GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2009 show27
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Show #27/1701
The Crown Jewel of St. Louis


Park History
THERE IS A LOT OF HISTORY IN THIS PARK. It's been around since 1876, thus 132 years old. There have been a lot of activities, speeches and rallies held here. But, the most notable would be the 1904 World's Fair. It drastically changed the landscape of the park, which when originally founded was almost completely forested. They made alterations to the landscape in order to fit the World's Fair here.

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Government Hill
BILL AND JOE FIRST LOOK AT GOVERNMENT HILL. It is the latest renovation within Forest Park. Its history dates back to the 1904 World's Fair. At that time the Government building and the Missouri State Building were located on this site. They're no longer here but there is a pavilion in their place. The pavilion was a gift to the City of St. Louis for hosting the World's Fair and was installed in 1909. There were staircases and a fountain added in the 1920's. In the 20's plants were also added but many were tropicals and annuals, it was heavily landscaped.

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Planting Pockets
Bill and Joe go up the stairs and JOE STARTS TO SEE THE PLANTED AREAS OR POCKETS. And they do draw one in. At the top Joe understands why tropicals didn't make it here. It is a lot colder and a lot windier. The renovation took that into consideration with appropriate plants. They wanted seasonal interest but tropicals dried out here because of the wind which meant they required a lot of water and a lot of fertilization. They now minimize the tropicals, locating them in containers or smaller plantings. They've gone with more ornamental grasses and perennials that are either native to the area or that are better suited to this climate.

Click here for more info

Band Beds
THE GUYS NEXT LOOK AT THE BAND BEDS. These are interesting because they reinforce the landscape in several different ways. For example, as one goes down the stairs you feel like you're walking through a garden and not adjacent to it. It's on both the left and right side and as well the plantings are in between the staircases. It's a nice visual that way. But as well they've put a row of ornamental grasses down the center of each bed. As the grasses get larger they'll fill in and make a solid wall. They have then planted different perennials on each side of the grasses. So, as one goes down the hill one perennial is visible but as one walks up the hill the other way, other perennials are visible. It's almost 2 gardens in one, depending on which way the garden is approached. It really is an efficient way to garden.

Click here for more info

Gardening On A Terrace
SOME MIGHT REFER TO THEM AS TERRACING. Garden Smart receives many questions about gardening on a slope. Terracing is one answer. To do that, level out the area, this provides a great place for planting, but in addition it helps with erosion problems and sediment. Because as water moves down, then across the level area it slows down and this allows the water a chance to percolate down before it runs off, taking with it sediment and soil.

Gardening On A Terrace


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Tips For Tree Planting
JOE AND BILL NEXT ADDRESS TREE PLANTING. One of the major concerns in the industry right now is tree depth. In the past 10 years or so people have been planting trees too deep. When planting a tree make sure to look for the foot flare. On the tree they're examining one sees the discoloration. That was the soil line when the tree came to this site. It was literally about 5 inches too deep in the ball. When found in the nursery the ball ends up with extra soil on it, from either balling or burlapping or from weed control or they'll till through the beds adjacent to the trees. So when one plants the tree look first for the root flare. That is the height it should be planted. And when planting the tree it's better to plant it slightly high rather than slightly low because planting it low is one of the quickest ways to kill a tree. Another point involves staking. There was a time when we thought to stake a tree meant to stake it so tightly that there was no give whatsoever. We know now through scientific research that it's better for there to be give in the staking because it allows the tree to establish a lot more quickly in the ground.

Click here for more info

Garden Room
BACK TO THE GARDEN ROOM, the back of the garden room. The purpose of this area was/is to have a bunch of color to draw people into the back of the room, so they'll experience the full garden room. Here they've used Viburnum plicatatum tomentosum Doublefile Virbunum as the back wall for this space. These should grow to about 7 feet tall. Bill has also incorporated a tier system of perennials including Leucanthemum shasta Daisy, Astilbe chinensis 'Verinica Klose' chinese astilbe and Paeonia szechuanica, tree peony. They provide a stair step and provide seasonal interest throughout. To reinforce that and to add color they also have Tulipa Tulip.

Click here for more info

Bill's Tip - Soil Prep
BILL BELIEVES THAT ONE OF THE BEST TIPS HE CAN SHARE IS BED PREPARATION. When looking at the gardens today one notices all the plantings. There is a large investment there, they needed to make sure that they took all the steps possible to make sure those plants not only survived but flourished. Thus, they added a lot of organic matter, tilled the soil, loosening it up so that those plants would have good root media and organic matter to tap into. Soil preparation is the key. Not just here but for anyone with a garde

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Forest Park

Drury Hotels - St. Louis

Garden Smart Plant List



Complete transcript of the show.


Forest Park is considered the crown jewel of the St. Louis park system. It has recently undergone a huge renovation that incorporated the old with the new. The lessons learned are valuable to all.
Todd Epsten is the Chairman of the Board of Forest Park Forever. Forest Park Forever is a non-profit organization set up to maintain and renovate higher profile landscapes within Forest Park.
Todd has been in St. Louis about 20 years. He and his wife were impressed when first moving to the area with the majesty and history of Forest Park. They believe that it is the center of St. Louis and the heart of the St. Louis community. All major cultural institutions are here and is the gathering place for the entire St. Louis community.
The Park takes a lot of money to maintain and even more to renovate. Forest Park Forever is a partnership between the public and private sectors. Todd's is a 3rd generation family business and they believe in being a part of the communities they serve. Thus when looking for areas to serve, Forest Park came to mind because the city can no longer totally care for and maintain the Park. Forest Park Forever was the genesis of making that happen. The city of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever have worked together to maintain and renovate many areas of the park. The goal is to make sure that things look and are maintained the way everyone wants and to ensure this great park presents itself and the city as best it possibly can.
Bill Reininger is the Park Operations Manager and leads the tour. Bill provides background about Forest Park. It is 1,371 acres in size, which is about 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City. Forest Park is considered the crown jewel of St. Louis because it's a great asset to the city. It holds many different institutions and activities for people to enjoy both with active and passive recreation. One will find a history museum, an art museum, a science center, a world-class zoo, an outdoor municipal opera plus there is a river that runs through the park as well as natural areas such as woodland prairies, savannas and wetlands. Anyone that wants to partake in nature activities can find them here, it has excellent places to exercise with running, walking and biking areas as well as handball and racquetball facilities. It has something for everyone.
THERE IS A LOT OF HISTORY IN THIS PARK. It's been around since 1876, thus 132 years old. There have been a lot of activities, speeches and rallies held here. But, the most notable would be the 1904 World's Fair. It drastically changed the landscape of the park, which when originally founded was almost completely forested. They made alterations to the landscape in order to fit the World's Fair here.
Because this is a large park it has varying landscapes. And, they've been able to renovate a lot of different areas. The Grand Basin is a very formal area, very symmetrical in style but around the boathouse is more casual and often used as an outside dining area. The park has a nice blending of different types of things for gardeners to see.
Bill is a St. Louis native, so this is a dream job for him coming from the field of forestry and horticulture. He went to the University of Missouri and received a BS in Forestry and a BS in Horticulture. He comes here with a background that was needed to accomplish the goals of Forest Park Forever. But, to make this all possible he has a great staff. 2 folks have degrees in Ecological Restoration and they help with the native areas. They have 5 full time horticulturists who help with the more formal gardens. Here they encourage additional training, thus 5 have become certified arborists. The team works in tandem with the city to help renovate and maintain this great jewel of St. Louis.
Top


BILL AND JOE FIRST LOOK AT GOVERNMENT HILL. It is the latest renovation within Forest Park. Its history dates back to the 1904 World's Fair. At that time the Government building and the Missouri State Building were located on this site. They're no longer here but there is a pavilion in their place. The pavilion was a gift to the City of St. Louis for hosting the World's Fair and was installed in 1909. There were staircases and a fountain added in the 1920's. In the 20's plants were also added but many were tropicals and annuals, it was heavily landscaped. But over time, because of the heavy maintenance requirements of the tropical plants and the resulting budgetary concerns in the 60's and 70's, many plants were taken out and turf grass added. Plus, this is zone 5A or B and the tropical type plants didn't work well in this area.
St. Louis holds tightly to its history. So, for the recent renovation they made sure they honored the original intent and original landscape. As renovation occurred they made sure they had paired staircases, the same topography, they recreated the fountain elements and brought back the landscape elements that had been missing in recent history.
And, it's very accessible, they've done many things to ensure that anyone that wants to visit can. They had challenges to ensure that people with disabilities or mom's with strollers, etc. had easy access to the hill. But they wanted to make sure that it would look the same as before, they didn't want those changes to become a strong visual element. Thus when looking up the slopes there are paths cut from side to side within those slopes and they're done in such a way that from the bottom looking up, they're not visible. They're a great success because one doesn't see them. The handrails are another issue. Bill wanted to make sure they were incorporated but again didn't want them to be a strong physical element within the landscape. Thus they're very light, the posts are spaced far apart, nothing jumps out, they blend into the background. And all of this has made the area more accessible, people are embracing the changes and using the park more now.
The renovation was finished last fall and that is when they did the plantings. The plants are still quite small. They also improved the turf, added new staircases and with just the hint, at this point, of new landscape beds it has been effective in drawing people up and into the area this spring.
Much of this design philosophy has home applications. For example when someone is walking past your property, even if sitting on a porch in the backyard, leave hints of landscaping or rooms or benches to draw people into the landscape. Ensure that from one place one can't see everything. You want people to get out and explore the landscape, see what's out there and see what's to be explored and discovered.
Top


Bill and Joe go up the stairs and JOE STARTS TO SEE THE PLANTED AREAS OR POCKETS. And they do draw one in. At the top Joe understands why tropicals didn't make it here. It is a lot colder and a lot windier. The renovation took that into consideration with appropriate plants. They wanted seasonal interest but tropicals dried out here because of the wind which meant they required a lot of water and a lot of fertilization. They now minimize the tropicals, locating them in containers or smaller plantings. They've gone with more ornamental grasses and perennials that are either native to the area or that are better suited to this climate.
They discuss several of the plants. One example of the grasses used is Calamagrostis x actiflora 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass. It grows to about 4-5 feet tall, moves well in the wind, so they have nice movement to them. Like most ornamental grasses, they don't require much water and usually no fertilization. If over fertilized they tend to flop over so try to minimize that. They can be left up until about February, thus offer winter interest and something in ones beds year round; whereas if all perennials, they're cut down and one has a bare bed in winter. Perovskia atriplicifolia Russian sage is a great plant for this area. It doesn't require a lot of water, no fertilization, grows rapidly, gets fairly tall, 3 feet or so, has great purple blooms throughout summer, thus attracts a lot of butterflies. It's a great wildlife attractor.
Traditionally a formal garden is mirrored on both sides, all the dimensions are the same. This landscape is more of a balanced landscape. Because of the topography the west side of the hillside has a sharper drop off, so the same elements are in place but are not exactly symmetrical. They're using more prairie plants which don't have that clipped or tight feel. They're more loose, not structured. Thus it's not as formal a setting or as landscape architects refer to it - not as Fossie.
Top


THE GUYS NEXT LOOK AT THE BAND BEDS. These are interesting because they reinforce the landscape in several different ways. For example, as one goes down the stairs you feel like you're walking through a garden and not adjacent to it. It's on both the left and right side and as well the plantings are in between the staircases. It's a nice visual that way. But as well they've put a row of ornamental grasses down the center of each bed. As the grasses get larger they'll fill in and make a solid wall. They have then planted different perennials on each side of the grasses. So, as one goes down the hill one perennial is visible but as one walks up the hill the other way, other perennials are visible. It's almost 2 gardens in one, depending on which way the garden is approached. It really is an efficient way to garden.
Joe notices that Bill referred to these as band beds. SOME MIGHT REFER TO THEM AS TERRACING. Garden Smart receives many questions about gardening on a slope. Terracing is one answer. To do that, level out the area, this provides a great place for planting, but in addition it helps with erosion problems and sediment. Because as water moves down, then across the level area it slows down and this allows the water a chance to percolate down before it runs off, taking with it sediment and soil.
Gardening On A Terrace
Joe notices a lot of plants in these beds and knows it takes a lot of manpower to get these installed. Bill explains: The contractors planted the trees, there are 190 within this landscape, but Bill and his group installed the perennials and shrubs in-house. And they had several hundred shrubs and 10,000 perennials. They have a staff of 8 but 49 different volunteers pitched in. A combination of volunteers and Master Gardeners came in and assisted with the project. In all they had about 332 hours of volunteerism.
Back to the plants. Joe notices a plant coming up early. It's Acanthus spinosus Bear's Breech. It grows to 2 to 3 feet tall, has beautiful pinkish, purple flowers and does well in full sun to partial shade. The foliage is attractive year round, not just when flowering. Since it does well in partial shade Bill has planted it on the north side of the ornamental grasses. Another interesting plant is Miscanthus sinensis 'Hippon'. It will grow to 3 or 4 feet tall and will cast a bit of a shadow on the Bear's breeches. Accordingly they put sun loving plants on the south side of the ornamental grasses. Eryngium planum Flat seaholly is a nice perennial. It grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall with a spread of about 36 inches. It has a great bloom at the top, like a thistle, a purplish blue. An attractive plant and contrasts nicely with the Bear's breeches.
A garden room is really just a garden within a garden and as with any room, is made up of walls. In this case those walls are plants and trees. The plants in this area include a Fothergilla gardenii Dwarf Fothergilla which is a deciduous shrub. It will grow to 4 to 5 feet tall. Over time it will create more of a sense of a wall, where it doesn't right now. It has great flowers in spring and great fall color. They needed something year round so chose Ilex glabra 'Nordic' Inkberry Holly to provide a continuous evergreen wall throughout the winter. In front of that they added Nepeta Catmint which provides color throughout the summer months. To add height to the wall they used Tilia cordata Littleleaf linden. As it gets larger it will create more of a canopy, define the walls and almost give a sense of ceiling to the space.
Top


JOE AND BILL NEXT ADDRESS TREE PLANTING. One of the major concerns in the industry right now is tree depth. In the past 10 years or so people have been planting trees too deep. When planting a tree make sure to look for the foot flare. On the tree they're examining one sees the discoloration. That was the soil line when the tree came to this site. It was literally about 5 inches too deep in the ball. When found in the nursery the ball ends up with extra soil on it, from either balling or burlapping or from weed control or they'll till through the beds adjacent to the trees. So when one plants the tree look first for the root flare. That is the height it should be planted. And when planting the tree it's better to plant it slightly high rather than slightly low because planting it low is one of the quickest ways to kill a tree. Another point involves staking. There was a time when we thought to stake a tree meant to stake it so tightly that there was no give whatsoever. We know now through scientific research that it's better for there to be give in the staking because it allows the tree to establish a lot more quickly in the ground. Joe points out the cable on this tree, it's rather loose. That allows for the give but it also relieves the pressure on the bark layer. Too much pressure will girdle the tree and could kill the tree. Once the tree is established in the ground, which is usually no more than one growing season, 3 or 4 months, if you want to remove the staking it should be OK. Another point is the hole itself. A lot of people tend to put amendments or a compost of many type of things in the hole thinking they're fertilizing the tree, giving it a better chance. What actually happens is that tree roots break out of the ball, find the rich soil, stay there and don't break out into the surrounding soil. So just fill in the hole with the native soil that came out of the hole, the tree tends to establish better and breaks out into the surrounding soil. Break up the big clumps, but otherwise backfill with native soil. And, for the final tip - mulch. Mulch is important in the garden but especially when planting a new tree or shrub. The correct depth for mulch in this setting is 2 to 4 inches but it should not contact with the bark. If that happens it becomes a highway for pests and diseases. As well, keeping it away from the bark allows for better air circulation which is a good thing. So when planting a tree or shrub make sure that you use mulch but also make sure to leave some space which will help keep pests and disease away from the bark.
Top


BACK TO THE GARDEN ROOM, the back of the garden room. The purpose of this area was/is to have a bunch of color to draw people into the back of the room, so they'll experience the full garden room. Here they've used Viburnum plicatatum tomentosum Doublefile Virbunum as the back wall for this space. These should grow to about 7 feet tall. Bill has also incorporated a tier system of perennials including Leucanthemum shasta Daisy, Astilbe chinensis 'Verinica Klose' chinese astilbe and Paeonia szechuanica, tree peony. They provide a stair step and provide seasonal interest throughout. To reinforce that and to add color they also have Tulipa Tulip. With these beds they're able to switch out from Tulips to summer annuals to fall annuals, thus have constant color in here. Plus they can change out the plants from year to year for even more change. All of these points are great tips for homeowners and Garden Smart viewers.
One doesn't need to spend a lot of time in Forest Park to notice all the water and water features. We immediately know it's an important element here. People have fond memories of the fountains in this park, many dating back to the 30's. Thus they've been a fixture in the park for decades. Thus they made sure in the restoration process to bring the fountains back and similar to what they were in earlier times. A fountain really adds to the enjoyment of a park or garden.
Top


BILL BELIEVES THAT ONE OF THE BEST TIPS HE CAN SHARE IS BED PREPARATION. When looking at the gardens today one notices all the plantings. There is a large investment there, they needed to make sure that they took all the steps possible to make sure those plants not only survived but flourished. Thus, they added a lot of organic matter, tilled the soil, loosening it up so that those plants would have good root media and organic matter to tap into. Soil preparation is the key. Not just here but for anyone with a garden.
Joe thanks Bill. Forest Park is a crown jewel and they've done a wonderful job in restoring it. We look forward to coming back when everything has grown in.
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LINKS:

Forest Park

Drury Hotels - St. Louis

Garden Smart Plant List

   
 
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