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.

June 7, 2013

Two Bridges

     One of several projects we have undertaken at the Norfolk Botanical Garden this spring has been to hang and plant hayracks on two of the garden's bridges. This effort was very collaborative on my team's part, and I am so pleased with how the planters turned out that I just had to share. 

     The first bridge we planted was the Rose Garden Bridge, and our goal was to design something to give some life to a gray stone structure. Though color and blooms were the most important consideration, I asked if we could find plants that might have some degree of heat and drought tolerance, and there had to be several trailing elements as well. And another thing, not often considred when designing planters, they had to look good when viewed from below as tour boats go under this bridge. Here is what ended up in the planters:

Caberet Deep Blue Mini-Petunias (Calibrachoa x Cabaret™ Deep Blue)
Superbells® Double Lavender Mini Petunias (Calibrachoa x Superbells® Double Lavender)
Red Sensation False Dracena (Cordyline australis 'Red Sensation')
Bride's Cascade Mandevilla (Mandevilla 'Bride's Cascade')
Graffiti Lavender Pentas (Pentas lanceolata 'Graffiti Lavender')
Variegated Mexican Mint (Plectranthus amboinicus 'Variegatus')
Angelina Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina')
Gay’s Delight Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Gay’s Delight)
Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida)

Rose Garden Bridge (11)

Rose Garden Bridge (10)

Rose Garden Bridge (4)

Rose Garden Bridge (14)

Rose Garden Bridge (13)

Rose Garden Bridge (6)

     Originally we had planned to have a similar look to the second bridge near NATO Tower, but with a different mix of flowers and a different color scheme. However, someone on the team suggested this might be a good opportunity to expose garden visitors to some unusual succulents, and the rest of us wasted no time saying yes. We had a few of the plants already in the nursery, but I found a company, normally noted for their tulips and narcissus, willing to send us more of what we were looking for. These planters are designed to be examined up close, and not from a distance or from the deck of a boat. All the plants we used are exceptionally drought tolerant and are a nice contrast to the canal and rain curtain below. Each of these planters was a little different from its neighbor, but we ended up using a mix of the following plants:

Aeonium arboreum atropurpureum 'Zwartkop'
Aloe species
Crassula species
Echiveria species
Faucaria tigrina variegate
Graptopetalum paraguayense
Haworthia fasciata
Kalanchoe species
Pachyveria species
Portulaca grandiflora ‘Happy Hour Mix’
Portulaca oleracea ‘Rio Scarlet’
Ruschia indurata
Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'
Sempervivum species
Senicio species
x Graptoveria 'Silver Star'

NATO Bridge (5)

NATO Bridge (8)

NATO Bridge (3)

NATO Bridge (10)

NATO Bridge (4)

NATO Bridge

NATO Bridge (7)


  1. Les, I love the hayracks on the Rose Garden Bridge. What a difference they make! I also like the idea that people will need to come up and look closely at the succulents. The variety of shapes and colors should bring lots of foot traffic. Congratulations to you and the talented team.

    1. Thanks, Lynn! So far they seem to be a hit with most of our visitors.

  2. I'm not usually one for container plantings, but these are really special. The sixth photo from top really grabs me.

    1. I gave up doing mixed containers at my own home years ago. I prefer putting one type of plant in a pot, but having lots of pots to mix together.

  3. I LOVE the flower containers on the first bridge. Just beautiful! I'm surprised coleus will do well in such a hot, sunny location. Succulents are not really my thing, but I'm sure your arrangements at the second bridge will really stand up to the heat.

    1. Jason, we used one of the sun coleus which can take a lot of abuse, as long as they have plenty of water.

  4. Les, the plantings turned out so well! I love the plant combo in the hayracks on the Rose Garden bridge. Doing succulents in the other location was genius they are so much fun to explore up close. I was at the garden and saw both the bridge plantings then. They have really taken off. I'm curious if you lined the coco liners with something to help retain moisture? I found I needed to do that with my coco lined hanging baskets.

    1. Vikki, we did not line the coco basket on either bridge, but we did use some of those water-retaining polymer crystals in the Rose Garden Bridge.

  5. I visited the Garden a couple weeks ago and I noticed the new additions on the bridge. I really liked what was done, and now I know you had something to do with them! Really nice touch to the bridges!

    1. My main role in this was that of facilitator and procurer. The design and inspiration came from others, but I never mind tossing in my two cents.

  6. Gorgeous. I do have one question about watering -- do you hand water these daily? It would seem from the photos that there really isn't a way to put in any sort of irrigation on the bridges (or at least I do not see anything that shows). The cocoa liners can lose water so quickly and dry out so I was wondering how you dealt with that. At any rate, I'm loving the floral bridges.

    1. Until recently it has been relatively cool here and we did not have to water the first bridge daily, but once it warmed it is a daily occurance. The succulent bridge has only been watered once or twice.

  7. The first bridge planters are very accomplished, great examples of the genre - probably the best I've seen in fact. The second bridge planters are really special though, so original, very beguiling. Shame you can't set up mirrors to allow the boat people to share the experience!

    1. Thank you for the high praise, Janet!

  8. Both bridges are spectacular but I'm especially fond of the succulent plantings. so much color, form, and interest even without the Portulaca but they turn the planters into a fiesta of color! Beautiful!

    1. Well, the portulaca is 'Happy Hour Mix'.

  9. Like them both but the second sings as am considering a cacti and succulent terrarium.

  10. these sucuclent planters look like they are filled with candy or wacky cupcakes all decorated for a party. I am guessing that visitors will go crazy over these.