By C. Rae Hozer
While I’ve become acquainted with my share of plants from two-dimensional pictures in books or catalogs and through images on my computer screen, I prefer the multi-sensual garden experience of seeing and smelling (perhaps tasting, too) green growing things first hand while listening to bird calls and wind rustling leaves. Perhaps that preference is tied to childhood memories of watching hummingbirds hover to sip nectar from orange flowers on a trellised trumpet vine in Mother’s garden then carefully pulling a low-growing blossom off to suck some of that sweet juice myself and invading the vegetable plot salt shaker in hand, in search of a ripe tomato. A natural setting, private garden or public garden is a superior showcase lending perspective to each plant’s overall shape, size, structure and beauty, in my estimation.
After traveling and experiencing flora in the wild and in gardens on five continents (North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia), Master Gardener training in 1998 in Crossville (Cumberland County) introduced me to UT Gardens. I was impressed by what a rich source of horticultural information UT Gardens in Knoxville on the University of Tennessee Agriculture Campus and the second location on the grounds of the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center were. UT Gardens Knoxville was closer to home and became a frequent destination providing good memories and great photos.
I recommend "Plateau Gardening" readers who have not yet done so, try the UT Gardens experience. Sign up for the free monthly email newsletter at utgardens.tennessee.edu. Become one of more than 100,000 people who visit one of the UT Gardens locations each year and come away feeling a personal connection with nature. Support the Gardens by purchasing UT Gardens T-shirts, posters and note cards, by becoming a member of the Friends of the UT Gardens or by attending special event fundraisers like the Blooms Days Festival and Marketplace this Mother’s Day weekend (Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
See plants for water gardens and for kitchen gardens, herbs, vines, trees and shrubs (the gardens are also a certified Tennessee Arboretum); a Bonsai show hosted by the Knoxville Bonsai Society, a Tennessee Rose Society Rose Show in the south Greenhouse and the HGTV Home Showcase Garden. Listen to free musical performances (both days sets begin at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.). Shop the Blooms Days Marketplace. Attend workshops such as "Heirloom Gardening: Planting the Best from the Past" (11:30 a.m. Saturday) or "Managing Rose Diseases the Easy Way" (11:30 a.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday). Find a map and more details in the Blooms Days event brochure available at utgardens.tennessee.edu/bloomsdays.html.
In the Gardens magazine Spring/Summer 2013 edition UT Gardens Director Susan Hamilton celebrates the Gardens’ 30th anniversary in 2013 and relates her part at the start as the horticulturist who planted the first annual flower trials in Knoxville. I felt what must be a similar sense of pride and ownership when Discovery Gardens at the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville was named the third and newest addition to the UT Gardens system in April. I was a Master Gardener on the Discovery Gardens oversight and planning committee during 2004 and 2005. When the first demonstration garden there was planted (trees and shrubs suitable to yards and gardens on the Plateau) in 2005 I caught it on film. But I never imagined Crossville would become a site in the prestigious UT Gardens system.
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Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region. Contact UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (484-6743) for answers to horticulture questions, free publications and how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, MGardenerRae@frontiernet.net.