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  • Upcoming Garden Events in Middle Tennessee

    March 1 – 4: Nashville Lawn & Garden Show, Fairgrounds Nashville: The annual all-indoors garden event that features live garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs and special programming Wine Festival featuring Tennessee wines is Saturday (March 3), noon – 5 p.m. For more information on the events and the complete lecture schedule, visit www.nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com.

    April 7: Perennial Plant Sale hosted by the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee annual Perennial Plant Sale at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Find newly released and hard-to-find perennials along with a wide range of tried and tested varieties, all from top local nurseries. The sale opens at 9 a.m. and usually sells out by early afternoon. For more information, visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    April 14: Herb & Plant Sale hosted by The Herb Society of 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., at The Fairgrounds Nashville Sports Arena building. The sale offers common and rare varieties of herbs and heirloom vegetables and handmade pottery and herb markers by artist Roy Overcast for sale. For more information and a list of available plants, visit www.herbsocietynashville.org.

    April 21: Herb & Craft Fair hosted by First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, 1808 Woodmont Blvd., 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Top quality perennial and annual herbs, heirloom tomato plants, native and companion plants, along with food and craft items reflecting an interest in the homemade and homegrown: fresh homemade sweet and yeast breads, spice mixes, barbecue sauces, jams and jellies; knitted and sewn items, homes for birds and bees, and art, jewelry and more made from pressed flowers. Visit www.thefuun.org.

    May 12: Hosta sale hosted by the Middle Tennessee Hosta. Proceeds from the sale support the club’s activities. More information about the MTHS is at www.mths-hosta.com.

    May 19: Urban Gardening Festival, hosted by Master Gardeners of Davidson County, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. (rain or shine) at the Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden at Ellington Agricultural Center (5201 Marchant Drive in Nashville). The free event includes information about a variety of gardening methods and techniques, local artisans, exhibiters, growers and more. For information, visit www.mgofdc.org/ugf.

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Gardenia is worth pampering

I received a gardenia plant in a 3-gallon plastic pot and a large, beautiful ceramic pot to plant it in for Mother’s Day. It’s outdoors in an area that receives part sun. Only one bloom has opened, but it’s full of buds and will be covered in white flowers soon, I hope. When should I repot it into the new pot? Are gardenias hardy in Middle Tennessee?

GardeniaIf buds have formed since you received this lovely gift, I’d wait to repot it until after it has finished blooming. Gardenias don’t always settle into a new environment easily, and a typical response to such a move is to stop flowering.

After the flowers fade, get ready to pamper this temperamental beauty. Continue reading

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Solomon’s seal glows in a woodland garden

What should I do with Solomon’s seal in the fall. Is it better to cut it back? Or just leave it?

solomon's seal

Solomon’s seal blooms in spring, and its leaves and stems turn golden in the fall.

One nice thing about Solomon’s seal (besides its preference to grow and bloom in shade) is how little maintenance it requires in the garden. It comes up in the spring and opens its white, bell-shaped flowers early in the season, provides soft green foliage all summer, then its leaves and stems turn a glowing yellow in the fall before the plant dies back to the ground. Why not just leave it and enjoy it?

Solomon’s seal’s graceful, arching stems and broad leaves are a nice addition to a woodland garden, growing happily alongside ferns, astilbe, hosta, hellebore and other plants that thrive in semi-shade conditions. It grows best in loose, fertile soil that receives regular watering, and spreads slowly by rhizomes. If you have a thick clump of Solomon’s seal, dig and divide the rhizomes and replant them in other areas or share them with gardening friends.

Japanese anemone can be an attractive nuisance

We planted Japanese anemone a few years ago and it’s beautiful now that it’s blooming again, but it’s also spreading all over the place and taking over the garden bed! We’ve tried digging it up and cutting it back, but it just grows more. What can we do to keep it from spreading?

Japanese anemoneHere is an example of a plant that you can fall in love with once a year. The rest of the year, you may find you want to rip it out of the ground.

Japanese anemone has a lot to recommend it. It’s a perennial that grows in sun but is also happy in partly shady conditions. It doesn’t mind acid soil. The foliage grows tall (2 – 4 feet) in attractive mounds. Deer and rabbits don’t seem to care for it, and it blooms reliably in fall, opening masses of pretty white or pink flowers that sway in the breeze after summer-blooming perennials have given up for the year.

It’s a little finicky about soil; it requires good drainage and may languish during periods of drought, but the main complaint gardeners have is that it’s aggressive. It can take a couple of years for it to get established, but once it’s settled in and conditions are right, the plant spreads rapidly and forms dense clumps that take over whatever else might be in its way in the garden bed. Some have called it, generously, a “nuisance” plant.

Here in Zone 7a, Japanese anemone dies back after frost but it’s one of the first things to peek out of the soil in later winter, and once the weather warms, it takes off again. In my garden, it comes up through gravel paths, between rocks in a stacked stone wall, and is making its way into nearby raised beds in the kitchen garden.

It takes diligence and a sharp tool to keep it within bounds. Where you don’t want it to grow, dig it up. Try to get as much of the root as possible (which can be difficult, because the roots break easily). If you want to divide it to share with friends, spring is a good time for that task. Be sure to warn anyone who receives your gift of Japanese anemone that it can become an attractive nuisance.

Betty brown tree trailThe Betty Brown Tree Trail & Arboretum, Nashville’s first downtown arboretum, honors Elizabeth Moorhead Brown’s work to advocate for the city’s urban forests. Read the story in Saturday’s Tennessean.

Prune to preserve the sweet scent of mock orange

Our two mock orange shrubs are full of blooms right now, but they haven’t been pruned in many years and they are very tall and lanky with a lot of dead wood, and look terrible the rest of the time. When can they be shaped up or pruned?

Philadelphus - mock orange

Mock Orange

The flowers of the mock orange shrub last only a week or two in late spring in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a (where The Garden Bench calls home), but they can provide a stunning show, and the fragrance, which is said to resemble orange blossoms, is delicate and sweet.

Those flowers bloom on the previous year’s growth, so you should prune the shrubs right after they finish blooming this year, which allows time for new growth to mature and bloom next spring.

If the shrub is in really bad shape but still vigorous, you can actually do a rejuvenation pruning, removing the oldest stems at ground level to encourage vigorous new growth. Information from the National Gardening Association suggests cutting out about a third of the stems. Pruning the shrub every year encourages it to grow more densely.

In general, mock orange (Philadelphus is the botanical name) grows best in full sun but can tolerate a little shade. It does well in most types of soil, as long as it has good drainage. Mock orange is good to use as a background shrub or a specimen plant in the landscape. If you’re considering a new shrub, be sure to plant it where you can enjoy that sweet, though fleeting, fragrance.

Book giveaway – winners!

southern gardeners handbookLast week we announced a book giveaway – two copies of Southern Gardener’s Handbook by Middle Tennessee author Troy B. Marden. Commenters Rhonda and Amanda were picked in random drawings, and they’ll receive copies of the book from the publisher, Cool Springs Press. Thanks for your comments!

What’s blooming indoors? Cyclamen

I received a cyclamen as a Valentine’s Day gift. It’s very pretty with its heart-shaped leaves and delicate flowers, but how long will the flowers last? How should I take care of it?

CyclamenFlorists cyclamen – the potted blooming plant that you likely will find in grocery stores or a home improvement store’s garden center – provides a nice stroke of blooming color indoors in midwinter. Flowers can be snowy white, or shades of pink, lilac or bright red. Under the best conditions, the plant will continue to send up those delicate blooms for several weeks.

Keep the plant in a place where it receives bright light (up to an hour or two of direct sun), but where the temperature is cool. Keep the soil slightly moist; if the roots dry out, the plant will wilt. Houseplant expert Barbara Pleasant (The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual) suggests watering it by placing the pot in a shallow container of tepid water for about 15 to 30 minutes. If you do water from the top, she cautions to avoid getting water in the plant’s crown.

Cyclamen (sometimes called Persian violet) is generally considered a sweet but temporary visitor, and after several weeks of blooming, the entire plant begins to deteriorate – at which point most people toss it out. Pleasant says they can be brought back into bloom.

She writes: “Allow the foliage to dry until it withers in late spring, and then clip off the old foliage. Place the dormant plant in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months, providing just enough water to keep the roots from drying out completely. In late summer, return the container to a bright location, and repot the plant in fresh soil as soon as new growth appears. Resume watering and feeding, and blooms should emerge 2 to 3 months later.”