Friday, June 28, 2013

Inspired by Vitex at 2013 Southern Living Idea House and Garden

2013 Southern Living Idea House, Nashville, TN
2013 Southern Living Idea House, Nashville, TN, photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Earlier this week, I had a chance to attend a preview party for the 2013 Southern Living Idea House on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee.

There is no denying that the home itself - really a collection of buildings, many connected by porches and breezeways - is impressive.

I guess the house is supposed to give visitors ideas to decorate their own home. In this regard, I was impressed in a geeky way by the Lennox wi-fi thermostat. My wife liked the Elsie Swivel Glider Club Chairs and an eye-catching carved wood antelope head. (I knew we were missing something from our home decor!)

As for the gardens, I gotta be honest here and say that there was very little that fired my imagination. I know that the landscape design team employed Southern Living Plants (available at Lowe's and Home Depot), so they were working with sort of a limited palate. (Near as I can tell, the Southern Living collection only includes 8 perennials, for instance.)

Of those perennials, the only one that really caught my eye was a white Agapanthus. I don't know whether these will really endure in the landscape given that Southern Living's own description only rates the plant to zone 8 and we're at the cold end of zone 7 (or the warm end of zone 6 until the most recent USDA zone refresh).

Incidentally, various sources list Agapanthus as being attractive to hummingbirds. Does anyone know if that's the case? I didn't see any hummers on all the plants during my visit, but I doubt the birds would have hung around the party crowd...

There were also some dwarf (5-8 H x 3-4 W) Early Bird crape myrtles that were charming in a modest sort of way. Southern Living claims these crapes start blooming earlier than most and that the bloom season continues for 100-120 days, which would be pretty darn impressive.

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste Tree, Monk's Pepper (I think the landscaper branched a bit here, because I couldn't find Vitex in the Southern Living Plant Collection)

The only plant that made me stop and take a photo was a limbed up Vitex agnus-castus (a.k.a. Chaste Tree or Monk's Pepper). This was also the only plant in the garden where I saw any pollinators (bumble bees, in this case).

A single bumble bee (I believe) on a Vitex agnus-castus. There were actually two bees that I spotted on this Vitex, but I couldn't get them both in the same photo. They were the only pollinators I saw in the whole garden.
The Vitex was planted in a bed of roses, so it was interesting to see how the bees ignored the roses and went for the Vitex. I've observed on neighborhood walks that some of the most popular roses (Knockouts, for instance) seem to hold zero appeal for bees, but it was instructive to see that given a choice between Vitex and a single-flowered rose, the bees made a beeline (pun intended) for the Vitex.

Just makes me like Vitex that much more.

PS - If you're in the Nashville area and looking for architecture or interior design inspiration, tours of the home cost $12 with various discounts for children, seniors, military and students. A portion of the ticket proceeds reportedly goes to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.