The Leaflet

~ July 2023 ~

July started off hot and somewhat dry. Now, we are halfway through the month and the grass is green from all the storms. My tomatoes and Mexican sunflowers are taking off, but need some extra support from all the rain and wind. With tomatoes, it seems like there are always adjustments to be made.

Unfortunately, weeds are also enjoying the heat and rain. Thanks to everyone who has pitched in to pull weeds at the Highland Rim demonstration garden. The work is paying off and the garden is looking great. The blueberry harvest is over, but the ones I had tasted fantastic.

If you are near the White House library, be sure to visit the Sherry Eden Reading Garden in memorial of Don Eden and in honor of his wife, Sherry. The space has been reimagined and new benches added. It's a great place to read and be surrounded by nature. Thanks to everyone who helped update the garden.

Now, off to stake my tomatoes before the next storm blows in.

There is always thyme for gardening!

Shawn Herman, President



July 27, 2023

7:00 p.m.

(Social time:

6:30-7:00 p.m.)

Highland Rim Research and EduCenter



Cooking with Herbs


Amy Moore, Nashville Herb Society


 The Robertson County Master Gardener Association meets the fourth Thursday of every month

At the 2023 Summer Celebration in Jackson, TN

by Dawn Chen

This annual festival has become gardeners’ mecca. We, the Robertson County Master Gardener Association members, attend the Summer Celebration every year. However, this year it was like we were catching the “last train” because, from here on, the Summer Celebration will be a biennial event. The next one will take place in 2025. What a long wait it will be.

Why do I say it is a mecca for Tennessee gardeners? If you have been there, you probably would feel the same. The Summer Celebration’s main theme is home gardening. It attracts tens of thousands of people from all over Tennessee and beyond. The event is hosted by University of Tennessee (UT) at its AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, TN. Jackson is situated between Nashville and Memphis, accessible via I-40.

Over the past 33 years, the Celebration has packed activities not only for gardeners but also for families and growers. Included this year were the UT Garden Plant Sale, garden tours, local vendors, children’s activities, arts & crafts, and educational talks. For gardeners, the two big draws are the plant sale and the various talks. Let’s go to the plant sale first.

The UT Garden Plant Sale is large-scale, thanks to UT’s connection with the nationwide gardening world. The varieties available are as many as in a retail outlet. But due to space constraint, the quantity is limited for each variety. Because of this, veteran festival goers always get to the sale site before it opens so they can be the first to get their hands on the desired plants. The plant list published prior to the event is a good indication about what’s the best to grow in Tennessee and the new arrivals to be marketed in the coming seasons.

This year, we got the list only two days before the Festival started. It didn’t dampen our enthusiasm about the 200-some varieties from Proven Winners, First Edition, the Southern Living Plant Collection, as well as the local growers. I printed a hard copy to skim over each item first. The list was organized in categories like annual, conifer, edible, perennial, shrub, tree, and vine. Under each category, it got a bit confusing to locate plants as they were not in strict alphabetical order. I would highlight plants and trees I was interested in, then spend hours doing research. It sounds tedious, but all of that time was worthwhile. Through the process, I eliminated many that didn’t fit the bill.

The following are plants and trees that caught my eye. I regretted that I could not get all of them as many were sold out before we got there, and some were beyond my budget for a single plant.

PLANTS: Desert Orchid “El Nino”, Juniper “Golden Pacific”, Bluebeard “Black Knight”, White Veined Dutchman’s Pipe, Day Lily “Stephanie Returns”, Hardy Hibiscus “Dark Mystery”, Lungwort “Twinkle Toes” and “Raspberry Splash”, Amistat Salvia, Salvia “Hummingbirds Falls”, Lavender “Phenomenal”, Abelia “Sweet Emotion”, Camelia “April Dawn”, Smoketree “Grace”, Edgeworthia “Winter Gold”, Hydrangea “Let’s Dance Can Do”, Rose of Sharon “Dark Lavender Chiffon”, Mock Orange “Illumati Arch”, Ninebark “Ginger Wine”, Seven-son Flower “Temple of Bloom”, and Winterberry Holly “Southern Gentleman."

TREES: Ginkgo “Autumn Gold” (this is the male tree that doesn’t produce the nasty nuts), Dawn Redwood, Gordlinia, Southern Magnolia “Kay Parris”, and Yellowwood.

I have a soft spot for trees. But this time, we came in SUV instead of the coach bus. I could only pick the smaller ones and the one that bends – American Yellowwood.

I want to say a few words about the brand new shrub “Desert Orchid”. It’s not available on the market until next year. UT managed to get a few for the plant sale. This plant was developed at North Carolina State University’s research center in Asheville. It’s a hybrid of two North American natives – desert willow and catalpa. It bears flowers like orchids and snapdragons, but is easy to care. The flowers are fragrant starting in late spring till summer. Pollinators love it. It must have been appreciated so much by gardeners/purchasers that pricing is reasonable without sales tax. For instance, the PW one-gallon is priced at $20. The same plant in the same container is sold $30 in retail.

The quality of these plants is excellent. A case in point is that last year I brought home a dozen shrubs and perennials. Due to heat and drought, I didn’t put them in the ground until Thanksgiving. Many had outgrown their containers then and had shown stress. They didn’t have enough time to establish after being transplanted when the Arctic Blast hit us during the Christmas holiday. The miserable look of my new collections sunk my heart. Nevertheless, when spring came, they miraculously emerged from ground. I didn’t lose a single plant, including the not-so-cold-hardy shrub Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox). It did die back to the ground, which was not supposed to be the case. Normally, in winter, the leaves fall, but the trunk and branches stand tall.

I could go on and on about plants and trees at the Summer Celebration. Let’s spend some time on the presentations about various subjects.

This year, the topics covered a wide area of interests, from what varieties to choose to grow berries in one’s backyard to avoiding planting certain trees in one’s garden, animal and pest control, invasive insect alert, pollinator health, smart gardening, as well as cooking food from your garden produce. These talks were relevant and practical.

I squeezed in three talks, the Annual Trial Tour and the tractor ride across the whole West TN AgResearch and Education Center.

The first talk I went to was Dr. Natalie Bumgarner’s Backyard Berries – From Flavor to Flavonoids. She is the authority on growing berries in Tennessee, having been in the lab and the trial field all of her career. She presented several cultivars of blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry and recommended a few for home gardeners in Tennessee in terms of flavor and yield. For strawberry, on top of her list are Albion, Flavorfest, and Allstar; for blueberry, she mentioned Premier, Titan, and Ochlocknee. These are “Rabbit Eye” varieties that have good flavor and are easy to grow. For blackberry, Dr. Natalie had more criteria, such as sweetness, flavor, as well as texture. Her top picks were Caddo, Kiowa, and Natchez.

The next talk was about Passalong Plant Propagation by Celeste Scott. She briefly touched upon the theory of plant propagation, then focused on practice. Before she started dividing her plants, she stressed that patented and trade-marked plants were off-limits. It is against the law to propagate them within their patented period, which normally spans 20 years.

The plants she brought were from her garden. They were the heirloom irises and day lilies that she got from her grandmother. She said “passalong plants” were literally the plants that were divided (propagated), then shared among family members, relatives, friends, and fellow gardeners. She even had a namesake book in hand, “Passalong Plants”. If you want to give propagation a try, this is a go-to book.

At the end of the talk, Celeste gave away the divided plants. I sat in the front row and conveniently got a rhizome of each. I was curious about these plants that have been passed down for generations. Now, I have a story to tell when I share with gardeners.

The last presentation was “Avoid Problematic Trees in Landscape Settings”. Actually, being a tree lady, this was the first topic that intrigued me. Dr. David Mercker branded himself as a forester. He knew his stuff and was not shy about sharing his “countertrend” findings. On his “blacklist” are almost all of the trees I’ve planted on our property. Are you ready to check against yours? Here they are:

Black Walnut, Elm, Red Maple, Mimosa, River Birch, Loblolly and Virginia Pine, Tree of Heaven, Lombardy Poplar, Weeping Willow, Mulberry, Boxelder, Ash, Leyland Cypress, Sweetgum, Eastern White Pine, Pin Oak, Tulip Poplar, Wild Black Cherry, Cherrybark Oak, American Sycamore, Sassafras, and Southern Magnolia!

Note the context is “landscape settings,” which does not apply to what I have in the meadow far away from my gardens. However, I do have Southern Magnolia Little Gem as my garden specimen. The reasons Dr. Mercker cited were: shallow roots, animal preys, subject to diseases and insects, and nasty seeds/nuts making it an invasive species. You get the point. Dr. Mercker has his personal preference – White Oak and Willow Oak for growing in yards.

My last activity, and also one of my favorites, of Summer Celebration was to tour the UT plant trial garden where many new cultivars are grown. It was an eye-feast and sensual treat to tour the trial garden. I got the first sight of the desirable plants that have the traits of disease-resistance, drought tolerance, four-season interest, long-flowering, and trendy colors. The whole setting was a colorful, stunning beauty of annuals, perennials, a few shrubs as center pieces, and rows of blooming hydrangeas around the outer edge of the garden area. Jason Reeve is responsible for keeping this area updated each year and maintaining the grounds. You probably know him from his Facebook, posting about plants.

Jason was our tour guide. He knew all the plants including their name, history, and properties. What more could you expect from such a knowledgeable guide? Most of all, you could ask him questions, directly. He said they chose to grow many AAS “All American Selection” annuals and perennials to see if these plants suit Tennessee's climate and soil. Then, they share findings with growers and home gardeners. I’ve followed him on Facebook as he shares time-sensitive information regularly there.

I’m a newbie to the Jackson Summer Celebration. This was the second time I've attended. I enjoyed it as much as I did last year, probably more so because the weather this time was more friendly (not so hot and humid), and I was more informed. A few of us who carpooled were already talking about the 2025 Summer Celebration. We’ll be back!

Profiles in Gardening...

Beth Hannabass

I'm currently an intern and have two more CEUs before I'm qualified to be a Certified Master Gardener. I took the course this past spring with Bob Ary. It was something I had been meaning to do for years. Bob is a friend from church and always very kind to answer questions, but told me, "You need to take the Master Gardener course. It starts next week."

I grew up on a farm in Michigan and have been pulling weeds since I could walk. As a child, Dad would take us out to the bean field and tell us, "pull anything that's taller than the bean plants." Sometimes we were pulling weeds taller than us!

Every morning of summer vacation we were assigned two rows in the family vegetable garden to weed before we could play, ride a bike, or go to the lake to swim. We lived on the farm where my mother grew up, first settled by her grandparents in the 1870s. There were seven of us, so food production was pretty important. Mom planted a big garden and froze and canned whatever we didn't eat fresh. She also kept a big flower garden along our driveway, a rose garden, and a third flower garden under the kitchen window. They were her therapy. We kids were not required to help, nor even invited in them.

As an adult, it took years for me to live in one place long enough to have a garden. I would dig up a little corner for marigolds at a rental house or grow a potted cherry tomato on the front steps. When we moved to Springfield in 1990 and had four little kids, I had a small vegetable garden and flower garden. We moved after 3 years. I started a flower garden in Kingsport; we moved back to Springfield the following year. I gave up for a while. Too many abandoned gardens and too many kid activities. I always grew containers on the porch and maybe a narrow strip of flowers tucked up next to the house, but that was it. When I finally decided we were settled, I dug a big, beautiful flower garden and had it two summers. My husband came home ready to move.

Now, in our retirement, I have finally been able to let loose. I am really enjoying being able to plant everything I've ever wanted. I start digging wherever mowing is a pain for Walt. I have more every year and spend hours every day, digging, weeding, mulching, deadheading, and trimming. Master Gardener class has been eye-opening in terms of helping me problem solve. I grew up with short growing seasons and loose, sandy soil. I knew what would grow in Michigan. I did not know Tennessee and have been learning the wonderful advantages of clay soil. My first soil test was sent in this spring, which answered a lot of questions. "Aha!"

I like to grow plants my mom loved and have some tiger lilies that were started by my great-grandmother. Mom grew a lot from seed, so I have Bells-of-Ireland, marigolds, bee balm, snapdragons, and daisies. She also shared the wealth like all gardeners, and I do the same. Friends have given me hosta, daylilies, and all sorts of divisions and starts. I'm introducing my grandsons to planting and playing in gardens. I hope to pass it on to the next generation. Gardening definitely feeds my soul. I am guessing you all feel the same.

Forget Me Nots...

Make the short trip north to Bowling Green, KY on Saturday, August 26 for Lost River Cave's annual Native Plant Sale from 10 AM to 4 PM. Peruse a variety of native plants and wildflowers that will be available for purchase and learn more about the benefits of planting native species for your home and garden from expert owner and consultant Shannon Trimboli! Have a bit more time? Stay for a hike on their trails or take their famous cave boat tour.

In a partnership between the Robertson and Sumner County Master Gardeners, the Sherry Eden Reading Garden, in memory of Don Eden and in appreciation of his wife Sherry Eden, was designed and installed at the White House Library. The ground was prepared, viburnums, strawberry hydrangeas, and hottie hydrangea bushes were planted, and mulch was spread. Make sure to swing by and see this beautiful space the next time you are in White House.

Highland Rim was featured as a stop during the inaugural Seeds of Hope: Tour of Gardens in support of local nonprofit Martha's Song. Thank you to the volunteers who made this possible. All proceeds benefited the Martha's Song Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Robertson County residents fighting cancer. Be on the lookout for next year's tour!

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) on bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Photo by Stacey Haag

Upcoming Events

August 5: Fall Vegetable Gardening

Goodlettsville Public Library

August 26: Native Plant Sale

Lost River Cave


Contact Us



Shawn Herman

(615) 948-4376

[email protected]


Vice President:

Nola Hastings

(714) 296-2740

[email protected]



Holly Brooks

(760) 861-4833

[email protected]



Sandy Williams

(615) 969-7656

[email protected]


Master Gardener Coordinator:

Bob Ary

(615) 384-7936

[email protected]

Instagram Administrator:

Kathy Doss

(615) 636-5410

[email protected]



Julee Orr

(615) 838-5772

[email protected]


Facebook Administrator:

Shawn Herman

(615) 948-4376

[email protected]


The Leaflet Editor:

Stacey Haag

(615) 389-4663

[email protected]

Robertson County Master Gardener Association
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