Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Prepare to be bombarded with pictures. I went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (and if you like visiting public gardens, become a member of AHS and use the reciprocal garden program). It was cloudy and the gardens were gorgeous so I was a super happy photographer. The only reason I am able to fit all the pictures from my trip into one post is because I had a nursing infant and preschooler along with me.

While there, I though about how beautiful everything is and how I like Atlanta. But although Atlanta is filled with fun stuff to do, has the most amazing wooded gardens, and has been a place I’ve been able to thrive, I also don’t considered it home. Home is Utah. Home is where I can actually give good recommendations on plants, I know exactly when the average last spring freeze is, and I know how to grow the biggest, juiciest melons. Home is where my family lives, where I grew up, and where the landscape is familiar and comforting even if it is covered in dry grass and sagebrush.

I wouldn’t mind if I did end up here, although that’s not the plan. Even if I do, Atlanta will always be an exotic location. It’s not the home base where I grew up and first grew a garden.


Utah Botanical Center

I love the UBC. I caught on to their vision after working there one summer, and I love to go back and see all the progress they’ve made. I keep blogging about them too. (I just checked and I really haven’t: one post and mentions elsewhere is not constantly blogging about them. So this post is muchly needed.) I love it there. Not saying it’s perfect. There’s around 100 acres, and a lot of it is mowed weeds. Another good portion is under construction, and there are also experiments that didn’t quite work out as planned. (Including a naturalized planting that had me weed whacking for weeks. I’m not kidding. Weeks. Good old internships.)

But here is one thing I love about them, that has not yet received a lot of attention by me. I love there perennial gardens. Anne Spranger is the one behind them, and she does beautiful work. She can also be found in work boots bailing out irrigation leaks, and doing all the dirty jobs as well. Anne was my boss when I was an intern, and she was also my design teacher in school. Here is some of her work:

The UBC has influenced me to focus on regional-specific landscaping. Use the climate, soil, and surroundings to create unique gardens for the area. The UBC creates unique gardens that mirror the needs of the Utah area–lots of water-wise plantings, use of native plants, not a lot of lawn, tons of plant material etc. But it’s a good idea for anywhere: don’t fight your surroundings, embrace them.

Ogden Botanical Center

My family went on vacation last week, and I was able to stop by a couple of gardens. One stop was the Ogden Botanical Gardens, located in Ogden (I bet you didn’t guess that). They had a cottage garden feel, and were very full of color. They are run by USU extension and have a education building, along with the park and gardens. There are classes, plant sales and other events, along with very helpful people there to help you out. Well worth the small side trip.

They did use a lot of annuals, but mostly in the front to add color. Those beds were gorgeous, and I like the use of the large variety of flowers all growing in and around each other, just packed with color. Further on, there were rose gardens (not my favorite, but fun if you like roses), perennial beds, shade gardens, and lots of pathways to meander down. It seemed to have a more naturalized feel: nothing was heavily pruned or maintained but still very pretty. They used a lot of warm-colored flowers which worked wonderfully to make a bright-feeling garden. After seeing this garden I am much more likly to use annuals (they just bring color in you can’t get any other way), and also let things go a little more naturalized.


For this week’s garden visit, I am taking you to the site of a beautiful God made meadow. Meadows seem to be a bit of a garden experiment nowadays, but an artificial one just can’t compare to this one I came across at around 9,000 feet above sea level. I was visiting my grandparents in Heber Valley UT, when my grandpa suggested we go on a picnic. So we drove and drove so more, and just when I was wondering what was worth driving so far for, I started to see acres of wildflowers in bloom. Apparently, according to my grandparents, this wasn’t even the flower’s peak. After lunch, my camera was heavily used trying to capture all the flowers in bloom. The photos don’t do the meadow justice, but I’ll share what I have.

To clarify–a meadow is a large expanse of mixed flowers and grasses. A meadow is a wonderful thing to want to do with a large area of land, but think twice before you do. This one is at a very high elevation, which makes a very different climate than is commonly found in a man-made garden. It’s also not prey to all the disturbance we give the land that we use. Tilling up the soil and trying to start a meadow can be just the right recipe for weeds to come in. I’ve had a bit of experience with trying to recreate this, and it resulted in weeks (I mean two hours a day, five days a week for over two weeks) of weed-whacking, heavily used treflan, and less than wonderful results. In the end it turned out alright, but not the beauty this meadow was.

Sometimes in nature there are gardens that we just cannot recreate. Instead, we need to go out and find and enjoy them.

Conservation Garden Park

With a holiday this week, I took my little family and went and visited the Conservation Garden Park at Jordan Valley. (That’s the name. A little long). I’ve been here before, but they’ve expanded recently and I hadn’t yet seen the expansion. They are sponsored by the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, similar to the Central Utah Gardens. They are one of the first garden of that kind, and are the biggest and probably best too. They also have a great website with a good plant list, and detailed information about the gardens.

The focus is on water conservation and water-wise landscaping and they really do a good job. They have a “neighborhood” of demonstration residential landscapes, and a whole new section of educational exhibits. If you are a homeowner and need ideas, or get a good idea of what water-wise landscaping really is (and it isn’t rocks) go here. I saw some new plants and got some new ideas. The style, especially the new part, is a new formal type that I found very interesting. Different in a good way.

Just a couple more things–the succulents were amazing. Really beautiful, mostly grown in containers. I also found the use of glass mulch unique and pretty. I would’t do it in any large scale situation, but here it is reminiscent of a fountain without the water. It’s not a perfect garden, the most prevalent flaw is plants in the wrong aspect (purple coral bells in full sun, buffalo grass in shade). Definitely worth a visit.

Corner Garden

So I wanted to start a new idea on my blog. My own garden is small and not always that interesting to write about. So each week I will feature a garden/landscape that I find interesting. I think I’ll try to keep it on Wednesday, but if it doesn’t show up until later don’t feel too sad. To start this off, I would like to share a garden created on an awkward corner in Springville. I saw this earlier in the year and thought it was a big patch of weeds. Look at it now:

Not at all what I thought it was. The “weeds” I saw earlier were actually a bunch of wonderful perennials. Now that they’ve started to bloom, this garden is a unique, inviting place. I’m not actually quite sure who owns it, so have very little information on the care and creation. The perennials have been allowed to naturalize, along with the trees and shrubs. I’m guessing the largest maintenance task is weeds, but not a lot else. And with the more casual look, a weed here and there (and there are few weeds) don’t look that bad. There are some annuals planted, a step I think is unnecessary due to the beauty of the perennials. The ground is covered in back mulch (which I need to do in my own garden). Mulch is GOOD and helps keep other maintenance tasks (like weeding) down.

They’ve used aspen, and several of the trees are dead. I kind of like the aspen in a situation like this. They can be allowed to sucker, and old dead ones are easily removed. There are also several native Rocky Mountain Junipers. The woody material provides a great backbone for the rest of the plants.

This is a great way to use extra garden space–naturalized perennials, with a woody plant backbone. Much better than lawn, and you might be surprised with how little maintenance you can get away with. Be sure to pick vigours perennials. Here they have Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber), Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Yarrow (Achillea), Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina), Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca), and Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora). There are some others that aren’t blooming that and I haven’t bothered to identify. (I had a tricky time with golden marguerite. I was thinking “marguerite” looked up marguerite daisy, and it wasn’t it. Took me a while to get it right).

Central Utah Gardens

The water conservation districts around here have all formed demonstration garden showcasing waterwise landscaping. I’ve been to the Weber Basin and Jordan Valley gardens, but had yet to go to the one now closest to my house. It is only a few years old. I’m used to new landscapes, and it felt very familiar to the Utah Botanical Center were I interned for a summer.

They had lots of good plants, irrigation demonstrations, kitchen gardens, signs and more. One of the coolest demonstrations they had was two mock houses. One was a traditional, non water-wise landscape; the other was better designed and more water efficient. I hope to transform many yards from the first to the second. Or something along the same lines. I’m a bit more of an eccentric designer. Some of the differences was more planting beds that had shape to them, less lawn, and tall fescue instead of kentucky bluegrass.

A traditional yard. Not too interesting.

This one looks much better. Why doesn't everyone do this?

They did have a good selection of plants on display, and better marked than I have seen before. The only downside was their plant list, readily available at the entrances to the garden, was organized by common name. Which doesn’t help if what I know as Jupiter’s Beard is something else entirely. It also keeps things like different types of geraniums all in different places. Jordan Valley did this too. It’s a good plant list, but not one I’ll use because of the difficulty in finding anything.

On my way out, I noticed a native plant garden that I completely missed. Good reason to go back. If you are in the area, I highly recommend going. Best garden I’ve seen this year.

Garden Centers

Recently, I went to a wonderful garden center up in Willard, Utah, Willard Bay Gardens. It’s really not close to where I live, but it is close to where my in-laws do. This is on the fruit way, a highway filled with fruit stands. Great place to go when peaches are in season. I had seen the owner of the garden center give presentations on perennials, and he knew his stuff. My expectations were pretty high, and it was a nice place to go.

They did have a large selection of perennials, the largest out of any garden center I have been to. Plus they were sold in four inch pots. I see perennials sold in gallon pots a lot of times. It really doesn’t may a difference if they are in gallon pots or four inch containers, and you usually save money buying them in four inch. They were a bit on the pricey side (4-6 dollars for a plant), but I think completely worth it, due to the high selection and good quality plants. I bought three coral bells, and had a hard time choosing my three plants out of 10 or more varieties available.

I’ve recently moved areas, and I find that it’s quite hard to get used to the selection of garden centers in the area. My community is larger than my last one, so there’s more to choose from. But here are a couple of tips I’ve found out over the years:

  • Good garden centers have staff that can answer your questions well–and they won’t always direct you to their product.
  • Big box nurseries often have good plants from local growers. But they can also have non-adapted plants from who knows where. Just be careful, but often the prices are better and its easier.
  • They are all a little different, and depending on what you need one might be better than another.
  • It’s worth traveling to go to a good store.
  • If you can’t find a plant you want–ask. Many times, they will be able to order it in.
  • And saying that, go knowing what you want. Don’t just go because your garden looks bare.

I’m planning on getting to know all the garden centers around me, but it’ll take awhile. That’s fine though–their a joy to visit.

Thanksgiving Point Gardens

I grew up around Thanksgiving Point, and actually had a season pass to their gardens one summer. This spring, I went back during the annual tulip festival with my husband. The day we went, it was very rainy. I saw three other groups out, and one bride taking pictures, who I felt very sorry for. Our umbrellas kept us out of the rain, and it was nice to go when the gardens was empty.

Now, a little background before I go into my description of the gardens. I went to school in horticulture, and worked at the Utah Botanical Center one summer. Good horticultural practices and sustainability are ingrained into me. When I go to a garden I don’t just go to see pretty flowers. I want to see interesting ideas, good gardening practices, and a bit of sustainability. Thanksgiving Point is a bunch of really gorgeous gardens. But no ideas, and lots of problems.

I did thoroughly enjoy my trip, but I also spent the entire time wondering why they couldn’t do things a little differently.

Here’s a picture of the prettyness:

Okay, now for a problem. Here is a hedge. I’m not a big fan of hedges, and this one is awful. They’ve planted yew and privet. They have grown into each other now and are quite hideous. The hedge is not flared out towards the bottom, and its resulted in a lot of die back.

I found this grove of aspen quite nice. Aspens are planted too often in places they don’t belong. They sucker, and can die back easily. Don’t put them near a lawn, and not in a little kidney-bean shaped bed in the middle of grass. This is done frequently when I live. Here, they have a naturalized garden. Suckers aren’t a problem. A disease tree can easily be taken out. The aspens can be enjoyed without the headache.

One last note on sustainability. The garden have lots of lawn, and its mostly perennial ryegrass. Utah is dry, and ryegrass takes a lot of water and other maintenance. (It’s one of the highest maintenance turfgrasses in our area). Not a sustainable choice at all. I would have liked to see ideally, not so much lawn, and at least a better choice of lawn.

Red Butte Gardens

On July 24th, I headed out to Red Butte Gardens located on the campus of the University of Utah. I had been wanting to go there for some time and finally found a nice afternoon when I could go. Luckily, it was a realtivly cool and cloudy summer day. It also happened to be a free day, although normally it does cost a few dollars to get in. That was a nice suprise.

Red Butte Gardens is suituated in the foothills of Salt Lake City. Naturally there is a lot of grasses and scrub oak. The one feature that impressed me most about that gardens was that they incorporated the natural plantings into the cultivated areas. Other gardens generally leave grass in between areas but they left patches of scrub oak and native vegetation. It brought more continuity to the gardens: they blended with nature but not by sticking purely to natives and naturalized plantings.

There was a series of specialty gardens that I was not too impressed with. They could use more variety in their plant material. I also thought that many gardens should have been in raised areas, especially the fragrance garden, so there could be more interaction with the plants. Still, I found several perennials I was unfamilar with and enjoyed the plants in bloom.

Some of the plantings were a little monotnous and dated, but they also showed improvements. There was a new rose garden planted less than a year ago.  Right now the roses were a little small to enjoy but it should be spectacular in a few years. Red Butte was worth the visit but is not my favorite garden I have ever been too. Hopefully, they will continue to improve and maintain it and make it a place to go back to.