In The Garden, July 9, 2024

In the Garden

Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener


      Long-time readers know that my vacations always include visiting gardens, and my recent trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee with two great-nephews and a great-niece was no exception.  While the rental house in which we spent our week lacked any landscaping, we found several gardens to visit in the area.

     One of the must-see venues in Chattanooga is the aquarium.  That may not be a garden, but the aquarium actually has some interesting garden areas.  The attraction is divided into two portions, one being a river theme and the other concentrating on oceans.  While the river side has exhibits about the rivers of the world, a large portion deals with the ecosystem of the Tennessee River, which flows right by the aquarium.  Ecosystems involve the plant life along and in the water, and the exhibits showcased many native plants.

     Just down the street from the aquarium is the Discovery Center.  While not as lavish as the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, there was plenty to keep the children busy for several hours on a rainy day.  Again, plants play an important part in some of the inter-active exhibits.  A section on pollinators included the plants that attract and feed pollinators, including both native plants and other flowers and herbs.  There is also an exhibit promoting honeybees.  Again, the plants that supply the nectar from which the bees make honey were an important part of that exhibit.

     Also in the downtown river district is an area of several blocks known as the arts district.  The district includes several galleries and stores selling the work of area artists, but surrounding the stores and along the river are some beautiful gardens.  I was especially impressed with an area where American holly had been sculpted into tight hedges.  Interesting sculptures, both modern and traditional, are surrounded by gardens featuring both native plants and non-natives.  My personal favorite garden in the arts district was a vertical herb garden.  It was made by affixing a six-foot section of a hog panel between up-right four-by-fours.  Several troughs were fastened to the fence wires, and herbs had been planted in each trough.  It is something I would like to replicate here at Sandhill Gardens.

     Chattanooga and the towns in the suburbs have many parks, and there are several state parks near-by.  The parks afford opportunities to get out into nature, both on land and water.  It seems my car also automatically pulled into the lots of nurseries and garden centers, and I found an herb plant for which I have been searching.

     The area does have a noteworthy botanical garden.  That garden is found just over the Georgia border in Rock City.  The gardens included a lot of native shade plants, including oak-leaf hydrangeas, azaleas and laurels.  They also have made good use of some of my favorite shade plants, such as hostas and hellebores.  However, the star of the garden is the mountain itself, on which native stones have been used to construct amazing venues.  We crossed a swinging bridge to reach the famous look-out, from which portions of seven states may be seen.  Even a youngster who “does not like looking at plants” found this garden to be a fun place to visit.  The gift shop included many items to bring a memory home to the garden.  I chose a rain-chain windchime, but I regret that I did not purchase a birdhouse that looks like the barns where Rock City has been advertised for more than 80 years.

     Even the trip home brought a chance to view gardens.  I stopped in Nashville and took a couple of hours to visit the conservatories that make up the Opryland Hotel.  Although I have visited there many times, I never tire of experiencing the beauty of the gardens and man-made landscapes.






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