The Fall Festival at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum was an absolute delight Oct. 16. And this is coming from a person who doesn’t have a garden (or even a yard anymore), is not comfortable around large animals (which were there), and not all that crazy about kids! So imagine how much YOU would like it!
I’m not just saying this because they are a client, but the Knoxville Botanical Garden is really coming into its own these days. Located on 44 acres in East Knoxville, it is a treasure only five minutes from downtown. The Joe N. Howell Nursery and the C.B. Howell Nursery were founded there in 1786 and Joe Howell’s employees constructed a series of distictive stone walls and buildings on the property. The location is rich in history with evidence of Native American activity and Civil War activity on the site.
In 2001, a group of Knoxvillians formed a non-profit organization to purchase, preserve and develop the property. The board of directors envisions it becoming a vital and active green space in the heart of a long-neglected neighborhood. Long-term plans call for not only a series of unique gardens, but a bird sanctuary, areas for plant cultivation and meditation, water features, sculpture, and eventually an amphitheater for plays, concerts and festivals. The facility already is a scene for many weddings, receptions, meetings and parties.
The Fall Festival was intended to demonstrate just how special this place is. As the festival opened, so did the newest garden, the Knoxville Garden Club-sponsored Danae Garden, designed by the Garden Club, the garden’s staff, and downtown landscape architect Sara Hedstrom Pinnell of Hedstrom Design. Danae, also known as “poet’s laurel,” is an unusual plant that has been propagated at the garden site for more than 50 years.
We started our Fall Festival activites in the main tent where a series of unique vendors offered their wares in a beautiful, relaxed environment.
The vendor, named Gorgeous Gourds Galore, was well-stocked with a huge variety of artfully decorated gourds.
One lady you just couldn’t resist was Glenda Ross of Greenbriar Nursery. She is the biggest fan of blueberries I’ve ever met. She advocates planting edible plants — especially blueberries — instead of a lawn. Her website is www.eatyouryard.biz.
“Anything you can grow to eat, you don’t have to mow,” she said. “We don’t own a lawn mower.”
Ross said Knoxville is located in the “blessed blueberry belt” where both the northern varieties of blueberries and the southern varieties can be grown — 43 varieties in all. She believes we should all be planting them. “If you grow blueberries, you know that what you are putting your energy into will send that energy back in the form of food,” she pointed out. Blueberries hold their leaves all winter long, she said. Her philosophy: “edibles are beautifuls!”
Another wonderful vendor was The Appalachian Shed from Butler, Tennessee.
I’m not normally a fan of insects — unless they are made of glass.
There were many activities for children: a pine cone toss, pumpkin and face painting, horse shoes. But the balloon animals were so popular that they ran out of them.
I loved, loved, loved the petting zoo. I don’t know what some of these animals are, but they were so gentle and beautiful.
The animals came from Circle G Ranch in Strawberry Plains. They have more than 500 animals on 105 acres and offer three-mile “safaris.” Really? In Strawberry Plains? You learn something new every day.
You might have seen this twig sculpture in the newspaper. It is called “Spipral” and was made by Kelly Brown and the students at Laurel High School.
Then we met Steve Rhule. He owns BeeGreener, a landscape firm. Like everyone else in the home building business, he has been hit hard by the economic downturn. So he has taken up sculpture. “It’s what I do when I don’t have landscaping,” he said. “My son is my partner in the business and I’m trying to teach him that if you don’t have something to do, you make something.”
Then it was back inside to sample some ginger ice cream from Chadwick’s Churn, located in Knoxville on Middlebrook Pike across from Shannondale Nursing Home. The gourmet ice cream is actually produced from scratch in Friendsville.
Finally, we decided to do what we had come to the Fall Festival to do — visit the new Danae Garden.
Danae is also known as “poet’s laurel.” It was the plant the ancients used to make wreaths of to put on the heads of winning athletes and, I assume, poets. Anyway, Alan wanted to see what it felt like to have a laurel wreath around his head. But, of course, he didn’t want to damage any plant in the garden by cutting or breaking it off. So, here was his solution.
We were so busy doing all this, that we missed a great series of workshops on topics from making herbal gifts to the basics of pruning. So I guess we’ll have to do that at the next Fall Festival. See you then!