Enjoy shade gardening, low maintenance and garden vacations

This photo of the “Earth Goddess,” a permanent exhibit at the Atlanta Botanic Garden, was taken two years ago. Courtesy photo.

July brings with it heat and humidity that lasts for the rest of summer. I think that some of the prettiest gardens in Bartlett are those with lots of shade because it is still pleasant to garden through the summer if you are in the shade. It is also a time when we can relax a bit as our spring chores are over and we can cruise through those minor maintenance gardening chores that can be done in little time so that the heat doesn’t have a chance to become to oppressive.

July is also a peak month for taking vacations. If you are looking for a day trip, consider attending the “Summer Celebration” in Jackson, Tenn., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the West Tennessee Agriculture Research and Education Center. It offers a day full of fun and information about all things related to gardening taught by extension agents and gardening experts. You can take guided tours of the campus and gardens to learn about the plants that perform well in our area. Vendors on site offer some unusual plants and garden accessories, and the master gardeners put on a fabulous plant sale with many hard-to-find plants. But wait, there’s more. You can bring bits of your troubled plants to the diagnostic clinic and learn about what is needed to remedy the situation. Admission for the day is just $5. For more information, visitwest.tennessee.edu/events/summerceleb.asp.

If you have more than a day head on to Nashville to visit Cheekwood Estates and Gardens for their special exhibit in the gardens this summer. “Cracking Art” is a Milan, Italy-based artist collective born out of the intention to radically change the history of art by investigating the relationship between natural and artificial reality. By using 100 percent recyclable plastic materials, “Cracking Art” creates site-specific installations using large-scale, natural animal forms made of synthetic materials, playfully arranging meerkats, bears, crocodiles, birds and other animals in surprising invasions of familiar landscapes. The artists of “Cracking Art” will collaborate with Cheekwood to share a truly unique and extraordinary visual experience this summer.

Have a little more time? Then head on out to Atlanta. If you have never been to the Atlanta Botanic Garden, make this the year you go! It is a beautiful garden in its own right, but this summer there is something spectacular that is a must see and which would be of interest to all ages of gardeners and non-gardeners alike.

The exhibition, presented May 5 through Oct. 28, recaptures the magic of the original blockbuster show from 2013 and 2014 with larger-than-life, topiary-like whimsical sculptures, only this time they’re even bigger. And most of them have never been seen before.

“Imaginary Worlds” will wow visitors with a storybook-themed world of sculptures, both indoors and out – most custom made for the garden by the exhibition’s creators, International Mosaiculture of Montreal. This time, the sculptures – steel forms covered in soil-and-sphagnum moss and planted with thousands of meticulously groomed plants – will be staged in 14 installations.

Look for the giant Phoenix, the Mermaid lounging, a massive Dragon and Sleeping Princess and a prancing Peacock inside the Fuqua Orchid Center, as well as three towering Camels lumbering through the Skyline Garden, to name a few new creations joining the Gardens’ permanent sculptures of the Earth Goddess, Shaggy Dog and Frogs.

The process for creating the sculptures takes nearly half a year. It began last fall when conceptual drawings for the pieces were developed in Montreal, metal frames were fabricated and plant palettes were chosen. The empty frames were shipped to Atlanta in January, and the Garden’s horticulturists began covering them with a mesh fabric and stuffing them with soil. Then the planting commenced – inserting more than 200,000 plants, primarily annuals, one by one. Because Atlanta’s winters are too cold for the annuals to survive, the sculptures were built in sections that were planted inside a greenhouse just outside the city, then trucked to the Garden in spring for assembling on site. Intricate irrigation systems beneath the surface of the sculptures allow the plants to grow – and the creatures to flourish – in Atlanta’s summer heat.

July garden to-do list

  • Plant: Start seeds for cabbages, parsley and collards. Replant summer color if needed.
  • Lawn care: For zoysia and Bermuda lawns (1) fertilize with a complete fertilizer (2) raise mower blades to 2 1/3 to 3 inches for hot dry weather.
  • Fertilize: Perennial flowers and reblooming hydrangeas.
  • Prune: Pinch back chrysanthemums and other fall-blooming flowers. Continue to deadhead annuals and perennials. Remove unsightly fern fronds. Hydrangeas should be pruned in early July if they are getting too large. You can enjoy any remaining blooms as cut flowers or dry them and use them in a dried arrangement. This is true for both the traditional mop-head varieties that will soon be setting buds for next year, as well as the rebloomers, which will still have time to grow out and bloom later this year.
  • Other: Continue to water on weeks with less than 1 inch of rain. Continue to monitor for insect and fungal diseases and treat as needed. Keep birdbaths clean and filled with water.

Written by Tom Rieman of Keep Bartlett Beautiful.