Through The Garden Gate of Mike and Terri Eckert – Brentwood, Tennessee
“We enjoy entertaining our friends and family on our patio and in the garden, and love to hear the excitement in their voices when they talk about the beauty we have brought to the old bald patch! We also take great pride in having increased the outdoor living space that can be used all year round.” Mike and Terri Eckert
Featured Gardeners: Mike and Terri Eckert
Location: Brentwood, Tennessee
Years Gardening: 20+
How much time do you spend gardening? For instance, would you consider yourself a daily daisy, weekend wildflower, spring and summer succulent, or occasional orchid?
We are definitely daily daisies. The heat and strong sun that comes with a Tennessee summer requires daily watering, even in a shade garden!
Describe your garden(s) or gardening activities:
Our house sits on one acre and visitors enter from the back of the house. Our mission in designing our garden was to create a beautiful welcome for company, as well as a peaceful respite loaded with lots of color, movement and texture to make it interesting. It was a completely bare patch when we brought in and laid down 4,000 pounds of stone to create a winding path around a tall pin oak, the focal point of our garden. The oak provides complete shade for a variety of hostas, huercheras, caladiums and other heirloom shade plants.
In the sunnier parts of the garden, we included two varieties of Dwarf Oak Leaf Hydrangeas (a new hybrid that was developed at University of Tennessee Extension Service Center in Winchester), a butterfly bush, coleus, and sweet peas vines. New cobalt blue pots, along with antique concrete urns and rustic clay pots draw the eye from the start of the path up to the top of the garden and are filled with petunias, geraniums, new guinea impatiens, and begonia. On the rise, a shrimp bush and sweet potato vine are nested in a tall blue urn framed by a pair of pampas grasses, which will provide privacy when full grown. All these plants draw hummingbirds along with robins, blue birds, doves, mockingbirds, cardinals, blue jays and yellow finches. Further up in the garden are two existing pear trees and two apple trees. We added two fig trees, LSU and Celeste (also known as Tennessee Mountain).
Rounding out this years’ planting is a Japanese Scented Vibernum snowball bush, which was dedicated to the memory of Terri’s late parents. Five yards of black cedar mulch and river rocks were the finishing touches providing a manicured look. A wrought iron swing provides a great place to daydream.
What about your garden(s) or gardening activities has given you the most pride?
We enjoy entertaining our friends and family on our patio and in the garden, and love to hear the excitement in their voices when they talk about the beauty we have brought to the old bald patch! We also take great pride in having increased the outdoor living space that can be used all year round.
What about your garden(s) or gardening activities has been the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
This is our first summer in Tennessee, so getting to know the climate and growing conditions has been our first and foremost challenge. We have lost a few plants along the way, but are keeping a garden journal so we won’t make the same planting mistakes next year. In addition, we have abundant wildlife to include deer, moles, voles, skunk and chipmunks, so we are constantly watching to see what they will eat next! We are still working on getting that under control. We want to experiment with certain herbs and other vegetation that we understand will repel wildlife.
What advice would you give to a novice gardener who is just starting out?
Knowing your soil is very important, so send soil samples to your local agriculture department to be analyzed for deficiencies. Do your research and know where your local and reputable nurseries are located as they will be an invaluable fountain of information for you. Watch the way the sun and shadows move through your yard to determine the area you want to garden and to help you make smart plant choices. Check how water drains through your proposed garden area and redirect any downspouts if needed or add a rain barrel. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with container gardening and have fun experimenting with colors and textures. And remember to subscribe to GardenBunch.com!
What are your two favorite “can’t live without” gardening tools or products?
The new “stretchy” hoses are wonderful and reach everywhere we need to water. We invested in a very good pair of pruning shears and gardening gloves to protect our plants and fingers. However, the most important “tools” for us are comfortable rockers and nice wine glasses so we can enjoy the fruits of our efforts along with a cool glass of wine!
What’s your next project?
We want to enlarge our “orchard” with peach, plum and other fruit trees. We freeze corn, green beans and other veggies all summer so we can enjoy the bounty all winter, and want to expand our repertoire with fruit preserves, butters and jams. In addition, we want to add plants, shrubs, color and texture to the front yard for increased curb appeal. At some point, we want to add a pergola for outdoor dining, as well as a fire pit.
How does your garden and/or gardening enrich your life?
It’s something we enjoy doing together, along with the research that precedes planting. We’ve had a great time exploring nurseries all over the Nashville area, learning about new varieties of plants and how to help them grow successfully in our garden. The best moments are sitting down at the end of the day with a cold beer or a glass of wine and seeing it all thrive and work together.
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