19.2.15

Cloud pruning at a theme park? At Orlando's Universal Studios Resort, yes!

What if Dr. Seuss was your gardener? 

It's an occupational hazard of sorts: being interested in plants and landscape design has its drawbacks when travelling, You pay good money to get away, soak up some sun, do a bit of shopping, or experience some Wonders of the World and all you can see are...plants. How they are unlike the ones you see at home, how great or bad they are used in designs, how hard is it to get some seeds or cuttings past customs. Sympathetic spouses and family are priceless in this regard.

We (family and I) escaped from Toronto last weekend and stayed in comparatively "scorching" Orlando, Florida at Universal Studios theme park.

 (I can't think of a better word than "escape" as frigid air from the Arctic flowed into the Great Lakes area resulting in minus 40 degree C. windchill while we were away. I had images of the mass of polar air chasing our plane travelling south!)

We haven't been to Orlando since 2011 and were looking forward to warmer temperatures and greener environments. The mornings were cool but by noon, the sun warmed us up and I enjoyed exposing my sunlight-deprived arms to a bit of direct light without worrying about hypothermia.

Universal Studios' main draw for us was the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" as we've read and seen all the books and movies. Short of being on the actual filming locations, the re-creations here of Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express train and Hogwarts Castle were excellent. If you can handle the crowds, hour wait time for rides and way overpriced Butterbeer and student robes, you have to visit.



Hogwarts Castle Harry Potter Wizarding World Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Hogwarts Castle
Harry Potter Wizarding World
at Universal Studios, Orlando 


Of course, there is much more to see and experience: dozens vomit-inducing (for me) roller coaster and motion-simulated rides, lots of shows, and thank goodness, a couple of Starbucks. But getting back to the plants...

Being a zone 5 gardener, I know nothing about the wonderful and "exotic" trees, shrubs, palms and cycads thriving in zones 8-10 Florida. I love their forms and the fact that I can see green in February without being in a conservatory or greenhouse if I was back in Toronto. I'm sure, though, that 99.9% of Universal's visitors find the plantings irrelevant which is fair since they're here for the rides and attractions and not on a botanical garden visit. I became part of that 0.1% (even this is extremely generous) as I snapped pictures of flowers and shrubs! (My wife is used to this and is very patient, bless her.)

Eventually, we made our way to the "Islands of Adventure" section and I started to see, well, topiaries and lots of them. Trees shaped into upside flower pots or cupcakes seemed, to me, strange given the action-oriented setting. If anything, they hide the signage.


Topiaries Marvel Super Hero Island Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Topiaries in Marvel Super Hero Island
at Universal Studios, Orlando



A little further down, we entered "Seuss Landing" and then things became very interesting, horticulturally.


Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Seuss Landing entrance
at Universal Studios, Orlando

You've might have read "The Lorax"  so you'll recognize these Truffula Trees:

Seuss Landing Truffula Trees Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Seuss Landing's Truffula Trees
at Universal Studios, Orlando



I felt a little like Alice through the Looking Glass in the picture below. I wasn't posing, honest. I was merely taking in the bight yellow-orange Truffula 'bloom" against the brilliant Orlando sky.

Truffula Trees Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Truffula Trees in Seuss Landing
at Universal Studios, Orlando 



The bright colours and non-linear shapes really appealed to me. Things seemed whimsical, trippy, and absolutely asymmetrical, just like the illustrations in a Dr. Seuss book. I don't know why, then, I found these "cloud pruned" trees somewhat incongruous given the setting. They echo the Truffula Trees but I thought immediately of "niwaki", the Japanese practice of pruning or sculpting trees and shrubs in ways to coax their inherent spirit out.

Here's a good link for more information about niwaki: http://www.japanese-gardens-and-niwaki.com/niwaki.htm

Cloud pruning Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Cloud pruning in Seuss Landing
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Seuss Landing cloud pruning Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Seuss Landing cloud pruning
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Niwaki  Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Example of Niwaki in Seuss Landing
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Since niwaki embodies a high form of gardening (art?)  in Japan and involves years of practice to master, do the gardeners at Universal possess the same spirit? Do the "mow, blow and go" landscaping crews in your neighbourhood have the same sensibilities? (Ok, the last question was rhetorical!)



Spiral juniper topiary Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Spiral juniper topiary in Seuss Landing
at Universal Studios, Orlando 

I've seen similar spiral-pruned junipers, ad nauseum, in front of McMansions so it was initially strange to see them here. But it soon made sense: the more contorted the forms, the better.

I made the observation that the same plants (or at least, the same forms) can make sense, design-wise, in seemingly completely different settings. Seuss Landing in Orlando is as far from a formal English garden culturally as can be but the topiaries add whimsy and deliberate eccentricity to both spaces. The topiaries make sense functionally in both locations.

Seuss Landing topiary Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Seuss Landing topiary
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Topiary Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Topiary in Seuss Landing
at Universal Studios, Orlando

Dr. Seuss-inspired topiaries made me smile.  Not sure if the upper fellow is sitting or standing? Of course, children visiting don't ask such a mundane question--they just find him/her/it funny!


Curved palms Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Curved palms in Seuss Landing
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Bent palms Seuss Landing Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Bent palms in Seuss Landing
at Universal Studios, Orlando 


Even the palms look like Truffula Trees. Apparently, they were re-used perfectly here after being damaged by Hurricane Andrew.

My thoughts drifted between the formal topiaries in Europe, to the niwaki and cloud pruning traditions in Japan, to my cherished memories of reading Dr. Seuss to my kids so long ago.

Completely unexpected and unanticipated. The garden muses had visited me again!

Below are some flowers blooming here and there throughout Universal. I'm sure they're common as nails to Floridians but I appreciate them nevertheless.

Tibouchina urvilleana edwardsii Glory Flower Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Tibouchina urvilleana edwardsii
(Glory Flower)
at Universal Studios Orlando


Yellow tropical hibiscus rosa sinensis  Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Yellow tropical hibiscus
(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Thunbergia grandiflora Blue Sky vine Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Thunbergia grandiflora (Blue Sky vine)
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Red Powder Puff tree Calliandra haematocephala  Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Red Powder Puff tree (Calliandra haematocephala)
at Universal Studios, Orlando


Pale pink azaleas Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Pale pink azaleas
at Universal Studios, Orlando 

Pink azaleas Universal Studios Orlando by garden muses-not another Toronto garden blog
Pink azaleas
at Universal Studios, Orlando 


I wanted to end this post by providing two links that I think you'll find interesting.

The first is another blogger's post that I stumbled upon. Apparently, someone else found the plantings at Universal worth writing about! I'm relieved to discover that I wasn't the only one with this strange affliction of looking at plants at theme parks.

Here's Beth's post:


The second link leads to a fascinating article about the design process behind Seuss Landing's creation from concept to construction. 



6.1.15

How do you care for an Amaryllis after it blooms?

Amaryllis after-care: nice blooms, now what?


I've seen many beautiful pictures in person and via social media of Amaryllis blooms over the past Christmas holidays and what's not to love? (Note: the correct name for these bulbs forced to bloom over Christmas is Hippeastrum but since the buying public still refers to the plants as Amaryllis, I'll use "Amaryllis". You can delve into the nomenclature back and forths on the wikipedia Hippeastrum link.) Big and gaudy red and/or white blooms borne on tall stems add to the festive feeling along with the ubiquitous poinsettias. But like the moments after the Christmas presents are opened, things are a little anti-climatic. Your Amaryllis bulb has done what it's programmed to do, the petals have dropped and now you're left with a green stick.

Now what?


Apple Blossom Amaryllis Hippeastrum Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Apple Blossom" Amaryllis (Hippeastrum
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory


Instead of chucking out the spent bulb, you could follow the steps below and hope your Amaryllis re-flowers (reading over these steps, it seems to me quite reasonable to ensure more blooms next December but there is work involved!)

But let's enjoy some of the blooms I caught digitally at the Allan Gardens Conservatory recently as part of its annual Christmas Flower Show. (These are just four cultivars among the dozens available in stores and mail order.)




Charisma Amaryllis Hippeastrum Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Charisma" Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory


Prelude Amaryllis Hippeastrum Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Prelude" Amaryllis (Hippeastrum
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory



Aphrodite Amaryllis Hippeastrum Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Aphrodite" Amaryllis (Hippeastrum
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory




Hymenocallis littoralis Spider lily Allan Gardens Conservatory by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hymenocallis littoralis (Spider lily) 
at the Allan Gardens Conservatory

I included this Spider Lily in the post because it was blooming and it is in the same botanical family as Hippeastrum. (You can see easily how its common name came about.)


Stage 1: Ensuring the bulb gets fed before forced dormancy (for Northern gardeners)


  • after the flowers fade, cut off stalk to about 1-2" above bulb
  • leave the foliage alone as the bulb needs to replenish food reserves
  • place plant in a sunny location
  • feed with houseplant fertilizer every 2-4 weeks
  • once frost is gone from your area, gradually harden or acclimatize the plant from a shady to sunny location
  • leave the plant outside all summer and fertilize regularly
  • in mid-September, bring it indoors

Stage 2: Tricking the bulb to rebloom by forcing it to undergo dormancy (the really fun and tricky part!)

  • place plant in a cool (50-55 degrees F) and semi-dark location for at least 8 weeks
  • do not water or water very sparingly
  • cut off dead foliage
  • after 8 weeks, re-start the growth cycle
  • place bulb a sunny and warm (70-75 degree F) location
  • keep soil moist 
  • fertilize every 2-4 weeks

With a bit of luck, you should see new leaves appear and, ideally, the flower shoot.


If all of this seems daunting and messy, you can skip all the above, throw everything into the compost bin, and buy new and already dormant Amaryllis bulbs next December. 

It's best to know our limitations in these matters, would you not agree?


15.12.14

The education of a Toronto gardener

I'm a dummy, are you?



Portrait Paul Jung  garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Our little secret, ok?



I was celebrating a birthday party at my brother-in-law's place and I happened to come upon "Landscaping for Dummies" lying nearby.  Browsing through this very useful and accessible book with its readily identifiable black and yellow cover, I thought about my own education of gardening, horticulture, botany, landscape design and other plant-related topics. Maybe it's due to writing this post in late December but around this time, I usually think about the year that's ending to remember what I've learned about gardening, my business and, most importantly, about myself. And year after year, I've always remarked "boy, what a dummy you are!"


I think being inquisitive and a voracious reader helps with this once ego-bruising self-reflective exercise. As a by-product of creating my gardening business from nothing but a concept and running it alone for almost ten years, I've been forced to learn about the exciting areas of marketing, sales and client services (and don't get me started with accounting!) This isn't a post on entrepreneurship (although that would be interesting for the very few readers who have their own businesses or are thinking of creating them); rather, I'm writing about how the lessons of lifelong learning, making mistakes, and admitting ignorance often written as advantages in many business books can also be translated to gardening.

So, let me ask:

  • do you strive to ask questions and seek answers about what happens in your garden?
  • do you accept making mistakes easily and without a lot of soul-searching when you garden?
  • do you admit that there's a vast amount of knowledge (botanical, horticultural, whatever) out there waiting to be discovered, evaluated and often discarded?

I think if you've answered "yes" to one or some of these questions, then congratulations, you're a dummy or on your way to becoming one! And to me, that's a good thing because perfection in the garden can never be achieved. (The story of Adam and Eve made sure about this!)

What books have been influential in making me a dummy gardener? Here are my first three earliest books that helped me on my way:


Perennials for Every Purpose Amazon book cover by Larry Hodgson
Perennials for Every Purpose by Larry Hodgson


Seriously, I've read this book from cover to cover dozens of time. It's no wonder I love perennials due to this great resource as the author isn't shy about describing a particular genus' strengths and failings.




Residential Landscape Architecture by Norman Booth and James Hiss Amazon book cover
Residential Landscape Architecture by Norman K. Booth and James E. Hiss

Residential Landscape Architecture: Design Process for the Private Residence was the required text for my college Landscape Design course and introduced me to the process of creating functional landscapes. One bonus is that the text is very readable to a dummy like me!


And lastly,


Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr

Known as simply "the Manual", Dirr's classic got me through two years of Plant Identification classes and beyond. The author's breadth of knowledge and horticulturally-snippy comments are worth the effort of carrying this door-stop of a reference book. You'll feel like a big time dummy after working from A-Z of Dirr's magnum opus.


This is my last post for 2014 so for next year,  I wish that you:


  • don't stop learning
  • continue questioning conventional wisdom
  • view gurus and icons suspiciously
  • plant whatever you want

in and outside of the garden.

So for the few dozen readers out there, thank you for reading my blog in 2014 and I hope you'll stick around with me in 2015. 

Peace!

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