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Stevia sweetens a garden

Have you grown stevia? The University of Tennessee Gardens has named this plant, touted as a natural, no-calorie sweetener, as it Plant of the Month for September, and provided information on how to grow and use it.

UT Gardens kitchen garden manager Holly S. Jones submitted the article about Stevia rebaudiana, which is a tropical perennial native to the mountainous regions of Brazil and Paraguay. It has been used in South America and many regions for a long time, but was approved by the FDA as a “Generally Recognized as Safe” substance in the U.S. in 2008. It was only then that food manufacturers could begin adding it to their products, Jones says. Since then, it has become more common.

And yes, you can grow it in your own garden. Continue reading

Japanese maples stand out in winter

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‘Japanese Sunrise’ is a favorite cultivar for many home gardens because of its multi-colored winter bark. Photo by S. Hamilton, courtesy UTIA.

On a snowy, gray day, what plant can add a bit of cheer in the landscape? Japanese maples, says Sue Hamilton, director of UT Gardens. Each month, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture highlights a “Plant of the Month,” and Japanese maples get the honor for January 2017. Several selections exhibit brilliant bark color when the temperature falls – bright red or orange or yellow or coral pink, “They make quite a show in the winter landscape,” she says.

Sue says they’re also easy trees to maintain. Depending on the cultivar, the size can range from 6 feet to 25 feet tall, but many are in the 10 – 15-foot range, which makes them a good addition to almost any landscape.

“Foliage is a lime green in spring, darkening in color as summer approaches,” she says. “Fall foliage is either a bright, showy shade of yellow or a fusion of red, orange and yellow.” They do best in moist, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. The grow in partial shade but bark coloration will be best when the tree grows in full sun, and young twigs and branches will be more color intensive that the tree trunk itself, she explains. Continue reading