Nashville & Middle Tennessee (TN) Information : GrowingFlowers

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Growing flowers


    Spring-flowering bulbs to achieve their glory next season must be planted in fall, so some advance planning is needed, according to the University of Tennessee agricultural extension service.

    When dreaming up plans for spring and early summer in your Middle Tennessee yard, don’t forget perennials and annuals to complement flowering bulbs. Fall is a good time to plant perennials and cool season annuals as well as bulbs. Bloomers in the cool season perennial and annual categories can turn a pretty display of spring-flowering bulbs into a dazzling border.

     Non-bulb bloomers aren’t only for show. They serve a bulb-related purpose as well. Companion plants camouflage the leaves and stems of bulbous plants. Those leaves can deteriorate after bulbs are done flowering. Green leaves make food that is stored in the bulb.

     All of a bulb’s flower power comes from that food. No leaves—no food. Without that store of energy, first the flower display suffers and then the plant dies. That is why gardeners are cautioned not to cut back leaves on bulbous plants as long as they are green, even though the blooms have faded and the leaves look tattered. When the leaves turn brown or any time after August 1, it is safe to cut back unsightly foliage from bulbous plants. Until then, hide them with other plants.

    Plant features that can be used to hide bulb stems and leaves are dense foliage (daylilies) and plentiful floral displays (various annuals and perennials). Start your garden design by selecting bulbs and companion plants with pleasing flower colors and varied heights. Colors can either contrast or coordinate.

    Use shorter plants as an underplanting with taller ones. Copy combinations you’ve seen and liked in other gardens or in gardening books. Or experiment using your own ideas. The possibilities are endless. Shorter pansies, forget-me-nots, and primroses go well with taller blooms like tulips and daffodils. Try a massed planting of large white tulips or white ‘Mount Hood’ daffodils with the white and dark blue pansy ‘Happy Face White’ at their feet. The look is elegant.

    Contrasting colors like yellow and purple or orange and blue have lots of pizzazz. Hot combinations like red and yellow really grab your eye. Seeing a bed of yellow tulips (or large yellow daffodils) with an underplanting of hot red pansies (like the cultivar ‘Maxim Rose’) on a sunny day, will put a smile in your heart.

    There are cool season annuals, sometimes called winter annuals. These are hardy enough to bloom when temperatures are in the 30 to 60 degree range. They survive winter cold but die out in the heat of summer. This part of Tennessee is home to many resident-gardeners that are transplants from other states. Those folks often ask, “What’s with the pansies? Why are they for sale at garden centers in the fall?”

    Gardeners familiar with our typically mild winters know spring is not the only time to put in annuals and spring-flowering perennials. Autumn is a prime planting time. Pansies are a good example and the most readily available cool season annual. (Pansies, violas and violets are cousins, all suited to cool temperatures.) Pansies show their flower potential during autumn and mild spells in winter, put on a really showy floral display in springtime, then decline when the heat of summer hits.

    Other cool weather annuals suited to mild winters here, are annual lobelia (Lobelia erinus), English daisy (Bellis perennis), English wallflower (Erysimum cheiri), Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica), foxglove (Digitalis spp.), Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), primrose (Primula spp.), snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), and stock (Matthiola incana).

    Expand your possibilities with bloomers that can take the frosts and freezes of late winter and early spring when planning your spring bulb garden. Then next spring add warm season plants sown directly from seed or bedding plant and summer blooming perennial transplants to bulb gardens, after the danger of frost is past. Warm season plants will fill in as cool season plants decline to ease the garden’s transition into summer.

Nurseries and Garden Centers

Here is a list of some of the nurseries and garden centers serving Middle Tennessee:

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