Thursday, October 30, 2008

From here to there: Transplanting!

Due to some new construction and storage areas in the planning on zoo grounds, this week some of the horticulture staff had to find a new home for some existing shrubs and a tree located near the Visitor's Center. These shrubs have been in this area since shortly after the Visitor's Center was built about 5 years ago. We had to move one oak tree and about 30 other shrubs. To help with this task, we called in Shermik Tree Farms, located in Stacy, MN. Their company has the equipment capable of moving shrubs and trees. They came prepared with a large tree spade, a spade for a skid steer, and a U-blade for digging out shrubs.

Before any digging could be done, it's very important to locate underground utilities. Call Gopher State One Call before doing this sort of project. Their services are free, and they can be reached at (651) 454-0002. Since our project was right by a building, we had a lot of underground utilities to worry about, but once we determined it was safe to dig, things went smoothly. The gentlemen at Shermik did a very nice and efficient job for us.

It's also important to know when is the best time to transplant the type of shrubs or trees you are dealing with. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to transplant before the buds break in the spring, or in the fall until the ground is frozen. Once the leaves start to change color, or even when the leaves drop is a good time in the fall. The timing worked out perfect for us. One thing that is a bit of a challenge this late in the season is getting water to these newly transplanted shrubs. Our seasonal water lines have been turned off for the season, so we have to bucket water out to them. It is important that shrubs aren't transplanted into dry soil in the fall. They need enough moisture for them to make it through the winter. Overall this was a very successful project, and we saved some plant material from more construction.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thinking Spring...Already?

The Conservatory's horticulture staff, along with much appreciated help from volunteers, is already preparing for next spring's Sunken Garden Flower Show. Like most of the Sunken Garden shows, we begin planning nearly a year in advance. In this case all of our bulbs for the 2009 sping show were ordered this past summer. Over 10,000 spring bulbs, including tulips, hyacinth, and narcissus, have arrived in the past few weeks and are being diligently potted up by staff and volunteers. The bulbs are planted in our "recycled" potting mix (this consists of the old rootballs and used potting media that have been ground up and pasteurized to kill any pathogens).

Once potted up, the bulbs are watered in and placed in our walk-in cooler. Here they are receive a cooling treatment that basically mimics the natural winter dormancy that the bulbs require to produce flowers. The pots remain lined up on shelves until specific times next spring when they are moved to our greenhouses and warmed to induce new gowth. This allows us to recreate the ephemeral beauty of spring in the Sunken Garden by the end of March--long before most of us Minnesotans see it in our gardens at home.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Flower Show on KSTP

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bye Bye Victorias!

The victoria waterplatters are sadly coming to an end for the season. These tropical plants are native to the Amazon, and are not enjoying our cool weather here in Minnesota. Even though the water is heated to a toasty 80 degrees, it is time for them to come out. These plants all get composted when we take them out of our pools. Once they are out of the water, they dry up and get papery, and crumble. We cut off all of the pads and buds, and leave the crowns, or the growing points of the plants in the soil they are planted in. Once all of the plant material is out, we will drain the water and dig the crowns out of the soil.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Fall Show Begins This Weekend

The conservatory staff is spending the remainder of this week completing the installation of this year's Sunken Garden Fall Flower Show. This display is predominated by chysanthemums, but also includes ornamental peppers and rex begonias.

While mums are an autumnal standard in American horticulture, they have been cultivated for thousands of years in China. The plants we grow today are hybridized versions of the original species; there are various flower shapes, colors, and habits.

The conservatory received 1600 rooted cuttings of the mums back in late June and the horticulture staff has been growing them in our greenhouses since then. Mums require short day-lengths (which are actually longer dark periods) in order to set flowers. In the 1940's growers discovered that this is the key to inducing uniform flowering on mum crops. Today, we use black shade cloths to manipulate the amount of light exposure our mums receive each day to ensure a very uniform and predictable crop. We also use cultural techniques, like bud removal, to create different growth habits. Since our greenhouse climates are carefully controlled by a computer system, we can also vary the plants' temperature exposure. This can allow us to "speed up" or "slow down" flower development as needed. All these elements help create beautiful and healthy plants for the display.

The Fall Flower Show opens this Saturday, October 11, at 10 a.m. Be sure to visit the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory's Sunken Garden to enjoy this lovely display.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Water Garden Tear Down

As the seasons change here in Minnesota, there are many plants that need to come in from the harsh elements of winter to be stored for next spring. One main area where this happens is in the water gardens. The water gardens have been on display in the pools in front of the Visitor's Center since early June this year, but many of those plants are tropicals and need to be taken in for the winter. Throughout early September, there have been a couple of gardeners collecting many of the plants from the pools. Some of the plants have storage organs such as tubers or rhizomes that can be collected and stored in a cooler until planting next spring. Others need to be taken in and dried down to go though a dormant period. Some we keep wet and green all winter long, and are almost treated as house plants. Some plants we will just grow or buy next spring. There are many different requirements for the vast variety of plants grown.

To help with this process, on September 19th we had a great group of students as well as their supervisor come from AFSA High School to help us tear out the plants and soil from the water gardens. We focused only on the Marginal Side, or unheated pool, which had about ten 60 gallon horse troughs as planting containers. The first step was to chop down any remaining foliage that was not going to be saved. Then we composted the top layer of soil that had all of the roots in it. Last, we had to empty all of the soil from all of the tubs so we could remove them for the season. This was a long day of some pretty physical labor, but with all of the help we were able to get it done.

The Victoria side of the pools is still filled with plants, because the water in that side is heated to 85 degrees, allowing the plants to withstand a little bit more cold. However, if you haven't seen these beautiful plants yet, come and see them soon because depending on the weather, they will be coming out within the next week or so.