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    Sept. 30: The Nashville Herb Society presents Through the Garden Gate: A Glimpse of Edwardian England, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Cheekwood Botanic Hall. Celebrate the gardens, foods and flowers that delighted Downton Abby family and friends at the turn of the 20th century. The event begins with a hearty Edwardian breakfast, followed by three speakers: Marta McDowell on Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; Geraldine A. Laufer on Tussie Mussie – Victorian art of expressing yourself in the language of flowers; and Terry White, The English Garden event florist . Registration includes breakfast, box lunch in the garden with music, English tea and cookies. To learn more or to register, visit www.herbsocietynashvlle.org.

    Tips & tasks – August

    Water lawns and garden beds early in the morning to allow foliage plenty of time to dry before nightfall.

    Container gardens will benefit from a light application of all-purpose fertilizer.

    If petunias have grown long and shaggy, cut them back and give them a dose of fertilizer. They should bloom again quickly.

    If squirrels and birds go after your ripe tomatoes, pick them while they are still green and allow them to turn red indoors. For best quality, don’t store fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator.

    Make sure spring-planted trees and shrubs get plenty of water during hot weather.

    Keep cutting the spent flowers of annuals so they will continue to bloom into the fall.

    To conserve soil moisture during hot weather, replenish mulch in annual and perennial beds as necessary.

    Begin planning a fall garden. Spinach, lettuces, radishes and other fall crops will mature when the weather turns cool.

    Begin clean-up of summer vegetable beds. Remove any decayed or dying foliage to prevent diseases from taking hold.

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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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