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A Colorful Controversy

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Wildly revered for their blooming majesty and striking emerald leaves, the azaleas of Bok Tower Gardens have been a favorite since their initial planting by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. However many visitors may not know of the controversy surrounding the choice of color. During the Gardens’ early planning stages, Edward Bok wrote, “if a man wishes to see me roaring mad, he wants to plant some magenta flowers in any garden of mine.”

Ever the visionary, Olmsted coolly replied, “regarding the color of magenta that you do not wish to have on the place we would say we have tried to avoid it. There is, of course some remote possibility that some magenta flowering azaleas have crept in… Occasionally, people jump at the conclusion in this connection and so really deprive themselves of a good thing by ordering the removal of the plants.”

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The Burning Paradox

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Prescribed burns have been an agricultural tool since the dawn of human civilization. In fact, agricultural scientists, Sydney Johnson and Philip Hale provide “controlled burning has deep historical roots in the South, where the practice was quickly adopted from the Indians by early European settlers. It became used widely, primarily to improve forage conditions for free-ranging cattle and to improve visibility and access.”

Often referred as the “burn paradox”, the practice of a controlled burn is a modern management technique for the protection of endangered habitats, plants and animals. It can appear counterintuitive to use fire as a means of encouraging new growth; however, scientists have long understood the benefits and outcomes of ancient burn strategies.

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