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7 d'octubre de 2007

Growing gardens, sowing ideas

MARY BETH BRECKENRIDGE

Ohio.com (Estats Units) [Cr˛nica]

Arboretums are usually somewhat clinical places, where plants are collected and observed more for the sake of botany than beauty.

Wooster Township's Secrest Arboretum, however, is breaking out of that mold.

The arboretum has created a series of Discovery Gardens, intended to give visitors ideas of how they might use plants to enhance their own yards. The gardens, funded by about $750,000 in private donations, will be officially unveiled this morning during the arboretum's Autumn Discovery Day.

Secrest started creating the gardens about six years ago but has pursued the project in earnest for the last two, said the arboretum's curator, Ken Cochran. He said they're part of a plan to raise the visibility of the arboretum, located on the grounds of Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

First to be installed was a water garden, built when ponds represented the fastest-growing aspect of landscape construction. The rock-lined pond showcases usual varieties of hardy waterlilies as well as a delicate Victoria waterlily, notable for its big but short-lived blooms and leaves that resemble round, floating trays.

More recently, the arboretum added a pondless water garden, a feature that Cochran said is becoming popular with homeowners who want the sound of water without pond maintenance.

The pondless garden is a waterfall that splits and cascades down either side of a rock outcropping, then filters through pebbles at the base into a collection area to be recirculated. Because the water is shallow, ''it turned out to be a giant birdbath,'' Cochran said a bonus in an arboretum that doubles as a wildlife habitat.

Dale Bradshaw, greenhouse manager at the adjacent Agricultural Technical Institute, tucked pots of purple pitcher plants and spoon-leaf sundews among the rocks on the edge of the stream. The native Ohio plants grow in bogs, Bradshaw explained, so the shallow water garden approximates their home.

But he admitted to another motivation: Both are carnivorous plants, which trap and digest insects. He's displaying them ''for entertainment,'' he said with a grin.

MANY FUNCTIONS

Decidedly less disturbing than the insect eaters are the plants in the songbird habitat, a series of landscaping beds filled with bird feeders, water sources and plants that provide food and shelter for birds. The beds feature plants native to this area, many of them contributed by the Akron Garden Club, Cochran noted.

There's also the extensive Unique Collection Garden, filled with plants not often found in landscapes or the marketplace. Its attention-getters include a mugo pine grafted on a Scotch pine trunk to give it a canopy form, a cascading lavender twist redbud and a green spiral fir with a twisted trunk, which came from the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.

Nearby, Cochran created a series of island beds intended to show visitors how they can break up a stretch of lawn. The beds lend an intimate feeling to what otherwise would be an open space, and they interrupt the view so visitors never know what to expect around the next turn.

The tailored appearance of the island beds contrasts with the wilder look of the Ohio Native Garden, a miniature prairie that's essentially a defined patch of nature. The plants about 40 percent grasses and the rest wildflowers, which in prairie parlance are called forbs give the garden an appearance that's free-form but not unkempt. The garden has many benefits, Cochran noted: Its flowers provide nectar for insects that pollinate landscape and agricultural plants, its plants are drought-tolerant and easy to grow and maintain, and its tall grasses provide screening.

Pollinators are also a focus of the Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden, filled with nectar and host plants that attract those species as well as pollinating insects. A cobblestone path winds through beds of plants such as delphinium, butterfly bush, lavender, aster and Indian blanket flower.

 

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