The Hermitage, Nashville, TN

I was fortunate-thanks to my sweet mother-in-law, Margaret to visit former President Andrew Jackson’s former home, The Hermitage, located near Nashville, TN. She is a former teacher and loves to take us to teachable locations. Many of the buildings date from the early 1800’s, and the tour of the house and grounds was fascinating but emotional, as I know that this plantation was maintained and exists in large part due to the previous labor of slaves.

It is difficult to visit a place like this, but I want to honor those who worked the land here and who at best were subjugated human beings and at worst, lost their lives while doing it.

The Hermitage Gardens Nashville, TN Southeastern Native Plants
Central Sun Garden at the Hermitage
Red Nasturtium from The Hermitage Gardens

The gravel garden path from the house began with deep shade- extra welcome due the outrageous temps and full sun around the house. The first plant that caught my eye was one of the few plants marked with a nameplate in the gardens. I zoomed in under the dense crepe myrtle branches and captured this cool, shady Nasturtium dressed with red pops.

Giant Purple Coneflower Georgia Native Plant
Purple Coneflower ‘Echinacea purpurea’

Stepping out of the deep shade I encountered purple coneflower, with sun loving iris behind them. This day in late June, the heat had weight. It might have been the hottest day of the year, but well worth it because everywhere was flush with summer blooms. It seemed that every plant was showing off it’s best and brightest beauties that day.

The Hermitage Gardens Nashville, TN southeastern native plants

The gardens are almost exactly the same configuration, and use similar or the same types of plants as were grown here nearly 200 years ago. There are even some original plants, and descendant plants. I found this to be a beautiful tribute to the garden’s original designer- English designer William Frost, and also to Mrs. Rachael Jackson. Rachael was known for her love of plants, and helped to plan and maintain the gardens. The Hermitage Gardens page gives details on the plants, and the garden’s history.

Canna Lily The Hermitage Gardens
Canna Lily
Zinnias The Hermitage Gardens

Many of the plants in the gardens are edible, medicinally useful, and/or native to the southeast-like the first two plants in this post, the nasturtium and the purple coneflower. My focus on herbs and vegetable plants on this blog grows from my desire to showcase plants with a useful purpose.

I could go on and on about how I felt to be connected to the history of this place, mostly for the tragic things that happened here. But, I just want to stop here for a minute, just sit for a spell (as my mother Alawayne, and her mother Hazel would say). Just sit a spell here in the sunshine, and be grateful to be able to enjoy the lovely flowers.

Franklinia Alatamaha

I spoke with Katy Ross, owner of Night Song Native Plant Nursery, about one of the rarest and most unusual plants in the world. I will discuss in subsequent posts the other plants I got at the “Spring Open House and Earth Day Celebration,” on April 23rd, 2016.


The first plant I will talk about is the Franklin Tree.” Already special for many historical reasons, I found a personal connection with this plant in my previous research and writing. That connection, as well as this plant’s interesting history, made it particularly noteworthy.

The photo below shows a recovering plant after it was eaten down to one, sad leaf by the plentiful deer population. I took the pic of this green anole pretending to be a stick, after moving it to the back porch from the front yard-where I intended to plant it. It grew a few more leaves trying to recover as this photo shows, but …


I will save more suspense and say that despite my best efforts, the Franklinia Alatamaha did not survive. This is the last photo of the very special, rare tree I was so excited about.

There is however, a lesson in this about nature and gardening. A lesson that teaches about disappointment and acceptance. A lesson about patience and trying again next year. A lesson about about why plants might go extinct in the wild. It seems that deer, or some other mystery critter, love to eat this plant. The other plants I got that day are thriving, and I will post about those next!

I spoke with owner Katy Ross, asking her to tell me about this plant. It drew my interest because the sign said “discovered by William Bartram.” I completed a project on William Bartram a few years ago, so I wanted to know about and purchase this plant.

Katy told me the plant was discovered by Bartram growing near the Alatamaha River in Georgia, and was also named after Ben Franklin. Her information lead me to do more research online.  I meant to ask her how she discovered the plant, but forgot in my excitement.

I did not talk to Katy about the importance of native plants that day. Later reading one of her brochures, I was lead to website. The “Why Natives” webpage contains important, valuable information on why using native plants is critical to ecosystem health.


I can’t wait to return to Night Song Native Plant Nursery for more interesting native plants.

Finally, check out my project on Bartram titled Finding Buffalo Creek. I was inspired by his explorations of Georgia, his ties to important historical events, and his descriptions and drawings of native plants.