Sigourney Cheek Literary GardenBear’s Breeches / Acanthus mollisA Mediterranean native, this Acanthus species does surprisingly well here at Cheekwood in our hot and humid climate. Recognizable to many as the elegantly lobed-leaf motif used on Greek Corinthian columns, it is only fitting that the plant is thriving in the foreground of the Museum of Art’s Georgian-style facade, of which was inspired by classical Greek and Roman architecture. Bear’s Breeches performs best when given bright morning sun with adequate watering and well-drained soil. Flowers are creamy white spikes, often blushed with pink, and are similar in shape to those of snapdragons. A. mollis can be very difficult to remove once established as it spreads by thick tuberous roots which, if left in the ground, will produce new growth. Bees are a true fan of this plant.Wills Perennial GardenTall Verbena, Purple-top Verbena / Verbena bonariensis
Verbena bonariensis is native to South America and was first discovered in Buenos Aires. It has become very familiar in the U.S. and has even naturalized from South Carolina to Texas. We have noticed a healthy amount of goldfinch visitors to the verbena planted in Wills Perennial Garden. It is not so much a reliable perennial in zones 6b and lower, however its desire to remain a garden mainstay is evident in it’s viable reseeding. It can reach a height of 5’ tall and looks best when planted in masses. Powdery mildew is a common issue with V. bonariensis, but it does not negatively affect its performance or vigor.Weaver Walk Garden Summersweet / Clethra alnifolia ‘Sixteen Candles’
Native to the eastern U.S. and Texas coastline, this deciduous shrub possesses a sweet scent and it is an excellent choice for shady and wet areas (rain gardens, along stream beds, woodlands). It is just coming into full bloom at the time of this writing in early July here at Cheekwood. There are both pink and white flowered selections. ‘Sixteen Candles’ is of the latter. Both bees and butterflies find Clethra worthy of much attention. Planting near a walkway or gathering place will provide the best exposure for summersweet’s fragrance. Its fall color consists of various shades of yellow. If you are looking for an outstanding summer-blooming shrub for a shady garden, look no further.Howe GardenButterfly Weed / Asclepias tuberosaAn herbaceous perennial native to the southeastern U.S., Asclepias tuberosa is multipurpose! Not only does it provide nectar to a variety of butterflies and leaves (as a food source) to monarch butterfly larvae, it is also tolerant of deer, drought, erosion, and dry soil. In addition, A. tuberosa has been used for centuries as a medicinal to successfully treat pleurisy, the inflammation affecting the lining of the lungs. Its seed heads are valued for dried arrangements. Butterfly weed has a long bloom period, gracing our gardens at Cheekwood from late spring until the end of summer. Flower color is usually orange or yellow orange, but there is variety in coloration, even showing up as pure yellow or deep red. Plant Asclepias in a sunny border, butterfly garden, or meadow, and especially surrounding your vegetable garden to maximize pollination.Burr Terrace GardenSpiderflower / Cleome sp.This pollinator magnet is native to South America and is known to draw interest from hummingbirds, butterflies and bees (it’s nectar, seed, and pollen are all irresistible). A fast grower, it will bloom from early summer to frost and will very possibly reach up to 6 feet tall. Flower color is either white, pink, or purple. Cleome is a unique plant for back borders, containers, and, of course, butterfly gardens. Though an annual, its tendency to reseed is very high, and in some regions, even aggressive. If unwanted for the following year, be sure to promptly remove seed heads before they open.Carell Dogwood Garden: Dogwood Garden Annabelle Hydrangea / Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’
Discovered in Anna, Ohio by two sisters while horseback riding in 1910, Annabelle Hydrangea did not become wider-known until much later in the 1960’s. Woody plant expert, J.C. McDaniel, visited the town of Anna and became smitten with the unknown hydrangea he saw growing in every other garden there. He took cuttings and, a few years later, she was ready for market. Today, ‘Annabelle’ is known to be one of the top 10 shrubs in American horticulture. This smooth (also called “wild” at times) hydrangea is hardy in zones 4 – 10 and performs best when well-watered and given ample shade. Since blooms occur on new wood, prune back close to the ground in late winter. This will encourage vigorous and sturdy new growth.Shōmu-en
Japanese GardenYellow Groove Bamboo / Phyllostachys aureosulcataThe Yellow Groove Bamboo flanking the walkway, leading to the heart of the Shōmu-en Japanese Garden, creates a transitional experience from the open core of Cheekwood to the tranquility that this unique landscape encourages. It is one of the hardiest of bamboos, withstanding a temp of -10°F (USDA hardiness of 5 – 10) and provides exceptional evergreen privacy. Attractive strips of yellow decorate opposite sides of the dark green canes. Yellow Groove matures to 2 inch diameter and can reach a height of 30 feet. As with all bamboo, this one can be invasive. Remove older canes and new shoots at the base to thin and reduce vigor.Herb Study GardenTennessee Coneflower / Echinacea tennesseensisTennessee Coneflower was once on the Federal Endangered Species List, starting in 1979. In 2011 it was officially removed. It was rare to begin with, only being found naturally in particular cedar glades and limestone barriers of the Central Basin around the Nashville, TN area. Adding the impact of residential development, collection of the species for commercial and recreational purposes, and, to a lesser extent, grazing put E. tennesseensis at a serious risk. A recovery plan was put into place that included 6 objectives:
1.) Conduct systematic searches for new colonies.
2.) Secure each colony found
3.) Provide a seed source representative of each colony.
4.) Establish new colonies.
5.) Monitor colonies and conduct management activities.
6.) Conduct public education projects.
Tennessee coneflower will bloom from early June until August. It features mauve colored, upturned ray petals encircling greenish-pink centers. Plants grow up to 2 feet tall and attracts both bees and butterflies. Avoid planting too close to or among other Echinacea species, since, due to its less vigorous habit, it will likely be crowded out.Seasons Garden: Summer Section / Trains Display Gardenia / Gardenia ‘Frost Proof’
Many plant enthusiasts and admirers will tell you that gardenia is the undeniable queen of garden fragrance. Landing the nose somewhere between honey and jasmine, the very mention of the name is an exotic experience. Combine a gardenia bush with the heat and humidity of the southeast, and one has a perfect recipe for a perfumed garden. ‘Frostproof’ fills out to an average dimension of 4’ by 4” and its leaves are a lustrous dark green and slightly twisted. The creamy white blooms are double and abundant. Though marketed as frost resistant (the name says it all), it probably will not endure an usually cold winter in Nashville as we are right on the cusp of the hardiness zone for this plant at 7a. However, if it is knocked to the ground, it’s likely that it will grow back from the roots.Color Garden ArchesGlobe Amaranth / Gomphrena ‘QIS Carmine’
A Central America native, Gomphrena is among the most heat tolerant of cut-flower plants, thriving in heat and even withstanding a considerable amount of drought. Also used as a bedding plant (boasting a bushy, compact habit growing to a 24” a 10” dimension), it provides an interesting shape and a great texture to a garden’s design. Though an annual, it will reseed quite readily. ‘QIS Carmine’ has light purple flowers tipped in yellow that sit atop sea green foliage. Here in Nashville, gomphrena blooms will persist from late spring until frost. Regular deadheading will encourage fresh blooms.Bradford Robertson Color Garden
Sunflower / Helianthus ‘Sunfinity Yellow’
This quintessential flower of happiness will not only bring all the goldfinches to the yard, but it is also a nonstop bloomer from spring until fall. Because of its superior branching habit, ‘Sunfinity Yellow’ will produce multiple flowers per plant. At an average ultimate height of 36-48”, these vigorous sunflowers can delight gardens, patios as well as floral arrangements, while simultaneously enticing bees and butterflies. This selection is also resistant to downy and powdery mildew which is very advantageous for those gardeners living in more humid climates like Nashville. Plant in full sun for a stunning meadow scene or in a back border as displayed here at the Bradford Robertson Color Garden.It’s no secret that July is a hot month in Tennessee. With high temperatures and even higher humidity, Nashvillians tend to retreat indoors or to the nearest watering hole during the month of July.
But July is also a beautiful month to observe nature! From colorful summer perennials, to lush greenery, our gardens really come to life in the summer months. And with our weekly Thursday Night Out series, a family outing to the botanical garden can make for the perfect summer night! Grab a cocktail at one of our bar stations, and enjoy a sunset stroll through our 11 distinct gardens.
To help direct you, our garden team has put together a list of must-see plants in each of the 11 gardens this month. Use a printed plant guide from the front desk upon arrival, or pull up this blog post on your phone, and use our helpful garden signs to see if you can locate all of these beautiful blooms and plants on your visit.
Photography by Andrew Bruckse