Ah, the rainbow of colorful foliage beneath the warm summer sun.
Clusters of huge “elephant ear” plants mixed with shades of ornamental grasses swaying gently in the breeze.
Hawaii? The Bahamas? Or maybe islands somewhere in the South Pacific?
No! We’re talking about the magnificent (though man-made) natural beauty of another kind of island—you know, the traffic islands, the medians, the middle of the road gardens!
Ever take the time to pay attention to these smaller scale urban horticultural oases?
If you’re a commuter, whether by personal automobile or by way of the bus line, I’ll bet you pass, on a daily basis, a number of these floral islands in the stream of flowing traffic.
Why should you take the time to observe these little gardens as they present themselves to you on your daily tour of your world?
Two reasons I can think of pretty quickly.
One—it’s a gift. No charge to observe and soak in the beauty and tranquility of these little gardens in road. True, they may not be on the same grand scale as some of the famous botanical gardens of the world, but they are made of the same stuff and their beauty should be no less inspiring.
Two—these roadside attractions present an amazing learning opportunity to the gardener. They have been designed, installed, and maintained by professionals—people who have been educated in the mechanics of the commercial horticultural world.
If the work they present does not fulfill the expectations of their clients, then someone else will take their job. So, this is your opportunity to learn by observation how to create and maintain a beautiful garden.
Note the arrangement of the plants, the kinds, colors, and sizes of the plants used, and when they are installed and when they are replaced by some other varieties of plants at some other time of the year.
Learn from what these professional gardeners have done and then go home and apply what you have learned to your own landscape.
One of the favorite islands that I observed throughout an entire growing season consisted of begonias (red and white) in the outer rows of the area intermingled with Wandering Jew plants that flowed outward. The next area inward was a huge array of caladiums with their multicolored (pink, red, green, and white) and dramatically veined leaf textures. And in the middle of this roadside garden, ornamental grasses (primarily gold and red) rose above all the rest of the vegetation and swayed softly in the air.
As the summer progressed, all the plants grew considerably in size and fullness, creating an amazingly dense and brilliant garden in a fairly small space.
So, maybe you can’t fly to the islands for a vacation every day. But I’ll bet you fly by some beautiful island gardens everyday! Enjoy the view and learn from the experience.