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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Nov. 8: Fall Colors Bike and Hike at Shelby Bottoms, a bike/hike outing from the Nature Center to Stones River Farm (7 miles from the Nature Center) to enjoy fall colors, led by naturalist John Michael Cassidy. 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Participants should be comfortable riding 15+ miles. Registration required for this age 12-and-up activity, 862-8539.

    Nov. 8: Beekeeping 101 at Warner Park Nature Center, a workshop and overview of hobby beekeeping and how to start your own hive, and a presentation on bee biology. 9 a.m. – noon. Call to register for this adult-level workshop, 615-352-6299.

    Nov. 15: Great Gourds at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, to learn about this ancient, multi-purpose vegetable. 2 – 3 p.m.; registration required for this all-ages program, 615-862-8539.

    Nov. 22: ReLeafing Day with the Nashville Tree Foundation, volunteer to plant trees in the Cleveland and McFerrin Park neighborhoods in East Nashville. Tree planting is 8:30 a.m. – noon. Meet at Glenn Elementary on Cleveland Street. To learn more or to volunteer: www.nashvilletreefoundation.org.

    Nov. 28: Holiday at Cheekwood opens with a full schedule of holiday-theme events and a live poinsettia tree made up from more than 500 individual poinsettias. Holiday at Cheekwood runs through Dec. 31. The complete schedule is at www.cheekwood.org.

    Dec. 4: Organic Gardening at Warner Park Nature Center, 9 – 10:30 a.m. Naturalist Deb Beazley leads a session on how and when to begin planning, planting and growing an organic garden. 615-352-6299 to register.

    Dec. 4: Holiday at Cheekwood live greenery design workshop. Complete information at www.cheekwood.org.

    Dec. 5 – 7: Tennessee Local Food Summit with “Barefoot Farmer” Jeff Poppen at Vanderbilt University, hosted by Vanderbilt’s Health Plus. Seminar topics range from backyard gardening to nutrition, cooking and climate change. Complete details at http://tnlocalfood.com.

    Dec. 7: Holiday at Cheekwood wreath-making workshop. Complete information at www.cheekwood.org.

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Tropical hibiscus adjusts to winter indoors

Question: I had two hibiscus trees in pots outdoors last summer and brought them in for the winter. I placed them in front of a sunny window, but now most of the leaves have turned yellow and fallen off. It does appear that new leaves are trying to grow. What should we do to keep these beautiful plants alive?

Hibiscus c Rojypala wikimedia commonsWhen you bring tropical hibiscus plants (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) indoors, they respond to the lower level of light by dropping their leaves, so your plants are doing what is normal. You can see that the plant is healthy, because new leaves are already sprouting.

To keep it healthy while it’s indoors this winter, provide water when the soil dries out to within 1 inch of the surface and feed it lightly every few weeks with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Watch for spider mites, and use insecticidal soap to keep them under control.

A hibiscus growing outdoors can grow to unmanageable size, so now might be a good time to prune it, and if the plant needs repotting, it’s a good time to take care of that chore, as well.

Return the hibiscus to its outdoor home when the weather warms up again in the spring.

Garden events in Middle Tennessee

Now until Christmas: Gardens of Babylon garden center, located at the Nashville Farmer’s Market, is partnering with Metro-funded Stanford Montessori Elementary to raise funds for the Donelson-area school. Students have filled out Christmas tree tags with their names and aspirations to attach to the freshly cut firs at Gardens of Babylon; for each tagged tree purchased, the garden center will donate a portion of the sale to the school to help buy school supplies and various educational items.

Check out the garden center’s Facebook page for other events and activities.

Dec. 21: Winter Solstice. Celebrate the shortest day of the year (and the return to longer days) at WarnerParkNatureCenter, where you can watch the sunset and walk through the woods along a luminary-lit pathway, make a wreath, hear a presentation by an astronomer and enjoy other first-day-of-winter activities. The all-ages program is led by Shannon Moore and Melissa Donahue, is 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. call to register, 615- 352-6299.

Put this on your calendar: The 2014 Nashville Lawn & Garden Show will run from Thursday, February 27, through Sunday, March 2, 2014, at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. This year’s theme is “Wine & Roses” and will offer visitors the chance to sample wine from area vineyards.

Leave gladiolus in the ground?

We planted gladiolus in the ground and in containers this summer. I’ve heard they need to be dug up and stored over the winter. Really?

glads orange garden benchGladiolus are tender summer-flowering plants that grow from corms, and where you live will probably determine whether to dig them up or not. Here in Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a), the recommendation from the University of Tennessee Extension is to dig up and dry the corms after the foliage dies back and before a heavy frost, but the truth is, most gardeners I talk to here leave the corms in the ground and they usually survive.

In colder areas, they should be dug and stored. The Web site of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service (in Indiana) for example, says that gladiolus corms should be dug after frost. Dig the corms by loosening the soil so that you can pull the plant out of the ground. Shake off the loose soil and allow the corms to dry in the sun for a day or two. Cut the foliage off 1 – 2 inches above the corms and store them in a cool, dry place.

Plant the corms again after the soil has warmed up, in late April or May. By planting in two-week intervals between May and July, you can have a succession of blooms for several weeks beginning about mid-summer.

Winter in the garden: Gardening tasks slow down in winter, but there is always something to keep a gardener busy and entertained. Check the Winter Garden Calendar and Garden tips & tasks at Tennessean.com to see what’s happening.

Garden events in Middle Tennessee

Dec. 8: Live greenery makes excellent holiday decor. Create your own for mailbox or door at a hands-on workshop at Cheekwood. Advance registration required; $30 for members, $40 for nonmembers. www.cheekwood.org.

Dec. 13: Learn when and how to grow a beautiful organic garden during All About Gardening with naturalist Deb Beazley, 9 – 10:30 a.m. at Warner Park Nature Center. Call to register for this adults-only class, 615-352-6299.

Dec. 21: Winter Solstice. Celebrate the shortest day of the year (and the return to longer days) at WarnerParkNatureCenter, where you can watch the sunset and walk through the woods along a luminary-lit pathway, make a wreath, hear a presentation by an astronomer and enjoy other first-day-of-winter activities. The all-ages program is led by Shannon Moore and Melissa Donahue, is 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. call to register, 615- 352-6299.

Protect banana trees from the cold

'Texas Star' banana. Photo by Dave G.

‘Texas Star’ banana. Photo by Dave G.

We planted a new ‘Texas Star’ banana tree this spring. It’s growing and looks great, but how do we protect it this winter? We live in Middle Tennessee, and it is planted in an open area near a pool.

The ‘Texas Star’ banana is said to be a cold-hardy variety, but it still needs coddling over the winter here in Zone 7a, where temperatures regularly fall below freezing. Once they’re exposed to a couple of frosty nights, the leaves will be reduced to a wilted mush. The important thing is to protect the underground rhizomes. The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture grows an impressive Hardy Banana in the UT Gardens in Knoxville, and provides this information for overwintering a banana plant:

Just before frost is expected, use a clean, sharp saw to cut the stems and leaves down to about 8 – 10 inches above the ground, then pile a thick layer of mulch over the crown. They say it’s best to use a heavy mulch (pine bark or hardwood), which won’t blow away easily. Others suggest you cover the stump with the leaves you cut from the plant, or wrap the stump with a blanket, and cover it with an overturned plastic garbage can.

In the spring, remove the mulch after the danger of frost is past, and the rhizome will send up new shoots and grow rapidly when the weather has warmed.

By the way, in this area banana trees are grown for their exotic foliage; it takes a long time to grow bananas, and summer here just isn’t long enough (though if you’ve grown bananas here in Zone 7a, I’d love to hear from you!).

October in the garden: It’s fall, and you can turn your attention to trees. For tips and tasks, see the October garden calendar at Tennessean.com

Time to bring houseplants back indoors

We have had some of our houseplants outdoors for summer, but now that it’s time to bring them back in, how do we get rid of the bugs and insects that are on the plants and in the pots? 

philodendron outdoorsIndoor plants that spend the summer outdoors should be brought back inside well before nights begin to get too cool. Start the process early so you won’t be hustling your plants into a warm area on the evening before the first predicted frost, and so you’ll have time to deal with insects that may try to hitchhike into your home.

In the book Month-By-Month Gardening in Tennessee & Kentucky, garden author Judy Lowe provides this advice on getting houseplants ready to return indoors:

“Remove all yellowed or damaged leaves and faded flowers. Clean all foliage, top and bottom. Clean splattered dirt off the pots. If containers can’t be scrubbed clean, consider new pots or hide the pots in a plastic-lined basket or a decorative container.”

Here’s how Lowe suggests you make sure there are no unwelcome visitors coming in with the returning houseplants:

“Mix up a tub or bucket of 5 parts warm water and 1 part insecticidal soap. Remove plants from their pots, place them in the mixture, and let the plants stand for an hour.” Lowe says that even after doing this, it’s a good idea to keep plants that spent summer outdoors isolated for a few weeks from plants that stayed inside. “Sometimes a stray insect manages to get in anyway, or insect eggs hatch,” she writes. “The problem will be easier to deal with when you can keep the infestation confined to one or two plants.”

October in the garden: It’s fall, and you can turn your attention to trees. For tips and tasks, see the October garden calendar at Tennessean.com

Garden events in Middle Tennessee

October. 12 (and every weekend this month): At Cheekwood, Garden Tales Storytime, where favorite nature-themed books spring to life through songs, dance and interactive reading, 10:30 a.m. Saturdays.

Guided Garden Tours at Cheekwood,” 11 a.m. each Saturday, noon every Sunday. Visit www.cheekwood.org for the complete schedule.

Oct. 12 – 13: Nashville Rose Society’s annual Rose Show will be held at Cheekwood In Botanic Hall. Show is open the public 1 – 4:30 p.m. Oct. 12, and 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Oct. 13. Free with Cheekwood admission.

October 19: Extreme Pumpkin Carving with pumpkin sculptor Lundy Cupp, who turns ordinary pumpkins into detailed works of art. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. Cheekwood admission. www.cheekwood.org.

October 26: The Herb Society of Nashville presents Herb Day. This year’s theme, Oktoberfest, features sausage-making, beer lore and inside gardening 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall. Admission (includes lunch, lectures, music and vendors) $45; $40 if you register before Oct. 12. To learn more and to register: www.herbsocietynashville.org.

Grow favorite herbs indoors

QUESTION: We love fresh herbs and grew basil, rosemary, parsley and sage in the garden this summer. Can we dig them up and bring them inside to grow all winter?

You can bring basil indoors to grow during winter.

You can bring basil indoors to grow during winter.

With the right conditions and consistent care, it’s certainly possible to bring herbs inside and keep them through the winter. Some fare better indoors than others. Here are details for bringing your favorite herbs indoors:

Basil: An easy way to keep basil for growing indoors is to root cuttings now and plant them in pots later. The Herb Society of America suggests cutting 4-inch portions of stems before they flower, remove the bottom leaves, and place the stems in a small container of water. Place it on a windowsill and change the water every day. After roots form, plant the cuttings in a clean, well-drained pot in good potting mix. To grow successfully indoors, basil needs strong light (this usually means a south or west window, or grow it under artificial light). Keep the soil evenly moist and provide fertilizer about once a month.

Rosemary: This is a plant that may be happier outdoors all winter than in the dry air of a heated house. If you’ve planted one of the more hardy varieties, it should survive the winter outdoors, especially if it’s in a protected location in the garden. But rosemary can also be rooted in water or in moist potting soil, planted in potting mix and place in a sunny location indoors. Mist it frequently to keep the air moist, or set the pot on a layer of stones in a tray of water.

Parsley: This is an herb that may be easier to grow indoors from seed. Parsley is a biennial that grows a long tap root, which makes it more difficult to dig up and repot. Soak the seeds in warm water overnight, and sprinkle them onto good potting mix in pots that drain well. Cover the seeds with about ¼ inch of potting mix and keep the soil evenly moist. Place the pot in a bright (south-facing) window or under fluorescent lights. Parsley seeds are slow to germinate, so be patient. Plants grown indoors may be more spindly, due to lower light levels, but the flavor is just a good.

September in the garden: Summer is winding down, but September brings a brand new season for gardens: September Garden Calendar in The Tennessean plus garden tips and tasks.

Garden events in Middle Tennessee

Sept. 17 – Perennial Plant Society meets at Cheekwood in Botanic Hall, speaker is landscape designer Marty DeHart on “Problem Area Perennials.” Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7, open to the public.

Sept. 21 – Oct. 31: Cheekwood Harvest Fall Festival includes scarecrows along the garden paths, a pumpkin patch, guided garden tours and nearly 5,000 autumn-hued chrysanthemums in the Robertson Ellis Color Garden, planted specifically for Cheekwood Harvest. The full schedule is at www.cheekwood.org

Sept. 21 and 22: The Tennessee Gesneriad Society annual show and sale at Cheekwood in Botanic Hall. There will be many rare and unusual plants on display as well as for sale. Hours on Saturday September 21 are 9:30a.m.-4:30p.m., and on Sunday September 22 are 11:00a.m.-4:30 p.m. For more info, call Julie at 615-364-8459.

Sept. 26: Middle Tennessee Hosta Society meets at Cheekwood in the Potter Room; speaker is David Bates of Bates Nursery on shrubs that tolerate shade for use in hosta gardens. The meeting is at 6:30 and is open to the public.

Sept. 28: Welcoming Fall Wildflower Hike at Shelby Bottoms NatureCenter. A short naturalist-led hike for all ages, 10 – 11 a.m. Call (862-8539) or email (shelbybottomsnature@nashville.gov) to register.

At Warner Park Nature Center, Deb Beazley leads adults on a stroll through a meadow to enjoy the fall wildflowers, 9 – 11 a.m. Call 352-6299 to register.

For trees and shrubs, prime planting time

QUESTION: I have a hydrangea that I bought at a nursery last spring, and it’s still in the pot it came in. Is it too late to plant it?

Fall is a good time to plant hydrangeas and other woody ornamentals.

Fall is a good time to plant hydrangeas and other woody ornamentals.

I’m sure every gardener has, at some point, bought sturdy plants in the spring, but somehow never got around to putting them in the ground (I know I have!). You can be sure that your hydrangea will be happier in the ground than it will be if it has to struggle through the winter in a plastic pot.

In fact, fall and winter are good times to plant woody ornamentals, when they are dormant and have fewer energy requirements. They still need water, but require less than they would in spring going into the hot summer. In fall, new trees and shrubs can begin to establish a strong root system and be ready to begin new growth next spring.

Here are general guidelines from UT/TSU Extension for planting container-grown trees and shrubs:

-Choose your location and begin by digging a wide hole, two or three times the width, but no deeper than the height of the root ball in the container.

-Water the plant before you take it out of the pot. After you remove the plant, cut any roots that circle the ball of soil (if the roots and soil don’t come out easily, cut the plastic away from the root ball. Don’t pull the plant out by its trunk). Use a sharp knife to make two or three vertical cuts, and gently loosen the ball to expose more roots to the soil.

-Place the plant in the hole to that the top of the root ball is even with the soil line or an inch or two above it, and backfill the hole with soil and water again. Rake over the soil to even it out with the ground, and cover the area with 2 or 3 inches of mulch (keeping the mulch away from the shrub’s trunk.

-Don’t forget to provide water to newly planted shrubs and trees if the weather is dry.
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Give mums a trim now … or later

Question: In your opinion should chrysanthemums be cut back in the late fall or spring?

Different sources say different things about what to do with mums after they are browned by frost. One source advises to cut them back in the spring; another says to cut them back to about 8 inches after they finish blooming in the fall.

In my experience, either way seems to work. I usually leave them until spring in my garden beds, which tend to be informal (some might call them “messy”), and often the new leaves start to come up from the roots very early — as early as February, if we have a mild winter. At that time, I cut back all the dead stems and divide and move clumps where necessary, and they grow happily and vigorously through the spring and summer. I cut them back a couple of times during the summer to delay flowering, and they start to bloom in the fall.

If you prefer a tidier look throughout the winter, cut off the blooms after they turn brown. They will rest during winter and be ready to pop up again early next spring.

 

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