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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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Gardenia is a high-maintenance beauty

QUESTION: I have an issue with a gardenia plant/tree that I purchased this summer. It was blooming nicely and looked to be very healthy, but when I brought it home I transplanted it out of the 3-gallon bucket to a larger pot and

Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

placed it on our porch, and it started to show a yellowing of the flowers and then stopped producing flowers. It was getting direct morning sun till about 10  a.m. and shade for the rest of the day. I moved the plant to the basement with no direct sun but plenty of light and much cooler temps. It still does not seem to be recovering. I water it every few days but careful not too water too much because the leaves turn brown if I do so. What do you suggest I do to revive this beautiful plant? – Rick

Gardenias are beautiful and their sweet fragrance is almost intoxicating, but they present a challenge
even in the best environment. I spent some time leafing through gardening books and looking around the Web for information, and it looks like you are experiencing a typical reaction to bringing a gardenia home. It sulks, and stops producing flowers.

Of course, a gardenia has a limited flowering season, typically spring into early summer, so it may be that yours was coming to the end of its flowering cycle when you brought it home. Plus, remember that gardenias grow better in the South’s lower regions, where winters don’t get as cold.

In our area, they should be treated as house plants, which means that you will have to bring it indoors or into a greenhouse and baby it through the winter or it will sulk some more. In the house, it becomes a magnet for mealybugs, mites and whiteflies.

So, if you still want to revive this temperamental beauty, here’s what it needs: acid soil, good drainage, full sun or partial shade, regular watering, high humidity, and nighttime temperatures of 50 – 55 degrees in winter and spring if you want flowers.

By the way, the most common gardenia, G. jasminoides (G. augusta), is said to be hardy to about 10 degrees, and may survive to zero degrees, but will likely die back to the roots. There are several varieties that may be hardier in colder climates: ‘Chuck Hayes,’ ‘Grif’s Select,’ and ‘Klein’s Hardy’ are  said to be slightly more tolerant of cold weather. Good luck.

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