UT Gardens Gala: worm castings and wine!

University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman and her husband, Dennis Duchon, were among the many happy guests at the UT Gardens Gala. Isn’t her dress perfect for the occasion?

The UT Gardens Gala recently celebrated a record crowd — and a record amount of money raised — in near-perfect weather at its beautiful location on Neyland Drive.

University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd and his wife, Jenny, were honorary hosts and Dick Ott, a specialist in the field of interior plant-scaping and a big supporter of the UT Gardens, was a special honoree.

The UT Gardens are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture with locations in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Together, they attract more than 100,000 visitors each year. These three sites constitute the official State Botanical Garden of Tennessee and combine the beauty and allure of a public garden with a hands-on university laboratory for conserving, restoring and celebrating the environment.

The UT Gardens Gala is a great party — mostly because people can’t help but be happy in such a beautiful space. This year was even more special because the Boyds, who own a vineyard and boutique winery in Mendoza, Argentina, provided some of their own wines for the festivities.

In appreciation of their support, the UT Gardens gifted the Boyds with — wait for it — a bench! Read on for the details! (And get over to the gardens when you can!

Every great party starts with a great cocktail hour! But this one had the advantage of a stunningly beautiful outdoor location! From left, Cynthia Gibson, Alan Carmichael, Bruce and Tami Hartmann and Kathy Boyd.

The irises were in bloom. (My husband’s favorite flower!)

From left, Janet Testerman, Susan and George Wilson.

From left, Katie Culvern, Marilyn Cheek, Kimberly Ford and Lindsay Cates.

James Newburn, left, interim director of the UT Gardens, with Jenny and Randy Boyd during cocktail time.

Garden scene.

Many young people were with their parents (or other photographers) taking photos in the gardens on a lovely day.

See what I mean?

Appropriate music was provided by the UT Appalachian String Band.

Andrew and Jenny Spatz. He’s with Hedstrom Landscape Architecture. (I can see why landscape professionals are attracted to this event!)

A massive cheese and charcuterie display was available for noshing. (This is less than half of it!)

The passed appetizers were delicious, too. Clockwise from top: watermelon and feta medallions; mini brie en croute; and caprese skewers.

Margie Nichols and John Gill.

Caesar III and Dorothy Stair.

Here’s some of that wine!

Erin and David Hunt.

Plant-related art was available in the silent auction.

And worm castings! At what other charity auction can you go home with these?

More art.

Sarah Cronan and Tom Looney.

From left, John Butler, Lane Hays and Stuart Worden.

Carrie Fox King with her father, Bill Fox.

Soon, everyone was summoned to the big tent for dinner.

Salads were plated and looked like growing plants! They actually were poached pears filled with smoked sea salt and orange blossom mascarpone, hand-torn artisan greens, chard, leek and Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Creative and delicious.

At the Hickory Construction table, from left to right: Kristin and Jonathan Miller, Ben Pinnell, Mark Smithson and Melissa Daniels.

Main course was beef tenderloin, roasted purple potatoes and grilled asparagus. Dessert: strawberry shortcake with balsamic glaze.

Interestingly, the beef was “UT Sustainable Beef” produced at the Northeast Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. The program bolsters sustainability in that beef cattle are born, raised and consumed within a 150-mile radius.

That dessert is what Joey Creswell is enjoying in this pic!

Andrea Cartwright and Dr. Alan Solomon. Big gardeners.

Shaun Fulco and Scott Bird of Moxley Carmichael.

Natalie and Jared Dowling

Emcee of the evening was WBIR’s Leslie Ackerson.

Honoree Dick Ott.

UT President Randy Boyd.

Jenny Boyd testing out the bench!

I know that a lot of people are using apps like Handbid for their auctions these days. And, to me, that’s fine for the silent auctions. But nothing beats a live auctioneer for a live auction! And here’s one of the best: Bear Stephenson.

Case in point. Here Bear is convincing Randy and Jenny Boyd to change the dinner for six he was auctioning at their house into two dinners for eight! Handbid can’t do that!

By the way, those two dinners brought in $16,000! Which is part of the reason the evening was a record-breaker! Congrats to everyone involved.


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5 Responses to UT Gardens Gala: worm castings and wine!

  1. Elena DeMurias, on May 16th, 2022 at 6:11 pm said:

    Congratulations to Dick Ott! The bow tie and hat…… how debonair! On our Monday “Joy Calls”…… how about a series of DIck talks
    (Instead of TED talks). Joy and her Mother
    I gather….went all over the world looking at Gardens!. I bet she would jump
    Into the conversations. Maybe
    You can hsve sessions on indoor plants and window boxes….. for us City folks

  2. Judy Marx, on May 16th, 2022 at 8:19 pm said:

    Dick Ott- I recognized you! Congratulations!!

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on May 17th, 2022 at 3:27 am said:

    Love the idea of those “Dick Talks!” I’d listen!

  4. Alice Mercer, on May 17th, 2022 at 7:23 am said:

    Best party ever! The dangling orchid centerpieces on the high top tables around the cheese spread were fabulously beautiful — thanks to Terumi Watson!

  5. Chris King, on May 21st, 2022 at 10:20 am said:

    Carrie and Bill Fox were laughing the other night about how their ears had been itching from being featured in the Blue Streak. They don’t know what to do with all this new found fame! Great event and great pic of those two.

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