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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Herbs, garden color, and a Book Giveaway!

I’m planning to grow an herb garden for the first time. When is the best time to set out transplants?

Basil

Wait until warm weather to plant any type of basil.

Now that spring is definitely on the way, of course we’re anxious to get things planted, and the herb garden is a good place to start. Some herbs can withstand chilly temperatures, and may already be available at nurseries or garden centers. Herbs that are more hardy – sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, cilantro, rosemary – can be set out very early, but to be safe (and depending on the climate in your area) you may want to wait until closer to the last frost date. (That’s around mid-April in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a, where The Garden Bench calls home).

Tender herbs such as basil absolutely will not tolerate cold weather, and you should

Parsley

Parsley can withstand a chill, and can be planted now.

wait until after the last frost date – or even a few days longer, just in case — to set out transplants.

In general, herbs grow best in well-drained soil in a spot that gets full sun, but there are a few herbs that do well in partial sun or partial shade. Garden author Judy Lowe lists chives, cilantro, lavender, lemon balm, parsley and sweet bay as plants that tolerate a little shade.

And for aspiring gardeners without a place to dig, herbs do well in containers — alone or planted with other herbs in a garden arrangement. At the appropriate time, set transplants in containers in good potting soil. Place them in a sunny spot on the deck, porch or patio, and keep the containers well-watered.

Color all year long – And a book giveaway!

Nellie Neal lo res

Nellie Neal photo by Dave Ingram

Nellie Neal’s appreciation for color in the landscape began while she was college.

“I became aware of this garden that was on my route every day. I noticed that it didn’t matter what day of the year it was, there was something going on that was worth a look.” She watched throughout the cycle of the year: where the azaleas bloomed, where the gardenias flowered. In winter, where the shrubs held gorgeous berries.

“It’s really when I became enamored with how the colors and the form go together to create this effect.”

Today, Nellie is a garden writer and radio host living in Jackson, Miss. and the author color garden book jacket lo resof The Nonstop Color Garden, a guide to designing flowering landscapes for year-round enjoyment.

Nellie offers some of her garden color tips in a story in today’s Style section in The Tennessean. Here at The Garden Bench, I’m giving away a copy of the book.

Leave a comment at the end of this post about your favorite season for color — or just name a color you like. Respond by 6 p.m. Friday, March 20, 2015 and your name will go into a drawing to win a copy of Nellie Neal’s The Nonstop Color Garden.

Cut winter-brown monkey grass before spring

QUESTION: The monkey grass that borders some of our beds has turned brown. If we cut it down, will it come back next spring?

monkey grass 2One reason monkey grass is so popular in landscapes is because it’s tough. It begins to turn brown around the tips and edges this time of year and can look pretty bad by the end of winter, but it sprouts new growth in the spring.

You can mow the plants down, or clip them close to the ground. Best to do it in winter before new growth begins. If you wait too late to mow, you may clip off the tips of the new leaves. In a warm climate, you may begin seeing new growth as early as late February or early March.

Monkey grass (Liriope muscari is the botanical name; it’s also known as lily turf) can be divided in early spring. Dig it up and pull the roots apart, or cut through the clumps of roots with a sharp spade.

Something new for the library

One of the books I’ve consistently used as a reference for more than ten years is the Tennessee & Kentucky Gardener’s Guide by garden writer Judy Lowe. This fall, Cool tn ky garden guideSprings Press published a new version of the book with updated photos and more features. The subtitle is “The Best Plants for a Tennessee or KentuckyGarden,” and recommendations are based on the 2012 version of the USDA Hardiness Zone map (she says she could not have imagined recommending gardenias outdoors in our zones a few years ago, for example, but now, here they are!)

The plant-by-plant format covers annuals, bulbs, groundcovers and vines, lawngrass perennials, shrubs, trees and water gardens and still gives the when-where-how to plant information, growing tips and care, and how to use plants in the landscape. There’s also information on pruning, planting, pests and diseases, weeds, making compost, starting seeds and other gardening basics.

Keep it in mind if you’re still shopping for the gardeners on your list.