USA 2014 - Part 1

The 2014 Meeting of the International Clematis Society in the USA

This is the first of my informal reports about the visit by the Society to the USA in May/June 2014. A comprehensive set of articles by attendees will be published in Clematis International 2015 but here I'll give you my personal perspective of the event, in particular looking beyond the clematis as well as at them.

Other reports currently include Part 2, finishing off our time in Georgia, Part 3, our first two days in Pennsylvania. For the fourth installment, continuing time in Pennsylvania, please click Part 4 and for the fifth, covering the last two days in Pennsylvania, please click Part 5.

Part 1 - A Taste of Viorna

Georgia State flagPrior to the main meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Society member and Vice-President Lyndy Broder had organized a few days in her native state of Georgia. The primary reason was to see some of the native species clematis, especially those growing in the wild. However we also visits to see plants grown from wild collected seed, taken to enable the particular regional species to be maintained, propagated and hopefully re-introduced in the wild where necessary. And finally we were promised a visit to the garden of Lyndy Broder - and some southern hospitality!

The pre-meeting visit was very successful on all of these aspects.

Hilton Marietta Hotel©Ken WoolfendenThe 24 attendees of this pre-meeting visit stayed in the Hilton Marietta Hotel, a hotel and conference centre with own golf course, situated about a 10 - 15 minutes walk from the centre of Marietta.

We thought the hotel was very comfortable. There were spectacular views across the golf course at the back. They also ran a shuttle bus on a first come - first served basis, for example to take you into town of an evening for dinner and collect you and take you back to the hotel.

But the star of the hotel has to be breakfast, a spectacular buffet of cold meats, cheeses, breads, cereals, yoghurts, fruit, hot options including grits, porridge, scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potato, sausages, and finally, as if this was not enough, freshly made omelettes with a filling of your choice from 10 or more options.

The town of Marietta

We had arrived one day early, along with a few other attendees, and so we had the opportunity to see something of the town of Marietta. It dates from around the early 1830s. If visiting, the Tourist Information Centre, located in the old station building, is highly recommended as your starting point. The staff are very helpful, suggesting things to see and do, and the centre provides restroom facilities. The weather was hot and sunny and the sky was clear as a small group walked into town. The centre is Marietta Square, a green oasis with small shops and friendly restaurants around the perimeter. We were very interested in the Brumby Chair Company, still a family owned concern. It has been making beautiful wooden rocking chairs since 1875. We stopped in for a chat and a sit in one of these exceedingly comfortable seats. The top three places to visit in Marietta are the Marietta Museum of History, the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum and the Root House Museum, and you can save a few dollars by buying the combined entry ticket at the Tourist Information Centre. We would strongly recommend Root House and the Gone With the Wind Museum.

Root House, Marietta©Ken Woolfenden
Root House, Marietta

Kitchen at Root House, Marietta©Ken Woolfenden
Kitchen at Root House, Marietta

Marietta town centre©Ken Woolfenden
Marietta town centre, complete with period-costumed walkers

Lunch in Marietta©Ken Woolfenden
Lunch in Marietta

Being early in the season we got a personalized tour of Root House, a circa 1845, middle class family house with small garden. It was relocated to its current position due to development plans. One of the interesting aspects of it is the furniture, which was all of the period, if not original. The knowledgeable guide was careful to point out the important features of the house, and how they affected the family way of life.

The Gone With the Wind museum was possibly the biggest surprise for me. We have never seen the film, I have never read the book and it was many years since Fiona had read it, so neither of us was quite certain what to expect. It turned out to be a revelation. It was very well curated, telling the story of the author, how the film came to be made, and the stars and their life stories. It also covered how the film was received across the USA, with interesting comment on how the film brochure had to be changed for the premiere in Atlanta to remove the picture of Hattie McDaniel, the African American actress who played the black maid, Mammy, as at that time black and white portraits were not allowed to be shown side by side. There was also an interesting quote by Hattie McDaniel re how black actors were typically cast as maids and servants. She reportedly said: "Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid? If I didn't, I'd be making $7 a week being one."

Our Taste of Viorna Welcome Bags©Ken WoolfendenWe returned to the hotel mid-afternoon, to be greeted by Lyndy with our beautifully produced information packs, complete with C. viorna on them, designed and produced largely by her daughter, Mia. The whole pack had a common theme and format, even down to the bags containing the programme and brochures. Another lovely touch was a set of "crib cards" as I would call them, a set of hand sized cards, one for each of the species clematis we were hoping to see. They were a lovely touch and also very useful. Lyndy and Mia had put a lot of thought and effort into both contents and bags. We even had "A Taste of Viorna" fans to cool ourselves, should the heat make any of us feel faint!

By early evening the group was nearly complete and whilst some opted for an early night - generally those who had travelled furthest - a group of eight or so took advantage of the hotel shuttle bus and went into town for dinner, sitting outside in the pleasantly warm evening air.

Thursday - The Atlanta Area

Chattahoochee Nature Preserve

Thursday morning and, after an excellent breakfast, we boarded the bus for our first stop, Chattahoochee Nature Preserve. We were greeted by Henning von Schmeling who gave us a brief introduction to the aims and objectives, which are to maintain and conserve the natural habits in Georgia. This they do in a variety of ways, including collecting species from specific areas and maintaining a population within the Preserve so that the species can be re-introduced to where it came from should it become too endangered or worse, extinct.

One important aspect of this work is that collected species MUST be kept separate from other, similar species collected from different locations, to avoid cross pollination, corruption or contamination.

The species clematis include C. fremontii, nice seedheads but no flowers, a new viorna-like species, C. socialis, C. viorna (probably), more C. fremontii and C. ochroleuca. As well a number of species clematis, their collection of pitcher plants was very impressive, and there was a good example of the comparatively rare purple milkweed.

Our visit ended with a guided walk around some other areas of the Preserve.

Finally, a note about the name of this preserve. The derivation of "Chattahoochee" is, I believe, a first nations word but it has a more modern meaning - it is the name of a dance. We had an exponent of this dance with us, but I am duty bound not to reveal the name!

Linda Beutler, President, greeting Henning von Schmeling©Ken Woolfenden
Linda Beutler, President, greeting Henning von Schmeling

C. fremontii with seedheads©Ken Woolfenden
C. fremontii with seedheads

C. socialis©Ken Woolfenden
C. socialis

New species clematis©Ken Woolfenden
A "new" species clematis from the Rome area,
possibly to be named C. austroviorna

The rare Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)©Ken Woolfenden
The rare Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), a local native

Sarracenia, the pitcher plant©Ken Woolfenden
An impressive display of Sarracenia, the pitcher plant,
some of which were in flower

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Next stop was Atlanta Botanical Garden. We kicked off with lunch boxes prepared by the on-site catering, and very tasty they were. Then we made our way over to the Orchid House to meet up with Ron Determan for a short briefing on their work on, followed by a walk around the facilities with them. One of their specialist areas is the conservation of Sarracenia, pitcher plants.

As soon as we entered the gardens we were immediately confronted with, for want of a better description, a horticultural statue, the first being a friendly looking, if rather large, dog. Other we found included a fantastic snake, the frog, and a gorilla. I've never seen such statues before and they were very impressive, beats topiary any day!

Atlanta Botanical Garden, dog statue©Ken Woolfenden
Dog statue in the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Atlanta Botanical Garden, snake statue©Ken Woolfenden
Snake statue in the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Ron Determan explains their work with Sarracenia©Ken Woolfenden
Ron Determan explains their work with Sarracenia (pitcher plants)

Display of Sarracenia pitcher plants©Ken Woolfenden
Display of Sarracenia (pitcher plants)

Frog statue©Ken Woolfenden
Frog statue

C. morfeldii©Ken Woolfenden
C. morfeldii

Orchid display©Ken Woolfenden
Very colourful orchid display

Japanese garden©Ken Woolfenden
The Japanese garden

Content gorilla©Ken Woolfenden
Content gorilla

Eagles Landing Golf and Country Club

From here we made our way to the Eagles Landing Country Club, an elite golf club. A native population of C. crispa had been found here beside one of the greens and we'd been given permission to visit the area, requiring the club to close nine greens just for us. However luck was not with us today. We found seedheads and also a bud, but no open flowers. Full marks to the Eagles Landing management, though, for protecting the area where this species has been found - and allowing us such exclusive access. Hopefully, this population will be protected and cherished in the future.

Eagles Landing Country Club©Ken Woolfenden
Eagles Landing Country Club

Traversing the green©Ken Woolfenden
They shut nine of the greens to allow us access

C. crispa seedhead©Ken Woolfenden
C. crispa seedhead

Looking for C. crispa©Ken Woolfenden
Looking for C. crispa

Another C. crispa seedhead©Ken Woolfenden
Another C. crispa seedhead

We've found another seedhead©Ken Woolfenden
We've found another seedhead

Garden of Lyndy Broder

Final stop for the day was the garden of Lyndy Broder, organizer of this pre-meeting tour, where we had been promised a dinner of "real Southern cooking", starting with mint juleps. An alternate cocktail, a Moscow mule, was also on offer as well as beers and wines.

It was a fantastic visit. Lyndy's garden is beautiful, with many clematis but lots of other plants as well. She had enlisted most of her family, and their children, and some friends, to help prepare and serve us and they did an excellent job. There was, of course, fried chicken, but with a lovely light and tasty coating. But one dish I remember in particular, if only because I'd never come across it before, was grits with prawns. And I must specifically mention James, one of the grandchildren, who was expertly serving behind the bar for much of the time. I could see a promising career ahead of him should he wish!

The evening was perfect, the intensity of the daytime sun had relaxed a little and, after a cocktail or two, so did we. Lyndy and her extended family and helpers could not have been more hospitable and friendly to us all, so a big "Thank You" for a wonderful afternoon and evening.

Welcomed by Mia©Ken Woolfenden
Welcomed by Mia

Starting with a mint julip©Ken Woolfenden
Starting the visit with a mint julep

A small corner of Lyndy's garden©Ken Woolfenden
A small corner of Lyndy's garden

Artistically growing clematis©Ken Woolfenden
Artistically growing clematis

C. 'Benedict'©Ken Woolfenden
C. 'Benedict'

C. 'Arabella', C. 'Prince Charles' and C. 'Victoria'©Ken Woolfenden
C. 'Arabella', C. 'Prince Charles' and C. 'Victoria'

Floating flowers©Ken Woolfenden
Floating flowers

C. 'Solina' making an impressive display©Ken Woolfenden
C. 'Solina' making an impressive display

C. 'Myofuko'©Ken Woolfenden
C. 'Myofuko', a "viorna" type from Mr Chikuma

C. 'Wakamurusaki'©Ken Woolfenden
C. 'Wakamurusaki', another "viorna" type from Mr Chikuma

C. 'Fudo'©Ken Woolfenden
C. 'Fudo', one more "viorna" type from Mr Chikuma

Strolling around Lyndy's garden©Ken Woolfenden
Strolling around Lyndy's garden

C. glaucophylla and Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly©Ken Woolfenden
C. glaucophylla and Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

C. crispa©Ken Woolfenden
C. crispa

C. baldwinii©Ken Woolfenden
C. baldwinii

C. 'Strawberry Kiss'©Ken Woolfenden
C. 'Strawberry Kiss'

A Southern style supper©Ken Woolfenden
Enjoying a Southern style supper

A Southern style supper©Ken Woolfenden
Enjoying a Southern style supper

Tribute to Bernard Allen©Ken Woolfenden
A touching tribute to Bernard Allen

The end to a perfect day©Ken Woolfenden
The end to a perfect day

Friday - Rome

Berry College

Friday and we set off in the direction of Rome and to meet up with Richard and Teresa Ware. Richard and Teresa are the editors of the journal of the Georgia Botanical Society. I featured an article from this journal, Tipularia, in Clematis International 2013, see page 48. You will note that the majority of the photos in this are credited to "R & T Ware".

We headed first for Berry College where, having met up with Richard and Teresa, we transferred to a vintage US School Bus to drive through the college grounds and woods to the site of C. fremontii that Richard and Teresa had discovered and correctly identified as such, having first been thought of a C. ochroleuca. At least partially because of our visit, the college had taken steps to protect the plants from deer and from herbicide spray by clearing undergrowth and wire mesh.

Berry College was founded in 1902 by Margaret Berry, initially as a boy's school but in it admitted girls as well. Some of the initial buildings were built by the apprentice boys themselves.

The ride in the school bus was quite a revelation for those non-US attendees who would never have experienced such transport.

We found the site relatively easily due to the impressive ability of Richard and Teresa to recognize the specific point along the track through woods, which seemed too many of us to have no unique features at all.

Berry College©Ken Woolfenden
Berry College

Our school bus©Ken Woolfenden
Our school bus

Taking our seats on the bus©Ken Woolfenden
Taking our seats on the bus

We reach our destination©Ken Woolfenden
We reach our destination

However when we walked through the undergrowth to the plants themselves, carefully protected by chicken wire cylinders, we found the weather had played tricks on us and the only trace of flowers were some quite small seed heads. However there was some good and distinctive foliage, and anyway, it was also good to see this site being cared for. Richard said he believed it could have been since the 1930s. Let's hope his work means it continues for many more years.

Briefing from Richard©Ken Woolfenden
Richard briefing us on what he hopes to show us

Looking for C. freemontii©Ken Woolfenden
We go looking for C. fremontii

C. freemontii seed heads©Ken Woolfenden
C. fremontii protected from deer, but a bit late for flowers, only seedheads

C. freemontii©Ken Woolfenden
C. fremontii making a break for freedom and showing signs of being nibbled!

An appreciative and attentive group©Ken Woolfenden
An appreciative and attentive group

Technology Park / Little Dry Creek Reserve

Having driven back to the college and transferred to our own bus, we next visited Little Dry Creek Reserve, now a protected site at one side of a Technology Park. Here Richard had discovered a large population of C. socialis. Until this site was identified, C. socialis was thought to only grow in Alabama. However once again the weather had defeated us in that all that was visible were some leaves and seedheads. But at least we had the satisfaction that, were we to visit next year, this colony should still exists, and for many years after that.

Looking for more clematis©Ken Woolfenden
Looking for more clematis

... and what we found, C. socialis seedheads©Ken Woolfenden
... and what we found, C. socialis seedheads

Garden of Richard and Teresa Ware

Next stop was the garden of Richard and Teresa, a small suburban plot filled with lots of native wild plants including some clematis. Richard took the group for a wander around, pointing out the many rare and endangered species he was protecting and conserving though I spent most of my time trying to get some good shots of some of his clematis, which this time was in flower. Richard called it C. austroviorna, though I believe there is still work progressing to determine whether this really is a new species or not. Whatever it was a lovely and quite free-flowering plant, growing up through shrubs. And very popular with the photographically minded of our group, but them these were the first clematis flowers that we'd seen today. It had lovely pointed buds which then opened with curled sepals.

The garden of Richard and Teresa Ware©Ken Woolfenden
The garden of Richard and Teresa Ware

The garden of Richard and Teresa Ware©Ken Woolfenden
The garden of Richard and Teresa Ware

C. austroviorna?©Ken Woolfenden C. austroviorna?©Ken Woolfenden

C. austroviorna?

Carter's Lake

Picking up our lunch boxes en route, we then headed for Carter's Lake, the deepest water reservoir in Georgia. The target to see here was a possibly new species of a viorna-type clematis. As we walked through the woodland, Richard was keen to point out various wild native plants, for example this wild petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis. His knowledge is very extensive, as is his ability to seek out colonies and populations of these plants.

Finally we had good fortune as we found a large population of what was initially thought to be C. viorna but is now being considered as possibly a new clematis species. There was a loud cry as the first flower was spotted, but once you knew what to look for and where to look - typically scrambling through low undergrowth, it could be found all over the place.

Trekking through the forest - again!©Ken Woolfenden
Trekking through the forest - again!

Ruellia caroliniensis©Ken Woolfenden
Ruellia caroliniensis

When you knew where to look, it was everywhere©Ken Woolfenden
When you knew where to look, it was everywhere

C. austroviorna?©Ken Woolfenden
Certainly an attraction to the photographers

C. viorna or a new species?©Ken Woolfenden
C. viorna or a new species?

A short drive away and we were shown another colony of this possibly new clematis. Richard and Teresa had discovered this as they do, by walking through the countryside and knowing what to look for and where to look. In the USA, any plants are the property of the landowner, to do with what they will, whether the plant is endangered or not. But Richard had managed to persuade the owners of this land not to dump rubbish here but to protect and nurture these plants. We hope his continues.
Another colony of the possibly new species clematis©Ken Woolfenden Another colony of the possibly new species clematis©Ken Woolfenden

Another colony of the possibly new species clematis

Chickamauga National Battlefield

Our last stop of the day was at the Chickamauga National Battlefield, but before venturing into the wild, we took advantage of the restroom facilities at the very smart Visitor Centre. They had a number of information boards outside explaining the background to this battle, and the action that ensued over the two days of 19th and 20th September 1863. A short drive away and we came across our goal, C. glaucophylla.

Chickamauga National Battlefield Welcome Centre©Ken Woolfenden
Chickamauga National Battlefield Welcome Centre

Searching in the undergrowth again©Ken Woolfenden
Searching in the undergrowth again

C. glaucophylla©Ken Woolfenden C. glaucophylla©Ken Woolfenden

And we have success, the beautiful C. glaucophylla


For the second installment, concluding our pre-meeting visit to Georgia, please click Part 2. For the third installment, covering our first two days in Pennsylvania, please click Part 3. For the fourth installment, continuing time in Pennsylvania, please click Part 4 and for the fifth, covering the last two days in Pennsylvania, please click Part 5.

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