Playing in the Dirt!
May 2019 Issue
by Mary Hope Roseneau
Photography by Christian Lee
I caught up with Tru Dee Bamberg on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at her seasonal, once a week job at The Greenery on Hilton Head Island. Here’s what I found: A pretty blonde wearing muddy jeans, a Greenery t-shirt, a green apron, gloves, rubber boots, red sunglasses and a big smile. She apologized for not shaking hands, as she was just getting finished with some potting, and her gloves were filled with dirt. Customers were milling around the lush flowers, shrubs, and plants, asking occasional questions, and Tru Dee never skipped a beat answering both their questions and mine.
She admitted up front to having killed more plants in her lifetime than she cared to admit. The part-time Greenery job, she also owned up to, is to support her plant addiction, but she ends up purchasing way more garden merchandise than her salary can cover. Tru Dee loves her plants, and is enthused about it!
According to Tru Dee, she’s a “third generation” Lowcountry retiree. Her grandparents retired here, and she would visit them as a kid; then her parents retired here, so after leaving corporate jobs in Buffalo, New York, Tru Dee and her husband followed suit. They have two sons in college nearby, and are enjoying the Hilton Head retiree schedule of exercise (water aerobics six days a week!), volunteering (turtle nesting program), arts and crafts classes in clay, and most of all, gardening!
Tru Dee claims she inherited her talent for gardening from her grandmother; her mother being too “fancy” and not liking to get her hands dirty. The avid gardener never took a class in horticulture, but has learned by trial and error. She advised me the tags put on plants about shade/sun and watering need to be adjusted to our Lowcountry climate. “It’s a very different climate here than where they might have been shipped from,” she counseled, and she moves the plants in her garden around until she finds their “sweet spot” or “happy place.” She also pointed out it is extremely important to place plants alongside compatible others. If not, she said, “It’s like a bad marriage. Irreconcilable differences!” Some customers come in and want a customized flower bowl, like they see in a magazine. Tru Dee tries to explain to them that some plants just don’t want to be in a bowl with other plants, but if they insist she warns them that it probably won’t last.
The cheerful plant lover said she was flattered when asked by her friend Nancy Renner to open her home garden in Hilton Head Plantation to the upcoming All Saint’s Church Garden Tour. It meant that she needed to get into high gear and drastically accelerate her spring schedule. When asked what the theme of her garden is, she quipped: “It’s All Carol’s Fault.” Carol is the buyer at The Greenery, and ostensibly the one who gets the blame for Tru Dee’s many plant purchases there.
Tru Dee also describes her garden as the Mad Scientist’s Laboratory, ala Dr. Frankenstein’s creepy place, where things are tried out just to see what happens. Maybe they work, and sometimes they don’t! She was asked by the Garden Tour committee to label the plants in her garden, but Tru Dee came up with another idea. She’s going to give each guest a pencil and paper, see how many they can name, and give a prize to the person who correctly identifies the most! She thinks there are about 160 different plants in her garden, “But truthfully, I have lost count!”
Tru Dee is a high energy gal who plays at home in her garden every day and, once a week, helps her customers catch the spirit. In fact, she pointed out a least 20 plants that thrive on “benign neglect,” which I told her was my specialty. In particular, I fell in love with the bougainvillea and orange bush lily. Visit Tru Dee’s garden on Saturday May 18, and you may very well come away inspired and ready to play in the dirt, too!
What: All Saints Church Garden Tour
When: Saturday, May 18, from 10 am-4pm.
What to Expect: The self-guided tour features seven private gardens and promises to inspire all levels of gardeners.
Tickets: $35 Available online at www.allsaintsgardentour.com. Proceeds from the tour are donated to local charities, including BackPack Buddies of Bluffton, Hilton Head, and Jasper County; The Literacy Center; Hilton Head Island Safe Harbour; and St. Stephens United Methodist Church Outreach Food Bank.
The Details: Lunch is included in the ticket price, and will be served in the All Saints Episcopal Church social hall from 11am-2pm. There will also be artisan craft items, a bake sale, pottery produced by the students at the Programs for Exceptional People, master gardeners available to answer questions, and a display of landscape items by Taylor’s Quality Landscape Supply & Nursery.