June 2017

Greetings to all,

I hope all of you are doing well as we transition into summer. As always, spring has been a really busy time here at MBG. With Jim Crowder now on our staff, we have really expanded our nursery area. In addition to the Spring Plant Sale, our nursery was also open to customers every Saturday in May, and will be open for special plant sale dates this summer and fall. A majority of this is managed by our wonderful volunteers. We have a large display of plants, both inside and outside our Visitors Center, that are for sale during normal business hours. This Saturday, June 24th, the nursery will be open from 8am-2pm for our first Summer Clearance Sale!

This year we have used a large number of tropical species on the grounds, in addition to our regular plantings of annuals. Tropical plants really like our summer heat and make a wonderful show of bright, splashy color. If you attend any of our summer concertsyou will see big plantings of Hibiscus, Crotons, Mandevillia, Alocasia, Palms, and many others. The overall effect is stunning!

While our recent weather has included some dramatic storms, we have only had real summer temperatures for the past two weeks, which has been good for most of the plantings. We are about five inches below average in rain fall. While this is not drought condition, be sure to keep a watchful eye on your gardens, particularly any new plantings that were done this spring. There really isn't much problem with summer planting, as long as you are willing to take the time to keep everything watered as needed.

While the Garden has had a Conifer Collection for most of it's history, we haven't had any major additions until recently. We just added  a new bed featuring an assortment of conifers and some companion plantings of perennials and ornamental grasses. It is sited south of the old Conifer Collection and north of the Rose Garden. The focal point of the bed is a large bronze sculpture, Destino III, on loan to us by Roy Tamboli. It make a very impressive landscape. Look for more additions to our Conifer Collection this coming fall.

In this addition of Vine Line, Dominick Fava, one of our summer interns, will tell you what it is like to have a summer job at the garden. Manny Pailet, our greenhouse manager, will talk about watering your outdoor containers in the summer , and Sherri McCalla, our Herb Garden Curator, will give you some ideas about keeping cool with herbs from your own garden. I can never tell if she likes growing herbs or cooking with them better.

Wishing all of you a pleasant and restful summer!

Rick Pudwell

Tropic Heat
By Sherri McCalla, Herb Garden curator at MBG

Yup. It is that time again: hot and humid. If it weren’t for our winter, we would live in a
tropical paradise. Oh, and speaking of that, tropical plants LOVE it here!

We should reconsider our annual plant options and include tropicals in our planting schemes.

Which ones?
For starters: Cardamom ( Elettaria cardamomum), which will probably never bear flowers and produce the seed of its name here, but whose leaves can be added to foods to add a tasty perfume. (Oh, by the way, cardamom overwintered in the Herb Garden last year!)

La Lot ( Piper sarmentosum, syn: Piper lalot) is an attractive plant in the pepper family.  Piper lalot leaves are used often in Vietnamese cooking, especially to wrap and cook beef tidbits.

The gloriously-flowered tropical hibiscus ( Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), and Roselle hibiscus ( H. sabdariffa) have flowers that are tasty in salads as well as teas.

Not too sure about using a house plant as an annual? Well, goodness, you might be an herb person and plant basil every year and don’t have a problem with that! In a warm, tropical environment, many basils are actually perennials…How ‘bout that?!

All you have to do is purchase the pretty plant, plant it, then enjoy it until late fall before frost– sometimes as late as Thanksgiving. Then what? Then you have 3 options: donate it/them to an organization that might like them as attractive houseplants (maybe a church, a friend, but not us! We thank you, and appreciate the thought, but MBG already has plenty of nice plants to overwinter.),
bring them inside your own home and treat them as a houseplant until the next spring, or have a Zen moment and just let nature have its way, after all, you have enjoyed it for 120+ days and probably paid less for it than you would pay for a restaurant lunch, making it cost pennies a day.
Back to the “hot” thread: don’t forget to hydrate.

A nice calorie-free solution is to grab a handful of herbs (whichever ones and whichever combination you like: basil, mint, stevia, cilantro, rosemary, hibiscus flowers, Tagetes lucida, etc.), crush them, place in the bottom of your water jug, fill with ice cubes, then pour in water. Drink. It gets ever better as it sits.

Pretty to use during a gathering of friends and family, now is a good time of year to make a cool, easy “pickle” recipe. I say pickle and put it in quotes because you aren’t actually heating the cucumber recipe or using a water bath, so it isn’t really pickling, but the cucumbers will be cool and just crisp enough.

Gather your items: vinegar of your choice (I like apple cider vinegar, but white wine or rice vinegar would be nice. Avoid white vinegar as that may be too strong.), sliced cucumbers, a small sliced onion and 1 or 2 diced garlic cloves. Put the cucumbers, garlic, and onion in a bowl. Make a 3:1 vinegar and water solution (example: ¾ cup vinegar plus ¼ cup water), and pour this over the ingredients until they are covered. Best to let marinate overnight; a couple of hours will do if necessary.

This can be fancied up by adding diced homegrown tomatoes, a little sugar if you like sweetness, or maybe a touch of salt instead. Herbs such as dill, mint, basil, etc., can be added, too. It might be interesting to slice a summer squash or zucchini and toss that in! Adjust the amount of garlic to your taste; add more-or none!

Use sweet onions versus “hot” non-sweet, little green onions cut into lengths that can be covered by the vinegar solution, or a red onion, or, once again, none!

You could try tossing in some banana peppers, or maybe a hot pepper or two…stay cool, and come visit me in the Herb Garden!


Summer Internship

I am excited to be a part of the Memphis Botanic Garden staff this summer.

My friend, Michael Fletcher, and I are new summer interns. As members of Collierville Boy Scout Troop 50, we were recommended by our Scoutmaster Len Lawhon for summer intern positions.

Michael and I have been working for Mr. Len for over a year at DeSoto Farms, operating landscaping machinery and learning about horticulture. So far, our internship work is very similar to the work we’ve done on Mr. Len’s farm.

I’ve enjoyed my first two weeks at the Botanic Garden, meeting the employees, improving my knowledge about plants, and honing my landscaping skills. It certainly is a beautiful work environment, and the staff has been very friendly and helpful. I’m sure we will look back and be proud that our first jobs were at Memphis Botanic Garden. This opportunity to work outside at the Memphis Botanic Garden is certainly better than working over the fryer at Chik-Fil-A!

I come by my interest in horticulture naturally. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother are and were avid gardeners, and my father currently works in agribusiness. I’ve been in the Boy Scouts of America since I was 7, and that program has fostered in me a love of the outdoors and a great interest in conservation.

Both Michael and I have attained the rank of Life Scout and are currently working on our individual Eagle Scout projects. Incidentally, the hours we’re working at the Botanic Garden are perfect, because they allow time to work on my Eagle Scout project, as well as my honors courses for school. We will both be juniors at Collierville High School this coming school year.

We are very happy to be working here and look forward to coming to work every day.


By Dominic Fava, summer intern at MBG

The Art of Watering 

Say the weather report for today in Memphis, TN, is 105⁰ and high humidity...how do I take care of all my plants?

Watering plants if you are a novice can be intimidating.


I have had great success with plants using these tips; follow them, and you should be fine.

  • First if you can’t water every morning, I suggest  potting your container plants in a heavy mix. This will help ensure that your plants will stay hydrated for at least a few days.

    What is a heavy mix? Adding amendments like Black Kow manure, soil conditioner, and perlite to your normal potting mix will make your planting mix heavier. .
  •  Water until  the water flows throw the container. If the pot becomes very dry, the root ball will separate from the container, and you may need to let water run through 2 or 3 times to re-hydrate the container.

  • If the plant is in the ground avoid over-watering. Standing water will prevent the roots from getting enough oxygen and can cause disease problems. With clay soils here in Memphis, this can happen frequently. It is best to water deeply and less frequently, but stop when you see water standing, not draining away.

Watering and the care of plants should be fun...relax, pick out plants you love, and call or email us at the Garden if you have any questions!

You can reach a horticulturist at 901-636-4134 or  plantquestions@memphisbotanicgarden.com.
By Manny Pailet, Greenhouse Manager at MBG