Friday, July 25, 2014

Ball Customer Day

I spent the day at the Ball Seed Customer Day in West Chicago, IL.  It was an awesome experience and this was my second time attending this monumental annual event.  I was literally the first car in the lot and was able to get in to the display/trial garden early for some photography before the masses (1,000+) people arrived.  The grounds were immaculate and kudos to The Gardens at Ball Manager, Jim Nau (seen below) and all the Ball employees who were so very cordial throughout the day.  I was able to meet Anna Ball as well who is a delight.  Pictured below with Jim are Marge Stancel (left) and Diane Blazek.  Both work for All-America Selections (AAS) and Marge is the Trial & Survey Coordinator while Diane is the Executive Director.  They also do a dynamite job and we love growing AAS winners at RBG!  It was nice to see these three friends and many others throughout the day.  I only took 1310 photos and saw some really neat things.  The rain held off although there were a few light sprinkles and my umbrella was opened once.

Due to various staff vacations and other factors (including my playing hooky today), only Big John and Cindy were left to hold down the fort at RBG with plenty of volunteer help though.  We didn't get the rain today (yet) so both were involved with watering and other duties on our very busy FREE DAY.  Back to business next week with more preparations for the looming Fall Plant Sale (September 6th and 7th, pre-sale for RBG Friends Members September 5th with 10% off for the duration of the sale, 9 am - 4 pm daily).  Our website will have more details on this neat sale (and vital fundraiser) soon.   Below are just some of the 1310 highlights that I enjoyed today!  

'Cheyenne Spirit' coneflower (Echinacea hybrida) - AAS Winner!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Nice Day For A Garden Tour

We had a tour from Grant County (WI) come in this morning (8:40 am sharp) with 54 Master Gardeners.  Art and I split up the tour and they all seemed to enjoy the gardens.   It was a beautiful morning for a tour and the group was very fun to chat with throughout the morning.  Above are some of the tour attendees enjoying the Thomas Jefferson Collection which is at peak right now and has received an amazing (and much appreciated) amount of attention recently.  After the tour, I had a meeting and missed out on most of our morning action out in the gardens.  However, it was nice to see so many volunteers out in the gardens and our staff also kept busy with watering and other duties throughout the day.  Directly below are three photos from the Jungle Garden which continues to fill in slowly but surely.  The doors and windows continue to intrigue guests and it will be nice to see these collections once they totally fill in over the coming eight weeks.

Much of our volunteer activity today revolved around watering and weeding.  Above is Kathy (hiding by the pear tree) who worked with Eva in the reception garden today.  The ladies continued their monumental weeding efforts in this space and will likely finish tomorrow.  Marilyn, Mary and Sue weeded in the terrace garden and shifted to the formal gardens.  Don and Pearl (directly below) tidied up their border which is looking very nice.  Mary Ann (second photo down) tidied up the Thomas Jefferson Collection and has been a great help in that area along with the efforts of Tom K.  Our gardening Grumpies (Gary B., Bob C. and Ron B.) worked on watering duties and some mulching.  Vern, Jim and Ron Y. continued building our next batch of obelisks (for sale).  Dr. Gredler was in for mowing and Maury worked on cleaning our lady fountain water feature and he also ran errands.  Dave and Jenny (third photo down) did a super job tidying their two assigned garden areas (formal perennial garden and hosta hollow). They do a very thorough job.   Vicki was also at the gardens from late morning thru early afternoon.  She focused on weeding in multiple areas.  I'm sure I missed some of the volunteers but their efforts are appreciated nonetheless.

With some grounds staff on vacation, the week has been light on grounds help but thankfully "heavy" on volunteer support!  Janice, Larry and I were the only grounds staff today.  Larry worked on running irrigation, setting up sprinklers, watering and mowing.  Janice helped direct our morning volunteers, planted, watered and bounced between other projects as well.  Aside from my tour and meeting, I spent more time on upcoming events and preparations for our Fall Plant Sale (Sept. 6th and 7th, 9 am - 4 pm) which should be awesome.  Below are some more photos from today.

'Limelight' four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) - annual
Quickfire panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk') with fountain in the background
'Durango Tangerine' marigold (Tagetes patula) - annual
'EnduraScape Red' verbena (Verbena hybrida) - annual
the formal annual garden is starting to fill in nicely
our red-themed wall planting is looking sharp too

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Color Abounds

After the tough heat yesterday, we had a perfect day of sunshine and a high near 80 degrees F.  The morning was quite comfortable and we had a very productive day.  The gardens were busy with tours and a group of kids (seen above near the koi pond) enjoying the gardens.  While we missed the small chance of rain yesterday, there may be some arriving on Friday.  We are now going in to full watering mode although we haven't dried out yet!  We made more progress today with some planting, lots of weeding, watering and other duties around the gardens.  Below are more photos from this morning.

'Blue Eyed Beauty' African daisy (Osteospermum ecklonis) - annual
'Moonlight' caladium (Caladium sp.) - tropical
squash bloom (two bees are way down inside...)

Above (left to right) are Eva, Barb and Kathy.  These ladies did a dynamite job weeding in the reception garden and were joined by Magda as well.  Shirley was in early and weeded in front of the Parker Education Center.  Below are Cookie (left) and Resa as they headed out to tend the North Point garden (their assigned garden).  That space is looking quite colorful and the ladies made quick work of the weeds.  Kay (next photo down) focused her tidying and weeding efforts along the path leading to the observation pier.  She not only weeded but cut back overgrown perennials and removed some as well. We're taking an aggressive approach in this area which is very warranted.  Shirley C. was in all morning to tend her area and Mary H. and Kathy P. came in this afternoon to tend their assigned garden.  The third photo down shows Myrt (left) and Gena who joined Mary and Nancy (next photo down) for weeding in both the gazebo garden and sunken garden.  They came back with plenty of debris.  Dr. Gredler was in for mowing and Stan did some significant pruning in the Japanese garden this afternoon.  Marv and Marianne stopped by to weed and water the moss island in the fern & moss garden and it looks the best it has all year!  We also saw Vern (carpentry project), Art, Bill O., Arnie D., Nancy N., Christy M. and many others today as well.  Janice was in this afternoon to work with the Chestnut House volunteers on various gardening projects.

We had a small staff today.  Cindy (half day) did some watering and spent the bulk of her time in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden.  She continues to tweak, primp and augment the "Pollinator's Paradise" theme which is comprised primarily of our All-America Selections (AAS) winners.  Big John was a watering whirlwind as he had to run irrigation, set up sprinklers, hand water and check all containers for watering needs.  He had some other projects as well but his priority was watering.  I was able to do some watering, spray more herbicide and have organized some of our last plants for installation later this week and in to next week.  All in all, it was a super day.  More fun photos below!
'Versailles Red' cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) - annual
nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.) - annual (unknown variety)
'Green Jewel' coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) - perennial
white gayfeather (Liatris spicata 'Alba') - perennial
Above is another great quote on this sign in the Thomas Jefferson Collection.  This is one of thirteen signs featuring his most popular gardening quotes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hottest Day Of The Year

Today was not really sunny but was oppressively hot and humid.  I think the heat index was in the 90 degrees F range and everyone was dripping by the end of the day.  That heat should help the tropical plants and annuals.  Oddly enough, this hot spell will be quite brief with a return to the upper 70 degrees F tomorrow.  Above is the 'Blue Angel' gentian sage (Salvia patens) looking great for our visitors (including the hummingbirds!) in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden which is featuring our "Pollinator's Paradise" theme.  That garden is looking spectacular and we're heading in to a great time to see peak summer color at the gardens in general!  Despite the heat, we had a very productive day which included lots of watering.  Our 20% chance of rain didn't materialize but Friday looks promising.  We saw lots of visitors today and were happy to have a great volunteer turnout as well.  Below are some additional photos from today.

'Summer Beauty' ornamental onion (Allium sp.) - perennial
'Golden Dreams' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) - annual
'Arnold's Daughter' daylily (Hemerocallis) - perennial

Volunteers took advantage of the cooler morning.  Ron K. (directly above) continues to tweak the woodland walk garden which looks great.  Here he's tidying up hostas and wont run out of weeds any time soon (job security).  Urban came in to prune some trees in Ron's area as well.  Directly below is Kay working near the gazebo garden.  She put the finishing touches on weeding a large berm that looks awesome now.  The next photo down shows Eva working near the shade garden.  She and Kathy (next photo down with Big John) did a superb job weeding an area that really was an eye sore.  The ladies did an excellent job as usual. Vicki came in to help Cindy weed in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden.  Maury ran some errands for us and both Dr. Gredler and Bill O. focused on their mowing duties.  We also saw Ron W., Chuck S., Bruce R., Joel R., Chris, Tom, Kris K., Ray Y., Deb G. and many others today. 

The grounds staff contributed quite a bit of "sweat equity" today.  Big John (above) worked on setting up sprinklers, air edging and a wide range of other projects (when he wasn't leaning on a shovel).  Cindy watered, fertilized and focused her attention on the children's garden as well.  She's done a nice job maximizing the look of the "Pollinator's Paradise" theme that has a strong All-America Selections (AAS) component.  This display is also entered in their Landscape Design Competition for the third year in a row.  We were proud to have our last two displays (very unique) win first place and feel we have a "solid" entry this year as well!  Larry watered, ran irrigation, weed whipped, fixed irrigation sprinklers and had other tasks as well.  Janice weeded, planted, watered and fertilized today.  Everyone kept busy and showed their toughness out in this sticky weather.  I was able to spray more herbicide this morning in some nightmare areas and am preparing for our Fall Plant Sale (September 6th and 7th, pre-sale for RBG Members on Sept. 5th, 9 am - 4 pm daily).  We are in need of many volunteers for this event so contact Mark ASAP!  This sale will again feature hundreds of perennial varieties (for sun and shade), mums, bulbs, shrubs, compost, pansies, kale, etc.  Below are more photos from this morning.

'Illumination Flame' foxglove hybrid (xDigiplexis)
giant elecampane (Inula magnifica) - perennial
'Sparkler Rose' spider flower (Cleome hybrida) looking great near our 'Biota' sculpture (O.V. Shaffer).  These plantings are lovingly tended by Hal and Doris and they seem to bump their heads on the sculpture quite often (no the sculpture)
the prairie is looking sharp and adequate rains have made it quite lush
Jordan's elevated planter is filling in nicely!
'Pied Piper Red' cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) - annual