Plant of the Month
By Andy Pulte

This hybrid pairs history and beauty to provide garden enthusiasts with both a rich story of its origination and a bright spot in the garden. When not in bloom Crocosmia adds great texture to the garden with its sword-like foliage pointing in every direction. In fact, there are cultivars available that are arguably valued the most for their foliage. Crocosmia 'Solfaterre' is a plant that has more traditional iris-like foliage that boasts a chocolate copper tone. This paired with the plant's soft yellow-orange flowers makes it a treat for garden designers. For more details about the Crocosmia and its history check out the Plant of the Month page.

Blooms Days 2009 a Success!
The Blooms Days Garden Festival and Marketplace was successful for yet another year with 2,800 attendees over the two-day period. Friends of the UT Gardens, five major sponsors, 19 other sponsors, and more than 150 volunteers made the event possible. Thirty-six educational workshops, the majority of which were filled to capacity, 47 marketplace vendors, treeclimbing, and a variety of children's activities rounded out the 7th Annual Blooms Days.
The American Garden Award
comes to UT Gardens
The UT Gardens are honored to have been invited to participate in the 2009 American Garden Award, which is a competition designed for you to vote for your favorite flower. It is easy to participate, just locate a garden near you and visit the designated flower bed. The UT Gardens American Garden Award bed is adjacent to the outdoor classroom. Use your cell phone to text your vote to 88909 or vote by 800 number at 1-800-210-4694. Watch online at as the votes tally up! Voting will end on Tuesday, September 8, and America's most favorite flowers will be announced.
Summer Celebration in West Tennessee
For almost two decades people from across the Midsouth have been celebrating the summer season with trees, shrubs and lots of flowers. Each July, the UT Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show draws thousands of visitors who are eager to soak up creative horticultural tips and peruse the dazzling garden displays that seem to grow more elaborate each year. This summer's show is sure to be no exception.

The Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show is Thursday, July 9 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the University of Tennessee West Tennessee Research and Education Center.  For more information check out the Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show Web site.

July Gardening Tips

from Research Horticulturist Jason Reeves, UT Gardens in Jackson

The summer garden is our reward for all the hard work we did from March through June. During these lazy warm days, the perennial and annual gardens are strutting their colors and the harvest of the first tomatoes and cucumbers means BLTs, thick juicy sandwiches and robust salads...mmm. The following are some helpful tips for your July gardening calendar:

  • Now is an ideal time to visit the UT Gardens for peak show. Bring a notebook to jot down your favorite plants that you may want to include in your garden next year. 
  • Keep bird baths clean and filled with water through the hot weather.
  • Clean out cold frames for use in the fall.
  • Start planning your fall veggie garden.
  • You should be receiving fall nursery catalogues in the mail soon. Now would be the time to begin planning a new garden.
  • Raise the height of your mower to reduce stress on your lawn and to conserve moisture in the ground.  For best results mow 2 inches for Bermuda grass, 1 to 2 inches for Zoysia, and 2.5 to 3 inches for Fescue.
  • Keep your perennials deadheaded to keep them flowering. Be sure to remove the fading flower down to a leaf node or new bud.
  • Cut back early planted annuals that are getting leggy or out of control by 1/3 now to keep them looking good into the fall. Give them a shot of a water soluble fertilizer. Good candidates include impatiens, salvia, sweet potato vine, trailing or ground cover type petunias, and herbs like basil.
  • Avoid pruning spring flowering shrubs from now until next spring.  Anything you remove now will also be removing next year's flowers.  This includes azaleas, camellias, witchhazels, rhododendrons, and any other early spring blooming shrubs.
  • There is still time to prune overgrown oakleaf and mop-head hydrangeas.
  • Cut flowers for a bouquet early in the morning. Immediately place them in water. Good cut flowers include, purple or white Echinacea (coneflower), Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), zinnias, salvia, dahlias, sunflowers, Mexican sunflower, celosia, jewels of opar, cosmos, dill, fennel, Gomphrena (globe amaranth), Gaillardia, Monarda (bee balm), phlox, yarrow, ornament grasses and artemisia.
  • Check out the following Web site for Dr. Carl Whitcomb's plant introductions such as crape myrtles and lacebark elm:

For more gardening calendar tips, go to the Garden Girls Calendar site.

Now Showing
Crape Myrtle - Lagerstroemia indica. The UT Garden's crepe myrtle collection has grown over the past couple of years to include some spectacular selections for color and form. 'Dynamite' grows 20 feet to 30 feet tall and is a true blood-red selection that stands out in any landscape. I also love the new introduction of 'Burgundy Cotton' for its deep burgundy foliage and pale pink to white blooms. It grows 15 feet to 20 feet tall. 'Natchez' produces loads of white blooms and grows 20 feet to 30 feet tall. 'Prostrata Rosey Carpet' is a ground cover crepe myrtle, which grows just 6 inches tall with a 3-foot spread. Flowering nonstop throughout the growing season with bright pink flowers. It is great in containers or as a ground cover.

Montbretia - Crocosmia hybrids. This perennial bulb puts on a beautiful show throughout July. You'll find standout selections like 'Lucifer,' 'George Davidson' and  'Solfaterre' in our gardens. Red, yellow and orange are common colors of this summer-flowering bulb. It thrives in full sun and in a well-drained site.

Coneflower - Echinacea hybrids. Every garden needs at least one selection of coneflower, and with so many new, exciting colors on the market, it's easy to go coneflower crazy and have many in your garden. That's just what you'll find this month in the UT Gardens. You'll find great selections like 'Coconut Lime' (pale green and cream), 'Tikki Torch' (deep orange), 'Big Sky Sundown' (deep salmon), 'Big Sky Sunrise' (yellow) and 'Magnus' (huge flower and deep purple). Coneflowers are great pollinator-attracting plants, and if left to go to seed, you are assured goldfinches in late summer.

Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia hybrids. July is the month when all types of Rudbeckias peak and put on a show. Whether perennial or annual you find numerous species and cultivars boasting their colors in our gardens this month. Some of my favorites you'll find include perennial Rudbeckia maxima, perennial R. fulgida 'Goldsturm;' hardy annual R.'Prairie Sun' (bicolor gold and yellow with green eye), hardy annual R. 'Cherokee Sunset' (shades of gold, yellow, bronze and mahogany), hardy annual R. 'Toto' (grows to just 10 inches tall); and hardy annual R. 'Autumn Colors' (bronze and mahogany).

Glossy Abelia - Abelia x grandiflora. This easy and durable shrub peaks in performance during mid-summer when it is loaded with fragrant, pinkish-white flowers that are great for attracting butterflies. Newer selections on the market have colorful foliage in addition to summer flowers. Look for 'Kaleidoscope,' 'Canyon Creek,' 'Edward Goucher' and 'Silver Anniversary' in our gardens. These plants thrive in full sun to partial shade and grow between 3 feet and 6 feet tall and wide depending on cultivar.

Summer Vines - This is the month when many annual vines start to bloom. You'll find various selections of hybrid morning glory, moon vine, hyacinth bean, snail vine and Malabar spinach in our gardens.

Summer Bulbs - The summer bulbs we've planted really look good this month. Check out our different selections of dahlia such as 'Bishop of Llandaff,' 'Classic Summertime' and 'Ellen Houston;' caladiums; gloxinias; and our many cannas - 'Australia,' 'Intrique,' 'Wyoming,' 'Bengal Tiger,' 'Tropicanna' and 'Tropicanna
What to do About Japanese Beetles
Japanese beetles were introduced to the U.S. in 1916 after accidentally being imported on the roots of iris plants. They have become a growing problem since that time as they have an abundant food supply, a favorable climate and no known native predators in the U.S. Japanese beetles pose many threats to various plants. In the larval stage they wipe out lawns by feeding on grass roots, in the adult stage they have been found to wipe out more than 300 species of plants including flowers, vegetables, fruits and a wide variety or ornamental trees and shrubs.

There are many ways to remove beetles from your gardens. Removing beetles by hand may provide adequate protection for small plantings; try shaking them off early in the morning, while they are still sluggish, into a bucket of soapy water, which can kill them. Highly valued plants, such as roses, can be protected by covering them with cheesecloth or other fine netting during the peak of beetle activity. Many insecticides are labeled for use against adult Japanese beetles. But before reaching for a toxic chemical that could also kill beneficial pollenators, look for more natural, earth-kind products such as Azatrol or Neem-Away (Gardens Alive), or  Pyola (pyrethrins in canola oil) which keeps Japanese beetles from feeding on the plants for three to four days. Be aware that insecticidal soap, extracts of garlic, hot pepper or orange peels, and companion planting are generally ineffective.

Traps are also available commercially, however research conducted at the University of Kentucky showed that the traps attract many more beetles than are actually caught. Consequently, susceptible plants along the flight path of the beetles and in the vicinity of traps are likely to suffer much more damage than if no traps are used at all. In most landscape situations, use of Japanese beetle traps probably will do more harm than good. If you experiment with traps, be sure to place them well away from gardens and landscape plants. Because Japanese beetles are attracted to favored host plants from a considerable distance, controlling their grubs in the lawn will not protect landscape plants from adult feeding. For more information check out

Toronto Enacts Green Roof Requirement
Starting in 2010 the new Toronto Green Roof bylaw requires a green roof for all new developments (residential, commercial and institutional) that measure at least 21,500 square feet. For industrial property, the requirement begins in 2011. The city adopted the bylaw last week. The law calls for a graduated coverage requirement ranging from 20 to 60 percent of the available roof space, excluding industrial. The coverage for industry buildings must equal 10 percent of the available roof space up to a maximum of 21,500 square feet. Toronto already requires green roofs on city-owned properties. Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone told The Globe and Mail of Toronto, ON Canada the new requirement was "an opportunity rather than a handicap." (Nursery Manager & Production Weekly, June 13, 2009)

Bats Suffer from Mysterious Syndrome
Bats, nature's little insect-eating machines, are dying in disturbing numbers throughout the eastern United States. Biologists have found sick, dying and dead bats in unprecedented numbers in and around caves and mines from Vermont to Virginia. In spots where bats hibernate, affected bats usually have white fungus on their muzzles and parts of their bodies. They frequently lack adequate body fat to survive until spring. Known as white-nose syndrome (WNS), it was only recently identified as a fungus (Geomyces sp.) If WNS is not eradicated, there's a real possibility of losing entire bat species, which would increase the population of many beetles, moths, aquatic flies and mosquitoes - pests that plague nurseries and home landscapes. Nearly 100 groups are working together to solve the WNS mystery. If you discover a large bat kill, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at 800-344-9453.

Be a Friend to the Bees
Honeybees pollinate crops in the United States with values annually in excess of $14.6 billion and affect 35 percent of the world's crop production. They increase the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, but we've been seeing a decrease in these striped pollinators. We feel extending a little garden hospitality to these insects could go a long way. Be sure to provide a pesticide-free garden which can be a sanctuary for these beneficial insects. This combined with growing a variety of pollinator-attracting plants (at least 10) has been found to entice the most bees and butterflies. Some of our best pollinator-attracting plants include anise hyssop, coneflower, thyme, salvia, black-eyed Susan, bee balm, lavender, mint, butterfly bush, catmint, sunflower, zinnia, rosemary and cosmos. You don't have to have acres or fields of these plants to have a great pollinator attracting garden. You can grow a variety of these plants in a small area or even in containers right outside your door. For more information on bees, visit the UT Bees and Beekeeping site.

Sensible Summer Lawn Care
Mow your fescue lawn at the highest setting on your mower. Leaving grass higher encourages turf roots to grow deeper and be more tolerant of drought. Tall lawns also have fewer weeds because the seeds can't compete with the grass for light and water. By using a mulching mower you actually provide a slow-release of fertilizer for your lawn. This 'green' method of mowing is sometimes called 'grass-cycling.' There are a variety of natural lawn care products on the market that can help you be earth-friendly. A great resource for natural lawn care products is the Earth Easy Web site.

Check your Mower Blades
When you look at your lawn from the street does it appear to have a gray/white fuzzy look on top? If it does, your lawn is not getting a clean cut. The mower blades are dull and in need of sharpening. The top of the grass is being torn or ripped instead of cleanly sliced - take a close look and you can see it. These wounds weaken the grass and make it more susceptible to disease and insects. Replace or sharpen your blade as soon as you notice that it is not cutting cleanly.
UT Food Preparation, Preservation and
Safety Resources

It's that time of summer when we really begin to enjoy the bounty of our vegetable gardens and need to decide what to do with our harvest. Whether you enjoy cooking with fresh produce; grilling, or preserving your food by canning, freezing or other methods; it's always good to have a source of the basic and latest food safety information. UT Extension has numerous publications for your use on the UT Food and Food Safety Publication Web site.

UT is also an advocate of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, based at the University of Georgia, which is a comprehensive source of current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation, including canning, freezing, drying, curing and smoking, fermenting, pickling, and making jams and jellies. In addition to details for individual fruits and vegetables, the site contains links, a frequently-asked-questions page, videos and slide shows. A free, self-paced, online course is available if you want to learn more about the general techniques for canning and preservation.

Keep Hummingbirds Happy
Clean hummingbird feeders once a week and change the sugar solution at least once a week if it's placed in the shade (more often if the feeder is in the sun). Use a purchased mixture or make your own with four parts water to one part granulated sugar; do not use honey. Bring the water to a boil, add sugar, and mix well; cool and refrigerate. If ants are a problem, buy and install an ant guard. To attract hummingbirds to your feeder, place among flowers or attach red or orange ribbon or a piece of cloth.

Ladies and Gentleman,
Start Your Tree Spades

NASCAR recently announced its "NASCAR Green Clean Air" - a program to help capture the carbon emissions produced by racing. Under a pilot program that will expand significantly next year, NASCAR will plant 10 new trees for each green flag that drops during Cup Series events. The tracks participating in the tree-planting program - 11 this year and every venue visited by the Cup Series in 2010 - will mitigate 100 percent of the carbon emissions produced by the racecars competing in their Cup Series events. Over time, rolled out across all three national series, NASCAR and its partners will be planting approximately 20 acres of new trees each year. (Nursery Manager & Production Weekly, June 19, 2009) For more information check out the official NASCAR Web site.

Garden Trials
Each of the 2009 summer trial varieties has been nestled into a bed somewhere in the garden, and each has been busily growing and blooming. This week they will receive their first 'official' evaluations at our Knoxville and Jackson garden sites. Volunteer Betty Tipton (in Knoxville) and Curator Jason Reeves (in Jackson) will inspect each trial variety in late June, July and August. They will assign a rating, on a scale from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), to reflect how well the plant variety is performing in terms of growth rate and uniformity, bloom abundance and color, heat tolerance, pest and disease resistance, and overall landscape appeal. Be sure to check out the UT Gardens Web site,, to get "live" ratings updates throughout the summer, as well as to see pictures of each trial variety that will be added as the summer progresses. Better yet, come see the trial varieties "live" in person at the UT Gardens and see how you would rate them.

Garden Volunteers
We've just held our annual garden festival, Blooms Days, and as always, we are struck by how many people from the Knoxville and surrounding counties are willing to donate their time, expertise and energy to the UT Gardens. We are so grateful for each and every one of our volunteers! Many of them came weekly during June to help us prepare the gardens for Blooms Days, others volunteered during the festival itself to ensure that everyone attending had a delightful time. Most amazing of all, we always seem to have fun while we're working!

If you've thought about volunteering at the gardens, we would love to have you join us. We will continue to have two weekly work sessions (on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon) throughout July. During August we will not meet, but we will start back in September and work through the fall. To schedule an orientation and join our volunteer program, just contact Beth Willis (

Books and Blooms Program Thrives
Books and Blooms has really taken off this year!  If you've attended with your child(ren), we hope you'll continue to come during the month of July. If you haven't made it by yet, what are you waiting for?! We meet every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. for storytelling and crafts and then we finish off the morning with SPRINKLER time. Kids are welcome to wear their swimsuits under their clothes for a quick change after story time - don't forget sunscreen and a towel. We've already planted sunflowers, made a worm bin composter and looked for ladybugs - who knows what we'll be doing next Thursday! As always, Books & Blooms is a free event, open to the public, and suitable for children of all ages.

Have You Seen My Ladybug?
Scientists at Cornell University need your help! They are asking everyone to be on the lookout for ladybugs and then to submit photographs and details to them at Besides being incredibly cool and charismatic, ladybugs are also essential predators in both farms and forests that keep us from being overrun with pests (like aphids and mealybugs). Over the past 20 years several native ladybug species that were once very common have become extremely rare. During this same time several species of ladybugs from other places have greatly increased both their numbers and range. This change has happened very quickly and researchers don't know how this shift happened, what impact it will have (e.g., will the exotic species be able to control pests as well as our familiar native ones always have), and how we can prevent more native species from becoming so rare. Check out their Web site for full details. They even have simple instructions to make an inexpensive 'bugcatcher' net to help you look for ladybugs (and/or other insects).

Event Calendar

Thursday, July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 (10:30 a.m.) UT Gardens
Family Fun: Books and Blooms
Bring the kids to this popular summertime event! Join area storytellers for readings and stories with an environmental theme. After story time, the kids can enjoy crafts or even time under the sprinkler. To join an e-mail list to receive notices about Books and Blooms, contact Beth Willis at Held at 10:30 a.m. every Thursday through July.

Tuesday, July 21 (noon and 6 p.m.) UT Gardens
Noon Time and Twilight Walking tour of the Gardens



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Become a Friend of the Gardens
There are a variety of ways you can support the UT Gardens. For more information go to