Yucca filamentosa ‘gloriosa’ blooms in the Mitchell Garden

Yucca blooms-Photo by Jeanne Cope

Yucca blooms-Photo by Jeanne Cope

 With planting care, yucca can grow into a small clump in a year or two. Easy care is limited to cutting off old bloom stalks and removing dead leaves. Yucca prefers full sun with good drainage and is hardy from zone 4 south to zone 10.

Wet yucca roots will rot, killing the plant. It grows easily in poor soil in the southern regions of the USA, and deserts of the southwest. Two popular varieties are the standard green leaf and the green leaf outlined in white, ‘Bright Edge yucca’.

 There are 9 species and 24 subspecies of yucca. The plant has large, stiff, sword like leaves. Common names aptly describe this plant while pointing out dangers to humans and small animals. Names such as Spanish dagger, Spanish bayonet, and Adam’s needle warn folks not to touch or play football near this plant, which can puncture an arm or basketball with equal finesse. To prune use heavy gloves because leaves are capable of removing a finger.

 White/Ivory blooms top two-foot tall bloom stalks on each plant. Sun, shining through the blooms makes a translucent statement of beauty that may be seen from a distance. Yuccas in the Mitchell garden were planted by Marjorie, Sam’s Mother, when she lived on the farm. Her plants have been carefully tended by Irene since she and Sam moved onto the property.

 Yucca begin blooming in late spring, continue through summer, and into early fall. Established plants are difficult to remove because of deep, spreading roots and dangerous leaves. Yucca trees grow in the Mohave Desert.

 I knew a professor who devoted many years working with parts of the yucca plant, trying to develop a cure for some types of cancer. He advertised each summer for blooms and leaves of yucca to use with his experiments. He died before his research was complete and no one continued his work.

 If you would like to plant a yucca, locate it in full sun, well-drained soil, and in a location to the back of the border where it does not threaten family or lawn mowers. I have seen many yucca plants with the tips cut off their leaves in an attempt to protect family from danger. Removing tips is not sufficient because the entire leaf is sharp as a razor.

 In rural Appalachian areas, leaves of yucca filamentosa, are called “meat hangers”, as its sharp spiny tips and tough fibrous leaves are used in puncturing meat as well as knotted in order to form a loop wherein meat can be hung in smoke houses or for salt curing.

Yucca Blooms - Photo by Jeanne Cope

Yucca Blooms – Photo by Jeanne Cope

Listed as deer proof in some research, hungry deer will eat anything, including yucca blooms.

A symbiotic relationship exists between the yucca and yucca moths from the family Prodoxidae. Different species of yucca serve as host plants for the caterpillar of the Ursine Giant-Skipper and several other butterflies. This is truly a plant for the right place and heavy gloves.

Pitcher Plants are Carnivorous

Water Lilies are beautiful. and so are pitcher plants which are carniverous

Pitcher plants are carnivores – Photo by Jeanne Cope

In the entire plant world, some of the most unlikely and astonishing are the carnivores. These curious plants living in bogs, sometimes wet and sometimes dry, keep themselves healthy by consuming bugs.

Several days ago, the group called SAPS, Southern Appalachian Plant Society, took a trip to Asheville, NC to visit several gardens. One of the most spectacular was a rock garden with hundreds of remarkable plants, many of which were carnivores. Added to the list of gardens to visit at the last minute, the suggestion came from Garden Friend, Nancy Kavanaugh. The rock garden rated world-class, was a shining example to see and study.

When living in Tallahassee, Florida, Jack and I took many drives to the Gulf coast. The roadway revealed miles of wetlands with trees stripped off the land. No reclamation ever began. As a year or more passed, we saw the decimated landscape along the highway.

Then one spring the wetland was in bloom. Upon close examination, there were pitcher plants everywhere in the wetland. We pulled over and dug a few of these beautiful carnivores. Purchasing a large kitty-litter box, we added soil, rocks, and a little water. We placed the box in the dappled shade of tall pine trees where the plants thrived. Kept slightly damp, rain sometimes filled the box, and then the water evaporated with the humidity of summer. Continue reading

Ten Simple Steps to Grow Herbs Organically

An Intimate Herb Garden  - Photo by Jeanne Cope

An Intimate Herb Garden – Photo by Jeanne Cope

1.   Get rid of chemicals and purchase organic seed and plants for your garden.

 2.   Make a raised bed 4 feet long by no more than 4 feet wide, or better yet, select a mostly sunny site near the kitchen door and design a free-form herb garden. Use a large 20 inch diameter non-clay pot for an herb garden, right at the door.

 3.  Many herbs, as those used in Italian cooking, grow in a desert-like, Mediterranean climate. Little water or soil enrichments are needed. Mix small gravel with hard clay to loosen soil and improve drainage. Continue reading

The Spectacular Garden of Dr. and Mrs. David Doane

Dr .Doane enjoys his pets - Photo by Jeanne Cope

Dr .Doane enjoys his pets – Photo by Jeanne Cope

To walk the grounds of a magnificent estate and view the various gardens is a wonderful way to spend the morning.

Situated in the rolling countryside near Jonesborough, one finds the property of Dr. and Mrs. David Doane. No matter the season, the gardens are interesting. Every turn shows blooms; hydrangeas in pink, blue, and lavender, with brilliant red Knockout roses full of blooms. 

Many trees, some of which were on the property when purchased years ago, shade the grounds, others planted by the Doanes are now full grown. Dappled shade predominates on the morning landscape.The beautiful old home stands in stately glory surveying the landscaping added over time.  Continue reading

Gardening in June


  • Involve children in gardens, they love their hands in dirt. Introduce seeds, use sticks to label the rows.
  • If not already done, plant warm season vegetables as tomatoes, peppers, squashes and tender annuals
  • Allow the children to select the vegetables they like to eat, and grow them themselves
  • Our parents and grandparents taught us to grow our own food, we can give the same gift to our children.
  • Our youngest gardeners are the greatest, quick to learn, love to try new stuff
  • Make an herb garden of the herbs you use most often in cooking, many herbs are perennials and stay green all winter
  • Devote one hour a week to weed removal, otherwise they will outgrow flowers and vegetables
  • Renew mulch as needed. Three inches is good to help control weeds and maintain moisture.
  • Keep up with weeds, use minute amounts of round-up applied with a natural bristle paint brush to touch leaves as they first come up.  This is Ben Hunter’s idea!
  • Deadhead flowers, trim old peony and iris bloom stalks to tidy up the plants.
  • If you planted garlic in October, dig it up when the leaves begin to turn brown, the end of June or early July.  Gently wipe off dirt, tie in bunches and place in a cool dry place to dry before removing tops.  In California garlic with tops is braided with dried flowers into bunches.
  • Continue to replant vegetables, try growing popcorn, grows small, fast, and easy
  • As days warm, use the thinest row cover or shade cloth to shade lettuce and extend the season for cole crops

Rhododendron, tall, pink and proud

Dick and Jane's Pink Rhododendron - Photo by Jeanne Cope

Dick and Jane’s Pink Rhododendron – Photo by Jeanne Cope

Rhododendron, a Sturdy, Worthy, Woody Shrub

Thirty years ago, Dick and Jane Conger were busy adding plants to their landscape. They planted a beautiful small pink rhododendron against the back wall of the garage. As the plant bloomed and grew, it became taller and wider and each spring it had more blooms than the year before. Now, after all those years, the rhododendron is about 15 feet tall and perhaps 8 feet wide.

This spring the plant has blooms on each branch in a delightful shade of pink shining in front of the gray wall of the garage as a perfect background for the lovely dark green leaves and pink blooms. Several years ago, the rhododendron grew a new, tall, 4-foot center branch. Jane suggested cutting it off, but Dick thought maybe not. Continue reading

Enlightenment is Attending the Mother Earth Fair

Mother Earth Fair Program Photo by Jeanne Cope

Mother Earth Fair Program Photo by Jeanne Cope

Several weeks ago, Mother Earth News held a Fair in Asheville, NC.  Knowing Asheville, was the center of non-GMO foods, gardens, farms, restaurants, and Farmer’s Markets, it was important to attend. It was a beautiful, sunny day for a drive across the mountain. Folks came from all over the East to attend the Fair such that traffic on Saturday was barely creeping on I-26 toward exit 40. It took nearly an hour to reach the exit once we arrived in Asheville.

Arriving at the gate across from the Airport, it took another 45 minutes to enter the grounds, park and get into the fair proper. A bit of an ordeal, but well worth the trouble. Continue reading

How to Grow Culinary Herbs

An Intimate Herb Garden  - Photo by Jeanne Cope

An Intimate Herb Garden – Photo by Jeanne Cope

Herbs, mostly native to Mediterranean areas, prefer a rather dry, sunny location in which to thrive, the exception is basil, which enjoys a moist environment. 

For a stronger flavor and aroma, omit fertilizer. Instead, use well rotted organic compost. Allow ample room between plants to provide free air circulation enabling plants to grow healthier and cut down on diseases.

Place the herb garden near the kitchen door for easy access. Use a 20” diameter herb pot at the back door on the deck. Fill the pot with perennial herbs as sage, parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme.

 Favorite annual herbs are basil, dill, cilantro, chives, oregano, parsley, sage, and mint. Consider garlic, onions and shallots as herbs although they are aromatics.


 Never, ever, use chemicals on your herbs.  Carefully hand-pick and dunk bugs in a pail of hot soapy water. Continue reading

Beautiful Flame and Exbury Azaleas Blooming in the Bailey Garden

Flame azaleas blooming in  the Bailey Garden-Photo by Jeanne Cope

Flame azaleas blooming in the Bailey Garden-Photo by Jeanne Cope

Spring is especially beautiful in the garden of Hosea and Linda Bailey, who with their twin sons, Chad and Brad have spent many hours over a period of years developing and nurturing their garden. As the boys grew, they became adept at planting, and taking care of the many plants in the garden surrounding the home.

Graduating in May from East Tennessee State University, both sons will return this fall to pursue Masters Degrees. Proud parents walk the garden and we discuss magnificent azaleas, some now blooming, others soon to burst into bloom.

Hosea rescued flame azaleas growing on the mountains. Working with the Tennessee DOT. his job took him onto new road sites ahead of heavy equipment to remove vegetation for roads. Now his flame azaleas bloom in bright colors unseen in cultivated varieties of evergreen azaleas. Bright orange, brilliant pink, red and gold. Continue reading

Dogwood Blooms Paint a Portrait of Spring

Colors mingle in a Portrait of Spring - Photo by Jeanne Cope

Colors mingle in a Portrait of Spring – Photo by Jeanne Cope

Now we see it, then we do not, but a change of view adds an entire new perspective to the spring scene. Years ago, someone planted two dogwood trees in front of an historic home. The trees grew up about 30 feet apart until their branches mingled and wove themselves back and forth into a tapestry of dark pink and white.

Each spring, standing close to the trees, and looking up into the sky, we get a new view, almost red, white, and blue. Each time we see such a sight we remember we might do the same for our generation, plus more. So why not go ahead a plant such combinations while we are considering taking action. We simply say to ourselves, let’s just do it now! Continue reading