A visit to the San Antonio Botanical Garden boded well for the horticultural imagination. (Andrew May/for Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Public gardens a great way to seed ideas for own yard

SURE, THE VERY same weekend I travel to see my elder son graduate from the Air Force’s basic military training, you folks here on the Peninsula get utterly fantastic, warm, even hot sunny weather for the first time this year.

But before I go on and get envious, let me remind everyone that with that hot, sunny weather, make sure you water very well all your newly planted botanical wonders.

As they begin to grow and “root in” to the surrounding area, it is vital that the soil stay moist around their yet-to-have-adhered root balls. Otherwise, they will go into a stressed condition.

Always do a deep watering on days of 80 degrees or more, regardless of whether the soil is moist.

But now, back to my envy, which is certainly alleviated by the fact that I took the opportunity to visit the very impressive San Antonio (Texas) Botanical Garden, all 31 acres of a horticultural dream.

As I do with any public garden anywhere I travel, I always remember: “Plagiarism is the world’s second-oldest profession.”

With that said, I am always on the hunt for new ideas, plants, designs, materials and inspiration.

Botanical gardens and public gardens are great places for any gardener seeking out careful thought, design and plant selection. Please choose to spend your leisure hours exploring these works of art.

Gardens are not only works of art but expressions of one’s inner desires. This of course includes your own yard.

As a gardener, you should always be on the lookout for public gardens or garden tours and walks, precisely for the inspiration and creativity they can impart.

Botanical gardens especially are ideal because they are divided into numerous themes, such as native plants, formal gardens, rose gardens, conservatories, water gardens, English and cottage gardens, along with vegetables, sculptures or, in San Antonio’s case, a cacti garden.

And your home is a mini-botanical garden was well, even if you do not realize it.

You have a shade (area) garden, a sunny garden, spots for entertainment, containers and a green mall, too (i.e., the lawn). You have trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, perennials, edibles and vines, along with bulbs, ground cover and pathways.

The trick always is to blend these vastly different components, conditions and elements into one cohesive landscape.

This is why I invite you (plead and beg you) to always seek out public gardens as places of inspiration and venues for ideas.

Each and every garden is as different as you and I as individuals, only landscaping is expressed with plant materials, hardscapes (backaches), form and textures.

This difference makes for a wonderful array of styles, colors, designs and forms.

As summer draws ever so near (June 20 at 9:24 p.m. Pacific time), now is the perfect time to be thinking about your yard and its function.

Do you need more entertainment areas in the form of a gazebo, pizza oven, patio or deck?

Should there be more — or less — grass?

What about shade trees, vines, an orchard or even art?

This time of year and for the next several months, gardens are at their prime, so it is a primary function for all of you horticulturalists to get “out and about.”

Exude an effort to travel, visiting botanical gardens, arboretums, conservatories or at the very least the various Master Gardeners’ garden tours this summer (more details on these to follow in the weeks to come).

I, as a professional garden designer, always seek out public gardens for the ideas and inspiration someone else has worked so hard to create.

It helps me not to have reinvented the (garden) wheel.

This force within you should be the same reason you seek out the beauty in the landscape where we live.

P.S. It’s always wonderful to return safely home to the Evergreen State and our own huge botanical garden: the beautiful Olympic Peninsula.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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