Sunday, August 12, 2007

MSU Gardens

I was on vacation this past week, originally scheduled to give a talk on gardening for our feline friends at Powell Gardens in Kansas City. The class was unfortunately canceled, but I took the time off anyway, going here and there instead.

On Monday, I drove to the gardens at Michigan State University. I also made a stop at Bordine's, a little treat I haven't indulged in in about two years. I bought three large zinnias to put in the bed where I had sown zinnias, which were decimated by the groundhog, as well as a few perennials on sale. And I may have picked up a $5 white retro-modern lamp shade for my mother from a craigslister in Williamston.

I visit MSU a few times each year, usually in connection with some master gardener activity. I really like the campus and I enjoy the drive. I tend to take freeways to get there, as I generally must arrive at a specific time. But on the way back, I take random roads south and west until I find myself somewhere familiar (usually Pinckney) and head home from there. It's quite rural south of Lansing, with many agricultural fields, little traffic, and a kind of a calm feeling we don't have in Ann Arbor. Also that famous "farm fresh smell" which I actually find pleasant if not on full tilt. ;-)

It was nice, this time, not to have an event to attend, but just free time to wander the grounds. I had visited the Beal Garden and the 4-H Children's Garden previously, so I focused this foray on the plantings near the ag school. The perennial beds have nice ornamental grasses paired with flowering plants, like the Russian sage in this photo and other colorful flowers out of shot.

I met some folks from Wisconsin who were looking for lawn trial gardens, which I couldn't find on the map. I suspect, like the crop trials, that those areas are located off campus.

They have annual and perennial trial gardens where they try out new cultivars of plants for hardiness, color, and other requirements. What this means is varying patches of color, glorious color! I found a monarch pollinating a zinnia, for example. Ooh!

There's also a cool walkway that has a kind of star pattern at the center, and looking one direction, you see a fountain, whose basin has the same star pattern, and a spherical stone sculpture whose base repeats the pattern. The sculpture is in the rose garden and the sphere rests on a shallow amount of water, so that it spins if you touch it. While I'm not a huge fan of roses, the garden did smell absolutely heavenly.

I love the way MSU integrates gardens around buildings, instead of only having them in a separate location. I'm also not a huge fan of petunias (I love just about all plants so it's pretty funny I've named two lower on my list!), but the way they laid out the bed as a stream or flowing design is pretty cool!

At the edge of the garden near the railroad tracks, I came upon my favorite tree (and Michigan's too!), the white pine. I had the idea to hike over the ivy underneath it and take a photo straight up, which I figured would be suitably artsy. You can't tell at all what I was doing, but I still like the needles!

On my way back to my car, I spied another butterfly at the edge of the children's garden. A good day!

A few days later I found out from Karen at Hidden Lake Gardens that there is also a gorgeous garden outside the radiology building. Apparently, one of the radiologists, Dr. Potchen, has an undergrad degree in horticulture and wanted to create some beauty near the building.

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