Walking through Karen Oliver’s gardens is like taking a walk back in time. The master gardener and North Augusta resident has plants that have been handed down through the years and many of them evoke memories of days gone by.
“My mother was born in northern Louisiana in 1912,” says Oliver by way of introducing her favorite plant, the turks cap flower. “When she was a bride, an old woman gave her this plant, but she didn’t know the name of it.”
It wasn’t until many years later, when Oliver herself was married, that she began to seek out the origin and name of the plant.
“We always called it lady’s eardrops because of the way it looks,” she said. “Nobody really knew the name of it.”
After taking it to a local nursery and digging a little further, Oliver discovered the plant was called a turks cap. She considers it among the favorites that grace her garden.
“It’s a subtropical and is a little temperamental about being transplanted,” she said. “It provides a real lush, tropical look and is shade tolerant.”
The turks cap flower blooms from June to frost and is a plant native from Texas through Florida. Though not carried in many local nurseries, gardeners who have the plant are usually willing to share.
A member of the hibiscus family, turks cap is a favorite of hummingbirds.
“When we had cats, they would hide under the leaves and snatch the birds off of the plants,” said Oliver.
Oliver, a master gardener from the Richmond County class of 1993, lives on seven acres in North Augusta where she raises 19 hens and enjoys working in her gardens. She currently serves as the West Lowcountry District Director for the Garden Clubs of South Carolina and is a member of both the Greenbrier and Carolina Hills garden clubs.
“My mother was a really avid gardener and I was always outside with her,” said Oliver, whose Great Dane, Percy, is a constant companion when she’s outdoors. “I didn’t know I was learning, but I was.”