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Gala spotlights more than gardens

Staff Writer [email protected]

Jonesborough bloomed with vibrant flowers and hand- crafted garden goodies at the Garden Gala on Saturday.

The event is a popular way to view Jonesborough’s secret gardens, giving attendees a chance to see a different side of Tennessee’s Oldest Town as they wind their way up and down paths to find hidden treasures.

But in addition to the beautiful gardens Jonesborough has to offer, various plants, bird houses and floral arrangements were also on display as local farmers and artisans showcased their products, such as Neena Swigert who owns Daydream Bokay.

“We sell silks and live flowers,” said co-worker Jennifer Lunceford. “We do funerals, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. We do all occasions.”

Swigert has been in business just over a year and this was their first year at the Garden Gala.

“Neena has done arrangements all her life and is very good at what she does,” Lunceford said. “She used Bokay to be unique and creative.”

Local farmers Joe Gorman and Becca Holmes grow rare and unique plants that one may not find just anywhere.

“Pollinator Rare Plants was a long evolution. We started out as vegetable farmers and it was 100% open pollinated, which meant we didn’t use any plant materials or GMO’s,” Holmes said. “We emphasize the biodiversity of our farm, it’s really important to us to preserve plants. When we transferred to the nursery, we focused on plants that are good for pollinators, one we are very proud of is our milkweed.”

Gorman said that they grow as much as they can from local ecotype seeds, even by knocking on their neighbor’s doors.

“We will ask them if we can harvest some seeds off their milkweed growing in your side yard. And then growing everything certified naturally grown,” he said. “We launched the nursery in January 2020 and this year is the first year we have had a full season.”

Since he was five, Gorman has been collecting and growing rare plants.

“The plants have come from all over the place. We have a species of Menorca Loosestrife that was collected in 1927 on the island of Menorca and sent to the Spanish botanical garden in Barcelona,” he said. “That garden was  destroyed in war and the plant was wiped out in 1937 in a battle. Somehow the plant survived in one or two places and has been passed down from botanic gardens to researchers to garden clubs and seed exchanges. I got these seeds from a guy that grows them in Pennsylvania, and these are direct descendants of those plants collected in 1927.”

The plant is now extinct, so the appeal is to be one of the very few people in the world to own this plant, Gorman said.

In addition to plants and flowers, the Garden Gala also brought those selling beanies and bird houses, like Joanne Severt and Mike Evans.

“I’ve been making crochet pot holders and beanies for five years and the blankets I just do in my spare time,” Severt said. “I use different materials, such as polyester for my scrubbies and cotton for my hats. I carry a bag with me with materials and will just pull it out and start working on it.”

The pair have only done a handful of craft shows, but they love showing off their work.

“I use southern yellow pine for the wood on my birdhouses,” Evans said. “They are species specific. Each box comes with a data sheet that talks about each box and the birds that it is designed to attract. There are 24 species the four different models are designed to attract.”

By working with Cornell University Ornithology, Evans even paid attention to ventilation, drainage, and a way for baby birds to get out of the house when it was time to take flight.