Soil Depth and Plant Selection

Minimum soil depth for plant growth is a frequent subject of discussion of late and while you cannot search The Plantium based upon soil depth, we thought we’d gather some information to assist in your criteria based plant designs!

Let’s first look at the question at hand. As designers and installers we are asked to create landscapes in all sorts of conditions. Often these conditions are challenging and not necessarily conditions that plants might face in their natural environments. That said, we have all seen these images at some point in our lives…. the beautiful and resilient plant that appears to be growing happily, in what appears to be NO soil depth AT ALL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those looking for answers regarding bed construction and just soil depth in general, let’s send you to one of our Plantium brands for some fantastic basic information regarding bed construction in the field.

https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/make-your-bed

Soil depth for OPTIMAL plant growth in more challenging situations such as green roof conditions, large planters, tree wells, etc. is dependent on four main factors. These factors are proper drainage, proper plant selection, plant longevity, and soil depth to plant height ratio. We’ll discuss these factors in this order because the very last issue you should be considering in your plant design is soil depth. If you have not addressed the first three issues in your bed design then regardless of soil depth, plants will not thrive.

Proper Drainage

Whether your planting bed is in the lawn, green roof or contained planters, proper drainage is crucial. While certain plants can survive inundation in a natural setting, standing water or improper drainage will QUICKLY de-oxygenate and compact the soil in contained situations and kill the plants. There are many ways to tackle drainage and all are dependent on the design situation. Working closely with the horticulture team is the best way to find an effective drainage solution.

Proper Plant Selection

Let’s look at those tough little plants growing in the cracks and crevasses! You need to keep in mind the type of plant you are specifying when dealing with challenging planting situations. Plants that grow in these conditions in the natural world tend to be tough, resilient, vigorous, and drought tolerant plants. If you have all the right soil and bed conditions but choose more sensitive plants, it is likely that those plants will struggle. Also, remember that as the soil profile for any plant is constrained so will the plant’s natural habit be constrained. Street trees planted in minimum soil volumes will never reach the full mature height or width that they would under optimal growing conditions.

 

 

Plant Longevity

Planting designs are being designed and installed with a maximum 20 year life span. A controversial statement, perhaps, so feel free to challenge it! It appears long gone are the days of an Olmsteadian landscape that appreciates with time and just barely reaches its full glory at 20 years. Here at The Plantium we vehemently disagree with this trend and firmly believe that criteria based plant selection can reverse this trend. Better plant choices! We’d love to hear your comments on this issue!

All that said, green roof and enclosed planter situations pose different challenges. Small planters and shallow green roof systems need very carefully management to maintain soil health and ultimately plant health. The shallower the soil profile the more quickly that soil will be depleted of nutrients and micro-organisms crucial to the plant’s health. If a refresh of the plant material (and soil) is planned over time, then shallower soil profiles can be a great fit. If the design contemplates trees and shrubs that are intended to grow to maturity over time, then a more significant soil depth should be considered.

Soil Depth

On to the question at hand. Let’s simplify the soil depth for optimal plant growth under container type situations into the following categories. Again, exact soil depth is probably debatable by many so we welcome other thoughts from our expert crowd!

Plant Type Plant Height Minimum Soil Depth
Annuals Any 3”
Turf Grass NA 4” (3” in warm climates)
Perennials <8” 4” (3” in warm climates)
Perennials 8”-16” 6”-8”
Perennials/ Ornamental Grasses/ Shrubs 16”-24” 12”-18”
Perennials/ Ornamental Grasses/ Shrubs 2’-6’ 24”
Shrubs/ Small Trees >6’ 3’ Minimum (should consider overall volume as well)
Trees All Should be calculated on overall volume for each tree and not just soil depth

 

Maintenance

Lastly, on-going maintenance is the greatest issue facing these planting designs. Over-watering is perhaps the most frequent maintenance faux pas committed against our container plants. Carefully working with the maintenance team is critical to head off this issue early on.

Happy Planting Y’all!

 

Connect One Design Shout Out

The Plantium is made for landscape professionals BY landscape professionals. To that end, it’s been an exciting summer in the Colorado mountains and the Connect One Design landscape architecture team has been hard at work. Check out Connect One Design in the media. We couldn’t do what we do without an amazing staff and The Plantium software!

Here’s just a few fun pics from the field. Enjoy!

 

Importance of the Allergy Friendly Landscape

Most of us think summer sneezing just ‘comes with the territory’ but did you know that you can alleviate some of it with an allergy friendly landscape!  As landscape professionals, the concept of an allergy friendly landscape is a crucial one. Regardless of the scale of a project our understanding of high pollen generating plants is critical to making some changes for the better in our cultivated landscapes.

Wind blown pollen

Wind blown pine tree pollen. Makes me sneeze just looking at it!

Background

Most of us suffer from just a little sneezing and sniffling from seasonal allergies but the implications of high pollen rates can be far more serious. “Deaths from asthma continue to climb each year at alarming epidemic rates”.1 While the causes of these increases can be debated it is clear that high pollen rates play a role in many health related issues, especially in the young, old and those with compromised respiratory and circulatory systems.

Studies have shown death rates among high-risk populations increase on days with high pollen and high pollution. Similar to the association of very hot or very cold weather to higher death rates, one cannot attribute it directly to the weather condition but rather see a correlation in high-risk populations.2 Impacts like thunder death outbreaks also bring home shocking impacts of high pollen in urban settings.3

So, how did we arrive at the increases in allergies and asthma? We all know the issue relates to high pollen counts, but what is pollen and has atmospheric pollen been on the rise in recent years? Pollen is the microscopic grain carrying the male gamete of a plant that will pollinate (via transport by insects, birds, wind, etc.) the female ovule of a plant. This microscopic grain is both an irritant and a nasal allergen in humans (and other animals; yup, dogs get allergies). Anemophilous plants generally cause the most allergies because they pollinate primarily by wind. The pollen grains of those plants are light and small, in order to be easily dispersed by the wind (and therefore tend to stay airborne and easily breathed in by humans). The role of female plants in an allergy friendly landscape is critical because they are attractive (for sure 🙂 )! The pistil of female plants is STICKY in order to capture the pollen grain. In an allergy friendly landscape female plants (and flowers) are important because they both do NOT produce pollen, AND they pull pollen out of the air with sticky attractiveness! Two other important aspects of pollen creation are important to understand as well – pollen production is increased dramatically with additional CO2 in the atmosphere (urban settings) and changes to the timing of pollen generation is being sparked by increased climatic temperatures.

Microscopic Helianthus Pollen

Microscopic Helianthus Pollen – it sure looks like it would irritate anybody’s nose!

So what does this have to do with the cultivated landscape and an allergy friendly landscape? This is where the concept of botanical sexism comes into our vocabulary. “Arborists often claim that all-male plants are ‘litter-free’ because they shed no messy seeds, fruits or pods. In the 1949 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, which focused on trees and forests, this advice was given to readers: ‘When used for street plantings, only male trees should be selected, to avoid the nuisance from the seed.’ In the years following, the USDA produced and released into the market almost 100 new red maple and hybrid-maple-named clones (cultivars), and every single one of them was male.”4 At The Plantium, we believe male cultivars have an important place in the landscape, but it is important to understand that the use of male (and only male) cultivars and overall plant selection play the most important role in developing an allergy friendly landscape.

Scope and Scale

When and where it is important to think about an allergy friendly landscape? There are many projects where understanding the right plants for a low allergy and allergy friendly landscape are important. Being conscious of pollen generation on all your projects can help address the growing issue of high pollen in the cultivated landscape. Our responsibility as landscape professionals should be taken seriously! Consider your client when embarking on a residential design. Just asking the question about any allergy or asthma sufferers in the household (and then designing an allergy friendly landscape) can help make a successful landscape and a happy client. Allergy friendly landscape plant selection is most important around high risk populations, including playgrounds and senior living projects. Finally, projects in urban centers should be addressed carefully as the greatest population of allergy and asthma sufferers per capita reside in cities.

Amaryllis Stamen

Up close and personal on the Amaryllis stamen. The sticky pistil of an amaryllis flower gathers up all this pollen for fertilization!

Making Great Plant Choices

All of this background begs the question… what do we do now? Here are a few thoughts.

  1. Understand and educate yourself on the benefits of the allergy friendly landscape.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the OPALS rating system. Thomas Ogren created the first and only known rating system that ranks the allergy potential of plants.
  3. Discuss the need for an allergy friendly landscape with your client.
  4. Educate yourself on types of plants that might fit in an allergy friendly landscape and follow a few best practices such as:
  • Gender balance the landscape.
  • Use fewer wind pollinated species.
  • Encourage sterile cultivars and showy flowers (most plants with big colorful flowers are insect pollinated! Bees welcome?!).
  • Avoid high pollinators: male only willows, poplars, aspens, ash, (fruitless) mulberry, cypress, junipers, yews, myrtles, currants, etc., olive trees, Bermuda grass. Fruit trees are good but nut trees tend to be allergenic.
  • Develop maintenance manuals for your clients that encourages trimming of existing high pollinators and good maintenance of installed plants (e.g. trimming privet before it flowers). The Healthy Schoolyards Initiative5 has a great start at a list of maintenance measures that can be undertaken on existing landscapes.

The Politics of Allergy Friendly Landscapes

While it appears uncertain that low pollen ordinances are having an impact, landscape professionals should be aware that there are a growing number of urban centers enacting pollen control ordinances, including Pima County, AZ, Clark County, NV, Albuquerque, NM, Phoenix and Tucson, AZ, and El Paso, TX, among others. Other cities such as Louisville are embarking on some truly innovative approaches to understanding and addressing the epidemic.

Conclusion

While we can thank pollen for so many wonderful things like solving murders (it’s a plant’s fingerprint!), determining the age and quality of coal seams, and our delicious fruits and vegetables we now need to be stewards of our own air and address the issue of excessive pollen in our cultivated landscapes!

References:

  1. http://www.academia.edu/4110694/Politics_of_Pollen_Article Copyright 2001, Tom Ogren
  2. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20000427/high-pollen-linked-death#1
  3. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-38121579
  4. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/botanical-sexism-cultivates-home-grown-allergies/
  5. http://www.healthyschoolyards.org/

Image References

https://commons.wikimedia.org

Designing with Dog Friendly Plants

Ever wonder how we get our yards, parks, and streetscapes to be ‘dog friendly’? As in, how do we design a urine and trample resistance landscape filled with dog friendly plants? Well, let’s start with thinking about some alternative groundcovers that can take a little beating. These are plants that can be used as an alternative to turf. Turf alternatives can save water AND help fight off the brown patches that come with a ‘dog heavy’ landscape. A couple good examples in the attached pdf include Elfin Thyme and Ajuga. These are just two great choices, but you can always use your filter criteria and select low growing plants that can withstand foot traffic. In The Plantium’s filter criteria you’ll find the foot traffic filter under ENVIRONMENT.

The second issue is urine resistance. While this is NOT a filter in The Plantium, the attached pdf has some tried and true choices that can withstand the excessive nitrogen content in dog urine. Again, not an exhaustive list but a good start. Remember to also consider any plants that are TOXIC to pets and avoid those. Sending your little furry friend to the vet would definitely NOT be considered dog friendly plants! For those Plantium users, this is a filter criteria under WILDLIFE. For those of you not yet in The Plantium you can visit the ASPCA site (Plantium’s filter criteria is WAY easier, though!) 🙂

Lastly, and perhaps most obvious would be water. The faster you can wash away any leave behinds from the doggie visitors, the better chance of avoiding the burn spots, so let’s take back those brown patches and get into our dog friendly plants!

Dog Friendly List

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

 

Designing with Bulbs

We’ve all read some great articles about designing with bulbs (and corms) so why not keep the discussion going? Designing with bulbs can be daunting. Visiting the botanic gardens in spring nearly blinds us with the glory of huge swaths of spring bulbs. Vast beds of daffodils, crocus and tulips are the sure sign that spring has sprung. A bed of crocus dusted with snow is an iconic image of early spring. Now let’s focus our attention on some other aspects of designing with bulbs, year-round interest and designing to specific bloom heights.

5177_WPFL_Eremurus-himalaicus-WMC_001Dahlia 'XXL Veracruz' AZTEC

The opportunities presented by designing with bulbs can be taken advantage of year-round with a little planning and great execution. Gladiolus and Dahlias can bring in a huge color punch during the mid-summer to late summer in warmer climates and similarly Allium and Autumn Crocus in colder climates. Similarly, lilies can provide a tremendous amount of foliar interest in the early summer months and then finish the season off with splendid color in late summer and even through the fall. The first step is to sort through the vast array of choices in bulbs and corms and remember what you are trying to achieve. Here a sampling of a season-long list for a garden in zone 6a, that’s scented, and attracts bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. This short list from The Plantium yields plenty of choices to keep you thinking about designing with bulbs all season long! There are so many more to choose from!

Bulb Flowering Season

The next consideration is careful planning around bloom height. This same list now includes plant (foliar) height vs. actual bloom height. Not planning for the bloom height of late blooming bulbs is a common mistake. Some height variations will be minimal but some can be more than a foot or even up to 4’! Check out the Foxtail Lily. Many of these bulbs are not known for lush foliage so you can place them further back in the garden (than you might normally based solely on foliar height) with other perennials or shrubs around them. This leaves their bloom to surprise us when the time is right!

Bulb Flower Heights

Sourcing Plants – New Plant Availability Feature (beta)

Sourcing plants is about to be easier than ever!

UPDATED 5/1/17

Just choose your state and see all of The Plantium’s participating nurseries. Don’t see your favorite nursery? Just complete the form and get their information on our site as soon as possible! You can now also export existing plant lists as a spreadsheet, including availability.

Colorado Nurseries

Plant availability is live on The Plantium. Do you want to sign up a nursery that you frequently go to for plant material? Send them this link. Fill out the quick easy form and we can list that nursery’s stock for FREE! ENJOY!

For Nurseries

Plant Availability (beta) is LIVE! Sourcing plants can be the most disheartening part of planting design.  As a landscape architect I cannot think of anything more frustrating than spending hours choosing just the right plants for a project only to have my contractor or nursery supplier come back and tell me they cannot find half of what I specified. It drives me crazy!

That is why we are so excited to launch the new Plantium availability feature (beta) in Colorado, Utah and beyond. Landscape professionals in these states will soon be able to search for great plants, make lists, evaluate their designs AND locate those plants at nearby nurseries. While only in beta version right now, we are thrilled to make finding plants just a little bit easier. This plant availability feature will be live in the coming weeks. Start your free one month trial now, and take advantage of your free web training session so you can be ready to take full advantage of this new time saver as soon as it hits the primetime!

Thanks and Happy Plant Hunting!

By Heather Henry, President and CEO of The Plantium

Understanding Nursery Stock Sizes

It’s time to build your plant lists…. And there’s one thing to remember. Size matters! But understanding and deciphering standard nursery stock sizes can be like trying to find your way out of an Iowa cornfield. You’re bound to get lost a few times. Everyone calls out nursery stock sizes differently. Gallons, flat size, tree height, or caliper have all appeared in our plant lists. But depending on your familiarity with the nursery industry, you may not know that there is a continuously updated national standard on how to spec nursery stock sizes!

When writing this blog, I set out to include a nice handy, dandy all-purpose cheat sheet for our landscape professionals but it turns out that is easier said than done! Instead, this article provides a brief overview of the standard and can get you started on the right path to learning more for the next time you specify plants. We cannot promise that your suppliers will be following this standard to the number and letter, but if you stay familiar with the standards you will be much more likely to specify the nursery stock sizes that are available.

Specifying the Right Sizes Takes Knowledge

Specifying the Right Sizes Takes Knowledge

Called the American Standard for Nursery Stock, this national standard is published and maintained by AmericanHort, which is a somewhat recently formed consolidation of the American Nursery & Landscape Association and OFA—The Association of Horticultural Professionals.

According to AmericanHort, “The purpose of the American Standard for Nursery Stock … is to provide buyers and sellers of nursery stock with a common terminology, a ‘single language,’ in order to facilitate commercial transactions involving nursery stock. For instance, the Standard establishes common techniques for (a) measuring plants, (b) specifying and stating the size of plants, (c) determining the proper relationship between height and caliper, or height and width, and (d) determining whether a root ball or container is large enough for a particular size plant.”

The organization has been publishing this nursery standard since 1923, and it was adopted as a national standard in 1949 (ANSI Z60.1-2014). The most recent revision to the standard was published in 2014, and is available free from AmericanHort HERE. Use of this standard when growing and specifying plants is voluntary, but it is widely accepted and often referenced in standard specification sections. Using the standard has many benefits for designers and contractors, not the least of which is simplifying the procurement and acceptance processes by relying on clear pre-defined standards for quality and size of nursery stock.

The complete standard may be a daunting 109 pages but it is a surprisingly easy read, and provides in-depth, but digestible information. Below are a few key points from the American Standard for Nursery Stock you may find helpful (along with a cheat sheet to get you to the appropriate tables in the larger document). However, we would HIGHLY recommend reading through the whole standard and having a copy handy. It truly provides an amazing wealth of info (there’s a great section on identifying unacceptable co-dominant leaders – a problem I’ve had first hand issues with!). This resource also provides all the information necessary when accepting or rejecting plant material that shows up at your site!

 General Standards for Nursery Stock Sizes:

  • Specifications must include plant size by caliper, height or width appropriate to the plant type.
  • Certain plants may be specified by container size (see below). ALL others should be specified with caliper, height or width.
  • Typically, plant size specifications should include only the minimum allowable plant size in that interval. In other words, if you specify a 2.5 in. caliper Type 1 shade tree you may get a tree anywhere up to a 3 in caliper because it references the 2.5 to 3 inch range for that type of tree. As long as you specify the minimum, you know you will not get a SMALLER tree.
  • Caliper is always measured six inches above ground or soil level for trees less than 4.5” caliper, and 12 inches above the ground for 4.5” or larger.

General Standards for Containers:

  • These are generally the only plants to specify by container size
    • Herbaceous perennials
    • Non-winter-hardy shrubs
    • Ornamental grasses
    • Groundcovers
    • Vines
  • Containers marketed and sold with a # designation must have volumes within the ranges shown in the ANSI standard in order to comply
  • Container classes #1 through #100 include the volume of a container that, if such a container were manufactured, would hold the equivalent number of gallons as the container class number. #1 = one gallon; #5 = five gallon and so on.
  • Nursery stock specifications that reference only an imperial volume measurement, such as “quarts” or “gallons,” are not in accordance with the Standard. I can tell you that our plant lists have gotten that WRONG for years!!
  • The SP designation refers to ‘small plant’ containers. #SP4, for example, is a 4 inch container, or “quart” container. This designation goes from #SP1 – #SP5 and should reference square or round.
  • Container grown nursery stock shall have a well-established root system reaching the sides of the container to maintain a firm ball, but shall not have excessive root growth encircling the inside of the container (the same holds true for roots in ball and burlap!).

 

Root Bound

Container Growth Gone Wrong – Root Bound Tree

Tree B&B

When Done Right – A Thing of Beauty

 

Shade and Flowering Trees:

  • There are FOUR types of shade and flowering trees identified in the standard with the following associated specifications tables
    • Type 1 – Page 15-16
    • Type 2 – Page 17
    • Type 3 – Page 19
    • Type 4 – Page 21
    • Multi-stem and Shrub Form Trees – Page 24
  • Multi-stem tree specifications should include a minimum number of stems. If none is specified, 3 will be assumed.

Deciduous Shrubs:

  • There are THREE types of deciduous shrubs identified in the standard with associated specifications
    • Type 0 – Page 28
    • Type 1 – Page 28
    • Type 2 – Page 29
    • Type 3 – Page 30
  • Plants may not meet plant size specification or minimum number of canes at time of shipment at certain times of the year, but would be expected to reach the plant size specification and minimum number of canes during the first growing season after shipment.

Coniferous Evergreens:

  • There are SIX types of Coniferous Evergreens identified in the standard with associated specifications
    • Type 1 – Page 32
    • Type 2 – Page 33
    • Type 3 – Page 34
    • Type 4 – Page 36
    • Type 5 – Page 38
    • Type 6 – Page 40
  • Coniferous evergreens will also be described by their shearing:
    • Natural: (showing the form natural for the species)
    • Semi Sheared (sheared when plant is young to maintain symmetrical shape)
    • Sheared (pruned regularly to retain a symmetrical shape)
    • Altered Form (Can you say POODLED!!)

Broadleaf Evergreens:

  • There are SIX types of Coniferous Evergreens identified in the standard with associated specifications
    • Type 1 – Page 42
    • Type 2 – Page 44
    • Type 3 – Page 46
    • Type 4 – Page 48
    • Type 5 – Page 50
    • Type 6 – Page 52

Additional information in the standard provides specs for young plants, roses, palms (and other bare root stock), fruit trees, bulbs, corms/ tubers, and understock/seedling trees and shrubs.

Now, armed with this great information, you can confidently go forth and specify!

Also, check out these other great articles regarding considerations on transplant size:

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/Influence_of_Tree_Size_on_Transplant_Establishment_277656_7.pdf

http://www.ncufc.org/uploads/Tree_Establishment_A_Review_of_Some_of_the_Factors_(Struve_2009).pdf

Urban Horticulture in a Capital Place: The National Botanic Garden

By, Arabella Beavers, Busy Beavers Gardening. Why would urban horticulture be important to The Plantium roving gardener? As our climate changes, as gardeners our ability to respond to these changes in a sustainable manner has to stay current and relevant. Urban horticulture is the study of the relationship between plants and the urban environment. It focuses on the functional use of horticulture so as to maintain and improve the surrounding urban area.[1] Staying current with the sustainability aspects of horticulture and gardening means being inspired by its new trends.

My inspiration this spring came from our nation’s capital and the gardens of Washington, DC. An amazing tribute to the history of gardens and an inspiration to the future of sustainability in urban horticulture the National Botanic Garden can’t help but stir the gardener’s imagination.

I was fortunate enough to visit Washington, DC and although the weather was a little inclement for spring, I was so delighted to find such spectacular gardens in our nation’s capital. From urban gardens along the city streets to sculpture gardens and the glory that is housed in the National Botanic Gardens – this city definitely is in touch with its green side. The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a botanic garden on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., near Garfield Circle. The Botanic Garden is supervised by the Congress through the Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for maintaining the grounds of the United States Capitol. The USBG is open every day of the year, including federal holidays. It is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States.

USBG Entrance

The Courtyard Entrance, National Botanic Garden

 

Here’s a little history on this historic garden. The garden began as the Botanical Garden of the Columbian Institute but became the United States Botanic Garden in 1850, thirteen years after the demise of the institute. In 1867, Congress provided money for the construction of the first greenhouses. Constructed by the Architect of the Capitol in 1933, this historic Lord & Burnham greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 garden rooms under glass, totaling 28,944 square feet of growing space. Several historic trees stood on the site including the Crittenden Oak which marks the spot where John J. Crittenden made an address in an effort to avert the Civil War. Others included the Beck-Washington Elm which was a scion of an elm earlier planted by Washington himself. There was also a plane tree which Thaddeus Stevens brought from the Vale of Cashmere, a sycamore planted by Senator Daniel Voorhees, a Chinese oak from the grave of Confucius, two cedars of Lebanon, and several others that have historic associations.

The Bartholdi Fountain, the work of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the same sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor stood in a central site in the gardens, however, it was placed in storage for several years to make way for the memorial to General Meade, the hero of Gettysburg.

The garden “was formally placed under the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress in 1856 and has been administered through the Office of the Architect of the Capitol since 1934. The Architect of the Capitol has served as Acting Director of the United States Botanic Garden and is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Garden and for any construction, changes, or improvements made.” [2]

Today, the United States Botanic Garden is home to almost 10,000 living specimens, some of them over 165 years old.

USBG and Capital Dome

The National Botanic Gardens with Capital Dome Behind

Enough with the history…. Here’s my camera eye view of the experience that I had at the USBG on that wonderful ‘April Showers’ day…..
Nestled Within the shadows of The Capitol – currently under a state of repair, this lush garden was displaying its last flush of spring bulbs and beginning to prepare for a perennial push. With some exceptional displays of roses, iris and flowering bushes such as fragrant aballia. I was so excited to see this wonderful array – especially since it was still snowing back in Colorado!

Rose in USBG

Rose Specimen in the Rose Garden

The irises were particularly beautiful at this time of year, with the Iris tectorum ‘Alba’ being stunning in white and another favorite, the traditional bearded iris, in an array of colors that reminded me of a Monet masterpiece I had just seen in the National Gallery. There was even an iris called the red velvet Elvis iris, sadly not yet in bloom!! While plants such as the Iris tectorum can be hard to find, think about more common ones such as the Iris ‘Immortality’ to achieve the pure beauty of the white iris. https://shar.es/1l6uCg

Iris Specimen in NBG

Blooming Iris at USBG

Iris in Bloom

One of the things I loved so much was that they had many specimen plants – one of my particular favorites was this daisy – the Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus ‘Lynnhaven Carpet’, a wondrous woodland plant.

Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus 'Lynnhaven Carpet'

Erigeron Specimen

Continuing my walk through, I was particularly impressed by their water gardens with a contemporary gazebo and lovely plantings. It was alive with birds and a pair of mallards taking a bath in the shallow ponds. Examples of water grasses, lilies and water iris were just stunning.

Water garden 2 NBG

The Water Gardens, USBG

The Water Gardens, National Botanic Garden

Moving on through this delightful place, I was getting a soaking of my own as it was turning out to be a wet English type day – so I headed toward the greenhouse conservatory to see what I could find in there. Boy was I in for a colorful treat! It was like entering Aladdin’s cave, magical hothouse full of blooms and delights for the garden enthusiast.
The formal ponds within the main entrance are bedazzling – azure pools surrounded by bright pink azalea’s, orange orchids and surrounded by citrus trees – it was like a mirage. But this is a real garden and its microclimate creates the perfect temperature and humidity for the array or orchids and bromeliads clinging to the exotic trees they call home. At the end of each pool was an extraordinary living wall that contained more orchids –  a tropical display that was stunning to me.

Water Garden_USBG

Indoor Formal Water Gardens

Orchids 2 NBG Orchids_Closeup 2 NBG

Orchids in the Tropical Garden

Orchids in the Tropical Garden

 

As you can see from these close up images, these are not the orchids you buy at the supermarket!!

The national botanic garden houses many specialized gardens with displays including a Mediterranean garden, tropical gardens, desert gardens, tundra and a children’s play garden – something for everyone.  What I liked about it the most was that it had such a diversity of plantings.  Plants that we all know and love and use regularly in our gardens, such as lavender, to really unusual varieties that have been nurtured from far off lands form these magnificent displays.

 

 

Med Garden at USBG

Mediterranean Garden in the Conservatory

This really is a spectacular place and somewhere that I would love to return.  Seeing these magnificent displays not only left me wondering about the hundreds of hours of maintenance these gardens would take – but also how inspired I now am to travel and explore gardens all over the world. The challenge of seeing these plants in their natural environment, just as nature intended, then translating them to the urban horticultural environment is a challenge I am ready to take.

I leave you with some interesting facts and more information – next time you are in DC make sure not to miss these glorious gardens.

https://www.usbg.gov/

Happy Planting!

Arabella Beavers, Busy Beavers Gardening

https://www.facebook.com/Busy-Beavers-Gardening-LLC-201131763257382/?fref=ts

Aspen, Colorado

©ARABELLA BEAVERS, 2016

  1. Tukey, HB Jr. (1983). “Urban horticulture: horticulture for populated areas”.HortScience: 11–13.
  2. https://www.usbg.gov/brief-history-us-botanic-garden

Find Your Inspiration

Find Your Inspiration

Where do I find my inspiration for designing beautiful gardens year after year? Ten years ago I first witnessed a living wall at the Chelsea Flower show in England and after lots of dreams and drawing boards I finally got to create my first living wall last summer 2015 right here in downtown Aspen, Colorado.

in·spi·ra·tion

  1. Noun: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

Inspiration and trends in gardening can start from an article in a magazine, a student’s concept while studying at University or at the array of garden shows that are held all over the world.  This is where I find my best inspiration.

A particular favorite garden show of mine is the Chelsea Flower Show in London, England – where all of the best and greatest designers in the world all gather over ten days and meet to show off their latest creations. It was here at the Chelsea Show I first saw a living wall and marveled at this enormous structure covered in plants.  Without seeing the vision of the designers before me – I would never have been inspired to cover a concrete wall in flowers!!!

These shows provide not just single inspiration (i.e. living walls) but everything from solar paneled irrigation, new types of plants (cross pollinating a rose and a daisy!) and even animal habitats. Creative urban wildlife habitats are another huge trend that I first saw at Chelsea as well as water features created from household gray water. Show and display gardens are designed to impress at garden shows so if you really want to see what’s at the cutting edge of gardening then you’d better hit the show road.

Garden shows are featured all over the world – Holland, Japan, England and America and feature world class innovators and designers who create show gardens that win awards and prizes and wow us all. Depending on the size of the show local, national and international celebrity gardeners such as Piet Oudolf (a particular favorite of mine) will unleash new planting schemes and plant combinations that are created in an environmentally conscious way to thrill and tantalize us all. By witnessing world class designers and their incredible ideas we can all take small parts of this back to our own backyards. Not that you have to build a living wall in your own back garden but rather maybe, just maybe someone else’s genius idea displayed at your local gardening show might just be the inspiration for your own garden designs!  After all we are all inspired by others.

Here is a selection of inspirational gardens that have moved me over the years.

Happy Planting!

Arabella Beavers, Busy Beavers Gardening

https://www.facebook.com/Busy-Beavers-Gardening-LLC-201131763257382/?fref=ts

Aspen, Colorado

All photos Copyright 2016 Arabella Beavers

Garden Inspiration

Beautifully designed stone wall also serves as urban wildlife habitat.

Garden Inspiration

A living wall seen in indoor and outdoor applications.

Garden Inspiration

This greenhouse should blow your mind!

Garden Inspiration

A living tower gives entirely new meaning to vertical planting.

Garden Inspiration

Xeric Mediterranean style in any climate.

Garden Inspiration

The beauty of hundreds of Clematis!

Garden Inspiration

A ‘plethora’ of lavender from many different growers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plant Knowledge in the Landscape Industry

‘You can only learn about plants by getting dirty.’ That’s what a new friend of The Plantium said to us recently over a glass of wine. It resonated. Plant knowledge takes time, testing and retesting, observation and patience. Building knowledge takes a willingness to experiment. How much does plant knowledge matter in our industry and is it on the rise or decline in the landscape industry?

As landscape professionals we are facing several key trends in the horticulture industry, not the least of which is what Russell Cummings coined as ‘V squared’ – volatility and velocity.1 Our clients’ demands are shifting quickly and these clients are rarely patient. With ecological factors like drought tolerance and native (to name just two) here to stay, demands are becoming more refined, requiring landscape professionals to possess a sophisticated array of both environmental and aesthetic plant knowledge.

Young students and professionals leaving their respective institutions (universities and botanic gardens) may find themselves facing even greater challenges. ‘In the past, there has been a good deal of wrangling over how important plant knowledge is to the profession, with claims that many landscape architects are regressing in plant prowess. With such an array of vital skills needed in landscape architecture, it can be difficult to decipher whether or not an area such as plants necessitates further learning.’2 Institutions are struggling to making difficult decisions regarding where to spend the precious little time they have with their students. Industry professionals are also increasingly mobile following personal and professional opportunities and finding themselves in very different bioregions at different points in their professional lives.

The usefulness of technology in knowledge management is a foregone fact yet the plant industry lags behind. Without technology assisting landscape professionals capture what they have learned much plant knowledge is lost in this diverse, fickle and fast-paced industry. Students and professionals have to be armed with the ability to make quick, environmentally intelligent decisions regarding plants. Students and professionals need to spend less time hunting through hundreds of books and websites to find plant information and more time getting dirty putting the right plants in the ground and watching them thrive. Technology must be in place to capture these evaluations and allow our professionals to retain this personal and institutional knowledge. ‘Data, data everywhere’ as Cummings said. Professionals, budding professionals and our academic institutions should be asking themselves ‘How can you use your information for faster and better quality decisions?’1 The Plantium looks forward to continuing this conversation among the academic thought leaders in late March at the CELA 2016 conference where we will pose the same tough questions. http://www.cela2016.com/

  1. Russell Cummings – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140914082436-3143364-the-top-5-trends-for-horticulture
  2. Paul McAtomney – http://landarchs.com/top-10-names-in-planting-design/
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