Sacred Heart Garden Festival tours begin Friday

Palm Society

The landscaping at Pam and Ray Doumars’ Henry Street home is as classy and elegant as they and their nearly century-old home are.


But Pam Doumar is a self-proclaimed country girl at heart, and you’ll see why after meeting the rabbit and chickens, marveling over the huge tree house, and viewing the vegetable garden and the sea of fruit trees and berry bushes.

Their gardens are an amazing complement for this year’s Sacred Heart Garden Festival garden tour, today through Sunday. As a volunteer for the festival, I got a preview of the Doumars’ garden and managed to weasel a second invitation to take pictures, clever gnome that I am.

Just seeing the front garden area from the street is impressive, but you won’t believe how big the place is and what fabulous and artistic designs are incorporated in the gardens.

As the third family to live in the house, Doumar thought it was important they pay homage to the two talented Southern gardeners who lived there before their family moved in.

The Doumars and their garden designer Bill Smith made use of many of the ornamental bushes planted by the former owners.

You’ll find some truly unique ornamentals here that haven’t been used for decades.

With more than an acre to garden, numerous paths weave through the property, connecting various garden rooms. In the back you’ll see three massive live oaks and what must be the biggest ash tree in town. One of the oaks has a tree house that even – or especially – the adults can’t stay out of.

Because of the trees’ roots, the Doumars opted not to use much hardscape. You’ll find paths of pea gravel instead near the trees. Between the cottage and the pool is a fabulous cottage garden bursting with flowers. There are about 150 foxgloves alone.

The bed is divided in quarters and planted in a square-foot garden style. It surrounds a circle created from a French mill stone.

Don’t miss the newly redesigned pool area or the path lined with hydrangeas in the back. And be sure to check out the raised vegetable garden and say howdy to the rabbit and chickens.

Doumar wanted the orchard the family had at their home in the country.

The sun is in the front yard and that’s where you’ll find pear, crab apple, peach, plum, fig and two or three different varieties of apple trees.

There are also bushes of blueberry, blackberry and raspberry. There’s French sorrel planted amount the flowers, and you might get a look at the bee boxes if Doumar has set them out. Last year, they got 25 pounds of honey.

See what a country girl can create in the middle of the city. You’re going to love it.

Palm Society

The quarterly meeting of the Southeastern Palm Society will be held at the Aquinas High School in Augusta on Saturday.

While it’s a chance for Augusta to show off its stuff to several hundred potential visitors, it also means a chance for everyone to see the collection of palms and other tropical plants – and just about any plant you can think of – at the high school.

Members of the society will have plants for sale, too.

The society is one of Joe Le Vert’s favorite groups. Sometimes societies can be too technical or geared to the layperson. But the Palm Society has members who are professionals as well as hobbyists.

Le Vert, who teaches religion and horticulture at the high school, has helped create one of the largest collections of palms north of Florida. There’s an amazing variety of palms at the school – some are the size of a small house. You can also see a wonderful variety of cycas and the lovely blooms starting on the plumeria.

There are palms from around the world at the school. The jelly palms are just too cool, and Le Vert said they make excellent jelly – hence the name. There are all sorts of sabal palms, many that are old enough to produce seeds. The sabal palms grow in places with extreme weather conditions, so until their trunks reach their full diameters they won’t grow upward or produce seeds. Roots are essential for survival.

You will see volunteer baby palms all around and plants the students grew from seeds – date palms, for example.

You will also see some amazing self defense. There is one from Australia that has thorns growing until the plant reaches a certain height that keeps tender parts above nibbling level. There are others with a nasty set of thorns in a protective diameter around the seeds.

On Saturday, there will be tours of the 12 acres of school grounds every 15 minutes starting at 10 a.m., or you can wander around on your own. Wear comfortable shoes.

Around 11:30 a.m., those who want to see what palms can do in a home landscape can join Le Vert at his fabulous place.

And you are welcomed to hang around the school as long as you like or join the road trip to Woodlanders in Aiken to take advantage of the final day of their open house.