Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tree Walls

Spring is the time of year when we bring our garden dreams to reality.  All winter long we've observed our gardens, perused garden catalogs, reviewed our gardening publications, and made lists of what we would do in the garden "if only it were spring." Warm weather reveals must-do tasks: pruning, replacing our poor friends who didn't make it through the winter, raking up those last few leaves.

Sometimes, though, we have a major hardscape project that has captured our imagination.  For me, it's a tree wall.  Before anyone gets too excited, I can't do it right now (boo hoo.)  But I have the perfect place and I've definitely put it on my list.  Here are some images.





Do you know of any local tree walls?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Good to the last drop!

Have you ever thought about how much water you use in a day or week or month?  My Master Gardener class heard a speaker with eye-opening information.  Lately I've been thinking about that presentation and doing some additional research.

Flickr photo by Janet Ramsden
An interesting article on the UT website states that water usage currently averages 100 gallons/person/day.  I was surprised to read how much higher the average usage is in the US than in other countries.  

Using this figure and information from the 2013 Census website, I ran some numbers and was amazed at the totals.  We can debate how much water is used per person per day, but I imagine that if we actually measured our water usage, it would be a close estimation.

Were you as shocked as I was at these numbers?  I think just having done the math has opened my mind to the fact that I need to put forth more effort in water conservation.  I laid out where I use water in my home.  Not only do the people/animals in my home consume water, there is the dishwasher, washing machine, shower and toilet.

There are many hacks online to help you with your water conservation without having to replace all your appliances at once.  Your own research will help you find ones that work for you.  Here are some of mine:
  • Install low flow faucets, especially shower heads 
  • Make a plan to make sure appliances are replaced with energy & water efficient ones
  • Repair leaking fixtures immediately.  One article estimates that leaks can add up to 21 gallons per day.  Don't let that leaky faucet go one more day!  How much is that procrastination costing you and the environment?  It may be as simple as replacing a gasket.  But even replacing a faucet will be cost effective since that 21 gallons per day adds up to 147 gallons per week.
  • Adding additional rain barrels to the one I already have (more to come on this subject :) 
  • Letting Mother Nature wash my car
  • Adding ball valves to the ends of my hoses so I can shut water off at both ends of the hose as needed 
I am going to step up my water conservation game - not only in my home but also by educating others on its importance.

Water is good to the last drop...
lets make sure that last drop is many years from now!

 Dawn B.

Phillip Watson Lecture: Garden Magic

Saturday, May 16, 9:00-12:00
Memphis Botanic Garden Hardin Hall
750 Cherry Road

With special guest Floral Designer Julie Spear of the Memphis Garden Club

Phillip’s talk will feature images of gardens he has designed, including cottage environs, vast estates, Versailles-type parterres, water features, fanciful pathways & patios, bountiful flower gardens, container plantings, woodland situations, & and his own private retreat. He has written PLEASURE GARDENS, & his newest book, GARDEN MAGIC, is currently in print. He received his degree in horticulture from Mississippi State University & continued his education in the Netherlands, France, & England, where he was mentored by English garden doyenne, Rosemary Verey. Born in Lexington, Mississippi, birthplace of the 4-H Club, he is a true son of the South, and credits that upbringing with much of his success. For the past 18 years, he has been a garden expert and presenter on QVC for Cottage Farms Nursery. His design firm, Phillip Watson Designs, has clients from Mississippi to Manhattan & from Palm Beach to Aspen. He has published in Architectural Digest, Traditional Home, & Veranda magazines, and has judged such prestigious shows as the Philadelphia Flower Show and the International Rose Trials at the Biltmore Estate.

Cost for the event is $20 for MBG members & $25 for the general public. Light refreshments will be served.

Please call 901-636-4131 to make a reservation. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Live a little, Plant a little....

Photo by Brandon Price on flickr

It is that time of year again....Plant sales!  All the nurseries are bursting at the seams and everyone is having a plant sale.  Each plant sale offers something a little different.  Don't forget to check out the offerings from the Dixon Garden Fair April 24th & 25th from 9am to 4pm.  They always have great plants!

What exciting plans do you have for your yard?  I must get my dry creek bed in my backyard before it floats away.  Trying to wrangle work, volunteering and 3 border collies is always fun to find time to work in the yard.  I am sure my sisters would like me to get finished with my project, too.

Figuring out how to landscape an area used heavily by border collies and moles has been a challenge.  I have been researching plants that are safe for pets and will grow in the shade.  The ASPCA has an extensive database for you to search here.  There were some surprises for me though, one seed from a sago palm can be fatal quickly to a dog.  I did not know that hollies and azaleas were toxic to dogs.

But first I will get the bones of my landscape in place.  So I will begin with my dry creek bed and work from there.  I hope you are finding time to work on your own yard.

Don't forget the plant sale this weekend.  I am sure I will find myself distracted as it is a more enjoyable event than digging a trench in the backyard!

Happy Gardening,
Dawn B.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Six Reasons to Love the Fun and Versatile Bamboo

1.     Bamboo’s probably the most famous for being loved by the ever-adorable pandas.

2.     Having recently received a beautiful handmade journal with bamboo paper, I’ve become more interested in bamboo itself.  The paper is porous but very soft. As the tag says, due to its fast growth rate, “bamboo has become recognized as one of the world’s most important environmentally friendly materials.”

I imagine the method is something like this, only the paper in my book is considerably softer and more refined than the paper produced here

3.     Many may have heard that bamboo is considered lucky, and some might even have received it as a housewarming present to represent good fortune for the future. It probably resembled something like this.

  Or this.    
According to the number of stalks in the gift is significant. (There's not a meaning listed for only one stalk.)
  • Two stalks = love. 
  • Three stalks = Fu (happiness), Lu (wealth), and Soh (long life).
  • Five stalks = the areas of life that represent wealth (e.g., spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, and intuitive).
  • Six stalks = good luck and wealth.
  • Seven stalks = good health. 
  • Eight stalks = growth. 
  • Nine stalks = great luck. 
  • Ten stalks = perfection.
  • Twenty-one stalks = a powerful blessing.  

Interestingly, you'll never find a traditional lucky bamboo arrangement with four stalks. In Chinese, the word for four is close to the word for death, so a gift of four bamboo stalks would be considered very rude, as if you had wished death on the recipient!
4.     Having heard that bamboo is invasive, I went to the extension site to see what resources they had. One article on bamboo (full article here) states that “bamboo species have nearly a worldwide distribution.... Taxonomically, bamboo is classified in the grass family (Poacea) and is represented by more than 1,000 species and 91 genera. Taken together, bamboo is recognized as the fastest growing woody, evergreen, perennial plant.”

The American Bamboo Society ( provides the full taxonomy as the following.
 KINGDOM: Plantae
  PHYLUM (DIVISION): Magnoliophyta
    CLASS: Liliopsida
      SUBCLASS: Commelinidae
        ORDER: Cyperales
          FAMILY: Gramineae (Poaceae)
            SUBFAMILY: Bambusoideae
              TRIBE: Bambuseae
                SUBTRIBE: bambusinae

Happily, not all bamboo is invasive. There’s the bunch type and the running type. The bunch type spreads from the center of the plant at a gradual (thus manageable) pace while the running type is considered the more invasive since “their rhizomes can run between 20 to 30 feet underground before sprouting.”

If you’re interested in adding some clumping bamboo to your yard for extra green and a different texture, the extension office recommends the following that do well in Tennessee.  
  • Fargesia rufa ‘Green Panda’– can grow 6-8 feet tall by 8 feet in diameter at maturity. This evergreen species is cold-hardy to -15 degrees F, and is a great all-around cultivar.
  • Fargesia robusta – ‘Green Screen’ can grow 15-18 feet at maturity, providing a great option for privacy screening. This cultivar is sun-tolerant and cold-hardy to -10 degrees F. It tolerates summertime heat as far south as USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9.
  • Fargesia murieliae – ‘New Umbrella’ is a smaller clumping form that grows 2 feet tall and wide at maturity. In autumn, older leaves may yellow. This cultivar is cold-hardy to -20 degrees F. 
5.     Another extension publication talks about making the most out of outdoor time with preschool children (full article here) and includes bamboo as a plant to use when teaching children how to create a sound wall. “A sound wall is a collection of devices, such as pots, pans, metal tubing, triangles, or bamboo that make various tones and sounds. These items are generally hung freely at the child’s level so that children can use them to explore sound.” If you have youngsters you want to engage with the outdoors, this article has some great suggestions.

This wall may be a bit more ambitious than the one indicated in the article.
6.     For those who like cool, fruity snacks for summer, try this delicious recipe from this extension article using bamboo skewers. (All recipes in the article may be found here).

 Consider taking advantage of one of these ideas this summer. 

L. A. Henderson TEMG '13

Friday, April 10, 2015

Rejuvenated Native Azalea at Oaklawn Garden

Julie Morgan, my husband, Jack, and I worked at Oaklawn this morning, and I wanted to show you this gorgeous, huge native azalea, just now coming into bloom. We did severe pruning on this one in 2013, cutting off many old limbs at the ground. It looked pretty pitiful when we finished pruning it, but just look at it now!

Julie Morgan inspects native azalea at Oaklawn

Of the many beautiful azaleas at Oaklawn, this one is my favorite. It is located in the Northwest corner of the garden and is clearly visible from Poplar Pike. Just look for a huge pink cloud and you've spotted it. You can't really tell from the picture above, but the buds are just beginning to open.  And there are a lot of buds! 

Here's a closer look at the flower.

If you are a native azalea fan, check out Oaklawn. This big guy will probably reach peak bloom this week and there are many other natives on the property with buds about to open.

Deb Edwards TMG '12

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Daffodils at Oaklawn Garden

Most people who know about Oaklawn Garden in Germantown know it for azaleas. But Oaklawn also has quite the collection of daffodils. Last weekend, my 11-year old grandson, Sam, and I dropped by to see if any were still blooming. Most were past their prime but some were still quite lovely.  

Sam loves to take pictures of flowers so I told him that if he want to take some pictures with my iphone, I'd put them in the blog. He said, "Be sure to say 'Photograph by Sam McCormick'." So here are a few Oaklawn daffodils, courtesy of Sam.

Photograph by Sam McCormick

Photograph by Sam McCormick

Photograph by Sam McCormick

Photograph by Sam McCormick

I'm not very knowledgeable about daffodils, so I can't tell you what these varieties are. But they are only a few of the many beautiful daffodil specimens at Oaklawn. Mark your calendars for next spring to check them out.

And did I mention that these photographs are by Sam McCormick? 

Deb Edwards TMG '12

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


I have to admit that I am a clearance rack shopper.  I love to find a great buy on a plant I love.  Sometimes I am enticed to buy a plant that I don't know much about because it's a great buy. A few years ago, I found an epimedium on a clearance rack at a rock bottom price and I bought it. The first year it barely hung on but last spring, it rewarded me with those very delicate little blooms, characteristic of epimedium.  Here's a picture taken this week, and, as you can see, it looks nice, even though I never got around to cutting back the old foliage. This plant started my interest in epimedium.

Epimedium is also known by a variety of common names, including fairy wings and bishop's hat. The reason for these names is understandable when you look at the flower. It is also known as barrenwort because it was believed that the roots of the plants could cause barrenness in women. I also came across other common names that piqued my interest: horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, and randy beef grass.  I did some research, and it turns out that epimedium has been used in China for low libido and erectile dysfunction!

But I digress . . . back to how I became interested in epimedium. After my clearance rack purchase proved to be so delightful and durable, I decided to purchase a few more. At last year's spring plant sales, I picked up this beautiful yellow one, Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphrite'.  Epimedium is often thought of as a groundcover plant because it tends to grow less than 2 feet tall. This one is one of the smaller ones (should stay under 1 ft) and I think its small, delicate appearance is responsible for its charm.

I also purchased this purple one last year, Epimedium grandiflorum, 'Purple Prince'.

Epimedium are great plants for several reasons. They are tough, thriving in the dry shade in my garden. They are available in a variety of sizes, flower color, and foliage color. And their little flowers are spellbinding. I'll definitely be adding to my collection! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Gardening with the Grandsons

Two springs ago when my grandsons, now ages 9 and 11, showed some interest in gardening, Jack and I created a little garden for each of them. Jack had this great idea of painting their name on a rock to mark each garden. A spring chore this year will be freshening up these markers.

Last spring when we made these gardens, the youngest grandson, Jared, was all about hosta, so we selected an area to build a little hosta garden for him. On several occasions in the prior year, we had noticed what appeared to be vole damage so we planted the hosta in pots in the ground.  The pots are visible in the picture below, taken early spring last year. Seeing the pots always annoyed me and the hostas did not thrive in the them. So last fall I decided to take the risk. I took all the hosta out of their pots, and replanted them directly in the ground.  I'll do a post in a few weeks and we'll see how they fared unprotected through the winter.

Jared's hosta garden Spring 2014 (sorry for picture quality)

As you can see, we also included a few plants to add a little visual interest when the hostas die back for the winter:  japanese forest grass, a spreading japenese plum yew, and a metal iris.  Still, in the winter there is a very bare area where the hosta are clustered. This year, I'm trying to find something to plant among the hosta that will remain green in the winter when the hosta are dormant but not detract from the summer look of the hosta bed. I have Arum italicum in a few other places and really like it. I'm considering adding a few to the interior of the hosta bed. Since arum dies back in late spring and reappears in the fall, that might be just the thing for this spot.  Any other suggestions? Please post them in the comment section.

At the time we built these gardens, my 11-year old grandson, Sam, showed little interest in gardening but in the spirit of equality, we also made a small garden for him. Sam is more into blooms than foliage so we selected a site that gets a little more sun. Last spring I planted a variety of perennials and annuals as an experiment to see what would grow well there. The backside of the bed is shadier so I planted a few Japanese painted fern, columbine, and impatiens. As I feared, the impatiens were all lost to downy mildew. This year, if I try impatiens at all, it will be the New Guinea type, which are more resistant to downy mildew. The "sun" annuals I planted (petunias, salvia, etc.) did not perform well so I'm looking for plants that flower (Sam was not persuaded by my color foliage suggestion)  but can tolerate a fair amount of shade.  Any suggestions?

Sam's garden, April 4, 2015

Some things did well in Sam's garden: for one, the hellebores, which you can see on the back right side.  The dwarf monarda has come back and looks healthy.  We'll have to wait to see how it blooms. The irises bought at last year's iris sale looks healthy and promising.  (Of course, that tall purple iris always looks great--it's metal!)

I suppose all of us who love gardening are eager to share that feeling with others, especially children. Jared, who in previous years seemed to share my passion for growing things, is now more interested in technology than in gardening. On the other hand, Sam, who showed little interest last year, is quite interested this spring. So I'm not giving up on either of them.  Who knows--they may both come around eventually!

Deb Edwards TMG 2013