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.

March 22, 2008

Zoo Tour - Part I (I go for the plants)

I started my spring schedule this week, which includes a six-day work week and working both Saturdays and Sundays. Since my son started his spring break on Friday we decided to spend part of our last full day together (until May), at the Virginia Zoo. Although I love animals, I really enjoy the flora at the zoo as much as I love the fauna.

Even though the first day of spring was this week, the zoo is still in winter mode as far as the beds were concerned. Below is the main entrance planting. The flowers and their colors are a welcome sight, but I think the green Kale ties it all together.

Here are a couple more beds with lots of Violas, Pansies, Mustard and Kale.

One of my favorite trees in the park, or in general is the Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana). It is a close relative of the Norfolk Island Pine, but is narrowly more hardy. This native of Chile was once more widespread and was a favorite for the Brontosaur and its ilk to dine on.
It would not be a fun tree to climb.
This is supposedly the largest of these in Virginia, and it has been here a long time. However I saw several of these in England that would make this one a sapling.
Below is a large planting of Hellebores under an ancient Oak.
It was a clear blue sky that showed off this Eastern Redbud.
This blossom was on one of the largest Viburnums of this type (Burkwood?) that I have ever seen. It was close to 10-12' tall by nearly 20' across, and covered with fragrant blossoms.
I met up with Marie Butler who is the Landscape Coordinator for the zoo. She is a professional acquaintance of mine, a good customer, and a very entertaining lecturer. One of her lectures is titled "I've Got Tigers in my Garden, so What is Your Problem". While we were there, she showed me what was growing in their greenhouses to be put out when it warms up. Lots of Coleus --

-- this variegated Abutilon --
and Crotons. I am intrigued by the thread-leaf one in the bottom of the frame.
Mark Schnieder, the chief Horticulturist, and Marie Butler along with a very hard working staff, are responsible for the zoos plantings and their upkeep -- all organic of course. I hope people (beyond plant geeks like me) can appreciate and notice what is involved in keeping the green part of the zoo looking so good.

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