Archive for June 2010

Organic Lawn Care

Using a pickawe to take soil samples in Middle of Mertz lawn. photo credit: N. Lewis

In the fall 2009, a New York Times article about an innovative organic lawn care project at Harvard University shook the assumptions of other higher education institutions regarding their own landscaping practices. A casual inquiry about Swarthmore’s lawn management by an alumnus who had read the piece sparked a flurry of discussion and activity that will culminate this fall in the implementation of the Scott Arboretum’s first organically maintained lawn.

Instead of applying standard synthetic herbicides and fertilizers to the five-acre field between Mertz dormitory and Magill Walk, gardeners will spread compost and spray compost tea. This organic matter will …

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Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra in the Terry Shane Teaching Garden. photo credit: S. Keitch

The Terry Shane garden is looking incredibly flush with foliage this time of year, with countless woodland plants striving for attention.  One gorgeous species that is hard to miss is the red baneberry, Actaea rubra.  A small patch of plants is holding vivid red fruits just above a backdrop of green foliage.  Most people associate bright fruits with autumn, but the red and white baneberry produce fascinating berries during the summer.

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The attractive fruit of Actaea rubra. photo credit: S. Keitch

Despite the fruit’s attractiveness, it is highly toxic, hence the ominous common name “baneberry.”  The other moniker, “doll’s …

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Lindera reflexa

Viburnum rhytidophyllum 'Cree' screening the view of the Swarthmore College Post Office loading dock. photo credit: R. Robert

Part of our planting efforts at the Scott Arboretum are designed to disguise or hide the utilities of campus buildings. We have used Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ to hide the loading dock of Clothier Hall, Viburnum rhytidophyllum ‘Cree’ to camouflage the loading dock of Parrish Hall, and our boxwood trials to disguise the utilities of Beardsley Hall. Our spicebush collection throughout campus also veils various mechanical installations. Planted to serve as a screen for utilities behind Mertz Hall, Lindera reflexa reaches out along this border of the Gold Medal Garden. This Asiatic spicebush is a rare species with broad deciduous leaves.…

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