2013 Dixie Regional
a Report from the Novice

Elsbeth Robinson, Nashville, TN 

Encouraged to take a break from my work-a-day job and loving to garden, I decided to take a mini vacation on June 7-8, 2013, in Memphis, TN, where the Mid-South Hosta Society was hosting the 2013 Dixie Regional Hosta Society Convention.  From the Thursday night dessert reception and the warm welcome from Cheryl Lockhart and the Mid-South team to the Saturday closing events, this proved to be an altogether outstanding event!

Arriving early Friday morning at the Hilton Memphis, I took a quick turn around the well-stocked vendor room, making notes on possible purchases before joining approximately 100 attendees
from AL, AR, DE, GA, IL, KS, MS, TN and VA, to hear Dr. Chris Cooper present “A Smoking Hot Conversation on Weeds in the Hosta Garden” and much more.  A highly knowledgeable speaker, Dr. Cooper’s engaging presentation covered “the identification and classification of weeds and weed management techniques” along with many very interesting tidbits of information on all sorts of weeds.  For instance, did you know that eight million acres in the southeast are covered in Kudzu!

Next on the agenda was another excellent and highly engaging speaker, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist, Carol Reese, who took the attendees from weeds and eradication to “Design for the Collector: How to be a Collector and Still Look Collected.”  With a plethora of beautiful slides and her delightfully witty presentation style, attendees were provided an absolute bounty of ideas to take gardens from a blank slate to amazing design possibilities, such as mixing plant color and variety with the use of different types of circular art objects, to the strategic placement of a single beautiful pot.  I am already incorporating several of her suggestions.

Lunch break gave attendees the opportunity to get out into the warm sunshine and cool breezes as they traveled a short distance to the historic Dixon Gallery & Gardens for a delicious lunch followed by a garden tour.  During our meal, Dale Skaggs, Director of Horticulture, discussed “The Dixon Garden & Gallery: Past, Present, & Future,” providing fascinating details of the historic Memphis area once covered by vast old growth hardwood forests.  Felled by loggers during the 1800s, this cleared land and rich soil opened the way for cotton farming.  

Some of the area residents, including the Dixon family, allowed second growth hardwoods to repopulate and these massive trees are the foundation for the Dixon gardens.  Beautifully landscaped with many garden rooms, this was an ideal break before beginning an afternoon of garden tours.

Attendees could have spent hours in Linda Pittman’s garden, discovering the plethora of ingenious and surprising uses of repurposed bric-a-brac, from the teacup, to the window in the fence, to the decking steps.  An absolute delight of hostas, many companion plants, Japanese maples, and sun perennials surrounded the house, covering the front and back yard.  Ideas for areas in my yard are still swimming in my head.

Mike and Lynn Chambers’ awe-inspiring garden reflects both their love for and addiction to this beautiful plant.  Approximately 750 hostas, with over 500 varieties, are showcased in pots of varying heights, railroad tie raised beds, and 10 wheelbarrows full of minis!  A myriad of companion plants are interspersed among the hostas. Amazing!!

Bickie and Mike McDonnell’s expansive lawn and beautifully landscaped gardens were an absolute joy.  Along with the wonderful hosta trails beneath large oak and hickory trees, you could wander around the rose garden, the vegetable garden, and the stunning perennial border.  A truly exquisite experience!

Lunch was provided at the 96 acre Memphis Botanic Garden,and included a container arrangement demonstration, and the presentation, “My Friends: Small Gardens and Special Places” by noted speaker and the master of container arrangements, Rita Randolph.  Plenty of free time was provided after lunch to walk about the many gardens on this beautiful acreage.  This is definitely a place I will visit again!

An hour in the afternoon was provided for a question and answer session with “experts,” Bob Solberg, Rob Mortko, and Tom Micheletti for anyone seeking help for many of the concerns facing the hosta enthusiast.

Saturday night dinner included the presentation, “Slow Gardening – All Seasons, All Senses (including Sense of Humor)” by one of Mississippi and the South’s most knowledgeable and entertaining horticulturists, Felder Rushing.  His presentation was an excellent respite from the long day, as he utilized a witty and down to earth style in encouraging attendees to “do what they like” in the garden.  A perfect ending to an extraordinary event!

Hosta Trail
Morgan Garden

H. 'Tattoo'

For a nominal fee to attend this event, I gained access to visit incredible gardens, to be entertained and educated by some of the best in the horticulture world, to have time for networking with new friends and old, for asking questions and getting answers, and to spend solitary time as well.  A very successful mini vacation indeed.

It was revealed that next year, this event will be held in North Carolina near Bob Solberg’s Green Hill Farm.  My recommendations if you plan to attend:  lodge at the host hotel (more time to rest and freshen up) and attend everything.  These meetings provide so much to learn, to see, to do, and you just do not want to miss anything! 
Convention Photos
Tucker Garden Bevill Garden Chambers Garden Dixon Gallery and Gardens
McDonnell Garden McDonnell Garden Morgan Garden Rita Randolph & Winners

Ferrell Garden
Carol Sams
Pittman Garden Convallaria & H. 'Sagae' Bevill Garden

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