Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Gardening

One part of being a gardener at a public park is that everyone thinks you're just a total interior and exterior designer. That sort of thing just seems to come with the job. If only work saw my  coffee table I pulled out of the trash, or our collection of starwars posters in the living room, they might rethink this sort of thing.

Regardless, all the bulbs get put in the ground in the fall and two minutes after the last bulb is in, someone brings up holiday decorations. And next thing I know I'm looking for a formula for how many pine boughs are required to line a 25 foot circle. I don't really celebrate the holidays anymore so it seems strange to me to design anything for the holidays.

Luckily one of my co workers had input for us this year and spray painted some pinecones for the tree and the parks department did an awesome job at supplying a beautiful tree this year.

Nothing like putting painted pine cones on spruce.

Our festive fire spirit.

And lastly... twigs that I cut along with my thumb. 
I don't normally get sick around blood, but this one was really really gross.

hm... on that note..
May you have a happy holiday and a 2012 full of opportunity.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aww Plants.. You Shouldn't Have...

Last Wednesday I went for a walk at Columbus Park after getting some delicious Chinese pastries to celebrate my birthday. Columbus park isn't all that well maintained from a horticultural perspective, but I do really enjoy the plant palette and the community that meets in the park. The park is right in the heart of China Town so the park hosts the typical asian palette of evergreen shrubs and white and pink woody material. There are always locals playing cards and mahjong. Most times I've walked through I have also noticed either a band or choir performing traditional music. 

The locals were out on Wednesday. I saw plenty of people playing cards and there were kids in the new athletic field ( I guess 2004.. isn't all that new). I even watched some woman walk up and down the pavilion steps about 25 times while I drank my bubble tea. I checked out their collection of Cercis and wondered if the trampled ground cover was Sarcococca when I came upon this sight....

 Dumb cherry trees can't even tell that it's December.

Might I then add that I also noticed that not one lamp in this entire park had lightbulbs... weird. Also when you go into the pavilion some sort of recording is played that tells me that my picture has been taken and any illegal activities I have accomplished have been recorded... even weirder.

I was pretty disturbed by our seemingly evergreen Hydrangeas in the park, but this is just ridiculous. I hope our bulbs don't come out of dormancy, the crocus is already coming up. Hopefully we'll have flowers this spring and not just a bud blast.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You? Yes Yew!

One thing I've been noticing a lot around the web lately are a bunch of awesome pictures of old european yews (Taxus baccata).

Here in the northeast we don't have a good appreciation for Taxus. I don't blame people for disliking yews here. I do blame people for the general dislike of yews. I blame people for this because they have a habit of wanting very manicured square or globular shaped high maintenance hedges. Personally I'm not one for sheered hedges. While they might not be my forte, I can understand the appeal of them if they are done right and properly maintained. Because of the high demand for these geometrical monstrosities, Taxus x media is the most common yew in the suburban American landscape. After seeing so many yews pruned in disfiguring ways, I feel like many aren't willing to try others in the genus... not that they really look too different. Taxonomists don't even distinguish the different species, they group them all under a subspecies of baccata.

Taxus baccata is a historically interesting plant. They are fairly slow growing but can reach up to 90 feet in height creating large evergreen specimens at maturity. Yew branches hollow with age and branches generally do not last the entire lifetime of the tree. This makes it difficult to determine the age of a mature specimen because ring counts are not accurate. Despite this, the European Yew is still estimated to be the longest living trees in Europe reaching lifespans of over 2000 years.

The secret to the Taxus's long term success in Europe is its ability to take damage with low disease occurrence. In the Americas Yews haven't been so lucky. In the upper regions of North American Taxus canadensis is starting to disappear from forests because of deer over browsing. Meanwhile the Pacific Yew, Taxus brevifolia, has been over harvested because of its usefulness in cancer combating drugs. Even in the south Taxus floridana and Taxus globosa are both on the threatened list.

Taxus baccata at longwood gardens.

Flicker had some pretty impressive pictures.

I guess both wiccans and other celtic religions used to hold Yews sacred as a tree of reincarnation. They were widely planted in cemeteries for this reason. Just remember that all parts except the arils are toxic so don't eat any part of the plant in hopes of reincarnation.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Got Sun?

Pictured above is our lovely "Ham" lawn at the park. Apparently some sculpture was on it years ago that looked like a ham and the name stuck. Either way, we've been complaining that the lawn is too shady and grass won't grow in 100% shade. I think this just confirms it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When I say pests....

I was trying to explain to explain the concept of threshold pest levels when my father presented me with the perfect image of above threshold.

Tasty huh? 

Well, that's our family's Hibiscus. We've had it for over ten years. The thing flowers all winter but it always has at least two infestations of aphids and white flies while it's indoors.

Seems as though this years infestation might be particularly nasty. I guess dad wanted to wait for me to hose it down. The plant was soaped yesterday so hopefully all of these guys will be gone soon.