to plant in her front yard 13. She even brought her planting diagrams with her — amazing, no? 14. Flowers within a flower

* If any of you just happens to know the name of this basil, well, shoot me an e-mail or put it in the comments, okay?  My sister brought an entire gardening notebook, organized and with a layout of her home and planting areas carefully drawn, questions to ask any gardeners we stumbled across, etc.  I brought a tiny notebook in my purse, which I immediately forgot to bring out of the purse in the oohing and aahing and general gushing over the sights.  But I would like to try this bi-colored basil with purply blossom stems next season…



  1. if your readers are looking for more information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is a detailed, interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at

  2. Meredith, thanks for sharing your lovely photos! My favorite is the Begonia closeup. 🙂 The Basil variety you asked about is Queen of Sheba. I’m glad you had such a great time here at Park. I’m no green thumb but it certainly is an inspirational place to work. Thanks again and happy gardening!

    Tara @ Park Seed

    • Oh, I’m so glad someone from Park Seed has visited 🙂 That’s a nice little bonus. And I can imagine it is a real pleasure to work there, Tara.

      Thank you so much for the name of that basil. Queen of Sheba. I’ll definitely be growing some next season!

      • No problem! We passed the link around here — we LOVE to see folks enjoying our trial gardens as much as we do.

        Funny thing, about that Basil — I stood up to head to lunch a few hours ago, and it’s planted right outside my office window! Maybe I should send you Basil updates, ha ha. Right now it’s standing up to all this heavy rain very well. 😉 I’m sure it will make a lovely addition to your garden next year.

      • I’m so glad, Tara. I will definitely be visiting those gardens again next season — and highly recommending them.

        And you can send me basil updates anytime 🙂 I’m glad the rain hasn’t hurt its loveliness. I can hardly wait to try it out next year. Another of our Park Seed “give it a try” varieties will be a keeper for years to come. We were just discussing this morning how we are sick of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season, and how I need to only plant 2, maximum 3 cherry tomato plants in next year’s victory garden (I get carried away sometimes), and F. looked at me with his serious face and said, “At least one of them has to be that Chocolate Cherry.” It was a Park introduction this year that we planted and fell in love with. Everyone visiting or eating with us also gave it high praise.

        If you want to see more stuff from my garden this summer, it’s all here. I started this journal of the progress of my kitchen garden rather late in the season, and I’ll be going back to post spring stuff in the winter, and so forth.

  3. I am extremely happy that you decided to visit us here at Park Seed. If you ever need a trial garden map, I’m the lady to ask for. I believe that there are also some available in the business office, located at the front of the building.

    If you are interested, we have an Annual Flower Day here at Park Seed as well. Learn more at Also, if you have any questions, call me at 800-622-1012, or email me

  4. […] just supplement with a Pink Friday entry, and choose for it one of my favorite photographs from our day trip to Park Seed Company/Wayside […]

  5. […] a Comment » This is the one pink garden portrait that did not come from my day trip to Park Seed/Wayside Gardens.  This shade-loving panicle was discovered growing back in the woods. […]

  6. […] pink in it, being more oriented toward the primary colors.  I saw some gorgeous inspiration on a day trip to these famous South Carolina trial gardens, should I decide to go for more pink in the garden […]

  7. […] sister, whose arm is pictured here during our day trip to Park Seed/Wayside Gardens’ lovely trial gardens (so worth a visit), is always organized, […]

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