- [Narrator] What's a living landscape? On this "Volunteer Gardener," we'll learn first-hand. Rita Venable introduces us to a dedicated couple who have spent years restoring the natural habitat on their 10 acres. Now, native plants are flourishing, birds are singing, and beneficial insects are thriving. It's awe inspiring. Plus, Troy Marden showcases the colorful blooms of intersectional peonies. Join us. First, let's tour a landscape full of endemic cedar glade plants and native wildflowers. - So we're at the home of Linda Robertson in Wilson County, and she has what I would call a living yard. This is not your standard suburban plot. It's a, it's alive with warblers and bees, and hummingbird moths, and so many other things we've been hearing this morning and seeing. So, Linda, this section is your dry cedar glade area, and it surrounds the porch here. It's so beautiful. Tell us the inspiration around your plants, and why did you choose these for this spot? - Well, when we moved to Lebanon, we discovered the cedar glades, and I thought they were really ugly until around Easter time, we saw these beautiful plants. We drove through the park and we, we saw these beautiful plants. And I could understand then why they made the cedars of Lebanon State Park. - Yeah. - And these plants thrive where it's very dry. And this is a, I made this a very dry area. And I have tried to, to like you say, to make a living landscape. When you drove in, you noticed a lot of green on both sides of the driveway. It was all covered in, it's all privet honeysuckle bush, stilt grass, Japanese stilt grass, and you know, every invasive you can imagine is all along the driveway. So I didn't want that in my yard. So I've tried to make a living landscape here with our native plants. - And you can see all the bees and things buzzing around and it's just beautiful. So here, you have the Tennessee coneflower. It's not quite in bloom yet, right here, but this is, was once an endangered plant and it's now taken off the endangered list. because so many people have been able to propagate it. So. And tell us about the, those right there. - [Linda] The aster? - Yeah. - [Linda] Yeah. The aster here is the symphyotrichum oblongifolia. It's the aromatic aster, and it grows very well where it's dry. It blooms in the fall, so it's great for fall pollinators. - [Rita] And it continues to bloom through November. And it will even take a light frost. - [Linda] Right. - So it's a fabulous plant, and I see all kinds of things on it in my yard, so. - Right. - [Rita] And tell us about your phlox. - [Linda] Oh, the phlox is one of my favorite plants. - Mine too. Mine too. - They're all my favorite. - You turned me on to phlox. - Right. It's, I call it a bridge plant, because normally this is blooming a little early. But it, it blooms profusely, and it blooms in shade and sun, in wet and dry. It's just a, an excellent plant. And it does- - Butterflies love it. - [Linda] Butterflies love it. It seeds very well. I also have in here, but we don't see it now, are butterfly weeds. They're only about this tall up. I can see them - Ah yeah. That's right here. - Yeah. Butterfly weeds. - [Rita] And since we've both seen monarchs already, - [Linda] Yes. - [Rita] They will be laying eggs on that soon. Even that tall. - Yeah. - [Rita] So, she's got 'em ready. - Yeah. And we do have two endemic plants here; The Nashville, the Nashville breadroot right here is an endemic to cedar glades, and the Tennessee coneflower - Mm-hm. Are grown nowhere else in the world but cedar glades of- - Exactly. - Yeah, of this area. So, very special plants. And you would think as special as they are, they'd be hard to propagate, but they're not. - They're not. They are not. - So, beautiful beau... And I love the way the dark purple melts into the, the light purple there, - Yeah. - And you've got the pink and- - Yeah. - Oh, it's just great. - And the yellow makes it pop. The hoary puccoon. Yeah. - Yes. - [Rita] Yeah. Oh! You have hoary puccoon? - [Linda] Yeah. - I have been telling people for years to grow hoary puccoon, because I've seen all kinds of things on it, monarchs and everything. And there it is, that gorgeous yellow. And I love the way you've used complimentary colors with the purple and the yellow together. So they're, they're compliments. And that's, that's really cool. Hoary puccoon is a native plant. I love it because it's so low growing. And it's so polite. It does not get crazy like some plants do. Right. - [Rita] So, that's gorgeous. So this is the beautiful rose robinia that also grows in the cedar glades. And you can see it's got a robinia like leaf on it right there. And it compliments the breadroot so beautifully, Linda. You've just done a great job here. So tell us about the glade phlox and your little statue there. Is that a bird bath? - Well, it's, it is, it does hold water. - Okay. - But the glade phlox, of course, is blooming in the glades right now. And it is, it just covers some areas, and I've tried to reproduce it here. And it's been very cooperative. - [Rita] Well, one question I have, is since these are native plants, and the birds and animals, and little mammals and everything are adapted to it, do you have problems with deer or rabbits coming into this area and decimating your plants? - Not these particular plants, because they bloom very early in the spring. Now they will, groundhogs like to eat the, the Tennessee coneflower, but, but so far they're close to the house, and I haven't had a problem with these. Now out in the yard, we do have problems. - Okay. Okay. But this is sunny dry. You would, you would characterize this as a sunny dry area. - Right. - Well, we're at another segment in Linda's yard. This is an area surrounded by beautiful cedar trees. And it's also at the water's edge. So Linda, what are these gorgeous wildflowers out here? - [Linda] We've got a really nice stand of the corn salad. It's beet corn salad. It's an annual, comes back every spring. Don't do anything with it. - [Rita] Okay. You just, you let it go. - [Linda] Let it go. - You didn't even plant this. It just- - Don't, just don't mow it until it goes to seed. - [Rita] Don't mow it until it goes to seed. Okay. And what about the yellow? We saw the yellow behind you. The golden ragwort. - Ragwort. Uh-huh. - [Rita] I think you said. Okay. - [Linda] Golden ragwort, and then the zoysia. - And I've got more corn salad over here. And here is a little red, and there's a little more over here. - [Linda] Fire pink. - [Rita] Fire pink. I'm sorry, fire.... Oh, you've got trillium. - [Linda] Trillium. Yeah. - She's got trillium here. Which trillium is that? - [Linda] That's cuneatum. - Cuneatum. Okay. - Mm-hm. And there's ginger, wild ginger. There's Jack-in-the-pulpit. - And Columbine right down here. All typical of woodland wildflowers. Obviously you sit here and contemplate life, right? - Right. That's our swim rock. Take a swim. - It's your swim rock. - Yeah. - Okay. So you, you go swimming, then you come out and sit down. - Right. - Cool. All right. So again, more cedars. There are native elms here. There's a wonderful oak tree up there. So just from layering, layering, layering, all the way down to low growing plants. It's fabulous. - Right. - Another section of Linda's and George's beautiful 10 acre yard garden, I call it. It's, the whole thing's a garden, is their moss area. And George is the maintainer. This is George Robertson, Linda's husband. And he is the blower of leaves, and the maintainer of the moss, and the inspiration of the moss garden. What gave you the inspiration George, to- - Just looked so beautiful, and you can see it right out of our entertainment room window, - Okay. - And see it all winter, and it's always green and inviting. - [Rita] That's neat. So a little window scaping here, like which I love. - It is. - [Rita] When you plant a garden, so you can see it from the inside out as well. So Linda, what was involved in getting this started? A lot of people... I think Paul Moore got us on moss gardens. - [Linda] He did. He did. - [Rita] So how did you get yours started? - [Linda] It just occurred naturally. The area is very compacted, and so moss just does well here. And it has expanded from one small patch to all over the, this side of the yard. So we just let it go. - [Rita] So it serves as a ground cover. - [Linda] It's a ground cover. - And do things come up? I mean, do you have to weed it a lot or water it? - [Linda] I don't weed it. To be really pretty, it should be weeded, and maybe fertilized a little. But we don't do that. We just, it's just natural. - [Rita] Just let it do its thing? - [Linda] Just let it. - What about watering? Do you have to water when it gets super hot out? - Never. - Okay. - Never. - And you can tell this is a really dry area. There are oak trees all around. Here's a little acorn that's falling. Of course this feeds the mammals too. But all of this, these oak trees will feed birds, insects, and this beautiful... A lot of times people try to grow grass under these big old shade trees, and there's just probably not enough water. So this is perfect- - Yeah. - [Rita] For this area. And I love the way you've made the leaves, George, kind of scallop around the edges. It's not just straight line. I mean it follows the natural curves of, of what you would see out in nature. So it's just another beautiful area here. - [Linda] Yeah. - [Rita] So, another part of the living yard is layering. And this area is my favorite, I think in Linda's whole yard. It starts with oak trees, which supports so many pollinators. And they've even done studies that bees will nectar on, will get pollen from the oak trees. The males will, and use them in early spring. So, Linda's got dogwood trees here, and buckeye trees here. The red. And the hummingbirds love these native Buckeye trees. And the dogwood serve as a host plant for the azures, butterflies, the little blue ones that you see in the spring. So, this is natural rock. Linda, as strong as Georgie is, he didn't move this rock over here. But, it's so natural and beautiful the way it, it curves around and has so many different twists and turns to it. So Linda, tell us about the, this sub shrub layer right here, underneath the trees and in the shade. - Right. This is a rusty black haw viburnum. We had some of those in the butterfly garden at Cedars. And they are beautiful. They have wonderful blossoms in the spring for pollinators. And then they have wonderful berries for the birds. And it's, it's not a very well utilized shrub. They're really hard to find. - [Rita] Where did you get this one? - [Linda] It grew naturally. - [Rita] Oh wow. Of course it did. Of course. - It's here naturally. - [Rita] Oh, that's great. - Yeah. - [Rita] And the, it likes the shade obviously, 'cause when these trees leaf out, this is all gonna be shade. So it, what color is the bloom on that? - [Linda] They're clusters of small white blossoms. - Small white blossoms. Okay. - But they, it does like more sun. - [Rita] Okay. - To blossom well, it needs more sun. - Okay. Okay. And then we've got another columbine here. - [Linda] Growing out of the rock. - [Rita] Yes. And we've got blue bells here. - I saw something. - [Linda] Poppies. - [Rita] The poppies. Celandine poppies. But we'll see more over in the other area. - [Rita] Oh, celandine poppies. The beautiful blue. And more phlox out here. So Linda, so far, what's your favorite? - Flower? - What's your favorite thing in here? - In here? It's everything. It's how everything goes together. The rocks, the... You don't have to water rocks. - Yeah. And I, and this does not get watered much. - Yeah. And you've even got a, is that a squirrels nest right there? - Yes. - And so we're hearing birds singing. - Yeah. - We've got little mammals. It's just all so alive. - It is alive. - And that's great. - It's a living landscape. - It's a living landscape. And that's the way we like it. So we've seen the really wild part of your yard, Linda, but tell us about this more tame area. Not really tame, but a little tamer because it has a border going all the way around, and a water feature and a bird feeder. But tell us about some of the plants in here. And some of these we've seen out there, but there are some new ones in here also. So. - Right. Well this is where it all started. - Oh. This was the premiere? - This was the beginning. - This was it, you know. - Okay. And, so... - The epicenter. - [Linda] The epicenter. Right. - Okay. - It is. Because I wanted a little color in the front yard, and I was so enthralled with all the native plants that we saw when we went hiking and biking, that I wanted that in my yard. I wanted it to be part of our landscape. - [Rita] Okay. - So the only thing I'm really disappointed with are the azaleas that normally bloom at this time. But then the winter was so severe that it's nipped 'em back. - [Rita] Yeah. - And they are not native. But the native azaleas bloom a little later than these spring flowers do. - And we've got blue-eyed Mary here that we have seen, but next to the celadine poppy, which is fantastic. And I like it 'cause their, their heights are so similar, but their colors are so different. So. - Right. - [Rita] And then we've got more phlox here, phlox pilosa, which loves Linda's yard. And then we have the beautiful larkspur right here. And this, this one's even better with the fresher and more beautiful. And there's the pink blue bell going to blue right there. So pretty. And you've got white trillium back there. - [Linda] Right. That's the flexipes. - [Rita] Flexipes? - Uh-huh. - [Rita] That's beautiful. - [Linda] And there's some blue cohosh right next to it. - [Rita] Okay. - And then really wanna point out too, the carex looks really nice in a garden such as this. - [Rita] Lots of people are starting grass to use the sages, and because they look like grasses. And they, they stay pretty much like that. They are so well behaved. Any school teacher would love to have carex, a room full of carex in their class. - [Linda] Right. - Anyway. So tell us about... We have not looked at Virginia spiderwort. There's a little clump of it right there. - Right. - But, an even... - I love that- - Brighter. - [Linda] Yeah. The bright magenta color. - [Rita] Right here, yeah. - With the poppies. - [Rita] That is just gorgeous next to the celadine poppy. Yeah. Oh, and more fire pink there, more trillium, and a beautiful water feature for the birds. You can hear the tufted titmouse in the background. - [Linda] Yes. - And we had Carolina wrens here, we had morning doves. So there are lots of northern cardinals. The birds love it here. The birds come for the insects that come for the flowers. So that's one reason, it's all tied together. It's an ecosystem here. - Right. - [Rita] And complete within itself. So, and the trees also give pollen and give the insects something to chew on. - [Linda] Right. - So that they can, the birds can eat them. So, what else is in here? - Well, there's tiarella. Some of these plants bloom a little later. The tiarella, the foam flower. - So Linda, even though this is a native garden, and plants are more adapted to this area, just like a beautiful dance with the pollinators, and the flowers, and the trees and everything, it doesn't mean that it's suddenly maintenance free right? - That's exactly right. This nice casual appearance. - [Rita] It's a lot of work. - [Linda] It is work, right. - [Rita] Yeah. Yes. So how long have you been here? - [Linda] We've lived here since 1984. - [Rita] Okay. - [Linda] And of course it's changed a lot since then. - [Rita] Yes. - But the natives, we've had a good long while. I'm guessing the last 25 years we started doing the natives. - Oh wow. Okay. And could you mention a couple of books that maybe were very helpful to you in doing all of this? Either design, or propagation or whatever that you've used. - Yeah. I wish I had a good design book or a good designer. I'm not very good at that. But William Cullina has a great book. the New England wildflower book that I use for the propagation. And then just everything else I can get my hands on. - [Rita] Okay. - And your butterfly book. That's been marvelous. - Thank you. - It's the best, It's the best manual of all manuals. So. - Thank you. Thank you. - [Linda] Yeah. - And Doug Tallamy, maybe. I think he had said to me before that his "Bringing Nature Home" had really inspired you too, I think. - [Linda] Yeah. I'm sorry, I forgot that. Yeah. Yeah. He's been really inspirational in constructing the living landscape. - [Rita] Yeah. Well thank you so much. - [Linda] Thank you. - This has been wonderful. Now I need to go home and get my hands in the dirt too. Thank you. - Yeah. Thanks for being here. - [Rita] We enjoyed it. - Well, as an urban farmer, maybe you've started thinking about doing some companion planting to help protect your crops from the bugs. And Matt Kirsky at Gardens of Babylon has some great ideas for us. But first of all, what is the basic concept of companion planting. - In a nutshell, companion planting is kind of more of a holistic system where you bring in a lot of flowering perennials, a lot of flowering herbs, and grow 'em along, right alongside your vegetables. Kind of gone are the days of large row cropping of tomatoes and peppers. You really want to get everything kind of growing close in together. Kind of like the small family, a little microcosm if you will, to really attract in a lot of beneficials. There's a lot of beneficial bugs and birds, animals that will prey on a lot of predatory bugs in your garden. So it might look kind of scattered at first, but really the overall result is a, a really great organic insecticide method. - [Julie] Well, and it's quite beautiful, because we have here an annual garden around the side of the garden here, along the fences. And then we have these wonderful perennial plants. We've got this great yellow yarrow here, some herbs. What else do we have? - Everything from rosemary to feverfew, beautiful flowers here, but also a little bit of rub. A great known as a companion plant to repel a lot of bad bugs in the garden. On top of that, you'll see just around the perimeter, everything from marigolds to artemisias. Anything. We had a smell exactly like cat nip. We have lemon balm growing all around us. You know, just good, a lot of good flowering perennials. A lot of 'em mostly are all native. They will do a good job at repelling a lot of things off your tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. - Well it's a beautiful way to garden, and it's a great way to mix up your plant so you have a little bit of something for everyone. - [Matt] Exactly. - Peonies are an old fashioned garden favorite. And one of the best places to see them in bloom is here at Iris City Gardens in Primm Springs, Tennessee. But what I really wanna show you today, is a peony that is not your grandmother's old-fashioned favorite. Joining me today is Greg McCullough from Iris City Gardens, one of the owners here. You and Macy have had this for how long? - [Greg] Been 20 years now. - 20 Years. And in front of us, these two rows, this is a peony called Bartzella. And this really is the peony that sort of started it all as far as commercial popularity for what we're looking at today. - That's right. This was introduced in 1986 by a hybridizer named Roger Anderson. And this has been probably the most popular intersectional peony ever. - [Troy] Right. So you, you call it an intersectional peony. And I know some people call them Itoh peonies also. Explain to me what that means. - [Matt] Well the first, this is a tree peony crossed with a herbaceous peony. Your grandmother's old peony was the, was the herbaceous, - [Troy] Was the herbaceous. - [Matt] And the trees are much more difficult to propagate. This one, these are crosses between the two. And they die all the way to the ground in the winter, just like the herbaceous. - Right. - But they've got real strong stems from the, from the tree peonies. The first person to do these crosses was a Japanese gentleman, Dr. Itoh. And so these are also called Itoh hybrids or intersectionals. Dr. Itoh, from what I've read, made 20,000 crosses with different tree peonies and herbaceous peonies till he finally got a cross that took. - [Troy] Something that was viable. - [Matt] Yes. Those were introduced in the US in the 60s as yellow dream, yellow emperor, and a couple other yellows. But it wasn't until Roger Anderson did Bartzella, that they really took off. - [Troy] Certainly before, we never had yellow. - That's true. They were never yellow in the herbaceous. And the first five or six that were hybridized were yellows. And they have this beautiful rose colored flare is what they're, those are called. That comes from the tree peonies. - [Troy] Okay. - [Matt] And that's in all of the intersectionals, you'll see those flares. - [Troy] Right. So there were yellow tree peonies, and that's one of the reasons people love them so much. Not only yellow, but just those really rich intense colors. - [Matt] Yes. - And that's been passed on now to what essentially grows as an old fashioned or herbaceous type peony. - [Matt] That's right, yes. - [Troy] Of the many varieties that you grow, I mean, Cora Louise obviously is a, a paler, lighter colored flower, almost white with the dark blotches. But what are some of your favorites that you've, that you've got out here? - [Matt] Well, new millennium is a newer one from Roger Anderson. And it's close to our favorite. It is just gorgeous. I've got one that's nearly black, that's from Mr. Anderson. I've got just a range of colors, because the tree peonies just really had more color in the blooms than the, than the herbaceous peonies. - [Troy] Right. - You know, it's almost, it almost seems like with, with this line of breeding, that we could almost compare it to what people have done with the purple coneflower recently. They used that yellow of that echinacea paradoxa to sort of expand the color range of a plant that really came in shades of pink, and purple and white. And, and now the same thing happened a long time ago with peonies, but they're becoming popular on the market now. - [Matt] Yeah. This is the tree peony foliage that's come along with the flowers. It's much less disease prone. It doesn't get botrytis like the herbaceous peony. It stays much healthier and greener all growing season, and all, really till the fall where the herbaceous peonies look pretty beat up. - [Troy] Right. And these plants seem to be very strongly upright, very shrubby and- - Yes. They get a very strong stems from the tree peonies. So they don't, where you had to tie up the old, old fashioned ones, you don't ever have to tie these up. They're, they're strong. - Right. - [Troy] They hold their heads up high, and don't hang their blooms in the mud, and all of that. - Yes. - [Matt] That's correct. Yes. - [Troy] So. As we get out of the kind of yellow and apricot color range, which is one of the reasons I think some of these are so popular, we also get into some beautiful pinks. And what other colors do the intersectionals come in? - [Matt] We've got some nice reds. - [Troy] Uh-huh. - We have one that's beautiful purple, - Uh-huh. - [Matt] And one that's nearly black. - [Troy] Alright. - And then we have a multicolored ones that have pink, and yellow in 'em that will look, from a distance will look almost orange. - [Troy] Uh-huh. - So a nice kind of blend of colors in some of them really. - Right. There's lots of different colors coming out of, coming out of the tree peonies, moving over into the, into the intersectionals. - So things like rosy prospects, which is a nice soft colored one. And then on up into these beautiful plants like scarlet heaven that have those really rich, deep tones in the blooms. Well, and our, our little time together here has brought the wind and the rain out. But that's alright. We need it. If you will, speak just quickly for us about the culture of these peonies. - Well, like the herbaceous, you plant with the eyes just below the surface. They don't want to be covered. - Right. - We do a little mulch around 'em to hold the moisture in. - Sure. - Keep the weeds down. We use a balanced fertilizer, usually a triple 14 slow release fertilizer. - Okay. - And they wanna stay moist. They can take full sun or half day shade, but, and pretty, again, pretty much like the herbaceous, you grow 'em exactly the same conditions. - [Troy] Okay. - But it's a rich, slightly acidic soil that they're in. - Okay. Very good. So be on the lookout for some of these new, unusual and very beautiful peonies. And Iris City is a great place to come and see them. - [Narrator] For inspiring garden tours, growing tips and garden projects, visit our [email protected], and find us on these platforms.
May 18, 2023
Season 31 | Episode 19
Host Rita Venable introduces us to a dedicated couple who have spent years eradicating exotic invasive plants from their property. Native perennials, trees and shrubs were then planted to create a living landscape to support beneficial insects and wildlife. Julie Berbiglia discuses the benefits of planting ornamental plants in the vegetable garden. Troy Marden showcases intersectional peonies.