Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Gazebo

We had some frost last night which tinged most of our early bulbs (crocus, daffodils, etc.) and other early bloomers like hellebore (Helleborus).  Frost in mid April isn't unusual but a return to winter conditions isn't welcomed by most of us after a tough, previous four months.  As part of my weekly installments promoting our history during our 25th Anniversary year, I'll show some progress in the gazebo garden which was started back in 1990.  More to follow on the transformation of that shaded garden space adjacent to our pond and on the east end of our property.
We had a great day at the gardens despite the cold start this morning.  The cold didn't stop Eva (above left) and Kathy P. from tidying up the Azalea/Rhododendron Garden and other locations.  Big John worked on various projects but spent the bulk of his time with a pressure washer and was preparing some containers for repainting.  Cheryl, Janice and Cindy did a wonderful job with some spring cleaning duties inside the Horticulture Center and moved on to other duties both inside and out.  Cheryl tidied up the beds outside the Horticulture Center and then headed in to the gardens.  Cindy did spring clean-up in other locations out in the gardens.  Janice processed incoming plants and bounced between multiple projects.  Pat worked on myriad indoor projects including painting, running phone lines for the plant sale, etc.  I had more desk work but was able to get out in the gardens a bit as well.  Urban came in to size up more pruning and Stan hauled back some loads from his pruning out in the Japanese garden.  Lloyd and Nancy came in for painting duties and were later helped by Dr. Gredler.  We also saw Maury, Chuck S. and many others.
When the gardens were founded back in 1989, the east end of our 3 acre pond (an old sand and gravel pit) looked as you see it above.  This spring-fed pond (filled the old quarry) had been a popular fishing spot for many years but also accumulated plenty of debris and garbage over the years.  This end of the pond is where most floating debris collected and continues to collect.  With that shoreline being prime "real estate" for a garden space, work was initially done to clean-up the garbage (see directly below) and shoreline (second photo down).  When the gazebo garden was being planned, the arched bridge in the Japanese garden has just been installed and the view from the future gazebo would take in to account this sight line and maximize a beautiful view across the water.  Early shoreline development and stabilization after clean-up helped accommodate the re-purposing and installation of the steps from the old Rock County Courthouse.  These steps lead down to the water and were part of the shoreline stabilization efforts.  The concrete footing for the gazebo was then poured after plans for an eight-sided structure were agreed upon.  The intent was that the structure would also frame a view to the distant arched bridge (see photos at the bottom).  The historic photos below show the development of that garden space and specifically the structure.  There were many volunteers involved with this work and Jim Cullen was instrumental in providing leadership with this project.  Note how the top of the gazebo was built first, raised up and then the lower section was built underneath...  Short captions help describe the progress. The gazebo garden, aside from the nice view, is considered the "coolest spot in the gardens" because of a nice breeze across the water and some mature trees throughout that garden.  Peripheral planting include a hosta collection, perennials and lots of seasonal color.  This popular garden hosts many weddings and other events throughout the growing season as well.
early Rotarian clean-up efforts
early shoreline work
boulders are brought in for shore stabilization
note the old Rock County Courthouse steps in the center
debris collection continued along that end of the pond
paths are mulched and the foundation is poured (below too)
the upper half of the gazebo is built first
same as above
note the raised portion with lots of volunteer involvement!

same as above
the structure awaits finishing touches and a paint job
same as above
cedar shake roofing is added and the structure is painted
same as above
a more recent image
note the spectacular view
great winter shot from Ken Tapp

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Touch Of Snow

We had a return to winter today with overcast skies and dropping temperatures that converted early drizzle to snow showers with big flakes.  Nothing really "stuck" but further north in WI, there was some significant accumulation.  In this area, you don't remove your snow plow until May!  Denise took the top photo today from the deck overlooking the formal gardens (thanks for sharing Denise!).  The irrigation guys were here to test everything and this is the first time I remember having the combination of irrigation and snow!  There was some activity out in the gardens although most of the action occurred inside the Horticulture Center today.  Above is Cindy B. working on potting up some of our tropical bulbs and tubers like elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) seen directly below.  She potted up all sorts of plants including dahlias and cannas as well.  Big John and Terry did some shopping for fertilizer and tools and ultimately ended up outside in the snow to place and prepare the last of our containers with our soil mix.  Larry helped the irrigation guys all day although he worked on some other projects as well.  I caught up on desk work which never seems to end with all the spring orders arriving!
Our colorful Horticulture Center interior can be seen both above and directly below.  We had a nice crew of Grumpies and some Grumpettes.  Our painters today included Dr. Gredler, Gene, Lloyd, Joe M., Gary B., Terri N., Kevin C. and Ron R.  Jenny E. came in to paint later in the day and the progress was impressive.  Below are Gary B. (left ) painting windows and Joe M. (right) working on white obelisks.  There wasn't a lot of "elbow room" but everyone worked well together.  Pat M. had a couple of projects going on as did Dick H. (welding).  Urban came in later for some pruning out in the gardens.  Gary S. worked on labels and Pat C. came in to process more labels too (second photo down) and had some other projects as well.  Dave, Vern, Ron Y. and Jim continued carpentry projects including work on our "display doors" and the new 20' tall obelisk which was being primed by Bob K. (third photo down).  The fourth photo down shows Ron Y. working on a door with Jim supervising.  We also saw Ron W., Rollie, Sue M. and many others today.  Despite the weather, we had a solid turnout with lots of progress. 

We're continuing to focus on our Pollinator's Paradise theme in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden this year.  All of these hummingbird shots were taken at the gardens in past years by Santos M. (I believe...).  We had a bumper crop of hummingbirds last year and will bulk up on flowers to help attract them to this specific theme and the gardens in general.  These are just "teaser photos" to encourage you to come visit and perhaps consider ways of helping attract these critters to your yard as well.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Traffic

I went in to work this morning to meet some of our volunteer painters who graciously donated some of their weekend to help out.  Above are Bev (left) and Tammy who did a great job not only repainting these culvert pipe planters but touched up many other objects as well.  Larry and Bill were in to get our riding mowers ready and work on some other projects.  Janice came in to train our volunteer Lois for the Spring Compost Sale (8 am until 12 noon every Saturday in April and May) and we sold close to 200 bags this morning.  Pat M. helped load compost for customers but also worked on myriad other projects in between loading like painting, carpentry, etc.  Dr. Gredler came in for obelisk painting and we saw many others as well.  The Janesville Area Herb Society had their meeting at the Horticulture Center this morning and it looked like a good crowd.  This group has maintained our herb garden at RBG for many years and we look forward to their continued involvement with the gardens.  Below are Mirjam (left) and Marcia, both RBG volunteers, who came by this morning.  I took them on a mini-tour as they were interested in maintaining their own section of garden and ultimately selected the English cottage garden (where this photo was taken).  It was a busy day although after the morning rains, it turned out to be pleasant overall.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday's Smiling Faces...Mostly

Today was the best day of the year so far with sunshine and temperatures near 72 degrees F.  It was downright balmy in the sun and we had a great turnout of volunteers and one of our busiest Fridays yet this year.  The crew from the Oakhill Christian School (see above) came and did their annual mulching job in the daylily (Hemerocallis) collection.  This group has done this huge project many years in the past and does a dynamite job.  Their teacher Kath (front row, second from right) was a great motivator and these teenagers were all hard workers.  This garden space has limited access so we have to bucket all the mulch in to this area.  I even got in to the act and Janice captured my feelings on hauling buckets and getting my baby soft hands all calloused this morning (see directly below).  Janice was a huge help with this group this morning and Big John helped get everything set up yesterday and also assisted with buckets/set up this morning.  John and Janice also tidied up after the job was complete and hauled back all the tools, buckets, tarps, etc.  John had a busy day of securing obelisks, preparing containers, composting, etc.  Cindy did a nice job tidying up part of the terrace garden and completed the outer portion of the gazebo garden which benefitted from her attention to detail.  Many loads of debris came out of the gardens today.  Janice had other tasks and Pat M. worked inside this morning on various painting projects and obelisk preparations.  I had a meeting and am still working on preparations for looming events.

Other volunteers today included Pat C. (seen above) who was back in action as our mobile sign medic.  After a tough winter, we always have broken signs and she was out doing an inventory and assessment for the repair and maintenance of these signs while it is still spring and easier to access the gardens.  We love our new labels but need to spend this valuable time making sure they are in good shape.  Pat is the perfect person for this job (despite her questionable driving skills...).  Ron K. (below) was back for his second day of tidying the woodland walk garden.  Ron has maintained this garden for two previous years and is one of our best assigned gardeners with the most square footage of anyone.  Kay (second photo down) did a great job of collecting more debris and few can match her pace and comprehensive approach to any project she starts.  She brought back many loads of leaves and other debris.  Eva was in as well and focused on multiple areas closer to the Parker Education Center.  The third photo down shows our painting crew of Suzy, Pat M. and Dr. Gredler (far right).  Look at how colorful our Horticulture Center interior has become!  Maury came in to continue work on the English Cottage Garden fountain and ran some errands for us as well.  Maury is invaluable and saves us so much time and $ with his involvement at the gardens.  He also has a huge ego and hopefully isn't reading this blog.
I was able to get around the gardens this morning before our volunteers arrived and captured more beauty out in the gardens.  After seeing a posted shot of the pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) on our RBG Facebook page, I sought it out this morning in the alpine garden.  This is the first of dozens that are just starting to emerge.  That "fur" should help protect the flowers from the cold/rain/sleet/snow combination next week!  Below are the first daffodils (Narcissus) I've seen blooming at the gardens although many are poised and ready to open up.  The third photo down shows more crocuses (Crocus sp.) in full bloom and I'm surprised the resident rabbits and visiting deer haven't nibbled these yet.  Further down is the Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) which is starting to bloom around the gardens with that electric blue color (I like the white form too though!).
John was doing some work down in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden today which will feature the second year theme of being a "Pollinator's Paradise".  This theme went very well last year although this year we have a new twist with incorporating lots of All-America Selections (AAS) winners that are great for pollinators.  Just some of the selections that will be utilized can be seen below.  In essence, the "Pollinator's Paradise" will also be our AAS Display Garden and will be entered in their annual landscape design competition.  We'll compete with other gardens and locations that are AAS Display Gardens and will be also featuring a prominent use of re-purposed containers in this garden.  We've won this competition two years in a row (not bragging, just a fact) and are aiming for a three-peat victory (now we're bragging).  Regardless, this will be a fun space for all our visitors; humans and pollinators alike!
'Prairie Sun' gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta)
'Summer Jewel Pink' scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea)
'Fiesta del Sol' Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
'Lady in Red' scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea)
'Cosmic Orange' sulphur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)
'Zowie! Yellow Flame' zinnia (Zinnia elegans)