Saturday, December 18, 2010

Italian Style

One of the fun things I had the pleasure of doing earlier this fall was taking a trip to Italy with a group of five other friends.  We rented a fantastic house (  up in the hills of the upper Tiber River Valley near the small town of Caprese Michelangelo in the far eastern reaches of Tuscany, where Michelangelo himself was born.  This was my first real vacation in almost 5 years and I have to say, no cell phone, no computer, and no television for an entire week was absolutely divine!  Our beautiful house was surrounded by Tuscan farm land and we backed up to a several thousand acre national forest, complete with wild chestnut trees (the chestnuts were ripening while we were there and I roasted them in the fireplace almost every morning!), wild boar, porcupine and all kinds of other critters, not to mention diverse plant life.

I took more than 1300 photos in the 10 days we were gone and still have many to go through and cull, but I've put together a few of the better ones and thought I'd share them with all of my readers.  I'll show you some of the plant life a little later on, but here are a few of the better landscapes and other shots I took while we were there.

This was sunrise on the first morning we were at Priello, our house in the Tuscan countryside.

Another sunrise shot, with teasel.

This was the largest and oldest chestnut tree on the property.   There were many others, but this was the granddaddy!

Another view out from our house.

The leaning tower.  If you're close by, you have to see it.  The cathedral and baptistry are also magnificent!

A kind of cool black-and-white shot of the outside of cathedral of Pisa.  The leaning tower is "behind" the church and was built as a bell tower.

The town of Lucca.  Exquisite.

The vineyards at Poggio Amorelli, Chianti, where we did a wine and olive oil tasting!

The medieval walled town of Anghiari.  I love the way the statues atop this school are looking out over the city.

The driveway leading up to our little abode, Priello.

Jerome playing with the goats at Valle di Mezzo.  This farm was owned by the same guys who we rented our house from.   They are in the business of making goat cheese and I can tell you, it was fabulous! 

La Bottega, a small restaurant in Volpaia, Italy.  We ate just across the street at a restaurant owned by the same family, but I loved this little entrance garden!

That's all for now!  See you soon!

Welcome To The New Blog

Greetings Everyone!

I know you thought I had disappeared for good, but I promise I haven't.  Late summer and fall were incredibly busy and I was on the road--almost continuously, it seemed--from the third week in July, when I went to Portland for the annual Perennial Plant Association Symposium,  until mid-November, when I had my last speaking engagement for 2010.  In fact, I had four week-long or longer trips in a twelve week period of time in addition to several overnight speaking engagements.  In the midst of all of that, I decided to overhaul the blog and the website.  The blog is finished, but the website has proven to be a challenge, as the program  I had used previously doesn't seem to like communicating with my new laptop.  It's slowly coming together and I hope to re-launch the website with an all new look sometime after the first of the year.  In the meantime, the old website remains (mostly) operational at .

I am already booking well into 2011 for speaking engagements and have even booked a couple of dates for 2012.  If any of you are involved in plant societies, garden clubs or other groups and are in need of speakers, please feel free to contact me.  You can reach me at .

As many of you know, I was in the process of launching some garden tours when the economic crisis happened and I decided to table that idea temporarily until things straightened out a bit.  Well, it seems things are slowly getting better and I am considering putting together some stateside tours for late 2011 and 2012 with the possibility of a trip to Scotland sometime in 2012, also.  The stateside tours would be to the Brandywine Valley, with tours of many of the public gardens, nurseries and some private estates in the Philadelphia area and possibly to the Portland, Oregon area, one of our country's gardening meccas and a plant shopper's dream, with more than 500 nurseries within a 75-mile radius of Portland.  If any of you are interested in taking some intensely garden and plant-oriented trips, give me a shout!  The more interest I know is out there, the more likely it is we'll be able to get enough people together to make some of these tours work out.  Once we have itineraries worked out, I'll post those, as well, so you can see exactly what I'm thinking about doing and the places we might be visiting on various outings.

For those of you in the South, you'll be seeing a lot of me in the State-by-State gardening magazines (Tennessee Gardener, Georgia Gardener, etc. etc.) this coming year and I'm back in touch with my friends at Fine Gardening and hopefully will be doing some more work for them soon, which takes me out again to a national audience.  We had another incredible year on our television show, Volunteer Gardener , and I have to say a personal "Thank You" to all of you across Tennessee and our "spill-over" areas in surrounding states for tuning in each and every week.  Our ratings continue to be some of the highest in the country for locally produced television and those ratings are part of what keeps us on the air.  For those of you outside of our viewing area, you can find a few segments on YouTube if you search "Volunteer Gardener".

I hope that all of you are having a wonderful holiday season and now that the blog is back up and running, it will be full speed ahead from here.  I promise!  I have 5 months worth of photos and "plant talk" to catch up on, so forgive me if I fill your In-boxes with more posts than usual over the coming weeks and months.  At the least, I'm back to my weekly postings.  I hope that 2011 sees many of your wishes and dreams coming true.  Happy Holidays!


Friday, July 23, 2010

A Week In Portland

Hi All!  Just a quick note to say hello from the annual Perennial Plant Association conference, this year in Portland, Oregon.  This is my first trip to the Pacific Northwest and it has been absolutely beautiful here.  The weather has been stunning (upper 70's to lower 80's during the day and 60's at night), the plant life is unbelievably beautiful and it's always good to see so many friends who I only get to see a couple of times a year.  Below, you'll find several photos of some of the beautiful places we've had the opportunity to visit this week.
Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Mt. Hood, from the city of Hood River

Mt. Hood's summit at Timberline Lodge

Portland's Chinese Garden

Portland's Chinese Garden

Portland's Chinese Garden

Portland's Chinese Garden

Terra Nova Nurseries--one of the owners is my good friend Dan Heims, who I've had the pleasure of knowing since he was showing us his latest Heuchera leaves spread out on the hotel room bed during the conference.  We've come a long way since then!

One of Dan's newest Echinaceas (coneflower) called 'Daydream'

Dierama 'Blackbird'.  Unbelievably beautiful and unfortunately one of those plants that most of us don't live in the right climate to grow--or at least grow well.

And finally, whether you love it or not, Echinacea 'Pink Poodle'.  More Portland updates to come!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In The Garden

Hi everyone!  I thought I'd share a few photos from the garden.  It has been nearly two years since I moved and as some of you know, it took all of the first year just to get the beds whipped into shape, the weeds under control and gain some sense of control over what was already here when I moved in.  This second season in the garden has been devoted to details and I'm finally at a place where I'm getting plants in the ground every weekend.  It isn't that I haven't planted anything at all over the past two years, I've just worked bed by bed to try and get it right the first time (yeah, right!) and keep the moving of plants later on to a minimum.  Whether they eventually get moved or not, some of the plants that have been in the ground for a season or two are really settling in nicely and certain ones are really beginning to put on a show.  I thought I'd share a few of the goings on in the garden with you.  Hope you enjoy this little tour of some of the plant life around my garden.

Spring started off back in March with Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise', one of my favorite witchhazels.

Flowering at about the same time as the witchhazel, Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Silver Moon' has quickly become one of my favorites.

Iris reticulata is a late winter/early spring bloomer that brightens up the gray days of winter just about the time you begin to wonder if spring will ever arrive.

Beginning in May and continuing on for well over a month is Papaver dubium, the common field poppy.  I love its deeply divided, fern-like foliage and the brilliant orange blooms.  It's a re-seeder, so make sure you leave the seedpods!

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, hydrangea season was spectacular this year.  This is Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billow' in full bloom next to the garden shed.

A closeup of 'Blue Billow'.  So beautiful!

One of my favorite shade plants, Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'.  Unfortunately, it's rather hard to find.

I love milkweeds! L-O-V-E them!  And this one, Asclepias variegata, is right near the top of the list.  If you need a cool plant that thrives in dry shade (or part shade anyway), this is it!  And the monarch butterflies like it, too.

Gladiolus papilio is a small-flowered, hardy gladiolus.  I got my corms from Ellen Hornig at Seneca Hill Perennials just before she decided to close the nursery.  I have at least three color forms that have flowered so far.  This one has the nicest markings, but there is another that has a more open flower.  The third is an entirely different color--a sort of mauve-lavender with grey undertones.  Quite unusual.

I love this variegated pine, Pinus densiflora 'Oculis Draconis', the "dragon eye" pine.

One of my favorite hydrangeas, Hydrangea arborescens 'Hayes Starburst', discovered by my friend Hayes Jackson in his garden in Anniston, Alabama.  This is a cousin of the popular 'Annabelle' hydrangea, but much, much more refined.  It's also a lot slower to establish and needs about three seasons in the garden to really get going.  It's well worth the wait!

And finally... flowering this week, Musa ornata 'Red Jewel', which has been hardy in a couple of gardens in the Nashville area in protected locations for the past 5 or 6 winters.  I'm not claiming it as "hardy", necessarily, but if you site it appropriately you may get it to come through the winter.  From Zone 7 south, I think it would be pretty reliable.  It sure is spectacular when it flowers!

And that's what has been happening in the garden so far this year.  New things continue to flower and each week I get more plants, some of which have lived in pots for more than 5 years, in the ground.  Hope your summer, wherever you are (or winter if you're south of the equator!) is going well and I'll be back again soon.  Happy gardening!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

'Crescendo' Rose Unveiled on Volunteer Gardener

Hi Everyone--This week I'm passing along a press release about the episode of Volunteer Gardener that will air in the Nashville viewing area on Nashville Public Television this coming Thursday evening, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. and will repeat at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday the 20th.   We air statewide across Tennessee, but at different times in different viewing areas, so if you're in the Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Martin or Cookeville areas, you'll need to consult your local listings.  For those of you who live outside of Tennessee, if the show becomes available on the internet, I will let you know.

As many of you know, two weeks after we filmed this episode back in March, Jackson & Perkins announced that they were filing for bankruptcy.  Unfortunately, we do not know what that means for the 'Crescendo' rose at this time.  Jackson & Perkins retail mail order business is undergoing re-organization, along with it's parent company Park Seed, but it is my understanding that the wholesale division, which includes all breeding and research, has been re-claimed by the bank.  It is our belief at this time that since 'Crescendo' was set to be unveiled in the 2011 J&P catalog and the catalog/mail order division is being re-organized, that it is already in production fields and we will still see 'Crescendo' come to market next spring.  I will let you know as we learn more.

As always, thanks for continuing to follow along with the blog.  There is much, much more to come!


Pictured: Troy Marden host of “Volunteer Gardener” with Crescendo rose hybridizer Keith Zary of Jackson & Perkins (photo by: Katherine Bomboy)


The Crescendo Rose Honoring the Nashville Symphony is the First Rose to Recognize a Specific Symphony Orchestra

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--June 15, 2010--The Nashville Symphony was recently honored by Jackson & Perkins with a brand new rose variety, aptly named "Crescendo." It is the first rose to be named in honor of a specific symphony orchestra and the latest addition to the Nashville Music Garden. Tune in to "Volunteer Gardener" on Nashville Public Television (NPT-Channel 8) on Thursday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. and catch host Troy Marden as he profiles this fragrant and beautiful rose. The show re-airs on Sunday, June 20 at 9:30 a.m. Marden was on hand for Crescendo’s star studded unveiling at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in March along with country stars Barbara Mandrell, Pam Tillis and Brenda Lee and captured all the fun for the show.

"Jackson & Perkins has been creating some of the world's finest roses for more than 130 years and 'Crescendo' is the latest in a long line of rose masterpieces. It was an honor to interview Crescendo's creator, Dr. Keith Zary,” said Marden. “I hope everyone will tune in to 'Volunteer Gardener' to see the Nashville Music Garden’s newest rose unveiled on the show!"

"Volunteer Gardener" also airs across Tennessee on select PBS stations including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Martin and Cookeville (check local listings for show times).

About Crescendo:

Pat Bullard, a LifeWorks trustee and founder of the Nashville Music Garden (Located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Demonbreun in the Hall of Fame Park just across the street from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center) along with Sam Jones and the Nashville Rose Society approached hybridizers Jackson & Perkins with their desire to honor the Nashville Symphony, regarded as one of the most creative and innovative orchestras in the nation today. The Crescendo is a fragrant cream and pink blend hybrid tea rose bred from two award-winning parents, "Gemini" and "New Zealand." The exhibition quality rose was developed by hybridizer Keith Zary.

Crescendo will debut for purchase in the Spring 2011 Jackson & Perkins retail catalog. For information about the Nashville Music Garden, visit and for information about the Nashville Rose Society, visit

About NPT:

Nashville Public Television is available free and over the air to nearly 2.2 million people throughout the Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky viewing area, and is watched by more than 600,000 households every week. The mission of NPT is to provide, through the power of traditional television and interactive telecommunications, high quality educational, cultural and civic experiences that address issues and concerns of the people of the Nashville region, and which thereby help improve the lives of those they serve. For more information, visit

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Banner Hydrangea Season

Wow, time flies!  I've been trying to be good about posting and then suddenly I look up from what I'm doing and it has been THREE WEEKS!  Where does it go?!?

I'm happy to say that it has been one of the most spectacular hydrangea seasons that I can recall in the 17 years I have lived in Nashville.  Why?  Well, as much as I disliked the cold winter weather that seemed as though it might never end, the hydrangeas loved it.  More importantly, they loved the fact that once it got cold this past winter, it stayed that way.  We didn't have nearly as many wild fluctuations in temperature as we normally have and that caused tender hydrangea buds to stay dormant!  Usually, we have one of those early warm spells that lulls unsuspecting hydrangea buds into a sense of false security, so they swell, turn green--and get zapped!  That didn't happen this winter and now we're being rewarded.

My Hydrangea macrophylla varieties are beautiful this year.  They're usually the most prone to damage by early frosts and in the Nashville area we usually have one good Hydrangea macrophylla year out of every five.  But it's the Hydrangea serrata cultivars that are truly remarkable.  Words just can't describe how loaded with flowers they are!  Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billow' has outshined anything else in the garden by far and Hydrangea serrata 'Beni' is proving itself to be an exceptional plant.  If you're unfamiliar with the "serratas", the plant resembles our common garden hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), but the leaves are typically a little smaller and usually have a matte surface to the leaf rather than the glossy or semi-glossy leaf of the "macrophyllas".  The other difference is that the "serratas" are almost all lace-caps, with their delicate flowers seeming to float just above the plant.

I am frequently asked about the proper culture for hydrangeas.  Generally speaking, they prefer moist, rich, well-drained soil and plenty of water.  In my estimation, one of the most common mistakes is planting them in too much shade--even in the South.  At minimum, they really need to be sited in morning sun and the more sun you give them, the better they will usually flower.  Sunlight helps to ripen their semi-woody stems late it in the season and the more ripened and hardened off they are before winter sets in, the more likely those stems and the buds they carry are likely to survive the winter to flower the following year.

Wilting vs. Flagging.  I think it's very important for gardeners to know the difference between a plant that is "wilted" and a plant that is "flagging".  A wilted plant is one that has drooped because the soil around it has become dry and it can no longer pull water from the soil.  Water is pulled out of the leaves and into the stems for storage--a defense mechanism to try and stay alive.  A plant that is flagging has plenty of moisture at its roots, but is responding to another environmental factor--usually sun (especially with hydrangeas), but it can also be a response to a dramatic change in air pressure or humidity.

How do you tell the difference?  Easy.  Does the plant stand back up and look "normal" once the sun is no longer on it (or after the weather front passes)?  If so, then the plant has just "flagged" in response to some change in its environment.  Openings on the back of the leaf, called stomata, have closed in order to conserve water inside the plant and the plant droops.  Hydrangeas, specifically, may flag every day if they're in the sun, but as long as they have moisture at their roots, they'll be fine.  If, however, your plant has wilted from being too dry, the leaves won't perk back up, even after the sun is off of the plant or the weather has finished changing.  If you have hydrangeas that wilt in the afternoon sun but do not perk back up once the sun has gone down, they probably need a thorough soaking around their roots.

In the fall, usually around Labor Day weekend, I stop watering my hydrangeas altogether--only supplementing them if they wilt and stay wilted for more than 3 or 4 days at a time.  This is a little bit of "tough love", but I want their woody stems to ripen and harden off and a little bit of stress helps to do this.  I don't go overboard and will give them some supplemental water if their wilting persists for more than a few days, but I've found that this "hardening off" process helps me to have more reliable blooms the following season.

Guess I had better sign out for now, but I'll be back again in a week or so!  Hope your hydrangeas are outdoing themselves this year!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Iris By The Back Door

I'm sure that for each of us there are a host of characters who played important roles in our lives, especially when we were children.  My cast of characters happens to be a rather long list and oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, almost all of them had something to do with shaping me as a gardener.

I've told this story before, but in order to set up what I'm about to tell, I think it bears repeating that I began gardening when I was three.  Yes, three--when I planted the "helicopters" from a silver maple in the babysitter's flower bed and had so much success that two of those offspring still stand in my parents' yard today.  In fact, I could still give you a virtual walking tour of the babysitter's "garden", as it were, but that's a story for another time.  Maybe next week.

Today's entry moves us forward a few years when I was around the age of six or seven and introduces you to three more characters in my story--Annie Hurlburt, the country vet, and Pearl and Letha Condray, the mother and daughter who lived two doors down and across the street.  Annie and her husband Jack and their family lived on the other side of town (understand that in the town I grew up in, that might have been a mile--maybe a mile-and-a-half) and just down a little country road.  We always took the dogs and cats out for their shots, etc. and because I was squeamish--especially when they were vaccinating squealing little puppies--I usually stayed outside and looked at the garden.  There were irises everywhere, and it was especially fun for me to go in the spring when they were in bloom.

If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the story goes that one year Annie and her kids collected seed from some of the iris in the garden, sowed them, and planted the resulting seedlings near the back door of the house.  The sole survivor was a beautiful bicolor, with standards of golden yellow and falls of ruby red and from then on the iris was referred to as the "back door" iris.

There were also irises two doors down at Pearl and Letha Condray's house--hundreds of them--in every color of the rainbow!  Pearl, who lived to be nearly 100 years old, had to have been well into her 80's and probably approaching 90 even when I was a little boy and there were many times in many springs when I would walk down the street and Pearl and I would stroll through bed after bed of iris with her recalling completely from memory the name of every iris in the garden.  She could also tell you who she bought it from and what year!  Pearl's daughter, Letha, was just as sharp and there were just as many walks around the garden with her as there were with Pearl.  In fact, my mother still has two large clumps of spuria iris in the garden that have been there at least 30 years that came as divisions from Pearl and Letha--and there are divisions of those iris now residing in my garden in Tennessee.

The "back door" iris from Annie, the vet, also resided at Pearl and Letha's--by the back door, of course.  It was the only iris in a small bed made just for it and when it was in bloom, it's bold coloration shown across the garden.  A division of that plant eventually made it to my garden, too, but unfortunately, after many years, it finally disappeared.  I was reminiscing about some of the people who had influenced me a couple of years ago when Pearl and Letha and Annie all came to mind.  Letha had finally passed away--Pearl and Annie had long since been gone--and Letha's house was left to one of the local churches and the garden, for the most part, was dismantled.  This prompted me to pick up the phone and call mom to see if she knew of anyone around town who might still have some of the "back door" iris growing in their garden.  Letha and Pearl gave away hundreds of iris every summer--anything that needed dividing--so I thought there was a chance that someone might still have it.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later mom called to say that she had run into someone who thought they still had a clump in their garden--at least that's what it was labeled--but it hadn't bloomed in several years, so she couldn't be sure.  She brought mom a fat, healthy rhizome which then made its way to Tennessee and the photo you see above is the very same iris.  It found its way home to me after more than 30 years and this photo was taken last week in my garden.  I didn't know if it was the right one either until that beautiful, boldly colored, golden-yellow and ruby red flower unfurled its first blossom.  And in a few years, when the clump is large and healthy, I'm going to pass the "back door" iris on to some of my gardening friends the same way it was given to me.  After all, friends and memories are really what gardening is all about.  Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bailing Out

Hello from a rain soaked, waterlogged and devastated, but optimistic Nashville, Tennessee.  For those of you who haven't heard, west and middle Tennessee and several other parts of the southeast were soaked by torrential rains this past Saturday and Sunday with some areas receiving upwards of 20 inches of rain in 36 hours.  Nashville proper "officially" received 13 1/2 inches of rain according to the National Weather Service, but many areas of town would argue that they received more--and they'd probably be right.  At my house in Primm Springs, Tennessee, which is about 30 miles west of Nashville, I dumped 15 1/2 inches of rain out of my rain gauge.  However, there were several times over the course of two days when the wind was blowing so hard that it was raining sideways and the rain was probably being blown right across the opening of the rain gauge without going in.  My guess is that I actually had in the neighborhood of 18 inches of total rainfall.  Thankfully, I live on top of a hill.  Our damage was mostly cosmetic and while it's inconvenient, it certainly isn't life altering.

Tens of thousands of people in the city of Nashville and several surrounding communities have lost everything they've ever owned.  Many will have a hard time recovering.  Lives have been lost across the state.  In addition to the many homes and lives affected, many of Nashville's most famous attractions are devastated or destroyed.  The Opryland Hotel had 15 feet or more of water throughout the hotel and the Opry House had water above the level of the stage.  Next door, the Opry Mills Mall has at least 6-8 feet of water inside and a friend who works at one of the stores there says they will not even be allowed in to assess damage until Friday, at the earliest.  Musicians were also hit hard by this event, as one of the primary warehouses where many musicians store their instruments when they are not on the road was completely devastated by the flood waters.

Our stunning Schermerhorn Symphony Center--built just within the past 5 years and arguably one of the finest modern symphony halls in the world--had 25 feet of water in the lower level.  The damage there has yet to be assessed.  The same goes for the Country Music Hall of Fame, which had five to six feet of water in its theater and whose vaults, which hold the entire history of country music, were in the lower levels.  I haven't heard any official word on losses there.  Businesses throughout the downtown district were flooded and our LP Field, the home of the Tennessee Titans football team, looked like a giant swimming pool from the air, with water filling the field up to the first level of stadium seating.

Gratefully, there has been very little (almost none) looting or other types of theft, etc.  People are, for the most part, calm, cool, collected, respectful and marching forward--cleaning up and figuring out what to do next.  Neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends and strangers pitching in to help people they've never met.  Keep the citizens of Nashville and it surrounding communities, as well as those in west and southwest Tennessee and northern and eastern Mississippi in your thoughts as we begin to recover from this record-setting flood that experts are now calling a "once in a thousand year" event.   Next week we'll be back to gardening.

If you'd like to see some stunning images of what we've been through in the past few days, click here

See you soon!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Greetings, Gardeners!

Happy Spring, everybody!  I've been away from the blog for quite a while now and I've received several very kind emails wondering if I was okay and if indeed I was going to get the blog up and running again.  I'm fine, I promise, and I WILL be back to blogging all the time now, so stay tuned!  We've been working on re-designing the website, changing servers and various other things and were hoping to be able to re-launch the new website and pick up blogging again all at the same time--back in March.  The website re-vamp has taken much longer than I had hoped and the new site may not launch until early summer now, so I didn't want to stay away from the blog any longer!

I hope that spring is in full swing for you or if not, at least on its way!  For those of you who live in the southern hemisphere, I guess you're on your way into autumn!  No matter where you're gardening, I hope that your gardens have been beautiful and successful and I hope that you'll continue to follow along as we get into the full swing of gardening season here in the states.

A lot has been happening and I have been working away on many design projects and several fun publishing things, so will try to keep you posted.  For you Tennessee folks, I've had several articles in Tennessee Gardener magazine lately and occasionally those articles go regional in all of the State-by-State gardening magazines (I think there about 16 or 17 states, mostly in the south), so you may see me there.  We've also started filming for our new season of Volunteer Gardener, so again, if you're in Tennessee, we air statewide so check your local listings for airtime on your local PBS station.

I'm also supposed to have an article in Landscape Solutions magazine, which is one of the Better Homes & Gardens special interest publications, though I have to admit that I have not seen it yet.

I've been taking lots of spring photos, so be prepared for all kinds of fun new blog posts in the weeks to come.  Thanks so much for following along and happy gardening to everyone!

P.S.  I'm working on itineraries right now for our first garden tours, which I will organize and lead.  I'll keep you posted as those take shape!  Talk to you soon!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Music, Movies, Awards and Her Grace

It has been a banner week at the Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville.  As I reported a few days ago, we began early last Sunday morning setting up and preparing for this year's show.  The installation of this year's garden went along quite smoothly and I think we all felt we were pretty well ahead of the game most of the time.  The final piece of the puzzle happened on Wednesday morning, with the installation of our "color" (tulips, hydrangeas, witchhazels and exquisitely fragrant hyacinths), and the creation of an enormous floral arrangement for the center of the garden.

I started with 1 urn, 36 blocks of oasis (floral foam for those of you who don't speak "flowers") and 9 five-gallon buckets full of fresh cut flowers, including 300 roses.  Three hours later the garden's centerpiece came to life in a rainbow-colored centerpiece that stood over 9 feet tall (including pedestal and urn) and more than 6 feet across!

While I was working on the floral display, a couple of notable Nashvillians strolled through during the show's "early shopping" event--an informal opening of the show to a few key benefactors and special guests--and two even stopped to comment on the flowers and say hello.  After living in Nashville for 17 years, I don't get terribly starstruck anymore, but when Faith Hill and Gwyneth Paltrow pass through, even I take notice.  I've met Faith on several occasions and she's always as sweet as she can be--and Ms. Paltrow was stunning!

Later Wednesday evening we arrived for the official opening of the show, the annual Antiques & Garden Show Preview Party, to find that we had taken home the award for "Best Use of Color" in this year's garden displays.  Last year we won for "Best Interpretation of the Theme."  I have to say, I like winning, and I like the fact that we're winning in different categories.  I hate to be stuck in a rut!

I got an even greater surprise today when, after her lecture (the opening lecture of three in this year's series) Her Grace, The Duchess of Northumberland, Jane Percy strolled through the garden and was kind enough to stop and chat for a moment.  She is absolutely charming and has turned the British gardening world on its ear by creating a divine spectacle of a modern garden--The Alnwick Garden.  Please visit their website at  and revel in the garden that she, along with a number of very hardworking people, have created for the world to enjoy!  While I have rarely used the blog as a forum for solicitations, if you were going to support a garden outside of our own country, I would suggest that this would be a great one to support.  What the duchess has done is truly astounding, and the number of people's lives she has touched by doing it is what makes me particularly proud to have shared even a few moments with her.  She and her team are truly remarkable.

Thanks again to everyone for reading along and I'll try to post some more Antiques & Garden Show photos in a few days!  As always, Happy Gardening!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Back To Blogging

Hello, everyone!  And happy 2010!

A few of you have noticed that I took a brief hiatus from blogging and I appreciate the emails and messages from people wondering if I was okay or if something had happened.  The only things that "happened" were the crazy holidays and a somewhat protracted bout with a rather nasty upper respiratory infection that hung on longer than I cared to deal with it.  All gone now, though, and back to good health!

I've also been very busy with some work deadlines that had to be met, as well as redesigning my website.  The new pages are not up and running yet, but I'm hoping by early to mid-March the website will have an entirely new look and be more functional and full of new information, photos, etc.  I've also purchased another domain name and will be working this year on launching a new gardening website.  For now, it's a secret, so that's all I'm going to say--just that I'm doing it.  I haven't set any specific deadlines for it at this point until I know exactly what all of the details and parameters are going to be and exactly what the new site is going to encompass, but it's going to be good!

At 6 a.m. tomorrow morning we begin setup and preparation for this year's Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville.  This is my 17th year of involvement with the show and it continues to be one of the most fun, but exhausting, weeks of the year.  This year, we'll be installing a 1600 square foot garden based on a "spiral" theme.  I'll try to post a few pics if I have a chance.

We've had a very long and unusually cold winter here in the Nashville area.  The first big cold snap in January plunged us as low as 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit with considerably colder windchills and we stayed below freezing, even during the day, for over a week.  I know that doesn't sound that odd to many of you from colder climates, but for here, that's a fairly serious cold snap.  Especially true for those of us who like to push the gardening zones just a little.  It will be a good test of hardiness for some of those more borderline things and in my garden, though I hate to see a plant die, I always consider an empty spot a "gardening opportunity"!

Oh no!  Now I'm going to have to buy more plants!

Well, the foliage that didn't get freeze-dried on the hellebores (and a few other plants) during the first cold snap certainly did on the second one, although we were fortunate enough to get several inches of snow to insulate the garden against the worst of the cold in the second go-round.  Many people from here would not use the words "fortunate" and "snow" in the same sentence, but I'm talking about the garden here and we were lucky to have it.  If you are seeing burned foliage on some of your evergreen shrubs and perennials, just keep in mind that a new flush of growth in spring will push most of that old foliage off, anyway, so it's no big deal.  You can carefully clean up plants such as hellebores, just to make them look neat and tidy, but be careful.  Buds are alread showing and you don't want to mistakenly whack the buds when you're trying to clean up leaves!

As a brief digression, if you live in the South and you are not a transplant from the North or the Midwest (i.e. you were born and raised in the south and have never driven in wintry conditions), when it snows you should stay home.  You are dangerous.  They forecast even the possibility of snow several days in advance here so that you can get to the grocery store and buy up all of the milk, bread and toilet paper before it actually snows (I noticed on one local station that the weather report was being brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Kroger--go figure!) and you needn't endanger the lives of the rest of us who actually can drive in it.  I'm just sayin'!

As I pulled in the driveway a few minutes ago from a morning garden design appointment, I noticed that the clump of old field "jonquils" on the corner of the driveway are about 4 inches tall and in full bud.  They are loaded this year and if it warms up just enough, I might have blooms before the end of February!  The buds on the 'Arnold Promise' witchhazel are just beginning to show a little color, though it will still be a few more weeks before "Arnold" decides to show off ('Arnold Promise' is one of the later varieties) and the earliest hellebores are really starting to push up now ('Ivory Prince', 'Winter Moonbeam', etc.).  I'll trim the old, winter-burned foliage off of them next week, once I've recovered from the Antiques & Garden Show, and they'll be ready to lead the way for spring to make its grand entrance.

I'll be back on a regular basis from now on and I hope everyone has had a good start to the new year!  See you in the garden!