Yeah! Another Horticulturist has become a blogger. I just love watching my little seedlings grow and blossom into their full potential. This week Jim Kincannon posts his first IMA blog. Jim is not only a great Horticulturist but he also is the catalyst for us having entire conversations based on song lyrics. You won’t find that in other departments I bet. My hope is we will hear from Jim of Geoff (or Katie or Patty or Chad or ….) every other week opposite my weeks. Eventually we will get a bio up for each and they can quit posting under my blog. I don’t mind them being under my thumb, but under my blog? No way.
Uh-oh, somebody left the blog-o-graph in the Division of Environmental and Historic Preservation unsecured! Well, I am done cleaning Irvin’s and Geoff’s garden trowels so let’s see how this thing works…
I don’t usually make my bed, but if I did I know I’d have to sleep in it. That’s kind of what happened when the rain garden project here at the IMA came along. Not to get too mired in details, but when a preliminary plan for this type of garden at another site on the property became unworkable, Chad Franer, Horticulture Manager, asked the staff for suggestions for another location. Before I could slap my hand over my mouth, the words had already dribbled down my stubbly chin and onto the table: “annual border.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the designations for sub-areas around the campus, this is a garden bed running along the northeastern edge of the greenhouse parking lot which has traditionally been planted with annual and tropical plants. Make that “was”. After a single season of being under my complete control, I had just suggested eliminating a parking lot paradise in favor of a utilitarian system for dealing with storm water. I looked over at Irvin, one of my inspirations for all things shiny and sparkly, and thought I saw his eyelids narrow and his lips mouth the words “you will PAY for this!” Actually, I wouldn’t -because somebody else was going to pick up part of the tab! Still, I knew I would have to face the accusations of betrayal by the Chanteuse of Chartreuse. As quickly as the thoughts congealed in my head, I babbled on and on to Mr. Etienne about how I would transform the beds along the fence in front of the greenhouse into the “new” annual border, complete with bold foliage, contrasting textures, and a riotous rainbow of color.
A reasonable compromise I thought, especially since it was already spring and the plants I ordered in the winter for the annual border would be arriving soon anyway. Disastrous wrath averted, I slinked back to my office to begin pondering the radical changes in store for this particular square footage. Honestly? At first I was intimidated by the prospect of designing from scratch a functional landscape feature of which I only had a rudimentary knowledge. I didn’t feel very passionate about it at the time either. Nonetheless, I set about researching these types of installations, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources. Thanks to the many other professionals involved, certain characteristics of this purpose-built landform were determined for me (Go Engineers!).
Beyond that, I (and my superiors) just wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing. This was accomplished (I hope) by sticking to the “right plant, right place” philosophy which requires matching plant tolerances with environmental conditions. Simply put, in lower elevations of the garden plants have to be amenable to occasional inundation as well as periodic dry spells. Mostly, native species made the cut, along with their cultivars and a few exotics (non-invasive ones).
How will it all work out? Only time will tell. Let’s just ignore the huge downpour which washed out a seven-foot section of the berm on the back side of the garden less than a month after it was constructed and planted (I can easily do that – I was on vacation that week!) On a final note, I would like to thank all the staff, volunteers, and outside organizations whose efforts helped make the new IMA rain garden possible. I hope y’all take pride of ownership in it. Hey, what’s this feeling coming over me? I love what we’ve created!
Filed under: Horticulture