Cultivating a Culture of Gardening™

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chihuly "Lite"

One of the many society types who frequent the UT Jackson vegetable trial garden.

One of the best kept secrets in the Tennessee gardening world are the beautiful, entertaining, and educational trial gardens at UT Knoxville and the UT Research Campus in Jackson, Tennessee. For the past 5 or 6 years I've made both trial gardens a top priority in my research for planning the next year's annual beds and containers for all our developments. Each garden carries it's own style and unique qualities, with the gardens at UT Knoxville being akin to visiting a private botanical garden where surely some wise young men have asked for their sweetheart's hand in marriage. On the other hand, the UT Jackson trial gardens provide not only educational opportunity, but reflect the delightful humor and personality of Jason Reeves and Carol Reese that make them such in-demand speakers. From planting sedums in the remains of giant satellite disks
to hanging bicycle wheels to form a spacious arbor,
the gardens provide a continual surprise of kitschy art intermingled with inventive plant use.
A complete kitchen accessorized with sedum! (Carol Wintzinger's not quite sure where to sit...)

So today, in spite of the fact that the forecast had dire heat warnings of a heat index in the low 100s throughout the state, I was determined to make my semi-annual trek to Jackson to see what wonders the plant gurus had performed this summer. Dragging my co-worker, Yelena, along for the adventure in education and survival, we arrived to find that this group of passionate plant people had not let an extremely tight research budget keep them from putting on a display that would rival the widely publicized Cheekwood exhibit.
Well, sort of rivaled it.
Well, actually was more of a parody of it.
Well, what I found was Chihuly "Lite" or Chihuly on A Research Station Budget.
Without the endowment to provide world famous glass art through out the gardens, these folks recycled some aptly shaped gourds with bright Chihuly-like paint and formed their own exhibits to enchant the crowds. Ok, maybe not enchant but at least entertain while we are being educated. While there was no official title to the different "exhibits", I'm thinking that this one was surely called, "Snakes on a Frame"...
Or this one might be "Summertime Blues"

Maybe this is "Dr. Seuss Visits UT Jax Gardens".
But I won't gored you on with this frivolity, let's talk about plants.
We were able to kidnap Jason from fine tuning his high tech irrigation system (a garden hose and oscillating sprinklers) to show us a few plants that we had questions about, and he gave us the ok to graze our way through the trial vegetable garden and orchard area. If you want to get some ideas for edible gardening, you need to come by here. Or if you're just hungry. We came away having sampled figs, asian pears, the sweetest yellow cherry tomato I've ever tasted, and nibbled a little basil along the way.
Trial vegetable garden.

Basil Purple Ruffles


Okra flowers are as pretty as hibiscus. And the red stemmed variety make a striking look in the garden.
How about some climbing spinach to decorate an arbor.

I loved this Campsis 'Morning Calm' trumpet vine.

This Gomphrena Fireworks was spectacular - look for it in our annual beds next year!
And a few more annuals and perennials that caught my eye:

This melampodium was handling the heat and humidity a whole lot better than I was.
I was impressed with the uniform shape of each flower head on this Echinacea.
One of the grand showboats from this hot, humid, rainless summer were the cascading vincas.
I never can get enough of Cuphea llavae - this one is Flamenco Tango.
How about creating a summer hedge with Millet?
Whether your heading off to take a child to college (Union is in Jackson, UT in Knoxville), going for a football game, or taking a trip to visit Rita Randolph's incredible nursery, make sure to stop by to check the latest displays. Don't forget to look at the Garden's calendar also to see if there is a lunch and learn or evening class you wouldn't want to miss.


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