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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blooms of a Different Nature

Temporary student art project installation on 12/14/11 in the West Courtyard Garden behind the Benjamin Building.
This time of year, we often have blooms of a different nature spontaneously sprouting up around and near the Art/Sociology Building.  At the end of the fall semester, final art projects are due and many of them are placed outdoors.  They suddenly magically appear overnight like ephemeral flowers, often bringing beauty and freshness to our campus landscape at a time when it appears somewhat dreary as most trees and shrubs have lost their leaves in preparation for winter and even the late fall blooming plants are well past their prime.

While the majority of the student projects appear to be conceived without thought as to how that they will be integrated into the existing landscape, the artist of this installation in the West Courtyard Garden at the Benjamin Building appears to have given quite a bit of thought to this issue.  This site appears to be an integral part of this project.  The narrow triangular form between the two sidewalks is repeated in the narrow triangular form between the legs of the wooden tripod and in the adjacent wire cloth cone.  The triangle formed on the top edge of the red brick Maryland 'M' decoration in the middle of the patio is emphasized with a triangle of carefully placed mulch on the square and wood frame placed over the circle in the middle of the patio.

The use of the square over a circle on the patio reminded me of a simplification of the complex circle and square motif decorating the front of American architect Louis Sullivan's Jewel Box in Grinnell, Iowa.  The Jewel Box is a bank that Sullivan designed that is still in operation as a bank to this day.  It is well worth a side trip if you are traveling along I-80 in Iowa.  Be aware of short lobby hours as I think they closed the lobby at 2:30 pm the day we were there.  Even though we arrived after the lobby was closed, an older, kind hearted gentleman from Grinnell came to our rescue.  He told us that he banked there and then proceeded to pound on the side door so hard that the staff inside could not ignore him.  They opened the door for us and we were allowed to enter the bank from the new addition behind the Jewel Box. 

It appeared like any other bank until we reached the Sullivan designed part of the bank that had been preserved in its original condition and included the original check writing desks designed by Sullivan in the lobby.  My jaw dropped and my mouth was hanging open in disbelief at the beauty before me.  The feeling was very similar to a deeply moving religious experience.  The black and white pictures that I had seen of the exterior years ago did nothing to prepare me for the beauty of the interior with its fine woodwork, incredible light fixtures, wall of stained glass windows behind the cashiers and overhead skylights etc.  It was a work of fine art that you could walk through and be totally immersed within.  It is wonderful that this building and its contents have been preserved for us all to enjoy.  I can't think of many buildings built in recent decades that will stand up to the test of time and still be so beautiful so many years after that they were first built.  BBC Scotland has an excellent video on man's pursuit of beauty and why beauty matters.

The extensive use of white in the above student project also reminded me of one of my favorite artists, Louise Nevelson.  Louise used white almost exclusively in many of her projects during a certain period in her career.  She was quite an insightful person as you can see in her wonderful quote below.

When people lose their center, they go in for material things.  But they can come back to it, sometimes with a difference, and sometimes they blossom more.  I think we all fall, but some of us have something that we pick ourselves up and go on, to greater things, and I think the difference between not going on and going on is where life really fulfills itself.  Life isn't one straight line.  Never.  Most of us have to be transplanted to the proper environment, like a tree, before that we blossom.   -Artist, Louis Nevelson

I am betting money, marbles and chalk that the artist that designed and installed the project in the West Courtyard Garden at the Benjamin Building was not inspired by the things that I was reminded of, when that I viewed the artist's work.  However, I think good art sparks the imagination and psyche of the viewer in a positive manner, even if that it was not in the way that the artist intended.

Below are some photographs of other student projects that caught my eye on Wednesday, December 14, 2011.  One picture was taken at an earlier date and it is noted in the caption.  We have photographs of some of the previous student art project/sculptures included in a Flickr photo album of campus art work and fountains. 

The above two photos were taken on the upper end of Mayer Mall near Preinkert Field House.

The above photo was taken in the courtyard area East of the Art/Sociology Building.

The above photo was taken on the South side of the Architecture Building.

The above 5 photos were taken on the pedestrian bridge on the North side of the Architecture Building.

The photo of this wispy creation was taken on December 5, 2011 on Tawes Plaza, just North of the Art/Sociology Building.

The above three photos were taken at a construction site where that a retaining wall is being reconstructed Northwest of the Art/Sociology Building. 

The metal sculpture above reminds me of a wind tossed Hare's Foot Fern (Phlebodium aureum) as well as other plants.

We are lucky to have these projects that spark our imaginations suddenly appear, to be able to live in the moment with them and enjoy them in our landscape, even though like blossoms, they may be gone tomorrow.

Sam Bahr, author and photographer

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Maryland Blooms in December

Blue Heaven Sorbet Violas

This late fall and early winter have been warmer than usual, without any of the extreme cold snaps that usually discourage or eliminate flowering on almost all plants.  To be fair, many plants were not blooming; however, there were a larger than normal number of plants that were still blooming on Monday, December 5, 2011 when that these pictures were taken.

Violas and Pansies are known for blooming well in cool weather; however, they are in the minority of plants that are usually still blooming on December 5 in our area.  Some years, even Violas and Pansies are looking pretty sorry by this late date.

We decided to try some of the Sorbet series of Violas this year as last fall, winter and spring, I drove by a planting of the Sorbet Violas that seemed to look better than any of the Pansies that we had planted on campus.  Hopefully, my observations won't prove to be a case of the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.  So far, the Blue Heaven Sorbet Viola and Yellow Delight Viola are performing admirably near the Clock Tower by Van Munching Hall.  While I am not fond of the screaming yellow, visible from the space shuttle, color of the Yellow Delight Sorbet Viola, I am a big fan of its wonderfully sweet fragrance on warm afternoons.  The Blue Heaven does not seem to be fragrant.

Yellow Delight Sorbet Viola
Holly Osmanthus

Some of the Holly Osmanthus were still blooming on Monday, however, I did not detect any of the strong fragrance that is usually associated with their tiny blossoms.

'Otto Luyken' Cherry Laurel

Knock Out Roses and Sorbet Plum Velvet Violas
Knock Out Rose


Pink Double Knock Out Rose

White Out Rose

White Out Roses and Pampas Grass

The Knock Out hardy shrub rose series and other hardy shrub roses bred by rose breeder Bill Radler have performed very well for us in College Park, MD.  In most of the locations on campus where we have these hardy shrub roses planted, we cut them back every year because of height concerns.  However, if you plan ahead and site them properly, you do not need to cut them back every year and can let them get quite large.  Most of Bill's roses have proven to be far more disease resistant than other shrub roses that have been given a lot of press as being disease resistant. 

Unknown Camellia Cultivar

'Winter's Snowman' Camellia

'Winter's Snowman' Camellia

'Winter's Snowman' Camellia (Camellia x 'Winter's Snowman') is from the Ice Angels series of Camellias. It is a complex hybrid cross made by Dr. William Ackerman of the National Arboretum in Washington, DC that was bred and selected for cold hardiness. Some refer to 'Winter's Snowman' Camellia as the "Telephone Pole" Camellia because of it's narrow habit. This fall blooming Camellia usually starts blooming for us around October 29.

'Six Hills Giant' Catnip

'Dropmore Scarlet' Honeysuckle

Glossy Abelia

Leadwort or Plumbago

Sam Bahr, author and photographer

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pinching of 'Lord Baltimore' Hibiscus

The above photo was taken immediately after the second pinching on 6/7/11.

'Lord Baltimore' hibiscus is a big and fast growing hardy hibiscus with indeterminate growth.  It has very large, dramatic, single dark red blossoms.  It is sterile and does not form seed pods after it blooms.  This helps to keep it blooming up until the time that frost first hits.

Under good growing conditions in late spring and early summer, 'Lord Baltimore' may grow so fast that it's stems do not have time to develope enough strength to hold themselves upright.  The stems rarely branch and the resulting appearance can be quite open and gangly.  Pinching the new growth back in a timely manner can help reduce both of these problems and create a much more attractive plant with many more stems and blooms.  Pinching or heading back the shoots is best accomplished with a quality bypass hand pruner.
The plant in the photo above was first pinched on 5/23/11 and received its second and final pinching on 6/7/11.  The first pinch was made when that the shoots were between 26 and 35 inches long.  About 11 inches was removed.  The second pinch was made when that the shoots were between 39 and 47 inches long.  About 11 inches was removed.
The blooms may be delayed somewhat by pinching; however, under favorable growing conditions, 'Lord Baltimore' will still get 6 feet tall by 12 feet wide by early fall.  The 'Lord Baltimore' Hibiscus that received the two pinchings described above started blooming on 7/7/11.  The last picture below shows a 'Lord Baltimore' Hibiscus plant with 50 open flowers on July 26, 2011 after two earlier pinchings.  The blooms are somewhat smaller when you have this many flowers open at once; however, I feel that the plant is much more attractive.

July 12, 2012 update to the above article:  We had an unusually warm winter and spring this year which contributed to earlier growth and flowering than in 2011.  This year, after two pinchings, 'Lord Baltimore' Hibiscus had its peak or maximum number of blooms open on July 10, 2012 with over 40 blossoms open per plant.  This is 16 days earlier than the peak or maximum number of blooms open in one day for 2011.  This is the same date that another cultivar, 'Sweet Caroline' Hibiscus that was not pinched, reached its peak or maximum number of blooms open in one day.  

Above: In late October after leaves had dropped, it is very easy to see where that the pinching or heading back cut was made.

Above: July 13 blooms after one pinching in late May.

Above: July 13 blooms after one pinching in late May.

Above: July 13 blooms after one pinching in late May.

Above: July 10 blooms after two pinchings as described in the article above.

Above: July 26, this 'Lord Baltimore' Hibiscus plant had 50 blossoms open on this date after two earlier pinchings.

More information on 'Lord Baltimore' Hibiscus: http://www.arboretum.umd.edu/bloom/archive/featuredPlant03.html

author, Sam Bahr 

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Contact Information for the University of Maryland Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Mailing and Shipping address (This is the location of our partner, UMD Landscape Services, and the office of our Assistant Director, Karen Petroff):
University of Maryland
Wye Oak Building (428)
4201 Landscape Ln.
College Park, MD 20742-7215
phone: 301-405-3320
fax: 301-314-9943
hours: 6 am to 2:30 pm, M-F

Horticulturist's Offices and Meeting Room (No mail delivery or shipping to this location):
University of Maryland
Arboretum Outreach Center (156)
3931 Stadium Dr.
College Park, MD 20742
phone: 301-405-3320
fax: 301-314-9943
hours: 7 am to 3:30 pm, M-F, by appointment or prescheduled times only, as sometimes everyone is out on campus and the building will be locked

When using the UMD Campus Map, you can click on a building name and the street address of that building and other information about that building should come up in a pop up window.

blog administrator, Sam Bahr, 301-405-7926 or 301-405-3320
e-mail: sbahr@umd.edu

updated 1/30/20


Our gardens are free and open to the public. There are some parking lots (read the signs for that parking lot carefully) that are free to park in after 4 pm and before 7 am and on weekends, except on game days and during other special events. There is public parking in four large parking garages at the rate of $3 per hour with a daily maximum of $15. On weekends in the garages, the rate is $3 per hour with a daily maximum rate of $5 per hour. There is a small amount of additional pay parking along some streets.

Navigation around campus is much easier with this interactive campus map. You can look up parking locations and building locations using this map. Use the search tab to bring up the page to search for campus building names, locations and addresses. If you click on a building name on this interactive campus map, a popup window should appear with the address and other details about the building.

updated 10/6/2015

Butterfly feeding on the nectar of Russian Sage blossoms

General Information about the UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden

The University of Maryland, the state’s flagship campus, is located in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. The American Association of Public Gardens, by designating the university as an arboretum and botanical garden in 2008, recognized former President C.D. Mote, Jr.’s commitment to becoming a green campus. Maryland is also the first university in the state to be honored as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Arboretum and Botanical Garden consists of our entire 1,250 acre College Park, Maryland campus. The Campus collection of over 8,000 trees, garden plantings and nearly 400 acres of undeveloped urban forest is a beautiful reminder of Maryland’s history and a harbinger of Maryland’s future. The university looks at the campus’ green space as a major resource for its educational, research and service missions.

Hornbake Plaza

Hornbake Plaza
Honeylocust fall foliage color

University of Maryland Arboretum Explorer or UMD ABG Explorer (Tree and Shrub Inventory)

You can look up the identity of many trees and shrubs using this interactive campus map: https://maps.umd.edu/abg/. Herbaceous plants and even some small woody plants are not a part of this inventory. It is still a work in progress and we do not consider it a complete or entirely up to date inventory.

Our plant inventory or plant collections database can also be considered a plant database, plant search, plant locator, plant finder, plant collection database, living collections management system, plant records system or plant mapping system for campus plantings.

updated 1/30/20

Image and Link to the Interactive Campus Map Showing the Campus Plant Inventory

Tawes Plaza Gardens

Tawes Plaza Gardens
Kim's Knee High Purple Coneflower, Russian Sage, White Out Rose and Dwarf Pampas Grass are featured in this planting in 2010.