Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Zoo Tour

Saturday I had the pleasure of a guided tour of the Houston Zoo, led by Manager of Horticulture Joe Williams.  I love visiting other people's gardens, and this tour was exactly that, albeit on a much grander scale.  Mr. Williams talked about winter protection, managing invasive plants, struggling to provide a beautiful environment for special events, wondering whether or not prized specimens would pull through the freeze.  Just like you do.  Just like I do.  That was refreshing, and reassuring, in a way.  And he also shared the particular problems he and his team encounter, in dealing with the public.  It never occurred to me that visitors would not only pluck leaves and flowers (I knew they did that!) but would carry them for hundreds of yards before finally throwing them into an animal exhibit!  I figured people would walk on the grass, but I didn't quite understand that they walk right through planting areas, if they aren't sufficiently thorny (the beds, not the visitors).  I'm glad, really, that I don't have to deal with that.  I wouldn't have the patience.  But I envy Mr. Williams the grand scale of his garden.  What a treat it must be!  I have nine trees.  His are uncountable.  I have one beautiful Baldcypress that I treasure.  He has many, and dwarf Baldcypress and Pond Cypress and Montezuma besides.  I was jealous of those trees for the remainder of the day.

I was happy to learn that the hard freeze Houston endured did not devastate the gardens at the Zoo.  Mr.  Williams estimates that they only lost 5 of the over 100 Pygmy Date Palms (Phoenix roebelenii) that are planted.  There is life yet in the Silk Floss Tree (Chorisia speciosa), the Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) and most of the tropical palms.  The African bauhinia (Bauhinia galpinii) and the Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens) are coming back from the roots and the flowering fruit trees were in their glory.  All over the zoo, the pomegranates (Punica granatum) were blooming, along with the native flowering deciduous trees.

I asked Mr. Williams how he protected his plants.  He said they apply compost from Nature's Way twice a year.  They also benefit from a heat-island effect, surrounded by the Texas Medical Center and the smaller buildings of the zoo.  Their tree canopy also provides protection from night-time frosts and helps slow heat  loss.  He did not use copper fungicides on his palm trees, which is recommended by some experts immediately after a freeze that may damage a palm's heart.  There could be an issue with copper toxicity for the animals.  Instead he used a drench of hydrogen peroxide to help ward off attacks by opportunistic fungi.

I took many pictures on my tour, far too many to include here.  Visit my Flickr page for the entire set.  I've tried to annotate them, providing common and botanical names of all the plants I photographed.  I hope you all can join me on the next tour!

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