Sunlight Gardens

growing wildfowers since 1983
mail order - retail - wholesale

About Sunlight Gardens

Sunlight Gardens

Sunlight Gardens is a small family partnership owned by husband/wife team Marty Zenni and Andrea (Andy) Sessions. Since 1983, we have been propagating and growing plants native or naturalized to the eastern United States for mail order, retail, and wholesale customers. We are dedicated to the cultivation and propagation of horticulturally useful and attractive native plants. Our plants are entirely nursery-grown from seed or propagated vegetatively since it is against our principles and policy to sell wild-collected plants.

We are located in east Tennessee between the Cumberland and Smoky Mountains at about 1500 feet elevation in USDA Zone 6B. Late summer is usually hot and humid, fall is usually very dry, and winter temperatures typically fluctuate widely with little snowfall. But we are blessed with lots of rain, about 55 inches per year. These are great conditions for growing tough plants.

How to find us - Approximately 20 miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee, on Interstate 75, take exit #122, Hwy 61, which is the Norris/Clinton exit. Exit west towards Clinton and turn right at the first light onto Hillvale Road between the Waffle House and the Exxon. Go 2.3 miles and turn right onto a gravel drive, Golden Lane. Follow signs to the nursery. We are open for sales and visitation Monday through Friday from 8 to 4 (Eastern), except holidays. And in April and May, we are open on Saturdays from 9am to 3pm.

Please call for an appointment any other time. 865-494-8237

About our Plants

Sunlight Gardens Greenhouse

Most of them are grown in full quart pots measuring 4" square by 5-1/2" deep or 88 cu. in. Most are of blooming age. See individual plant descriptions. We pride ourselves in growing healthy, sturdy plants which should transplant with little set back from pots to your garden. Unlike plants that are dug from the wild and are shipped bare root with a damaged root system, all the roots are intact in our potted plants They are ready to take off as soon as planted with no recovery time. Our plants are 100% nursery-propagated, not wild collected.

Sunlight Gardens Packing

Because our plants are grown and shipped in pots, we can ship them to you at almost any time of the year. They may be actively growing (March into September) or they may be dormant, but in either case, they will be pruned to ensure stress-free shipping and transplanting.

Planting Information

Planting Info

When our plants arrive, unpack them immediately. Inspect carefully and trim away any damaged parts, if necessary. If at all dry, water thoroughly and plant soon according to the following guidelines.

First, prepare your soil. In general, sun loving wildflowers do not need a rich soil which would encourage very lush growth. Shade lovers, however generally do appreciate rich and loose organic soil. And as you know, dig a $10 hole for a $5 plant. Doing this ground work really does pay off. Follow the instructions for planting depth which come with your order on the sheet "Planting Guidelines". Planting too deeply can kill or retard growth easily. Then mulch and water thoroughly.

In most cases if need be, our plants can remain in their pots for several weeks before planting. Plants shipped dormant must remain dormant (cold, not frozen) and with moist (not wet) roots until you can plant them. If the dormant plants have leaves, they need to be stored in cold, bright conditions. If they are deciduous, no leaves, then they may be stored in the dark. Plants shipped at other times of the year if in active growth should be placed in bright light but not full sun and kept moist, not wet, until planting. Fresh air is important. After planting, it will be necessary to keep your plants well watered, especially until established.

What to expect?

We ship healthy plants that we expect to grow and get larger for you, given proper care and a suitable site. We would expect most of them to flower within a year or two and to spread according to our descriptions. But, we don't expect miracles. Under the best of circumstances, most perennials take 3 years or longer to achieve maximum effect. Shrubs and woodland plants can take even longer. Variations in size, spread, and bloom time will occur depending on your conditions.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Zone 2 -50º to -40º Zone 7 0º to 10º
Zone 3 -40º to -30º Zone 8 10º to 20º
Zone 4 -30º to -20º Zone 9 20º to 30º
Zone 5 -20º to -10º Zone 10 30º to 40º
Zone 6 -10º to -0º

The US Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map, revised in 1990, shows the lowest temperatures that can be expected each year in the United States. These temperatures are referred to as "average annual minimum temperatures" and are based on the lowest temperatures recorded for each of the years 1974 to 1986. The different zones represent areas of winter hardiness for agricultural and natural landscape plants.

For each plant we offer, we include a range of hardiness zones, for instance, Zones 3-8. This means that we think that as far as temperature goes, that a particular species when established should be able to grow anywhere on the map between and including Zones 3 to 8. This is very general and one would need to take into account specific cultural and habitat requirements. So use a zone to determine minimum temperature thresholds and our ranges to determine broad climate tolerances.

Customer Service

Please feel free to contact us at the following addresses. We accept orders year round by phone, fax, mail, and through our secured web site. Do not place orders via Email.

865-494-8237, Monday through Friday 7:30am to 4:00pm, Eastern.
865-494-7086. Complete the order form along with credit card information and your signature. Fax any time.
US Mail
174 Golden Lane, Andersonville, TN 37705.
Email Do not order using email.
Ask us!
Gotta question?
We accept check, money-order, Visa, or Mastercard
Shipping charges
Please refer to the chart at the bottom of the shopping cart in order to calculate your shipping charges. There is a minimum shipping charge of either $16.00, $20.00, or $40.00 depending on where the plants are going. Please note that our shipping charge covers actual costs of freight plus packaging costs and the labor to clean and pack the plants for shipping. We do not make any profit from shipping charges.
Minimum order
Our minimum order is $40.00 excluding shipping.
We guarantee our plants to be strong, healthy, well-rooted, and of pretty darn high quality when shipped. We spend the better part of one to several years growing each plant and then choosing the best ones to send to you. Our efforts and experience result in plants we expect to grow well for you providing they are well-sited and properly taken care of. We've succeeded in producing a healthy plant, now it's up to you to be successful in growing it. Please let us know immediately within one week of receiving your order, if you are unhappy with any part of it. Or if you feel that a properly cared for plant fails to grow and it is due to the plant not the grower,kids, neighbors, varmits, or bad weather, let us know and we'll gladly send a replacement, refund, or credit.
Minimum order
Our minimum order is $40.00 excluding shipping.
If we're out of something
If, at shipping time, we find that we are out of an ordered item, please indicate what you would like (credit, substitution, cancel or refund) on the order submission form. We do not reserve plants based on order date. Customers requesting earlier shipping get priority.
Plant Sizes
Most plants are grown in full quart pots measuring 4" square by 5 1/2" deep or 88 cu. in. Most are of blooming age.
Plants are shipped in their pots except for Arisaema, Claytonia, Dicentra and Oxalis, if shipped while dormant. Pots are individually wrapped and sleeved in newspaper. These are then packed tightly into boxes and cushioned with shredded or wadded paper.
We ship year round, except when very hot or cold, via UPS on Monday through Wednesday so plants will arrive before the weekend. If you wish to have your plants sent during a particular time, please specify. Otherwise we will ship at our discretion. Please note that late March and April are our busiest shipping times so orders received then will likely be delayed before being shipped out. We do not reserve plants based on order date. Customers requesting earlier shipping get priority.
Dormancy and Shipping
Plants tend to start breaking dormancy here in mid-March. So ideally, shipments heading North should go before mid-March, or around the last average frost date, or in early fall. Shipments heading South could go at any time. Remember, the best time to plant most perennials is in early fall!
Due to stringent agricultural pesticide and quarantine requirements, we can no longer ship to Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, or Washington. We apologize for this inconvenience.

Why Buy from Sunlight Gardens?

Great Quality and Selection
We pride ourselves in shipping plants of pretty darn high quality. And our selection is carefully thought out to offer attractive, useful, and often rare plants.
100% Nursery Propagated
We do not contribute to the destruction of native plants or their habitats. Our ethics are unwavering.
Great Customer Service
We are a small firm and so can respond to you personally and quickly by phone or email.
We guarantee that our plants are healthy and of high quality. We want you to be happy, and if you are not, due to a problem with the plant, we will strive to correct the situation.
Honest Descriptions
Our plant descriptions reflect actual experience with these plants whether in wild habitats or in cultivated sites. The photos are not re-touched and the descriptions are not wild exaggerations. Given good and diligent care, you should expect plants to perform as described.
Priced Fairly
We feel our plants are the best value going.
Plant Anytime
Since our plants are grown and shipped in pots, you can plant them any time. There should be no problem if you need to wait a few days (or longer) before you plant. Not the case with bare root plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is shipping?
Shipping is shown at the bottom of your shopping cart.

Shipping is $16.00 minimum OR 20% of your order total for orders greater than $85.00 if the shipment is going to: AL, AR, DC, DE, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA or WV.

Shipping is $20.00 minimum OR 25% of your order total for orders greater than $85.00 if the shipment is going to: CO, CT, FL, IA, KS, MA, ME, MI, MN, ND, NE, NH, NY, OK, RI, SD, TX, VT or WI.

If the shipment is going to MT, NM or WY, 3nd Day Select is required and shipping will be $40.00 plus 10% of the order total.

We cannot ship plants to AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, NV, OR, UT or WA due to agricultural restrictions.
Is there a minimum order amount?
Yes, $40.00 before tax or shipping.
When will my plants arrive?
We hope that you will tell us when you place your order when you want to receive your plants. If you do not specify a preferred date of receipt, then we will ship when we think the time is best for the plants and for planting. If you do specify a preferred date, we will do our best to get close to that date keeping in mind that we ship Monday through Wednesday so that plants arrive Wednesday through Friday and do not sit in a UPS truck
over the weekend. In general, we need to have your order before Friday of the week prior to shipping. During the busy shipping season, March through April, it may take us up to 2 weeks to send your order out. But during
slower times, we might be able to get it out in the next day or two. If you have a critical arrival date (for a birthday or anniversary, for instance), be sure to let us know when placing your order. In general, we can ship all year round except during the hottest and coldest times.
How do you ship?
We use UPS. Our plants are shipped carefully wrapped in their pots with the exception of Mertensia, Arisaema, and Claytonia, which might be shipped bareroot depending on their growth stage.
When will my plants flower?
Most of our plants are old enough to flower during the year in which they are shipped (notable exceptions being Arisaema, Lilium, and some of the shrubs and vines). But due to our growing methods they may flower later or earlier than their wild counterparts. Expect flowering at their normal times after they have been planted for a year.
Do you ship seeds?
No, we ship live plants only.
Should I order for fall planting or for spring planting?
In general, perennials establish better when planted in early fall. This is because as the growing season comes to an end, the plant can put its efforts into growing roots rather than trying to pump water up to an actively growing and enlarging plant. This results in a plant with an established root system that is ready for the demands of the following summer. However, given that we all succumb to spring fever, there is nothing wrong with planting when that urge hits. We just need to be more aware of a newly planted plant’s water needs throughout the entire summer. But, if your new plants are destined for a place that will be far from the water hose, you should strongly consider fall planting. Also, northern gardeners should keep in mind that our plants may be weeks or even months ahead of your climate even though we are in Zone 6b. Although we do not heat our plants during the winter, the cold frames they are kept in DO get warm when its sunny. It is not uncommon to have Spring Beauties, Bloodroot, and creeping Phlox in full bloom and growth by March 1. So northerners should request fall or very early spring shipping so the plants get there before they break dormancy. Otherwise, shipping would need to wait until all danger of frost is past which is fine with us except that in the case of spring bloomers, they would have flowered already for that year.