Shifting your ideas about where and when gardens might pop up can change your life, your business and your everyday environment for the better.
Call it a "growing" trend.
In his new book, The Nature Principle, Richard Louv — influential in the recent movement to bring children closer to encounters with nature — suggests that "in an age of rapid environmental, economic and social transformation, the future will belong to the nature-smart — those individuals, families, businesses and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of nature and who balance the virtual with the real."
Along those lines, here are two local success stories:
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Big Ass Fans
Beside the Big Ass Fans plant that backs up to Leestown Road, there are vegetable gardens.
Company president and founder Carey Smith decided that planting a garden near the outdoor area where company potluck dinners were held was a good idea.
"It was important for me to share my love of gardening with the Big Ass Fans team," Smith says. "We now are able to use our own produce for company functions."
A crew led by maintenance supervisor Rogelio Carbajal went right to work. Now in its second year, the garden has been expanded to about four times its original size, with cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon and zucchini vines inching toward three outdoor break tables cooled by one of the company's sleek Isis fans.
"Everybody's happy to come out here from the office to just sit a while," Carbajal says. Yet another bonus: All the employees are welcome to share the harvest.
Carbajal and co-worker Porfirio Alvarez keep the garden weeded and orderly using very few tools. For a hoe, Carbajal finds a plain, pointed wooden stake most efficient. One delicious idea that he and his wife, Joaquina Carbajal, have cooked up is making squash-blossom quesadillas, wrapping the freshly picked golden-orange flowers inside heated soft flour tortillas.
If you try this at home, Carbajal and Alvarez say it's best to pick the flowers in the morning, when they're fully open. Also, pick only the male flowers, which connect to the vines by a plain green stem, rather than the female flowers, which attach to the vine by a small zucchini. That way, you'll still have zucchini to harvest.
Stoll Keenon Ogden
Downtown and up about 300 feet, on the 21st floor of Kincaid Towers, terrace gardens outside the offices of the law firm Stoll Keenon Ogden provide beautiful surroundings for breathtaking views of the city.
Completed in 1979, the tower, designed by architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, also features terraces at the fifth, 10th and 14th floors.
The sky gardens, installed in 2002 by local landscape architects at Henkel- Denmark, earned an Environment Improvement Grand Award from the Associated Landscape Contractors of America for "improving the environment for the benefit of mankind."
The open, airy design frames and softens the commanding view and affords a tranquil intimacy. Growing in containers throughout the terraces are beds of easy-care annuals for color, including petunias, vinca and sweet potato vine. Raised beds enclosed by limestone rock hold tall grasses and shade-loving hostas, while various twining vines wrap up arbor pillars.
Event coordinator Kimberly Van Camp is most familiar with its workplace benefits.
The terraces and gardens "play a big role in many of our recruitment events, client development events and even public events, such as the Gallery Hop. Our staff also enjoys taking their breaks or lunch in the beautiful outdoors, weather permitting of course; it helps rejuvenate them in the middle of a work day," she said.
Eric Witt, property manager for Langley Properties Co., which occupies the 22nd floor of the building and markets the commercial space, says: "The terrace concept is a valuable selling point for us."
Summer sprinkler savvy
Lawn sprinklers are a joy to behold on a sizzling summer day. These impromptu fountains cast graceful arcs of sparkling droplets to the soothing sound of a steadily fizzing beat. They're also an amusement and a cleansing scrub for sweaty, cranky, bored and filthy children.
Their most commonly accepted use for more than 140 years, however, has been in dispensing life-giving water across expanses of green lawns and gardens in times of drought and wilting.
Joseph Lessler of Buffalo, N.Y., was granted the first U.S. patent for a lawn sprinkler in 1871. Since then, as city systems have provided piped-in pressure and lawns have become a cultural norm, inventors have masterminded clever innovations to meet all our watering needs.
From cast-iron, hose- toting characters and spitting alligators, to the most recent Hydra-esque Noodlehead, sprinklers have kept our landscapes and our imaginations alive.
That being said, there are more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient ways to conserve water use in your lawn and garden. Some pointers:
■ Replace high- maintenance lawns with hardy native plants or edible vegetables, flowers and herbs. Check out the local Wild Ones chapter (For-wild.org/chapters/lexington). Attend the Sustainable Landscape Practices class on Sept. 20 at the Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service office. Topics include water management, recycling, composting and lawn care. Go to Ces.ca.uky.edu/fayette/horticulture for details.
■ Use drip or buried irrigation systems. Most plants take in water through their roots, not their leaves. Apply water at the soil level, where it's needed, and you'll avoid evaporation loss and reduce the risk of spreading disease. Program your system to run in off-peak water-usage hours.
■ Harvest rainwater. Rain barrels can store storm water until it's needed during a dry spell. On July 30, Bluegrass PRIDE (Bgpride.org) and Kentucky American Water are conducting a free rain barrel-making workshop at the Franklin County Cooperative Extension Service office. Pre-registration is required. Contact Michelle Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (859) 266-1572.