Lens-Artists Challenge 105: Spring

Painted dogwood in UT Gardens

Knoxville is the ugliest city I ever saw in America, with the possible exception of some mill towns in New England.

John Gunther, 1947

With that caustic statement (actually a blessing in disguise), Knoxville took note. We Knoxvillians had a pretty city then, but we have an even prettier city now. And to top it all, that one Gunther statement launched a celebration of a certain flower — the dogwood — that has put Knoxville on the map as one of the loveliest cities in America.

Dogwood, Knoxville TN

Knoxville’s Dogwood Arts Festival began in 1961, just a few years after Gunther’s derogatory statement. A group of interested citizens came up with the idea to develop trails through pretty subdivisions in bloom and also hold citywide activities showcasing artistry of all kinds when Knoxville is at its prettiest — springtime!

Now, 65 years later, Knoxville is still celebrating the flowering dogwood tree, but activities span all seasons. In fact, this month, July 2020, the University of Tennessee Gardens, installed a new display –– Dazzling Dogwoods Exhibition. Springtime dogwoods (wooden silhouettes artistically designed by local artists) stand tall amid the full-on colors of summer in the pathways and beds so beautifully maintained by the UT Gardens staff.

UT Color Garden, July 2020
UT Color Garden, July 2020

This parade of artistry begins at the entrance to the gardens, but they’re noticeable even at a distance since they dominate the landscape. Visitors are encouraged to walk the sidewalks in, around, and through the flower beds so they can enjoy artistic interpretations of Knoxville’s favorite flower. And here are a few of our favorite dogwoods.

Dogwood: Cute as a Button
“Cute as a Button” by Tina Hawrys, positioned near the old rusted truck in the UT Gardens
Dogwood: Every Spring by Candace Gilbert
“Every Spring” by Candace Gilbert
"DOGwood" by Bill Cameron
A cut paper collage called “DOGwood” by Bill Cameron
"Dogwood Daze" by Janet Kasper
Featuring a bejeweled center is this entry: “Dogwood Daze” by Janet Kasper

So, with this new exhibition, Knoxville celebrates the springtime flower that has moved our town from Gunther’s description of the “ugliest city in America” to one filled with blooms. It’s just another way that spring and summer work hand in hand at the UT Gardens to spread a bit of color and definition in the city that we love.

A painted dogwood in the background leads visitors to strolls among the flowers.

You can follow both UT Gardens and Dogwood Arts Festival on Instagram at @utgardensknoxville and @dogwoodarts. If you want to purchase one of the dogwood silhouettes for your own garden, the artist renderings will be up for auction on September 8th — just in time for you to put a little spring in your own backyard!

Visit Knoxville — one of the prettiest cities anywhere!

Rusha & Bert

This post is one of the “seasonal” entries for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. To see more, head to Tina Schell’s blog, Travels and Trifles, and click on the links in the comments section. Two other seasons will be represented on these dates: Autumn on July 18 and Winter on July 25.

24 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge 105: Spring

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      I’m thinking that the comments just jump-started our community. So many things were “out to prove” that man wrong — and I believe we did. Knoxville is beautiful, especially in the spring.

  1. JohnRH

    Excellent photos, and unique. I like the Hepburn quote. I hadn’t heard of John Gunther before, but I suppose Knoxville and I will survive. 🙂

  2. Curt Mekemson

    Neat idea on the artistic flowers, Rusha. Very creative. Dogwood grows in our area as well and is a favorite flower of mine. And then there are the trips down the Natchez Parkway in the spring. Wow! –Curt

  3. kzmcb

    I do think dogwoods are beautiful. I’m pretty sure we don’t have them in Australia, although we could probably grow them, given we have every climate, somewhere. I’ll have to investigate this. Have a great day.

      1. kzmcb

        Well, I’m glad I looked into it. It would appear that the winters where I live would suit it well, but it will need lots of water in summer. I’m going to consult a gardening expert, as we have the hottest summers in Australia and my area will supply plenty of hot winds, but little rain. I’ve even picked out a spot for it…

  4. Amy

    A colorful and beautiful city. It’s a great idea of working with UT! I love dogwoods, I have seen them in Tallahassee, Fla.

  5. Pit

    A great combination of real and artificial flowers in that garden. They compliment each other.
    Have a wonderful Sunday,

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks so much. I loved my trip to the gardens to see the blooms and the dogwoods. But oh, my, it was hot. Not sure if Knoxville can make it through the week ahead. And I may be staying in!!! Hope you’re safe and cool where you are.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      It’s a really great concept. And I’m glad it’s installed while summer is in full bloom. A great time to visit. (But I’ll go early morning next time. It’s a hot one coming up again this week!)

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