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Anne K Moore
Photographs Anne K Moore

My husband and I, along with our daughter and granddaughters, just returned from a week aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas. You might have seen commercials on TV about this behemoth of a ship, the largest in the world along with her sister ship, Allure of the Seas. (Actually, Allure claims one foot longer in length.) This is a traveling city with several neighborhoods and many unusual-to-ships things to do onboard, like the Zip lines, FlowRider® surf simulators, and ice-skating.

Of special interest to us gardeners is the open-air Central Park in the middle of the ship. Laszlo Turos, the Landscape Specialist for the Central Parks on both Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, conducted a tour and spoke of the special conditions the plants in this area have to withstand. He oversees the care of more than 2,000 plants in the garden beds of the park (along with maybe hundreds more plants scattered about onboard the ship).

Turos explains how he keeps the Shady Lady black olive trees (Bucida bucerasShady Lady’) trimmed in the park to keep the tree canopies open and in bounds, enhancing their natural bonsai appearance. Notice the beautiful bark on these trees. There are several throughout the park but this one is his favorite. It appeared to be dead when it was brought on board. After a couple of months, it finally flushed out with new bright-spring-green growth and has been healthy and happy ever since.

Laszlo has interns who help with the park and two dedicated Permanent Horticulturists, Rino Garcia and Natasha Lewin, working daily to keep the gardens looking their best.

We can take a cue from the trials the tough plants in this park have gone through and use them in our homes or gardens. They take extra abuse from wind and water aboard the ship, even chlorinated water carried on the wind to them from the swimming pools. If you are looking for a plant hard to kill, these two houseplants might work for you. One is the asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri') and the other is the Lemon-Lime dracaena (Dracaena deremensis “Lemon-Lime.”)

We can learn a bit about landscape design, too, in this sea-going garden. A curved bench sets off garden spaces as no straight bench can. I also like the see through bench back. It almost disappears so that the garden bed is the center of what you see. Although most of these are tropical plants, look at how the foliage combines into a pleasing and colorful bed without the use of flowers.

You can do the same by combining plants into your cart as you shop in your local garden center. Pay attention to each plant’s needs as to water, sunshine, and types of soil as you combine them, putting like needs together. Also, mix textures by choosing strappy leaves, fat leaves, and stringy leaves. Leaf textures, sizes, and colors all add to the appearance of the bed you create. The border behind the curved bench is a great example of creating texture and color with leaves.

When you travel or visit, look at a bed of flowers or foliage that pleases you. Take an extra minute to see just what is used and how it is combined. Before long, you will know just how you want your garden to look.

Posted January 24, 2014

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