Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Part Four Of: Summer Scenery On Campus

Sorry it's been a while since I've last posted! My birthday was last week, and I have been working basically nonstop, so I've been busy. But I have returned to show you some tropical touches on campus, and some flowers that are just as sweet by any other name.
One day I was bicycling to work when I saw a Landscape Services truck carrying these trees through a parking lot. They looked even healthier than they do in this picture, and I couldn't help but wonder what they were. I had no idea where they had been taken, either. However, when I went around campus looking at various planters, I found them. They seem to be handling the Midwestern summer just fine.


So what are these exotic plants? Carica papaya, more commonly known as papaya trees. While I doubt they will flower and put on fruit in this climate, I sure wish they would. I've never eaten a fresh papaya before.

I found these hydrangea bushes a little farther down the path. Their mops look pretty angelic there, floating above their foliage. I know the acidity of the soil affects hydrangea flower color, but I also know that there are different cultivars which apparently can influence color as well. I'd love to know how these plants were manipulated into producing white flowers (as I would love some of these plants in the moonlight garden I dream of creating).

I've seen these bushes all around campus; little did I know they are also hydrangeas. These are Hydrangea quercifolia, or oakleaf hydrangea. I like them a lot. They usually have subtle flower colors, which keeps your eyes from being overloaded when these are placed near regular hydrangea.

Here's a closer shot of the blooms. This is one of my favorite pictures I've ever taken.

Onto the roses! Rose season had started ending when I took these pictures, and it's even closer to over now, but I wanted to show them regardless. Campus has pink and red roses...

...and a few white roses.

Actually, there were a lot of white roses. Stay tuned for the next post to learn more. These were the best-looking clusters of the bunch.

Next post: roses and daylilies.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Part Three Of: Summer Scenery On Campus

Today we shall transition from container plantings on campus to lively plants that live in the ground. The first container for today shares a similar theme to those discussed last time, but I think this container is more successful. It blends just a hint of tropical with more familiar plants, and they're all bright and vivid.
These flowers were in all of last post's containers, but they are blooming much more aggressively here.

I still would not choose petunias to adorn my home, but these are some of the more creative I've seen. Petunias must be easy to breed and design, as I have seen an astounding array of colors and patterns in them this year alone.

Around the edge of the container are warmer-colored flowers. I like this combination of colors and textures. I also like that the bright orange flowers are tucked underneath the more inconspicuous ones. It keeps them from stealing too much attention.

I don't know what these flowers are, but I cannot get over them! They look like lacy cotton candy.

More of the pink froth.

Near those bushes (which were sadly unlabeled) were Stokesia laevis 'Blue Danube', common name Stokes' Aster.

These would be fun to have as a border. Their fuzziness complements the laciness of the pink flowers quite well. They'd both fit in a Victorian-esque garden, for sure.

More of these. Couldn't stop looking at them and wondering what they were.

And, lastly, daylilies in a banana color. Part of me always wants to deadhead the daffodils on campus, but there are a LOT of them, so I never have time.

What summer scenery has adorned your neighborhood this year? What do or don't you like about it?

Next post: knocked out by roses (for real this time).

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Part Two Of: Summer Scenery On Campus

Here we are again, embarking on a new journey into the art possible through arranging plants. Today we're going to focus on a few designs that, I think, mix the tropical and temperate very well.
This container is the first at which we'll be looking.

As the sign says, the large plant in the center is a triangle palm. These arrangements are very temporary--palms cannot survive Midwestern winters. In the summer, though, they add a touch of the exotic.

While I never did manage to get a good picture of them, these purple/green flowers add a hint of the whimsy of the sort that dominated my last post. This is especially true because the spikes curve just slightly at their tips.

And look how bright the blooms are when they're fully flowering! They almost look like they're under blacklights.

Also adorning this composition is some coleus. Coleus is massively diverse in color, leaf shape, and even scent; I think this cultivar was a good choice for this container. It contrasts with all the green foliage around it, and it gives you something flashy to look at that isn't a flower.

Pink vinca are used as a filler in this container. I prefer blue vinca, but the pink is very summery.

Here is the coleus, the vinca, and a vine-y plant with blue flowers, which I really like. It pops against the dark coleus leaves very well. On top of that, the blooms aren't too frequent. I hope the vines spill farther out of the container as the summer goes on.

Here's another pink flower that's been added. Personally, I'd prefer another plant with interesting or colorful foliage to these, since "pink flowers" is a base that's already been sufficiently covered.

The centerpiece of this container is shorter and somewhat less flashy than the triangle palm, but still exciting considering Missouri's climate. Otherwise, the arrangement is the same as in the last container.

This is the last container up for discussion today, and it's my favorite of the bunch. I'm a sucker for purple and yellow, though. Note the striped petunias at bottom right, and the orange lantana at bottom left. These are the real sources of pizzaz in this arrangement, to me. I also like the variation in leaf shapes and types throughout the design. This creates a lot of different textures, and keeps the whole from needing to be saturated with flowers.

Which container did you like best? What landscaping design choices have you evaluated lately?

Next post: a closer look at this last container, and some plants in the ground.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Part One of: Summer Scenery on Campus

On the Fourth of July, I had my first chance to walk around campus and see what Landscape Services had done with the place. Our campus is quite large, so these posts will continue for several days.

This building is very old and historic, so the gardens in front of it are supposed to be showstopping and novel each year. Last year's array, as I recall, was more tropical, but I'm happy with what they did here. This is the best (and most encompassing) shot I could get without standing in the middle of the road.

I don't know what these cattail-like plants are, but they're neat. The not-quite-purple, not-quite-brown of the reproductive parts, paired with the whimsical bending of the spike, catches your eye better than most "typical" flowers. But they're only sporadically placed, which creates a good balance.

These flowers are just about the peppiest I've ever seen. They are clearly also meant to be highlights of this display.

Here's a closer shot of the "cattails."

These plants probably get overlooked by all the passersby, but they're sweet and subtle all at once. I always like flowers that fade to green like these do (white hellebores, for instance).

In terms of thrilling, filling, and spilling, these flowers fill. Because there are so many flower spikes, it's nice that a mix of colors was used. This would blow people off the sidewalk if it was all one color.

These bluebell-esque flowers don't seem to be quite in full bloom yet, but they also exhibit a combination of flair and sensibility--they're bright, but tiny. I wouldn't miss them terribly were they not in this bed, but they're nice enough on their own. They resemble snapdragons.

As you can see, these daisy-like blooms were so blindingly white that they wouldn't really show up on my camera. You can get the idea, though. For all the ground cover and filler plants included here, there are still many patches of bare soil. I wonder if that will change as the season progresses.

Albino cattails? These spikes were my favorites because they are hard to spot, but once you spot them, you can't look away. Bright green and bright pink fading naturally into each other! You don't often see that in nature.

These same plants (plus some petunias and a small tree) were combined in these containers. It's nice to have all that color livening up the beige of the (gigantic) building.

So that's that arrangement! What do you think of it? What could be added, improved, removed?

Next post: neon explosion.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Refreshing, Fresh Snack Idea

There's a vegetable garden at the greenhouse where I work. A few days ago, I was tasked to pull the last of the cool-season veggies out, as they were well past their prime. However, a couple of kohlrabi "bulbs" were still good, so of course I brought them home to eat. This post is dedicated to that experiment.

Kohlrabi is the same species of plant as kale, collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel's sprouts, and broccoli. However, it is the only variant of cole crop on which the stem is the desired portion. As it is the same thing as broccoli, it tastes like broccoli stems.

When my supervisor told me that (I had never eaten kohlrabi before), I had an idea. Raw broccoli is best eaten, in my opinion, with ranch dressing. So I made this.

Yes, it's gone supernova in the picture, but you can still see what's happening. I peeled and thin-sliced the kohlrabi and dipped it in ranch, heavily garnished with purslane leaves. Both the purslane and the kohlrabi had been harvested on the same day they were eaten, and the whole thing provided a good side dish with dinner.

And I'm about to repeat the process for lunch!

Next post: summer landscaping.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

My Plants Survived My Absence. Here's Proof!

While I was off partying in the desert, my plants were busy too. All the indoor plants were relatively unchanged by the experience (though I did find a loving home for my leftover wandering Jews), so this update focuses on outdoor plants.
My purslane is growing like a weed, probably because it is a weed. As expected, it doesn't seem to mind the clay soil it's in. I've been sprinkling these leaves on sandwiches and in dips. They add a nice twist.

This plant is new! These are hens and chicks (probably Sempervivum tectorum). I got these (and a couple of "chicks" that fell out) for a dollar at a farmer's market. I couldn't pass them up.

My sage has some new growth, though it appears to be afflicted with some manner of fungus. I'm not sure what to do about this.

My basil and peppermint are affected too. My thyme is just beautiful, though, and the rosemary is also untouched and thriving. Maybe not as well as it thrives in Vegas.

My Swiss chard has never looked better. I've been eating these leaves on sandwiches too. It's a wonderful feeling to harvest homegrown food. There's nothing like it.

I've saved the biggest news for last. None of my tomatoes ripened while I was gone, but they've come a lot closer! And there are new fruits! When I play I Spy with this picture, I can spot eight tiny tomatoes. How many can you find?

This is the best picture I've gotten thus far of my ripening fruits. This picture shows three of them.

This shot is not so good, but it shows the most prolific cluster of fruits on the plant (so far).

In all, I am quite happy with how my plants are coming along. I just need to find some way to treat and prevent whatever kind of fungus or pest is going around. How are your plants doing this summer?

Next post: garden-fresh snacks.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Vegas By Night

Here are a few more highlights from my trip to Las Vegas. The first video is something I was trying to take a picture of--an asparagus tree. I don't know why this is, but I saw probably a dozen green-trunked trees that were definitely asparagus. I got really close to this one and ascertained this. Asparagus doesn't grow like this where I'm from, but it's cool to see.

This video is just some shadows of people going by. It's just a snapshot of the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip. Still looks cool.
And one last note on Vegas: I went out there in the first place to go to the Electric Daisy Carnival, the United States' biggest electronic music festival. They wouldn't let attendees bring cameras into the carnival, but I took a cell phone picture of an art installation I spent a lot of time resting under. These are probably 100 feet tall electric daisies with mosaics of mirrors for stems. They lit up at night, too. Most things lit up at night there. Aren't they beautiful?
Next post: the status of my plants upon my homecoming.