Friday, November 6, 2009

OOTS: Late, late Edition

"The best laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft a-gley . . ."

--Robert Burns

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
(Author unknown)

I've often hoped that the second quote is not true, because I am a person with lots of good intentions that somehow get sidetracked, or go "a-gley" in Burns' more poetic Scottish dialect. Thank-you notes are sent out months after they should have been, and replies to e-mails are lost in the swirl of thoughts in my brain. Last summer I participated in Veg Plotting's "Out on the Streets" meme about public plantings, but was late for the June deadline and vowed I would do better with the fall edition. But September came to a close, and I hadn't taken any photos. Then October went its way, and the photos I now had remained in the computer files while I chatted on about other things here that I'm sure must have been very important. I finally decided I may be very, very late, but I am going to show these photos before the snow starts flying!

On our trip to Gatlinburg, Tennesee last month, every shop had its own colorful display of plants. Not surprising since Gatlinburg is definitely a "touristy" town and would want to present a pleasant appearance to visitors. The only problem, though, was that it was as if the Chamber of Commerce had issued an edict: all outdoor displays must contain pumpkins, at least one bale of straw, and pots of mums. This was one of the larger displays, but smaller versions appeared several times on every block until it became rather monotonous.

Back at home, I intended to show the same plantings I had included in July from our little town, showing the fall colors of still-blooming cannas, goldenrod, and tall grasses that replaced the brighter blooms of summer. But it's hard to stand on a street corner here taking photographs without someone questioning my purpose. Perhaps if I had a better camera complete with a big lens, people would think I was taking a photography class. But with my little point-and-shoot, I could feel the curious stares of drivers passing by. In a small town every one knows who you are and doesn't hesitate to ask what you are doing. I found that out quite quickly last summer when I decided to dig up what I thought might be prairie phlox from a nearby ditch. Within days, two people stopped me at different functions and asked, "I saw you down in the ditch along the highway the other day. Um, just what were you doing?" I suppose it was divine justice that the prairie phlox I "stole" eventually died in my garden.

And so, I decided to venture a little farther from home to capture some photos on the street, driving to nearby Champaign-Urbana, where I could be just an anonymous photographer. All summer long, I had admired this planting situated in a narrow strip in front of the best Mexican restaurant in town. It looked much better in July with its profuse blooms than it does here in late September, but you can still see the cascades of petunias in this old wagon. A similar display in a smaller version of the wagon sat in front of a neighborhood bar a few blocks down the street, but I wasn't brave enough to park in front of the bar next to the busy street at 11 AM on a weekday:)

Some of the best gardening displays in town are on the campus of the University of Illinois.

This pathway edged with cannas, lantana, profusion zinnias, and other annuals is down the street from the Idea Garden that I've often talked about here and is representative of much of the landscaping around the University. Our football team may be losing and we may have scandals about admissions policies, but you can't say our campus doesn't look good!

There are quite a few parks throughout Champaign-Urbana, though most are quite small. Each of them has well-maintained plantings, but what I find most impressive are the mini-parks dotted throughout the twin cities. Driving through town, you'll suddenly notice a flash of color on a street corner.

These mini-parks usually consist of mass plantings of annuals like the lantana and red salvia pictured above. Though the plots are small, they provide an attractive diversion from the concrete sidewalks and parking lots. C-U is fortunate to have such an active Park District to maintain these small oases throughout the city.

Every Wednesday I drive into Champaign to attend my weekly Tai Chi class at our local community college, Parkland College. Not to be outdone by the much larger University, Parkland has a right to be proud of its own landscaping. I stopped after class one day to photograph this colorful planting.

Stepping closer, I was intrigued by the metal piece in the middle. Was this some sort of abstract garden sculpture? And what were those pieces of hose doing standing upright on the other side? I walked around . . .

Duh! It's a butterfly! Stepping back at this angle, I realized the whole planting was in the shape of a butterfly. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't photograph the whole flowerbed to show its shape; an aerial view would have done the trick, but no hot-air balloons were available at the moment.

Again, I was a little self-conscious walking around the campus buildings taking pictures, but I did have to sneak in this photo for Carol. You may know how much she has warned against the "evils" of burning bushes, but I have to be honest--I love them in the fall. This particular planting, I thought, showed them at their best--and do enlarge this to get a better view. A burning bush can get quite large, as tall as a small tree, and oftentimes landscapers and homeowners don't take this into account when they plant them. But the landscapers here at Parkland must have done their homework and pruned these shrubs to grow as trees instead, making a fantastic show of fall color. I'm not sure what the pinkish tree in the foreground is--perhaps another species of burning bush?

Walking around the outskirts of Parkland's campus I found a few places I didn't know existed.

The gardens referred to on the sign above are actually gardening plots, available to anyone in the park district. Most of the vegetables had been harvested by the time I took this photo, but I did talk to one brave gardener on this cool day in early October as she looked for a few remaining tomatoes.

As I was leaving campus, my eye was caught by this field of grass.

The sign indicates this planting's purpose--I guess--but nowhere could I find a sign that identified the grass. Any ideas? This had to be the tallest grass I'd ever seen, easily reaching twelve feet or taller. This would certainly make a dramatic statement in a home garden!

This is just a very brief overview of some of the sights around town. But I realized as I drove along, looking for photo opportunities, that Champaign-Urbana is an area that realizes the importance of aesthetics, not just finances. From the university to the park district, well-maintained gardens and public plantings receive a high priority. It may not have mountains or other natural scenery, but C-U has created its own beautiful scenery.


  1. Rose, your home town looks a good place to live with all that colour in the neighbourhood. Everything looks so well maintained and not a drop of litter to be seen.
    I also like the pumpkin display in Gatlinburg although I imagine it could get monotonous when you have seen a few. We don't go in for these lovely autumn displays on this side of the pond. I think that we are missing out !

  2. U of I should be very proud of its plantings! Parkland College is equally nice too!

    I think that grass might be Miscanthus. There's a lot of cultivars, so I'm not sure. And I agree that the straw/pumpkins/mums ensemble gets really boring in municipal plantings. It would be nice if towns and cities would spend a little more effort coming up with other ideas!

  3. Oh, Rose. Ditto to everything you said about not being able to follow through with all your good intentions. My head is about to burst from all the thoughts I have about what I want to do. The body doesn't have the energy it used to have to complete all the tasks. And....multi-tasking??? What's that?

    I'm so glad you took the time to share with us all these beautiful photographs. It was fun to see all the gorgeous color on what's a rather dreary November day here in Zone 4.

  4. What a great post, Rose! You presented such a great variety of garden displays. :-) I had to laugh at your story about being seen digging... I was seen digging in a friend's yard a few years ago and a story began that I must have been in the midst of a divorce because I was gardening in town! Crazy!

  5. Hi Rose, am sending you an email...
    Great post about waiting a little too long...I think the fall one isn't toooooo late, I mean it is only October (NOT) I can't believe how fast time goes by. Love the photos. I know what you mean about the butterfly picture, need some wings so you can do an above shot!
    So Divine providence took your ditch Phlox eh, pretty funny.
    The burning bush is gorgeous in the fall, hard not to love it...if only it wasn't.....invasive.

  6. Thanks for post this, I feel so much better about my late entry. ;^) They've really improved the plantings around U of I since I went there (I refuse to say how long ago that was).
    I can sort of see the butterfly. It's a neat idea. Is that park named after The Eddie Albert (you know, Green Acres)? I second RoRose's opinion that the grass is a Miscanthus of some sort.
    You asked about the Rose 'Zepherine Drouhin.' Yes, it's thornless, and it is repeat blooming. It's fairly disease resistant. The only caveat I have is that it can get very large. It's a lovely Rose.

  7. simply beautifully captured shots...lovely scenes!

  8. Hi Rose.....I am so pleased you decided to post and let us share the photographs.

    I cannot believe how neat and tidy everything is....and no litter!!
    We rarely see displays like that here....we may have a few hanging baskets in the village but thats about it.

    I loved the edged path with beds of cannas etc along its route.
    I would love to grow Cannas but my soil is way too heavy and cold.....

    The butterfly is an unusual feature.....a lot of thought would have gone into that I am sure.....

    Grasses are not used enough as far as I am concerned.I think they add elegance and wonderful winter structure to a garden. Once planted little needs to be done apart from the yearly chop in Spring..... they are great border fillers.....

    Have a lovely weekend Rose.....

  9. My kids both graduated from U of I in Champaign-Urbana. Those were fun years. My husband and I have moved to Hawaii now but I loved seeing your photos, Rose. It's brought back lovely memories of our 34 years in Illinois.

  10. I am glad you didn't let these photos languish in your files forever. Job well done. I like that you have several photos of planted up wagons. They look so cheerful.

  11. Beautiful pictures. I love the long pathway with autumn colours.

  12. My brain is way less organized than it used to be, and it bugs me. But out of it was born Mish-Mash Monday, an ideal filter to catch the tumbles! :) Love the sidewalk near the idea garden... we were pressed for time with beckie and saw it from a distance but didn't walk it. It really is lovely!

  13. Awesome grass and plantings at the colleges. I find colleges to be such good places to find great plantings but I too get self conscious when snapping pics. Love the butterfly!

  14. The purple and yellow display is lovely - even before I could see the butterfly!

  15. I'm with you on the burning bushes; so gorgeous! In my experience, they're not especially invasive in cultivation.

    I went so far as to look up the the satellite photo of the campus, trying to see the butterfly, but alas the satellite flyover was in winter so no flowers at all :( Still - a lovely idea!

  16. Rose, You were so lucky to have visited The Smokies on an off weekend otherwise you might not have even been able to find a place to park in Gatlinburg! You are being kind when you describe the city as 'touristy'! So was the park named after our favorite wanna be farmer from Green Acres~~Oliver/Eddie Albert?

    Have a great rest of the weekend~~gail

  17. Anna, We are fortunate to live near a "university town"; there are many opportunities here to take advantage of.

    Rose, I thought this was some kind of miscanthus, but it's the tallest type I've ever seen.

    Donna, I used to be an excellent multi-tasker, but nowadays that's pretty dangerous for me to attempt:)

    Shady, You can't do anything in a small town and be inconspicuous:)

    Janet, I do love the burning bush, and I haven't had any problem with it spreading here. Sorry about being so slow to respond!

    MMD, When I saw your late post, I thought, well, I am going to do mine, too...even later. Thanks for the info on the Zepherine. And yes, it is named after Eddie "Green Acres" Albert. I think he was born in Champaign?

    Flystars, Thanks!

    Cheryl, I never thought about how clean our local city was, but now that I think about it, it is. More communities around here are adding plants to "dress up" the towns during the summer.

    Kay, C-U doesn't have the natural scenery that Hawaii does! But it is a nice town to live in and to raise a family.

    Lisa, The wagon I showed really looked great in July; wish I'd gotten a picture then. The street it's on has such a commercial appearance that it really stands out.

    Suburbia, I only wish I had a garden that looked like that!

    Monica, The area near the Idea Garden has lots of interesting little places to visit--next time:) Mish-Mash Monday is perfect!

    Tina, The U of I has a great horticulture dept. which accounts for so much of its gardens. It took me awhile to see the butterfly:)

    Liz, Wish I could have gotten the full effect of the butterfly.

    Gail, Hubby and I are less and less attracted to crowds; love the Smoky Mountains, but Gatlingburg...well, a little sightseeing was enough:) Yes, that is the same Eddie Albert...I think he was born here; I need to check that out.

  18. Correction, if you're interested: Eddie Albert was born in Rock Island, Illinois, NOT Champaign. He supported several environmental causes including organic gardening. I think he may have visited C-U at some point promoting one of these issues; otherwise, I really don't know why the vegetable gardens are named after him.

  19. Oh Rose! I am so sorry to have missed some of your recent posts! I have you on my sidebar so it should not happen but I have slipped behind a little lately :( and I greatly identify with your comment on good intentions...

    All the photos are beautiful, such lovely colourful flower displays. I did laugh about you being spotted in the ditch, so funny. It is illegal here to pick or dig up any wild plant but when I was a child it wasn't and I remember my mother would often pull up a root of something which took her fancy such as Primroses or Bluebells and lovingly re-plant it in our garden.

    Rose, I hope you don't mind me commenting here on a previous post but I was particularly moved by your Garden Muse post on November 1st. I have spent some time reading and re-reading it. I thought it was very thoughtfully put together and your beautiful photos fitted so well.

    I was very sorry to hear that you have had the horrible Swine Flu and so very glad to hear you have improved, I have to go for the vaccination on Wednesday as I am on the high priority list, I just hope it has been thoroughly tested! I was also very sorry to read of the loss of such a talented and promising young man, what a terrible waste, we have lost several of our young men in the past really makes me wonder if it is worth it, war seems so pointless to me.

    I loved all your well chosen quotes but in particular I found the Emily Dickinson piece incredibly moving...thank you Rose.

  20. Rose, I can just imagine you looking around town with your camera, sneaking furtive pics when you think no one is looking. I feel the same way when strangers are around. Sometimes I feel like a spy! The gardens you show are very pretty. Seems to me like SIU has been losing a lot of its landscaping appeal in recent years. It's not nearly as well done as when we went to school there years ago. Or maybe I'm just not as easily impressed. I see that U of I does have something to be proud of in the midst of its shame. I agree with you that the Smokies are the showpiece and Gatlinburg not so impressive. The word "cheesy" somehow comes to mind.

  21. I kind of wondered about the odd shape to the yellow flowers (marigolds?) to that one bed but when you mentioned it was a butterfly, the light dawned. I think it's pretty cute but maybe they should have made it smaller for photographers! Thanks for the tour!

  22. What a wonderful post Rose! I love the plantings on the grounds of the colleges - makes me even more proud to be associated with the Extension and the Master Gardeners' program.

    I'm so glad you decided to do this post - better late than never!

  23. Your town really puts on a show in the fall. I love the old wagon filled with blooms. :)

  24. Still a lot of beautiful blooms in your area. I loved the photos with the old wagons. Would love to have one to decorate with.

  25. Well worth the wait, Rose ... great tour and with your keen eye for composition, simply enjoy your camera and never care about those 'looks' ... gawkers are simply envious, wondering what wonders your eye beholds! BTY are you near Kankakee? (Had 2 college roomates from there)

  26. Wow Rose, beauty abounds in your home area. The landscaping at the university and community college is very pretty.

    Hope you enjoyed your trip to Gatlinburg.

  27. What a lot of beautiful pics! You have captured the flowers, grasses, and gardens superbly! I love that burning bush. They do grow big, but they can be spectacular, especially at this time of year. Which reminds me - I love your new header. Looks so colourful but in a subdued way.

    Glad you enjoyed your trips. I like that pathway through the Idea garden too.

  28. It is never too late to post photos of gardens. Your pictures are very beautiful. I especially like the gardens at U of I. My father-in-law attended there :)

  29. Shy Songbird, Thank you for all your lovely comments! I do understand--sometimes a post will slip down on my sidebar and I miss it completely. I've gotten behind in reading sometimes, and it's so hard to catch up!

    W2W, We weren't that impressed with Gatlinburg, either. I always thought SIU had a beautiful campus, but I haven't been there in awhile.

    Jean, The butterfly garden is on a slight slope, and it's really hard to see the shape unless you stand in just the right place.

    Linda, We have a very active Extension Office here, which is wonderful--they're a great source for a lot of information.

    Racquel, I only wish I could have gotten a photo of the other smaller wagon, too.

    Marnie, I'd love to have one of those old wagons, too, but they're pretty hard to come by. I do have a buggy seat from one.

    Joey, You're right--I should just ignore those curious looks:) We're about 1 1/2 hrs. south of Kankakee.

    Susie, I think C-U does a great job in landscaping its public places.

    Wendy, Not everyone likes burning bushes, but I think they're gorgeous in the fall.

    AZ, Seems like I run into lots of Illini alums!

  30. Dear Rose,
    So very pretty. I always look for native plantings when I travel about the city. I find a few businesses have chosen native praire grasses and cone flowers for their display.
    The strip malls are planting lots of Knock-out roses. They do bloom all season. I enjoyed your series of photos. Nice to have a parks department that can care for these gardens.
    The gourd bird feeder, in my last post, was made by my son years ago,
    The Tit-Mouse was very pleased I hung it up!
    Hope you are enjoying Indian Summer.

  31. Wow Rose! You may be late (which doesn't matter one little bit) but you've certainly done OOTS proud!

    Thank you, my friend :)

    I'll add your post to the list and call people's attention to it at the next OOTS kick-off...

  32. Sherry, Thanks for the answer on the birdhouse--your son did a great job! I'm noticing more uses of native plants in commercial plantings these days, too.

    VP, Maybe next time I'll be on time!

  33. It took me a minute to spot the butterfly ... very creative of them! I'm still chuckling over the idea of an edict in Gatlinburg. I wonder if they have someone who goes around to check and hands out tickets for insufficient pumpkin display?

  34. Wow, that grass is gorgeous!! I love that last photo, particularly. But the butterfly is just ... weird! LOL!

  35. I enjoyed seeing all the colorful blooms in your community. Our university has 2 campuses, and both are nicely landscaped as well. The east campus is the agricultural and family and consumer sciences area. They have livestock and a variety of test trials of plants. I went to a tour day once, and a person was doing trials of some kind on sunflowers. They were fun to see.

    Thanks for your comment on my Blooming Friday post. I'm glad you learned what butter and eggs are. I have lots of blooms for bloom day, which really surprises me.


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