Lunchtime Learning With Horticulture at the Dallas Arboretum

Spending a day at the Dallas Arboretum is a day well spent—surrounded by beautiful blooms while enjoying a picnic on one of our green lawns. But there’s more to the Dallas Arboretum than meets the eye, including amazing adult education classes on everything from flower arranging to photography.

We asked Kaylee Decker, who teaches some of the Lunchtime Learning with Horticulture classes, to provide a glimpse of the type of things you can learn in an Arboretum adult education class.

What are your favorite summer tropical plants? Which tropical plants will you find throughout the Arboretum during the summer?

There are numerous summer tropical plants that will do well here in the Dallas area, and it can be hard to pick a favorite. I find it hard to beat the bright, colorful blooms of Mandevilla and tropical Hibiscus, and both of these tend to be readily available at local garden centers for homeowners to plant and enjoy. We use a wide range of tropical plants here at the Dallas Arboretum, including Alocasia/Colocasia (elephant ears), banana trees, Cordyline, Hibiscus, Mandevilla and several others.

What are some of your secrets to keeping plants alive during hot Dallas summers?

Starting with high-quality plant material is the first step, and planting them early summer (before Memorial Day) will give them the time needed to establish healthy root systems before the brunt of the summer heat hits. It’s also important to keep a close eye on watering; over-watering can cause just as much damage as under-watering. It’s best to water deeply and less frequently than water just the surface of the soil every day. This encourages roots to grow deep into the soil where more moisture is available. Regular fertilization will ensure your plants have the proper nutrients needed to maintain healthy root, foliage and flowers throughout the summer months.

When organizing a plant bed at home, what are some tips for designing the layout of the bed and optimizing the plant life and aesthetics of the display?

When designing a bed, it’s important to start with the basics of the plant material you’re wanting to plant: how tall/wide is it supposed to grow and what are the water and light requirements. Size is important so plants don’t take over a bed or are lost in the background when they should have been planted in a front border. A good rule of thumb is to start with the shortest plants at the front border of the bed and tallest at the back of the bed; everything else can be mixed in the middle. You always want to make sure when choosing your plant palette to pay close attention to the growing needs of each plant. You want plants that have similar water, light and soil needs. This will give you the best chance at success and keep you from having to replace part of your design down the road.

When did you first fall in love with plants and horticulture?

I grew up in an agricultural setting, surrounded by wheat fields and my grandfather’s pecan orchard, so plants are a part of who I am. I remember from an early age being mesmerized at the sheer size of the 100-year-old live oak trees on my grandparents’ property. But it wasn’t until college that I was formally introduced to horticulture. I took Intro to Horticulture as my lab science requirement, fell in love, switched my major from business to horticulture, and haven’t looked back since. Plants amaze me; not only are most of them appealing to the eye or produce food to eat, but everything that goes on “behind the scenes” physiologically really keeps me interested.

What is your favorite season to experience in the Dallas Arboretum garden?

It’s a tossup between spring and fall, and it’s too close to call!

What is one of the hardest plants you have tried to grow in Texas? What is one of the easiest?

The hardest: Tuberous Begonias. Love these plants, but they’re just not meant to survive here. The easiest: Most ornamental grasses—Salvia gregii or good ol’ Lantana.

So pack your lunch (or pre-order a boxed lunch online when you register), and sign up for a Lunchtime Learning with Horticulture class at the Arboretum. The next session is April 29, featuring “Top 10 Trees and Shrubs”. Or choose from the wide variety of adult education classes—there’s something for everyone, and you can enjoy the gardens after class!

Kaylee Decker will also be teaching the “Mini Field Trial Day” program on June 13. Find more information here.

Celebrate Earth Day in the Children’s Adventure Garden

It’s time to celebrate Mother Earth! The Dallas Arboretum, in collaboration with the smart folks from the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), is hosting an assortment of activities in honor of Earth Day from 11AM to 2PM Saturday, April 18, at the Rory Meyer’s Children Adventure Garden. Visitors can enjoy talks and hands-on activities on topics related to geology, chemistry, marine life, mathematics, space, physics and much more. You don’t want to miss it!

Earth Day activities include:

A. Let’s Make Paper! Make your own recycled paper from a wet, mushy mix of old paper and seeds. Let it dry at home and write a message or draw a picture and then plant it, water it and let the seeds in the paper sprout!

B. The Microscopic World of Nature Participants will observe various specimens using a microscope and make their own observations.

C. Ladybug! Ladybug! Learn all about ladybugs in the garden—their role in nature, life cycle and how we use them to control aphids. Make your very own “ladybug necklace” to take home to release in your own backyard.

D. Infinity within Finite Come explore spectacular fractal structures, create your own fractal and learn how simple patterns can generate infinitely complex mathematical structures.

E. Whale Wonders Come and learn about the different species of whales – explore the wonders of how and what they eat and how they survive in cold-water habitats.

F. The Power of Renewable Energy UTD and Hillcrest High School Robotics Engineering Org will demonstrate the power of renewable energy using photovoltaic cells, wind mills and hydroelectric .

G. What’s So Cool and Hot About Chemistry! The Chemistry Student Association will perform a series of “cool” and “hot” chemistry demos with smoking bubbles, disappearing Styrofoam, elephant toothpaste and more!

H. The Geology of Time Join UTD’s Geoscience Club as they illustrate how rocks are formed, demonstrate tectonic fluidity across geologic time, and explore the ways heat, pressure and time affect the structure of Earth.

I. Physics Circus See exciting physics demonstrations including a Van der Graaff generator, Jacob’s Ladder, a Wimshurst generator, the Bernoulli effect and create the waveform of your voice using an oscilloscope.

J. Static Electricity See how opposites attract with these fun static electricity experiments. Find out about positively and negatively charged particles using a few basic items

K. The Science of the Brain Join us for a virtual reality experiment and learn about the brain, depth perception, optical illusions and brain waves. Sing the brain song while making brain hats and playing brain BINGO!

L. Exploring the Wonders of the Sun The sun is the source of all life on Earth! So come explore the sun and all of its complexities using a telescope and examine the origin of everything we hold dear.

M. The Future of Robots UTD and Hillcrest High School Robotics Engineering Org show guests futuristic models of living things such as a rattle snake, spider, dog and human; along with devices such as a gardening robot, a robotic sentry and wheelchair. Guests can remotely control robots to accomplish tasks.

N. The Buzz about Bees Bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat including fruits, nuts, seeds, fiber and livestock feed. Observe a honey bee hive, locate the queen and learn all about honey making!

Map of activities included below:


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