Thursday, July 30, 2009

Barbara Mandrell on Volunteer Gardener

What crazy weather we're having for this time of year! I'm not complaining, because it sure is wonderful here, but my friends in the Pacific Northwest are having a recordbreaking heatwave.

My real reason for posting is to remind everyone in the middle Tennessee area that my interview with Barbara Mandrell about the new Nashville Music Garden will air tonight on Nashville Public Television at 7:30 p.m. and will repeat at 9:30 this coming Sunday morning. I hope you get to watch! If you're not in the Nashville viewing area, watch your local listings. We do air in every market in Tennessee (Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Martin), so we'll be on all across the state at some point in the very near future! We also spill over into any neighboring states that are able to pick up any public television stations from those cities listed, so you'll be able to watch us, too!

I'm working on a couple of new things from my trip to St. Louis last week for the Perennial Plant Association annual symposium. There are some fascinating new plants coming on the market in 2010, so a new update on those coming in the next few days. Until then, hope the weather is being kind to you.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Glorious Gladiolus

Gladiolus are another of those plants that hold a nostalgic place in my heart. The next door neighbors used to grow rows and rows of them at the far end of the vegetable garden, carefully lifting and storing the corms each autumn and replanting them the following spring for tall spires of summer blooms to cut for neighbors and friends. I'm less inclined to do the "digging and storing" thing, so I thought I'd tell you about one of my favorite perennial gladiolus that lives its life year-round in the garden--no digging, no cleaning, no storing, no replanting!

Meet 'Boone'. Commonly sold as Gladiolus x gandavensis 'Boone', it is now fairly certain that it is actually a form or very early hybrid of Gladiolus primulinus (now lumped into G. dalenii). It is a stalwart garden performer, hardy to at least Zone 5b and with numerous reports of it surviving colder locales. Its stunning golden-apricot blossoms are an almost indescribable color--think of the most luscious apricot sherbet you can imagine and you're almost there--and it flowers for a period of several weeks in mid-summer. And because it's a "glad" it will last beautifully when cut and brought indoors to enjoy, too!

Much more diminutive than the common florist's gladiolus, 'Boone' holds its head high in the garden with no flopping or laying on the neighbors. Green sword-like foliage brings that great vertical element to the garden before the flowers emerge and remains well after they're gone. Discovered near 'Boone' North Carolina on an abandoned homestead, Gladiolus 'Boone' was introduced by plant guru and former proprietor of Holbrook Farm and Nursery, Allen Bush (now the North American rep for German seed company Jelitto) and has become a favorite of every gardener who grows it. Allen is a great friend and the photo you see actually came from his garden when we filmed a segment with him for Volunteer Gardener a couple of years ago.

If 'Boone' has you salivating and tapping the keys to Google the nursery nearest you who offers it for sale, then there is a cousin I need to tell you about, too. If you're going to order 'Boone', then go ahead (you might as well, while you're at it!) and order 'Carolina Primrose', too! It's just as gorgeous in a soft, buttery primrose yellow and you'll want them both, anyway. It's hardy, too, and once you've grown one, you have to grow the other and it will just be easier to get them both now! Go on, it's okay. I won't tell, I promise. Order one and tell the significant other that the other one was a "bonus plant". Oh--you've already used that explanation, I see.....

Well, anyway, tuck some of these magnificent plants into the drier nooks and crannies of the garden and see what happens. They'll reseed themselves very politely into just the right places in the garden and, after a couple of seasons, you'll have just enough to share with all the friends who will be begging for them every time they visit your garden!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Nashville Music Garden

I'm a big fan of public green spaces. I always have been. That's especially true when good horticulture is involved and that is exactly what's going on at the Nashville Music Garden in downtown Nashville. Located just a block off of lower Broadway and directly across the street from both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Nashville Music Garden is the perfect marriage of two of my favorite things--gardening and music! What else?!?

Everyone knows that gardening is where I make my living. I wouldn't be here writing to you if that wasn't the case. What some of you might not know is that I'm also an avid music enthusiast--all kinds of music, country included. This obsession with music started at about the same time as my passion for gardening--age 3. I can remember even at that early age my grandfather picking me up in his arms and dancing me around the living room as Guy Lombardo played in the background. And I remember when my grandparents and their friends would still go out to "the club" on Saturday nights and dance the night away to the sounds of big band music and singers who could really sing.

These memories merge with memories of me collecting the "helicopters" that would twirl down out of the silver maples in the front yard at my babysitter's home and that I knew, instinctively, that if I planted them they would grow. I don't ever recall anyone saying to me "Those are seeds. Put them in the ground." It was just something I did. Thirty-five years later there are still two silver maples (not the greatest tree, I know, but hey, I was THREE!) standing in my parents yard--the fruits of my young labor transplanted from the babysitter's flower bed.

That short digression brings us back around to yesterday and the Nashville Music Garden, where horticulture and music meet again, as they have done throughout my life. In this relatively small plot of earth in downtown Nashville, a garden has grown; a garden that celebrates the music and the musicians of our city. Roses named 'Barbara Mandrell' and 'Pam Tillis' and 'Dolly Parton' and 'Patsy Cline', among others. There are also roses named after songs, like 'Ring of Fire' and 'Butterfly Kisses'. In addition to the roses there are daylilies that also bear the names of people who have made a difference in the music world and in Music City.

So we filmed a short piece about this new Nashville Music Garden for our television show, Volunteer Gardener ( and again, gardening and music came together. I had the distinct honor of being joined by one of my musical heroes--country music superstar and one of the newest inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Barbara Mandrell. It was because of Barbara that I chose to play the saxophone when I was only 9 years old and getting ready to start grade school band. I had seen her play it on television and I knew that's what I wanted to do. I had already started playing piano and the alto sax just seemed like a natural progression. I played all the way into college and I still play that saxophone today when the mood strikes, though I'm not nearly as good as I once was. Practice, practice, practice.

And so with Barbara Mandrell at my side, she and I showcased the history and the beautiful blossoms of the roses and daylilies in the Nashville Music Garden and once again gardening and music came together--me, the professional gardener and the hobby musician and Barbara, the professional musician and the hobby gardener. I am in awe that these two things keep coming together in my life and each day I wonder how they will merge and marry again.

Join Barbara and a host of other celebrities, along with yours truly, at the official dedication of the Nashville Music Garden on the morning of September 29, 2009 at 10:30 a.m. Everyone's invited!