Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weeping Conifers Should Make You Smile

We had about 4" of fluffy snow float down this morning followed by some freezing rain.  I had a presentation in Blue Mounds, WI tonight that had been rescheduled due to potentially bad road conditions.  We're behind on snowfall this winter so I'm not opposed to more moisture ultimately for the spring garden.  Of course, driving in this weather isn't very exciting but at least we aren't in Buffalo or Boston!  This blog focuses on the merit and value of weeping conifers out in the garden.  Their color and form are certainly welcome in the winter garden as seen with the weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Pendula') seen above or the weeping white pine (Pinus strobus 'Pendula') seen directly below.  Keep in mind that deciduous conifers like larch (Larix), bald cypress (Taxodium sp.), dawn redwood (Metasequoia sp.), etc. offer wonderful form in the growing season but lack the foliage impact in winter as their needles have been shed.  They can still offer form but not as pronounced as the evergreens seen in this blog (just a smattering of what is available!).  Weeping conifers can be focal points out in the garden 365 days per year and their variability in form and size make them adaptable to a wide range of settings and garden situations.  Here are just a couple ideas.

It was relatively slow at the Horticulture Center today with the weather being a factor for travel.  Larry, Bill and Dave all went to some training for maintenance on our lawn mowers and Jenny M. was in for more painting.  We also saw Maury, Mary Kay and Dr. Yahr.  I finished some work regarding our Spring Plant Sale seeds (ready for the growers!) and plenty of other tasks. 

weeping white pine (Pinus strobus 'Pendula')
 weeping pine (Pinus sp.) - thought it was a white pine but not sure (here at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) - might be a weeping Japanese red pine
 weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Pendula') at Chanticleer
 contorted silver fir (Abies alba 'Green Spiral')
 weeping Alaskan cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis 'Pendula') - Anderson Japanese Garden
 weeping temple juniper (Juniperus rigida 'Pendula') - Chicago Botanic Garden
 weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Weeping Blue')
weeping white pine (Pinus strobus 'Pendula')
 weeping Rocky mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum 'Tolleson's Weeping')
 weeping Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens glauca 'Pendula')
 weeping Jack pine (Pinus banksiana 'Uncle Fogy')
 weeping Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens 'The Blues') - Bickelhaupt Arboretum (Clinton, IA)
weeping Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis 'Sargentii')

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hurray For Hyssops!

As I finish ordering seeds and plants for the 2015 Spring season, one of my focus areas is the Smelly Garden theme which will be featured in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden.  This garden theme is back by popular demand after such rave reviews when we did this in 2011 and 2012.  We'll include plenty of fragrant blooms (including night bloomers) but also will display a wide range of plants with fragrant foliage like hyssop (Agastache sp.).  This plant is marginally hardy for us with many being Zone 5 hardy.  There are many species and hybrids out there so do check on hardiness issues, mature height, etc.  However, grown as an annual, they provide wonderful flowers (great for pollinators...particularly hummingbirds!) and fragrant foliage like the variety 'Bolero' seen above.  Hyssops thrive in full sun and are tolerant of most well-drained soils.  They shrug off the summer heat and bloom for the vast majority of summer and sometimes well in to early fall.  Included in this blog are a wide assortment of opportunities.  Again, do a bit more research on height and zone hardiness but consider the merit of colorful, long-lasting blooms along with the fragrant foliage which must be touched/rubbed/tactilely "engaged" to detect that anise-like scent. 

Mondays continue to be extremely busy at the Horticulture Center.  Larry H. and Ron R. headed out to bring in more Holiday Lights Show displays and elements and Terry and Marv also headed out in the gardens for retrieval efforts.  These two duos are also bringing back in obelisks and other elements that still need their 2015 coat of paint.  Larry and Bill prepared some items for painting by Jenny M. and Dr. Gredler this morning.  Ron Y., Dave, Vern and Bob K. worked on carpentry projects with significant progress (no Jim slowing them up...?).  Dick H. did some repairs and Del stopped in as well.  Gary continued his computer inventories and Maury ran errands for us.  Kay worked on seed processing for five more deliveries and Cindy took over after lunch with organizing and inventorying seeds for our growers.  Janice continued progress on Spring Plant Sale preparations and Art was in to chat about the status of a current project.  We also saw Rollie, Cheryl R. and many others today. 

 'Summer Raspberry'
'Heather Queen'
 'Golden Jubilee' (above and below)

'Black Adder' (my best guess)
'Desert Sunrise'
'Aculpulco Salmon-Pink'
 'Bicolor Salmon Rose'
 'Bronze Foliage'
'Purple Pygmy'
'Tutti Frutti' in the back left at RBG

Friday, February 27, 2015

Vertical Planters

It was another cold day although the blue sky and sunshine made it feel warmer than the -9 degrees F we had this morning (wind chill).  At the time of typing this blog (morning), I haven't seen any volunteers yet.  We had a great week and look forward to a warm up next week although snow seems likely this Sunday. Regardless, we'll roll with it as best we can.  I continued work on the Spring Plant Sale (Mother's Day weekend!).  We'll have more details soon and our vegetable and herb listings should be on our website very soon.  I also am preparing for our Bagged Compost Sale (starts on Saturdays in April from 8 am until 12 noon).  A new twist this year will be the offering of pansies and pansy hanging baskets as part of the compost sale and the plant sale.  I'm finishing seed orders by next week but still have plenty of ordering to finish in March.  I have another presentation tomorrow to a good sized group in Illinois ("Vertical Gardening" and "Ideas to Refresh The Landscape") and the lecture circuit continues to be on the horizon.  I'm a shameless promoter of the gardens to these captive audiences as I continue to talk about RBG history, collections, programs, events and share lots of eye candy photos of the gardens to encourage people to see the fun things we're doing here!  Bill O. just popped in for some indoor work and Jenny stopped by to pick up the start of the thousands of labels she makes every winter for our seasonal plants.
This blog has a collection of some of the many vertical planters I've photographed over the years.  With space limitations, challenging soils or simply the desire to maximize growing space, these vertical options may be of interest.  They all have their merits and challenges and ultimately, the soil preparation, drainage requirements and plant selection (maintenance too of course!) are vital for success in these systems.  Note that some are fairly "stationary" (like the tiered metal planters seen above at the Ball Seed Trial Gardens in West Chicago, IL) while others can be rolled and moved.  Keep in mind soil volume and depth for some of these selections as it's ideal to have 12"-14" of soil minimally for most vegetables.  The selection of compact vegetable varieties or short "vine-length" crops (squash, cucumbers, zucchini, etc.) may be warranted.  Oddly enough, we'll have many of these compact selections at the aforementioned Spring Plant Sale!


 repurposed pallet planters (2 on end at RBG) - above and below

 fabric pocket system (Ball Seed Trial Gardens) - West Chicago, IL
 wall planters at the Chicago Botanic Garden (above and below)

 planter at Vander Veer Botanical Park (Davenport, IA)
 planter at the Rock County Farm
indoor systems with internal watering (above and below)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Seasonals for Fragrance

It was another cold day but we had a great turnout of volunteers at the Horticulture Center.  Larry H. went out in the gardens to bring in more lights and Pat M. continued to process lights for storage.  Larry O. was both inside and outside and Bill O. helped out with myriad projects this morning and afternoon.  Dr. Gredler worked on more painting and Dick H. had some projects after plowing the 1" of fresh snow off of our parking lot.  Dave, Jim, Vern, Bob K. and Ron Y. continued progress on the garden art projects.  Marv continued to clean up our indoor tropicals and Gary worked on some office equipment inventories.  Kay finished processing our most recent seed order although the last couple orders should arrive next week.  We also saw Bev D., Dr. Yahr, Cindy B., Rollie, Polly and many others today.

As we prepare for our "Smelly Garden" theme in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden this year, I'm ordering seeds and plants of many fragrant annual selections.  Above is the "lady of the night" (Brunfelsia gigantea) which has an unbelievably sweet fragrance.  Scent in the garden is such a wonderful addition and is frequently not considered or appreciated for its value!  While there are certainly trees, shrubs and hardy perennials that offer scent (particularly emitted scent!), the blooming (and thereby scent) "window" can be quite narrow. Relying on seasonals and tropical plants with strong summer scent will help with the continuation of olfactory appeal in your landscape.  Included here are just a smattering of the many varieties that can offer some nice smells in your landscape.  Keep in mind that fragrant plants are loosely grouped in to two categories; those that emit a scent in the air and those that need to be touched (tactile engagement) to enjoy the scent (basil, thyme, etc.).  All of these are "emitters" with the exception of the popcorn plant below which should be rubbed to release the scent.  We'll have well over 150 varieties of fragrant perennials and annuals in our Smelly Garden this year!

chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) - true to it's name!
 popcorn cassia (Cassia didymobotrya) - smells like buttered popcorn!
 sweet sultan (Centaurea imperialis 'Imperial Bride White') - sweet!
criss-cross plant (Cladanthus arabicus)
 angel's trumpet (Brugmansia sp.)
 angel's trumpet (Datura meteloides 'Evening Fragrance')
 fragrant carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus 'Grenadin King of Black')
 heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens 'Alba') - vanilla!
heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) - some blue selections are not fragrant so check!
night phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis) - sweet night bloomer