– Once in a while you find a garden that really surprises you and nothing could be more true of this garden in Ripley, Tennessee. Off the beaten path over
here in West Tennessee where it’s completely maybe unexpected. But once you start collecting something, a lot of times as you all
know, we can’t really stop. This garden is spectacular and I can’t wait for you to see it. There’s an amazing variety of Japanese maples on this property and they really form the bones and the structure of the garden. Upright varieties, weeping varieties, red leaf, green leaf, variegated forms. The collection is
enormous and it belongs to Judge Jody and Danna Walker
here in Ripley, Tennessee. Thank you so much for
having us here today. – Thank you for coming. – [Danna] Thank you.
– [Troy] Absolutely. So tell us how did this obsession as one of our mutual
friends has put it, start? – We have a local nursery in the county on Nankipoo Road, Owen Farms and he specialized in
rare and unusual plants including Japanese maples. That’s how we started, began in 1996. Didn’t have any maples here before ’96 and bought them small, knee-high and raised them in pots for a while then eventually we started
putting them in the yard. – [Danna] It actually
started with a bonsai. Was interested in the trees that were so beautiful and graceful. We discussed that and my husband said, “Well, let’s, they’re difficult. “They’re complicated, you
need to learn about them.” So, went to the library,
checked my book out and the next day I was ready for my bonsai and we went and sure enough about two months into the
summer it was difficult, then we just decided to go to trees in pot which is also bonsai. – Right. – [Danna] Trees, tree in pot.
– [Troy] Right, right. Tree in pot. – [Danna] Just eventually one place, developed one area at a time and worked around the yard until we have come to this. – [Judge Jody] We started in this area. The first maples that we
bought were planted in this, we call it the turn
around area, this alcove. We’re trying to get the
view that we now have today. – Right. Well and I could hardly pick
a favorite in this collection but the one behind us certainly is stunning.
– [Danna] It is. – [Troy] And it’s really beautiful. What is it? – [Danna] Asahi zuru. – [Troy] Asahi zuru. – [Danna] Yes. – [Troy] The variegated
leaves are so unusual on this particular tree
and it’s such a good size. – [Danna] The branches are pink. When it comes out in the spring there’s more pink on the leaves also. You can see that it’s tipped
there with the green also but we’ll have more pink
and then as it warms up then it goes to the cream color. The maples are so gorgeous and depending on the season or the week sometimes the weather causes
certain changes in them, and you do have different
favorites during the season. – [Troy] Right. – [Judge Jody] Each spring we have dozens of seedlings that
come up and we collect them, dig them up out of the
yard and put them in pots and grow them for three
or four years in a pot and then transplant them to the yard. This particular seedling
came up with the rough bark much like the pine bark
maples, nishiki gawa but with pink variegated leaves. – [Danna] The pink leaves are holding and they will hold until it gets very hot but this has been one of the most unusual seedlings that we’ve had. – [Judge Jody] Named by our granddaughter she calls it pink. – [Troy] Perfect name. Well I know that the two
of you have dug every hole and planted every tree, and have learned a lot
probably in this process. I see a reference book that you have. That might be something helpful for all of our folks to learn
more about Japanese maples. – [Judge Jody] It’s by van
Gelderen, Maples for Gardens and we found it to be very accurate when it comes to the Japanese maples. – For the descriptions
and the information. – And the size they grow to. – Well let’s talk about
size for just a minute because here in this spot we have I think three pretty good examples of different forms and habits. We’ve got this big upright sort of red-leafed maple here in the back. – Beni kawa. – Beni kawa, a weeping form and then this little guy. – [Danna] Hanama nishiki. – [Troy] Okay. – [Danna] And we did have a
different reference guide. He was supposed to be a meter by a meter. – [Troy] So roughly
three feet by three feet. – [Danna] Yes, I don’t know if it’s because of our wonderful soil that we have or if it’s the tree. He’s just grown and the leaf
is so tiny and delicate. – [Troy] Yeah, it is.
– [Danna] I just love it. – [Judge Jody] This tree is
described in van Gelderen as a slow-growing densely branched up to about 6 1/2 feet high and is wide which is a much more accurate description. – [Danna] Yes.
– [Troy] Yes. – [Judge Jody] It’s called
rare in cultivation. – [Troy] One thing that I
really love about this space that you’ve created here is that you do have a tremendous
collection of plants but you also have some really beautiful garden ornament along the way, whether it’s natural
stone or these beautiful Japanese lanterns and things. Have you also… I mean obviously you’ve put some effort into collecting some of these pieces. – Yes. This lantern it has Christian inscription, I’m not sure exactly what the
hidden inscription is on there but I’ve read about it. – [Troy] What time period
are we maybe looking at in something like this? – [Danna] I’m thinking it was introduced around the late 1700s, early 1800s. – [Troy] It’s really beautiful. Well in addition to
creating a beautiful garden you’ve also created some beautiful outdoor living spaces here, giving yourselves the ability
to really enjoy the garden. Is this all stuff that you’ve created since you move here? – [Judge Jody] Yes, since ’96. – [Troy] Since 1996
you’ve created all these different little outdoor living areas. The thing that I love is that we’re kind of elevated up here. Back here we’re almost in
the canopy of the trees and then as you come here
and then down these steps we get more into the
under story of it all. I see even over here we
have some little seedlings coming up in the rocks. You find that they really
thrive in those areas kind of in between the rocks
and the cracks of things. – [Judge Jody] They do because
they don’t get mowed down. – [Troy] Well, there you go. – [Judge] And then we’ll
eventually dig those up and put them in pots, raise
them a couple of years. – [Troy] I noticed that
they’re so tough and so hardy that there’s even a
couple of little seedlings coming up literally out of the crack of a big rock over here.
– [Judge Jody] Yes they are. Yeah, they grow anywhere and they do really well,
the seedlings we have. I can show you on another part of the yard some that we did transplant out of buckets after digging them up like this and raise them a little while. They’re really beautiful trees. – Well before we leave
this beautiful place I want just a little bit of nuts and bolts gardening information from the experts. Digging holes and planting Japanese maples and how you’ve been so successful here. What’s the key? – Well, we try to dig that hole twice as wide as the root ball. – [Troy] Right.
– [Judge Jody] I dig the hole. – [Troy] You dig the hole.
– [Judge Jody] I dig the hole. – [Troy] And she says
when it’s big enough. – [Judge Jody] That’s right.
– [Danna] Yeah. And which direction that it goes because of them do have a front or their face, their prominent side, depending on where it’s
gonna be viewed from. – That’s very important because if you don’t turn it the proper way you have to dig it back up. – Right. You want to plant it the right
direction the first time. – The right direction so she does that. – [Troy] And do you
add any soil amendments or anything to like the back fill soil that you’re putting back into the hole? How does that happen? – [Danna] Yes, we have a
soil conditioner that we get and we just mix that in
with the regular soil because our soil is still
very good here in this area. – [Troy] Right and then
what about fertilizing and that kind of thing? Do you ever have to fertilize them? – [Judge Jody] When we first plant them. – [Troy] When you first plant them. – [Judge Jody] We put Osmocote. Maples don’t like a lot of fertilizer. – [Troy] Right and you don’t want to force a lot of soft growth on them because you want these beautiful shapes. And speaking of beautiful shapes, a lot of that comes from
good pruning techniques. I understand you prune. – [Danna] I do, I do pruning. – [Troy] Tell me about that process. – [Danna] Well, basically
I just start with the, I get the dead out of the tree first and try to make sure that it’s healthy. And then take any cross branches off and then if it’s gonna be in the way of a pathway or something, I
may take those branches off. – [Troy] And raise the canopy up just a little bit.
– [Danna] Yes, yes. – [Troy] We’ve got behind us here this beautiful upright form and then also a weeping form. Are there differences in the
way that you prune those too? – [Danna] I try to let them
do what they do naturally. – [Troy] Right. – [Danna] And just make
sure that they’re healthy and I may take a little more off so that you can see how large the trunk is and the shape.
– [Troy] Right. See the structure of it
just a little bit more, open that up.
– [Danna] Yes. – [Troy] Well, thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of your day and sharing your beautiful garden with us. – [Danna] Thank you so
much for being here.