In the last few months, we have posted a variety articles full of practical landscaping tips and ideas, such as 6 Simple Ideas to Improve Your Front Yard and 9 Steps that Will Make a Small Backyard Useful and Attractive.
Today we have decided to do things a little bit different in order to cultivate some smiles. Here are 13 fascinating facts related to our everyday jobs of designing landscapes, maintaining flower beds, bushes and trees, correcting drainage and erosion problems, as well as installing decks and other hardscapes:
1. Australia is home to the largest earthworms in the world.
The Giant Gippsland earthworms, which can grow up to 2.7 meters long, can be found tunneling in just about every Australian state. Gippsland earthworms and 2,500 other types of earthworms benefit gardens by transforming organic matter into nutrients for plants and by mixing the soil. Soil with an abundance of organic matter can have up to 1 million earthworms per acre.
2. The largest flower garden in the world is the Keukenhof in the Netherlands.
It sprawls across 80 acres of land and is planted with 7 million tulip bulbs every year. The Dutch people fell in love with tulips in 1593 and today they develop new tulip varieties, as well as export about 4 billion tulip bulbs around the world every year.
3. Frenchman André Le Nôtre is considered one of the world’s first landscapers.
In the late 1600s, he took charge of the royal gardens and parks surrounding the Palace of Versailles and began transforming them into an oasis of life and beauty. Today the Gardens of Versailles total almost 800 acres of land. They include 55 fountains and 700 topiaries cut in 67 different shapes, besides sprawling lawns and hundreds of flower beds.
4. Fifteen square meters of turfgrass produces enough oxygen every day to support a family of four.
Grass absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen as it photosynthesises sunlight into chemical energy that will be used for growth and reproduction. Grass and phytoplankton, one-celled plants that populate the ocean, work together to provide more than half of all the oxygen that the world needs.
5. Traces of Australia’s national flower, the Golden Wattle, might be in your soft drink.
The Golden Wattle tree produces tannin in its bark to protect itself against burrowing insects and other pests. In the early 1800s, tannin began to be used for tanning leather and today both natural and synthetic tannic acid are used as clarifying agents in alcoholic drinks, as well as aroma compounds in soft drinks and juices.
6. Plants communicate with microorganisms in the soil by releasing metabolites through their roots.
Every handful of soil is home to millions of microorganisms, including soil algae, bacteria and fungi, protozoa and innumerable nematodes. These microorganisms and plants form a symbiotic relationship where they help each other absorb nutrients and keep pathogens at bay.
7. The world’s longest hedge maze can be found on the grounds of the Longleat Home in England.
16,000 carefully manicured yew trees form the maze that is 2.7 kilometers long. It includes multiple bridges and dead ends. If this hedge maze doesn’t look challenging enough for you, consider doing the Giant Pineapple Garden Maze on the Dole Plantation in Hawaii. The pineapple maze has 4 kilometers of walking paths which are closed in by 14,000 tropical plants.
8. The world’s oldest flowering plant is the Montsechia vidalii.
The Montsechia is now extinct, but it has made an appearance in over 1,000 different fossils found in Spain. Montsechia vidalii was an aquatic plant which probably grew in shallow lakes. It regularly produced flowers and fruit containing a single seed, and is very similar to Ceratophyllum, an aquatic plant that can be found in ponds, marshes, tropical streams and even aquariums today.
9. Soil has 6 layers which are often referred to as Horizons O, A, E, B, C and R.
O is a layer of organic surface soil, that may include leaves and other plant residues, A is topsoil and R is bedrock. All together soil is composed of about 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air and 5% organic matter. After a good rain, the water content in soil greatly increases. In fact after 2.5cm of rainfall, one acre of soil can be holding 113 tons of water!
10. At one time the sap of bluebells was used as glue.
Centuries ago before the adhesive powers of polyvinyl acetate were known, the sap of bluebells was used as glue and also added to a variety of folk remedies. Today bluebells primarily lend their beautiful color and sweet scent to flower gardens all around the world, but scientists continue to study the active compounds in them as potential weapons against HIV and cancer.
11. The fastest growing plant in the world is bamboo.
There are approximately 45 different varieties of bamboo. The tallest of these lives in tropical countries and reaches 40 meters tall. Bamboo reproduces by sending up new canes every spring. These young bamboo canes do all their growing in the first 2 months of their lives and depending on their variety, they can grow 90 cm in a single day!
12. German chemist Justus von Liebig developed one of the world’s first chemical fertilizers.
Throughout the 1800s, specialized merchants traveled to bat caves and seabird nesting sites to gather nutrient-rich guano that they could sell to gardeners and farmers who wanted to boost plant growth. Right about this time, Justus von Liebig began to study plant nutrition and created a chemical fertilizer out of bone meal and sulfuric acid that was cheaper than guano. This early fertilizer was difficult for plants to absorb, but it set the stage for the chemical fertilizers that we use today.
13. The word “landscape” was coined in the 1500s.
Five hundred years ago the English added an “e” to the Dutch word “landscap” and began using the new word to describe a painting that portrayed scenery. The word continued to be used mainly in the art world, until the Scotsman Gilbert Laing Meason began using the term “landscape architecture” in reference to making a piece of land more attractive by altering the existing design and adding ornamental features.
We like to think that landscaping continues to be a form of art. American painter Elizabeth Murray said, “Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.” We enjoy using flowers, plants, stone, concrete, wood and many other materials to paint beautiful landscapes against the soil and sky.