Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blossoms of Winter

'Arnold Promise' Witchhazel, www.fantasticplants.com

I'm happy to report that so far, Nashville has dodged today's weather bullet. We'll see what happens after it gets dark and the temperature drops a bit. It has been raining almost continually since about 3:30 this morning, but for most of that time it has been in liquid form and the ambient air temperature is a few degrees above freezing. I'm choosing to believe the forecast the says our temps are going to continue to rise a few degrees and that the city will not be a solid sheet of black ice come morning. We'll see.

Even with the gloomy weather, a bright spot emerged in the garden this morning. I noticed as I was leaving the house that Hamamelis 'Arnold Promise' was just about to burst into full bloom. The petals are still coiled, but it is obvious that with the first warmer day it will regale the garden and perfume the air with its golden yellow blossoms.

Witchhazels are fabulous for the fall, winter and early spring gardens. Depending on the species and cultivar, as well as the area of the country you live in, you might have witchhazels in flower anytime from October through March/April. Of the many varieties I have grown over the years, I keep coming back to 'Arnold Promise' as my favorite. The flowers are large, showy and appear consistently every year. Timing can vary depending on your climate, as early as February here in the mid-south and as late as early April in the northern reaches of its hardiness.

The thing I love the most is its bright, forsythia-yellow color. It seems to come during the grayest days of winter, when I need it most, to remind me that I only need hold on a few more weeks until the first warm days of spring will be here and life will come again to the garden. It makes the perfect understory accent for the garden in bright dappled shade or an excellent focal point where it can take advantage of morning sun and a little protection from the sun's harshest afternoon rays. If you can, site it where you can enjoy it as the rising or setting sun provides dramatic backlighting for its stunning floral display. It's sure to brighten your spirits on even the dreariest of winter days!

There are many other cultivars of witchhazel, too, and honestly, I've never met one I didn't like. The brilliant golds, buttery yellows, burning oranges and rustic burgundies all bring life to the garden at a time when we need it the most!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

P.L.A.N.T. Winter Seminar

I've just been reminded of another excellent program that will be happening in a few weeks in the Nashville area. For those of you within driving distance, it would be an outstanding opportunity to hear some world class plant gurus talking about the things they love the best. The lineup includes renowned plantsman, founder and former owner of Heronswood Nursery, Dan Hinkley, as well as Tennessee's own Carol Reese who is as knowledgable and as entertaining as they come. Rounding out the day are Dr. Richard Olsen from the U.S. National Arboretum and Dr. Andrew Bell from the Chicago Botanic Garden, both extraordinary plantsmen and at the forefront of new plant introductions and coming trends in the world of horticulture.

The stars really aligned to get this group of people under one roof at the same time, so if you're close by, you really ought to try to make it! You can find registration information on the website of the Professional Landscape Association of Nashville Tennessee (P.L.A.N.T.) at www.landscapenashville.org. Just click on the "News & Events" button and it will take you to the correct page! Hope to see as many of you there as possible!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Garden Shows

It's that time of year again! Communities across the country are gearing up for the onslaught of spring garden shows that crop up (pun intended) during the late winter and early spring months each year. Here in Nashville there are three "major" shows and they begin in February with The Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville (www.antiquesandgardenshow.com). After working on this show for nearly 15 years, I swore that I was going to "retire" and just enjoy the beautiful gardens and booths as a spectator. My retirement was short-lived.

I received a phone call from one of the movers and shakers in the show a few weeks back saying that there had been a last minute change in plans and that they were short a design/install group for one of the gardens and would I be willing to take it on? In an obvious moment of weakness, I agreed. What WAS I thinking!?! Anyway, look for us at the show. We'll be there. The plans are laid and, one way or another, we'll pull it off!

Following the Antiques and Garden Show is the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show (www.nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com) from March 5th-8th. I'll be speaking again this year on the 8th--time and topic to be determined. I'll have it posted on my website (www.troybmarden.com) on the list of speaking engagements as soon as I know all of the details.

The final spring show in our area is the Bloom 'n' Garden Expo (www.bloomngarden.com), hosted by the Williamson County Master Gardeners Association. It's a young show--only 6 years old--but has come along way in just a few short years. The gardens get better and better every year and there are always alot of cool plants for sale. I'm speaking again at this show, though time, date, etc. are still up in the air at the moment. This, too, will be posted on my website once I know all of the details.

In addition to these events there are a number of other plant sales that happen in and around the community. These include the Wildflower Fair at Cheekwood, the Herb Society of Nashville's Herb Sale, the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee's plant sale and I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting off the top of my head. (If I've forgotten you, email me and I'll add the information.) Most of these happen between mid-March and mid-April and more information can be found by Googling them, I'm sure.

Well, I'm off to select plants for the Antiques & Garden Show garden, so will have to cut this short. We're gearing up for spring around here, regardless of the fact that it was only 10 degrees this morning! I hope you're getting in the mood where you live, too!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter Blast

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Winter--REAL winter--has reared its ugly head. We're expecting the coldest temperatures in six years here in Nashville tonight and, in the outerlying areas, possibly the coldest temperatures in nearly 10 years!

For those of you in the midwest and northeast, what we're experiencing here is child's play compared to the temperatures that you and your gardens are having to endure. But for those of us who like to garden on the edge of our gardening zone, weather like this can be devastating--and enlightening. We'll learn alot from this. For instance, we'll learn whether Loropetalumis truly a Zone 7 plant or whether we can get away with it in Zone 6. My guess is Zone 7 and we'll see significant dieback if these temperatures endure for long.

On a brighter note, the fact that we've gradually approached the single digits rather than plummeting from one extreme to the other is a good thing. Yes, it was fairly balmy earlier in the week--mid to upper 40's--but at least we didn't plunge from 48 to 8 in just a few hours' time. That has happened on several occasions and the effects are devastating. Also, we're not going to remain bitterly cold for days on end, but cold is cold and for plants that aren't adapted, it can still be damaging. Be prepared to do a little pruning and deadwooding on your tender shrubs this spring.

So, what to do? For the most part, my plants are on their own. I confess that I did move some of the more tender conifers (still in containers) around to the south side of the house, just to keep them out of the wind. Another group was moved to the south side of the garden shed for the same reason. And a small handful of plants that I REALLY wanted to protect were set inside the garden shed--unheated, but protected nonetheless. That's all the preparation I'm doing. Beyond that, the plants are on their own. They'll just have to survive--or not. It's a cruel, cruel world...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Feeding Frenzy

It's a busy time of year at the birdfeeders! I have an abundance of finches at my new country home--gold finches, purple finches and pine siskins. There are probably some others that I'm not familiar with, yet, but those are the primary three. I haven't seen any house finches, to date, but I'm sure they're around. I was overrun with them in the city. I also have mama and papa nuthatches, tufted titmice, chickadees, a pair of house wrens and the obligatory flock of mourning doves, whom I adore not only because they're pretty, but because they waddle around and clean up all the seed the other birds spill on the ground. Wasteful little things birds can be, sometimes. The papa nuthatch will actually THROW things OUT of the feeder that he's not interested in, but the doves take care of it, so I'm not complaining. He is a little territorial, however, and I'm not so fond of his running off my other birds should they DARE land on whichever feeder he's possessing at the moment.

In addition, and perhaps my most prized residents for the moment, are two mated pair of bluebirds whose babies will assuredly adorn the garden this spring and, I noticed yesterday for the first time, the rose-breasted grosbeaks (up until now I had seen them only rarely!) are NESTING atop the downspout just outside my office window! What a treat that will be a little later in the season!

I am beginning to get the gardening itch. When I moved to the new place in the country back in August, the garden had been somewhat let go (understandably so) through the summer due to my landlord being in the throes of trying to finish her new house so that she AND I could both move. To that end, there was alot of cleaning up that had to be done. Some of it I tackled--most of it I left. Now it's time to get out there and finish the task! I have taken some "before" pictures and will post those in the near future. 2009 is going to be a year of gardening, which I haven't had the pleasure of being able to do for the past few years because of my prior living situation. This year, all of those little (and some not-so-little) plants that I have been tending to in their pots for the past four years are finally going to find a home! The blog will follow along with the progress, the success, the trials and the tribulations. I hope you will, too, and I wish the very best in 2009! Thank goodness it's FINAllY here. I feel better already!