The University Record, January 25, 1993

‘Walk on the Wild Side’at Flower Show this year

By Kate Kellogg
News and Information Services

The fourth annual Ann Arbor Flower and Garden Show is the place to be for those who prefer gardens populated with hummingbirds, butterflies and other fauna.

Visitors will take a “Walk on the Wild Side” through exhibits designed to reflect this year’s theme at the March 25–28 show at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.

The show’s largest exhibit ever will represent the ideal Ann Arbor back yard—attractive to humans yet wild enough to provide natural habitats for a variety of species.

The main garden, complete with live butterflies, will be the product of a first-time collaboration between the show’s sponsor, the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and a commercial landscaper. Visitors will enter the 800-square-foot exhibit through a screened-in porch and proceed through a vined trellis to find blooming dogwood trees and lilacs.

“One section will include those trees and bushes that attract birds, such as viburnums, dogwoods, and serviceberry,” says Paul Little, show designer. “A muddy area near a pond will provide the moisture needed to sustain wildlife.”

A greenhouse sheltering live butterflies will highlight the garden. They will feast on the nectar of verbenas, pentas, lantana and heliotrope, and more than 50 other species of plants, according to Adrienne M. O’Brien, horticultural assistant at the Botanical Gardens. Many of those plants, such as fuchsia, also attract hummingbirds, she says.

The greenhouse also will provide the amenities that butterflies require to reach their full survival potential of three weeks, such as a well-lit “sunning area” and “puddles.” Butterflies are part scavengers, O’Brien explains, and often gather around places where animals have urinated to absorb the nutrients.

The show’s butterflies originate on farms in Florida and South America. They will arrive here as pupae, via Federal Express, about three weeks prior to the show, O’Brien says. She will rear the pupae in screened cages inside a warm greenhouse at the Gardens.

“I must time their development very carefully to ensure that they will be in their prime when the show opens,” O’Brien says. If all goes as planned, visitors should see yellow and black zebras, orange and black queens and painted ladies, among many other species, flitting between feeding stations.

The fence enclosing the garden will feature a mural depicting an Ann Arbor landscape painted by William L. Brudon, professor emeritus of art and associate professor emeritus of biological and medical illustrations. This exhibit and all others will include signs identifying plant material and other environmental features and the types of wildlife they attract.

Eight other major exhibits by Michigan nurseries and landscaping companies will be laid out in park fashion with winding paths and benches. “We expect these gardens to include the hardy plants that can survive Michigan’s climate,” says Little. “The goal of this part of the show is to let people see the possibilities for their own yards.”

Walkways between buildings will display hundreds of blooming flowers as well as outstanding entries in the show’s newest competitive category: birdhouse-building. The competition includes several classes that represent different philosophies in birdhouse design, Little explains.

“Some will be oriented toward the serious bird-watcher and built along Audubon Society guidelines. Others will be artistic creations by members of the Woodworkers’ Guild and the Ann Arbor Art Association.”

Two other classes are new this year. Small Space Gardening, such as landscaped patio settings, is intended for gardeners with limited yard space. The design class “Morning Glories” is the first to feature teamwork between professional interior designers and florists.

The show’s design classes will play on the “Walk on the Wild Side” theme with such motifs as “motorcycle madness”—plants and other material arranged around real motorcycles—“Nature’s Fury,” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” The design classes require competitors to fill a small space with flora and any props that present a unique interpretation of a given topic.

Like all other Standard Flower Shows, this one will feature more than 200 horticultural exhibits that display award-winning flowers from plant societies. A tour of the show will end with a Marketplace of gardening gifts, plants, tools and accessories.

Little and his staff are now building the staging for the show. Their biggest challenges, he says, are “turning livestock stalls into usable exhibit space” and meeting the deadline. “We will have only three to four days before the show opens to set it all up at the fairgrounds,” Little says.

Special events include lectures by “America’s Master Gardener” Jerry Baker, a spokesman for K mart Corp., 7:30 p.m., March 26; Suzanne Frutig Bales, author of the seasonal album, Gifts from Your Garden, 1:30 p.m., March 25; and Cassandra Danz (“Mrs. Green Thumb”), author of How I Turned a Boring Back Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can Too, 3 p.m., March 27. All lectures will be held in the fairgrounds Lecture Hall.

Other lectures and demonstrations of gardening techniques will be presented throughout the show by horticultural specialists.

Advance tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for children and may be purchased by mail or phone, 998-7002, through March 10. Tickets may be purchased in person in the lobby of the Botanical Gardens on Dixboro Road or at many locations throughout the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas. For a list of outlets, call the phone order number. Tickets also are available until March 24 at the service desk of any Kroger’s store in Michigan. Tickets will be $7 at the door.

Flower show hours are 9 a.m.–9 p.m. March 25–27 and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. March 28.

The annual show is a fund-raiser for the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. It includes a Standard Flower Show, produced in cooperation with the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan Inc.