Posted On: January 30, 2015

Planning the Summer Plantings

It may seem a bit early to think about summer planting, but creating formal gardens takes some advanced planning. In fact, many of our displays are planned up to five months in advance. As most of summer displays in Madison Square Park are custom grown, we generally start looking at availability lists put out by growers in late December. These lists help determine what plant material will be available in the months to come. Once we have gathered a list of possible plants, we start looking at color pallets.   Two colors generally dominate each area of our annual plantings.

Madison Square Park has many different site conditions throughout the park. Some areas are incredibly sunny while others have total tree cover. Additionally, there are areas of the park that are not irrigated, so we usually look for plants that can handle a temporary dry spell – just in case we have a hot summer.   Once we have a primary list of plants, we start to decide which plants will be showstoppers in the display. These attention-grabbing plants create the basic framework of our designs; from there we fill in the beds with other appropriate plants from our list. We also pay close attention to plant heights and bloom times.

Once our preliminary list is finished, we start to map out the display. From here plants are added or cut based on incongruences. Once the beds are mapped out, we estimate how much plant material is needed. Estimates are calculated by the growth rate and habits of the plants, and many estimates are based on experience. Once the estimate is complete, we send our orders out to the grower, who then propagates the material either by seed or cuttings to be ready for our summer display. Sometimes plants are substituted. Not every plant has a great growing year and our growers do their best to find suitable replacements if needed.

Madison Square Park boasts Victorian style display beds. The Victorian era was the start of a cultural melting pot. During this time, in Britain and the United States, specialist hobbies such as the study of birds, butterflies, seashells, beetles and wild flowers were incredibly popular. Amateur collectors and natural history entrepreneurs went to great lengths to bring back the strangest and most obscure curiosities. These hobbies were also reflected in the gardens of the times, whose beds displayed all sorts of colorful plants from overseas. This year’s summer display will focus heavily on Victorian themes. Some of the plants featured are certainly strange and usual.   We will have giant elephant ears, big enough to cover a grown man, plants that resemble eye balls, gingers, flowers that resemble pineapples, and oddball orchids from Malaysia. We hope that this display will help inspire some of the wonder that Victorians must have felt when viewing these plants for the first time.