A Year of Gardens – Day 5

Today’s post highlights one of Tennessee’s best kept secrets – the botanical gardens at University of Tennessee Knoxville. Incredible collection of hostas, roses, and conifers, an AAS trial garden, a test garden for annuals and perennials, an edible garden that is wheelchair accessible, ever-changing works of art, and some displays that are just plain ol’ fun!

I Love The UTK Gardens

In the greenhouse they are testing how light wavelength effects the nutritional value of food.

Japanese maples in the garden

a garden native

Don’t get trapped in the maze!

Fall blooming iris

Iris ‘Double Your Fun’
Metal Rose Sculpture

Those plants that get stuck in your head

Thumbelina’s garden

 All-American Selections Edible Trials

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Red Salvia

The Rose Garden

Spring Is Here, Do You Know Where Your All-American Selection Winners Are?

Last summer I was able to hang out with some of the smartest plant nerds in the county at the All-American Select Summer Summit. The highlight for me was tromping through the North Carolina Arboretum. The quilt garden was a tribute to gardening and quilting – both cultural institutes in the south.

Vegetable garden ides.

French marigolds in front of purple basil. 

I found some great inspiration for container gardening:

The gardens incorporated these antique olive baskets.

The repetition of rectangular lines was a beautiful foil to the Smokey Mountain backdrop.

The simplicity of red cordyline in these wooden planters was dramatic.

If you are low on space, the Arboretum had a clever display for a vertical edible garden.

And some great use of recycled products with their container plantings.

Cuphea llavae remains one of my favorite full sun, hot & dry loving summer annuals. 

Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) 

Can you spot the rain barrels? 

Agastache – a beautiful perennial for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. You can also used the leaves of agastache for flavoring drinks. Hardy to zone 6. 

A beautiful bed of Coreopsis. Coreopsis is a reliable perennial for sunny spots that blooms throughout the summer. 

Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly weed – another magnet for hummingbirds, monarch butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

These pitcher plants –Sarracenia – look like organ pipes just singing away in all their beauty! These delicate beauties are actually carnivores, attracting bugs with sap and scent into their delicate-looking throats to become a nutrient source for the plant.

Gate artwork by David Brewin and Joseph Miller

So why should you be checking out places that grow All-American Selections?
Here’s a quick “why AAS plants are worth seeking out” information from their web page:

What is All-America Selections®?

All-America Selections is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties then introduces only the best garden performers as AAS Winners. 

Who determines an AAS Winner? 

Independent AAS Judges determine the AAS Winners by judging and scoring the entries. The Judges score each entry from 0 to 5 points, with 5 being the highest. Judges report their scores after the growing season for that variety. Judges are located in geographically diverse areas all over the U.S. and Canada. AAS uses an independent accounting firm to calculate the average score of each entry. Only the entry with the highest average score is considered for a possible AAS Award. The AAS Judges determine which, if any, new, never-before-sold entries have proven superior qualities to be introduced as AAS Winners.

What qualities do the Judges score? 

Judges look for significantly improved qualities such as earliness to bloom or harvest, disease or pest tolerance, novel colors or flavors, novel flower forms, total yield, length of flowering or harvest and overall performance. In the last ten years an entry needs to have at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered by Judges for an AAS Award.

Why is an AAS Winner important to the home gardener?

The AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance in Trial Grounds across North America, thus, our tagline of “Tested Nationally and Proven Locally®”. When you purchase an AAS Winner, you know that it has been put through its paces by an independent, neutral trialing organization and has been judged by experts in their field. The AAS Winner label is like a stamp of approval.

Rudbeckia Indian Summer was an All-American Selection winner 1995 and continues to be one of my favorite go-to summer annuals for color displays. 

Diane Blazek, the Executive Director of All-American Selections, led our adventure to the North Carolina Arboretum.

Bluebird building her nest in one of the bluebird houses onsite. 

Check out these container plantings:

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun was an All-American Selection in 2003