Get Creative this 4th of July Holiday

Patriotic Popsicles
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup vanilla flavored yogurt Reusable Popsicle Mold
Place mold into the freezer while preparing ingredients.
Divide the yogurt into two pourable containers (with a spout). Thin the yogurt slightly with water, not too much, the goal is simply to make easier to pour. Distribute the strawberries into one container and the blueberries into the other, mix gently.
Pour into the popsicle mold, using as directed. Put the mold in the freezer and freeze until firm, at least an hour, or more. It is recommended to keep the popsicles in the mold until ready to serve. If making large quantities, wrap each popsicle in wax paper and put back in the freezer. For best use make the same day not in advance.
All-American Hamburger
There is a historic dispute about who served the first hamburger on a bun in America, however, no one disputes it’s the favorite
for all Independence Day Cookouts! While we dare not tap into the famous seasonings and grilling practices of the cookout
masters, we do want to give a little creative fun suggestion.
Make your Independence Day Cookout unforgettably favored with an All-American Hamburger Bar. Compliment the grill masterpieces with toppings for all taste buds to enjoy. Display your ingredients like a buffet, the colors will be vibrant and selections so much fun!
Start with the standard condiments: mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato and pickle. Add selections like spicy mustard, barbeque sauce, avocado, bacon, or onion rings. Let your imagination run wild and put it out there for guests to create a one-of-a-kind hamburger. It’s like a firework display for their taste buds.
Firecracker Strawberry Limeade
Refreshing summertime beverage perfect
for all guests and looks great on display too!
4 cups Lime Juice
1 1/2 cups Water
2 ups Simple Syrup (make your own by dissolving 2 ups sugar with 2 cups water)
20-25 sliced Strawberries
Place strawberries in blender with simple syrup, blend until strawberries are pureed. Mix with lime juice, serve over ice with desired garnish of lime slice. If you want to add some fizz- splash a topping of Sprite to the glass.

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Decorating Den Interiors: Kozar Design Team

“Design Professional Sandy Kozar’s favorite day is when they head out of their working studio on Lovell Road in Knoxville to bring that new look to her client’s home. It’s known in the industry as installation day, the project finale.  “We ask them to leave during the install, then upon their return, the smiles and excitement is our priceless reward,” Sandy says, “it’s the best part of my job.”

Opening in 2010, Decorating Den Interiors in Knoxville continues to provide unmatched customer service with options that allow the client to lead the design best suited for them. “We offer our clients fine furniture, case goods, accessories, lighting, floor and wall coverings and custom window treatments,” Sandy explains, “then bring samples directly to their home, provide in-home consultation and personally oversee projects to installation.”

The enjoyment in helping someone live a quality of life in their home or office space, being a part of that client’s good feeling is the constant reminder that Sandy is doing what she is meant to do. Growing up in Pennsylvania, the corporate world would be her first professional focus with motherhood changing it to family first and as an adult she returned to college where a watercolor class brought the passion for design. Over the years, it was a passion fueled by setting 9 different homes as they moved with her husband’s job. The move to Tennessee brought the Kozar’s closer to extended family and with a desire to open a business, the award of a Decorating Den franchise was the perfect fit. Nine years later, she is still in love with every minute of the design process and especially the building of client relationships that last well beyond the projects.

Recently, Sandy Kozar was honored for business achievement at her company’s 50th anniversary annual conference held in Las Vegas. She received a Prism Award, that put her among the top 20 franchises within Decorating Den Interiors, North America’s largest home furnishings and interior design franchise business. Sandy was also spotlighted in the 2018 Success Panel, a select group of owners that share how they have achieved their success to serve as inspiration for other owners.

It is not the awards or even being an inspiration to others that Sandy Kozar takes pride in or talks about, that is not what it is all about for her and her team. “The relationship with my clients, gearing a design to how they like to live, just making it convenient for them,” expresses Sandy,

“it is an intimate connection being created with them as we work together toward the finale, hopefully exceeding their expectations.”

For the Kozar Design Team it is all about customer service, from the initial, in-home complimentary appointment, they listen to your design dreams and create a customized design. The best part is that they handle all the details from measuring to ordering to installation helping to make your life easier while saving you valuable time and money.

Make your home all that it can be, contact Sandy Kozar today and make your home more beautiful one room at a time. Visit today to learn more or call them at (865) 392-6222.”.

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Anise Sage Salvia

Outside the sunroom, I have a patch of Anise Sage (salvia guaronitica) planted. While having a cup of coffee in the morning, I love to see the hummingbirds come to feed on this tall blue plant. This perennial has deep blue flowers that bloom from summer to late fall. Salvia needs full sun or light shade and well drained, evenly moist soil. Very rich soil can cause these tall plants to flop. These are really tall plants; they can grow up to 6 feet tall. They are also quite drought tolerant once established.

You should plant Anise Salvia in early spring. This sage combines beautiful flowers with aromatic foliage and has the square stem of the mint family. They form broad mounds that are as large as they are tall. Give them at least four feet to grow into. They enjoy a feeding of balanced fertilizer in the spring. You should mulch to keep the weeds at bay and moisture even. They rarely need staking but can lean toward the sun if they are in the shade. You can cut this perennial to the ground in the fall after a frost or wait until spring if the naked stalks do not bother you.

A friend gave me a clump of this plant last year, and I divided it into four sections. It is now about four feet tall and three feet around. Division is only necessary when the center begins to look thin. I thought that hummingbirds only saw red, but they must be able to see this blue, because they come every day going from one plant to another sipping the sweet nectar.

Hummingbirds can fly up, down, right, left and even upside down. When hovering, they hold their bodies upright, and their wings beat in a shallow figure-eight. Most hummingbirds beat their wings about 53 times a second. All I can see is a blur.

Hummers have a high body temperature and fast heart rate. They must feed about every ten minutes. The major part of this small bird’s diet is sugar from flowers and tree sap. We have witnessed as many as six different birds eating at one time. Sometimes they seem to be chasing each other and doing fancy dives like a WWII bomber. Danny thought that they were mating, but we did a little research and decided they were fighting for territory and food. 

There are 328 species of hummingbirds, and I bet they all like salvia. Their bills are long and tapered to fit perfectly into the tubular salvia flowers. Other plants that are good nectar sources are pineapple sage, cardinal flower, butterfly bush, Bee balm, penstemon, native trumpet creeper and cypress vine. Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate to Mexico via the East Coast and Gulf States. Hummingbirds live on the average of four years, but there are records on some living to be twelve. Think of the miracle living for 4 years with those tiny wings beating 52 times per second. Amazing! They also remember food sources from previous years, so if they enjoyed your yard this year, they will be back next spring.

I have lots of friends who feed hummingbirds thru the summer months. They put out their  hummingbird feeder when the hummers arrive in April and keep it filled until they leave for Mexico in October. If you have been artificially feeding these little helicopters, don’t worry about them staying. They will migrate because of hormonal changes due to the decrease in the length of daylight. There is nothing you can do to make them stay. In fact, fall is a good time to continue feeding since they need to double their body weight for their trip to the land of the Incas.

We also experience another migration going south for the winter. The Snowbirds come through in the fall. They seem to be looking for coffee instead of sugar water. These “snowbirds” get to Florida before Christmas and then return to deepest darkest Yankee land in the spring. Our job is to give them a meal and maybe a night’s rest as nature makes them complete this migratory cycle.

Hummingbird sugar water for feeder

¼  cup of sugar

1 cup of water

Boil for 3 minutes

Add red coloring if desired

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The Lord Is My Shepherd

One of the most beautiful and well known passages in God’s Word is the 23rd Psalm written by King David as a young shepherd boy about His loving Shepherd – The Lord God. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff -they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever.The psalm brings comfort, provides hope and offers the peaceful outlook required to walk through the sometimes difficult stages of our lives. It is also the foundation for which Billie Karen Walker bases her life. She finds motivation in these words.“Yes, it’s great therapy and my peace and walk with God,” she said, “being a shepherd to these precious lambs and sheep.”From a child, Billie Karen had always been drawn to how God used and inspired writings using the analogy of the sheep for His children. She always wanted to get a hands on experience as a good shepherd to be like Jesus and know these beloved animals.It started in a simple way with the acreage behind the home she shares with her husband, Paul. The back room of the home, overlooking this additional land, is a place for Bible study and visual enjoyment of the outdoors by Billie Karen, “It seemed so empty – it needed animals”, she reflected.As she thought about what kind of animal, she remembered the Sheep farm of friends, Bryan and Mia Sage Beason, they passed daily coming home. She gave them a call asking if possible to come by to pet and love on one of the gentle creatures. It was a touch that reminded her of that childhood calling.Billie Karen also visited another shepherd, Kristen Svensen, of Foggy Knob Farm, who spent many hours sharing knowledge about the lambs and sheep. Discovering that the bottle fed ones required extra love and care, she reflected on that acreage behind her home and how beautiful their presence would be in the green pastures. “May I care for these lambs and other sheep on my land”, she asked Brian and Mia Sage Beason. With resounding approval and support to get started from them, Bille Karen Walker the Shepherd was born.She was instantly in love with the lambs and sheep, sharing her vision with her family and close friends. A vision supported daily by husband, Paul; daughter, Halie Anna Duncan and her husband, Nathan; father, Bill Grady; friends, Leslie, Macy and Meadow and her amazing neighbors.It is the perfect home, just the sight of them grazing and playing about in the field brings peace. It is exactly as the words the song of David says: The Lord is my Shepherd. Billie Karen is able to bring them to her green pastures, lovingly care for them for the pleasure and goodness that is experienced by all who encounter these gentle lambs and sheep. Granting opportunities for photography, visiting churches and allowing some 4H students to visit has created a ministry for showing the love of God to all creatures.“Jesus sees us as His sheep and lambs. We need love and gentle guidance, He is our Shepherd, caring for our needs, showing us ways to give to others and to be used for a greater purpose.” said Billie Karen, “I just love the opportunity to love, and show support to other people and the sheep, I am truly blessed to have this chance and share these sheep and lambs with others. I have been so surprised that from children to the oldest of my friends have never had the opportunity to hold and love a lamb. Many have said they were excited to hold a lamb – that’s the way Jesus sees all of us. As Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” Thank you Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God!”

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Gary & Karen Braden’s Tennessee Christmas

When you pull down the wooded gravel driveway that leads to the Braden home, you have no idea of the little slice of paradise that awaits you. Three years ago, Gary and Karen Braden purchased their lovely 6+ acre lot and farmhouse and dove straight into the process of making it their dream home, or in this case, homestead.

The former owners (and builders) were from Knoxville, and they themselves had quite the affinity for antiques—travelling around the southeast as dealers of early American pieces.

The home was a Williamsburg plan that they constructed with various farmhouse elements from the 1850s. Because of this, the house boasts 7 dismantled and refurbished fireplaces, two large stairwells and other incredibly idyllic ‘farmhouse’ traits.

It was only natural, when the Braden’s set out to update and customize the home, that they wanted to maintain its original nature, character and charm. They did opt, however, to add a covered front porch that runs the length of the home, an incredibly cozy screened porch, a mudroom/office, garage and guest cottage.

The property is also home to a cabin (c. 1830) that was relocated from upper East Tennessee, reconstructed and re-chinked, that happens to be the first building one sees when entering the property.

And if the cabin and main house interiors aren’t enough to make one swoon, the Colonial Williamsburg-style flower, fruit, vegetable and herb gardens–complete with antique brick formations, pebble rock footpaths, Koi pond, shed and gazebo–certainly are.

When asked about his favorite aspect of the home, Gary Braden—2nd generation owner of Braden’s Lifestyles Furniture—says it’s definitely the keeping room, which opens up directly off of their dreamy farmhouse kitchen. He explains that the keeping room is where the home’s largest fireplace is located, creating an inviting, warm and relaxing area during the fall and winter months when the wood fire perpetually burns. The home’s cozy screened porch with painted wood floors is his 2nd favorite spot and where he prefers to greet the day with that first cup of coffee and quiet time.

Karen Braden, without hesitation, says her favorite spot in the home is the kitchen. It could be the large open space, the gorgeous marble countertops, the subway tile, the big behind-the-sink windows or the sink itself—a refurbished 100+ year old cast iron farmhouse basin. Or it could be because it’s where she makes all of her magic, as she is quite the baker.

The Braden’s recently shared that while their family’s Christmas traditions have changed in recent years, due to the growth and development of their kids’ families and personal traditions, they still hang on to a few of the same activities. For starters, in addition to her other Christmas trees, Karen maintains a ‘kids’ tree,’ where she showcases all of the homemade ornaments from each of her three children: Nick, Natalie and Alexander. They still love to host and entertain, whether it’s a Christmas Eve dinner for the family, a large church-based group or even the Braden’s team members and spouses for holiday parties.

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The Best Kept Secret in Town? The secret is getting out… We might have a “renowned architect” in our midst.

His name is Jonathan Miller, and the work he does is being admired all over the Southeast by sophisticated clientele who appreciate the finest things.

They understand the world of business, custom residential architecture, international interior design, the fine art world, and the level of custom home design they can get from the talent of Jonathan Miller Architecture.

Now, instead of Knoxville homeowners going to big cities to acquire top-shelf residential architectural services, big city folks are starting to look in Knoxville for Jonathan Miller. Residents in places like Nashville, Atlanta and Birmingham are beginning to understand Knoxville is the place to find an architect.

These people appreciate how their experience and vision are expressed through the design collaboration between themselves and Jonathan. The experience is similar to that provided by the famous guys in big cities.

One homeowner says, “Once you have lived in one of Jonathan’s homes for a while, you begin to realize you are living in a house that was DESIGNED. You start to see things that were PLANNED…the way the light comes through the house in the morning… the different sizes and positions of the windows…the size of the rooms…the views from one room to another and the way they open onto each other. You start to think…how did Jonathan KNOW that?”

“I did not know what I was getting when I moved into the home. But after living here for 10 years, I get it now. I appreciate it every day. I learned a lot, and I would never build another home without Jonathan.”

Once you live in rooms and designed outdoor spaces like these, you come to value them as your own. They serve as a platform for you to express your own personality in the space. You understand. You get it.

Over time, these spaces become YOUR spaces…they are personal and intimate…and you will never go back. If you have to move…you want to recreate them…and where do you turn for that?

Well…there is a guy named Jonathan Miller in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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The Flower Story of Ingles Markets, Inc.

Since 1963, Ingles Markets have strived to bring the best quality and variety to their customers. This is very apparent in their well-established floral departments. They strive to be able to service their customers with their needs, from dressing up a beautiful azalea as a gift for a friend or as elaborate as creating gift baskets, beautifully wrapped bouquets and arrangements for special occasions. Certain locations also have experienced floral designers that arrange weddings on a regular basis. The floral departments at Ingles Markets have evolved over the years due in part to staying fresh with new ideas and working closely with their vendors. Working directly with the farms and local greenhouses by creating their own bouquet recipes and choosing plant material a year in advance has really put them in a category that keeps them ahead of the trends.

Ingles Markets are involved with many charitable organizations where the floral departments assist with providing fresh cut arrangements and a variety of plants in their events yearly. Breast Cancer Awareness, Miracle Hill and The Children’s League are just a few. Ingles Table is another way of connecting with the customers by offering “How To” videos for creating arrangements at home their own with product purchased in the floral departments. You can find these at Meeting the customer’s needs is the focus and to always bring something new and fresh to the table.

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Gardening in Fall and Winter

As always, the first thing that should be done is a good checkup. Take a nice morning stroll around your yard and make notes on things that you like or don’t like, things that did well or didn’t do well, and ideas that you have for next year. Check plants for signs of disease and insects. Look up for damage to trees, and down for mole tunnels or vole holes. Take you coffee or tea (or mimosa, it’s your yard) and spend a little quality time with nature.

*The most important task after your checkup is a good cleanup! Pull out any remaining annuals, cut back perennials, get any disease or insect infested leaves up and away from your beds, pull up weeds, and clean up any other debris that will create hiding places for bugs or fungal spores. You can also divide spring blooming and fleshy rooted perennials now to spread out or share.

*Fall is a great time to add compost or leaf mulch to your beds. This does not mean you can let your leaves just pile up on top of your plants! At my house we rake or blow the leaves onto the lawn, run over them with the mower and then rake/blow them back onto the flower beds. Don’t pile it more than 3” deep, and make sure you haven’t buried the crown of perennials or heaped it around the trunks of trees and shrubs.

*Fall is also a great time to mulch if you didn’t get it done in the spring. 3” of mulch will keep soil temperature and moisture levels more stable. Remember to make donuts, not volcanoes around your trees! Volcanoes make a great hiding place for insects and voles and encourage trees to put out air roots. If you did mulch in the spring, take a rake and fluff it up. Old mulch becomes very hard and compacted over the summer.

*October tends to be our driest month. This means you need to water! Sprinklers are good for grass and flowers but are woefully inadequate for trees and shrubs. You don’t know how many times I hear the words “but I have a sprinkler” when people are asking why their plants died! Trees and shrubs need 1” of rainfall per week, and if we aren’t getting it, you have to supplement by hand watering or using a soaker hose. Keep in mind that a large shrub can drink 5 gallons of water a day when it is hot, and a tree can drink 35 gallons!

*If you need to plant trees and shrubs, fall is the best time. 85% of root growth occurs during the fall and winter, so getting them in now will give them a head start on next year. It is helpful, however, to get them in before the soil temperatures drop too low. You should also go back and read the last paragraph, because you must provide them with adequate water while they are developing roots. If you don’t, you will be replanting in the spring!

*You also have time to plant pansies for color throughout the fall, winter and spring. These are my favorite flowers because they give us such a long bloom period! They are heavy feeders, so use a slow release fertilizer when you plant or fertilize every couple of weeks to keep them blooming.

*Don’t forget your containers! You can do some stunning displays with plants, pumpkins and other things from your yard. I’m going to talk about a couple of holiday plants before I finish, because I have seen some really tragic things happen to them over the years.

*Let’s start with Poinsettias, because they are terribly temperamental. First of all, remember that they are a tropical plant! They will not withstand temperatures below 50 and will turn black in less than a minute of freezing temperatures. They are very fragile, so they must be put somewhere out of the way. They also are susceptible to root rot, so they should be removed from the foil wrap when watering. This is the one plant that I suggest you never buy from a box store because they need the care provided by a greenhouse. Last year, I saw a lady load 25 huge Poinsettias into the back of her truck at Costco on a very chilly day. Those babies were dead before she got to the red light. Buy from someone that knows how to grow them and knows how to tell you to take care of them!

*A Christmas cactus is much less temperamental and one of my favorite plants. Most problems occur because they are called a “cactus,” but they don’t like direct sun and they don’t like to dry completely out. They are a tropical cactus, not a desert cactus. It is also a bit tricky to get them to rebloom “on time.” They are light and temperature sensitive, so they set bud when they are getting less than 11 hours of light or when temperatures drop below 60. This can be difficult to achieve in your house! Customers also tend to keep them in the same pot for too long because they can live for decades. 5 years is about the limit.

*I could also tell you horror stories about Christmas trees being spray painted, but instead I will encourage you to buy from a reputable dealer and keep your tree watered! Ours all come from a family tree farm in North Carolina and will be cut for us on November 15th. We also have freshly cut greenery and wreaths.

That is all I have for now. Remember that we are open year round, so don’t hesitate to call or stop by if we can help you. We want you to have a beautiful yard!

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Gardening in Late Summer

Let’s get real, folks. I know darn good and well that most of you are not going to be doing a lot of gardening in the next couple of months. There are some things that you CAN do, however, on those occasional glorious mornings or evenings that lure us outside and away from the AC. Here are the most critical ones:

• Go out and do a good checkup on your yard. Yes, all the way out to the back corners that you haven’t visited since spring. Look up at your trees and see if there are dead or weak areas that need to be dealt with. Do you have insect holes, woodpecker holes or oozing sap? Do you have shelf mushrooms or lichen growing on the trunk? Is there sawdust at the base of the plant? Last year’s drought caused significant damage that will take a couple of years to heal, so keep your eyes open. I’m speaking from experience. The Memorial Day weekend storms put a tree on my husband’s truck, and the storm last weekend put one on my house!

• Check smaller plants for disease and insects. We are seeing a tremendous amount of powdery mildew and other fungal problems on many plants because the humidity has turned our area into a fungal breeding ground. The winter was also not severe enough to kill back the insect population. This puts a double whammy on our weakened shrubs. Give us a call or stop by with a sample so that we can give you the best product to treat your issue. Remember to always treat with the least toxic product first!

• Check the ground for mole tunnels or vole holes. Moles do not hurt your plants, but they make handy tunnels for the voles (field mice) to travel through. Voles will eat the roots of your shrubs, and especially love hostas.

• Do maintenance on flower beds and gardens, even if they are in containers. Again, check for insects and diseases and treat/ replace/remove affected plants. Deadhead annuals and reapply fertilizer. Give leggy plants a haircut. If your flowers have gotten out of hand and are stressing you out instead of giving you joy, throw them on the compost heap and get some fresh ones! Life is too short for ugly plants.

• If your yard is naked and in need of larger plants, there are some trees and shrubs that can be planted now IF you are prepared to water them (unless we are getting at least 1” of rainfall per week). Once we move into the cooler months, it will be safe to plant larger trees. Fall is also a good time to supplement your perennial bed with late blooming and/or evergreen plants.

• Since I mentioned water, let’s talk about that. Water issues are by far the most common cause of plant death. While sprinkler systems are great for grass and annuals, they are woefully inadequate for trees and shrubs. A good sized Limelight Hydrangea can drink 5-10 gallons of water per day. A large Maple tree can suck down 5 gallons per inch of diameter in a week. A drip irrigation system or hand watering is critical for trees and shrubs.

• Let’s talk about fall fertilizing. I think of fertilizers as multi-vitamins for your plants. If you have good soil that you replenish with compost there is no need to fertilize, just like if you eat a well-balanced diet, you don’t need vitamins. Most of us don’t eat a well-balanced diet, however, and we are dealing with some hard clay soil. (I’ll talk more about that later.) Therefore, a little supplementing is frequently useful. The problem is, sometimes gardeners just throw random fertilizer down without knowing what their plants need. This can be like taking Vitamin A for a Vitamin D deficiency. Here’s an example: Billy Bob keeps putting lime on his grass because his daddy put lime down and Billy Bob thinks that grass has to have lime. Billy Bob has azaleas all around his yard that are dying, and he doesn’t understand why. The reason is that the steady use of lime on his yard has caused the pH to rise, and azaleas cannot survive in alkaline soil. Here’s another example: Susie Q keeps fertilizing her hydrangeas with some random fertilizer that her husband had in the garage. Susie Q has no blooms on her hydrangea.

• Did you plant a vegetable garden? Keep harvesting to keep the produce coming! Make notes of what did well and what didn’t, and give us a call if you have questions. Don’t forget to make a note of where things were planted so that you can change it next year. I know it sounds silly to say you have to rotate your crops in a 4×4 raised bed, but it is critical that you do so. It is also important to keep an eye out for insects and disease so that all your hard work isn’t in vain.

• For those of you who do plant veggies, you can plant seeds of cool season vegetables (beets, bush beans, carrots, peas) once we get into mid-August. Later in the month you can plant cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. They will need to be protected from hot, late afternoon sun.

• Don’t let the weeds get the upper hand! Keep pulling them and applying pre-emergents, or put down a layer of newspaper or cardboard under your mulch to prevent seeds from germinating. That’s because she has grabbed a high nitrogen fertilizer that results in a beautiful green bush that doesn’t bloom. The bottom line is, educate yourself and/or do a soil test before you just start throwing fertilizer out.

• Now let’s talk about clay soil. I know that some of you have moved here from other places where there was actual black dirt. You aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. We have clay, which when mixed with sand becomes the brick that many of your houses are made of. It can be amended, however, and does a great job of holding nutrients. The trick is to amend, amend, amend. Compost, rotted manure and soil conditioner will all help. A soil test is best if an area is struggling. You can pick a kit up here.

• Take care of our feathered friends during fall migration. Keep feeders and birdbaths clean and full. That is all for now. Please stop by or give us a call if you have questions. We want you to have a beautiful yard!

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Easy Plants For East Tennessee

Congratulations! You are lucky to live in an area with a long growing period where you can enjoy flowers for much of the year. With that said, there are still some challenges to gardening in this area. Temperatures can go up and down like a rollercoaster, and the heat and humidity make this a breeding ground for disease and insects. Over the years, I have learned what some of the “tough” guys of the annual flower garden are, so let’s talk about them. I’ll talk about the sun lovers first.

Hands down, the toughest plant that we sell is Lantana. This beauty takes heat and drought like a champ, and rabbits and deer don’t like it. It is available in several colors and in an upright or sprawling form.

Flowering vinca is number two on the tough scale. It is a prolific bloomer available in shades from white to red. The only downside to this plant is that it should not be planted in the same bed repeatedly. It harbors a fungus in the roots that will build up after about 3 years. Try alternating it yearly with another flower.

If you are absentminded about watering, Portulaca is your friend. It has a succulent leaf and takes the summer sun and heat very well. The flowers do close in the middle of the day, but that is the time that most of us are least likely to see it anyway!

Verbena is another tough little sprawler and is available in several colors. It also comes in a perennial form if you love it so much you want to keep it!

Angelonia is a terrific plant that will add a little height to your landscape or containers. Some people call this the summer snapdragon because of the similarity in blooms. It is heat and drought tolerant once established.

Zinnias are an old-fashioned plant that has stood the test of time. The larger blooming ones make great cut flowers, and the smaller Profusion varieties are great in the landscape.

Petunias, and their mini-me friends the calibrachoa, are great plants that can fill up an area quickly. They do prefer weekly fertilizing and may need the occasional haircut. I had a Cali survive in a pot all winter!

Now let’s talk about the shady guys:

Impatiens are the probably the most popular shade lover, which is why the impatien downy mildew problem a couple of years ago hit so hard. As a reminder, there were no greenhouses in the state with this disease. That is another reason to always buy from a local grower. Impatiens can take some fairly deep shade and will let you know if they are dry. Give them a drink and they will perk right back up!

Green leaf begonias are a close second for shade gardens. They are available in white, pink and red. Their larger cousins the big leaf and dragon wing begonias are also wonderful if you are looking for something a little bigger for containers or beds. Tuberous begonias have stunning colors, and there are also some new varieties in the Angel wing family.

I love caladiums and have them in most of my pots. Those big, heart-shaped leaves make a dramatic statement in containers as a background for smaller plants.

Coleuses have beautiful foliage and are another great backdrop for smaller plants, or do fine as a standalone. The Kong series is my favorite.

Have you seen the Torenia? It is also called Wishbone flower and is available in blue, which is unusual. I like it because it is pretty and because it is very attractive to bees. We need to help our pollinators!

My last shade loving recommendation is the good ole fern. Boston ferns look great hanging, and Kimberly Queen ferns are an upright that can take some sun. Both are heavy feeders that will love to be fertilized every other week or so.

These are, or course, just a few of the plants that we have in stock. We also have a great selection of perennials, and we will be happy to help you make good choices for your yard!

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