- [Lauren] Not long ago, this front yard was transformed into a colorful, pollinator-friendly cottage garden. Rita Venable introduces us to the gardener that brings a smile to all who pass by. Troy Marden shares tips to keep all those seasonal indoor plants at peak performance. And Julie Berbiglia encourages us to leave the leaves to create a natural mulch and provide for wildlife during the winter months. Join us. The diversity of flowering perennials and colorful annuals make this space a joy that spans three seasons. - If you're a gardener and you're driving down the street, do you ever go by a house that is just so floral and so magnetic that you say, "Stop the car?" This is that house. From the very beginning, when you walk up the walkway to this beautiful floral exhibit, you start seeing the flowers that are so welcoming right in the driveway here. So Mitch, what is your overall concept? What were you going for? - So when I moved into this house, I fell in love with this Tudor cottage. And I really, over a couple years of growing vegetables, I decided I wanted to convert this to a cottage garden to kinda match the style of the house. So what you're seeing is year two of that conversion, really in the middle of the process. And these beds that we're seeing closest to us are brand new. Everything from the phlox that you're seeing, to the Nepeta here, and then some annuals tucked in to kinda fill some of the space. I wanted to have a feeling when you walk from the driveway that you're seeing something you can't see from the street. - It's gorgeous, it works. - Thank you. - And tell us about your pot. - Yeah, so this is, you know, I bought a couple gorgeous pots last season. I think I had some ferns in them, and then as I was cleaning them out in the fall, I broke this one. I mean, completely like 1/3 of it broken off. - It happens. - [Mitch] So you know, I thought I could throw it away or I can bury it and try to do the buried pot look. So that was a bit of an experiment, and I think it works. - It does. - You know? - It does. - [Mitch] I've got the Supertunias underneath here 'cause they just grow and grow and grow and grow all season long, you only need one. And then the alyssum. That also kinda takes up that space around the back. - [Rita] It's gorgeous. And the little bees and- - Oh yeah. - [Rita] Butterflies are really enjoying that this morning. - Yeah. - So, and your celosia is such a nice background too to this. - Well, you came at a good time for the wildflowers. So I planted the wildflower seeds up here a little bit uphill. And you know, wildflower seeds, you essentially are sprinkling them on the soil, you know? - Uh huh. - They need light to germinate. - Right. - Well, right after that, a huge rain came and I think just washed them all in this direction. - So they're all right down here. - Yeah, so they're all in one place, which is its own kinda like. The beauty of a cottage garden is that it doesn't have to look perfect. It's supposed to look a little bit of messy. It's supposed to change year after year. So. - Yeah. - [Mitch] You know, I think it works in this space. - It's just great. And you put the fence in yourself. - Yeah, so this fence came with the house, but it was in the backyard. It's probably about 40, 35, 40 years old, from what my neighbors tell me. And I thought it would be a perfect fence when it came time to replace the backyard's fence to put up here. So I cut off the bottom 1/3 to shorten it a little bit and then installed it around here to give a sense of weight and barrier to the garden. - [Rita] So Mitch, I love the seasonality of what you've done here. And just in this driveway strip, you've got all three seasons of growing. - Yeah. - So tell us about your flowers here. - Yeah, so we've got our summer interest kind of anchored down here on this, the spring interest, which is the coreopsis that you're just seeing the leaves of now, some a little bit more summer here, especially this color is my favorite. This is a fall. Lucidum is more of a fall interest. It actually stays through the winter, the strength of the leaves. And then, of course, our sunflower monster. Which nothing grows as well as the plants you don't plant. So last year I had a couple different sunflowers that I think cross-bred, and then this happened. So you know, it has kind of grown multiple heads. You can see there's actually a couple different varieties mixed in here. If you look at the ring on the inside of that. Which has been amazing. So I've had to really kind of come in and tame this a bit because it's overgrown and starting to kill some of the other things I had planted, because it's really soaking up all that light. - [Rita] But it's your sentinel. - But it is. - Into the- - [Mitch] It's so beautiful and everyone comments on it, because who doesn't love sunflowers? - [Rita] Flowers that people see as they're walking down the street. They're strolling their babies. They're driving down. This beautiful hibiscus is one of the first things they would see. - [Mitch] I'm kind of a lover of the dark leaf plants, things with dark foliage. That's what drew me to the hibiscus. I don't always love hardy tropicals. This is the exception because these flowers are so huge. I mean, it's the size of a small dinner plate, comes back every year, and even when sometimes they break from storms, I'm able to re-pot those and put them in different places. - [Rita] Cool. - [Mitch] The other, I think, showstopper in the garden is this, I know it as the Thomas Jefferson plant. What did you say that it was? - A smartweed. - A smartweed. - Family, yeah, smartweed. - It is gorgeous with, you know, the flowers that are kind of hanging down. It grows from seed every year. So I didn't actually plant these this year. I planted it last year. It's come back from its own seeds. So a really easy plant that you can share with somebody else 'cause every year, you're gonna get babies that come up. - I'm coming to your house for dinner and I walk up the walkway, and immediately, I see this beautiful yarrow and other plants. Tell us about that. And I love the way you've put the pots right here as a sign of where to walk, where to come in. - Yeah, so I think the best way to talk about this is symmetry versus asymmetry, right? Like a cottage garden doesn't necessary need symmetry, but I need a little bit to frame where my door is gonna be, which is why I have these pots. Kinda coming over to the yarrow, what I like about that is it's a low-maintenance plant. You really do very little to keep them going. And these blooms will stay kind of upright and have that color to them. Even through the winter, they'll have a little structure. So I really appreciate that. And then, you can't have a cottage garden without some purple coneflower. You know, there's a million varieties of echinacea. - [Rita] And the bees and butterflies will thank you for it. - [Mitch] And even you'll notice, like these aren't the same one. They're slightly different colors. And I think that's another testament to cottage gardens. They don't have to match. - Oh, yeah. Yeah. - For it to really pop. - Right. - And look cohesive. So you know, I also fill in these spaces. There's some dianthus here, some unwanted morning glories. - Tell us about your grass. - Oh yeah, so this is- - I love your grass there. - You know, one of the colloquial names for this is the Mexican feather grass. I'm sure it has several other names. I just think it's beautiful because of the way it moves. - Yes. - You know? They often talk about, gardeners talk about texture. This, to me, is an example of bringing in a different texture in the way that these things move here. - Yeah. - Thinking about these pots is these can be a really low-cost, low-maintenance way to bring some height to the garden. Somebody gave me these arborvitaes that just sat in pots for years. So I was able to re-pot them here. They've done really well. Put some inexpensive like, I think, mini Supertunia Vista or something that's in there. I can't remember the name of that. To fill in that space, to give it a little pop of color. - [Rita] The anchor species in this summer garden seems to be this beautiful black-eyed Susan. Mitch, tell us a little more about it and why yours looks so much better than mine does. - Well, I mean, I guess the first thing I would say is, what variety did I get? This was gifted to me by other Nashville gardeners. - Many cultivars of this species are out there. - Right, and it was so successful. So that's where it began. After that, you know, I would say, the soil, I'm pretty lucky to have amazing soil in this property. This house was built in 1942, so the soil has not been removed here for a very long time. So there's been lots of things living and dying and turning in the soil in this space for a long tie. So I really don't fertilize very much, only when I put a new plant in to get those roots initiated. Because I wanted to take up space. - Yeah. - Here, something that you could see from the street. It seems to work well. - And do you have it in several spots around here? - Several spots around the yard. - I love the way it makes the garden cohesive. This Veronica is fantastic, and it's doing a great job of attracting all these bees, some small, some big. This is what we like to see in a garden like this because they pollinate- - Yeah. - [Rita] Everything you've got. - [Mitch] Well, you know, as you know, a lot of people will cut that Veronica in the middle of the season so that it'll have a new flush of blooms that are even, which I could've done, but the bees are obviously enjoying it. - Yes. - So I'm just letting them chow down. - And how could you take away their food supply? - Right. So this space is obviously a work in progress. You can see some weeds in here. But I had very mature azaleas that were here when I moved in. You can see some of the spaces that they used to take up. That were beautiful, but in the deep freeze of the winter, that I think it was negative 14 or something, it took everything from that area. - For days. - [Mitch] Now is my opportunity to try something different. So I got these Encore Azaleas so they would re-bloom. It'll be awhile 'til they fill in that space. So I created some kinda loose rows here. I wanted the white color. Those azaleas are a lavender color, and then I've got this white here from the white wands Veronica. And then this purple heuchera to kind of repeat that color. - I love that. - And then, I think, the color contrast of having that deep purple with the chartreuse in the Creeping Jenny is what I like most. I like to see contrast in the garden. - I like the border broken up. I understand this is a work in progress, but I am so glad that in your journey here, you have included phlox. I love the phlox and so signature of a cottage garden. - Yeah. - It's just gorgeous. You've done so much and it's so alive. I love the butterflies and the bees and the everything going on here. So thank you. - Thank you. Thanks for being here. I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. - Well there is a new movement afoot, or aground, I guess, and that is to leave the leaves in the fall. Don't pick 'em up. Don't mulch 'em. Just leave 'em. So I'm here with Joanna to talk about some of the fun things that you will find in your leaves and some of the reasons to leave them. Hi, Joanna. - Hi, Julie. - So you brought me some show and tell here. People might look at these and think, "I see leaves with little bumpies on them." Tell me about the little bumpies. - Okay, the little bumpies are gonna be galls. And that's gonna be evidence that an insect has been using that leaf as a nursery to make more insects. The galls could be caused by parasitoid wasps or midges or mites or who knows what. It doesn't matter. The important thing is that it's bird food. And so these are oak galls. We've got hackberry galls. Quite impressive. - [Julie] Oh wow. - And in each of those, I actually have who's inside. I have hackberry psyllids, which you've never heard of. They're really hard to see. They're teeny-tiny, but the important thing about those, well, besides being hackberry psyllids, they have their own lives to live, but this is who feeds all of our warblers who come through in the fall and then in the spring. They're eating these from our hackberry trees. They're not eating the fruit. That feeds other critters. But they're eating these. So each one of these galls is food. - [Julie] What I already understand is that if I just do the lazy thing and leave my leaves, that the birds are gonna find food in there. - I prefer to use the word idle. We can be idle gardeners and idle homeowners and everybody benefits. 90% of all of the butterflies and moths that are here in Tennessee overwinter in some form. It could be egg. It could be caterpillar. It could be pupa. Now, if you're a butterfly, that means a chrysalis. If you're a moth, that means a cocoon. Or it could be an adult. So they need places to hide and to survive. And sure enough, the ones, like you say, that drop, if they're dropping on compressed lawn, there's nowhere to go. They're not gonna make it. If they're dropping on a nice cushion of moist leaf cover, they're okay. - And that makes me think about the other great benefit of all these leaves, which is leaving them on your lawn, which won't kill it over the winter. It will break down and help to make your lawn more spongy and help fix some of those compression problems. - Right, they'll break down over time. They'll be soil conditioner. They're free mulch. They're free fertilizer. They're good for everybody. Okay, speaking of the butterflies, our swallowtails, all the swallowtails in Tennessee, they don't overwinter as caterpillars. They are gonna be the chrysalises or chrysalids. And I brought one here. I'm not even gonna point to it. You can't even see it because it looks like a dead leaf. - [Julie] Well, I do see a lot of dead leaves. Oh wait, I see one leaf that looks different than the others. - So it's there. It's suspended by this little girdle of silk, like a little belt. And then there's its little horns. That is a spicebush swallowtail. It's not on a spicebush now because they tend to leave their host plants when it's time to pupate. And they go find somewhere safe. So this guy felt like this plant was a safe place to be. Now, it's worth it to note that these did not evolve with leaf blowers. So they have no defenses against 250 mile an hour winds. So this is one of the people that we're protecting when we leave the leaves. - Oh my gosh, well, and I can also see where instead of just going through and cleaning up this plant for the winter, cutting it all back, leaving it on there means we have a little more habitat. - Are you talking about saving the stems? - Well, you know, I was taught for so long to just deadhead and clean everything up, but I don't do that anymore. - No, the winter tidy is like so last year. No, so leave the leaves has become a thing now. And now, there's save the stems. So now we're not even supposed to cut down our stems when we tidy, when we winterize the garden, because so many of them, like this one, has this pithy inside, which is easy for me to pull out with my fingernails. Which means it's gonna be so easy for a native bee to excavate and create little cells to lay her eggs in the spring. - [Julie] I guess now, useless work we were doing. - So much work, yeah. - Yes, and I know a lot of the bees depend on being able to burrow into the ground as well. So once again, leaf habitat for bees. Wow, this is so exciting. Now, there are other things that we'll find that drop from trees, and if we're not tidying everything up, then we're gonna find them and so will the animals. And I see that you have here, oh, some acorns. - [Joanna] Right, anything a tree drops that we're putting in bags is lost. It's lost habitat. - [Julie] Absolutely. I know that when I have more leaves, I have a lot more squirrels and other little animals digging under there, looking for something to eat. - [Joanna] Right, and you're gonna have a lot of robins in the winter, shoveling the leaves with their heads, looking for all those invertebrates who are right there underneath that good moist leaf litter. - This is fantastic. I have so much more appreciation now for the fall leaves, especially that they're not a chore anymore. I know that they're gonna be great compost for me to begin with, and now I know I can just leave them and reap the benefits. And I think the other thing that everybody can take off their list besides scooping all those leaves up is mulching them into tiny bits. Because now you know, you're going to be destroying our future and the food for all of our animals. So Joanna, thank you so much for show and tell today on what we can do. And remember, leave the leaves and. - Save the stems. - Some holiday plants make great year-round houseplants while others are a little more disposable. Poinsettias more than likely are going to be one of your more disposable plants, but they come in such a beautiful array of types and colors these days. They're always fun to have around for Thanksgiving and Christmas. You have the standard reds, like we've always had, beautiful pinks, cream colors to almost white, and then even some of these gorgeous bi-colored forms that we see on our store shelves now. Typical care for a poinsettia, they're tropical plants, they're native to Mexico, so they like it warm. And they like to be evenly moist, not dry out too much. They don't wanna sit in water, so you also need to be careful. They almost always come in one of these little plastic sleeves. And very rarely do these have a hole in the bottom. So you can easily fill them up with water and drown your poinsettias if you're not careful. Holiday cactus, Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, they go by several names now, make great year-round houseplants. They're easy to grow. And they're easy to get them to re-bloom every year. Because they respond to the short days. As the days of autumn get shorter, the cactus responds to the shortening of the days, more dark hours at night, and they'll set buds just like this one is and flower sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, depending on the conditions in your own home. One thing that I'll say about both of these plants, if you try to keep your poinsettias over from year to year, they're not hard houseplants to grow, but they are a little more difficult to get to bloom. Just like the holiday cactus, they respond to the shortening of the days in the fall. But they are very, very light-sensitive. A lamp on in another room, a streetlight shining in from a window will be enough light to cause your poinsettias not to re-flower. So if you have a spare bedroom that you don't use, a card table or a TV tray in front of a window where they get good light, but no streetlights from outside, are a great place to put your poinsettias when you bring them in maybe in September. And then as the days naturally get shorter, it will cause them to flower around the holidays. Another holiday plant that's always fun to grow and especially if you have kids are amaryllis. These giant bulbs will produce at least two stalks and sometimes three of big, trumpet-shaped blooms ranging from red to white to pink. And they'll flower beginning, oh, a couple of weeks before Christmas, depending on when you start them, all the way through the holidays and into the first of the year. Now, most people just take an amaryllis, pot it right up in a pot, water it, and expect it to grow. But I'm gonna give you a couple of industry tricks to get your amaryllis off to an even better start. And one of those is to soak the roots overnight or even for two nights in some water. So you set them in something like a measuring cup or a vase, top of a vase. You're gonna fill to about here. You want the roots of the amaryllis bulb in the water but not this brown basal plate, this hard basal plate. That can cause rot. So you're just looking to fill with water up to about this line, let them soak for about 24 to 48 hours with your heating pad on low so that this water stays nice and warm. And that will initiate root growth. Then you're going to pot it up. You can use regular potting soil. I actually like to use cactus mix with my bulbs. It's a little more coarse. It's actually got some wood chips and things in it. It drains faster and that way, bulbs don't like to be wet all the time. That way, you've got really good drainage in your soil. The other tip that I'll give you is to actually plant your amaryllis a little deeper than you're usually told. A lot of times, the instructions will say just bury the bottom part of the bulb so that your bulb is almost sitting on top of the soil. But what happens is, if it doesn't root really well, when that tall stalk comes out, then your bulb tips back and forth or it can. So if you plant just a little bit deeper, just leave the neck of the bulb sticking out, and that will give you more stability once this has rooted in and you've got a tall stalk blooming. Then your pot, your amaryllis stays a little more secure, doesn't wobble around so much. Once you see good growth coming out the top of the bulb, then you can begin regular watering and just keep it barely moist. They do not want to be wet. But just nice and damp. In the brightest window that you can give it so that it's got plenty of sun. Another fun bulb to force for the holidays or anytime during the winter season are paper-white narcissus. And I think all of us have done this at some point or another. One of the challenges with paper-whites, though, is that they tend to stretch, get tall, and flop very quickly. So I'm gonna give you a couple of hints. First of all, don't keep them too wet. This is a jar full of just standard white marble chips that I purchased at my local garden center. What I would do is take about 1/2 cup of water, put in here, shake it up. Just get the gravel damp. So just pour your gravel right into your container. And nestle the bulbs right into the gravel. Don't add any more water at this point. Just let the gravel be damp. Once you can stick your finger down in there three or four or five days from now and it's dry in the top 1/2 inch or so, add just a little bit of water. Maybe two or three tablespoons at the most. So you never want this basal plate to actually sit in water because it can rot. You just want water, enough water to get roots to form, and the roots will go down into the water. One other thing that you can do for winter interest and winter bloom indoors is force spring bulbs. This takes a little more know-how, and I'm gonna give you a couple of quick tips on how to do this successfully. You can force tulips. You can force daffodils. You can force grape hyacinths, crocus, any of those little small spring flowering bulbs. If you choose tulips, I would choose early flowering varieties. Daffodils make great forcing subjects, especially the miniatures. And then some of these, you'll notice these are called tazetta. That is similar to a paper-white or a type of paper-white. Some of 'em are hybrids. Really fragrant, great to have indoors for the winter. What you wanna do with your bulbs, this takes a little more planning. So you're actually going to pot them in soil. This is a tulip bulb. This brown papery covering is called a tunic, and we're just going to peel a little bit of that away from the top of the bulb so that it doesn't stop it from sprouting. Sometimes they get hung up, but if you peel just a little bit of that away, then the top of the bulb is exposed and the sprout can come right out of there. But all you have to do is fill your pot with soil, nestle your bulbs down into the top of the soil about 1/2 an inch apart. Water them in good. And then take some washed pea gravel or other kind of decorative stone, and you're gonna pour that right in around the top of the bulbs to help hold them upright. Got one more here to finish it off. You're going to leave just the tip of the bulb exposed in the top of the gravel. The gravel's going to give a little weight to hold the bulbs in place. Now, you've watered this. The trick to spring flowering bulbs is that they must root in in the cold. So put this in the refrigerator. Put this in an unheated garage, maybe your garden shed, where it needs to stay for a minimum of eight weeks. Once eight weeks has passed by, you can move these into a warm room and they will sprout and flower. They may not be in time for Christmas, but they'll certainly be there in time for January, February, those short days of winter when the nights are really long and we're desperate for something flowering. You can have beautiful pots of bulbs on your windowsills throughout the winter. - [Lauren] For inspiring garden tours, growing tips, and garden projects, visit our website at VolunteerGardener.org. And find us on these platforms.
September 21, 2023
Season 32 | Episode 10
We follow the evolution of a front yard cottage garden from the enthusiastic new gardener/homeowner. Bright blooms bring a smile to all who pass by. Then, we'll learn how to get the most from our indoor holiday plants such as poinsettias and paper whites. Plus, we get a lesson on being an idle gardener. Non-action can provide habitat and sustainability to beneficial insects and wildlife.