Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

June 5, 2012

Visit Plateau Discovery Gardens 

CROSSVILLE — One badly phrased sentence in last week’s article needs clarification. I wrote, “Snapshots are also an easy way to... record attractive features of landscape plants seen in yards and gardens near my home that I might consider acquiring in the future.” Awkward wording might lead readers to think this gardener writer is a midnight-skulking plant thief. (Never fear, neighbors. I’m not after the good looking  plants in your yard – only their digital images.) I meant to say snapshots help me identify landscape plants with remarkable leaf color and textures, a nice shape or pretty flowers. Once the species is known, I put them on a wish-list for future purchase at local nurseries and garden centers, providing their cultural requirements (sun, soil, and moisture) match my landscape conditions.

On a recent walk-through and photo shoot at Plateau Discovery Gardens, I was seeking pictures of flowering perennials. I found unique photographic perspectives such as a scarlet honeysuckle vine climbing in the foreground which framed both a viburnum in the background  whose white blossoms were just opening and a clematis vine with blue flowers clinging to a wrought iron tutor. Individual blooms and noteworthy floral displays I captured that day with my camera included a yellow rose cultivar nearly perfect in beauty and form, bearded iris blooms with dark purple petals so deep in hue they appeared to be almost black, and a great looking companion planting of tall, airy purple verbena (Verbena bonariensis) next to  Strawberry Seduction yarrow whose strawberry-red flowers each had a yellow eye and bloom in luscious-looking clusters. A small butterfly garden has name plates identifying nectar-filled and pollen-rich flowers growing in that raised bed. At the center stands a wooden butterfly house. Butterflies need to drink water but cannot use deeper sources like bird baths. To one side of that bed, observe the two shallow dishes with sand in the bottom. Those are designed to allow butterflies to stop there for a quick sip  of water when the sand is damp from rain.

I encourage other gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region to make Plateau Discovery Gardens a road trip destination when traveling I40 near Crossville. The Gardens are open for self-guided tours during daylight hours with no entry fee. There are many reasons to stop. Come for inspiration when designing a new landscape or when adding plants to an existing one. Bring your camera or use a cell phone to take photos. Learn the botanic names of interesting specimens from plant labels. Or relax, taking  time out to sit on one of the garden benches and commune with nature. Visitor parking is available behind the University of Tennessee Plateau AgResearch and Education Center main office building at 320 Experiment Station Road, Crossville, TN 38571, telephone (931) 484-0034. Find a locator map and much more information about the Gardens online at the Cumberland County Master Gardener website www.ccmga.org

Many of the plots are theme gardens planted and maintained by Cumberland County Master Gardeners. The first was a Tree and Shrub garden installed in 2005. After seven years these woody plants have grown to their mature height and spread. There are also University of Tennessee research trial plots featuring different varieties of hydrangeas, redbuds and ornamental grasses within the bounds of Discovery Gardens. Just beyond the tree line that defines the outer edge of the gardens is an ongoing rose trial that visitors may walk through as well. Ornamental plant varieties included in university research plots are evaluated as to such qualities as cold hardiness, flower production, flower and plant size, pest and disease resistance, and landscape appeal. 

Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region. UT Extension Cumberland County, at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (931-484-6743), has answers horticulture questions, free publications and details on how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, mgardenerrae@frontiernet.net.

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