Thrills, Spills and the Gardening Frills: Getting Gardening Tips from Amusement Parks

With the kids away camping, my husband & I took the opportunity yesterday to head on over to Geauga Lake Amusement Park. It has been years since I had been on a roller coaster and I planned on making up for it in several fell swoops.

I had mentioned before that I had once worked for a major amusement park, and from that I learned a few things about the objectives of major amusement parks. The biggest one being that from the moment you, the guest, steps through the front gates, they want to create a world of perfect, suspended reality. Nothing goes wrong, nothing is out of place, everything is perfect. So, as you might imagine, this creates a bit of a challenge for the landscaping crew.

Even if we ignore the issues with weeding and watering, the challenge in just planting things that can withstand the local climate, look good all summer long and do so with as little care as possible is monumental one. Especially when you consider they have to do it over a massive amount of acreage.

But don’t spend too much time pitying them for their problems. They are the ones who chose to take on the crappy job. You just get to learn from it.

The next time you are at your local major amusement park (hopefully you have one), take a look at what they use in their landscaping. What you will see is that amusement park landscaping choices are anything but boring but you can be pretty sure that the choices they have made are more than capable of surviving in the climate.

What you also might find is that there will be some surprising plants. Certain sections of the park will have will have different themes and the landscapers are responsible for helping to convey that theme.

prickly pear cactusFor example, at Geauga Lake, there is a Western themed area. Now, remember we are in Cleveland and it gets cold in the winter. But while wandering around the Western section, I found prickly pear cactus. Who would have guessed? Cactus outside in Cleveland.

Turns out that some varieties of prickly pear cactus are hardy in this area, as long as you keep their feet dry. Talk about adding some wow (and ow) to your garden.

See a plant you like, but you aren’t sure what it is? Take a picture and bring the pic to your local nursery or post it in a gardening forum and ask for an ID. Most of the time, it should be no problem. Worst comes to worse, email the picture to the amusement park and ask if their landscaping staff can help you identify it. You may or may not get an answer, but it is worth a try.

So, grab a kid or send yours camping and spend some time at an amusement park. You may find thrilling new plant while waiting in line for thrills and spills.

One thought on “Thrills, Spills and the Gardening Frills: Getting Gardening Tips from Amusement Parks
  1. Kellye on

    That’s such a good suggestion! This would work with zoos and the like too. I have seen many cool plants in natural-design zoos that I thought would be awesome in a home garden.

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