‘Volunteer Gardener’ October in the Garden: Dahlia Season

By Laura Bigbee-Fott

It’s been so warm this year that dahlia production in the Nashville area has been difficult. Dahlias love warm days and cool nights, and there have precious few cool nights this season. However, with our recent change in the weather, we should start to see a few more luscious blooms from one of my favorite flowers.

Even as the dahlias finally begin to bloom in earnest, our enjoyment is bittersweet as we are also approaching our first hard frost of the year. In Nashville, the average first frost is October 28th. After that we have to decide whether to leave the dahlia tubers where they are, or take them up and store them over the winter.

I’ve gone back and forth through the years about whether to lift my dahlia tubers or leave them in place and I’ve done both with mixed results. Last winter was so wet that every tuber I left in the ground rotted – even some of the ones I planted out in the spring rotted! Now after losing hundreds of tubers, I think I’m in the “lifting” camp for good!

Why is it called “lifting”? Because you use a broad fork or garden fork and literally lift the soil from around the plant. A single dahlia tuber can multiply exponentially over a growing season, so if you use a shovel, you can easily slice through several tubers that could otherwise grow into entirely new plants in the spring.

After lifting, gently brush off any attached dirt with a stiff paint brush, then set the tubers out to cure for a few days. To store, place the tubers in boxes layered with peat moss or coir. (Some people also use perlite for this purpose.) Do not make the boxes airtight or mold may form and the tubers may rot. You will also want to check the tubers periodically over the winter. If you see mold forming, let the tubers air out and change the storage medium. If the tubers look shriveled, you might want to mist them gently with water.

I usually cut my tubers in the spring when I take them out of storage. Note: The eyes can continue to develop over the winter, so it’s important not to be in too big of a rush to separate them.

As you can see, dahlias are the divas of the cutting garden and require a lot of patience and care. But when they get that attention, they reward you with extravagant, long-lasting blooms, both in the garden as well as in the vase.

Happy gardening!

Laura Bigbee-Fott is a Davidson County Master Gardener. She owns Whites Creek Flower Farm and runs a floral event and wedding design business called Everything Blooms.

NPT relaunches John Seigenthaler ‘A Word on Words’ online archive


On Nashville Public Television’s A Word on Words, renowned journalist John Seigenthaler held in-depth and informed discussions with authors over the series’ 40-year run (1972 to 2013). NPT has digitized 901 episodes of A Word on Words and made them available online at https://www.wnpt.org/a-word-on-words-john-seigenthaler/. Mr. Seigenthaler’s many guests over the years extended beyond literary figures to include a wide array of historical and cultural notables such as astronaut Al Shepard, Rep. John Lewis, Julia Child.

The show’s host may have been its most fascinating subject, however. Mr. Seigenthaler served as editor of The Tennessean, founding editor of USA Today, assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and chair of the selection committee for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He was a passionate advocate of the First Amendment and founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in 1991.

“These are programs that we hope will be seen in many places over the years and maybe provide a little historical perspective on both Nashville and the country,” said John Seigenthaler, Mr. Seigenthaler’s son. To that end, NPT has shared the episodes with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting online archive, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH that includes more than 50,000 hours of public broadcasting programs and original materials. This database is searchable by title and guest and the show transcripts can be searched for words and topics.

NPT has already mined the newly available interviews for digital-first projects in conjunction with Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary series and this summer’s Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary.

According to NPT’s President & CEO Kevin Crane, who serves on American Archive’s advisory board, the A Word on Words digitization project got underway more than a decade ago when a cache of tapes was found in the station’s basement. “Some of them, we didn’t even have machines that could play them,” Crane said. Thus the station first made some of A Word on Words audio available online; now the entire shows are available for viewers to enjoy again.

Mr. Seigenthaler’s thorough preparation for each interview was legendary. Crane remembered how much authors appreciated that dedication. “I used to drive authors back and forth to the Southern Festival of Books and all the authors said the same thing: He really read my book,” Crane said.

“Dad spent longer doing the television shows at [NPT] than he did any other job in his life. He did it for free and he did it out of love for books and for the community. So these wonderful television programs are important us,” Seigenthaler said. “There’s not a day that passes that I don’t hear from somebody almost who says, ‘I love to watch A Word on Words, I love to watch him talk to authors about their books.’”

NPT has shared the John Seigenthaler A Word on Words episodes with the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, which Mr. Seigenthaler founded in 1991. Mr. Seigenthaler’s papers are now part of the Vanderbilt University Library and a chair in his name is part of the university’s history department. “This is a wonderful addition to what, for us, is a real tribute to his life, but also we hope to be available to researchers and students to learn more about him, the country and the history that he lived,” Seigenthaler said.

NPT also continues to build on Mr. Seigenthaler’s legacy with a reboot of his classic series. Hosted by Mystery writer J.T. Ellison and essayist Mary Laura Philpott, the new A Word on Words received a Midsouth Regional Emmy Award in January 2017 and was nominated for a second Emmy for the 2018 season.

Enter NPT’s AWOW Giveaway through Oct. 11!


It’s time for another AWOW Giveaway of books by authors we’ve interviewed on NPT’s Emmy-winning A WORD ON WORDS series.

With the Southern Festival of Books approaching, we’re keeping it local with authors who live in the Nashville area ‒ and we’ve included A WORD ON WORDS hosts J.T. Ellison and Mary Laura Philpott!

Register at wnpt.org/books for a chance to win the following books:

Lie to Me: J.T. Ellison
The Orphan Mother: Robert Hicks
Flight of Dreams: Ariel Lawhon
This Is Our War: Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay
Commonwealth: Ann Patchett
Rush: Lisa Patton
I Miss You When I Blink: Mary Laura Philpott

See A WORD ON WORDS episodes featuring these authors on the NPT Arts YouTube channel.

The contest ends Friday, Oct. 11, and the winner will be notified by Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Limit one entry per person. Keep Reading!

‘Volunteer Gardener’ September in the Garden: Botanical Names

By Laura Bigbee-Fott

Have you ever felt completely lost when trying to decipher the Latin (and/or Greek) botanical names of plants? When I first started my flower farm, I made myself read and memorize every botanical name for every species I grew. It made my brain hurt, but after a while, I started noticing similarities and the reasoning behind the nomenclature began to make sense. It’s like looking at a Where’s Waldo? picture: Suddenly the chaos disappears as the image snaps into focus.

What’s in a name?
Many gardeners simply use the common names for the plants in their gardens. But these names are often regional and can refer to different plants all together. In some areas of the country, “spirea” refers to Astilbe, the herbaceous shade perennial, while in other parts of the country, it refers to the woody perennial flowering shrub. Using the correct botanical names can cut through a lot of confusion.

There are seven levels of organization to identifying a particular plant, beginning with Kingdom. For now we’ll concentrate on the last three: family; genus; and species. (There are sometimes sub-categories below species, but they usually refer to a cultivar or hybrid.)

Family
You’ve probably seen the name “Asteraceae.” This is one of the most common families of flowering plants, encompassing all daisy-flowered plants, from the largest sunflowers to the tiniest wild aster. Two other familiar family names are “Violaceae” and “Liliaceae,” violet and lily forms, respectively.

Family names can help you identify a new plant. If you’re out on a hike and find a lovely wild daisy, you know to start looking in the Asteraceae family. In addition to flower forms, there are several identifiers that place a plant in a particular family. These include: Where the seeds are located, how they will look, and how to germinate them ‒ these are just a few of the similarities in a plant family.

Genus
This is where you really begin to see the differentiation of plant types, from Aquilegia to Zinnia. These are the names by which you will narrow down your search for a particular flowering plant (also known as angiosperm).

Species
This name tells you what kind of Aquilegia (common name: columbine) you’re growing. There are literally dozens of different species! So if you want to finish your native garden with some aquilegia, you will most likely look for A. canadensis. which has red nodding blooms and is native to Tennessee. If, on the other hand, you want something frillier with upward-facing blooms in a mix of colors, you might grow A. vulgaris, “Barlow Mix” (which is what I’m growing this year). In this case, “vulgaris” is the species, and “Barlow Mix” is the cultivar or variety of this species.

(Note: When the genus has already been stated in a paragraph, you may abbreviate it in following sentences while referring to the species in full, as I have done above.)

I hope this gives you a place to start the next time you’re flummoxed when trying to identify a particular plant. It really can be fun, and will give you a much deeper understanding of the magical world of flowering plants!

Happy Gardening!

Laura Bigbee-Fott is a Davidson County Master Gardener. She owns Whites Creek Flower Farm and runs a floral event and wedding design business called Everything Blooms.

‘NPT Reports: Whose Music?’ premieres on Sunday, Sept. 22

NPT’s LaTonya Turner with NPT REPORTS: WHOSE MUSIC? panelists Ann Powers, Cecilia Olusola Tribble, Dr. Kristine McCusker, and Tiera.

NPT Reports: Whose Music? premieres on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 6:30 p.m. The half-hour current affairs show will be hosted by NPT’s LaTonya Turner and will take a deep dive into issues and topics of importance to our community. Experts, stakeholders and others offer perspective and context on a range of subjects through group conversations, interviews and segments.

In this episode, Turner is joined by MTSU’s Dr. Kristine McCusker, an ethnomusicologist and co-director of the Oral History Association; NPR music critic Ann Powers; arts and cultural educator Cecilia Olusola Tribble, a racial equity coach; and country music singer-songwriter Tiera, a member of the Song Suffragettes writers collective. The group discusses the relevance of genres in the modern, digital age; whether the music industry is responding to consumers’ fluid listening habits; and how race and gender influence how artists are received and marketed.

Interviews with Henry Hicks, president and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music; and Belmont University voice student Leslie Osey are also part the program.

NPT Reports: Whose Music? was partly inspired by recent headlines and controversies about Little Nas X’s “Old Town Road” phenomena, as well as the kind of cultural exploration found in Ken Burns’ Country Music series. The intersection of race and music is also part of the story told in NPT’s DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost (returning to television Thursday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m., after an absence of more than a decade). But the idea of elastic genres and cultural appropriation, especially in regards to music, is not a new one; indeed the history of rock music is full of borrowing, tweaking and repackaging for different audiences.

“Why now, why is this different? We want to explore what has ramped up the intensity of the debate about crossover music and how it’s related to race and gender,” Turner says of the themes explored in NPT Reports: Whose Music?

After its broadcast premiere, NPT Reports: Whose Music? will be available for streaming and online viewing at wnpt.org/video.

Tower maintenance may affect daytime reception beginning mid-October

Attention NPT viewers: In order to ensure the safety of workers on our broadcast tower next week, our transmitter will operate at low power during daytime hours. Viewers who receive our signal via antenna or satellite may experience reception issues; cable viewers should not be affected.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

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NPT’s ‘DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost’ documentary returns Sept. 19

Harmonica virtuoso and early Grand Ole Opry star DeFord Bailey.

DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost, NPT’s Emmy-winning original production about the pioneering African American harmonica virtuoso, returns to television on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. and will also be available to stream at wnpt.org/video. The half-hour documentary about the early star of the Grand Ole Opry features appearances by Bailey’s three children and was narrated by R&B legend Lou Rawls.

DeFord Bailey learned to play the harmonica while bedridden with polio at the age of three and became a stunning player of what he referred to as “black hillbilly music.” He was a popular Opry star in the 1920s and ’30s, when the medium of radio allowed him to overcome the racial strictures of the era. Bailey also toured, however, sharing the bill with rising country stars like Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff, who appreciated the crowds drawn by his name and musical prowess. Being on the road was difficult and dangerous for Bailey, especially in the South, where Jim Crow laws meant he could not eat, lodge or socialize with his fellow performers in public.

“I was surprised to discover the amount of influence that African American musicians had on who we consider to be the fathers and grandfathers of country music,” said Kathy Conkwright, the documentary’s producer, in a 2002 Tennessean interview with Ken Beck when the film premiered. This theme of country music’s links to African American music is a prevalent one in Ken Burns’ 16-hour Country Music series premiering Sept. 15 on NPT. DeFord Bailey’s is one of the stories told in Country Music.

Bailey left the Opry roster in 1941 and refused to play in public for the next 40 years, returning for only four additional performances before his death in 1982. His return to the Opry was at the urging of David Morton, a history student who befriended him and later became his biographer. Back in 2002 when NPT’s documentary premiered, Bailey had yet to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame; that changed three years later.

Bailey’s story is no longer forgotten and neither is NPT’s DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost. “We’ve heard from many people looking for the documentary over the years,” said Bridget Kling, NPT’s senior director of broadcast content. The launch of the Country Music series was an impetus to sort through licensing issues for footage and photos to bring the show back to the air and to make it available for streaming. “Now if someone’s interest is piqued, they can see more about his story,” Kling said.

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Come to NPT’s ‘Country Music’ Premiere Party Sept. 15 at the Opry House

Here at NPT we’ve been gearing up for Country Music, the Ken Burns documentary series coming to Nashville Public Television next month. It just gets better and better: Join NPT for a Country Music Premiere Party Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Grand Ole Opry House. Tickets are $75 and are available at wnpt.org/country-music/opry-event.

Each event ticket includes:

  • A general admission seat in the Grand Ole Opry House to view the two-hour first episode
  • Entry into the Opry’s newly installed immersive Circle Room theater experience
  • A 30-minute performance by Old Crow Medicine Show
  • An advance copy of Old Crow Medicine Show’s latest album, Live at the Ryman (for the first 500 people entering the Grand Ole Opry House that evening)
  • A one-year subscription to NPT Passport (a $60 value) so attendees can binge watch all episodes of Ken Burns’ Country Music beginning Sept. 15
  • Two drink tickets and pre-show hors d’oeuvres
  • Access to special giveaways at the event
  • $20 off any $100 instore purchase in the Opry Shop (including Country Music merchandise)

Country Music is an eight-part, 16-hour series covering the history of the genre from its earliest days to 1996. The series airs 7 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, Sept. 15 through 25 ‒ immediately followed by an encore presentation each night ‒ and in two weekend marathons.

Proceeds from the Country Music Premiere Party support NPT’s cultural, educational and civic programming.

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‘Volunteer Gardener’ August in the Garden: Seed-Starting Tips

By Laura Bigbee-Fott

August is a great time to start seedlings for next year’s blooms. You can start hardy annuals now, as well as perennials and biennials. You can even still plant some hybrid sunflowers that will bloom this fall!

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
There are two varieties, Jua Maya and Cherry Rose, touted as having the fastest maturity ‒ a whopping 45 days from seed to vase! Jua Maya is lovely golden yellow flower with a large dark disc. Cherry Rose is a bicolor sunflower whose pale yellow petal tips deepen quickly to maroon toward the base of the petal. This flower also has a lovely, dark disc in the center. Both varieties are pollen-less hybrids, so they are perfect for cutting and enjoying indoors as well as out.

Hardy annuals
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Canterbury bells (Campanula medium) and bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus) ‒ also known as cornflower ‒ are just a few of the lovely flowers you can start now. A good resource that covers hardy annuals in detail is book Cool Flowers, a book by Virginia flower farmer Lisa Mason Ziegler.

Biennials
Here on the farm, I have started several trays of hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). I love their dramatic display in arrangements and nothing says “cottage garden” in quite the same way. Foxgloves (Digitalis) are quite easy to start from seed and they put on a wonderful extended show the following spring and early summer. Just remember: Foxgloves need a bit of afternoon shade here in the South.

Perennials
Starting perennials from seed has become my passion here on the farm, and there are so many to choose from! Perennials are the backbone of any garden, whether it’s a cutting, ornamental, butterfly or native garden. This year, I’m starting columbine (Aquilegia), yarrow (Achillea) and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Have fun starting next year’s garden! You’ll be saving money while you’re at it because a packet of seeds is much less expensive than a half-gallon plant. You’ll practically have a whole garden for what just you’d otherwise spend on a few fully grown plants. Plus, you get the joy and satisfaction of raising them yourself!

Happy Gardening!

Laura Bigbee-Fott is a Davidson County Master Gardener. She owns Whites Creek Flower Farm and runs a floral event and wedding design business called Everything Blooms.

NPT to air Ray Charles, Ed Temple & the Tigerbelles specials this month


Nashville Public Television will air two special programs of local interest during the month of August: An Opry Salute to Ray Charles premieres Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m.; and Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles airs Monday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m.

NPT is the national presenting station for An Opry Salute to Ray Charles, a celebration of the songs and influence of the iconic recording artist. Hosted by Grand Ole Opry member Darius Rucker, the performance was recorded at the Opry House in the fall of 2018 and features unique collaborations and performances of Charles’ music. Guests include Boyz II Men, Cam, Brett Eldredge, Leela James, Jessie Key, Ronnie Milsap, Lukas Nelson, LeAnn Rimes, Allen Stone, Travis Tritt, Charlie Wilson, Trisha Yearwood and Chris Young.

An Opry Salute to Ray Charles will be available to public television stations across the country in September when Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary series airs on PBS stations nationwide.

Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles is about the symbiotic relationship between legendary Tennessee State University track and field coach Ed Temple and his equally storied athletes. Under Temple’s leadership, the Tigerbelles team produced 40 Olympians who won 23 medals, 16 of them gold, during the Jim Crow era. This elite group not only excelled in sports, 100 percent of them graduated, many going on to receive advanced degrees. As the film shows, Temple’s program lives on in a new generation of athletes coached by Tigerbelle Olympic gold medalist Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice.

The Aug. 19 broadcast of Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles will be a live pledge event with filmmaker Tom Neff and TSU track and field coach Cheeseborough-Guice appearing on-air from NPT’s studio. TSU and MTSU supporters will staff the phone bank during this pledge event.

“This documentary is a love letter to Nashville,” said Neff, a professor in Media Arts at MTSU. “The Tigerbelles film is uniquely Nashvillian; it was created, financed, and produced entirely by Nashvillians and Nashville organizations in celebration of an unknown Nashville story.”

“Coach Temple was given $300 and two station wagons and told to go compete against the world,” retired Tennessean columnist Dwight Lewis says in the documentary. Temple is now immortalized with a statue next to the Nashville Sounds First Tennessee Park.

The Tigerbelles burst onto the scene at the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia, when they won several bronze medals. They continued that domination at the 1960 Rome Games where Wilma Rudolph became the first American to win three gold medals at a single Olympics. The 1960 gold medal Olympic team included Barbara Jones Slater (the youngest woman to win gold in track and field), Lucinda Williams Adams, Martha Hudson Pennyman, and Wilma Rudolph. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) won gold as light heavyweight. They all remained good friends.

Other medal-winning Tigerbelles include: Mae Faggs (called the Mother of the Tigerbelles), Madeline Manning Mims, Edith McGuire, Wyomia Tyus (the first male or female to win back-to-back gold in consecutive 100-meter Olympic events), Martha Hudson, Willye White, Kathy McMillan, Margaret Matthews Wilburn, Isabelle Daniels, and Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, who still holds the Olympic trial record in the 400-meter race.