GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show13
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Show #13

This week we visit Nashville, Tennessee, home of country music and the world's largest indoor garden located inside the Opryland Hotel. Water plants, tropicals and some of the largest trees you can imagine are all growing happily together in this carefully maintained environment. Ten acres of gardens anywhere would be beautiful but throw in amazing waterfalls, put it all under glass and you're talking truly spectacular. The horticulturist who's been in charge of keeping these gardens lush for 24 years shares his growing secrets with us and tells us how to apply those principals to your own home garden.

Ryan Herzberg is with guest relations at the Grand Ole Opry and welcomes Garden Smart. The Grand Ole Opry began in 1925 when Edwin Craig started a radio station. It was really basic gospel and country music at that time and it didn't start becoming popular until an old time fiddle player by the name of Uncle Jimmy Thompson started playing at the Opry. This is the 6th house of the Grand Ole Opry. It started on the 5th floor of the WSM Insurance Building in downtown Nashville. But so many folks wanted to see the show that the facility couldn't accommodate them all. The next move was to the Hillsboro Theatre by Vanderbilt, which was a great place for awhile. The next move was to the Dixie Tabernacle, east of Nashville. It was a great big building but the accommodations weren't great - there was sawdust and dirt on the floor and wooden benches - it just wasn't a great place to see the Grand Ole Opry show. The next move, in 1939, was to the War Memorial building in downtown Nashville. In 1943 they moved to the mother church of country music, the Ryman Auditorium, and spent 31 great years there developing careers such as Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and Patsy Cline as well as living artists such as Jimmy Dickens, Porter Wagner, Bill Anderson and Dolly Parton. These folks still come around today. On March 16, 1974 they moved to the current building which seats 4400 folks. They've been here for over 30 years, so you do the math. The 1st person actually on stage, beside Roy Acuff, was President Richard Nixon. He opened the show by singing and playing the piano, "God Bless America," Happy Birthday" (to his wife) and "My Wild Irish Rose." Although the Opryland Hotel is not as old as the Grand Ole Opry it does have special features - scenery, plants, etc.

Hollis Malone is the Manager of Horticulture and Pest Control for the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Little did Hollis know 24 years into his career he would be overseeing the largest indoor garden in the world. That's quite an accomplishment and Hollis provides insight into his past. He feels he has been one of the most fortunate horticulturists in the country, especially coming from a small town - Nashville. When growing up, in his 1st year of college, Hollis got a part time job working for the Vanderbilt Uniiversity botany department. He fell in love with the greenhouse business and horticulture in general. From there he went to the University of Tennessee and obtained a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design. Between his junior and senior year he had an opportunity to work at Longwood Gardens as a summer intern and that had a big influence on him. Little did he know at that point, after returning home, he would one day have an opportunity to work in such a wonderful facility. At first he worked in a commercial greenhouse firm, then he was Cheekwood's first horticulturist and later started working with the Opryland Theme Park. In 1982 he came on board at the hotel when they were building the 2nd phase. The building architect had a great vision of putting a glass room between 2 hotel wings, as they were adding rooms. His plan was to create a very tropical garden under glass, one that conventioneers could enjoy. It's been a great ride ever since because it's been such a learning experience. Hollis says they've tried a lot of things, many he never thought would have worked. They've grown things from seed and cuttings, people have collected things for them and it has been a great opportunity. Hollis now wants to show us around.

We start with the Magnolias, one of the specimens that most would say wouldn't grow under glass. These are classic Magnolias, Magnolia grandiflora, and they're thriving in this indoor environment. It was a challenge for the architect and Hollis to use southern Magnolias. The biggest challenge was the fact nobody had done this before. Light was a big concern, would they survive these conditions. They selected trees that were about 25 feet tall. The trees were obtained at nurseries in northern Florida, hoping that because they had grown there they would be more readily adapted to a warmer environment, like the interior here. The trees were put in big boxes, brought here on trucks, it took 2 cranes to move and lift the planters, then planted. Bugs posed a problem and the soil type was of concern. They've utilized IPM (Integrated Pest Management) successfully. And, they've utilized a soil media that they use in other gardens, as well. Since then they've kept the trees pruned and they've grown and flowered well.

Joe and Hollis next talk about the soil medium they use here. It takes a special mix to accommodate a plant of this size and it's a great soil. It's about 45% peat moss, has 2 different types of bark (Cypress bark and Pine bark) for compost, it has some sand in it and Solite (which is a small rock that helps drainage). This soil was developed by 2 nurserymen with a lot of experience, who work with interior environments. It's important, inside or outside, to have a good media or soil. Homeowners could buy this product, it is commercially available and called Success Soil.

There are real challenges planting a tree this size. When Hollis planted this tree he had about 6 feet of mix below the ball of the tree. Although this tree weighed 16,000 pounds it doesn't take a huge tree for this to happen. The tree settled over 10 years. Because it settled the gardeners, with good intentions, kept adding more mix. Hollis shows us where the tree got too deep. They've now taken the soil back and one can once again see where the roots are starting to flare out. One wants the root flares to show on trees and shrubs, whether inside or out. Trees must breathe, covering the flare disrupts this process, however it is a common mistake many homeowners make. Joe doesn't see homeowners planting trees this size inside but he does see the need to focus on providing great soil and he does see the need to plant trees the proper depth. Make sure that when you squeeze the soil it retains some moisture but at the same time when you run your fingers through it that it easily breaks apart, which tells Joe that it drains very well. Joe also thinks it important to not plant a tree to deeply. Trees and shrubs can suffocate if planted too deeply, so look for the flare, plant it right where the trunk flares.

Hollis points out a Mahogany tree that is gorgeous. To move it they drilled a 2 inch hole through the trunk, then put a car axle through the hole. That way they were able to lift the tree without damaging the bark, which is the critical area. Once moved, they removed the axle and drove in a 2 inch wooden dowel. This transportation method caused less damage to the tree and it has thrived.

Hollis is very proud of the Palms. There are 8 Palms that are native to the U.S. and some are in this garden. Two are the Washington Palm, found in southern California all the way down to the Mexico Baja area and the Everglades Palm, from Florida and the Everglades National Forest. It is a swampy palm and grows in water. In this building they have 63 Palms from all over the world. One is the Sugar Palm, which is beautiful and large. Many people like to grow palms at home and that can be easily done. Hollis bought 50 different oddball palms from a Palm nut/expert in 1985. This expert would go on trips all over the world collecting Palm seed, bring them back to Miami and grow them. Hollis bought a small collection in 3 gallon pots, some are quite large today. The trick to growing Palms inside is to have the right amount of light. Some like the Kentia Palma or Chamaedorea Palms, the Parlor Palms are shade growers and they're ideal candidates for the home. Others like the Butterfly Palm, or Eureka Palm, like full sun and can be grown outside. Nutrition is important - being able to feed them regularly, supply them the right kind of moisture is very important to their success. They need supplemental nutrition because the nutrition leaches out the bottom. There are a lot of fertilizers that cater to the Palm grower, so it's easy to buy.

Hollis next shows us a Ficus Tree. Not your typical Ficus tree, like one would find in Florida. This one comes from the continent of Africa. It's an unusual tree, but unique. It looks similar to other Ficus trees but this tree came from a cutting. It was purchased in 1985 from the Glass Works Factory in Ohio, then shipped to Tropical Ornamentals Nursery in Del Ray, Florida, grown, then brought here. It has developed nicely over the years, it's a favorite of the guests. They love the way it hangs on the rockwork with the roots exposed. These trees have an architectural look, rather unique. It's aerial roots remind one of Florida. This typically happens in a humid environment but this environment isn't humid. Instead there is a large expanse of water and the roots have a tendency to grow to the water.

Hollis shares his tips on growing Ficus trees inside the house. He grows them a lot, has them inside his house in the winter and enjoys them. As he moves them outside in the spring the critical point is to remember that although they'll grow in full sun, they need to be eased out slowly. First put them under the porch or under a shade tree because they need to get used to the sun again. It's like us the first time out we get sunburned, well the leaves get burned on the tree if not moved out slowly, they need to get acclimated. Move them gradually, "acclimate," them is the term Hollis uses. When you move them back in the winter, do the same thing, ease them back in gradually, they'll loose some of their foliage anyway because they do like full sun. Joe thinks that when buying a Ficus tree from a nursery look for one that's been growing in the shade if you're going to bring it inside, thus a lower light situation. Don't buy a Ficus tree that's been in a nursery in full sun, bring it home and take it inside, because it won't acclimate itself quickly and it will suffer a lot of leaf drop. Try to match the conditions at the retailer with the conditions in your home environment.

Eric Johnson has some tips this week for creating interest and focal points in the garden. Utilize garden art and garden accessories. There are many exciting pieces to choose from. For example, every garden should have a garden trellis and a garden arbor. There are wonderful opportunities to get plants growing on a trellis and show off wonderful blooming plants. Eric shows us some exciting hanging baskets as well. These too show off plant combinations very well. These can be used by hanging from trees or by utilizing garden stakes. One piece adds a delicate touch to any space. One garden stake is an Iron Hummingbird, a nice touch. Another is a wrought iron armillary which adds a very nice touch. These can be moved anywhere in the garden, anywhere one wants a splash of interest. As you look at your outdoor living spaces think of creative ways to use garden art and garden accessories to spruce up any outdoor living space and make it more inviting. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT OUR WEB SITE -- CLICK ON GARDENING TIPS

Joe and Hollis move from the Ficus tree to water plants. Joe is impressed by the fact that many of the plants here are normally associated with the landscape, rather than growing in water. For example a Canna, Tropicanna, is typically used outside. The other variety of Canna, Bengal Tiger, has rather yellow leaves with some stripes. Even though one normally sees them outside in flower beds they adapt quite well to shallow water conditions. Hollis also uses Water Iris, which normally is a marginal plant, usually found along the edges of water. As well he uses a lot of regular water plants typically used in pools in home environments. The feature plant here is the Hardy Water Lily and it blooms quite well, in fact during the summer it will bloom for an extended period of time. Then as the light gets lower in the wintertime it seems to go to sleep, it goes dormant. The majority of the other plants continue growing. The Lizards Tail, which is popular, stays in flower throughout the summer in this environment. The Sagittaria, the Floating Plant or Parrot's Feather will put out roots. Hollis has used water plants throughout the area to replicate a pond setting inside. It looks natural but another benefit of water garden plants or plants growing in water is that they filter out a lot of the impurities. If you have a small pool and have fish and their waste, water plants will help clean that up. Their root system takes up impurities, cleans it up, uses the impurities as a nutrient, the plants then produce oxygen and at the same time clean the water. Plants do a tremendous job of that. In fact, a lot of water plants, Water Hyacinth, for example are used in sewage treatment plants to clean water. Thus, plants are coming to our rescue in keeping our environment cleaner. Joe likes the jets of water that cascade from one island to the next. But, the plants are the star of the show and Hollis says the guests love the water area.

Joe has noticed Orchids growing throughout the gardens and comments how Orchids have become popular. Hollis thinks they're easy to grow, especially the Phalaenopsis. It is probably the best Orchid in this garden because it does well in this environment. It's a great Orchid for the homeowner, as well, because it adapts to the temperature and humidity of the house and they last for a long time. Hollis considers Phalaenopsis an ever-blooming Orchid. They start blooming in early spring and bloom into summer. Oftentimes after it gets through blooming on one spike, if left alone another shoot may develop below the first. Hollis doesn't cut them back until he really can tell that they've died back. They're easy to maintain. Keep them evenly moist, water them once a week if need be. Fertilize them with a quarter strength solution, at most, every other week. Orchids are easy to take care of. The roots like light and airy soil. Most are planted in bark or a real coarse mixture. Some are planted in a lightweight media but most of the time they're in a soil that drains rapidly. They're epiphytes, they are used to getting most of their moisture and nutrients out of the air. But in a hot situation use a coarse medium that water can move through rapidly so they don't sit in a bog or water for a long period of time. Orchids are widely available. Hollis utilizes them all over the hotel - in the lobbies, for special events, in the palms and trees and along the rockwork. After they bloom, they're reliable about blooming the following year, both here and at home. Hollis thinks they're great plants and worth the investment.

Joe notices a falls that looks like something from Jamaica. The architects visited Dunn's Falls in Ocho Rios and thought it would be beautiful inside. This is a forty foot manmade mountain. To maintain the falls they rappel, like they do on cliffs. That is how they prune, maintain and cleanup the mountain. In addition to cascading water, it has plants and vines and is framed by 2 large Tupidanthus trees and an Oleander is in bloom. Hollis is proud of the Bismarkia Palm, a silver looking palm which requires a lot of light. But the mountain in here has great light. The tall palm is an Alexander Palm and there are several here. They bring out the fullness one would see in the Jamaican mountainside with rich, lush vegetation. There are epiphytes, bromeliads and orchids. It's a wonderful display of different, beautiful plant material.

Hollis says he gets as excited today, after 24 years, as he did the first day. He gets goose bumps, especially when everything is in bloom. This place is very special. It's a unique idea that came from the architect and the management of the hotel has carried it out and they've been able to maintain it all these years and keep the property in pristine condition. There are many people Hollis would like to thank for their help throughout the years, for all the information, for all the education, all the help in acquiring and accumulating these plants, help in installing the plants and all the good advice over the years from all the horticulturists from all over the country. Hollis thanks them all. And Joe thanks Hollis for his time and this tour. It's been great. Hollis has been a wealth of information, a find himself. Thank you Hollis.

Links ::

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
Grand Ole Opry

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Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

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