UT Fall Plant Sale 2009


Let us travel back in time to the fall of 2009. Late last October we attended the plant sale at the University of Tennessee display gardens with daughter Semi and little LTB. They had some muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris planted in a wide berm.


Still holding the same prized magnolia leaf shown in the above photo that he had found on the ground as a measuring device, LTB decided to show just how big the planter was. It was big. There were plants in pots and planters planted up for sale, the proceeds going to the Friends of the UT gardens.


Although it was very cold for October, with rain expected any minute, there were a few other brave souls joining us. Some were there as volunteers to answer questions and sell the goods, some were customers and garden lovers, like us. You can see the greenhouses in the background and the Tennessee orange insignia on the tent where the money was collected for purchases made. Some containers were of the glazed pottery type that can winter over outside planted without breakage here. The prices were reasonable and we were sorely tempted.


There were small hypertufa containers planted with sedums and miniature conifers. A couple of the little conifers were purchased to be used in our larger hypertufas.


I was babysitting LTB that morning and took him to the gardens with me so he could play while we waited for Semi to finish running in the Susan B. Komen race for the cure against breast cancer. Since she has started running the race rather than walking, and the family was not coming to join in the fun walk, I did my part by helping sponsor her and watching the little guy. When we found out that the plant sale was the same day as the race, well, you see for yourself how the situation was handled.


I was very happy to see this Cuphea micropetela displayed in these gardens. We added one of these plants, bought at Mouse Creek in our obsession with Cupheas this year. Ruth had gotten it from the University, with all hoping it would prove hardy here, as advertised to zone 7a. Mine does not look like this, but is rather about twelve inches tall with one stalk. I wonder how many plants make up this mound? If it is only one, I will be very disheartened and might have to give up gardening altogether.



The gardens had changed since we were here last. A post about that visit can be seen by clicking here-UT Bloom Days June 2008. Where the desert display gardens had been was now a large rose garden with two waterfalls flanking a stone staircase. A plaque announced that an endowment had been made to the gardens with the money to be used for roses. It is understandable that the gardens were happy to get such a nice gift, even with the stipulation of it being used for a rose garden. There were a couple that caught our fancy. That peach is my favorite color in all things and brightened the scene on a dreary overcast day. The single was outstanding, the bush was covered in buds and flowers. No name tags were on these beauties.


This golden larch was eye catching.


As was this display.


Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’ had quite a presence. One could see that this was several plants massed together. Maybe that was the case with the Cuphea as well. Jindai, three of them that looked similar to these specimens came to live at the Fairegarden this fall, purchased at our go to place for plants, Mouse Creek Nursery. We did not plant them close together, like this grouping, but rather fell back into the habitual plonking method of one here, one there. Will we never learn? It is not too late to move them though. After writing this post, we went out and moved the three Jindais together. Mark that off the list. Check!


Bermed beds with incredible soil tilth and free labor in the way of unpaid students to plant and weed make the plantings here lush and healthy. Semi remembered working in these gardens herself, helping her friend who was a hort student, weeding.


I could have stayed longer, and enriched the coffers of the friends of the gardens substantially more, but one look at poor, tired Semi watching to make sure LTB didn’t go head first after the koi in the pond, told us it was time to go. We will return next fall for this fine sale of prize plants, perhaps with more time to peruse and shop with warmer temps.

What we bought:

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Pygmy’
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Spiraea thunbergia ‘Ogon’

Frances

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37 Responses to UT Fall Plant Sale 2009

  1. Sylvia (England) says:

    Lovely pictures Frances, just what I need on a grey wet January day. I have just ordered two trees a silver birch and a mountain ash, so spent all of my plant money for this spring in one go! I am sure I will find some more!!!

    Best wishes Sylvia

    Hi Sylvia, thanks so much. Your trees sound wonderful, always a good investment. I would be surprised if there were not a few more things added in addition to them, however. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  2. gardeningasylum says:

    That cuphea is a cutie-a. Looks like UT is a great resource for you.

    Hi Rosie, thanks. If the Cuphea winters over, we will add more for a better show, like the one at the gardens. We are lucky that Ruth, who owns the nursery we love here in town, works closely with the university hort school. Looking at the photos again, I am sorry that one of those preplanted containers did not come home with me. Hope they have them again this year.
    Frances

  3. Darla says:

    Very proud of Semi! That grass surley did put on a show..I can see how this event would pull you in every year. Something about all those students working hard out there makes it seem the more special to me. I received the most delicious package of seeds yesterday and I can hardly wait to get everyone up, dressed and out the door to their daily destinations so I can do some research on the them. When I opened the package I said, “My heart be still.” (no reflection on the weekend exictement) lol…Thank you Ms. Frances.

    Hi Darla, thanks, I am very proud of here too. I am hoping this year that the sale is not the same day as the race, but maybe they did it on purpose, so many people into the area for the race and the school is somewhat nearby. Glad you got the seeds. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Hope you are feeling perky! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Aaahhhh warmer times. Those huge pots full of plants would be too much of a temptation, if of course I could afford them. The pots themselves are spectacular. When I see those minature conifers I always think about a RR garden. I sure wish I could do that in my garden. If I had a little boy that visited regularly I would be compelled to make one.

    Hi Lisa, it was not warm that day, it was very cold and windy. Poor Semi was freezing, another reason we left early. Those large pots were very reasonably priced, they were nearly giving them away. It was the size of them that was daunting, but I am sure the volunteers would have put them into the car for us. Wish now I had gotten one. You should make a RR garden anyway. Life’s too short!, as my mother always told me. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  5. I love the pots, too! That’s a stunning Muhly display! Cuphea is a plant that I think about adding by the end of each summer, then forget all about it during spring planting!

    Good for Semi and her run! I think babysitting LTB would be a joy! What a cutie! πŸ™‚

    Cameron

    Hi Cameron, thanks. It was such an overcast day, the photos don’t portray the actual beauty of the plantings. I added every Cuphea I could find this year, Ruth had a good selection at Mouse Creek. I think the one shown, if it does winter over will be added in more quantities, if she has some. LTB is so fun, but a handful for me, I need the Financier as back up. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  6. Darla says:

    Re: Medical Update post. The Doc believes that I have that weird thing where people crave chewing ice, eating clay stuff like that. Mine is obessive water drinking. So far my tests results have not indicated a medical reason for me to crave water. I am trying very hard to follow the medical advice. I feel really good other than ‘nervous’ that it will happen again. Even though I have the resources to control or stop it..God is Good!! Thanks for your concern it means a lot.

    Thanks Darla, we are so worried about you. Hope that everything works out for the best. It is certainly understandable to be jittery that it might happen again. Hope it never does! ❀
    Frances

  7. Gail says:

    Frances, I am so glad you shared this sale with us~~It’s going on my list of must attend~~and I totally love the container little LTB is standing next to…Now that would be a great garden addition. The A tataricus ought to spread and fill in nicely, so plonking it was a good plan for repetition in the garden;) The skies have opened up and winter rains have arrived…Hope you had some good time in the garden yesterday. gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Do come for the sale, I think there might be one in spring too, but they don’t have the schedule up yet at the Friends site. I’ll let you know. If I remember. Isn’t that the best container? The prices were good too. As for Jindai, it is now so close together in my garden that I only had to dig one hole. Now you tell me! I just came in the rain just started here so a little more mulch spreading got done. I am on a mission to mulch! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  8. Tatyana says:

    Good Morning Frances! Muhly grass, of course, is a queen! Golden Larch is amazing – texture, texture, texture!

    Hi Tatyana, thanks for stopping by. The muhly at these gardens seemed more purple than mine, I wonder if it is a named cultivar rather than the species that I have. I loved the Larch too, the picture does not capture the color, it was very bright. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  9. Melissa says:

    As a garden photographer (as well as a designer), I want to compliment you on that first photo of the muhly grass.It’s VERY difficult to photograph – the key, as you show here, is to do it from a distance because otherwise it’s way too fine-textured to convey the impact it makes.

    I went to law school (in my last incarnation) in Nashville but wasn’t a gardener then so didn’t appreciate the advantages of a warmer climate as much as I do now.

    Hi Melissa, thanks so much and welcome. We have a large stand of muhly here on a north facing slope. The photos can often be backlit in the fall with the lower sun angle, resulting in better photos than these on such a dreary day. The close ups of it are never good. This part of the country is a gardener’s paradise, IMHO. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  10. Lovely post Frances! Those containers are gorgeous and the gardens cheery especially on this cloudy snowy day. The golden larch and single rose are very appealing and striking. Your grandchild is adorable. He brings on a deep smile. Good for Semi! Carol

    Thanks Carol. I still dream about those containers. Next year I hope they have similar ones at similar prices. We think LTB quite adorable around here too. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  11. Sweet Bay says:

    What an amazing array of plants! The muhley looks good enough to eat.

    Hi Sweet Bay, thanks. The gardens have changed so much since we were there last. I need to go more often to keep up with what is going on there since we live about an hour away and visit Semi in Knoxville often.
    Frances

  12. Willow says:

    I just love that muhly grass. I have been thinking about buying some this year. The other pics are just beautiful.

    Hi Willow, thanks. If you are in zone 7 or higher, the muhly will grow for you. If not, some other hardier grass will give the same type of look in a mass planting. It is the mass that is the key, and siting for back lighting if possible. Good luck finding the right one for you! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  13. Rose says:

    I can undertand how disheartened you might be by your cuphea, Frances, but give up gardening?? Will pigs be flying in the sky?:) What a great way to pass the time while Semi was running for a great cause. That has been my job on occasion, too, watching the little ones while their parents ran. It would be nice if the U of I did something similar the weekend of the Illini Marathon–I could buy plants AND babysit!

    Hi Rose, thanks for your sympathy. I am sort feeling sorry for myself this January for some reason. Too much inside time, probably. I think you should contact the Uni and tell them to have their plant sale during the Marathon! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  14. Frances, I started browsing here this morning and then got on a plant project. I see a note to myself about purple perilla, which I believe I learned about from you. But what is the best way to search your site for a specific plant? I don’t see a search button at the top anywhere.

    You keep me in the gardening mood even in winter!

    Hi Jill, thanks for dropping by. I am trying to tag posts about certain plants as Plant Portraits, but since plants are mentioned in every single post, there is no other way to find those. I can do a search on wordpress when in edit mode, but don’t think that will work for readers. Maybe a google search with fairegarden and then the plant name? When I want plant info however, I usually go to Dave’s garden site, among others. I am always searching for plant info with google. The perilla is an annual that self seeds like a monster. I don’t save seeds from them for that reason, or I would gladly send you some. Start with a packet of seeds and sprinkle them outside now, then stand back! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  15. What a beautiful collection of plants. I am so glad you shared your trip with us. I love the containers – beautiful colors, shapes and textures. The Cuphea is amazing. I’m sure they are feeding it with some top secret formula to make it grow like that πŸ˜‰

    Hi Noelle, thanks. The soil in these gardens is not at all like mine, nor is the care given, and unlimited number of plants available for the plantings. I appreciate your trying to make me feel better about the Cuphea. I plan on asking Ruth at Mouse Creek what she things the secret is, I am sure she has seen that display. Probably some kind of food, like you say.
    Frances

  16. Catherine says:

    The color and combinations of plantings there are just beautiful! Seeing LTB with the leaf reminds me of my girls finding a treasured leaf or flower that has fallen off a plant in a nursery or garden. Thanks for a very nice tour!

    Hi Catherine, thanks so much. It was humbling to see such a garden as this, but also inspiration to take home and work harder! The magnolia leaf was a treasure, but a gust of wind blew it away. There was a mild melt down, then he forgot all about it. I am so glad to have gotten these shots of him.
    Frances

  17. Alice Joyce says:

    Oh, Frances
    Beautiful blooms to brighten a grey wet day.
    My Cupheas are looking so very sad. It will take months for them to recover from the cold. Hopefully, they WILL recover.
    Tons of hail here yesterday. Quite the sight…. just saying!
    xo Alice

    Hi Alice, thanks so much. How awful about the hail, that is so damaging to plants, among other things. Hope the Cupheas, and everything else spring back.
    Frances

  18. Teresa O says:

    What a wonderful day that must have been in the drizzle and chill. Any time spent among beautiful plantings with the option of buying a few to take home is always a good day. Your photography is as lovely in this post, as ever. I’ve got to learn about that pink muhly grass.

    Hi Teresa, thanks for stopping by and those kind words. Being in those gardens is always wonderful, no matter the weather. When there are plants for sale, it is a bonus. Their muhly looks slightly different than mine, darker flowers. Perhaps theirs is a named cultivar, mine is the species, and lighter, more pink than purple.
    Frances

  19. James A-S says:

    As always, Frances a fine post but I am mildly bewildered.
    First picture: Muhly grass (got that), Berm (excellent word – like Bund but smaller) but what are those white things sticking out of the grass? Decorative posts of some sort? or what.
    Detail, dear Frances, we need detail.

    Hi James, thanks. The white things are some kind of statuary, stone or manmade I don’t know which, with Celtic designs engraved on them, set at odd angles on the berm. I had tried to get a photo of them, but the shots did not turn out, the designs did not show up. They are around five feet high out of the ground with rough edges. I don’t know any more about them, but will ask next time we go there. Hope this is enough detail, for it’s all I’ve got. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  20. Frances, do you want that peach rose? I’m 90% sure it is ‘About Face’ an easy-to-grow rose I have in my garden. It was given to me by a friend, but I know you can find it a lot of places. Very disease resistant.~~Dee

    Thanks so much, Dee. Ironically, both Semi and I had About Face and had to dig it up since it got that rose disease where the leaves are all red and misshapen, can’t remember the name of it now. They must have been a bad batch. The rose at the UT gardens did not have the darker backside like About Face, but the inside does look like that same color that made me buy AF in the first place.
    Frances

  21. Susie says:

    Great photos. Be sure to protect your Cuphea micropetela, they are frost sensitive. But come warm weather…it should take off like crazy.

    Hi Susie, thanks, but it is way too late to protect the Cuphea now. The info says it is hardy to zone 7, and that’s us. We shall see what happens this spring. I did have a C. ignea return, but it was very slow to get going and never grew to the same size it had been the year before. Better to treat them as annuals, or pot them to winter over somewhere frost free.
    Frances

  22. It’s always a joy to see what pretty things you can grow in your temperate climate. I have some serious zone envy going on! πŸ™‚

    Hi Kate. We are lucky in our zone. Many things at the UT gardens are dug up and held in their large greenhouses over winter. There were giant holes where the Brugmansias had recently been dug, something we do not have the strength, or room to do here. In late October, there is still life here. Not so much right now, but it’s coming! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  23. Anna says:

    Sounds a grand day out Frances. Whatever happens with the cuphea somehow I can’t see you giving up gardening altogether πŸ™‚

    Hi Anna, thanks. You are probably right about me giving up gardening, what on earth would I do with myself? πŸ™‚
    Frances

  24. You really restrained yourself, I probably would have gone overboard with purchases. Such beautiful planters, and such great plantings! Give yourself a pat on the back for moving those Asters together.

    Hi MMD, thanks. Oh, I wanted to go overboard, believe me! Watching the little guy, plus seeing how tired Semi was, and it was freezing cold all worked together to save me some money. There will be more plant sales this year and I will be back. Thanks for the pat for moving the asters, although according to Gail it may have been a mistake, but they can always be moved farther apart. HA πŸ™‚
    Frances

  25. Patsi says:

    The pottery and the plants in them got my attention…plus your little helper.
    Your hypertufa planters are much better than theirs. πŸ™‚

    Hi Patsi, thanks so much, you are too sweet. Those were small hypertufas. I wondered if they were maybe made by the students, they were somewhat freestyle. Some almost looked like sand castings, something I would like to try, maybe this summer.
    Frances

  26. semi says:

    Those pics are so cute of LTB. I could kick myself for not purchaing one of those little conifers, but man it was cold, needed more clothes. LTB would have stayed all day with the fish. Those UT gardens are amazing, must remember to plant in mass. lots of love. Semi

    Dear Semi, looking back at these photos brings back sweet memories of LTB running along the many paths. He did so enjoy the gardens, especially the fish in the ponds. He would be there still, watching them, if allowed. We need to go back in warmer weather.
    Love,
    Frances

  27. Les says:

    Oh, the sacrifices one makes for one’s family. I know how hard it must of been for you to have to wait at a plant sale, grandchild in tow, while others played.

    Hi Les, yes, I am a martyr for my family. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  28. Beckie says:

    Frances, Love the Muhly grass, I wish it would survive here. Such a statement it makes. And the Cuphea is just as gorgoeus. LTB looks like a real sweetie and is very handsome. I know he enjoys adventures in gardening with you. Like Rose, I wish the U of I had a similar plant sale.

    Hi Beckie, thanks. That was a impressive planting of muhly. I wonder if they will leave it all year, or dig it up to the greenhouse and replant something else for spring and summer, then stick it back in when fall rolls around for the big show? They have the resources to do just that and probably should. It doesn’t look like much until fall. You need to barrage the uni with messages to hold a plant sale. Although here it is not the school, but the support group that arranges everything.
    Frances

  29. Janet says:

    What a great place to see mature plants! Really like the combo of the Castor Bean and the Tropicana Canna.

    Hi Janet, it really was. There are many inspirational plantings there. I did not take as many photos as normal since I was playing around with LTB, and the weather was lousy. Next time. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  30. Pam/Digging says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, Frances, and can sympathize with cruelty to runners in the name of gardening addiction. After my DH ran the Chicago Marathon in record-breaking heat a couple of years ago, I dragged him off the next day to a day-long cram-it-all-in visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden. He was such a good sport.

    Thanks Pam, it sounds like you understand the dilemma well. Even though Semi normally loves to look at gardens, she was so tired and it was so cold and she was, let’s call it *dewy*. Cruelty to runners, HA πŸ™‚
    Frances

  31. joey says:

    Sipping my rich French roast and your cheery post made my morning, Frances, especially the shot of little LTB and the muhly grass πŸ™‚

    Thanks so much Joey. That shot brings a smile to my face everytime as well, along with him measuring the container with the leaf. I do enjoy your posts, and recipes! as well. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  32. Kathleen says:

    The containers are outstanding Frances. I always enjoy a good container and its plantings. The stand of Asters are magnificent as well. I’d like to have them in my garden. I would say your Muhly grass display rivals this one tho and I would have handled the race vs the sale in exactly the same way! ha. Such support.

    Hi Kathleen, thanks for those kind words. My muhly has a different look to it, lighter and pinker, or maybe it was that dreary day made it look more purple. Still an amazing planting. You would have gone gaga over those containers. Semi and I were just chatting about why we didn’t take a couple home. We determined it was the cold weather. Better luck next year. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  33. Rosey says:

    Hey Frances,

    I would have wanted to spend my kids college fund here. Those hyper or super tufa , whatever you want to call them are just fabulous. I am glad the Semi did not fall in that pond. πŸ™‚ Kids and ponds def. don’t mix.

    HA Rosey, money well spent, I’d say! Semi would have gone right in to save LTB, although it was not that deep. He is very attracted to our pond here, oh how he wants to go in! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  34. Lauren says:

    Beautiful post!

    Thanks!

  35. leavesnbloom says:

    Hi Frances – a bit late in getting here. I was amazed at the cuphea – they are not hardy here and at first I thought it was a type of desfontania bush without the holly leaves. Such an impressive cuphea any I have seen have tiny flowers. So the grass I keep admiring is muhly grass! what a colour and what a statement grown in such a drift. The planters look great at the show – I need to get mine filled. I enjoyed reading about your little visit with your loved ones.

    Thanks for stopping by, there is no such thing as late on the posts, they apparently will be up for a very long time! The Cupheas are borderline hardy here too, so it is written. The one shown is the great hope of hardiness, but already our winter has been quite cold and wet, both bad for these plants. They may have to be considered annuals, but worth replanting for the hummers loved them so. The grass is Muhlenbergia capillaris, and does look best in a large planting, hardy to zone 7 and needs good drainage. Those planters were amazing, and well planted. Daughter Semi and I both wish we had gotten one, or two. πŸ™‚
    Frances

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