Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spheres of Influence

There was moderate traffic today at the Horticulture Center. I was immersed in myriad projects and today was a rare day that I didn't get the Canon PowerShot out for some photo opportunities. One of my projects today involved preparing for some looming presentations. In one of my talks I'm emphasizing the concept of "flower architecture" and how important it is to not only consider flower color, height, bloom time, etc. but the actual shape of the flower itself. Flowers can have forms like daisies, trumpets, buttons, spires and certainly spheres. Mixing up flower architectures also makes a more pleasing visual composition because of this variability. One of my favorite forms in the garden is the sphere. I don't just mean spherical flowers but also berries, rounded shrubs and spherical, non-living elements as well. This blog includes some interesting spheres. At the top is the ornamental onion (Allium 'Purple Sensation') which is quite prevalent around the gardens in late May and early June. We probably have about 30,000 of this variety and I like the contribution it provides (36" tall). Even its dried form after fading in late June is quite interesting and can extend interest with a little spray paint as seen to the right. Directly above is another ornamental onion (Allium karataviense) that has nice tight spheres at 12" height above wide, blue foliage. Both of these ornamental onions are purchased and planted as a bulb the previous fall. To the left is the annual globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa 'Audray White') which is a durable annual in the full sun garden and many flower colors are available (red, pink, orange, fuchsia). When we use either annuals or perennials with spherical blossoms, we tend to repeat the same plant throughout an area. The uniformity in not only flower form but flower color helps unify the composition. Of course, other plant structures can also be spherical beyond the flowers that we observe. To the right are the spiked capsules of the castor bean (Ricinus communis 'Carmencita Pink') which are quite showy from a distance. Castor beans are poisonous and the seeds are extremely poisonous. Each of those spherical capsules contains three seeds in small chambers. The seed capsules seen here are destined to turn brown, split and drop the seeds. Directly below are the spherical flower clusters of the 'Popcorn' doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum). The pure white clusters really do look like tight popcorn balls when this large shrub hits peak bloom time.
Directly above are some primroses (Primula sp.) blooming in early spring and offering some neat flower form. Note the view across the zig-zag bridge to the observation pier. Dr. Gredler was here most of the day painting obelisks. Del and Dick W. continued their work on the deer and sleigh. Vern was in to do some carpentery and was helped by Dick W. too. We also saw Maury, Mary W., Mary Kay, Kris and some others today. The weather was quite mild with sunshine and highs around 45 degrees F. That snow is really melting off quickly. I'll get out in the gardens again soon to help locate more plants emerging and flowers blooming. To the right is Korean angelica (Angelica gigas) which is a biennial (two years from seed to bloom) that we've used extensively for its tall height and interesting visual contribution. This tropical looking plant also attracts some interesting wasps or hornets that look vicious but are only interested in the blooms. To the left is that same primrose (Primula sp., unknown) seen above.

Sue M. has been keeping our website ( nicely up to date. Take a look at some of the great educational lectures coming up including the Create an Engaging Garden spring symposium on March 24th. There is also additional information on our photography contest, spring tree sale and our vegetable lists for the spring plant sale are available online as well. I'm also putting together a short presentation on The Gardens of Philadelphia that I'll share at the next volunteer soup event on Tuesday evening, February 28th. Call Lori at RBG for more information or RSVP at the gift shop if you can make it. To the right are more "Spheres of Influence". These are the fruits of the white baneberry or doll's eyes (Actaea pachypoda) which lighten up a shady garden later in the summer. Directly below, in sequence, are the blooms of the summer blooming, ornamental onion (Allium angulosum 'Summer Beauty), the stately spheres of the globe thistle (Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Glow') and the glossy, early fruits of the 'Black Pearl' ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum). These black fruits will age to a red in September. DON'T FORGET SPHERES IN YOUR GARDEN! (not necessarily gazing globes, although they can work if sited properly....). Unrelated to RBG and this blog topic, here is a link to a recent article regarding the impact of soda on our health. Just had to share it!

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