Garden Photo of the Day

Flourishing Beautifully in TN

By: Kim Charles

a. palmatum 'Koto-no-ito'

Wild weather in Northeast Tennesee has not hurt Jeff Calton's garden one bit!

"Things are beginning to fill in. So far this spring it has been 3 steps forward and 2 steps back with the weather. Cold, HOT and torrential rains. Hopefully things will even out by mid May and we can move forward."

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Bletilla striata 

Chionanthus virginicus

Chrysogonum green and gold

Hosta 'Empress Wu'

Kalanchoe and cotyledon


Rhododendron 'Hotei' & t. canadensis 'Golden Duchess'

West lawn

View Comments


  1. Jay_Sifford 05/16/2017

    Good morning Jeff. This spring has definitely been challenging, eh? Your garden looks great. I'm especially interested in your 'Empress Wu' hostas. How long have they been in the ground? Mine from two years ago is probably already 4 feet across and 2 feet high. The other two that I planted last year are 3' in diameter. Happy gardening!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      This is Wu's 3rd season in ground. She was planted as a very small 1 gallon plant and whew does she grow FAST and large. This spring has been especially challenging . Finding/selling work is no problem. Finding and keeping people to help,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,impossible. I have never been this exhausted in my life and I am no spring chicken

      1. Jay_Sifford 05/16/2017

        I have had similar employee issues. It's never been this difficult as it has this spring. I'm going to regroup during the summer and start fall with a bang.

        1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

          This is my 31st year in business and this has been the MOST difficult ever for getting help. If not for Dillon,,,,,,,,,I would have shut the doors out of pure frustration . He is at work everyday without a complaint ever

          1. frankgreenhalgh 05/16/2017

            Hey Jeff - I'm very interested in the problems you guys have trying to get help. Is the problem related to young people not interested in hard work; don't like the salaries; don't find the work sexy; too lazy; lack motivation; feel that they are entitled to something better; unemployment benefits are too tempting or a mixture of all the above?

          2. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

            All of the above. I pay way more than average. I simply can not find or keep anyone on the job this year. It's too hot, It's too dirty, This is too much work . One guy said his girlfriend had a job so he didn't need to work. All my amigos in the area are GONE. Everyone I know in this business has the same story. The younger ones want an executive salary to start out even though they have zero experience in anything. Easier to live in mom's basement and let her work until she is 80 to keep them up.

          3. frankgreenhalgh 05/16/2017

            Thanks Jeff. We have problems down here as well. Vocational education and apprentiships in amenity horticulture are good initiatives. I'll chat more with you on this issue if you don't mind via private messaging on FB. Cheers, Frank

          4. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

            I don't mind. I have had horticulture graduates apply but they want A LOT of money to start, do not want to work in the field, do not want to get dirty. they just want to do officework or draw. you can't be in this business unless you get dirty from time to time. message me anytime i'm on FB

          5. user-6536305 05/16/2017

            Why people think work with good earth and mother nature are dirty I simply don't understand. Today's young people may have too big comfortable zone including my children. This is a very good discussion and wake up call as parents.

          6. frankgreenhalgh 05/16/2017

            Hi Lilian - This is my take on the situation for what it is worth. The parents of our generation grew up through the Great Depression and WW2 and they learnt the value of jobs, money and hard work - and this was passed onto us. The kids today are in their world of entitlement - I guess parents have to take some responsibility, but it is difficult fighting against the strong tide of peer influence. We certainly don't want another war or major economic depression, so I'm not sure of the solution. Heaven help us when the next generation grows up! Cheers, Frank

          7. Meelianthus 05/16/2017

            You hit it right on Jeff, I think a lot of young people just don't have it in them to work hard. I guess they aren't being taught. My husband, like you, has worked hard his entire life and can still outwork the young guys!

  2. frankgreenhalgh 05/16/2017

    Nice work Jeff. The mulch provides a lovely contrast. Like your lawns and curved borders. Cheers mate.

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      Thanks, Frank, I just wish I could get my beds all edged. I am last on the list for getting chores done

  3. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

    That is Hosta Big Daddy

  4. user-3565112 05/16/2017

    Good morning Jeff, Rough start or not your spring gardens are gems. The 1st photo is terrific & the urn is so perfect for that scene I cannot imagine anything else there.
    Good luck this season, Joe

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      Thanks! All the perennials have doubled in size since taking these photos, it's looking fat and fluffy now.

  5. Maggieat11 05/16/2017

    Fabulous! Even with difficult weather, your gardens shine! Love your Chionanthus virginicus. Gorgeous! Way ahead of mine which are just showing leaf buds so far. What variety of Hosta is under the 'Empress Wu'? And I like your choices of 'Hotei' and 'Golden Duchess'. Great photos, Jeff!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      That is Big Daddy and he is being forced out of bed by the Empress . Chionanthus is all finished here for the season, I'm going to miss that fragrance

  6. gardencook 05/16/2017

    The wild weather appears to have spared your property!!!! My, what a tropical paradise you have and so vast a property!!! I love your Fringe Tree, your rhododendrons, japanese maples and all the colour that sparkles between the evergreens!!! Everything looks so lush!!!! Like you, I enjoy peonies and hostas and your Empress Wu is impressive! How large is your property? It looks sizeable! Gorgeous!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      I am currently using 3 acres . The Empress Wu and Chionanthus pics are on a client property which is now down to 10 acres and has been gardened since 1840

  7. user-4691082 05/16/2017

    Dear Jeff,
    You have done a great job of it all. I'm so sorry about the employee issues. My husband is a mushroom grower and their industry is the same. It seems like the only people willing to work are those without papers. There is no work for them in their own countries. They are precious people and I hire them to help me in my garden. I pay them well, and with my arthritis, my property would go to rack and ruin without help. My husband works way too many hours to help. I hope this comment doesn't seem too political. It's easy to call it "us and "them" until you know "them".

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      True words, Rhonda. All the immigrant workers around here left. The mowing services are scrambling and with the rain that grass does grow! Thankfully, I do not cut grass (can't even get mine done) it's a real dilemma as to how to get the work done. I work usually 12 hours a day 6 days a week, a bit late start this morning and that's ok! Don't get me started on political issues or we will be here all day :)

    2. frankgreenhalgh 05/16/2017

      Hey Rhonda - The mushroom industry is a very interesting one. Lots of science and technology underpins mushroom production as well as hard work. I use spent mushroom compost to increase the organic matter and water holding capacity of my sandy loam. PH is neutral and total soluble salt level isn't a problem in our soil. Cheers, Frank

      1. user-4691082 05/16/2017

        Wow, Frank! And I thought you were just eye candy!

    3. User avater
    4. User avater
      LindaonWhidbey 05/16/2017

      Well, said, Rhonda

      1. user-4691082 05/16/2017

        Thanks, sister RDH!

    5. frankgreenhalgh 05/17/2017

      You're not just a pretty face, Rhonda.

  8. cheryl_c 05/16/2017

    Hi, Jeff,
    I love your pictures this morning and have several questions. In the first picture , is that a variegated Carex to the right of the artemesia? If so, do you recall the name? What is the plant to the left of the amaryllis in picture 2? Which ninebark (?) is to the right of chrysogonum? Are those begonias against the wall behind Empress Wu? I love your combinations of colors and textures. Sorry you are having trouble finding help - you would be such an excellent teacher!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      to the right of Artemisia is actually a daylily, I think it's Hyperion but can't remember what I planted until it flowers. to the left of the amaryllis is Agave Victoria reginae, my first one flowered after 40 years and that is it's replacement , yes it's Begonia Sophie Cecile a great one to grow

      1. cheryl_c 05/16/2017

        Thanks so much. And the ninebark?

        1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017


  9. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/16/2017

    "Whew" on the Wu, huh? the best possible way! I have several myself but I think they are stubbornly maintaining a mere "princess' size. It doesn't surprise me that yours is have the magic touch with pretty much everything. What is the warm amber and golden leafed plant next to the Chrysogonum green and gold? It looks like a nine bark 'Amber Jubilee' but I realize it could be a great coleus. Things look great and I know it must take all your energy reserves to come home and keep working... but that's what plant addiction does to a person, right?!

    1. Meelianthus 05/16/2017

      Goodmorning Michaela, I was wondering how your 'Empress Wu' was doing after you mentioned a couple of years ago that you had one. I purchased one shortly after that so this is it's second year and it isn't looking very impressive. I suppose it will never look like the one in the catalog! Jeff's looks great - but then that's Jeff, super-plantsman!

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 05/16/2017

        The one that almost literally knocks my socks off is 'Guacamole' increases in size and lushness like it is secretly on steroids. It will never get as tall as Wu is reported to get but in every other way, it is a wonder to behold. Plus, so far, the voles have avoided demolishing the several ones I have planted. For that reason alone, it holds a special place in my heart.

        1. Meelianthus 05/16/2017

          Yes, isn't 'Guacamole' incredible. I cut mine in half every winter, as I have such limited space, and it is still huge every summer. I share my extras with my neighbors - I think they are beginning to dread my deliveries!!

          1. User avater
            meander_michaele 05/16/2017

            Who could say No to Guacamole...the hosta, not the food. Ironically, I'm probably in the minority of folks who don't like guacamole dip.

        2. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

          After reading your testimonial I am going to plant some Guacamole here tonight. I have probably 50 back there waiting to go out on jobs and yet I have none here. I do have T Rex and Komodo Dragon coming this week to plant at home. they back ordered me on Humpback whale

          1. User avater
            meander_michaele 05/16/2017

            You just sent me off on a google foray to see what those 3 selections look like...all very cool. And, a special yowza on the 'Humpback Whale'...the name is awesome as are the pictures. Its leaves are hugely yummy! I love the blend of colors in 'Guacamole' and its lushness is a happy surprise.

    2. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      Mike, that plant is a ninebark but it is Coppertina my amber jubilee is much more golden. coppertina will darken as the season progresses. that Wu is at Rotherwood on the north side of the house. it never dries out and never gets direct sun. that must be what they like, it has nothing to do with me

  10. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/16/2017

    I have tried several times to grow Bletilla striata. Finally it made it from last year to this one and even has a seed pod! Have you ever grown it from seed?

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      I don't grow anything from seed as I am much too impatient.

  11. Doxnmomx2 05/16/2017

    It's a shame GOPDers can't flock to TN and help you. Wait, we'd be lost in our reveries of where we'll place the lovely specimen we've dug from your garden and hidden in our trunk. Empress Wu will be the first to go. Or maybe a maple. I just love your photos and sorry to hear of the employee woes. I'm an accountant and have the same issues without the dirt and heat. Do you suppose Empress Wu would thrive in zone 8b? I've never tried hostas thinking our heat and humidity are too much for them.

    1. Meelianthus 05/16/2017

      Peggy Jo - Hostas love Zone 8. I grow around 30 of them in ZN 8 and they are very happy , I have an Empress Wu, doing well but not as magnificient as Jeff's. Just be careful of all day sun.

      1. Doxnmomx2 05/16/2017

        I must try her in the shade!

    2. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      don't know where you are but heat/humidity can be a real problem. I don't know of a heat/humidity zone chart and we need one!

      1. Doxnmomx2 05/16/2017

        The only thing close are the letters White Flower Farm adds to some of their zones. I'm in Baton Rouge.

  12. accidentalgardener 05/16/2017

    What is the lovely burgundy colored mulch or groundcover in the 1st photo - or is that just an illusion from the lighting?
    Marc Goodman

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      That is fresh pine straw which has sort of a red color at first. In that photo it was wet and at end of day . It isn't always that color and by end of July it will all be gray

  13. sheila_schultz 05/16/2017

    Well, a post from your gardens is a welcome start to my day of packing... thanks Jeff!!! I love the contrast of Big Daddy under the Empress, he makes the perfect footman! Your plantings are looking like a tropical paradise considering the erratic whims of Mother Nature this spring, it will be interesting to see what she decides to toss at you over the summer. We're all over the map weatherwise in Denver, too, 80's yesterday and snow expected the end of the week. Have a good rest of your week, my friend, and take the time to stop and smell your own roses!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      Thanks, Sheila and good luck with the packing!

  14. Sunshine111 05/16/2017

    Good morning Jeff! Lovely pictures as usual… Thanks for sharing your gardens progress this spring. It looks like you have more than one Amaryllis in a pot. I love that idea, I'm going to steal it!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      Those amaryllis are from my dad. He had several each in their own pot, I just jammed them all together to save space.

      1. Doxnmomx2 05/16/2017

        Do you grow your amaryllis in the ground too? They're happy in the ground in Louisiana. They bloom in Spring.

        1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

          They do not survive here over winter outside, I do have st joseph lily in ground though and they look very similar

          1. Doxnmomx2 05/16/2017

            I see that's listed as hardy amaryllis. Yours are beautiful. I send one annually to a friend in Juneau, Alaska. They've stayed in the same pots for years and bloom year after year. He has a great wall of windows and swears all he does is water them. They're a fun plant. But I've got hosta envy now. And I'm not even going THINK about peonies. The first time I saw peonies in Ohio, I made my husband pull over so I could see them up close. I'd had no idea what they were. Just stunning but I don't think they'd like our climate at all.

      2. Sunshine111 05/16/2017

        Loving it!?

  15. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 05/16/2017

    Looks fabulous, Jeff. Love that Physocarpus in the fifth pic and the begonias in the 6th. Are the begonias growing that straight and tall naturally?
    I have a hard time getting to work, things are so lush, but with this up and down weather unusual things are definitely happening. I've had some things nipped by cold after the early spring, but that's not too extraordinary. The stranger thing is that I've had fresh, tender leaves actually scorched in the heat and sun. Getting close to 90°F today.....yikes.

    1. Meelianthus 05/16/2017

      Wow! amazing heat Tim. 47degrees here this AM and pouring - again!! Crazy weather all over.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 05/16/2017

        OK. You've got late winter; I have July. Can anyone inform the weather that it is the middle of May? :)

    2. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      88 here today, thankfully we worked in the shade beside the lake and yes that begonia naturally grows that straight and tall at least until a sudden thunderstorm

  16. LaurelEm 05/16/2017

    Many of your pictures do have a tropical flair. I love them. I am in the process of making one of my annual beds into a nod to Hawaii. We went there the end of the winter and I saw so many ideas. Your gardens give me even more inspiration (in Wisconsin, but doing annuals). Keep up your great work, I like your eye.

  17. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 05/16/2017

    Good morning, Jeff. I'm sure you're off to work already since my west coast comments are always a bit late. Tough going with your business. We are in AZ for a few days and here you see signs everywhere pleading to let the immigrants stay. Your garden looks terrific ,as usua ,and I can almost smell that beautiful fringe tree. We have a 'Hotei' and loved how it became a yellow ball of sunshine in our front bed this spring. Good luck and thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with all of us plant fiends.

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      Hotei is amazingly floriferous and I like that it stays small. It's always difficult to find people to do this sort of work but this year has been impossible

  18. DarliBarli 05/16/2017

    What a joy to behold your garden is! You are so clearly a plant lover; wish I lived closer! I'm trying to make a garden in Kentucky...and am guessing what grows in your garden will grow in mine. Thank you so much for sharing your paradise with us.

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      I am zone 6b but very near the 7a line. last year we didn't really have winter

  19. bsavage 05/16/2017

    So many beautiful colors and textures! Gorgeous! What do you use as your mulch?

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      I use primarily pine straw sometimes pine bark mini nuggets

  20. user-6536305 05/16/2017

    Simply stunning! Thanks for sharing your beauty and labor of your hard work despite your work and employee situations! How do you get Bletilla striata to bloom? What is the dark foliage shrub with the palmate leave in the 5th photo behind Hosta 'Empress Wu' on the left side of the photo? Thanks?

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      That is Begonia Sophie Cecile, an outstanding cane begonia and she gets tall, those are maybe 3 ft right now. The Bletilla get frostbitten many years but they throw scapes every year. I do nothing for them they are on their own

  21. greengenes 05/16/2017

    What a treat today! Hi Jeff. I so enjoyed seeing your garden pictures. I especially love the begonias! A must have for sure! Your mulch is to die for too! Yes that is quite weird to some but i love the color! Thanks for sharing and enjoy this summer ahead!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      Pine needles are SO easy to use. very lightweight and goes down fast. really helps with weed suppression and has almost eliminated my slugs. people either love it or hate it.

  22. user-5117752 05/16/2017

    BRAVO, Jeff and BRAVA, Rhonda!!!!! Jeff, what's to the right of the green and gold and why can't I get my alliums to look as pretty as yours? The latter's leaves come up and then no flowers or flower sparingly. That Kalanchoe is a winner as is the Amaryllis!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      That is a ninebark on the right of green n gold, Coppertina. I am digging the Allium up and tossing this year as they have almost played out, getting smaller and smaller each year. time to plant new ones

  23. Meelianthus 05/16/2017

    Hi Jeff ~ Your work is always so very impressive and your gardens so rich and full even before summer. I, like others here, am wondering about the very lusciously tall begonias(?), are they so healthy looking because they were in the warmth all winter? Really beautiful and I love your West lawn spread, so inviting. Is that just a red mulch or are those leaves? The amaryllis is outstanding and the little prickly guy next to it is beautiful. Always love your photos, thanks.

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      That is Begonia Sophie Cecile and I got them from a greenhouse buddy. He always has large ones so I can get immediate gratification. The mulch is pine needles. That is my preferred mulch for everything

  24. thevioletfern 05/16/2017

    Although all looks incredibly beautiful, and fresh, and amazing ... LOVE the Fringe Tree!!! Bravo!!!

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2017

      fringe trees are the bomb

  25. Chris_N 05/17/2017

    Always great to see your gardens, Jeff.

  26. janeeliz 05/17/2017

    Great seeing your garden, Jeff.... exotic and lush. So different from what we can grow in the north. Love all your textures; Hosta Wu is spectacular-that is some rich planting!Is the chrysogonum the plant in the middle w. the yellow flowers? Is it a ground cover? I use pine needles too...thanks to several big white pines. growing on the edge of my property..I like them, but I do get snails.

  27. user-7007498 05/17/2017

    Jeff, long day today so I am just getting to GPOD. Loved seeing pictures of your garden. I love Acer palmate 'Koto-no-ito'. Your looks like it is full sun. No problems with your summer heat? I also love Physocarpus, and 'Coppertina' is beautiful. I have 'Amber Jubilee' which also has a great color.

    I have been searching for Tsuga 'Golden Duchess'. It looks great in the last photo. I have a blue container that it sitting empty, waiting for it.

    Great garden photos. Thanks for sharing. Relaxing finish to a long day.

  28. perenniallycrazy 05/18/2017

    Chiming in late. I wish I could walk in your garden to destress. I would bring home some of those begonias, Empress Wu and some other interesting specimens if I could too. Your garden never ceases to amaze.

  29. user-7008572 05/18/2017

    Hi what is the name of the purplish shrub in the photo behind the Empress Wu hosta, it is beautiful.

  30. NCYarden 05/18/2017

    I'm a little late to this one on account of vacation. But always a pleasure to see your garden, Jeff, and happy to see it's weathering the...well...crazy weather. Not much different for me here, and somehow the garden comes out looking quite impressive. Love that 'Koto no ito', one of my that a new addition? Your place looks fantastic. Hope Summer barely registers a blip for you.

  31. Cenepk10 05/18/2017

    Smorgasbord of Beautiful

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