Gardening Partners

of Dickson County

March 2014 speaker, Rita Venable

Our speaker in March will be Rita Venable, talking about butterflies. Click here for more information.

The woods poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) that live on the north side of the house have emerged from the ground, but the leaf litter is still a challenge for their one inch of spring growth.

Woods Poppy

Woods Poppy

February 2014 Speaker

Purple martin eggs and nest inside gourd

Purple martin eggs and nest inside gourd

Kevin Barker will be talking on all aspects of Purple Martins, from the natural history of the birds to how to raise the right kind of gourds and build a martin house. Link to the speaker page with more photos and information.

Rita Venable will be talking on butterflies in March, so the first quarter of 2014 will address bees, birds, and butterflies. We should be well pollinated by the time spring arrives!

Farmers Market Boot Camp, Dickson, Feb 26, 2014

Download Registration Form

Farmers who sell products at farmers markets will have an opportunity to learn how to increase sales, improve customer relationships and navigate business tax rules at six Farmers Market Boot Camp Workshops across Tennessee in February and March. These workshops will be taught by specialists from University of Tennessee Extension and Tennessee Department of Agriculture and are open to all farmers market vendors.

The Farmers Market Boot Camp Workshops will be held in Memphis (Feb 24), Dyersburg (Feb 25), Dickson (Feb 26), Fayetteville (Mar 4), Chattanooga (Mar 5) and Harriman (Mar 6) and will last from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The workshops are intended for farmers market vendors and will cover the following topics:

  • Get on Board—How to Increase Sales with Electronic Payments and SNAP
  • Calling All Cooks—Food Manufacturing With a Domestic Food Permit
  • Are You Covered? Be Informed About Liability Risk
  • Calling All Cooks—Food Manufacturing in a Commercial Kitchen
  • Catch Your Customers’ Eye With a Great Booth Display
  • Keep the Wolves at Bay—Know the Rules About Business Tax
  • A Grower’s Perspective: Helping Customers Get What They Want at the Farmers Market
  • Guidelines for Sampling Produce at the Farmers Market

Preregister to attend the workshops by contacting Nancy Austin at or at 865-974-7717. There is no cost to attend but preregistration is required at least 5 days prior to the workshop. Due to space limitations, registration is limited to 40 participants in some locations.

This workshop qualifies as one course toward the educational requirements to receive 50% TAEP cost share for ONLY: Fruits & Vegetables and Value-Added diversification sectors. For additional information regarding educational programs for TAEP credit, please contact Erica Alexander at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, 615-837-5344.

For more information about the workshop locations and directions, visit under educational events. Other questions can be directed to Hal Pepper at the Center for Profitable Agriculture – 931-486-2777 or

Clematis Photos

I forgot to include the clematis photos on the last post. This is a beautiful little Clematis in the Subgenus Viornae, of which there are many species. It scrambles along the road bank, and is easy to miss if you don’t look close. Interesting link to a website with more information.

Clematis foliage

The foliage, three leaves like garden clematis, but without the toothed edges

Clematis, probably in the Subgenus Viornae

The flowers mostly face down, but that leaves the color showing on the top.

Clematis, probably in the Subgenus Viornae

Clematis, probably in the Subgenus Viornae

Native Lily and Clematis

BR D879

Wildflowers are making a comeback from being sprayed with poison on this section of the roadway.

There is a section of Brazzell Rd. that Dickson Electric System sprayed with some kind of poison in the summer of 2011. This year the bank has begun to return to the condition it was in before the spraying, though some plants will never recover.

It appears that the large golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis) population was completely wiped out. Golden seal is listed as being of special concern in Tennessee because of commercial exploitation. Another native plant I no longer see here is Phlox pilosa. Others that have struggled to survive include various ferns (christmas, ebony spleenwort, and maidenhair) and shrubs, such as native azalea and Hydrangea arborescens, our native lacecap. The shrubs do an excellent job of stabilizing the road cuts at two different places on the road, but since they have been killed back the heavy rains make earth slides onto the roadway. The wildflower list from this site is extensive, including Jacob’s ladder, Indian pink, mayapple, trillium, wild asters, ditany, fire pinks, wild geranium, heuchera, iris, krigia, canada anemone (endangered), rue anemone, solomon seal, false solomon seal, toothworts, and the list goes on.

Canada lily

Canada lily

Yesterday when I was driving in, I spotted a canada lily in bloom and went back today with the camera. Lilium canadense is listed as threatened in Tennessee. I only found 2 plants. There used to be a few more, before the bank was sprayed. This flower is pollinated by butterflies, honeybees and leaf-cutting bees, and by ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Clematis, possibly viorna

Also found one of our native Clematis, probably in the sub-genus Viornae. It has rambled all over the bank.

A Good Neighbor

Note the "branch" in the center tree in the top half of the photo.

Note the “branch” in the center tree in the top half of the photo.

As I was walking back from getting the mail, I noticed a peculiar looking branch on a black gum tree, Nyssa sylvatica, beside the drive. (Of course, I walked right under this tree going to get the mail. This is why I always laugh when people say there aren’t any snakes around their house.) As I got  closer, the “branch” resolved itself into an eastern black kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula nigra. The TWRA website describes this snake as three to four feet in length, but this specimen seemed a tad longer than that. Further internet research uncovered a website reporting an EBK examined at the Louisville Zoo that measured 58.5″ in length, exceeding the Peterson Field Guide record of 58″.

Kingsnakes prey on rodents, rabbits, amphibians, birds, bird eggs, lizards, and other snakes. Their name derives from their ability to kill and eat other snakes, especially poisonous ones. Kingsnakes play an important ecological role in controlling venomous snakes.

For scale, the tree truck is about 6" in diameter.

For scale, the tree truck is about 6″ in diameter.

Because of their diet, I’m always glad when I find a kingsnake on patrol. Since I will not put poison out for mice (lots of owls are killed by eating poisoned mice), I keep mice traps out all the time. But emptying mouse traps is not exactly my favorite activity, nor is finding a mouse nest built in a sheep’s fleece I had just cleaned. I live on a dry ridge, prime copperhead real estate, so the kingsnakes do double duty by taking care of both the mice and other snakes.

Of course, they also eat other reptiles. There are  lots of  eastern fence lizardsSceloporus undulatus, and at least one species of  five-line skink Plestiodon sp. living around the house. I’ve never gotten close enough to examine the labial scales (along the upper lip between the nose and eye) or rear end scales to make a species identification on the five-lines. The lizards do bug patrol and the skinks also include baby mice in their diet, so it’s “Hello, skinks; goodbye, Orkin!” One day I stepped out on the deck and found a five-line running straight at me. He didn’t even slow down when he saw me, just kept coming. I looked back along his path to find a kingsnake coming to a screeching halt. I’m not sure how a snake can have an expression on his face, but somehow he managed to look a little ticked at having just lost his dinner.

The Wrens Have Moved

The wrens are so done with the fancy house. With the last brood fledged, they have now built in a plastic container that bungee cords came in. That’s what I get for leaving it laying open on a table on the carport. It is right beside the car and to get in the studio I have to walk so close that I could touch the nest.

I'm keeping my eye on you!

I’m keeping my eye on you!

The Wrens Have Babies

Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

Several years ago, I bought the fish from the clay artist who always had the booth behind me at the Pink Palace Craft Show in Memphis, thinking it would make a great home for art-minded wrens. I hung it by the front door and waited til spring. Then til the next spring. And so on, until this year. I was sitting on my porch spinning wool when I realized the wrens had moved in and were already raising a family. The camera was about ten feet from the nest for the pictures of the adults.