Tighten up the walking shoes. The director of horticulture at Reynolds has offered to take us on a tour of his most unique spots. On a property that extends for miles in every direction, there are tens of thousands of “spots,” so this exploration with Kevin O’Shea could take a while.

“Let’s meet outside The National Cottages,” Kevin says. It sounds like a good starting point.

Turns out, we could have worn a bathrobe and slippers because Kevin won’t be taking us anywhere beyond the space between the cottages and The National Tavern. Tucked into the scenic panorama are secrets that have grown into first-of-their-kind plants, making this a modern-day Garden of Eden.

“I call it my playground,” says Kevin. “If you aren’t looking for the prototypes, you might not notice them.”

He ducks under a tree branch and steps between shrubs to point out two still-green prototypes that he and his horticultural crew of 20 are keeping their eyes on. The plants sound like they have a warm future, too: Coppertone and Cinnamon Girl. Directly in front of Kevin is a bush the color of a cherry Starburst. Called Crimson Fire, it recently passed the testing phase here at Reynolds and is now available at garden centers.

At least a dozen other plants had their pre-nursery introductions at The Lake Club, National, Oconee, and Great Waters. About eight years ago the marketing team for the grower, Bailey Nurseries, came to Reynolds for a photo shoot. While here, they were treated to an up-close look at some of the most spectacular landscaping they’d laid eyes on. They thought if their prototype plants were hardy and attractive enough to make the grade at Reynolds, then they could make it in yards anywhere.

“The landscaping at Reynolds sets a high bar,” says Ryan McEnaney, who oversees marketing for Bailey’s from its headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota. “If Kevin’s team likes a new shrub or tree, if it’s relatively easy to maintain, and if the Members ask about it, then you’ll eventually see more of it.”

The success rate of Bailey’s prototypes at Reynolds has been about 90 percent. “It’s a simple pass or fail system,” says Kevin. “A plant under our care either lives or doesn’t.”

The word about Reynolds has spread within an inner circle of world-renowned horticultural experts. They’ve come from Europe and Asia to take notes. So has Dr. Michael Dirr, who wrote “the bible” on woody landscape plants (a copy of the 1,005-page book sits in worn-out condition on Kevin’s shelf). The best compliments, though, are the nonverbal cues from outside the circle.

“When I see plants that were once prototypes in yards, that’s a pretty special feeling,” says Kevin. He stands in a bed of mulch and takes a long look at Cinnamon Girl and Coppertone. Remember those names because Kevin likes what he sees.

Endless Summer | First Planted: The Lake Club "The flowers grow on new branches and old branches, so it has a lot of life to it."
Endless Summer | First Planted: The Lake Club "The flowers grow on new branches and old branches, so it has a lot of life to it."
Summer Crush | First Planted: The Ritz-Carlton "They were supposed to be red, but they turned dark pink. I actually like that."
Summer Crush | First Planted: The Ritz-Carlton "They were supposed to be red, but they turned dark pink. I actually like that."
Vintage Jade | First Planted: The Oconee Clubhouse
Vintage Jade | First Planted: The Oconee Clubhouse "The foliage fills in without a lot of attention, so it has a nice informal look."
Delta Blues | First Planted: The National Tavern "People tend to stand next to this when they take photos outside The Tavern."
Delta Blues | First Planted: The National Tavern "People tend to stand next to this when they take photos outside The Tavern."

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