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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    April 9: Perennial Plant Society sale -- one of Nashville's top gardening events hosted by the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee. More than 450 varieties of shrubs, roses, vines, perennials and annuals, plus garden experts on hand to offer advice. Sale at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds opens at 9 a.m. - noon or until plants run out (arrive early!).www.ppsmt.org.

    April 16: Herb Society of Nashville plant sale, featuring hundreds of garden-ready annual and perennial ornamental and culinary herb plants, along with a new seminar series focusing on ways to use herbs in the garden. 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Fairgrounds Nashville Sports Arena Building. Free admission; the Fairgrounds charges a $5 fee to park.www.herbsocietynashville.org.

    April 30: First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville Herb & Craft Fair 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the church, 1808 Woodmont Blvd. Top-quality herb plants, heirloom tomato plants and a selection of native plants for sale, along with pressed-flower art, cards, jewelry and gifts, handmade scented soaps, homemade sweet and yeast breads, spice mixes, sauces, jams and jellies and other items. Admission is free (https://thefuun.org/herb-craft-fair).

    May 7: Middle Tennessee Hosta Society sale at the Maryland Farms YMCA in Brentwood. Information about the Hosta Society is atwww.mths-hosta.com.

    May 21: Master Gardeners of Davidson County Urban Gardening Festival -- Exhibits, demonstrations, vendors, information sessions, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the Demonstration Garden at Ellington Agricultural Center. Admission is free. https://mgofdc.wildapricot.org.

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Foxgloves for sun or shade

I planted several transplants of foxgloves in a garden bed last year and they bloomed and grew well. I thought they were annuals and would die when winter came, and I was surprised to see that they have come back. What can you tell me about them?

Foxglove-webFoxgloves, with their low-growing foliage and tall, dramatic flower spikes, are biennials, blooming in their second year, or short-lived perennials, according to the National Gardening Association. In a garden bed that contains foxgloves, the foliage begins to appear in spring, and by late spring or early summer they are usually ready to bloom. Continue reading

A daisy dilemma

I planted a perennial garden several years back. In the past two years, the Shasta daisies have spread and are taking over the whole garden. I have dug several up but the roots are numerous. Should I just spray them to kill them?

DaisiesWhen you read comments about Shasta daisies on garden websites, it’s clear that gardeners either love them or hate them. Love them because these daisies (Leucanthemum, in botanical nomenclature) are easy to grow and bloom reliably year after year; hate them because they can be aggressive and can, indeed, muscle out plants that are more well-behaved.

Continue reading

Disappearing columbine

The columbine that I planted about three years ago usually starts coming up in March, but it hasn’t started growing this year. Could something have killed it?

Although it self-seeds, columbine is a short-lived perennial.

Although it self-seeds , columbine is a short-lived perennial.

Columbine (Aquilegia is the botanical name), with its lacy leaves and bell-shaped flowers, is a nice addition to spring gardens. It’s a relatively short-lived perennial, however, that owes any sense of longevity to a habit of prolific self-seeding. The original plant may last only two or three years. Continue reading

April garden tips & tasks

Dogwood blossomsSpring — however capricious it may be — has arrived, and it’s time to head back outdoors, keeping an eye on the weather. Gardeners in Middle Tennessee, Zone 7a, where The Garden Bench calls home, are anxious to get the season started. Warmer areas are already in full swing; if it’s cooler where you are, it’s getting close!

Here’s what’s on your garden to-do list for April. Continue reading

Plant potatoes in early spring

This year I’d like to grow potatoes in our raised bed garden. Can the seed potatoes be planted this early in the spring?

Potatoes in bloom.

Potatoes in bloom.

Growing your own potatoes is a good way to try varieties that you won’t find in the grocery store, but make sure you get the timing right. Potatoes that are planted in soil that is too wet and cold won’t grow, but if the likelihood of a hard freeze is no longer a danger in your area, then now is a good time to plant them. Continue reading

Lemon verbena likes warmer winters

Last year I planted lemon verbena in a new herb garden because I loved the fragrance. I thought it was a perennial, but it seems to have died over the winter. Will it come back this year?

LemoLemon verbenan verbena (Aloysia citriodora) is a tender perennial, which means it may survive a mild winter in some areas, but it will succumb to extended periods of below-freezing days and nights. The Herb Society of America notes that this herb is marginally hardy in Zone 8 – that’s where extreme minimum temperatures might be about 20 degrees, so you can see that it prefers warmer climates. It is native to Argentina, according to the HSA.

Even so, it’s worth adding to the garden for its delicate lemon fragrance and its culinary uses. Continue reading

When daffodils don’t bloom

I covered my daffodils in the fall with a heavy layer of pine straw. The leaves have come up but they are not budding or blooming. Is the pine straw too acidic for these plants?

Daffodil copyAfter a long winter, we look forward to the daffodils blooming in spring, and it’s a disappointment when they don’t produce the flowers we expect.

The failure to bloom is not due to pine straw causing acid soil; daffodils – or jonquils, as we sometimes call them — tolerate a range of soil types, as long as it is well-drained and moderately fertile, and some varieties actually prefer slightly acid soil. A lot of garden experts suggest mulching daffodil beds with a light layer of pine straw. Small, early blooming daffodils may not be able to penetrate a thick layer of mulch.

So consider some of the other possible reasons daffodils don’t bloom: Continue reading

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