San Antonio Botanic Garden, conservatory
The trip to Texas was quite eventful. It was good to see both well kept and designed gardens, and unkempt, poorly designed gardens. Comparing the two sides gave me a good idea of what works and what doesn’t in a good garden. My favorite places were the San Antonio Botanic Garden, Mercer Botanic Garden in Houston, and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. They were organized in an easy-to-follow manner, with clean, well maintained displays and gardens.
We’ve finished the Quapaw House designs, and presented them to the directors yesterday. It went really well, and they were really impressed with what we had come up with for them. The only thing that we should have done, was to create a budget/cost estimate for them, as they are non profit and need to find funding. It was fun to see a project from beginning to completion, in the design phases. Unfortunately we won’t be able to help with construction of the herb garden I designed because the summer is over already, and I’m heading back to Minnesota.
We’ve also begun construction on the arbor that we’ve been planning and designing for so long. This morning we transplanted a viburnum, and dug holes for the cement base of the arbor. We should be starting on the formwork for the concrete this afternoon, and the beams are being notched for the top part. It is going a little slowly right now because we aren’t really sure how to do most of the construction things, and we ask for a lot of help. It’s fun, though, implementing our design that we’ve only seen on paper.
Overall, it was a good experience. I learned more about landscape design than I did horticulture, but that’s still ok. I had fun being in Arkansas, too- probably helped out by the other interns, in the after- work exploring we did. I’d be cautious in recommending the internship to horticulturalists who have no interest in landscape architecture and design, because that is going to be a large focus, but Bob will take your suggestions, and you can always pick a new experiment to try while you’re here.
The work I’ve been doing lately has been mostly on the Quapaw House designs. We are trying to create designs and plans for several areas so that the staff there can plant and build as they have money and resources. I’ve been working on creating an herb garden out behind the building, with some extra touches. I’ve added vegetables and cut flowers, and instead of a formal geometric design, there will be a bunch of rectangular raised beds. I’m really excited about this because I can add whatever plants I want, and can arrange it any way I’d like.
There is a new intern that just came over here from Scotland and the Royal Botanic Garden at Edinburgh. He is another horticulture student, so now I’m not alone in wanting to know every plant here. Although, the things he is learning there, (and he’s only in his second year of horticulture), are way more in-depth and specifically aimed at horticulture than I’ve learned. Its pretty impressive, and makes me want to go over to Europe to see what they all know and learn over there.
We worked with a Japanese pruning expert from Fort Worth, TX for a couple days, and he showed us how the Japanese prune and shape their trees, using guidelines from nature. Creating different feelings with a simple shape or placement of a plant, and the extreme amount of time, effort and planning that goes into this art. It was really interesting working with him, and he told us about the thought process that goes into creating a Japanese garden.
We’re meeting with a Dr. David Slawson this week, who is a Japanese garden expert. He’s going to show us some garden design tips, and how to think differently about what you include in a garden’s design, and how each element can represent a larger scale landscape in a small area.
We’re off to Texas on Thursday morning. A round trip of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and some places in Louisiana on the way back. We are going to visit the botanic gardens down there, to see what types of setups they have there, and to see how different a garden in Texas is, and what their style is. It should be a pretty fun trip, jam-packed with things to see. We’re going to the Dallas Arboretum, Zilker Botanical Garden, Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center (which has a lot of sustainable elements there), a sunken Japanese Tea Garden, the San Antonio Botanic Garden, Houston Arboretum, Hermann Conservatory, and Hodges Gardens in LA. It was fun to plan out where exactly we were going, so we could make sure to hit most of the things we wanted to see down there.
seen from the west side, the two main walls. There will be a walk in between them, with a pergola above the path, and vines on it.
The internship is incorporating not only design work, but the manual labor of a garden too- watering, weeding, construction, tying steel. It is a view from both sides of the spectrum, so if you work management, you can still have the experience from the eyes of the worker, and how things should be done in the field, and can gain some insight from that view.
We’ve been working hard on the west flowering border project. Yesterday we built a ‘dummy’ arbor to see how big our finished product would be, and where it would go. Turns out, we need to go redraw it a foot shorter, and we’re going to add some different beams across the top to create a wave pattern to go along with the bed line. We have everything drawn in AutoCAD, and on paper, with a materials list, so we are really close to being ready to start building. It is coming along, and is getting exciting.
The only thing that is getting old in the internship is the focus on landscape architecture. Since the garden director is himself a landscape architect, it is difficult for him to see things from the view of a horticulturist, even though he really knows his plants (from the landscape architect’s side). The work I have been doing for my horticulture internship is to choose plants for the installations, which so far has included one bush (Clethra alnifolia), and we couldn’t use it because it didn’t meet the specifications for the collection- to be from Eurasia. I’ve tried to shadow the two main horticulture people here, Paula and Plant Bob, but so far I’ve had little success because I always end up doing something else. Today it was putting down mulch. I’m still going to try again, but I’m a little disappointed that the only ‘real’ horticulture training that is going to happen is one or two days working with these people, and I had to ask for it.
On the other hand, designing a garden for the Quapaw House is exciting, because its going to be an herb/vegetable/cut flower garden, where I get to choose all the plants, and mostly design how it should be laid out and planted. That is more of what I had in mind when I got into this internship. It’s still in the early stages, but I’ll report back with updates.
Designing a new garden has me thinking about new aspects I previously wouldn’t have considered. Such things as plants that bloom at different times, and planting for each season to have color and something happening in the garden. Also, creating screens and directing views, and hiding or accenting different areas in the garden, and creating areas of plants that will stand out to someone unfamiliar with plants, and wouldn’t normally notice a wild Ratibida sp in the middle of a parking lot.
This past week I went with Bob and Paula to their supplier for annuals- Reynold’s Greenhouses- to reorder annuals for the spring/summer planting next year. It was a really interesting experience, because they know the grower- Sean- really well, and he really tries to give them good advice on which plants they should grow and order. The three have a good relationship; Sean offers them good plants, tries to give them tips on ways to buy plants for cheaper, and how each cultivar will perform in the garden environment. I was personally amazed to see how well Bob and Paula remembered what each cultivar looked like, how it performed and where it was planted. And they order about 35,000 plants at a time! Very impressive.
Also last week, a representative from Trimble came to the gardens- a GPS supplier. The garden is going to buy a couple GPS units, and we are going to try to map out where all the plants in the living collection are, and where the paths and streams are. It’s going to be a very large project, but I think it will be really useful. They are talking about making a map of the data points, and overlaying it on a topographic map of the gardens in AutoCAD.
We met with the people at the Quapaw House, and it turns out we were misinformed as it is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, where clients stay for a 28 day treatment program. The grounds are nice, they have a couple acres, surrounded by woods, but with no plants growing there at all. It’s basically just grass and trees, so our job is going to be pretty big. We only have $5,000 to work with, and hopefully we can get some supplies donated. Our first goal is to be to design some sort of vegetable or herb garden that the clients can take care of, and they can benefit from fresh ingredients in the kitchen. Our second goal is to ‘fix’ the smoking area, and make it more welcoming, and not so crummy. It is a little fenced in area behind the building, but it is mostly bare rocky soil and cement, so that will be tricky to design something for. Another goal is to add color to the place- and liven it up a little bit. These ideas are floating around, and we recently picked up the plans for the building so we can get started working on that. So far, I think this is my favorite project, maybe because there is the possibility of creating a useful garden, or because we are allowed to do anything we want to the grounds, with the sky as the limit.
This next week we will be working on this project a lot and our individual projects, because Bob is in Pasadena for the week. I will also be shadowing Paula for a day, to see what it is exactly that she does.
I talked with Bob before he left, and we discussed my goals for the internship- one of them being to learn about IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices at the gardens- and he gave me a project to research the four main pests here at the gardens, talk with Plant Bob about what they spray now, and what we can use to manage these pests in a more eco-friendly way. I’m excited about that project, and it will be interesting to see how that pans out.
This past week, we did an exercise to help illustrate how to arrange plants in a border planting, and how differing textures and heights can create distinct effects. We created an axonometric drawing of the heights of the plants in their places, chosen from Best Borders by Tony Lord. It was a good learning experience to note how the arrangements interacted with each other.
We also took on the challenge of planting the southern parking lot island with wildflowers. It is a fairly large island, with trees and some grasses and wildflowers existing, and we arranged and planted several additional wildflowers in amongst the existing plants. We tried to create the natural wildflower/forest edge feel, to introduce visitors to the garden and give them the right impression, but also grouped the plants heavily so the average viewer would notice them.
This week we are to lay out at the site where the paths leading to the rose garden will be, using the plans, and we will meet with a representative from the Quapaw house- a shelter in town for battered women. We are going to design, order the plants for, and hopefully plant a new garden for the residents.
Note- there are a lot of chiggers here, wear bug spray!
This last week we planned out, prepared and planted a new bed in the White Oak Walkout, an area near the back of the garden with a small lawn in between some oaks and other shrubs. It is a narrow spot, and the beds frame the length, creating a long, skinny area on a hill, which you can look at from either the bottom or the top. We talked with Bob and Paula, to discuss what ideas they had for the space, and then went to work. We moved some cannas from a clump to a smooth line bordering the bed, and potted up and moved some spireas, lantana and other perennials to a new location to make room for the annuals we were given to work with. After pruning back some out of control Deutzias and weeding, we had room for the annuals. We decided to make a border along the front of ageratum and Mexican heather, to formalize the area. Behind those we put some white vinca, apricot portulaca, rose portulaca, red dragonwing begonia and some crinkle leaf ageratum. The learning experience was good, to design a garden that works in the space, using the plant material at hand. We had to consider things such as the views from top and bottom of the hill, color schemes, integration with the native and introduced perennial species, and texture and form of the plants.
That was two days’ work, and on the third crew day, we went out to the rose garden site to lay out where the planters would be. (The rose garden is to be an elliptical promenade, with steps to the lower level, and a lawn above). The planters are going to be along the back wall of the ellipse, and poured in the concrete, so we had to use the architect’s drawings to lay out at the site their exact location, and mark it so it would be visible after they poured the concrete for the walkway. That was also a good learning experience, to learn about what the architects and contractors go through when building a new garden area, which I think will prove quite practical in the future as I’m sure I will be working with these situations.
The weather is already very hot and humid, and I’m glad it’s a woodland garden, so most of it’s shade. They put wireless internet into the house today, so now I can do some serious researching.
On our office days, we worked with Bob, doing an exercise about how to design a space that will introduce visitors to the garden, with attention to the message each portrays to the viewer. We also discussed how to enclose a space, and what kind of feeling different arrangements and plantings can give the viewer. I really enjoyed this exercise, because I learned about the extreme effort that goes into designing a landscape that looks like it’s been there for years, sculpted by nature, as well as the huge effect a misplaced plant can have on the experience. Bob has a lot of knowledge, and I’m going to tap into that and get as much as I can from this experience, as it will be extremely practical in the future. I’m also learning that I love the naturalized garden/woodland garden, because it is almost like raw nature, yet still has an order and a specific aesthetic in mind.
This is the area we will be working on to reduce the foot traffic, and fixing the drainage problem.
Well, I finished my first week here at Garvan. It was pretty interesting, learning all the different cultural differences between the people here and those in Minnesota.
There are a couple people with whom I will be spending the majority of my time here. Bob Byers is the Garden Director, and we (the other three interns and I) will be working with him on our intern projects in the office. Mike Brown is the Garden Superintendent, and we will be working with him on construction and other related things, so far mainly in the rose garden they are building. We use the architect’s plans and figure out where footings should be, elevations, measure things out, etc. It is pretty interesting work, since I haven’t done anything with landscape architecture at school. The garden is affiliated with the landscape architecture program, and so that’s why they focus on that aspect as well. Paula Wallace is the Horticulture Supervisor, and so far I have been planting annuals with her, and expect to focus on those plants for the internship. I work with Bob two days, and split the other three days between working with Mike and Paula. Four of the five days I work alongside the other interns, and the fifth I work by myself, mainly with Paula, since I’m the horticulture intern. The other three interns are from the landscape architecture program at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ar, and spend three days working with Bob on drafting and such.
Each intern has his/her own individual project to work on (which the other interns can assist with) and three or four separate projects that we will all work together on for the duration of the summer. The first project we will be doing is to use an existing diagram of the annuals in the border around the promenade, and make index cards of each plant, with a picture, colors of flower and foliage, form, leaf texture and height on it. We will then rearrange all the plants into a new border design, creating a paper plan, and a 3-D graph of the plant heights. All plants will be arranged in sympathy with the 2009 garden theme ‘Quiet.’
The second project is to ‘fix’ the entrance to the great lawn by the west flowering border. There is a space that is being worn down by foot traffic, and a drainage problem. Closing off the section completely is not an option because people setting up events need access through that spot.
The third project is a community service project, because we are in AmeriCorps, and we will be creating a garden for the Quapaw House, a shelter for battered women. The project is to be decided after a meeting with the staff. We will be making plans, sketches, and ordering and installing the plants for the garden.
We might have one more project, at the Arkansas School of Science, Mathematics, and the Arts (a boarding school for high schoolers, where the other three interns are staying for the summer), and that is yet to be decided as well.
My individual project is to compile a list of all the plants in the collection at the garden, using old files and new records, checking each for correct botanical name and any additional information. I will also compile a list of plants that are unlabeled, and label them.
I have already learned a lot of new things about designing gardens in both an aesthetic and practical way. The aesthetics require attention to color schemes, transition areas, corners, lines, and leading the eye in a certain way. In a sense, it is just like floral design, but with a larger scope. In the practical design of a garden, it is necessary to consider things such as where water will flow in a storm, and which side of a path to place planters or benches, and how much room to allow for those. It is fun relating things I’ve learned in my studies to the real world situations presented here.
This is where I am staying for the summer. (my parents are out front)
Garvan Gardens is a woodland/botanic garden in Hot Springs, Arkansas owned by the University of Arkansas. The garden is mostly woodlands, with planned gardens here and there. The place is so big that they offer golf-cart tours of the grounds! It is really a beautiful place, on the edge of Lake Hamilton, a popular place for boating. I moved in to the apartment I was provided by the garden today, just outside the gates on the property. It is in a house transformed into offices used by the garden director, two accountants and a representative from AmeriCorps.
It is good to note that the intern positions are funded by AmeriCorps, and that you are not an employee of the actual garden or the University of Arkansas. It doesn’t mean anything different than working for the University, except that you are required to complete 450 hours of ‘volunteer’ time, with a ‘living expense’ which is actually your pay (since you don’t have to pay for housing). An added bonus to working with AmeriCorps is that they give you an education grant (which is a scholarship) at the end of the summer. Mine was for $1,250 but it was only advertised as $1,100- so I don’t know how they go about deciding the amount, it must vary by year.
Anyways, I moved in today, and the room is really nice. It is big, with a couch, 2 armchairs and a table, a smaller table, a double bed and a twin bed (for when there are more than one intern living there). There is a small porch outside the room your own bathroom, and a kitchen downstairs to be shared with the other interns. There is air conditioning in the house, but no wireless internet. I am going to find out if I can get connected some other way, or if I have to use internet somewhere else. It is a good idea to bring a car with you, because things are pretty spaced out here- there is forest everywhere. I brought just my bike since I don’t have a car, and several people have already offered to drive me to the store and wherever I need to go in town. They are very friendly down here in Arkansas, and very helpful, so you don’t have to worry about that. I’ve been told by several people several times already that they’ll help me out getting anywhere or doing anything.
I was pretty nervous about coming to this internship, and still am, because it is the first time I’ll be so disconnected from everything I’m familiar with. I’ve left everything behind except for a few clothes, some choice houseplants, and my laptop. It will be ok though, once I get used to the routine around here, and once I make friends with all the people here. There are three other interns this summer, and they are staying in downtown Hot Springs because they have cars and I’m the only female. Other than us four interns, there are a lot of people working on the ‘crew,’ who do other work at the garden. I’ll find out more of those details later.
It’s pretty hot and humid down here already, and I missed spring in both Minnesota and Arkansas. I was told the humidity drops down to make it less overpowering once the summer progresses, so that should make the work more enjoyable.