Master Gardener, Why Are My Plants Not Blooming?

When I was younger, every spring I would go buy plants without thinking or paying attention to what they needed for success. I was only concerned with my color scheme or if I thought the plant was pretty (or in my case on sale). I have been known to plant Marigolds in the shade. The first week everything still looked OK. As the weeks went by the blooms disappeared and the plants grew tall and leggy, I continued to water and fertilize but with no success. Finally, by the first of August both I and the marigolds’ were tired. I ignored the final days of my marigold’s life and obviously she never got to be a show stopper since she was always dreaming of the sun.

We are all frustrated when our plants fail to flower. What are the reasons? Poor growth, could be poor soil, or the soil could have been too hard too wet, or dry. I know this sounds like goldilocks’ and the three bears. We want the plant to be just right, therefore we have to know what growing conditions are best for each individual plant. I once planted roses in an area in the yard that was bare and so barren even Bermuda grass was not interested in this soil. Fortunately it was in full sunlight and the heavy clay soil proved to be good so that the roses succeeded.

Improper fertilization, or over feeding plants is just as bad as under nourishment. This is where professional always stress that you should start with a soil test. Nitrogen is what lawns like. Plants that produce flowers or fruit need a more balanced diet. Fertilizers are to plants what vitamins are to humans; they provide supplemental nutrients and minerals that plants might not otherwise obtain. Fertilizers may be organic or synthetic and you can purchase fertilizers formulated to promote the growth of a particular plant like azaleas.

The first ingredient listed on a box or bag of fertilizer is Nitrogen content. This is necessary for leaf growth and supplies plants with the proteins needed to create tissues. Nitrogen is abundant in the atmosphere, but exists in a form that plants cannot use. Fertilizer is necessary to give plants the nitrogen they need. Phosphorus is the second item listed and it helps plants grow roots and increases seed size. It aids plants in energy transfer and gives them a head-start when it is time to produce flowers and fruit. Third is Potassium, it strengthens the stems of plants which helps with transporting water. This nutrient also improves disease resistance, helps plants make carbohydrates and regulates metabolic activities within plants.

Soil often lacks the necessary ingredients and properties that plants need in order to thrive. This effect is amplified in soil that has been used before. Plants absorb nutrients from the soil and leave it less fertile with each use. Fertilizer replaces the nutrients in soil and helps it retain moisture.

Too much fertilizer is detrimental and causes fertilizer burn due to the high concentration of nitrogen. I just experienced this last week when I dropped some 34-0-0 on a grass path, the rain never came and now the grass tops are brown. I don’t think I have killed the grass but I have definitely hurt my cause.

Another problem is insufficient light. This is where my marigold story started. If you put a sun loving plant in shade don’t expect the flowers to continue. If the label instructing you about care of your new plant has a picture of the sun or says I love the sun. It will need six to eight hours of sun per day. The same is true putting a shade plant in the sun. The leaves will burn and growth will be stunted.

Your plant could be a teenager and not ready to flower. It is growing leaves and establishing roots, when this is accomplished then the plant can start producing fruit or flowers. This is why you never see seedlings blooming. This problem is rare in annuals but it you have a flowering tree or bush you may have to wait longer before you see results.

The too wet or too dry is hard decision. If a plant wilts during a summer day but then perks back up during the night and looks fine in the morning you plant could be suffering from heat wilt not water wilt. I watch my hydrangeas lay down and wilt each afternoon but they look fine in the morning light.

My husband and I planted some boxwoods and after the first season they had turned red with winter burn. The second year they looked yellow and stunted. I dug up one of the plants to look at the roots in my effort to diagnose the problem. Danny being more cavalier said he would take care of them. He gathered some grandchildren all under the age of six, gave them a bag of lime and a bag of 6-12-12 fertilizer. Each child had a Tennessee stadium cup. He then instructed them to put a cup of each on every plant. I was horrified. The third year the plants looked great. Go figure.

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Bohemian Wedding

In today’s world, many people turn to music, Broadway or Hollywood movies to find a touching love story that they can invest their hearts and minds into and watch grow from beginning into forever. Fortunately for Will and McKenzie, they need not travel far to experience their own story that would begin as young children and advance into a lifelong commitment that they would make to one another.

Will Thompson and McKenzie Irons first met when they were eight years old as competitors for the Athens Dolphins Summer Swim League. They would compete for many years afterwards and would remain distance acquaintances as they passed through elementary and middle school. When both entered into high school, McKenzie remained active with her studies and area swim team, the Sea Dragons, while Will focused also on his studies and on other sports. Although not sharing one single, high school class together throughout their time at McMinn County High School, Will always found McKenzie interesting and wanted the chance to know her better. It wasn’t until their Senior year that Will took a leap of faith and rejoined the swimming world with the intention of hopefully catching McKenzie’s eye. Both were highly dedicated athletes and spent the majority of their free time in the pool practicing or competing in biweekly swim meets. It was during this season that McKenzie recognized her mutual feelings for Will. The two became inseparable from that moment on.

Graduation day came and passed and the pair prepared to go separate directions for school. McKenzie was to attend her first year at Cleveland State Community College, and Will was to begin his first year at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to pursue a career in engineering. The two felt passionately enough that with hard work and dedication, their relationship would remain strong despite the long distance. After she completed her first year at Cleveland State, McKenzie realized that she too bled orange and white and would join Will in Knoxville to pursue a degree in marketing for her remaining three years of schooling. Year two was down and change was in motion. The pair received amazing news that Will had received an opportunity to intern at Nissan in Nashville, TN. Although excited for this honor, Will and McKenzie realized that long distance would now not only be a thing of their past but also their present. The remained focused and began to put plans into motion on how their relationship would work while living in two difference cities. During his time in Nashville, Will would travel every weekend to Knoxville to visit McKenzie. It was in these moments that they realized that they both were in it for the long haul.

The two remained diligent. McKenzie graduated UT Knoxville and returned back to Athens to begin her career. Will returned to UT for his final year or school. The couple remained semi-long distance but this time, McKenzie had a ring on her finger which made it all worthwhile. On May 19, 2018, with friend, family, and the Holy Spirit surrounding them, Will and McKenzie became officially inseparable once again. Every part of their day was filled with laughter, smiles, warmth, love, and Jesus. The two wed at Central Baptist Church by the pastor and grandfather of McKenzie, Mike Bernard. A reception was to follow at the Bernard Residence in Riceville, TN. On display under a big white tent stood a gorgeous cake that was designed by Will and McKenzie who were inspired by a doughnut the two shared at a bakery in Knoxville. The mother of the bride, Melodye Irons, hand-made and decorated the cake herself. The bride wore an eloquent flower crown that was designed and created by her dad, Gary Irons. In the corner of the tent, a vintage photo bus stood so guests could create and cherish the memories made. The room was filled with joy and fun as guests enjoyed dancing and a shrimp broil that was prepared by church friends. It was truly a day to remember.

Now that the excitement has settled, the two live a quaint live in Niota, Tennessee. McKenzie is a local photographer for the Athens and Knoxville areas and Will is an engineer for Titan Implements in Decatur, Tennessee. The two are so incredibly excited for their God’s plan for their life and are ready to take on all of life’s adventures.

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Sequoyah Birthplace Museum

The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore opened in 1986 to promote the understanding and appreciation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians history and culture. The centerpiece being the life and contributions of Sequoyah, creator of the Cherokee Writing System. While enlisted in the War of 1812, Sequoyah became to understand the power of written word. After the war, with no ability to read or write himself, Sequoyah started his work to create a writing and writing system for the Cherokee language. In 1821, after 12 years of work, Sequoyah introduced his syllabary to the Cherokee people. Within months thousands of Cherokee became literate. By 1828 they were publishing the “Cherokee Phoenix”, the first national bilingual newspaper. Sequoyah was awarded a silver medal by the Cherokee Nation for his contributions and service to the Cherokee people, a dedication he continued as a statesman and diplomat until his death.

For the past thirty years, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum has successfully promoted this history, the continued goal of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for the museum. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum has completed the major renovation that began last year. The new museum experience includes the latest audio-visual technology bringing the Cherokee Nation and the man, Sequoyah to life. Innovative exhibits are now enjoyed within the two main theaters, assorted audio-visual programs throughout and life-cast figures created from living models to present Sequoyah in age progression from 10 years old to about 45 years of age. The new collection of artifacts and engaging exhibits illustrates the forward thinking of this great man and takes each visitor back in time unfolding history.

The 2.7 Million Dollar Renovation Is Complete!

Advanced media technologies and electronics enhance visitors’ enjoyment of this all new exhibit. It portrays the Cherokee life and the legacy of Sequoyah in an all new multi-million dollar remodeled museum open now! The modern museum includes videos, dioramas, new additions to the Native American artifacts, paintings and interactive tools telling the story of this great man and the Cherokee Indian people.

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The Voice Winner Chris Blue Performed at the Pat Summit Foundation’s 2018 Salute for a Cure

The Pat Summitt Foundation’s annual Salute for a Cure fundraising event was held on Thursday, April 26, 2018. The event was held at newly opened venue, The Press Room, located at 730 North Broadway, Knoxville, Tennessee. Over 380 guests attended and enjoyed a nicely prepared dinner, live auction, and performance by Chris Blue, the 2017 winner of NBC’s hit show “The Voice.” Before Blue’s performance, the program included updates about the Foundation from executive director, Patrick Wade, and a moving speech by Coach Summitt’s son, Tyler Summitt. Attendees enjoyed a private concert performed by Chris Blue, including his full band, back-up singers and dancers. He concluded his set with an epic performance of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.” This event, organized by event chair Louise Frazier and her wonderful committee, raised $70,000 for the Foundation to help support its mission, which is focused on Alzheimer’s patient care, medical research and caregiver support. The committee has already started planning for the 2019 event. If you would like to learn more about this event and The Pat Summitt Foundation, please visit

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Bill Lee: Cattle Farmer, Businessman, Father and Grandfather, and Seventh Generation Tennessean

Bill Lee has always had a heart for serving others. At one point in his life, he even believed he was destined to become a missionary…until a wise man told him that perhaps the best place for him to serve, for him to make a difference, was right at home in his family business. As a result of this advice, Bill poured his heart and soul into not only his business, but also his family and his community, always with the intent of making life better for those around him. His strength of character is truly remarkable given the hardships he and his family have endured – a strength of character powered by his faith in God. Bill was born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee, the son of a son of a farmer. His grandfather only had about a third-grade education, but Bill’s father and uncle went off to Vanderbilt, got degrees and came back home to start Lee Refrigeration Company. Being the older brother, his dad ran the business, and it began to take off from a small mom and pop company to something far bigger. Things were going fine for Bill, who also went off to college before coming home to join the family business. He met the first love of his life, Carol Ann, while backpacking in Yellowstone National Park. They married and had four children – Jessica, Jacob, Caleb and Sarah Kate. On a family vacation back to Yellowstone to share the land of their youth with their kids, Bill recalls experiencing the best day of his life. The day was filled with family fun and adventure and culminated with a chance to view one of Bill’s favorite animals – mountain goats.On that journey, Carol Ann remembered a passage about mountain goats from the Book of Job, which Bill jokingly admits is not a book of the Bible he reads very often. Job, a good and faithful servant of God, is beset by numerous tragedies to test his faith. When Job asks God, “Why me?” God responds and says, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me…Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” (Job 38:3; Job 39:1, NIV)Bill had no idea this passage spoken to him on the best day of his life would soon help him get through the worst day of his life.A few weeks after their family vacation, Bill was driving home from work. Lee Company was growing exponentially, his oldest daughter was off on a mission trip and, on this particular day, he pulled into the family farm to the sight of his twin boys playing as four-year-old Sarah Kate and his wife rode off on a horse. Bill honked and waved at them, never expecting his life was about to change forever.Shortly thereafter, he found his young daughter wandering alone in a field. There had been an accident. The horse had thrown both riders, and while Sarah Kate escaped unharmed, Carol Ann was badly injured. Bill describes the experience as being like having a glass vase drop to the pavement – you look at it, and you know you can never put it back together again. Later, as he sat at the hospital with her in a coma, he pulled out his Bible and turned to the same passage she’d read to him only weeks prior and thought, “God is the same on the worst day of my life as on the best day. Only my circumstances have changed.” He did not understand it or like it, but he knew there were lessons learned and insight gained from hardships and that they would only serve to strengthen him.One of these lessons Bill learned at Carol Ann’s gravesite. He was sitting there as the marble marker with her name on it was installed and wondered to himself what she would say if she were there with him. He knew immediately she would say there are only two things in the world that mattered to her – that she knew Him, and that anybody else in the world knows Him because of her. Bill walked out of the cemetery revitalized and knowing he needed to apply this principle to the rest of his life, no matter what might come.Bill took a break from his company to focus on being a single dad, but tragedy was far from over. One day, his oldest daughter drove home from school in the middle of the day, took a gun and shot herself in the head. Bill found himself traveling down the same road to the same hospital where his wife had died, the helicopter carrying his daughter flying overhead, and he had no idea if she would survive.Thankfully, his daughter did survive, and what could have been another great tragedy actually helped mend holes in their relationship. In fact, Bill is pleased to say he has a remarkable relationship with all his children – not in spite of the struggles they faced, but because of them.Bill eventually returned to the family company, making tough choices and through staunch determination, he repositioned the Lee Company for success to where they now have over 1,200 employees.In addition to running a successful business and 1,000-acre cattle ranch, Bill has also been heavily involved in the community. He has mentored at-risk youth through YCAP and inmates through the Men of Valor prison ministry, and he has seen how good leadership is so desperately needed in education, criminal justice and workforce reform. Though our state has had powerfully great people to lead it in the past, Bill truly feels that Tennessee can be not just a great state but a leader in the nation. All we need is the right man at the helm.This is where Bill hopes his heart for serving others can someday soon serve the State of Tennessee. Just like the greatest leader of all, Jesus Christ, he believes what we need is someone to serve our state. Someone with not only the proven leadership skills, but the heart and hope to take Tennessee to better places. When tragedy repeatedly struck Bill’s life, he could have shaken his fist up at heaven or given up, but instead, his heart and hope only grew. Now, he is not only a successful businessman and doting father and grandfather, but he found his second great love in his wife, Maria.On the RV Bill and Maria recently took on the campaign trail, hitting 95 counties in 95 days, they printed Psalm 71:14 – “As for me, I will always have hope.” Bill’s never-ending hope and devoted reliance on his faith have helped him persevere through hardships some of us could never imagine, but it has also forged him into exactly the sort of leader who can not only bring hope, but spread hope, throughout Tennessee.

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