An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

February 25, 2015

Summer Color II

     We had another snow last night, but apparently it was just a light appetizer. Tonight we are predicted to get the worst snowfall of the season with up to 8" of the heavy and wet variety. The schools were closed today and will not open tomorrow either. The city has already decided it will be closed too, with only emergency services in operation. I realize that we don't have it as bad as Boston does, but I am sick of this. Right now I should be seeing daffodils, hellebores and camellias opening. Maybe if I keep posting pictures from this past summer the nasty weather might somehow be pushed away, or at the very least looking at the computer might keep me from looking outside.

     As my last post ended, we were on the steps of the Administration Building. Let's go inside, through the rotunda, and out the backdoor to the fountain garden where we have two beds: one is very sunny, the other not so much. I was pleased with the shade side and how well the variegated ginger (Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata'), blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), Duranta erecta 'Cuban Gold', and the vinca 'Cora Punch' (Catharanthus roseus 'Cora Punch') all worked together.
Administration Fountain (1)

Administration Fountain (2)

     On the sunny side of the fountain I was less pleased, probably because I think we had too many players in the design. Simpler would have been better. Ironically the starting point for our plan, a shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana 'Fruit Cocktail'), was quickly engulfed by the other plants in the bed and nearly disappeared. We repeated the 'Cora Punch' vinca and the Duranta, but added Lantana 'Bandana Lemon Zest', Salvia farinacea (I think the cultivar was 'Evolution'), bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), and a variegated rubber tree (Ficus elastica 'Ruby').
Administration Fountain (3)

Administration Fountain (4)

     In the Circle Garden a different shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea) was the inspiration for this garden, only this species was able to hold its own. To go with its golden yellow and white color, I also wanted to see different shades of blue. We included Evolvulus 'Blue Daze', bog sage (Salvia uliginosa), more blue plumbago, macho fern (Nephrolepis biserrata 'Macho'), Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', and on the trellises we grew black eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata). We also used Impatiens 'Sonic White', which is a New Guinea type. We have just about completely given up on using the once more common Impatiens walleriana because of downy mildew.
Circle Garden (3)

Circle Garden (1)

Circle Garden (2)

Circle Garden Planters (1)

     In the Baker Perennial Garden annuals are planted on either side of the fountain's channels. These very long, narrow beds almost beg to have a vertical element repeated regularly throughout. To fill this role we used Cordyline 'Red Sensation' planted with 'Mojito' elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito'), Zinnia 'Zahara Double Cherry' and 'Double Fire', and Cuphea (I think it was 'Flamenco Samba').
Channel Beds, Baker Perennial Garden

Channel Beds, Baker Perennial Garden (4)

Channel Beds, Baker Perennial Garden (6)

     A couple of years ago I was surprised to learn there was an ornamental peanut (Arachis pointoi) being touted in Florida as a lawn replacement. Native to Brazil, it can take heat, and once summer became serious, the plant really took off. We planted the culitvar 'Golden Glory' at the entrance to our Tropical Garden, and I was hoping that its small yellow flowers would have been a bit more numerous. However, given its vigor and attractive foliage, it will be worth using again. The species is listed as hardy to zone 9, so we took cuttings at the end of the season to overwinter in a hothouse, but we also left a few in the ground to test for root hardiness.
Arachis pointoi 'Golden Glory' (2)

Arachis pointoi 'Golden Glory' (1)

Top of the Tropics (3)

Top of the Tropics (1)

     I have one more set of summer color photos I want to share with you, and maybe after that I can get back to more seasonal posts with some hints of the spring to come. If you don't find your own self snowed in, perhaps you will consider joining my Winter Walk-Off 2015, which is open to all bloggers.

February 21, 2015

Summer Color I

     Given all the white and all the cold of my last post, and given the fact that many of you might have been experiencing much the same thing just outside your own doors, I thought I would share some more colorful photos from a warmer time. These are all shots of the annual display beds taken last summer at the Norfolk Botanical Garden where I work. My team is responsible for their design, planting, and maintenance, and it takes a lot of collaboration to pull off. It is hard work, but we do get help, and I think it is one of the best parts of my job.

     Let's start at the front entrance. Much of the landscaping here is permanent, but there are several beds left for us to fill with annuals. Since these are drive-by beds, we try to keep things bold and eye-catching. Our starting point was three large concrete bowl planters, each filled with an enormous variegated false agave (Furcraea foetida 'Variegata'), and with a mix of Portulaca grandiflora from the Pizzazz series spilling over the sides. From there we went with plants we knew would do well for us.
Front Entrance (1)

Front Entrance (8)

Front Entrance (2)

Front Entrance

      Next stop is the Toll Booth where the planting is a little more sedate. Wax leaf begonias are very dependable plants, but kind of boring, and kind of everywhere, sort of like white bread. When I read about a new series called Big (Begonia benariensis BIG™ Rose with Bronze Leaf), I knew I wanted to try them. They are not the tight little bun of tiny flowers that older varieties are, but are loose and open with larger flowers. I also wanted to make use of some spectacular Persian palm maxi elephant ears (Alocasia x calidora 'Persian Palm Maxi') we had in the nursery. We also planted white Cleome, some Sanseveria. and a coleus variety I was initially excited about, but that got quickly lost among the other plants.
Toll Booth (1)

Toll Booth (2)

Toll Booth (4)

     For the front of the visitor's center we went back to bold colors, where the design started with a bromeliad species, Aechmea blanchetiana. This plant is green in the shade, but move it into full sun and the orange flows out. I saw this plant paired with Setcreasea pallida at Fairchild Gardens in Florida and wanted to see a repeat. One of our favorite zinnias was added (Zinnia marylandica 'Zahara Double Fire'), along with Colocasia 'Coffee Cups'. a purple Angelonia, and the ever-vigorous Margarita sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Margarita'). One of our surprises this past summer was Crossandra infundibuliformis 'Orange Marmalade'. For a dainty looking plant, it was a tough bloom machine.
Baker Hall Front Entrance(1)

Baker Hall Front Entrance(4)

Baker Hall Front Entrance(6)

Baker Hall Front Entrance(7)

     One of the results I was most happy with took its inspiration from two sources: the color of the surrounding patio tiles, and a combination of Agave americana and invasive blue lyme grass (Leymus arenarius) I saw at Longwood two years ago (yes, I am a liberal "borrower"). We also added Redhead coleus (Solenostemon hybrida 'Redhead'), and a dark purple petunia. Blending all these plants together is Diamond Frost Euphorbia, which we use a lot of at the gardens as it is one of the hardest working annuals in show business.
Administration Building Entrance (3)

Administration Building Entrance (2)

Administration Building Entrance (1)

     Next week I will show some more of our handiwork. In the meanwhile I need to head to the grocery store before the roads refreeze; I'm getting dangerously low on beer.

(Just a reminder that Winter Walk-Off 2015 has started and runs until March 19th. I am looking forward to your contribution.)