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The Knoxville Garden Club Seeks to Overcome Plant Blindness


March 23, 2021

Historical Uses of Lamb’s Ear Lead to Giggles

The school children cannot help but giggle upon learning that lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) was once used as toilet paper. Seeing and touching the herbaceous perennial’s velvety leaves imprints their young minds—creating an amusing plant memory to last a lifetime.

Eliminating plant blindness by engaging the students—even using humor, was the goal of The Knoxville Garden Club (KGC) when it added the program, Plant Blindness/Plant Vision, to its ongoing work in the historical Blount Mansion gardens.

Plant blindness—the inability to see or notice plants in one’s environment—became a national topic of interest following the 2005 publication of author Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, about saving this generation’s electronically-wired children from nature-deficit disorder. Mr. Louv was the recipient of the GCA's 2020 Margaret Douglas Medal.

In 2018, KGC developed the plant-based lesson plan for student group tours to Blount Mansion, pointing out different plants/trees in the gardens: lamb’s ear, rosemary, dogwood, iris, and birth month flowers. Employing the five senses, club members teach students about the connections between these plants and foods (rosemary), beauty, state history (lamb’s ear in early Tennessee history used as toilet paper and band aids; iris as Tennessee’s state flower), and culture (birth month flowers given for their special meanings, Knoxville’s Dogwood Trails, Blount family gardens). 

Since 1934, KGC members have maintained the 18th century gardens at Blount Mansion, home to Southwest Territory Governor William Blount (1749-1800), who shepherded the territory to statehood in 1796 and later served as Tennessee’s first United States Senator. In addition, KGC members gather in early December to decorate the mansion house for the holidays.



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