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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 – 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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Lemon verbena likes warmer winters

Last year I planted lemon verbena in a new herb garden because I loved the fragrance. I thought it was a perennial, but it seems to have died over the winter. Will it come back this year?

LemoLemon verbenan verbena (Aloysia citriodora) is a tender perennial, which means it may survive a mild winter in some areas, but it will succumb to extended periods of below-freezing days and nights. The Herb Society of America notes that this herb is marginally hardy in Zone 8 – that’s where extreme minimum temperatures might be about 20 degrees, so you can see that it prefers warmer climates. It is native to Argentina, according to the HSA.

Even so, it’s worth adding to the garden for its delicate lemon fragrance and its culinary uses. Fresh leaves add a lemony flavor to sweet and savory dishes – sauces and marinades, ice creams, custards, tarts, frostings and fruit salads. It can also be dried, makes a nice tea by itself or combined with other herbs, and adds a fresh fragrance to sachets and potpourris.

Plant it in full sun in fertile soil. In the ground, lemon verbena will likely grow in a season to a lemony-sweet smelling 3-foot tall plant with woody stems. It flowers in late summer to early fall.

As the weather warms, depending on the microclimate in your garden, you may find that it had died down to the ground but may send up fresh shoots from the roots. You can also grow lemon verbena in a container, and keep it in a sunny, south-facing window or under plant lights in winter.

Harvest the leaves after the plant is at least eight inches tall. To dry the leaves, hang the branches in a well-ventilated location out of the sun until the leaves are crisp, then strip the leaves from the stem and store them in a tightly sealed container.

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