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  • Upcoming Garden Events

    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 – September

    Cut the dead tops of coneflowers, but leave enough for goldfinches to enjoy the seeds.

    Plant cool-weather vegetables for a fall crop: spinach, mustard and turnip greens, radishes, leaf lettuce.

    Start a new lawn of cool-season grass, such as fescue, or refurbish or repair establish lawns.

    Don’t let the soil of newly planted grass dry out. New grass needs about an inch of water per week.

    It’s still warm, so continue to water and weed garden beds as needed.

    Remove dead foliage, spent flowers and other garden debris; replenish mulch as needed.

    Continue to harvest produce, which may be getting a boost now from slightly cooler weather. Keep watering sage, rosemary and other perennial herbs so they’ll be in good shape to get through winter.

    Prepare to bring houseplants back indoors: remove dead leaves, scrub soil from the sides of the pots, treat for insects. Bring tropical plants in before nighttime temperatures dip to 55 degrees.

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Bay was chilled to the bone

Question: I bought a bay tree more than 10 years ago. It was about 6 inches tall, and it grew well in a pot. I’ve repotted it several times, set it outdoors after frost and brought it indoors in winter. Last winter, I forgot to bring it in until after a freeze. The leaves got crispy, so I picked them off and cut back to almost about 3 – 5 inches. Some of the branches are brittle, but some are not. The roots and the base of the plant are still alive. I’ve kept it watered but haven’t seen any growth – not a bud. I don’t want to throw it away. Will it live? – Shirley R.

Bay laurel. Photo by Leo Michels.

It’s hard to say whether a bay that suffered through a freeze will come back. Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), the source of bay leaves used in cooking, is native to the Mediterranean area, where it generally doesn’t get cold enough to freeze. It is not at all hardy here, so of course you’re doing the right thing when you bring it indoors before it gets cold. In this climate, it’s best treated as a houseplant in winter.

This one little slip-up last year may have cost you your tree – but maybe not. Information at the Herb Society of America’s Web site  suggests that in some circumstances, given the perfect spot, some varieties of bay laurel may survive the winter outdoors in the ground. The plant will die back above the ground, but may send up shoots from the roots in the spring.

So try this: Now that it’s warm, set the plant outdoors, don’t let it dry out, watch to see if new shoots begin to form at the base, and hope for the best. As it grows (if it grows!), an occasional light dose of balanced fertilizer might not be a bad idea. Be sure to bring it in before it gets cold again, and give it a sunny window and a moderate amount of moisture. Good luck!

Turning Toward the Sun is the online journal of my own gardening endeavors. Today I talk about Garden No. 3, a new flower bed I’m planning in Mom’s back yard.

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