University of Georgia's famed football coach is passionate about two things: football and gardening. In our Q & A, he talks about his biggest gardening challenge: "Trying to keep it up as I acquire more and more space and more plants. My mother used to say, 'Housework is never done.' The same can be said for gardening."
Do you lean more toward perennials or annuals? I really enjoy wooded plants and shrubs, especially local Southern varieties. Perennials like peonies and dahlias, in their respective seasons, are some of the most beautiful flowers. I love them. I also enjoy daphne. I love plants with fragrance.
Let me tell you a story about daphne. They can be difficult to grow because they don’t like wet feet, so you have to be careful of them—that’s what I was told, anyway—but mine thrived when I first planted them, years ago. I gained a lot confidence with the daphne early on. But then two years after that, we had to move the daphne to a new location, under a flowering dogwood tree. Well, everything was fine until that old dogwood, which had always been flourishing, finally died. Within four months, the daphne died, too. Why? Well, it turned out that the dogwood had been absorbing all of that moisture that the daphne doesn’t like. That was a real world gardening education for me. Since then, I’ve learned that experience truly is the best teacher.
What’s your latest acquisition? I like Dr. Dirr’s Endless Summer series of hydrangeas because I saw him develop it from beginning to end. It's an incredible re-blooming hydrangea he discovered up in Minneapolis. From the first, original Endless Summer variety, he developed Blushing Bride. Another one is Twist-n-Shout, a pink, re-blooming lace-cap hydrangea that’s a cross between Lady in Red and Penny Mac.
Then, there’s Pinky Winky, a pink-and-white variety of hydrangea, and Phantom, [another hydrangea] which has these huge blooms. There’s really endless varieties of Hydrangea paniculata, so there’s been a rebirth of interest in them. I enjoy trying to acquire them all.