Get ´n the Zone,´ Get Color All Year Long

Monday, April 03, 2006 | 12:00 am

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “The forsythia, redbud, and Bradford pears are blooming, so we know spring is here,” says Rob Beets, marketing specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “But spring shouldn’t be the only season you could recognize just by looking at your yard—Tennessee’s climate allows for plants that show off their colors all across the calendar.”

“According to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, most of Tennessee is in zone 6b and 7a,” says Beets. “The map’s zones run from 1 – the coldest including Fairbanks, Alaska – to 11, including Honolulu, Hawaii. Tennessee’s zone ratings tell us that most of us can keep plants that will tolerate temps down to about 5 to -5 F.”

“Keep that in mind when you are planning your landscape this spring and diversify so that each season benefits from color,” says Beets. “Tennessee retail growers offer a wide range of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs that make the most of our zones.”

“Dogwoods, azaleas, hydrangeas, many species of magnolias and creeping phlox keep spring gardens colorful after jonquils and forsythia have their say,” says Beets. “Follow that blooming season with summer’s crape myrtle, butterfly bush, viburnum and any number of perennials and annuals.

“In the fall, blooms are not necessarily where the color is, but the foliage and plant itself can keep your landscape highlighted. Mums, ginkos, burning bush, nandina and most shade trees are famous for fall color, particularly maples.

“Winter color includes evergreens including spruces, hollies, cypresses or pines, plus berry producing plants such as winterberry holly. There are also cool weather annuals that thrive in Tennessee, like ornamental cabbage and kale, and of course, pansies.”

Robert Wilson’s Gum Tree Farm in Hermitage specializes in unusual plants which thrive in Tennessee’s climate. Wilson grows several types of Japanese Maples and several outstanding varieties of switchgrass, including ”Northwind,” which is a particularly upright type. Wilson produces varieties of sweetshrub such as “Athens” and “Hartlage Wine” Farm and a species of Crape Myrtle called fauriei, which blooms white and has a peeling red bark as it matures.

“They also have display gardens spread out around their property, which is almost like a park,” says the specialist. “That’s great for customers who want help visualizing how plants can be grouped together or placed to their best advantage.”

“There are plants at this nursery that you will not find at any other nursery in Tennessee,” says Beets. Gum Tree Farm is open to the public on Saturdays now through May from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“When your plant selections are grown on site, you don’t have to worry about plants being stressed from being transported in hot trucks with little water for an undetermined length of time,” says Beets. “Plus, you have the chance to get planting and care information firsthand from the person who grew the plants, something you can’t receive from most of the larger ‘box’ stores.”

Beets notes that proper planting also goes a long way in the long-term success of your landscape.

“The first thing you need to do is make sure you know whether the plant you choose prefers sun or shade, then plant accordingly,” says Beets. “Also, when planting anything, dig the hole twice the width of the pot size or ball, and plant it about a half inch to an inch above soil level. The worst thing you can do is plant it too deep. Giving a plant the right amount of water helps it get established as well.”

“With trees and shrubs that are ball and burlap, once you place the ball in the hole, you need to remove the string, and cut the burlap off the top.”

For more information on Tennessee’s nurseries and greenhouses, visit www.picktnproducts.org.