SMITTEN WITH SOUTHERN CHARM



What are the components of a great trip? Great people, a beautiful garden, amazing food and an exciting and completely charming city are good places to start. Throw in some power tools and you've got a fantastic experience and one that I was fortunate to have earlier this month when I ventured to Charleston, South Carolina, to be with the Troy-Bilt Saturday6 blogging team.

To say I am smitten with Charleston, which I was visiting for the first time, would be putting it mildly. But before we get to some of what I discovered in the city, in addition to the amazing food, let's get to the cool part: power tools. 

Prepare to be envious. We went to a rice plantation, Middleton Place, and got to spend the better part of a day playing with dozens of Troy-Bilt products. We mowed, rode, tilled, mowed some more, blew, pressure washed and trimmed on a little corner of a national historic landmark property all in the name of familiarizing ourselves with Troy-Bilt's line of products. 

The FLEX system starts with a Power Base (note the foldable handles to make it even smaller to store) that clicks in to various attachments. You literally scoop up the attachment and it clicks in and you're ready to roll.

Rochelle Greayer of Pith and Vigor wields a mean power washer.

There were some standouts, the first of which is the company's new FLEX system. This is one of those ideas that you can't believe no one thought of before and you're sort of bummed it wasn't you who came up with it. FLEX consists of a power base that clicks in to various attachments, saving money as you add equipment to your collection and maybe even more important, space. Right now there are wide-area mower, snow thrower, pressure washer and leaf blower attachment but more attachments are coming down the pike. The Power Base costs $399 and the attachments range in price from $279 for the pressure washer and blower to $499 for the mower. That means it's probably not economical to go with the FLEX if you only need a mower, but the savings are realized as you add attachments. As I think about our small garage storage area full of a mower, snow thrower and pressure washer, I can't tell you how nice the space savings of the FLEX system would be. There is no doubt in my mind that if I were a new homeowner or someone starting out, FLEX would be the way to go. There's even a shelving unit to organize it all that appeals to my desire to be organized.

Kenny Point of Veggie Garden Tips tries out the FLEX mower. The front wheels spin 360 degrees which makes the mower very easy to handle but if you are mowing on an incline or aiming for super straight lines you just lock them into place.

The other product that really impressed me caught me by surprise. I was not expected to be excited by a tiller. In fact, I'm not really a tiller person. I don't believe in frequent tilling of soil, but they have their place when starting a new bed or when working in a lot of amendments. And I find them rather unpleasant to use. I always feel like I'm trying to control a bucking bronco when I'm using a tiller.
Enter the Bronco Axis tiller. Instead of the blades moving like a paddlewheel, they are actually vertical and rotate in a circle. This means that instead of needs shoulder surgery when you're finished tilling, you can actually walk next to the tiller, using just one hand to steer it, so you don't have to walk in the area you've just tilled. It sells for $899 and I'll be the first to admit that's a lot of money for tiller (other, more traditional Troy-Bilt tillers sell for between $400 and $599), but after trying the Bronco Axis, if I were in the market for a tiller I'd absolutely pony up the extra dough.

You can see the difference between a more traditional tiller, upper left, and the Bronco Axis, which has blades set vertically, upper right. Eric Rochow of GardenFork enjoyed the smooth ride.


But let's be honest, we were all chomping at the bit to to get on the riding mowers. There were three models for us to try: the Neighborhood Rider (a small rider targeted to people who have small yards but want a rider that stores in the same space as a walk behind), the Super Bronco XP and the new Mustang Pivot zero-turn mower. We buzzed all over the place and it was fun to see the differences between the different models. Of course we probably all had the most fun on the zero-turn mower, which has a wheel instead of the bars you see landscapers use. This makes it much easier to operate (apparently the bars take a little practice), but what I really liked the most was being able to see right in front of the mower since the engine was in the back (and the cup holders).

Teresa O'Connor of Seasonal Wisdom puts the Neighborhood Rider through its paces.

With the lawn sufficiently mowed (I sort of wonder if a grounds crew was lurking nearby shuddering), we took a tour of the fabulous Middleton Place. I ask for your forgiveness in advance because you are about to see a lot of picture of camellias. It was the first time I'd ever seen one in person and camellias, which are sort of otherworldly in that they look so perfect they almost look fake, were a sight for sore eyes for a flower-starved northern gardener.


Isn't this just so southern? The Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides, an epiphyte that causes no damage to trees) is so romantic.

This live oak may be more than 500 years old. A few years ago it lost a couple of large branches and arborists from around the country consulted on its care. If you look to the right you can see the low brach is being supported by a crutch and wires help support other parts of the tree.

As you leave the formal French gardens, you come across this perfect framing of a view. When you walk around, you see this charming wood nymph statue. I love how someone has put a camellia blossom in her hand.

I was fascinated by this lovely bark on the crepe myrtles.

Although the original house is gone, it was set here, with a perfect view of the Ashley River.


As we were walking, we happened upon this scene; a hat casually set on an original brick wall. I have no idea who it belonged to, but it feels like a gardener has just set it down before taking a break.

The old stableyards ooze plantation charm.

This guy saw us coming and immediately put on a show. (OK, it was probably for the girls just out of the shot, who were far more interested in eating than admiring him.)

I also had several hours one morning to explore the city. I probably put on six or seven miles, with no real idea of where I was going, just running in to one charming vista after another.


Kim from Sand & Sisal took the same picture but I have no idea when. I think it's funny that we both happened upon the same place. I've never been a big fan of ivy but window boxes like these could change my mind. 

There are some gorgeous private gardens, on view just through the fence.
Check out those fantastic pillars.
Fantastic details abound in Charleston. Not only would I love to live on a street called Ropemakers Lane, but I'd really like this marble street sign to mark my street. This marble-cased window might be the coolest window ever.
I told you I was smitten. Between the gorgeous gardens, charming historic detail and the amazing food (I can't even describe how good it was but I'm pretty sure I had the finest bread pudding ever), I can't wait to go back to Charleston.

My trip was provided by Troy-Bilt, but you know how I roll and they didn't tell us what to think or what to write (I'm just guessing they wouldn't have required as many photos of camellias if they had). For more on my partnership with Troy-Bilt, read this post.

Check out my fellow Saturday6 bloggers for their take on the Charleston trip. Just promise to pretend not to see the unflattering photos of me. Oh my gosh, what was I thinking when I got dressed that morning? I need a stylist or at least someone to give me some fashion advice. I'm not kidding.

Rochelle at Pith and Vigor
Teresa at Seasonal Wisdom
Eric at GardenFork
Kenny at Veggie Gardening Tips
Kim at Sand & Sisal




10 comments :

  1. Haha! We did shoot the same pic! I took it on a stroll before dinner. Aren't those flower boxes breathtaking? It was so nice meeting the fellow Saturday 6 and I can't wait to return especially after viewing all your beautiful photos!

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  2. I will take the tiller that you won't use! We always need to till the area for our veggie garden before we get started each spring. Right now we use a tiller that attaches to an old garden tractor. The one pictured looks much more user friendly!!

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  3. I love Charleston sooooooooo much. I've almost moved there like five times! Trip looks fabulous!

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  4. Amazing!!! You must have had so much fun riding around on the mowers!! I can just see all of you racing across the lawn.
    I once spent a lovely day in Charleston....its gorgeous!!!

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  5. I have to say that usually mowers, tillers, power washers and the like don't really interest me. I just want something that gets the job done. Your take on them made me stop and consider things a little more. Lots of things I'd never thought about and the FLEX system sounds like a great concept.
    Charleston looks like a place I need to go visit!

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  6. You make me really want to visit Charleston and I've always wanted to see Middleton Place. A friend's in-laws live where there are lots of wild peacocks and she says the noise is incredible and not in a good way. I am impressed that you use the amount of power tools you often mention. I leave it all to Mark. Kind of a wimp but also then I don't have master any more skills.

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  7. Checked out Kim's Charleston photos and have to say I was a little disconcerted to see Confederate flags flying on such gorgeous houses.

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  8. So glad ya'll liked our Southern charm! Yes indeed, Charleston is a winner. And, of course, camellias are wonderful in all colors and sizes. I feel the need for a Charleston fix, so may head down there next month.

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  9. Beautiful Statue...and I love a good bread pudding!

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  10. Wonderful, and loved the pics. Southern Charm for sure.

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