Crystal Bridges’ breathtaking landscape features a wonderful balance of natural forest and well-groomed beds of showy specimen plantings. Altogether, the Museum grounds are host to a total of 460 species of plants, ranging from giant tulip trees to delicate ladyslippers. Of these, an astonishing 270 species were planted here by the Crystal Bridges grounds crew. That means they have planted more species than grow wild in the forest!
Most of the plants on the Museum grounds are native species, but some of the big bloomers in the landscaped areas near the building are “cultivars”: plants that have been created by humans by combining two or more different species: cultivated varieties = “culti-vars.” Technically, most of Crystal Bridges cultivars are what are referred to as “nativars”: new plants created by combining native with either native or non-native species. Horticulturalists tinker with plants in this way to achieve a number of specific results: they can create a cultivar with a greater number of blooms, for example, or blooms of a different color than the native original. Cultivars may be created to bloom at a different time during the season, bloom for a longer time period, or have larger or differently shaped flowers. All of these factors come into play among the cultivars at Crystal Bridges.
A good example is one of the Museum’s signature plants: the dogwood. In the forest, you will see hundreds of examples of the familiar white-blooming native dogwood species: Cornus florida. At the Overlook, you will also see the red-blooming dogwood, Cornus florida “Rubra.” This is a dogwood variety that occurs naturally, but is rare in the wild, so it is propagated in greenhouses and has been planted near the Crystal Bridges Overlook where guests may enjoy its unusual color from Walker Landing. In addition to these native species, you can find eight different cultivars of dogwoods at Crystal Bridges: ranging from the Stellar Pink dogwood to the Venus dogwood with its super-sized blooms.
Now a new addition to the Crystal Bridges website allows visitors to identify many of the plants they see on the Museum grounds. Check out our newly launched plant identification guide! Horticulturalist Cody George has compiled a wealth of information for each species and cultivar, with a description (including the species used to create cultivars), where to find each plant on the Museum grounds, tips for using the plants in your own garden, and benefits of each to local wildlife. We will continue to add to this guide as the seasons progress, so check back regularly!