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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Now - Oct. 31: Cheekwood Harvest fall festival. Stroll the grounds at Cheekwood to see the scarecrows and outdoor model trains, visit the pumpkin patch, and take a look at more than 5,000 chrysanthemums in deep autumn colors in the Robertson Ellis Color Garden. Complete schedule details at www.cheekwood.org.

    Oct. 4: Happy Harvest at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Time to clean out the garden and put it “to bed” for the winter – and make ice cream flavors with the fall harvest. Noon – 2 p.m., registration required for this all-ages program. 615-862-8539.

    Oct. 9: “Sustainable Kitchen Gardening Year ’Round,” a workshop on growing edibles during the winter months, led by Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener, 6 – 8 p.m. at the Cracked Pot Homestead in Franklin, Tenn. $45 per person. Also held on Oct. 11, 10 a.m. – noon. Register at www.cindyshapton.com.

    Oct. 11: Flower Fun at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Learn ways to use wilted flowers and petals in a workshop for age 13 and up, led by Sarah Gilmore. 1 – 2 p.m., registration required: 615-862-8539.

    Oct. 11: Farm Day at Bells Bend Park Outdoor Center, a family-friendly event with hayrides and farm games, farming equipment, barnyard animals and garden programs, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 615-862-4187.

    Oct. 17: Trees of Fall at Beaman Park Nature Center. Enjoy the colors of the autumn woods while you learn to ID trees based on color and other characteristics with naturalist LinnAnn Welch. 9:30 – 11 a.m. Call to register for this all-ages program,
    (615) 862-8580.

    October 21: Perennial Plant Society meeting topic is "Rain Gardens" with speakers from the Tennessee Environmental Council and the Harpeth River Watershed Association. Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7, open to the public. www.ppsmt.org.

    Oct. 24: Darling, You Look GOURDgeous! at Warner Park Nature Center. An activity for ages 3 – 5 years to learn about gourds, squashes and pumpkins, led by Rachel Koch. 10 – 11 a.m. or 1 – 2 p.m., registration opens Oct. 9. Call 615-352-6299 to register.

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Troy Marden’s garden wisdom — and a book giveaway!

Annabelle

‘Annabelle’ hydrangea is among the plants that garden expert Troy Marden recommends.

A friend invited me to a gathering whose guest was the popular Middle Tennessee-based author and garden designer Troy Marden not long ago. He was there to share his considerable knowledge and to talk about his new book, Plant This Instead!, which came out earlier this year. The subtitle is “Better Plant Choices: Prettier, Hardier, Blooms Longer, New Color, Less Work, Drought-Tolerant, Native.”
That’s a lot to cover, but let Troy explain: “It’s a book about making better, more informed choices.”
A book about native plants? “It’s a book about good plants. It’s not all about natives,” he said. “There are tips about how to be successful with new varieties. We don’t like plants that misbehave. This considers what their replacements in our landscape might be.”

What are some of those misbehavin’ garden choices?

“Take beebalm, for example,” Troy says. “You have to manage it.” Specifically, Monarda didyma – that hardy and resilient beebalm that you find everywhere — can be fabulous in bloom. “However, the same characteristics that make it tough and resilient also make it aggressive when it comes to planting it in the garden,” he writes in Plant This Instead!. “Beebalm, like its cousins peppermint and spearmint, has the ability to take over an enormous area of valuable garden real estate in a very short period of time.” It’s one of the plants he calls a “garden thug.”

©Troy B. Marden

©Troy B. Marden

Instead, consider the better-mannered wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, or take a look at Eastern beebalm, Monarda bradburiana, which has greater tolerance for drought and resistance to powdery mildew, and which grows in noninvasive clumps.

From garden thugs, the conversation shifted to what is meant – really – by the term “low maintenance” when you’re talking about a garden. In Troy’s world, gardening is not a low-maintenance endeavor.

“What you have to decide is, what does ‘low-maintenance’ mean to you?” he told us. “You have to think about how much you want to have and how much time you want to spend tending to it.”

Plant This book jacketAnd if your idea of a perfect landscape seems overwhelming, here is probably the best bit of wisdom Troy could pass along about growing and enjoying a garden: “Rather than having a huge garden that demands all your time and energy, do what you can in the way that you can do it to the best of your ability.”

Learn more about Troy at his website; catch Troy in person or on TV (he’s a popular and respected plantsman and speaker and one of the hosts on the Nashville Public Television show Volunteer Gardener), or read Plant This Instead!

And here’s a chance to win a free copy of the book!
Leave a comment at the end of this post about your favorite flowers. Respond by Friday Aug. 1 at 6 p.m., and your name will go into a drawing to win a signed copy of Plant This Instead! by Troy B. Marden.
August Garden Calendar
In August, do we really need to think about fall? Yes! It’s time to consider the cool-weather plants in your kitchen garden. See the August Garden Calendar and Garden Events, Tips & Tasks in The Tennessean.

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9 Responses

  1. I love hydrangeas, and appreciate Troy Marden’s recommendation of the “Annabelle” hydrangea.

  2. like roses

  3. I love the peony.

  4. I recently bought a plant called “Josephs Coat”. I purchased it in Jackson, Tn after attending the Summer Celebration. I have it planted in a container with three other plants and I am really loving this plant. I need to do some research on this on because it was missing the handy dandy plant info tag. The container arrangement is doing well…. I am just taking it one plant at a time!

  5. I love Rhodos and the peony. Can´t choose which one is my favorite. Love them both :)

  6. I’m partial to peonies as well, and also gardenias. And this year in my containers I have the most beautiful begonias I’ve ever grown, so they’re my new favorite annual. As for Troy’s book, I particularly like those tags “blooms longer” and “less work!”

  7. Ironically, I adore bee balm. They were wonderful in my garden in the Hudson Valley because we owned an old farm and we had tons of space. They helped fill it with a sea of colorful blooms. Here, my bee balm suffered from mildew, so I pulled it out. I want to try Monarda Bradburiana – the substitute Troy mentioned and see how it does!

  8. I fell in love with rhododendrons when Dave and I moved into our first house. Someone had planted a rhodie in the hottest spot of the grounds and it looked a bit, well, dead. There were other REALLY dead bushes out there, too. I decided to try to save only the 3-foot rhodie and tucked it into a very narrow north-side yard near the backside of the HVAC unit. The next spring, I happened upon it just as it started to offer the most delicious lavender buds that opened into big white blooms with perfectly lavender centers. It was too big to move when we left, and I planted new white rhododendrons at the new house. Try as I may, I can’t duplicate that first one, but I keep trying.

  9. My favorite flower this summer is hollyhocks. A friend gave me seeds last year and I threw them on the ground. They are 9 to 10 feet tall and glorious! They remind me of my childhood.

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