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  • Upcoming Garden Events in Middle Tennessee

    March 1 – 4: Nashville Lawn & Garden Show, Fairgrounds Nashville. The annual all-indoors garden event that features live garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs and special programming Wine Festival featuring Tennessee wines is Saturday (March 3), noon – 5 p.m. For more information on the events and the complete lecture schedule, visit www.nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com.

    April 7: Perennial Plant Sale hosted by the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee  at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Find newly released and hard-to-find perennials along with a wide range of tried and tested varieties, all from top local nurseries. The sale opens at 9 a.m. and usually sells out by early afternoon. For more information, visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    April 14: Herb & Plant Sale hosted by The Herb Society of Nashville, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., at The Fairgrounds Nashville Sports Arena building. The sale offers common and rare varieties of herbs and heirloom vegetables and handmade pottery and herb markers by artist Roy Overcast for sale. For more information and a list of available plants, visit herbsocietynashville.org.

    May 12: Hosta sale hosted by the Middle Tennessee Hosta Society. Proceeds from the sale support the club’s activities. More information about the MTHS is at www.mths-hosta.com.

    May 19: Urban Gardening Festival hosted by Master Gardeners of Davidson County, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden at Ellington Agricultural Center (5201 Marchant Drive in Nashville). The free event includes information about a variety of gardening methods and techniques, local artisans, exhibits, growers and more. For information, visit www.mgofdc.org/ugf.

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Hug your hackberry

Question: I have a hackberry tree which came up by seed and I let it grow. It’s now about 5 or 6 yrs old and very tall. This year it has not put out any leaves yet. The other hackberries in the neighborhood are putting out leaves. Could it have died? I thought they were hardy because they’re native and I’d always thought of them as “weed trees”. Do you think it’s just late or should I test it some way to see if it’s alive? It didn’t seem to have any problems last year and it’s not crowded or anything. Thank you so much. — Elaine McKee

Hackberries can have graceful branch structure.

Hackberries are hardy. Some might say, too hardy. A lot of people think of them as weed trees. They get really big and sometimes drop branches in a strong wind. Almost every tree I’ve seen on the ground or lying across a house or car after a big storm this spring has been a hackberry.

That said, I happen to like hackberries. They can have graceful branch structure, and big, bold lines against a clear blue winter sky. Even better, they are a home and food source for the hackberry butterfly, a sweet little flutterer with gold and black wings. The caterpillars feed on the leaves and tender new growth, and the adults flit about in the foliage and around nearby plants. What’s not to like?

Apparently, sometimes hackberries are slow to leaf out, so don’t give up hope. If it was healthy last year it’s probably still okay. You can check by scratching a little of the bark off a twig; if it’s fresh-looking and a little green underneath, the tree is still alive.

Here are a couple of things I learned while I was researching an answer to your question:

-Hackberries are related to elms, and similar in many details.

-The wood of hackberries is very hard and tough and resists breaking.

-Birds and other wildlife like the berries, which have a raisin/plum flavor. The branches are good for building birds’ nests, and owls and squirrels find holes in their trunks inviting.

-They sometimes grow clusters of dwarfed twigs that are called witches’-broom.

-The leaves are susceptible to nipple gall, small growths caused by a tiny insect that lays eggs in the leaves. It’s a cosmetic problem. They don’t hurt the hackberry.

Common hackberry – Celtis occidentalis. They are native from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic, from Alabama to Quebec.

Garden No. 3: It’s a tiny space that I hope to fill with summer flowers. Click over to Turning Toward the Sun: A Garden Journal.

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