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Family Plot: Gardening in the Mid-South – September 4, 2014


Hi, I’m Chris Cooper. Welcome to “The Family Plot:
Gardening in the Mid-South.” Thanks for joining us. Dahlias are easy-to-grow plants
that yield beautiful blooms from mid-summer through fall. Today we’re going to give some
tips on adding these spectacular blooms and brilliant
colors to your garden. And Andy Williams is here with
a couple of fascinating animal ambassadors. Today, we’re going to learn
more about the salamander. All of that and
more is just ahead on “The Family Plot: Gardening in
the Mid-South” so stay with us. (female announcer)
This is a production of WKNO-Memphis. Production funding for.. “The Family Plot: Gardening in
the Mid-South” is provided by Good Winds Landscape and Garden
Center, in Germantown since 1943 and continuing to offer its
plants for successful gardening with seven greenhouses
and three acres of plants. Plus, comprehensive
landscape services. [soft music] [theme music] Hi, welcome to
“The Family Plot.” I’m Chris Cooper. Joining me today is Dale Skaggs. Dale is the director of
horticulture at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. And Andy Williams is here. Andy is the director of
Lichterman Nature Center. Thanks for joining me, fellas. Oh, thanks for having us. Okay. Alright, Dale. Let’s talk about Dahlias. You have a
beautiful collection here. Yeah, let’s hear all about it. Well, um, Dahlias are not
known as being great for the Mid-South. Some people grow them. They do much better
in sort of Michigan, Ohio. Those sort of areas do
much better with Dahlias. They’re native to the
mountains of Mexico though. A lot of them are native. And so, they’re used to real hot
temperatures during the day but they like to cool off at
night, which as you know, we don’t cool off very much. But so, I really was skeptical
that we could grow Dahlias. Kennon Hampton that works
at the Dixon loves Dahlias. He’s always promoted them. He said we need to do
a Dahlia exhibition. So, last year, Brent Heath with
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs sent us some Dahlias. He said these are
southern Dahlias. They’ll work in the south. They’re great. So we planted about 45
Dahlias, nine different kinds. And, um, they were fantastic. In October, we had dinner plate
sized white flowers and they were the most photographed
blossoms at the Dixon. Wow! So from there, we sort
of took a leap of faith. And from 45, we planted 4,500. That’s a leap! Yeah. So anyway, we have a sponsorship
and we sort of have a Dahlia exhibition at the Dixon. So, we’re excited about it. Um, you know, we planted them. They kind of look like,
uh, potatoes going in. And, uh, we planted them. Then when they come up, they
look almost like vegetables before they have flowers. So, people are going,
“What are they up to,” you know, at the Dixon. And then, they started blooming. And we’ve been
blessed with a mild summer. And so, they started blooming
a little bit earlier than anticipated. And we expect them
to go through frost. And some are
performing really, really well. Some are not. We, um, we used the list
that Brent Heath gave us. But also, there’s a gentleman
that’s going to be speaking at the Dixon named John Kreiner. And he’s with the, uh, Georgia
Dahlia Association or something like that. He started a group in Georgia
in the south growing Dahlias. And he will be
speaking at the Dixon, as well. But he had a list of Dahlias. So, we sort of
looked at all the lists, decided which ones
we wanted to go with. And we’re really pleased
with the way it’s turned out. So, you should come
out and see them. Okay, sounds pretty good. So, when and where do we
need to plant these Dahlias? Well, it seems like they like a
little bit of protection from the hot afternoon sun. Although, we do have some
examples of them growing in full sun. Um, so, we found that
cultivar specific ones are. Some are just far
better than others. The Karma series seems
to do really well for us. There’s a whole series with, uh,
that had the first name Karma. Karma Surprise, Karma-whatever. And then, there’s
another series, uh, that we, uh,
we like as well. It’s all about
artists or art and things. So, it fits well at the Dixon. There’s a gallery art fair and
Monet and different artists. And those tend to
do well for us, too. But look at the diversity. I mean these are amazing. Just so different from these
single flowers to doubles. Look at this. This almost looks
like a Chrysanthemum. I mean and as you
were commenting earlier, some of them are
almost look fake. Yeah, they almost
look artificial. So, anyway. We’re all about the Dahlias this
year and excited about them. So, um.. What about the color range? There’s a wide color range. We sort of looked for these
colors that sort of complimented each other to do these displays. But they are pretty much any
color of the rainbow that you want except blue, which
is a hard color to find. Now how do you plant them? You know, you get
them in in tubers. I lot of you may have seen them. Andy and I were talking about
the ones that you see in box stores that are,
uh, in peat moss. And they look like, uh,
they look like potatoes. And you just plant them, uh, a
few inches in to the ground. And then, you want
to mulch them well. The other key to growing them in
the south is you don’t want to water them when you put them in. You want to wait
until they germinate. Not germinate but the foliage
comes up and they’re actively growing. Then, water them because
they are prone to some fungal problems with our hot nights. It’s pretty
obvious which end is up. Yeah, you can sort of
see the eye coming up. But that’s a good question. It’s kind of like
when we plant bulbs. We always tell
people pointy end up. Good question. Now how about pests? Because we talked a
little bit about that earlier. So? I know you had
asked me about slugs. And I guess slugs
could be a problem. It’s certainly a real succulent
sort of vegetation that’s, uh, would be, uh,
probably of interest to a slug. But the biggest problem
we’ve seen are the spider mites. And you know, boy, those can
multiply like crazy when it gets hot. So, we have
experienced some spider mites. I don’t know. If you do grow them and you
have problems with spider mites, I’m sure that the extension
office can help you select a product to treat those. Yeah, we can definitely do that. How do you treat spider
mites out at the Dixon? We use a product called Avid. We read somewhere that kelthane
and some of these other products are, um, will
actually damage the Dahlia. So, we’ve been using Avid, which
I believe is a growth inhibitor if I’m not mistaken. But, uh, Avid seems to
do best on the mites. Okay. And you know the way you
find them is as we were doing earlier. You can sort of take a sheet
and you look for the little red flecks on there. They look like cayenne
pepper or something. They kind of do. Yeah, so that is a
neat way to do that. They are beautiful and I hope
you’ll all get out to see them. And I hope our
audience will come see them. They’re great. Now what about
end of season care? We are going to,
just like our tulips, we’re going to take them all of
out of the ground and dry them. And we’ll probably maybe offer
some of the better ones in our spring garden fair’s plant sale. But, uh, I think you can
leave them in place in your home garden and mulch them. One of the things we found are
the purple foliage forms tend to do really well, which is nice
because they have some interest other than flowers. So, but I think I wouldn’t
hesitate to include in the perennial border. Just mulch them good and
leave them over the winter. And they should be fine. How much mulch? A couple of inches. A couple of inches I’d say. Question, Andy? Do you think that this
cool summer we had helped the Dahlias? I think we were very fortunate
in the fact that we had a cool summer, definitely. Before, they
didn’t really start. We didn’t get a lot of
flowers until later. And they started
blooming, you know, in July this year. So, we were blessed with
earlier Dahlias than usual. And they will keep
flowering until frost. The more you cut them,
the more they bloom. So, as long as
they’re well fertilized. And you have to
stake them, of course, too. A lot of them will flop. The smaller ones, not so much. But some of those big
dinner plate Dahlias, which we had eight
inch blossoms on some. And those need to be staked. Okay. Well, if you over fertilize,
you get too much foliage? Yes, yes. So, uh, we tend to
use a liquid feed, uh, you know, once a month. Give them a good liquid feed. What kind of liquid feed? Just a complete fertilizer. You know, it has
all three numbers, the N, P and K. That’s pretty good. Can you, uh, interplant
these with other plants? I think they work well. Yeah, I think they do. You know, um, we’re still
learning about Dahlias here in Memphis. I personally in my own garden,
I have not had success with Dahlias. But the big problem I was having
is I would plant them and I’d water them in immediately. You know, which is
the thing you don’t do. And so, but that would encourage
fungal problems and stuff. So, wait until
they’re sprouting. Wait until the
foliage is, you know, several inches high and
then you can water them. And then they really take off. Okay. And quickly, how
tall do they get again? Well, there’s a whole range. We have some that are.. The smallest ones are
about 16 to 18 inches. The tallest ones are four feet. Four feet! Yeah. Alright, well thanks Dale
for that good information. There are a number of gardening
events going on in the next couple of weeks. Here are just a few
that might interest you. [theme music] Alright, Andy. What do you have for us today? Well, I brought some salamanders
to talk in general about salamanders. And this is both these animals
first appearance on live T-V or on T-V period. It’s not actually live. They are. This is our native
yellow-spotted salamander. And it’s a
terrestrial salamander. The group of family he’s in
are also called mole salamanders because they live in the ground. And so, he’s kind of
shying away from the light. I just have a water
bottle nearby him. I have to keep him moist. I’m going to be taking
breaks not for beauty but for hydration. But looking at the salamander,
the first thing you notice is they look a lot like lizards. But that’s really
a superficial, uh, resemblance. There are a number of important
differences between lizards and salamanders. But, of course, you do notice
that they both have four limbs and have a tail and a face. And from there, it
just gets very different. Uh, talk about keeping hydrated. He’s got a slightly slimy.. Except when it dries out
on this particular one. But it’s permeable skin. And so, the things on
my hands and things, the water around him, the ground
around him can actually enter the body through the skin
because it’s permeable. Things also go the other
way and if he gets too dry, you know, he can dry out through
his skin through evaporation and transpiration. Wow! There’s enormous
diversity in salamanders. Like I said, they’re amphibians. They undergo metamorphosis. And a lot of us are really
familiar with frogs and toads. You know, they lay
eggs in the water. They have tadpoles and
then they metamorph. Well, the adult frogs and toads
look very different from the tadpoles. Right. Salamanders undergo
metamorphosis to varying degrees. They lay eggs and they have
larva that look much like the adults. The larva, and this
is actually an adult, actual model. This is a Mexican salamander. He’s totally aquatic. So, I think we got
some b-roll we can show. But he also has the
four legs and a tail. But you also notice
he has external gills. Larval salamanders
also have external gills. Typically if they fully
undergo metamorphosis, the gills disappear and they
develop lungs to a varying degree. But the salamanders very
wildly on a degree to which they undergo metamorphosis. You know, the larval, they come
out eating insects and such. Where as tadpoles will eat
vegetation and as they undergo metamorphosis, their digestive
tract changes and they become meat eaters. All these are carnivorous. They’ll eat slugs,
almost anything. They’re very
opportunistic feeders. But they breathe
in different ways. And some are fully
aquatic like this with gills. Some are a combination. Some salamanders that live in
the varying areas that has very stagnant hot water will, uh,
develop really evolved lungs because the hot warmer
water carries less oxygen. Those that live in free flowing
streams will have different lungs. Wow! But, anyhow. Out native terrestrial ones,
which we feature at the nature center, you don’t see that
much but they’re not endangered. They tend to live in forests
typically on the forest floor in the dirt or under the leaves. But they rely on what they
call vernal pools to reproduce. I love the world vernal pool. It sounds so
romantic and elegant. But vernal refers to spring. At the nature center, some of
our vernal pools are in an area we call mosquito alley. It’s areas of standing water
that you go through and you think oh, who could live there. Well, actually that’s a
prime territory for a variety of amphibians, especially
including the salamanders. They have a keen
honing instinct. And when the time is
right in late March, early April, the adult
salamanders will go back to the vernal pools in which they
were spawn to reproduce. They look superficially like
this but they’ll stay kind of hidden in the leaves. They stay hidden
most of the time. Okay. And in fact, one superficial
way you can tell the difference between a lizard and a
salamander is that salamanders tend to be hidden, you know, in
the ground except when they’re heading to the vernal
pools to reproduce. You really don’t
see much of them. There’s a legend that the
salamanders are immune to heat and fire. In fact, there are things called
salamanders that are cooking implements. I think they use them for
sandwiches and such because in the olden days, they used to
see salamanders coming out of bonfires and such. Actually, the reality is is that
they were definitely coming out but they were escaping from
their hidden in rotten logs and that sort of thing. So, they’re really tricky. They have some really
interesting characteristics though. They regenerate limbs and tails. And scientists
are studying that. They heal completely different
than any other vertebrae. And so, there is some
hope for replacing. Obviously, we’re looking to
replace human limbs and that sort of stuff. And, of course, I can see the
scenario where the doctor says there’s good and bad news. The good news is you’re
getting your hand back. The bad news is it’s
going to be covered in mucus. They’re really trying to figure
out the healing mechanism. But they don’t scar like we do. Instead of, uh, like
we actually scar over. The wound heals but it is
not the same as it was in the beginning. When they heal, limbs, tail
and some internal organs, it turns in to a new version
of the organ or limb that they lost. How about that? Can skinks do that
to a certain degree? Well, lizards and skinks
do replace their tail. But it’s a
different type of tissue. These, if they
replace their tails, it does take a lot of energy. But they do use that same
sort of defense mechanism. But, uh, salamander tail that’s
lost and regenerates will be an exact reproduction with
new tissue of the old. Whereas skinks, if
they lost their tail, you’ll look at it and you’ll see
a very different looking sort of tail. It won’t be as long. But they did
survive to, you know, see another day. How about that? Now what do they eat? They’re opportunistic feeders. They eat any bug that
they can get a hold of. Spider mites, exactly. A new organic control, huh? But they typically
with more slugs, centipedes, millipedes
and that sort of stuff. These will eat snails, mollusks. They feed in different ways. They have teeth. They have, I think,
more teeth as an adult. Even the larval form have teeth. The terrestrial salamanders like
the yellow spotted salamanders actually will. They have some sense of
smell and they’re more eye sight oriented hunters. But they’ll go up to stuff. And, of course, a slug is
pretty easy to catch up to. Oh, yeah. Typically, if you can
walk around like this guy. But they go and they put their
head next to it and they extend their tongue and pull it in to
their mouth with their tongue. And they push it back by
contraction of their jaw muscles. And frogs can do this, too. They push their eyes down. And it puts the prey
back in to their body. He probably.. The rocks in here.. He’s got a different sub
straight in his tank but he’ll go down. Oh, there he goes! You see that pump? There’s suction. You know, of course,
they have tongues. But they’re not
sticky like that. It’s a very
efficient way to eat. Yeah. It just kind of vacuums it in. But they’re opportunistic. They’re really not stuck
on any particular diet. But their habitat.. They’re very
habitat-specific animals. The Axolotls are either extinct
or nearly extinct in the wild due to loss of habitat. Okay. They basically come from two
lakes in Mexico near Mexico City. They drained one to
prevent flooding. And the other is heating up. And they have a
chemical in there. There are fungal diseases
that are reducing salamander habitats. But you just
don’t think about it. But they say well, why
should we save the salamanders. Well, you know, you might say
that about any number of things. But, you know, the possibilities
of animals that are primitive and different than, uh, other
animals that you encounter are just worth saving. Wow! Andy, absolutely fascinating! That was good. Appreciate that. Alright, here’s
our Q and A session. Okay. So, Andy, you jump
in there with us, okay? Here’s our first one and
it’s a question from Kathy. She writes: Can you cut peonies
back after they bloom in the spring? And when is the best
time to transplant them? Dale, what do you
think about that question? Well, I’d probably say the
best time to transplant is when they’re dormant. And, uh, you know,
a lot of peonies, the foliage looks pretty ratty
after they flower when it starts to get hot. So, we always tell people to
plant early and the mid-peonies. Not the late season peonies
because the foliage looks so bad. And they bloom less because of
the foliage looking bad later in the season. I don’t see any problem with
cutting the foliage back and letting it rejuvenate. If that helps it look clean, I
don’t see a problem with that. But, uh, in terms
of transplanting, I guess when they’re dormant. We sell them in containers in
the Dixon at our garden fair. They’re always popular and
tend to do well from container plants, too. Isn’t planting depth the
critical variable here? Yes, you don’t want to
plant them too deep. Shallow planting in good,
well amended garden soil. Okay. Well, I hope that
helps you out Miss Kathy. And, you know, of course, every
time I think about peonies, I think about Ellen LeBlond. Yeah, because I know at
one time she had a farm. Yeah, down in DeSoto County. She was growing
peonies for cut flowers. And so, she has helped us with
our plant sale in the past and is really fond of the peonies
and a fountain of information when it comes to it. When I saw that
question, I thought about Ellen. I was like yeah,
she would love that. Okay, here’s our next question. What can I mix in my soil to
make it a good planting bed? And I’m going to ask each
one of you this question. We’re going to
start with you, Andy. Well, the first
thing, of course, you should do is to contact your
office for a soil test to see what you really need. But the knee jerk
reaction for me, I always like to incorporate a
lot of organic matter in the soil. There’s here in Memphis,
there’s a lot of clay. You know, there are different
things and different people. But the classic answer
is to add sand to clay. But the theory
that if you add sand, clay and heat it,
you’ve got bricks. So, I think it’s hard to go
wrong with organic matter. If you’re going to
add other things, particularly, um,
chemical agents, you really need to know what
you’re starting with before you start tampering with it. So, specifically at
Lichterman Nature Center, I mean, do you guys add a
lot of organic material? Varying things right now. We have a gold mine. We over ordered mulch
a couple of years ago. And so, we’ve got some compost
that’s been broken down over a couple of years. And it really works out well. We also, we
repurpose planting media. We bake it in the sun. At some years when
we haven’t done that, we just got in a hurry. We found we actually had
pre-emergents in there that were damping off seedlings. The fungus and pre-emergents
that were doing a number on it. We do have some volunteers
that will collect bags. I talked about in a
previous episode. Yeah, we put the
non in non-profit. [laughter] We use anything we
can get our hands on. Right now, we’ve got a real gold
mine with the compost and mulch. Good deal. How about you, Dale? Organic material is
certainly a no-brainer. And to address the question
about bricks and clay and sand. I think, you know, if
you’re talking about white sand, which has an even consistency
in terms of the particle size, you know, you
could be right there. But what I
recommend is red sand. And, uh, the red
sand, if you notice, it has almost a little bit
smaller than pea gravel all the way down to smaller particles. And I’ve had really good success
with that for a number of years incorporating that in the soil. The reason that I like it
is because after the organic material has broken down
and is no longer there, you still have
something to keep it loose. Um, but organic
material, we use worm castings. It’s sort of the
Cadillac that we use. That’s the great stuff. And there’s a
place out of Coalmont, Tennessee that we found tractor
trailer loads of this stuff. So, it’s a little pricy. But, you know, there’s lots of
organic material from the leaves that you’re hauling away. Composting on site. Soil conditioner in bags. Usually, that’s just pine fines. And I like.. Seems to be, maybe because
construction hasn’t been as big and they’re harder
to get these day. But most of your nursery plants
that you buy are growing in pine fines. Okay. And so, I kind of think well, if
they’re growing in that and you mix some in your soil, it gives
them something they’re used to. I don’t know if there’s any
truth to that but it sounds good. It sounds good to me. So anyway, yeah. I like to layer it out about
four inches of organic material, two inches of sand and till
it in and deep as you can. Alright, here’s the next one. Is it time to cut
back my Azaleas yet? Dale, what do you
think about that one? Depends on what
your objective is. If your objective is to
not have flowers next year, now is the perfect time. Typically you prune them
immediately after they flower. I watched a neighbor. I just don’t want
to be a know-it-all. I watched a neighbor go in and
just trimming them all back. And I’m going okay. There’s all your
flowers for next year. But immediately
after they flower, you can actually go through, uh,
maybe the first week in July or something like that
depending on what you, uh.. If it’s a later flowering one,
you might even be able to push that out a little bit. But that’s the best time to
prune them for a spring flower. And again, as I always preach,
this is what you need to prune with. Shears will work but
this is so much better. I do have a
counterpoint of that. You know I’m not a big
Azalea fan precisely. But, you know, the bloom
carries just a week or two. And you do lose some
bloom if you clip now. But, you know, you have
to decide what’s worse. A few less blooms that you
really can’t measure versus a shrub that’s
growing out of bounds. You go by houses where the
garden has just gotten away from them. And if you don’t trim them
right after they bloom.. Sometimes there’s a reason. Like if you’re busy
travel, you know, high school graduations or
something that’s likely to repeat. So, if you lose some
blooms for a year, what’s the big deal, I guess. But, you know, what they say. Prune when the shears are sharp. So, um, it’s not
going to hurt the plant. But it will cut off your bloom. That was a good point by
Andy because I’ve heard that, as well, too. Okay, we’re going to be
real quick on this last one. Why are my eggplant
fruits not ripening properly? Any thoughts? Too cool of a summer. Yes, they like it hot. That would be mine, too. They like it hot. I would check for
flea beetle damage. They’re real small flea beetles
that will eat little small holes in the leaves. I would check for that
and poor, infertile soils. Also, we’re taking for granted
that you have good drainage and you’re growing in
full, baking sun. Like you said, they
just like it hot. Alright. Dale, Andy. Thanks for having us. Be sure to connect with us. We’ll send you weekly e-mail
updates about “Family Plot.” Just go online to wkno-dot-org
and sign up under “Get Local Show Updates.” The e-mail address is
Familyplot-at-wkno-dot-org. You can also follow us
on Facebook and Twitter. That’s all we
have time for today. Thanks for watching. I’m Chris Cooper. Be sure to join
us next time for “The Family Plot:
Gardening in the Mid-South.” Be safe! [theme music] (female announcer)
Production funding for.. “The Family Plot: Gardening in
the Mid-South” is provided by Good Winds Landscape and Garden
Center, in Germantown since 1943 and continuing to offer its
plants for successful gardening with seven greenhouses
and three acres of plants. Plus, comprehensive
landscape services. CLOSED CAPTIONING
PROVIDED BY WKNO-MEMPHIS.

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