I always gather lots of new and useful tips at Summer Celebration, the annual home gardening expo at the University of Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson.
My greatest pleasure is sharing it with you, faithful readers.
At the most recent event July 14, I learned about ADR, a troublesome “disease” affecting fruit trees, and IBM, a mostly beneficial condition experienced by many plants.
Gregg Upchurch, extension agent for Cumberland County, said ADR, which stands for “Ain’t Doing Right,” is the result of poor growing practices.
“If you do no maintenance, you will have no fruit,” he said, adding that home orchardists have just one month a year to totally rest from caring for their trees — January.
Sue Hamilton, associate professor of horticulture and director of the gardens at UT-Knoxville, has many IBM (“I’ve Been Moved”) plants in her home garden.
It’s a necessary chore when sun-loving plants become too shaded to shine or when a plant outgrows its space, which they often do in our climate’s long growing season.
Gardeners with more time and energy than I have will even dig up plants to move them two inches back, forward or to the side for purely esthetic reasons.
Thunder, lightning and heavy rains canceled outdoor presentations for almost two hours as everyone, including the presenters, was asked to come into the building.
They crowded into the hallways and the two indoor auditoriums, but no one in this group complained about a soaking rain in mid-July.
So what do you have to do to be successful at growing fruit?
“Do your homework before you start,” Upchurch said. The best sources of information are in free publications obtained by Googling “Extension publications fruit growing.”
UT has a bunch of them, and so do neighboring states with similar climates such as Georgia and Arkansas. YouTube is also a great source for how-to videos, Upchurch said.
Most people select fruit varieties to grow only by their taste preferences. Disease resistance should be the No. 1 priority, Upchurch said, followed by ability to meet the trees’ pollination needs and its suitability to our climate.
Jonagold apple trees, for instance, will have more disease and pest problems than Golden Delicious trees even when they are given the same maintenance.
Fruit trees must be sprayed to prevent diseases and pests, Upchurch said. If you are growing organically, you will use organic sprays without synthetic chemicals.
“When you see a fruit display at a supermarket or farmers market, you should appreciate the work that goes into producing it,” Upchurch said. “It’s a labor of love.”
It’s fairly easy to grow ornamental plants if you give them the sun or shade they need, a little food and ample water.
Creating a well-designed garden or bed to show off those plants is, shall we say, more complicated.
Hamilton has some tips for the design-challenged:
Treat sections of your garden like huge containers by planting a vertical tree or tall shrub in the back, a roundy-moundy plant about half its height a little to the side and in front of it and a low creeping or prostrate plant on another side.
In container gardening, we call these elements the thrillers, fillers and spillers.
Choose no more than three dominant colors for the landscape. Echo those colors with plants exhibiting various shades of them in their flowers, foliage, stems or showy berries.
Warm colors like red, yellow and orange will be perceived as vibrant and exciting. “They jump forward and make a large space seem smaller and more intimate,” Hamilton said.
Cool colors like green, blue and dark purple are relaxing and soothing. They tend to fade away in the landscape and make small spaces look bigger.
Since Hamilton’s lecture, I observed a commercial planting featuring some dark purple-to-black elephant ears rising up in a bed of low-growing annuals with red flowers.
I couldn’t help thinking how much greater the visual impact would be if the elephant ears had bright chartreuse leaves.
When planning a color scheme, don’t forget to consider the paint on your house and the color in various hardscape elements such as pavements and structures like pergolas, gazebos and trellises.
Andy Pulte, who teaches in the plant sciences department at UTK, led his groups around bermed beds now abloom with perennials, annuals, ornamental grasses and edibles like tomatoes, squash and numerous herbs.
Most of the plants are newly introduced varieties either being trialed to see how they perform in our climate or selected because they have already proved their reliability.
A few standouts included:
Black Beauty, a tall Oriental lily with deep pink and white dangling flowers;
Pineapple lily or eucomis is a plant with flowers and foliage that resemble edible pineapples. They are increasingly available to florists as cut flowers.
Red Inferno, a bright red coleus that adds vibrancy to any garden spot;
Steeple Jackie is a new daylily with lots of small yellow flowers, flower stalks that grow to 5 feet or more and a bloom time that comes after most of the shorter daylilies have stopped flowering.
Christine Arpe Gang; email@example.com