Even with occasional downpours threatening the festival at the UT Ag campus, Blooms Days 2013 (May 11 & 12, 2013) at the UT Gardens blossomed forth with colorful flowers, eager volunteers, and guests in the hundreds admiring, strolling, photographing, and buying. The event has become a rite of spring!
And I was there, along with all those flower lovers, finding seven (really more) things to do at Blooms Days! Here are my top seven springy things to do.
1. Grab a Garden Shot
You couldn’t help but surround yourself with pretty flowers from purple pansies to pitcher plants. The folks at HGTV Gardens were on hand to share tips for how to ensure good growth and how to combine plants by color for shade or sun.
Neatly mulched beds in full bloom sported markers that helped even the flower-challenged among us identify selections by name.
Casual strolling through the gardens would eventually land you at the koi ponds with their beautifully landscaped stone steps and splashy waterfalls. It was a favorite place for family photos as most wanted to gather under the arched entrance or near the ponds.
Under the tents, local gardeners arranged their best offerings in photo-shoot-worthy style. Like this grouping of pink flowers tucked nicely inside a weather-worn cart from Sunlight Gardens.
2. Picture a Bonsai
The Knoxville Bonsai Society set up award-winning specimens inside one building where black backdrops showed off carefully pruned greenery. By training tender new shoots around copper wires, bonsai enthusiasts coax plants we normally see in much larger versions into miniature “trees” complete with trunks, greenery — even blooming branches. Amazing!
Who would have imagined a ponderosa pine could follow this graceful form?
Or a normally aggressive wisteria would control its shape so artfully? (Really?)
3. Inspect an Insect
Bearing larger-than-life stylized drawings of ladybugs and butterflies, this white tent drew me in. It was buggy all right. Laid out on tables and pinned up on wall displays, insects as big as your hand were everywhere. If you had ever wanted to see the stuff of nightmares (OK, some people love these guys!) up close and personal, this was your chance.
4. Drag Home a Dragon
Vendors brought their best — from iron sculptures of garden dragons to cute clay teapots on garden stakes. In several designated areas of the gardens, you had your choice of take-home presents for garden lovers — rare plants, herbs, baskets, totes, concrete planters, photography, etc. High quality. Creative. And fun to touch and see!
These plantings in old pots appealed to me since I love both antiques and flowers — and together is even better.
5. Line Up for Food
The hungry among us found something other than the typical sandwiches and hot dogs served at most festivals. The offerings this year came from Asian-inspired chefs, food trucks, and local cooks. Sometimes the portions were huge like the meatloaf sandwich served at the Savory and Sweet truck. (Enough for two, said James Newburn, Assistant Director of the UT Gardens. And he was right.)
So I opted for a smaller but quite tasty pizza pie from Dale’s Fried Pies. It helped that a former student, Mickey Johnson (talking to Dale below), treated me and paid the bill! As he said when he placed the order: This is thanks for all that grammar you made me learn!!! (Nice to see those assignments I gave paying off!)
More good news: Owner Dale Mackey says she’s getting a food truck for Dale’s Fried Pies soon! Yeah!
6. Photograph an Author
You could even meet an author at Blooms Days! Jean Leigh Claudette was on hand with her new book The Classified Files of Sweet William Farm, the story of a secret-agent raccoon named JD. Ms. Claudette was hamming it up a bit, drawing attention to her young reader’s book set on a Tennessee farm. These may not be night-vision goggles like JD would wear, but they sure brought a smile to those who passed by her booth!
7. Hug a Volunteer
And what would Blooms Days be without all those volunteers giving advice on which plants to buy, where to plant, how much water to give ’em, etc.? They were a big help to me as well as persuasive, too! I got talked into buying sedum to use as ground cover in one of my beds and a mixed pot of primarily pink non-stop (They promised, right?) blooming petunias for a sunny spot on my patio.
Two volunteers grabbed me just as I was leaving — Candace Eagle, president of the Knox County Master Gardeners, and Fran Scheidt, curator of the Elmore Holly Collection at the UT Arboretum — and thanked me for coming.
And so it was. Another glorious East Tennessee day in my favorite garden spot — the UT Gardens, which has now been named the State Botanical Gardens of Tennessee. (Thanks, Gov. Haslam!)
If you missed this year’s Blooms Days, you missed a good time in a lovely setting. Hope to see you next year!
The University of Tennessee Gardens
252 Ellington Plant Sciences Building
2431 Joe Johnson Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996
Mentioned in this post:
HGTV Gardens: http://www.hgtvgardens.com
Sunlight Gardens: 174 Golden Lane, Andersonville, TN 37705; 865.494.8237; http://www.sunlightgardens.com
Dale’s Fried Pies: 865.236.1590; http://www.dalesfriedpies.com
Savory and Sweet Food Truck: http://savoryandsweettruck.com; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Savory-and-Sweet-Truck/283598151693769
The Classified Files of Sweet William Farm: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Classified-Files-of-Sweet-William-Farm-JDs-Adventures-Begin/268268469967649