Beautiful, lush, colorful and long-lasting hydrangeas have only recently become a standard landscape plant. Once considered old-fashioned, this shrub is among the many Victorian favorites that have made a comeback in the American garden. We especially love them here in East Tennessee, where they are winter hardy and nearly everybody’s grandmother had them growing somewhere in their yard. I have extensive knowledge of how hardy hydrangeas are. Twelve years ago, I asked my children to each give me a hydrangea for Mother’s Day. I had already picked out the plants, and all they had to do was cough up the money to their father. I planted the five hydrangeas close to the entrance of our farm under a dogwood. You have seen the pictures in magazines—large fluffy blooms, gorgeous color and a heavenly scent. This display was going to wow my visitors.

Being a new gardener and not researching the plants enough, I found myself with constantly wilted plants, and I had no easy means of getting water to the thirsty, spindly little shrubs. I hoped that this wilting was due to the new plants not being established. The next year, I had the same disappointing performance—weeping foliage and no blooms. The third year, I dug up the plants, brought them to the house and planted them again, this time outside the garden room where water was abundant and I saw them every day. The fourth year, I had only foliage again, but not as much wilting thanks to the water. Looking after them daily became a chore when winter came since they are deciduous; I was gazing at little bare sticks. I then made a terrible mistake and pruned them back severely. This was a sure way not to get any blooms the next summer, since hydrangeas bloom on old wood.

Fast forward ten years, lots of water and no pruning, and my hydrangeas are finally fabulous, magazine-quality beauties.

The color of the hydrangea is affected by the soil. If you bought your plant or received it as a gift in full bloom and then the next year, your plant had a weaker color or faded appearance, you need to amend the soil. Flower color depends to a large extent on soil pH. Acidic soils (pH 5.0 to 5.5) yield blue to purple flowers, while more alkaline soils (pH 6.5 to 7.5) yield pink to red ones. Some cultivars are more affected by pH than others, but white flowers (my favorite) are not affected by pH at all. Lime is used to raise the soil pH (make it less acidic), and aluminum sulfate is used to lower it (make it more acidic). Any changes you make in the soil’s pH should be done gradually over several seasons. If you have strongly acidic soil and want to grow pink hydrangeas, growing them in containers would be your best option, as they are a great container plant.

Even with our increasingly warm winters, we still need to remember that they like partial shade and well-drained soil (late, hot afternoon sun really makes them droop). Make sure they are planted in an area where water is an easy commodity. Without rain, I am watering mine every other day with a soaker hose.

Two native hydrangeas are Oakleaf and Annabelle. Being native to our area, they flourish with less effort than Lacecaps or Mopheads. Oakleaf blooms start out green and turn white as they mature, and they get to be as much as eighteen inches overall. Their name comes from the beautiful shape of their leaves, which look like an Oak tree leaf. Their handsome foliage turns a brilliant red and orange-brown in the Fall.

Annabelle has numerous flowers and blooms that are a pure white. This native can be pruned and returns to bloom in the same season. Neither Annabelle nor Oakleaf has their color affected by soil pH, so enjoy them in their natural shades of white. If we have a surprise frost late in the spring season, these natives will still perform, whereas you may lose all of your Mophead blooms.

Hydrangea blooms are easy to dry and use in your home throughout the seasons. If you like the Victorian look, just let them dry in a vase. Cut the flowers early in the day when in full bloom, and let them stand in two to three inches of water (do not replenish the water) until they are dry. This gives a fuller, more natural form. You can also hang the fresh flowers upside down in a dark, dry space, but the heads will tend to wilt or collapse. These dried flowers can be used in wreaths, dried arrangements or as holiday tree decorations. If they are allowed to dry naturally on the plant in the garden, they have a natural bronze color, and the heads will usually last until after Christmas.

Southern Living had an article in June 2001 on propagating hydrangeas. The technique is extremely simple. Step 1: Take eight- to twelve-inch tip cuttings in early summer and strip off the lowest pair of leaves. Step 2: Wet the cut ends and dip them in rooting powder. Step 3: Stick each cutting into a container of moist potting soil. Keep the soil moist and in the shade. The cutting should root in six to eight weeks. This is an easy way to increase your plants. Water is the key item in rooting and growing hydrangeas.

I have an obsession with hydrangeas. Currently, I have fifteen Oakleaf standing over eight feet tall, eight Lacecaps, twelve Annabelle and twenty various Mopheads, with colors ranging from white to various shades of pink and blue. I have a soaker hose running through the beds. I started with five hydrangeas fifteen years ago, and today I have over sixty.

I did tell you that they are easy to root.

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Spring Allergies

Springtime brings warm weather, blooming trees – and allergies. In fact, spring can be one of the worst seasons for allergy sufferers. Pollen appears in the air; the house seems to contain more dust than ever; and every rain puts a barrage of mold in the air! Normally the immune system protects our bodies from invading organisms like bacteria and viruses. In people with allergies, the immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance (like pollen) as an invader. This leads to production of antibodies that signal certain cells in the body to release histamine and other chemicals, leading to an allergic reaction.

Allergens such as pollen from trees and grasses, dust mite particles, pet dander and mold spores often enter our bodies by inhalation. If you have allergies to any these particles, your immune system reacts with symptoms of coughing, runny nose, congestion and sneezing. You may also experience severe fatigue, sinus headaches and difficulty sleeping.

Avoidance of allergens would be wonderful, but it’s not possible. Several medications are available to treat allergic symptoms, but it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Some anti-histamines can cause drowsiness and an increase in your blood pressure, not to mention that many people who rely on them find that they stop working after long-term use.

If you’re tired of simply covering up the symptoms of your allergies, it may be time to try immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a natural way to treat allergies. It begins with a build-up phase where you receive increasing doses of allergen over time, leading to the maintenance or “goal” dose. It allows your body to build resistance to the specific allergens that are triggering your reactions, and the sooner you start immunotherapy, the sooner you will experience relief.

Before beginning any treatment plan, it’s important to be seen by a board certified allergist. Allergists have years of advanced training and experience to properly diagnose your specific allergens and recommend a custom path to relief.

To find your way to allergic relief, schedule an appointment at The Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center today!

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Park Place

Picture, if you will, a Southern-style front porch staring out over a lushly landscaped lawn. Crepe myrtles offer a bit of welcoming shade as you gaze upon the other Charleston-style homes lining a street with family-friendly sidewalks. Friendly neighbors wave s the pass, and the distant sound of children’s laughter is carried on the sweet, magnolia-scented breeze.

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Tonja’s Labor Of Love

One resident has brought her creativity to the utmost level and turned her quaint cottage into something whimsical and spooky. Tonja has left no headstone unturned when it comes to decorating for this upcoming Halloween season. A quaint white cottage tucked in on the side of Grigsby Chapel Road is adorned with some of the Halloween season’s spookiest decorations.

The exterior is embellished with hundreds of orange lights, spooky spider webs, hanging moss, a family of skeletons sitting on the porch, and even a witch who looks to have taken a wrong turn and ended up splattered against the chimney stack. Although the house may look haunted, Tonja is hoping to bring a little joy to spectators. “I just like to take what used to be bad and turn it in to something really fun” says Tonja. “It’s a labor of love really and I don’t count the hours it takes because it is all well worth the joy it brings spectators and people who pass by.” Tonja says that she tries to add a new ornament or decoration to the residence each day. She says she adds a little bit at a time, so that the joy continues for whoever passes by the house all the way up until Halloween.

The latest addition is the skeleton family, although her favorite decoration is the, “don’t drink and fly” sign, helping remind drivers to remain above the influence. Tonja said she wants to keep Halloween a fun and safe night for everyone.

Trick-or-treaters are in for a treat this year with an added iconic bubble machine and with weather permitting, a fog machine. Last year’s bad weather kept some trick-or-treaters indoors, but years past Bucca has had around 100 visitors on Halloween night hoping to add to their candy sacks. She even said there even may be an added surprise for trick or treaters this year who visit. With Halloween fast approaching, make no bones about it you’re not going to want to miss this house on your trick or treating route.

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The Perfect Getaway: A Visit to The Swag Country Inn

This year marks the 34th season at The Swag Country Inn in Waynesville, North Carolina. Nestled 5,000 feet above everywhere, it is the perfect travel destination to find relaxation, mountain views and Southern hospitality. If you need to escape for a day or for a weekend, The Swag provides every amenity to ensure you will be able to truly unplug and unwind.

Founded in 1982 by owner Deener Matthews, The Swag was originally built as a family home for her and her husband Dan in 1971. Deener continues to manage operations at The Swag, now a private Bed and Breakfast, offering memorable getaways for local and regional visitors from late April through November.

From breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains, including views of four of North Carolina’s six highest mountain ranges, to luxurious accommodations and professional staff, The Swag Country Inn will make sure your stay is enjoyable. If you prefer hammocks or hiking trails, you will find the perfect way to enjoy doing nothing at all.

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Goldenrod Won’t Make You Sneeze

Years ago I got to visit Vancouver, British Columbia. I was so excited about getting to see the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. It was delightful; Butchart Gardens covers fifty-five acres in beautiful floral displays. With a gardening staff of 30, there wasn’t a weed in sight and all the flowers were properly staked and deadheaded (The dead or spent flower were removed). This shows what you can do with a worked-out quarry if your husband pioneered Portland cement and leaves you a pile of money. I was enjoying the light misty morning when I saw a beautiful inflorescent plant about seven feet tall staked and blooming in bright yellow. I leaned over to read the name tag, knowing that I would have to have it for my garden back in Tennessee. As I stood there everything about the plant seemed familiar. The nametag read “Solidago”. When I got home and looked it up I discovered we all know it. The plant was our common roadside goldenrod. Fall is coming and soon we will see Goldenrod blooming along the roadsides and fields and now it is allowed to bloom in one of
my flowerbeds.

What took me so long to appreciate the beauty of Goldenrod? In our area it is considered a noxious weed. But we all have to agree that it is a breath of beauty at the end of summer when our flowers are waning. They are easy to grow. I didn’t even have to sow seeds or move a plant. The birds planted it for me.

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The Plight Of The Honeybee

Let us start with a little American bee history. As English and Spanish settlers came to North America, they brought with them their native honey bees Apis mellifera mellifera and Apis mellifera iberica, respectively. As Europeans colonized and spread across our continent, Native Americans recognized the “white man’s fly”, or the honeybee. These imported bees would precede settlers as this introduced species outpaced the Europeans in their colonization of the continent. So, honeybees are not native to North America and Honeybees are the only genus of bees that produce combs of harvestable honey.

Today, we are having trouble in paradise. Our bees are sick, wild bees which number almost 4,000 different species as well as hived honeybees. The Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories questioned 5,000 beekeepers. They reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies in the 12-month period that ended in April. That is well above the 34.2 percent loss reported for the same period in 2013 and 2014, and it is the second-highest loss recorded since year-round surveys began in 2010. Bees are vital because without them, pollination of some crops doesn’t occur. Estimates are that over 240,000 species of the world’s flowering plants rely on animal pollinators. Bees work tirelessly to provide us with our food. In recent years it has become apparent that all bees, not just the honeybee, are under threat.

We as individual gardeners can decide which flowers to grow for pollen and nectar that will feed bees and help them to increase their numbers. Today the private garden is a better place than the countryside for wildlife, since much agricultural land is now devoid of the diversity of flowers that existed previously. Scientists in the field think that insects need as much variety in their food as we do to get all the trace minerals and vitamins to keep them healthy.

More and more gardeners are anxious to do their part to help the bees by adding to the shrinking inventory of flower-rich habitat in their area. In return, the bees will pollinate your flowers, providing a bountiful harvest of fruits, seeds and vegetables as well as the joy of you getting to watching them up close. You don’t have to be a beekeeper to enjoy bees.

Actions that we can do to help the bee plight:

Rethink your lawn. Replace part or all of your lawn grass with flowering plants, which provides food and habitat for bees and other wildlife. I know you think grass is easier, but just give a corner up to flowers.

Select single flower tops such as daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.

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In the past five years, I have become an orchid expert. Not an expert at growing, potting or getting them to bloom. Only in buying them. The price of orchids has dropped so much that even a person of modest means who loves flowers can now have them placed inside her home. When the blooms die, I take the plant to the orchid graveyard in the basement. Sometimes they surprise me and will bloom again, in about 6 to 8 weeks. Other times the blades dry up, turn yellow and fall to the floor. In the summer, I force non-blooming outside and give them a squirt with the garden hose when I water my planters. Amazingly, some of these will perk up and rebloom. They are not as pretty as the ones in the store because by this time they have insect damage on the leaves. I’ve heard it’s always good to give orchids a shock; when they come to live with me, they can expect nothing but shock and awe.

I love how an orchid grows the floating petals on a gracefully tall, slender stalk. This leads to an exquisite flower composed of three inner petals and a cupped petal distinct from the rest. Labellum, inflorescence and sepal–the names sound as exotic as the plant. Orchidaceae is arguably one of the most stunning and elegant of flowering plants known to man.

One hundred and twenty million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a magnificent flowering plant came into being—the orchid. Evolution led to the demise of many plants and animals, but the orchid flourished, thriving on every continent save Antarctica. Orchids have adapted to live in all kinds of environments: mountains, bogs, grasslands and rainforests. At least 35,000 orchid species now populate the planet, and there is always the possibility that an unknown species still awaits discovery.

Orchids attract pollinators for reproduction by several ingenious methods: scent, mimicry and stealth. Orchids with sweet scents usually attract bees; those with a rancid smell lure flies. The orchid can also draw pollinators through visual mimicry, imitating insects including bees and butterflies with the patterns on its petals. We always have hummingbirds come to our sunroom window and look in at the beautiful, delicious-looking orchids.

For centuries, the orchid has been a symbol of love, luxury and beauty. To the early Greeks, the orchid represented virility, and the Chinese called it “the plant of the king’s fragrance.” During the Middle Ages, the orchid was considered an aphrodisiac and was used in love potions. Serious orchid collecting began in the 18th century, but because of their rarity at the time, only a few botanists and wealthy amateurs could enjoy them. A single orchid reportedly sold for the equivalent of thousands of dollars. Today we can buy them for about $16.00 at our local grocery or big box store.

Avoid over watering, which leads to the demise of many more orchids than under watering. Constant wetness will cause the roots to rot, which leaves the plant without a means for taking up nourishment. This then causes the leaves to droop and will eventually kill the plant. “Evenly moist,” while the most commonly given advice on watering, is the hardest to explain. Because most plants are grown in plastic containers, a good diagnosis is the weight of the plant: heavy, does not need watering; light, does require watering. With a little practice, you can easily tell the amount of moisture remaining in the container by the weight of the plant in your hand.

Some people like to place their pots on “humidity trays” or in trays or saucers of gravel or pebbles and water. The pot is placed on the pebbles above the water line. This helps to ensure that the base of the pot is not immersed in water. It increases humidity for the plant and provides some air circulation under the pot. Currently my home humidity is about 36, which is way too dry for me or anything growing. If you are not a serious orchid grower, then you can follow my lead. All orchids will take the ice cube watering, three cubes once a week. I usually do this on a Sunday. Three ice cubes gives them enough water without the dread of overwatering.

When shopping for a new plant, look at the proportion in relation to the container. It should have roots in the media, and the blades should be clean and unblemished, turgid and medium green color and free of visible pests. Petals should be lustrous and held well above the foliage on a strong, well-supported spike. They should be unblemished and free of fungal spotting, and most important have some buds yet to open (never, ever accept a plant with flowers open to the tip of the spike, as it is impossible to judge flower life after all flowers have opened).

If you have had trouble with orchids in the past, it was probably due to bud drop. This again could be under or over watering. Be careful of temperature extremes and rapid temperature changes (heating vents or air conditioning blowing directly on the plants, so pay attention to location). I also never buy an orchid when the weather is extremely cold. Just getting it out of the store, into the car and then back into the house could be too many temperature changes. If you need to change the growing location–like you walk to the basement and you find one of the lost orchid boys trying to rebloom–please, by all means, carry this heroic guy back upstairs where you can enjoy it. But just to be sure, wait until the flowers open first.

For more information on orchids, please check with the American Orchid Society. They will give you tips and advice on successfully growing orchids in your home. But if you just enjoy the beauty, I give you permission to buy a new one every two months.

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Exquisite Beauty

Exquisite beauty, the aroma of vanilla charm and the spacious complexity of a manor. Designed by Jack Herr & Associates and built by Brookwood Construction & Engineers, this stunning home is one of the most beautiful in West Knoxville. The current residents, Cheri and Mark Rosenbaum, were responsible for the lavish and cozy interior design. It features an open-design floor plan and has a scenic view of the Appalachian Mountain Range. This could never be considered merely a house; it is very much a home, and one cannot help but feel at home when taking it all in.

Cheri and Mark Rosenbaum have labeled themselves as “professional movers”. The two met in college, and since their marriage, they have traveled all over the country. Mark has been in the medical supply business since he graduated UT and has recently retired from his latest post as CCO of Cardinal Health. Before this home, Cheri and Mark had lived in Ohio, but they wanted a place to settle down in Farragut, the town in which Cheri was born. Their home search was vast and, for a time, fruitless. Then they found Bridgemore, Farragut’s luxury subdivision. “We loved the land, the new development and all the amenities, the natural beauty, the clubhouse and pool, and especially the two swans that have made their home in the entranceway fountain. At the end of the day, it was an easy decision to purchase the house,” said Cheri. “It really is a wonderful place to live,” said Cheri. “Everyone has their own space, and with kids in the house, that’s a must.”

Bought in 2007, this 350-acre development is one of the most spacious and sensational new subdivisions in West Knoxville. Of the 350 acres of lush rolling green hills that Tennesseans have come to cherish, 140 acres have been set aside as strict non-developmental land. “We want our residents to enjoy the nature trails and forested areas of the neighborhood,” said Jerry Whitehead, owner of Gables and Gates Realtors, “so we’ve put this land aside in order to make the community a more naturally stimulating environment.”

This property is situated at 815 Hammock Lane and is located in Farragut’s Bridgemore subdivision. The Rosenbaum’s have decided to put their stunning 4-bedroom, 4,922 square foot home up for sale.

If you are interested in taking the time to view this awe-inspiring property, please call Gables and Gates Realtors at (865) 777-9191. For more information on Bridgemore or other home buying opportunities, visit them online at realestate.gablesandgates.com.

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