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  • March garden tips & tasks

    If your fescue lawn looks a little skimpy, overseed early this month. Fescue grows best when the weather is still cool.

    Clip dead stems from perennial herbs – thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary. Pruning encourages vigorous new growth.

    Prune nandinas, flowering quince and other airy shrubs by reaching in and removing about a third of the branches at ground level.

    Remove mulch or leaves that may be covering perennials in garden beds.

    Prepare a new garden bed: Have the soil tested (check with your county’s Extension service). Remove grass and dig or till soil 8 to 10 inches deep and mix with soil amendments and organic matter to improve drainage.

    Add fertilizer lightly to perennials as soon as you see new growth. Too much fertilizer may result in lanky growth.

    Herb transplants that don’t mind cool weather -- parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano – can go in the ground now.

    When you cut daffodils to bring inside, cut the stems at an angle and place them in water right away. Change the water in the vase daily to keep them fresh longer.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    The Herb Society of Nashville's annual Herb Sale will be April 29, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale will offer heirloom vegetables, rare varieties of perennial and annual herbs, handmade pottery herb markers and more. To learn more, visit herbsocietynashville.org.

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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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