Mother Nature can, and often does, challenge us in interesting ways. And the drought of the past several years is a perfect example. Who could have ever predicted the number of wild fires west of the Mississippi, a direct result of the lack of rain. Acre after acre was scorched in a seemingly endless wave of destruction that lasted the entire summer.
But as brutal as Mother Nature has been of late, she can be nice too. And one of the nicer things she has done was to give us Christmas trees that are nearly immune to the effects of drought. Actually, the trees have a defense mechanism tailored for just that situation. They simply stop growing during times when soil moisture is scarce. Then when it becomes available, they return to their normal activity.
So not to worry. When you arrive at Shady Pond this season, expect to see healthy, vibrant Christmas trees just as you have always seen in the past.
And this Christmas again, please accept our best wishes for a joyous and happy Holiday Season. We hope to see all of you again this year.
Shady Pond Tree Farm
Christmas Tree Varieties:
a stately beauty from England. Leighton Green, Castlewellan, Silver Dust
a unique tree from the Orient.
a selection from New Zealand.
the aroma of lemon and mint.
from the western Himalayas with silver needles.
a southern Christmas tradition.
the memories of Christmas past.
November 18 &19, or by Appointment
9:00 to 5:00
9:00 to 5:00
3:00 to 5:00
The event was attended by participants from New York, and Kansas as well as the growers in the Deep South. Although the meeting included sessions covering the technical aspects of Christmas tree production, its primary focus was the coastal restoration projects in Southeast Louisiana.
While visiting Shady Pond the growers were treated to several unique presentations. Chief Travis Johnson displayed one of the Army National Guard helicopters used to place trees in the Louisiana marsh. The rigging used to sling load the Christmas tree bundles was included in the Sikorsky UH-1V Huey display.
Linda Franzo provided the ladies with a demonstration of wildlife edible Christmas decorations and southern potpourri. The potpourri was a blend of Carolina Sapphire and Virginia Pine foliage, and one of Linda's Passionate Platter creations.
Christine Wiltz, author of The Last Madam, added insights gained from writing the biography of Norma Wallace to a walking tour of the grounds (see below for more detail).
And no visit to Shady Pond Tree Farm would be complete without a tour of the fields and the exotic Christmas trees growing there.
But David Rogers and his Border Collies stole the show. Together they provided a fascinating display of David's ability to control the work dogs through voice commands. Without exception, every individual at the meeting was mesmerized by David, his dogs and sheep.
Understand that when the Gernon family relocated, the yard came too. All the plants were balled and burlaped, and transplanted to the new location. Camellias and azaleas were moved just like sofas and tables. I often wondered how the new owners of our old property reacted to a yard that looked like a mine field after the move was complete.
The remainder of these old plants are the result of grafting done by my father. Since it took years for him to get his insatiable appetite for the tea plant under control, camellias are everywhere.
But after all this time the plants have become huge specimens; 20-footers are not uncommon. Some are tall enough to touch the lower limbs of the live oaks that shade the beds and have actually out-lived some of the buildings on the property.
To return some sense of reasonableness to the gardens, a major pruning effort has been undertaken. But since these camellias are irreplaceable, extreme care was necessary. The British have cultured old camellias for a much longer time than we in the US have, so it seemed reasonable to turn to them for proven techniques. They suggest a pruning method called ‘hat-racking'.
Implementing the ‘hat-racking' method of pruning is a chain saw operation. Branches are removed at precise locations well above the original graft to preserve the genetic characteristics of the individual clones. The object is to end with totally stripped collection of stubby branches that a bird could fly through. Unfortunately the Brits failed to specify whether the bird should be a sparrow or an albatross. So, the wing span of a wood duck was chosen to set the dimension for the camellia renovation work here.
Although visitors are often jolted by the sight of freshly pruned beds, the long term results are excellent. The plants quickly recover and provide blooms of unusual size and intensity.
But even with the abundance of Daddy's botanical enthusiasm, he failed to record the names and locations of all the camellia clones. So an identification process is needed to complete the project.
Once pruned, the gardens are mapped. The location coordinates of each plant are tabulated. Then with the expert assistance of Bob Stroud, President of the Ozone Camellia Club, and camellia afficionado of long standing; the clonal identity of each of the shrubs will be determined. The peddle structure, arrangement, and color of the blooms are the defining characteristics.
So when you visit Shady Pond feel free to inspect the camellia gardens. Daddy would be happy to know that all his work still has value.
Christine's book was taken from tape recordings made by Norma prior to her death. They revealed interesting details about Shady Pond's past that were previously known only to Norma and some of her lovers. Of those who visited Norma's country place, clearly the most well known in public circles was Phil Harris. But the best known in mafia circles was ‘Golfbag' Sam Hunt. Sam was reputedly associated with the Capone Family in Chicago. In a lover's jealous rage, he tried to murder Norma here. She foiled the attempt with quick thinking and simple action.
Events at Shady Pond during Norma's ownership remain in the backs of our minds. And they are clearly in conflict with the Farm's present incarnation. Although prostitution is often described as a victimless crime, we certainly do not condone her business activities. Yet her passion for the land moved her to provide much of the foundation on which Shady Pond Tree Farm is built. So as difficult as it may be for some to accept, Norma Wallace does have a special place among