The Leaflet

~ May 2024 ~

This month has been full of excitement. The cicadas have emerged and are making a deafening racket while mating and laying eggs. The storms have given us a leg up on our rainfall amounts, but caused some destruction in their paths. And to go with last month’s solar eclipse, we got to see the northern lights. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to take it all in.

I'm so thankful for gardening and the relaxing joy it can bring. With everything going on, I hope you made it to our annual plant sale and are ready for some spring/summer gardening. I was excited to see some new faces and old friends at the sale and some new plants to take home. Once I get all the plants in their new homes, I will be sure to step back and take it all in.

I wanted to thank all of the Master Gardeners for their hard work and dedication to making the plant sale a success. It is a great day when we can be hands-on with the community and bring new life to everyone’s gardens. 

There is always thyme for gardening!

Shawn Herman, President



In lieu of a regular meeting this month, members enjoyed the annual association picnic.


 The Robertson County Master Gardener Association meets the fourth Thursday of every month


A Tour of Charleston Gardens

by Kalisha Fleischmann

Recently, I had the chance to fulfill a bucket list item and travel to Charleston, South Carolina, affording me the opportunity to walk around some of the historic homes and plantations where just about every location seemed to have a plaque documenting the history of the home from the Civil War era. Among these fabulous homes, peeking through gates and fences or even on church and public park grounds and old cemeteries, I discovered beautiful gardens with unusual and prolific greenery, flowers, shrubs, and trees.

Charleston was founded in 1670. It is situated in the inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, making it a very popular port city and historical center. Fort Sumter, located in the bay, is the location of the first shot fired in the Civil War. Major crops grown and exported (primarily to the Caribbean) in the 1800s included rice, cotton, and indigo (1700s).

For the 1800's Charleston gardener, planting was mostly trial and error to see what worked well in the subtropical Lowcountry soil. The primary aim, initially, was food supply; however, other exotic plants and flowers were also planted. It is a result of those efforts that the modern day tourist is able to enjoy the beautiful bounty we now see up and down the quaint cobblestone, tree-lined streets.

Many varieties were introduced to Charleston in the 1700/1800's era, including Old World species such as the tea olive, crape myrtle, Chinese tallow, mimosa, camellia, and gingko. There were also experimental gardens, publications and societies formed, such as the “Gardener’s Kalendar” from Mrs. Martha Daniell Logan, the French Botanic Garden (an experimental station), and the S.C. Medical Society Botanical Gardens. Later, the Garden Club of Charleston federated in 1933 and remains active today.

Some of the more well-known gardens today include: Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Colonial Lake, Hampton Park, Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, and Cypress Gardens. Common species to be seen in the area include: azaleas (hundreds of varieties), camellias, magnolias, roses, sentinel palmetto palms, loquats, and the Carolina jessamine.

“Party ready” garden boxes are certainly popular in the downtown area, full of texture, color, and contrast, using thrillers, spillers, and fillers, such as ivy, petunias, dusty miller, lobelia, lantana, violas, geraniums, ferns, and Vinca minor. Snapdragons, candytuft, and angelonia also offered quite a bit of eye candy.

Finally, out of town a spell, is the Charleston Tea Garden on Wadmalaw Island. The garden is now owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, but retains its brand under the Charleston Tea Garden name. Tea bushes, known as Camellia sinensis, arrived from China in the 1700s. Tours are offered today for a small fee to ride the trolley, see the greenhouse, and tour the factory. I found this to be a highlight of our trip, and the drive to get there was stunning with the oaks full of Spanish moss hanging over the back roads.

After spending three days in Charleston, we moved on to Savannah, GA, but not before taking a sunset bay cruise (highly recommend!). The cruise highlighted several interesting locations that could not be seen from Charleston proper, including pods of dolphins and Fort Sumter, as well as the beautiful mansions that line the bay, a different perspective not to be missed.

A Warm Welcome by Rutherford County Master Gardeners

by Stacey Haag

On a recent trip to Rutherford County, I stopped to pay a visit to the Rutherford County Master Gardeners' Demonstration Garden, located within the Lane Agri-Park. Their themed gardens are beautiful, spread out over the campus in colorful groupings, allowing visitors to meander and enjoy their time at a relaxed pace.

I started my journey in the Butterfly Garden, the garden that established the project in 2010. As a natural second stop, I visited the Herb Garden, which was the second garden to be planted. Separating the two gardens, I followed the path to a large outdoor classroom on the edge of a pond. It's a beautiful location where several visitors were enjoying benches in the shade, listening to the sound of the nearby fountain.

Several RCMGs were finishing up their work for the morning as I perused the Raised Bed Garden. As I approached the far end, I was welcomed by Donna Barbic and Pat Phillipson, two friendly RCMGs who were hard at work on a hot day. We chatted about our respective chapters and projects. Pat pointed out their new mushroom beds nearby that are awaiting new signage.

Leaving my new friends to their important work, I took my time exploring their other tasty crops, including berries and orchard trees. Throughout the gardens, I spotted several rain barrels and compost bins, which I'm always happy to see. Their garden shed is adorned with a cheerful mural, and I discovered whimsical touches tucked within the beds.

Around the bend, I discovered their beautiful Rain Garden that is planted with a great variety of plants that I knew would be happy for the week-long rain that was arriving the following day. A Perennial Garden bursting with spring color was tucked into a bend on the driveway connecting parking lots on the campus.

I'd highly recommend taking a trip to visit the Rutherford County Master Gardeners' Demonstration Garden at Lane Agri-Park. Not only are their gardens beautiful and well maintained, but you may run into my new friends who would be more than happy to give you a tour!

The Lane Agri-Park is an impressive, 135-acre park located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee that features a variety of attractions and activities related to agriculture, education, and community events. It is operated by the University of Tennessee Extension and offers, in addition to the gardens, a farmers' market, playground and picnic areas, a community center, event spaces, walking trails, a disc golf course, and more. The park is a popular destination for families and community groups, serving as an agricultural hub in the region.

Bringing Nature Home: A Book Review

by Kathy Doss

Plants are essential to all life on Earth. They capture sunlight's energy, converting it into fuel through photosynthesis. This energy fuels the entire food chain as it is passed on when other organisms consume plants (or consume organisms that have consumed plants). Additionally, plants are constantly replenishing the atmosphere with the oxygen we breathe. Our survival depends on the presence of plants in our environment.


But plants don't thrive in isolation. They rely on a crucial partnership with insects for their continued existence. Insects play an indispensable role in pollination, which is vital for the production of fruits, vegetables, and the growth of new plants. They also act as nature's recyclers, breaking down dead plants and animals. This decomposition process enriches the soil with nutrients, promoting new plant growth. Furthermore, insects that feed on plants become food sources themselves, sustaining a multitude of creatures higher up the food chain. This interdependence sustains the delicate balance necessary for the health of our ecosystem. In essence, our survival hinges not just on plants, but also on the thriving insect population they support.

In his book Bringing Nature Home, Douglas W. Tallamy, a renowned entomologist, presents alarming evidence of a decline in insect populations. He highlights the critical link between native plants and insects, pointing to the loss of natural habitats as a key factor in this decline.


Many communities have seen a replacement of native plants with non-native species during development. However, most insects rely on plants they have co-evolved with for survival. These unfamiliar, non-native plants leave native insect populations struggling to find food.


To address this issue, Dr. Tallamy advocates for incorporating native plants into our landscapes. These plants provide essential habitats and food sources not only for insects, but also for birds and other wildlife. Through compelling stories and scientific research, his book showcases the potential of native-plant gardens to create miniature ecosystems that contribute to overall ecological health.


Dr. Tallamy's message is clear: we must recognize the value of native biodiversity and take action towards its conservation and restoration. He offers practical steps individuals can take to create insect-friendly havens in their own yards and communities. There's no need for an all-or-nothing approach. He suggests simply considering native varieties when adding new plants, making a gradual contribution to restoring and safeguarding local ecosystems.


Bringing Nature Home serves as a call to action. It urges readers to embrace their role as stewards of their local environment and bring nature back into our gardens. Personally, Dr. Tallamy's message has motivated me to take an active role in this mission.

Bird-Friendly Garden Plants Poster

Birds rely on plants as important sources of food and shelter. Enjoy the beauty of bird-friendly plants and the birds that benefit from them in this gorgeously illustrated poster. See a plant you like? Learn more about the plant species that appear here on the back side of the poster! Illustrations by Charlotte Holden, Bartels Science Illustrator 2022.

Profiles in Gardening...

Kalisha Fleischmann

Why did you become a Master Gardener?

I was interested in the Master Gardener program because I wanted to get more proficient with growing my own food and being more independent from my reliance on others to provide good, healthy vegetables and fruit.

What types of gardening are you most interested in?

I’m most interested in raised-bed, greenhouse growing of herbs and vegetables.

What are two of your favorite plants?

Two of my favorite plants are rosemary and thyme for the culinary flavor they add.

What is your favorite thing (so far) about Master Gardeners?

My favorite thing about Master Gardeners is the wealth of information that comes from the group about various topics. All you have to do is ask and information springs forth!

What other hobbies or interests do you have?

Other hobbies/interests of mine include integrative health, travel, and just about any adventure involving water (including shark diving!).

Where, other than Robertson County, have you lived & gardened?

I have lived and/or gardened in California (I’m from Santa Barbara, originally), Oregon, Arizona, New Zealand (most recently), and, now, here.

How did you first become interested in gardening?

I first became interested in gardening when I was a little girl in Seattle, WA. We had a huge cherry tree, and my mom kept a backyard garden in the summers. We had enormous blue hydrangeas that, to this day, I’m still partial to. And I would spend hours finding four-leaf clovers in the grass.

In addition to gardening, do you have experiences, skills, or interests that you would like to practice in the Master Gardeners?

Other skills I have that might compliment Master Gardeners would be keeping chickens, but I’m very interested in learning bee keeping!

What are two interesting things about you that we don’t know?

Two interesting things about me: I studied martial arts and MMA/kickboxing for five years in my mid-30s, and I still love to kickbox! I have climbed glaciers, ridden in helicopters multiple times, and scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef, St. Lucia, Tahiti, and the Virgin Islands. I’m a bit of an adventure craver, but I love my quiet life in Greenbrier as well.


Master Gardeners Stacey Haag and Dawn Chen and Junior Master Gardener Tallen Haag recently spent an afternoon at East Robertson Elementary School teaching plant science to 5 first grade classes. The students were very engaged and inquisitive, full of great questions!

On May 8, about a dozen people met at Highland Rim for a mushroom log inoculation session led by Rich Latane and Jeff Bayer. We finished several logs before the tornado sirens went off and we had to seek shelter in the basement. Thank you to Rob Ellis for facilitating our work session!

Upcoming Events

May 25-26: Music City Rose Show

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens


Contact Us



Shawn Herman

(615) 948-4376


Vice President:

Nola Hastings

(714) 296-2740



Holly Brooks

(760) 861-4833



Sandy Williams

(615) 969-7656


Master Gardener Coordinator:

Bob Ary

(615) 384-7936

Instagram Administrator:

Kathy Doss

(615) 636-5410



Kathy Doss

(615) 636-5410


Facebook Administrator:

Shawn Herman

(615) 948-4376


The Leaflet Editor:

Stacey Haag

(615) 389-4663

Robertson County Master Gardener Association
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