Blaze topiary to get new life and a winter home

two blazesIn early years, the vine that covered Blaze (top) was flourishing. Now its covering, ravaged by drought and cold (bottom), is more than a little brown around the edges. A plan to alternate topiaries should help ensure a vibrant display. For its first few years the Blaze topiary was a flourishing focal point of landscaping on the Campus Green. Now its vinyl cover, ravaged by drought and cold, is more than a little brown around the edges.

“He’s breaking down physically and chemically,” said Tim Sullivan, manager for Campus Services and Grounds, who referred to Blaze’s essence as a combination of “peat moss and secret sauce.”

“He needs some time off,” Sullivan said.

The fig vine (Ficus pumila) that gives Blaze his green covering generally fares well in summer but not winter, Sullivan said, and its health has gotten progressively worse in recent years. The topiary also has attracted more than its fair share of Armadillidium vulgare, the common pill bug, or as Southerners call them — roly polies — and that needs to be remedied.

Sullivan and his crew have a three-step plan to restore Blaze to his former green glory that should begin the second week in June.

  • First, the current topiary will be removed and replaced with a duplicate dragon-shaped form built by the vendor that created the original. The form will be planted with fig vine, which should provide coverage in eight to ten weeks, Sullivan said.

  • Next, the campus grounds crew will move the original Blaze to the UAB greenhouse, where it will reside while the form is cleaned and restored. It will be planted with a variety of English ivy (Hedera helix), which generally fares better in Alabama winters, Sullivan said.

  • Finally, during the break after fall semester, the two will be switched. Fig-vine Blaze will winter in the greenhouse, and ivy-laden Blaze will be displayed in its place. In spring, they will be swapped again.

Sullivan said alternating the topiaries should help ensure a vibrant display on the Campus Green year-round.