Monthly Archives: June 2021

Frozen Tropical Fruit Salad

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff peaks form
  • 3/4 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 2 bananas, chopped or sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, mayo, coconut extract and powdered sugar until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Add coconut, pistachios, pineapple, bananas and strawberries. Stir gently and pour into baking dish. Cover and freeze 24 hours. Thaw 10-15 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. Makes 10 servings.

Star-Spangled Fun

Star-Spangled Fun

Independence Day Fireworks & Festivities

July 1
Fort Gordon’s Independence Day Celebration
Barton FieldFort Gordon’s annual celebration that includes a kiddie carnival, food and craft vendors, fireworks show and live music. Bring blankets and chairs, but no pets, tents or coolers. 5-11 p.m. Admission is free. Food and beverage tickets also are available for presale at the MWR Directorate Office (Building 28320, Lane Avenue). Guests 16 and older must present a photo ID at Fort Gordon’s entrance gate. Masks must be worn for all unvaccinated attendees. (706) 791-8878,

July 2
Freedom Blast
Thomson-McDuffie Government Center Grounds
The Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce and the City of Thomson bring Independence Day fun with a picnic on the lawn, food from local restaurants, music and fireworks. 7-9:45 p.m. Fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. Bring lawn seating. Coolers are allowed, but no alcohol. Admission is free. (706) 597-1000,

Clarks Hill Lake 4th of July Fireworks
Raysville Marina
Friends of Clarks Hill Lake present a fireworks show for boaters and onlookers from shore. Best viewing areas on land are from Amity Recreation Area and Raysville Marina. Free. 9 p.m. Bring seating and picnics.

July 3
Grovetown Fourth of July Barbecue
Liberty Park Community Center
The City of Grovetown’s community-wide picnic will be a drive-through this year with free barbecue plates. Plates include barbecue, two sides and a roll. 11 a.m. (706) 860-7691,

July 4
Boom in the Park
Evans Towne Center Park
Bring chairs and blankets to Columbia County’s annual Independence Day celebration. Event includes live music by Whiskey Run, food trucks and fireworks. 5-10 p.m. Fireworks begin at dusk. Admission is free. No glass or alcohol is allowed. (706) 868-3484. 

Independence Day Celebration
Augusta Commons
Downtown Augusta’s Independence Day Celebration features live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, patriotic merchandise. 5-9:30 p.m. Fireworks begin at dusk. Bring blankets and chairs but no coolers or pets. Free admission. (706) 821-1754,

July 10
Independence Day Celebration Fireworks and Boat Parade
Plum Branch Yacht Club
Celebrate Independence Day with a patriotic boat parade, food, games, entertainment and fireworks over the lake. The boat parade kicks things off at noon and festivities continue until 10 p.m. Barbecue plates will be sold for $14 each at the Pavilion at Plum Branch Yacht Club from noon to 4 p.m., and the Lakeside Grill will be open until 10 p.m. Fireworks begin at dark. For more details, contact the McCormick County Chamber of Commerce at (864) 852-2835, the Plum Branch Yacht Club at (864) 443-3000 or the Lakeside Grill at (864) 443-3004.,

Tropical Allure

Garden Scene

Dreaming of turning your yard into a personal paradise? Several palms native to Georgia thrive here with minimal care.

There are few sounds in nature as beguiling as the rustle of palm fronds in an ocean breeze, and no other tree sets us dreaming of faraway places quite like the palm.

No tree looks more exotic. Cypress trees may look as timeless and banyan trees may look as tropical, but palm trees look timeless, tropical, and exotically mysterious.

It’s impossible to imagine the Caribbean, the South Pacific or any respectable oasis without palm trees in the picture. If they could talk, palms could probably tell us plenty about dinosaurs and what the Garden of Eden was really like. Palms have seen it all.

Today, homeowners, businesses and golf courses alike feature this tropical icon in their landscapes. Look closer though, and you will usually discover that many of these local palms are not tropical at all but are actually native to Georgia.

Four authentic palms native to the Peach State are the Needle Palm, the Dwarf Palmetto, the Saw Palmetto and the Sabal Palmetto. All are cold hardy, and the Needle Palm is considered the hardiest palm tree in the world.

The advantage all native palms have in common is that they are cold hardy and can handle temperatures below freezing and still recover quickly. The best time to transplant most palms is in spring or summer, when soil temperatures are warmer. Keep in mind that most palms do better in sandy soil — clay holds water and does not warm as quickly.

Sabal Palmetto
The most popular native palm here is the Sabal Palmetto, also called a Cabbage Palm, and you may recognize it as the official state tree of South Carolina and Florida. This hardy palm tree stays green year-round and matures to a height of about forty feet. It is topped with fan-shaped palm fronds that can grow up to five feet long. While they do not have traditional growth rings, it is believed they can live 200 to 300 years.

Sabal Palmetto is easy to transplant, easy to grow and easy to maintain. It grows best in well-drained soils that can be sandy, loamy or clay, but needs lots of sun — it cannot grow in the shade. For tree health (and to keep pests from nesting in the tree), trim the dead palm fronds annually.

Dwarf Palmetto
The fan-shaped Dwarf Palmetto, a shrub-size palm, can live to be more than 400 years old. This smaller relative of the Sabal Palmetto provides a nice anchor in the garden, especially small spaces.

Able to grow in nearly any type of soil, from sand to clay, Dwarf Palmetto tolerates a variety of conditions and is fairly easy to maintain. It has an underground trunk and likes its head in the sun and its feet near the water. Water regularly for its first two years in the ground to allow it to get established. You can expect it to reach a height between two and seven feet with a spread between three and five feet. Prune browning palm fronds to keep the palm healthy.

Needle Palm
The slow-growing Needle Palm is an attractive, low-maintenance, pest-free palm that is easy to grow in just about any landscape. Though it rarely stands higher than eight feet (usually around four to six feet), it is a nearly trunkless palm, almost always appearing as a shrub. It gets its name from the sharp needles on its crown that protect the interior of the plant.

The Needle Palm will grow in both sunny and shady locations but thrives best if given some shade in the afternoon. It loves regular waterings at first but is very drought tolerant once established. Needle Palm stays green year-round and can take temperatures as low as minus ten degrees.

Saw Palmetto
The shrubby Saw Palmetto provides a lush, tropical touch to landscapes and works well as a privacy hedge, foundation planting or backdrop for mixed borders. It usually grows five to ten feet tall and spreads four to ten feet wide. Though typically green, a silver form of this palm is highly prized. Slow-growing and low-maintenance (occasional pruning of dead fronds is all this plant needs), Saw Palmetto is a sun-loving palm but will grow in almost any light. Water regularly after planting until established. Then it will be drought tolerant.

Saw Palmetto is difficult to move once established, however, so be sure to pick the right spot for planting — away from walkways, driveways, play areas, or anywhere the saw-like teeth along the stems might cause harm.

A Popular Non-Native
One major contender on the local palm scene — the Sago Palm — is not native and actually not even a palm. It’s a Cycad, a species that has been around for millions of years and has more in common with ferns than with palms. It’s easy to understand its popularity, though. With a big branching trunk and dark olive leaves that are three to four feet long, it’s very easy to grow.

In fact, with a look that is straight from an oasis, the Sago Palm is so luxuriant and palm-like that it’s become one of the area’s leading landscaping plants. Native to southern Japan, it is cold hardy, usually free from pests and prefers a sunny location with sandy soil and good drainage.

Made in the Shade

Garden Scene

Photography by Hodges Usry

A Martinez couple built a “pandemic potting shed” themselves to fulfill a vision and to pass the time during quarantine.

In the 13 years that Martinez residents Phyllis and Rob Collier have lived in their Watervale home, they have made several additions to the property. They built a master bedroom downstairs and a detached garage that serves as a workshop for Rob and a gym for Phyllis. They also planted a garden on the side yard.

Despite all of these home improvements, there was still one project that Phyllis, who calls herself and her husband “yard nuts,” always wanted to pursue.

“I’ve always wanted a shed to have a place to keep my gardening supplies and to do my potting,” she says.

The Colliers love to antique, so anytime Phyllis found a treasure at a quaint little shop, she would buy it and save it for future use in the shed. For instance, when she found two long antique shutters, each with a diamond-shaped cutout, she knew they would be part of the shed.

“I had them stored away. Rob knows not to question if I have a vision for something,” she says. “I knew the shed was something I wanted to do eventually.”

Putting in the Work
The time to build the shed finally arrived last March when everyone was quarantined because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Phyllis and Rob, an internal medicine physician at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and a former builder, got to work, and their “Pandemic Potting Shed” started to bloom.

“He drew it and came up with the concept,” says Phyllis. “I told him what I wanted.”

Finishing the project in September, it took them about six months to complete the 8-foot square shed.

“When the weather was nice, we worked on it every day,” Phyllis says.

Rob framed the building, and after his back went out, Phyllis dug the footings.

They used old brick that Phyllis found on Facebook Marketplace for the floor, which they laid themselves. They had the 1-foot-by-6-foot treated pine siding custom-made, and sometimes patience was required to complete their labor of love. They had to wait for the floor to dry after they laid the brick, and it took four months for the specially ordered siding to arrive.

Phyllis found the porch light for the shed at an antique store in Warner Robbins. “It looked like there was no way to reuse it,” she says.

The shed also includes a metal roof and awning windows. Phyllis found the windows and door, which was missing a glass pane, at a local antique shop. She also painted the antique shutters moss green, and they flank either side of the door.

“I wanted everything for the shed to be old,” Phyllis says.

She got strands of grapevine from a friend in Millen who makes grapevine wreaths, and she wrapped the vine around the eaves of the front porch. “I can put lilac in it, or confederate jasmine can grow up into it,” says Phyllis.

The shed is enclosed under a treehouse that the Colliers built for their eight grandchildren several years ago, and the ladder to the treehouse is inside the shed.

“I learned a lot. I had never laid a brick before,” says Phyllis. “We’re avid cross fitters, but I got a good workout when we built the shed.”

‘Winging It’
In the shed, Phyllis keeps lots of clay pots, an old antique bench and indoor plants. Rustic heart pine shelving provides additional storage space, and the shed also has power and running water.

“Sometimes I just go in the shed and hang out,” Phyllis says.

The Colliers have three raised beds in the yard, and they plant annuals and perennials. Phyllis especially loves daffodils and tulips, and she does most of her gardening in the spring and the fall. They grow some vegetables including tomatoes, cucumber and squash as well.

“I’m not a master gardener,” says Phyllis. “I’m just winging it.”

One of these days, the Colliers hope to get to their next project – adding an outdoor living space off of the sunroom. In the meantime, they can enjoy their new potting shed and appreciate the therapeutic qualities the building process had for them.

“I had energy that I couldn’t channel because we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything,” Phyllis says. “It was fun to see the progress and think, ‘Wow! I did that myself.’”

By Sarah James