- [Announcer] Tennessee Environmental Council, helping people care for the environment and offering instructions and seed kits for pollinator gardens that bloom into year round habitats.
More information at tectn.org.
(gentle music) - Primarily found in the central basin of Tennessee, native cedar glade plants can bring vibrant, long-lasting color to garden beds.
Marty DeHart shares some of her favorites.
Boxwood is a popular garden shrub that provides structure year round.
Join Annette Shrader for a lesson in cloud pruning for a distinctive appearance.
And Phillipe Chadwick learns how to grow grain corn in raised beds.
By all accounts, fresh is best.
All on this episode, a "Volunteer Gardener," join us.
(upbeat music) From the tall gray-headed coneflower to the verbena that blooms April till frost.
- A few years ago, a client who owns this property, which is pretty much in the middle of the central basin of Tennessee, which is where the cedar glades are found, asked me to put in an orchard.
And alongside the orchard, I decided to run a little experiment, which is this bed where I'm growing cedar glades plants.
The cedar glades are an interesting geological feature found only in this part of the world.
It's limestone right near the surface and there are plants that do very well here and some that are only found here.
And I wanna test basically the garden worthiness of a lot of these plants.
The first one here is this beautiful.
This is ratibida pinnata.
It is gray-headed coneflower so-called because the immature blooms just as they're opening, you can see it's gray at the cone where the actual fertile flowers are.
These are called the ray florets, and these are where the actual seeds happen in here.
This is related to black eyed Susan and that whole family of rudbeckia type things.
You can see it has kind of lacy foliage, grows in big stands.
They get maybe, hm, I'd say three and a half four feet tall tops.
And for your full sun garden, this is a wonderful background plant.
Truly gives a ton of color for a while and pollinators love it, which is also a great thing.
I see a bumblebee over there right now.
This shrub, I am super excited about.
There are quite a few forms of dwarf eastern red cedar, which is juniperus virginiana.
It's actually a juniper, not a cedar.
But, and the most commonly grown one is one called gray owl, which has kind of a blue-green shade of foliage and gets, it actually gets pretty big.
I've seen it get eight feet tall.
This is another one which is kind of this lighter silvery blue, which I just love.
This is called gray guardian.
Very beautiful plant.
You can see it only wants to get maybe 40 inches tall, but it'll spread 10 feet wide.
The one you're looking at is totally unpruned.
It's never seen clippers.
but you can feather it back and keep it in shape and keep it restrained.
Wonderful, easy grower.
So this is a plant that we never feed this.
That's not been fertilized.
It's just living in the native soil here, which is moderately okay.
It's not a great soil.
A very rugged plant, never a problem on it.
This plant is relatively new and not easy to find on the retail market.
However you can ask for it.
And like most junipers, it's not hard to propagate and I expect you'll see more of it in the trade soon.
Grasses are a natural component of cedar glades and also many grasses are very garden worthy.
And this is certainly one.
This is little bluestem, a native grass that's widespread in this part of the world.
It's basically a prairie plant.
You can see it's got purplish tinges and this kind of steely blue-green.
Very beautiful and makes a slowly spreading tuft of itself.
It's worth seeking out.
This is another verbena that I just love, and look how well it is doing here.
This has been in the ground just this year and it's was a small plant when it started.
Kathy's Kandy, and a candy is spelled with a K. I first saw this plant at the University of Tennessee's Jackson Experiment Station.
It is just spectacular.
It starts blooming like most native verbenas in say April, mid to late April, and it goes until hard frost.
This is like homestead purple in that regard.
It's constantly in bloom.
You can see it's been blooming.
These are old bloom heads making seeds now.
New buds coming on.
It will not stop.
Great looking plant.
Nothing seems to bother it.
I highly recommend this and I have seen this in garden centers.
So although it's pretty new to the trade, you can find it.
Here's another low grower sort of front of the border kind of plant that has an extremely long bloom period, like pretty much all summer.
And it's a really great plant.
It has the unfortunate common name of wild petunia.
It's not a petunia, it's ruellia humilis, and it, which humilis means low humble, if you will.
And it is just this lovely soft lavender-blue bloom that goes with everything.
And you can see it spreads gently, it self sows.
You can see babies coming around, but it's not a thug.
This is a great plant and I have seen it available in some better garden centers.
You can find it, especially places that specialize in carrying natives.
There are several bulbs that grow in cedar glades, and this is probably the most common that you can find.
This is allium cernuum, the nodding onion.
This is coming into bloom.
You can just see here, they tend to be anywhere from sort of a soft mauve-pink to white.
These are white.
I grew these from seeds, so you never know what you're gonna turn up with here.
The clumps get bigger and they'll drop seed around themselves and make a larger group.
But once again, not remotely invasive.
They're great looking.
They bloom at a time when you want flowers to bloom high summer, and they don't mind the heat, like all cedar glades plants, they're super tough and rugged.
This is verbena homestead purple and it's the native Canada rose vervain, as they call it.
This is found, widely found, this species in the cedar glades.
Homestead purple is a particular color that comes out this very vibrant violet color.
It's darker in cooler weather.
It's been blasting hot the last two weeks, so this is a little lighter.
The heat bleaches it out a little bit.
But this is a great plant.
You can see it spreads.
Blooms from April till hard frost, does not stop.
Pollinators love verbenas.
They're just frequently butterflies just dancing all over this.
And it's a wonderful easy plant to grow.
Coreopsis is found widely all in Tennessee, including in the glades.
This is a lovely little plant that is just going by now.
There are several kinds of coreopsis.
The one in the glades is lanceolate and it is high summer bloomer.
If you can see this is still trying to put out some new flowers, even though it has bloomed heavily in the past.
And this is another pollinator magnet.
They just love these things.
Easy to grow, self sows, but once again, not a thug, not hard to take care of, and a very satisfying garden plant.
Like I said, there are different varieties.
Some types will get like two and a half, three feet tall.
Some type stays shorter like this type, but well worth searching out coreopsis and finding out which kind you like.
One of the iconic cedar glades plants, is Tennessee coneflower.
This is a plant found only in the cedar glades of a few counties in Tennessee.
And originally it was found by Elsie Quarterman, a botanist.
For a while it was thought to be extinct until some populations were refound and protected.
And it has these stiff stems and blooms for a long period of time.
These are a really interesting plant in that they always face east.
The flowers are always, you can see which direction is east by where they turn themselves to.
It's a really wonderful plant with this very stiff hairy foliage, and a really nice habit, nice clumping habit.
And it never flops.
And if you have a setting that is blasting sun, soil, eh, not so great, maybe even rock out crops, there are a ton of really good and very garden worthy plants from the cedar glades.
You can find plants that will thrive for you and give you color.
Stuff has been blooming here since April and will continue blooming through October.
Not just the plants I've shown you, but other stuff will come into bloom.
There are a lot of plants available that are very worthwhile and bring such loveliness to your garden.
And the fact that they're local means they're tough, they're rugged, and they want to live where you are.
(upbeat music) - We can garden in late winter.
We're gonna discuss boxwoods today, we're gonna have cloud pruning.
David Cook, who is with the UT Extension office in Davidson County is an expert on that.
And David is gonna walk us through this process and tell us why he prefers that for our boxwoods.
- Okay, well it's a pleasure being with "Volunteer Gardener."
And what a pretty day we picked out to do this.
This is a good example.
I'm not familiar with the exact cultivar or it is a boxwood.
And so all the different type boxwood can have the same growth habits.
So what we want to do, you can see a lot of this growth has come out and it looks a little unkept right now.
This boxwood in the past has probably been sheared.
So we get a lot of extensive growth.
What we'd like to do is create a situation where we start thinning out some little branches on this and you can feel the wind blowing today.
So the wind is going right over the top of this boxwood, but we wanna slow the wind down so it can penetrate in there.
The main reason for that-- - Especially summertime.
- Yes, the main reasonable that is to allow airflow inside and dry out the foliage 'cause these are very susceptible to different fungal diseases.
And I noticed earlier I found an area inside this one that we need to pay attention to them now.
So we're gonna do some cultural pruning techniques to lessen the the presence of a disease outbreak.
It won't stop it completely, but it will make the plant healthier.
- Okay, well let's, shall we say, dive in.
- Okay, see this sticking up right here?
If we grab this like that and I pull it back and look, I say, "Well, okay, it's coming out right down in here."
So I'm just, I wanna cut that out.
And some people go, "oh no!"
People, when you teach them this, they hesitate, "I don't want to."
You're not gonna hurt it.
Boxs won't scream out.
But now if we brush this back, try make a cut.
It's hard to tell where I made the cut, isn't it?
- [Annette] Absolutely.
- [David] So what we wanna do is go in again.
And so here's another one.
We can grab this one right here.
- [Annette] Let me ask you this, do you do this section by section or you step back or do you routinely go around?
- [David] Okay, first thing I'm gonna do is, generally I stand back and look at the overall appearance of the shrub.
- Get a picture.
- Then I'll just take a little area, a circle about a two foot square circle, say, let's do that.
Then the stuff that's really growing out spindly, I thought well that's, I could trace that back.
You pull that back and here's what I want to find right there.
Now you look at all this growth that's trying to come out, it could use a little more sunlight.
And so we're just gonna take that back, and don't be picky about where you cut it.
Cut that out.
Then I could take a, another one up here.
Something tall like this, snip it out.
Then we want to brush it up again and slowly it fills in it.
You'd think what we find on the ground when I'm through with one of these people said, "Well there's more plant material on the ground than what's left."
And said, "Well that's gonna be a healthy box."
So take another one here.
This is growing up spindly, so we're just gonna whack it.
Now what I don't want to do is start doing this.
This is not even thinning.
This is just called heading back.
(chuckles) - And you know what happens when you do that to a shrub?
- So you create more growth than you had.
So what we want to do is do some more.
Like here's another one.
We're gonna pull this back and just whack it.
And here's another one here.
And let's see, we'll cut that bit right there.
And after a while you're gonna get a pile here and then your neighbors are thinking you're butchering that.
No you're not.
You're doing the right thing.
- And you know, in this process I'm seeing that you're eliminating some of this bronzing that's happened here during the winter.
- Very common.
Probably this year we people are gonna see more bronzing.
It's a physiological disorder, not a disease.
And in the spring it's gonna outgrow this.
Some people might want to apply a little bit of nitrogen, but let mother nature take its course.
She'll green these up.
So we're gonna take a few more of these out.
- And again, this is removing.
And what I can do is brush it up every time you do it.
So let me do a few more real quick and then we'll take these head shears over there and we'll do some what we call clouding.
So we want a kind of a little hill and the valley around here.
So real quick on some of these.
You know, this is pretty fast process.
We don't be picky about it.
You know what, you're not gonna hurt the shrub.
- No, might hurt your feelings.
(chuckles) - It's if you get a bad haircut, will grow out.
Hopefully it'll go out.
So we'll take a few more off here.
- Okay, I can see the results.
- Now see the green color in?
- I do.
- And you mentioned we're getting rid of that bronzing.
So that's something people don't like.
So now we're gonna take these and what I'm gonna do, I am going to trim off a little, I don't want to create a meatball.
I just want to allow an area so air can slow down when it comes around here.
- [Annette] So you do use both pruners?
- [David] I use both type pruning tools.
- [Annette] Yes.
All right, and I see the thinning process that you did.
- [David] And it gives this boxwood a more natural kind of growth habit.
An unnatural growth habit is when you shear them.
And you know what that does?
All those dormant buds just pop out.
- Right and I can imagine this as we would go all the way around and I see that.
And whether or not it's billowing or going in, it's still, it looks lifted is the word I want to use.
- Yeah, so air will get in here.
Now the sunlight can get in here too now.
But if we look into an area where the sunlight never got.
- Okay, let's see it.
- I saw there's an issue here with this boxwood.
- Oh I see, yes.
- Look at that brown.
- I see that.
- And that's not a healthy look, is it?
- [Annette] No it's not.
- [David] Well there is a lot of dead foliage that just falls and gets trapped in all these twigs.
Now you can actually find the ones that are dead and snap them off with your fingers.
- [Annette] Do you think that's necessary?
- [David] Well these, in this case I would because this one has a little outbreak of what we call the volutella canker disease.
Now these little black, they won't be able to pick this up.
See those little black spots?
- Yes, I do.
- [David] That's a secondary weak pathogen called macrophoma, that comes in later after the leaves have died.
And so it's a little fungal organism that's taken a little bit of nutrients out of the dead tissue that didn't cause the death of these leaves.
The volutella did.
And the volutella, once you get your eye trained and know what to look for, there are pink colored pustules on the leaves.
Those are spores.
And so if this is wet inside here, now you have the right host plant and you have the right disease spores.
All you need is too much moisture, boom, disease.
- [Annette] Here comes summer-- - And if it's aggressive we're gonna call it a blight.
So we'll go in here and you could with your hands, just see these leaves are, there's a lot in here.
Look at all that.
- Oh, I did see that.
- See now if I can snap it off, it's dead.
So what we wanna do is, it's not a bad practice, come in and maybe with your hands just knock a lot of this off too.
Anything that is large and dead.
This is dead.
I'm just gonna cut that off.
It was very brittle.
- So you really think that the demise of these leaves was from that virus, not from no sunlight?
- Yeah, yeah, it's a fungal pathogen and it's very pretty specific to boxwoods.
I get a lot of calls as an extension agent that people call it a blight.
Now there is a disease called a boxwood blight, but that's something else.
- Yeah, and you know, every garden is graced, I think with a boxwood of some sort.
- They're just beautiful plants.
- Yes, and learning a new technique, whether they're standing out or if it's a hedge along the walkway.
We do need to know how to take care of those plants because they live forever unless they do have something that gets.
- Every plant has a little bit of a maintenance.
That's part of being a gardener.
- We need to educate ourselves.
And I thank you that this beautiful day came along.
- See I love this, I'm out of the house.
I'm not in my office.
I'm not at a computer.
I'm outside in the natural world.
- And this Nashville cemetery is right in the middle of busy downtown, isn't it?
- [David] Yeah, how many trains have we seen going by, and trucks?
- [Annette] Well thank you that you've taken your day and taught us some things.
And let's look to the clouds and see the result.
- [David] That's your inspiration, look up sometimes and mimic what mother nature provides.
It's a template up there.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
(upbeat music) - [Phillipe] Homegrown can be more than just tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
We can grow fresh grains right in your own backyard.
Well, how you doing Mark?
- [Mark] Doing good Phil.
Nice to have you here.
- Yeah, good to see you down in your little corn patch.
What have we got growing right here?
- This is a variety called Hopi Blue from the Hopi Indian tribe.
Makes a real pretty blue corn.
And you know, I think that's something that's interesting to kids too, 'cause they see like the blue corn chips and stuff in the grocery store and a lot of times they think it's colored with a dye or something.
They don't realize it's because the corn was blue.
You know, we had a little windstorm come through last night and laid this over a little bit but it's not down on the ground, so it should kinda straighten itself back up on its own eventually.
- Yeah, right, and it looks like they're just starting to set some ears also.
- Yeah, this one's just coming into tassel and starting to get the silks there.
And I planted these at two different times to isolate them 'cause if you look at the, if you want to grow two different types of corn, like some people might want to grow this grain corn and then they also may want to grow a sweet corn as well.
And you want to isolate them so they don't cross pollinate.
'Cause if they cross they won't be true to what you wanted to get out of them.
And you can do that by distance, which they recommend like 600 feet and most people don't have two football fields.
- You know, so the other thing you can isolate them with is by time.
So this corn I started about three or four weeks later than this guy over here.
And this one you know, is already got mature ears on it, and you know, it's pollen's already done and gone.
So they won't affect each other that way.
- Yeah, so the pollen's up here at the top and then once it starts form forming these silks about halfway it drops on there?
- [Mark] Exactly.
- And then that's where you get that head forming the seeds.
- Right and that's also why, And of course here in these raised beds I've got them in a really tight block.
But even if you're doing it in a more traditional row garden, you always want to plant your corn crop in more of a block.
You know, several rows together instead of just one long row.
'Cause if you just put it all in one long row, you're subject to not get good pollination.
Whereas if you can keep it all more closer together, that pollen has a better chance to drift down and get you good pollination.
- [Phillipe] Sure, sure.
- You know when you look on your seed packet of corn, it'll always say space your rows like three feet apart.
Well that's not for the benefit of the corn, that's for the benefit of the gardener that's going to have to walk between the rows in a traditional row garden.
So it, when you think about moving it into a raised bed, you can ignore that three feet wide spacing and this gets you into a lot of gardeners are familiar with the square foot gardening concept.
That's basically what you're doing here.
You're just moving it into where you basically have a corn stock, a corn plant in each square foot of the bed.
So in a four by four, just a little small four by four garden bed, you could have 16 plants.
Or a four by eight you could have 32 plants.
So, you know, it doesn't seem like much space at all.
It's not much space at all.
But for the home gardener you can get a good size little corn crop in that small space.
- Yeah, that's great.
Tell me about this variety we've got behind us that's setting ears right now.
- Yeah, this guy's getting good mature ears on it.
This is Floriani Red Flint, that was the variety that got me started doing this.
They had done an article, was probably seven or eight years ago now, in "Mother Earth News" magazine and they were talking about that corn and how delicious the flavor of it was and everything.
And I thought, "Well gosh that sounds interesting."
- Well if you're gonna grow, you know, corn at home, you might as well grow something that's really interesting and different that you can't typically buy.
- Exactly and that's the point is the flavor.
You know, a lot of people might think, well why would I grow, you know, grain corn in my home garden.
Why would I bother to do that when I can just buy corn meal off the shelf?
- Well that's like saying, "Why grow tomatoes when I can go to the store and buy tomatoes?"
You know, everybody recognizes the difference between a typical store bought tomato and a homegrown tomato.
And you get that same kind of correlation here when you can can grow this, you know, nice and healthy, harvested mature, you know, and be able to grind it fresh and have that whole grain corn meal that you can grind just minutes before you cook it.
You know, there's such a difference in flavor and quality.
- [Phillipe] I bet it is.
So this corn here looks like it's just about getting ready to pick.
- Yeah, it sure is.
You know, a lot of times what I try to do is leave it on the plant and let it mature as long as I can.
You know, let it keep soaking up sunshine and nutrients and building flavor.
At some point, typically the critters will tell you when they start harvesting it.
'Cause usually you'll come out one day and you'll see one where the husks are torn back where a bird or something's been pecking at it.
- They start shucking it for you?
- Yeah and that's a good time to go ahead and pull it outta the garden 'cause once they find it they'll tell all their friends and-- - Right, I bet grubs will start trying to get in there too.
- If you want to Phillipe, I'll give you the honors.
Just grab a hold there and just kind of pull down and twist.
Sometimes they hold on a little bit.
- [Phillipe] Yeah, that's a pretty corn.
- Yeah and you can see it's starting to develop, it starts out kind of a real golden honey color and as it dries it kind of gets more red and red.
Gets a darker color.
That's a neat thing about these heirloom corns.
There's so many different varieties that you can grow.
You know, there's green ones, blue ones, purple ones, multicolor ones.
So you know, you can grow a different one just to experiment every year if you want to.
You know, the important thing to remember in the home garden, you know we're lucky 'cause we're not growing for bushels per acre.
We're growing for quality per bite.
So you can just let the corn, you know, grow naturally and you don't have to add, you know, you don't have to have that mindset of having to hit it with a bunch of fertilizer 'cause it'll do just fine.
And a lot of these, you know, heirloom varieties, you can see they get, you know, eight, 10 feet plus and like I say, don't need any really supplemental fertilizer to do that.
- [Phillipe] Yeah, well this, I mean, you've produced some beautiful corn organically in these little raised beds.
So nobody's got an excuse whenever they say, "I can't grow corn at home," and I'm gonna say, "Yes, you can."
(upbeat music) - [Announcer] Tennessee Environmental Council, helping people care for the environment and offering instructions and seed kits for pollinator gardens that bloom into year round habitats.
More information at tectn.org.