Please Note: The Gardens of Sunshine Hollow are not supported by any City, County, State or Federal money. We are entirely dependent on Admission Fees, Plant sales and Gift Shop Sales. Your admission fee, purchases and donations make it possible for us to continue to create and maintain the Gardens.
Sunshine Hollow and the Gardens have been a work in progress for over 30 years. The Gardens are the life's work of Dave and Vicki Rhyne and have resulted from years of planning, planting and mostly just hard work to transform a wilderness into a wonderful garden. The property was purchased in 1973. No one had lived on the property since the forties and it was a wilderness without a road or any other improvement. The Hollow is now the home of Dave and Vicki Rhyne. It has been in a constant state of change as roads, trails, lakes, shrubs, and flower beds have been added over the years. In 1984 when they began collecting and growing daylilies and Hosta a new era began. Their fascination with these perennials would soon grow into a collection of over 1000 named daylily cultivars and seedlings along with dozens of varieties of Hosta. The great improvements and expansion of the Gardens required for hosting the tour for the American Hemerocallis Society's National Convention in 1995 brought the Gardens to a new stage in their development and inspired the Rhynes to want to do even more. Since 1995, the installation of new flower beds, new trails, new memorial and honorary gardens, the addition of new perennial themes such as Dahlias, Cannas, Iris and many others plus complimenting these plants with thousands of annuals, hanging baskets and planters has brought the Garden to its new level. This new philosophy incorporates the vision of a garden that is in color from Spring to Frost and beyond. The Gardens display many all time favorite perennial groups along with new and exciting annuals and perennials. The addition of "Lunch in the Gardens" which began in 2003 lets the visitor have another experience during their visit. Plant sales at the Gardens are important for supporting its maintenance and expansion. In the future they hope to offer more plant varieties to the visitor for their own garden as well as growing advice. Sunshine Hollow Gardens is still and will always be a work in progress........
Gardening at Heart....The Beginnings
Dave Rhyne, a Maryville, Tennessee native, had been an avid gardener since he owned his first home with a garden spot. Being a frequent reader of "How to Books" and with some experience gained from his father and grandfather he quickly learned the art of growing things. Being a graduate of Duke Forestry School, a Forester for 22 years and designing and developing fifty miles of hiking trails for Bowater Paper Company didn't hurt either. In 1967 and 1968 after living near Washington, D.C. for two years while in the U. S. Army and then in the "suburbs" for a few more he wanted a place where he wouldn't have to look at or worry about what his neighbors did. When the "Hollow" was purchased in 1973 no one had lived there since the 1940's and it was a wilderness without a road or any other improvement. The Cherokee Indians were removed from this area of Tennessee in the early 1800's. Beginning in the early 1900's the site was inhabited by residents who had no car, no phone, no electricity, and no plumbing with only a road that was passable by wagon. The family had enough garden ground to grow their own food, a few cows to forage in the forest and enough corn to make their own whiskey. From what we can gather, they spent most of their time doing a little farming, making music and judging from the Moonshine Still sites on the place selling a little corn liquor on the side. When Dave first began working on the "Hollow" in the winter of 1973, he concentrated on getting a one half mile driveway built into his future home site, then the following year the dam was built for a two acre spring fed lake. In 1975 came a home and vegetable garden. To do this he cleared about three acres in the center of the "Hollow". This area later became the core of the "Gardens". His first garden plot was amended over the years with sand, chicken litter, pine bark and sawdust until the clay soil became almost loamy and would grow just about anything from prize tomatoes to fresh asparagus and grapes or beautiful Roses.
A Meeting of the Heart
Vicki Breneman and Dave Rhyne met in 1982 at Church where both sang in Choir. Vicki, originally from Memphis, Tennessee completed her training at the Veterinary School of the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She was in its second graduating class in 1980. Her first veterinarian position was in Cleveland, Tennessee where she also began going to Church at First United Methodist. Her mother was an avid gardener who loved growing vegetables, flowers and Roses. Vicki's mother Evelyn came from a family who lived on and farmed about 45 acres in North West Tennessee during the Depression years. She rode her father's shoulders while he plowed and helped pick cotton in the fields. She escaped from that life to become an Air Force Nurse in the late forties. Not long after Dave and Vicki met they found that they shared many of the same goals in life and the same work ethic. Shortly thereafter work began in earnest on the gardens of the "Hollow". Vicki shared Dave's love of flowers and the first addition of three flower beds took place along their yard and above the vegetable garden. Each Spring they would plant various annuals in the three beds. One fall in order to save money, they decided to try some perennials rather than planting all annuals. Tulips, daffodils and Bearded Iris were planted in two of the beds. Mice and Voles had a field day that winter with the bulbs and just as unfortunately the Iris rotted because Dave always mulched all plants heavily and at that time he didn't know that Iris do not like mulch. So their first experience with perennials was not a good one.
A Life Changing Meeting
While Dave was talking about gardening to a friend at work, she mentioned that her mother-in-law (Orpha Kyker) grew daylilies and Hosta and how easy they were to care for and how beautiful they were. She also knew Gary and Ann Vaughn in Cleveland, Tennessee who grew daylilies and suggested that we should visit to find out more about them. Of course at that time they didn't know what a daylily or Hosta looked like but their friend insisted that they were easy to grow and would save money in the long run. Well, Dave and Vicki made one mistake-they decided to visit both Gardens. Small problem - no bloom? When they visited the Vaughn's in October that year, they wanted to get a head start on next year even though it was too late to plant most perennials. Against his advice, Dave had Gary pick out 10 of his favorite varieties for $50.00. These were planted in one of the beds and mulched heavily. Two weeks later there was a hard freeze! They figured that their experiment was doomed to failure. The following Spring brought a pleasant surprise. Every one of the daylilies emerged. When they began to bloom in early summer it was like Christmas every day. Since they hadn't seen the flowers in bloom before, when the flower scapes emerged they anticipated what the next would look like. In just those 10 plants the daylilies spectrum of color and beauty were demonstrated and like so many people before them, the "Daylily Bug" bit and they were hooked. This was the beginning of their daylily collection which started with ten plants and now averages around one thousand cultivars. They began collecting from all the daylily growers they met. Since daylilies multiply so well and produce offspring, they began selling plants to support their habit.
The next year they visited the Kyker's garden in Athens, Tennessee. Orpha and Clyde were already in their seventies, but they had the most beautiful display of Hosta, daylilies and other flowers in the area. After seeing the beauty of the Hostas growing in their wooded area and the great variations in leaf colors, leaf sizes and textures the Hosta collector's bug also bit, not in the least because when you live in the middle of 160 acres of forest there is always a little room for shade loving plants. Their collection which began with a handful of plants now numbers over one hundred varieties.
The Problem at Hand
When you expand a collection from ten of a variety to 1000 you are obligated to have a place to grow the plants. Problem, when you live in a "Hollow" (Our Definition: Steep Valley with no Flat Ground) to make a flower bed has a different meaning to us than to "flatlanders". Here the bed has to be carved or terraced out of the hillside and a walking trail has to be built alongside it. Luckily, Dave spent much of his career as a forester designing and building trails for Bowater Paper Company in "Pocket Wilderness Areas" on their forest land. So it just came natural to Him. After over thirty years of hard work almost eight miles of roads and trails have been established in the "Hollow". All of it enables the visitor to see the "Gardens" and "Forest" up close and personal.
Plotting Our Course
In the mid-eighties Dave and Vicki joined both the National associations for Hosta and Daylilies as well as local clubs interested in promoting both species. In 1990 their local clubs in Knoxville and Chattanooga wanted to sponsor the National Convention Meeting and Tour of the American Hemerocallis Society. When they were asked to be one of six tour gardens for the Convention, they dedicated themselves to make their garden the best that it could be. New daylily beds and trails were added and an entire 2 acre Hosta garden was created surrounding a new 4000 square foot pavilion where lunches and dinners could be catered. The Convention came in 1995 and Vicki and family fed 750 people over two days.
Dave had always had two wishes for the "Hollow": 1.) To be a good steward of the land and 2.) A desire to make a place for people to come visit and enjoy as much as he does. He just didn't know exactly what direction that should take. After feeding and greeting 750 people from all over the United States on the Convention tour, Dave and Vicki sensed that what they would like to do would be to create a "Garden" that would draw people from all over the Country. Not a formal garden, not an English garden, not a garden that was just a big field of flowers but a garden that would appeal to the different senses of the visitor. A garden that would use the natural setting to the best advantage and give the viewer a three dimensional feel as he or she moved from one place to another. A garden that would offer treats for all the senses. A garden with fragrance of Rose and Phlox, with the harmonic sounds of wind chimes, of melodic birds and rushing water, with sections of Sun and Shade, with movement of Butterflies and foliage in the breeze. To appeal to one of man's other great senses "Lunch" at the Gardens of Sunshine Hollow has become a tradition. There is something about partaking of a meal in a beautiful garden setting that brings back a picture of the Garden of Eden (No, not the apple!).
Full Speed Ahead!
Since 1995 it has been full speed ahead for "The Gardens of Sunshine Hollow". Many accomplishments have been achieved. A new bakery/kitchen has been built for baking Pecan Fruitcakes and Woozy Cakes as well as for serving lunch during the Garden season and catering wedding receptions and other groups that visit. In 2014 a new Event Center was built that offers one of the most elegant Wedding Venues in the area. Weddings start at a flower-filled Wedding Site overlooking the lake and can be followed by a Reception in the Ballroom filled with 6,000 wedding lights. Starlight lasers fill the outside forest with dancing fireflies of red and green.
Over the last several years all flower beds were completely renovated and redone with the new garden theme of "Flowers from Spring to Fall". This has been accomplished with the addition of shrubs, perennials, and annuals for color outside of the traditional daylily bloom season. Beds have being expanded into other areas and completely around the two acre lake. Hanging baskets and planters now add beauty to the Gardens. A new Dahlia garden has been installed which displays dozens of varieties of this beautiful flower. Roses add wonderful fragrance and beauty to the Gardens. Carefree "Knockout" roses also add color to banks and beds. Several varieties of Cannas are placed at various sunny locations through the beds for late Summer color. Huge dinner plate size Southern Hibiscus flowers are also being used for late Summer color. Hosta, Ferns and other shade loving plants are displayed in the two acre "Margaret Rhyne Shade Garden" as well as along the one half mile "Fred Rhyne Nature Trail". For visitors who like to hike the "Hollow Ridge Road" which travels about two and one half miles around the ridge tops is complete. A new interior trail named "The Azalea Trail" runs two miles around the interior of the Hollow and allows visitors to see hundreds of native azaleas in the Spring. We have also added Hellebores or "Lenten Roses" to the trail sides for bloom in late Winter and Spring. Our wetland area is now complete after several years of development. It offers a shady trail around a small pond "The Casper Pond" that is surrounded with water-loving plants such as Yellow Flag Iris, Bog Sage, Louisiana Iris as well as roses, hydrangeas and crepe myrtles in the sunnier areas.
Affairs of the Heart
The Gardens contain several special Memorial and Honorary gardens dedicated to friends and family. The Kyker Garden honor two of our favorite flower people, Orpha and Clyde Kyker. Their home garden was always a joy to visit. It encompassed both Shade and Sun and is full of Hosta, daylilies and other perennials and annuals in a beautiful pine woods setting. The Kyker Memorial garden contains a collection of shrubs, annuals, and perennials. It is the garden located on your left just after you enter the driveway into the Hollow. The Margaret Whitehead Rhyne Shade Garden is in memory of Dave's mother who was also a gardener and flower lover. The area displays many varieties of Hosta, ferns, native shrubs, large pots of annuals, and many "Garden Critters" - whimsical creatures made from farm tools and painted in bright colors. The Jim and Doris Burns Rose Garden honors musical friends of the Rhynes. The Burns have enriched many lives with their music, friendship and accomplishments. The Fred Lee Rhyne Nature trail is dedicated to Dave's father who was an accomplished gardener and great source of help in developing the Hollow. It displays native plants, Hosta, Ferns and other perennials along the half mile trail. The trail traverses the center of the Hollow along the stream that flows through it and has markers to identify native plants and other landmarks along the trail. The latest addition is the George Wetland Garden in honor of longtime friends and offers a shady trail around the small "Casper Pond" that is surrounded with water-loving plants such as Yellow Flag Iris, Bog Sage, and Louisiana Iris--as well as roses, hydrangeas, and crepe myrtles in the sunnier areas.
Plants for Sale!
The production of plants for the visitor to purchase has now changed from digging from the field for individual customers to the propagation of plants in pots at Sunshine Hollow Nursery for the customer to buy and take home for immediate garden beauty. This makes it easy for the visitor to see and take home what they like. Our sales area displays the plants alphabetically making it easier to find a particular variety. Bare Root field grown plants are still available to the customer who lives outside the visitation area of the Gardens. Two acres of field production supplies plants for mail order purchase as well as liners for potting. Both daylilies and Hosta are available as well as some perennials.
Supporting the Gardens
When you build it, will they come? That is the question. Almost all the major gardens we know about resulted from two sources: 1.) Wealthy patrons who created the gardens for themselves or for their wives or in memory of mothers or other family or friends (Examples: Butchart, Sarah Duke, Longwood, Biltmore, Callaway) and 2.) Gardens created or supported by Federal, State or Local governments through Universities or other entities (Examples: Nashville's Cheekwood, Memphis Botanical, U. T. Trial Gardens and many others). Most of these gardens are supported by public funds or private endowments. In our case we are trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps so to speak. The funds to support "The Gardens of Sunshine Hollow" come entirely from Plant Sales, Admissions Ticket Sales, Lunch Sales and Gift Shop Sales.
One of the Garden's Goals is to select the best perennials and annuals based on not only beauty but other plant qualities such as vigor, re-bloom and hardiness. The Garden was also designed to show the average gardener what can be grown in this geographic area and what it will look like as a mature plant. Dave or Vicki are always available to ask questions on plant varieties, growing techniques, weeding techniques, plant pests, plant division, irrigation and many other garden questions. Growing tips on various perennials are available at the Gardens. Dave and Vicki are not hybridizers of new Daylilies, Roses, Dahlias or Hosta, but envision their goal as selecting the best from those that are introduced by others based not only on beauty but other plant qualities such as vigor, re-bloom and hardiness. Displaying these varieties to the public creates interest in growing them. At the same time they try to educate the gardener on how to grow plants at their best.
As you can see, collecting Flowers of all kinds has become a passion and one thing has led to another. Now the concept of a garden for all to enjoy has became a reality. Lots of hard work and money has transformed an otherwise rugged and valueless hollow into a place of beauty and solitude.
Sunshine Hollow Gardens is still and will always be a work in progress........