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Growing Wild in Tennessee

- Steve Bender
Steve Bender

Terri Barnes and Mike Berkley specialize in native plants that are the bees’ knees.

If you’re looking for Bradford pear, nandina, golden euonymus, and other crummy plants, don’t ask Terri Barnes and Mike Berkley. They won’t sell them to you, no matter how many rubles you have. But if you’re on a holy quest for beautiful and rare native plants that are easy to grow and also feed pollinators, these two are your peeps.

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Terri and Mike run GroWild, an award-winning nursery in Fairview, Tennessee just south of Nashville that specializes in trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, wildflowers, and grasses native to North America. Their offerings are vast – more than 950 species and selections, most of which you’ll never find at a big box store. Their mission is to combat invasive foreign plants like kudzu, privet, Japanese honeysuckle, and English ivy by supplying indigenous species that are well-adapted to local climates and also support native wildlife and ecosystems.

- GroWild
GroWild

Their plant list is amazing. I count 25 different kinds of phlox (one shown above) that are great for butterflies and hummingbirds. They offer 23 species of asters, 9 kinds of black-eyed Susan (that’s Rudbeckia maxima aka tall black-eyed Susan up at the top), 11 species of coreopsis, 13 species of perennial sunflowers, and 17 species of goldenrod (no, they DO NOT cause allergies!). On the tree and shrub side, I count 11 serviceberries, 9 redbuds, 20 different dogwoods, 12 hydrangeas, 46 hollies, 25 oaks, and 34 native rhododendrons and azaleas. This is but a small sample.

- Steve Bender
Steve Bender

Terri and Mike gave me and my wife, Judy, the grand tour of GroWild during a recent visit. I’d met them both through Facebook and liked them immediately. Terri is a whirlwind of energy that seemingly never takes a break. When she’s not working at the nursery, she’s putting up hundreds of canned and jarred home-grown veggies and fruit and making artisanal soap. Mike is a gifted homebrewer. Naturally, he gifted some homebrew to me. Now we’re brew bros.

- Steve Bender
Steve Bender

Top Plants for Pollinators

Plants good for pollinators are the hottest items at GroWild right now and I’m not just talking about flowers. Trees and shrubs play important roles too. I asked Terri for a list of great plants for bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. Here it is.

- GroWild
GroWild

How to Get GroWild Plants

GroWild is primarily a wholesale nursery that grows plants for retail nurseries and other businesses. They do not ship plants by mail. They do sell plants retail at the nursery, but BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, as they also live there. So don’t show up unannounced at 6 AM, lest you be set upon by vicious, blood-thirsty hounds like Rocky. And don’t ask Terri to sell you a plant she’s growing for a three-gallon container at its current one-gallon size. She won’t.

For more info, click here. If you aren’t within driving distance to Fairview, maybe your local garden center can place an order for you.

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