Thursday, May 26, 2005

Poppies and Pansies
Nature is so beautiful that humankind can't resist the urge to improve it, rearrange it, and/or make art out of it. In horticulture, the result is a garden. Bring on the bulldozers, the backhoes, the topsoil, the compost, the greenhouses, and thousands of hours of work, and see what can be done.

The results are fleeting as plants bloom and fade in a short time span. The effect is ever changing, but, when done right, a total treat for the eyes.

Yesterday Luanne and I took a bus tour (3.5 hours one way) to a place that does it right, the Chicago Botanic Garden. Here are gardens like you'll never see at my house. What a pleasure to admire the work of the 200 employees and 1000 volunteers.

Hill of annual poppies at Chicago Botanic Garden Spring 2005 My favorite display was the hillside of annual poppies. I've drooled over a similar display in a garden catalog. How cool to see it done in real life.

Each of these poppy plants was started in a greenhouse and then manually transplanted to the hill in early spring. They're at the end of their blooming season now. In fact, our guide told us that spring floral displays normally would be replaced by summer displays by the last week in May, but the weather has been cool this year so they're been able to leave the spring displays an extra week or so.

When these poppies are removed, they will be composted. The end. All the poppy work goes in the compost pile and a summer blooming hillside is planted from greenhouse seedlings.

Planter at Chicago Botanic Garden Spring 2005Same thing with the planters. These are spring planters and will be completely replaced with summer planters.

Last fall I bought pansies and planted a little patch in the back yard. They were some hybrid variety with huge flowers, and I was very impressed with them when I planted them. They wintered over and bloomed this spring, but the blooms are so large the stems don't support them well. My pansies are flopping every which way, some face down in the dirt, and don't look anywhere near as pretty as the smaller upright pansies in the Chicago Botanic Garden planter in the picture.

Live and learn.

I'll be taking a trip to the greenhouse today to pick up several flats of annuals for summer. I need something to replace the pansies, and a flat of impatiens for a spot of color in the shade.

Memorial Day weekend (this coming weekend) is the traditional time for planting summer annuals in Michigan. It's our annual declaration that we do not expect another frost until next October. Are you listening, Mother Nature?