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Dr. Andy Pulte

Andy grew up in the nursery industry in Grand Island, Nebraska. He received his Ph.D. in plant sciences from the University of Tennessee, where he is now on the faculty in the same department. His current responsibilities include teaching and advising, and he also coordinates UT’s plant sciences undergraduate program. Additionally, he speaks regularly to diverse groups and travels extensively to feed his passion for people and plants. Over his career, he has contributed to a variety of gardening publications and hosted a gardening radio show. He is also an internationally certified arborist. Andy gardens in a residential community north of Knoxville. He seeks out unusual plants for his home garden that inspire questions from those who visit. He and his wife, Beccy, have two outdoor-loving young boys who are always looking for their next adventure.


1. What do you like most about gardening in your region?

One of the best parts about living and gardening in the Southeast is that most of us experience some seasonality. I love the ebbs and flows of the changes we go through in every gardening year.


2.What’s the biggest challenge to gardening in your region?

Understanding microclimates is by far one of the biggest challenges for gardeners in the Southeast. It takes years in some cases for home gardeners to understand how weather and different exposures in their garden play a role in what they are growing. And it is always changing!


3. What plant are you jazzed about in your garden right now?

Conifers are always one of my favorite categories of plants. However, I feel I get more and more enthusiastic about different broadleaf evergreen tea olives (Osmanthus spp. and cvs., Zones 6–11) every year. New cultivars are emerging, and people are starting to think more broadly about other species we utilize in the landscape. If you don’t know this plant, many are sweetly fragrant bloomers in the fall and are a great alternative to common holly (Ilex spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9).

Orange-flowering tea olive
Orange-flowering tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans f. aurantiacus, Zones 7–11) is bursting with apricot-scented light orange blooms in fall. Photo: Paula Gross


4. What was the last plant you killed?

I am prone to not listening to other gardeners when they tell me things won’t grow. This has led to many misadventures in growing things such as giant gunnera (Gunnera manicata, Zones 7–10) or blue Himalayan poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia, Zones 6–8). My latest miss was an attempt at growing red feathers (Echium amoenum, Zones 3–9), which I successfully germinated and planted in my spring garden. It didn’t last long once it fainted in the garden at the first sign of summer humidity.


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