Thursday, August 21, 2014

Finally - A Rainy Day

It was nice to finally have a rainy day.  We had a pretty full day of drizzle interspersed with some heavier rains.  For the most part, it was a good soaker.  We'll have to tidy up the gardens tomorrow a bit as I'm sure we have branches down and some path washouts.  Regardless, this moisture is most welcome and will free us up to do more traditional gardening while avoiding having to stretch out too many hoses.  The photo above and two below are meant to inspire you to sign up for our Summer Bus Tour on September 13th.  The two photos below are from the Green Bay Botanical Garden which is simply beautiful (including the "Hobbit-style" bathrooms!)  The Paine Art Center & Gardens is also very nice with the house featuring an art gallery with works from Henri Matisse.  This exciting trip is priced affordably at $69 and the registration deadline is September 4th.  Visit for more information on this fun road trip (I'll be going!). 
We were inside most of the day and the guys found plenty to do this morning.  We had a smaller showing of both Grumpies and Grumpettes which is to be expected with this weather but the productivity was still amazing as always.  Above is Del peeling labels and below are (left to right), Vern, Bob K., Dave and Jim.  These carpenters were working on some new chairs for placement out in the gardens.  The second photo down shows Dick H. working on some equipment repairs.  He bounced between a couple different vehicles and his handiness is much appreciated (and equates to some serious cost savings!).  Gary B. went out to do some mulching this morning and Bonnie and Suzie were out weeding near the Potter Daylily Collection.  Dr. Gredler was in for mowing later in the day and Maury popped by with some supplies.  We also saw Dr. Yahr, Pat M. and many others today.

The grounds staff had some outdoor work between raindrops but primarily caught up with indoor tasks like cleaning up carts, a fuel run, sharpening tools, etc.  Big John and Larry had a wide range of indoor tasks.  Janice spent much of the day getting our labels, signs and other supplies together for the looming Fall Plant Sale (see for more information).  I had multiple meetings and haven't run out of deskwork yet.  I didn't take any images in the gardens today but below are some from yesterday! 

'Morden Blush' rose (Rosa) - woody 
prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya) - perennial (note monarchs!)
'Cherokee Sunset' gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) - annual
'Thailand Giant' elephant ear (Colocasia gigantea) with 'Blazin' Rose' bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida) - tropical in our copper cheese vat
'Kent's Beauty' trailing oregano (Origanum rotundifolium) - tender perennial
rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) with some nice morning light - perennial
formal annual sections
'Black Coral' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) - Royal Hawaiian Series with 'Golden Dreams' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) - tropicals

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Loss of a Team Member

We were sad to hear that Rita had passed away yesterday after some health challenges that she has been fighting fiercely in recent months.  I knew Rita originally as the quiet volunteer with a beautiful smile that would come to every work day and help at our plant sales.  I think I met her over seven years ago.  I never realized she had a PhD in accounting and was a professor as well!  Her value to the garden was immeasurable not only as a volunteer but ultimately as our accounting person and bookkeeper.  She sure had a way with numbers and her smile and positive attitude on life will be missed.  She was a wonderful person with a huge fan club at Rotary Botanical Gardens and beyond.  Our collective condolences go out to her family.
Rita J. Czaja

May 24, 1952 – August 19, 2014

Rita Czaja, age 62, of Janesville, passed away Aug. 19, 2014, at home. She was born May 24, 1952, in Chicago, IL, the daughter of John and the late Loretta Czaja. Rita graduated from West Leyden High School in Northlake, IL. She graduated magna cum laude from Bowling Green State University, OH, with a BS in accounting and information systems. Rita was a CPA, working at Deloitte & Touche and Montgomery Ward in Chicago. After obtaining a Ph.D. in accounting from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, Rita taught at Michigan State University, Lansing, MI; Northern Kentucky University, outside of Cincinnati, OH; and the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, WI. She was a long-time member of the American Society of Women Accountants and a past president of the Chicago chapter (1982-1984). After retiring, Rita volunteered at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI, which blossomed into a job she loved. She enjoyed travel, photography, flowers, gardening, decorating her home, making jewelry, and baking bread. Rita cared deeply about her relationships as well as her work and other projects and worked ceaselessly to do her best to excel at them.

Rita is survived by her father, John Czaja; twin sister, Sally (Bob) Schoenfeld of Whitehouse Station, NJ; a brother, Stephen (Edi) Czaja of Broadview, IL; and beloved friend, Marlene Denson of Janesville, WI.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Rotary Botanical Gardens would be appreciated. At her request, funeral arrangements will be private.

Special thanks to family and friends for their prayers and compassion, and to Home Instead and Heartland Hospice for their care in Rita’s final weeks.
We had a great day at the gardens.  Most of the grounds staff later attended an off-site retreat in the afternoon but the gardens were quite busy with staff, volunteers and lots of visitors.  I gave a tour to the staff from Beautiful Blooms Landscape & Design (Wauwatosa, WI) who visited the gardens for the first time.  What a great group and it was nice to meet the owner, Loriena in person and "talk shop." I did some other odds and ends as well.  Terry, John, Cheryl, Cindy and Pat all had a wide range of duties out in the gardens today with Terry staying to hold down the fort in the afternoon.  Below are some recent shots of the gardens.
'Blazin' Rose' bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida) - annual
'Golden Dreams' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) with silver spurflower (Plectranthus argentatus) - both annuals
'Thailand Giant' elephant ear (Colocasia gigantea) looking good - tropical
some of our New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hybrida) that we're trialing
cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) - annual
the Jungle Garden today

We had great volunteer help today.  Above are Kathy (left) and Eva speeding by to go weed in multiple areas.  Kay (below) was joined by Patrea and they also bounced between areas for weeding.  Dr. Gredler was in for some mowing and Maury ran some errands for us as well.  The third photo down shows (from left to right), my ugly mug, Myrt, Nancy and Mary.  Gena was off camera but all three ladies weeded in the Japanese garden and Jungle Garden.  Marv and Marianne worked their magic on the moss islands and portions of the fern & moss garden.  They do a great job.  Shawn W. was in to clean up the water features and Janice worked with our superb volunteers from the Chestnut House.  We also saw Dick H., Dr. Yahr, Nancy N. and many others today.  Further below are more photos from today.

'Purple Prince' zinnia (Zinnia elegans) - annual
'Prestige Scarlet' cockscomb (Celosia cristata) - annual
'Blazin' Lime' bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida) - annual
a view from the North point garden this morning

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pollinator's Paradise = Success!

The first six photos in this blog were taken by Ken Tapp in the "Pollinator's Paradise" theme in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden.  He has spent many patient hours in that garden and captured a wide range of exciting activity in this garden space.  Thanks to Ken and all the other photographers (Marsha, Santos, Tina, etc.) for sharing their images from the gardens.  Despite a cooler summer, that garden has filled in well and has a wide range of pollinators on a daily basis.  I would consider these photos some evidence of the success of this garden space but we also hope these might inspire others to include more pollinator-friendly plantings in their gardens.  We had a great day after .2" of rain overnight (could have used more) and our staff and volunteers did a superb job as usual.

It was nice to at least get some rain which did save us some watering time today.  Our volunteers came in to help out and as usual, there was no shortage of tasks.  Above are Mary and Roy who bounced around different areas to focus on weeding.  They also targeted the Japanese garden which benefitted from their very "thorough attention."  Below is Vicky who did a great job weeding on the east end of the gardens, in and around the gazebo garden.  Kathy was in for weeding in the entrance garden and Dick H. came in to repair some vehicles.  Dr. Gredler stopped by briefly as did Dr. Yahr.  Kelley F. came in with Tom and his girlfriend to talk about volunteerism.  The second photo down shows Urban working on the removal of two junipers that have just become too overgrown in their current location by the east gate.  We also had some later meetings (Board Meeting and Home Garden Tour Committee) and several pop-ins as well. 

The grounds staff had a busy day outside and despite the rain, we still had some watering to accomplish as we know it will be hot and sunny later in the week.  Pat (half day) worked on smoothing out a recently mulched area, weeding and push mowing.  Big John mulched, watered, ran irrigation, touched up edging and push mowed as well.  John also stirred up a ground hornets nest while mowing and took a couple stings for the team.  Glad he's alright for sure!  Cindy spent time tidying up multiple areas as she worked towards the "Pollinator's Paradise" garden for more primping.  Cheryl worked in multiple area with a focus on general weeding and tidying.  She also dis some watering later in the day.  Janice helped water, did the cutting display, weeded, fertilized and accomplished general gardening in multiple locations.  I'm finalizing plant sale orders and had preparations for meetings later in the day.  Below are more photos from the garden this morning.

bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) - perennial
turtlehead (Chelone obliqua) - perennial
'Puckered Up' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) - tropical
speckled flowering maple (Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii') - annual
pink mouse cuphea (Cuphea cyanea) - annual
the Jungle Garden continues to fill in nicely

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Colorful Monday

We have a chance of rain every day this week and I hope the odds will ever be in our favor!  We could sure use a good, slow, 2" soaking to wet everything down.  Irrigation, sprinklers and hand watering can keep things alive but Mother Nature is our best source and I hope to be blogging this week about our soaking rains!  Above is the North point garden looking beautiful today.  I am buried in desk work but was able to tour the gardens and am always amazed at how colorful it is out there, particularly this late in the season.  We had another great Monday of volunteerism and the grounds staff kept busy between all their collective watering duties.  Below are some other garden area shots from this morning.  Below is our All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden which features our "Pollinator's Paradise" theme in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden.  This garden is entered in the AAS Landscape Display Competition which we plan on winning for the third year in a row!  We're simply happy to participate but a 1st place showing would help bring more people to RBG and Janesville, WI for sure!

the sunken garden
the terrace garden
the fern & moss garden (Russo Fountain in the distance)

Despite the expression on Gary's face above (the driver), the volunteers had an enjoyable and productive experience today.  Gary and Bob above worked on mulching with Lloyd and Ron R. in the main parking lot area (seen directly below).  The guys spread a lot of mulch and ended up going through our entire pile.  The second photo down shows Bob K. working on sign installation.  Bob is a retired electrician and very handy as evidenced by all the other tasks he did for us today.  Eva was our sole Grumpette and she weeded in front of the main building and will finish tomorrow.  The third photo down shows Ron B. watering in the Thomas Jefferson Collection and Gary S. can be seen in the fourth photo collecting early cottonwood (Populus deltoides) leaves that are drifting down already.  Kevin also collected debris and Maury ran errands and worked on other tasks as well.  Jim, Dave and Vern all worked on carpentry projects and Dr. Gredler was in for mowing duties.  Jenny E. came in later this morning to tidy up the hosta hollow garden which looks great.  We also saw Chuck S. (had a cart tour) and many others today.


The grounds staff kept busy with general gardening and plenty of watering.  Above is Cindy in the "Pollinator's Paradise" theme that she has tended lovingly and faithfully since it was planted in early June.  Cindy also had watering duties and tidying in another area.  Big John set up sprinklers to soak the Jungle Garden and other areas.  He also potted plants and is helping create space for our looming Fall Plant Sale (see for details).  Terry (below) also set up sprinklers, sheared, edged and worked with John on plant sale preparations.  Larry had irrigation going all day, set up sprinklers, repaired irrigation and push mowed.  Pat (half day) edged, weeded and fertilized some larger areas.  I continue to avoid fresh air and am keeping up with desk work and plant sale preparations.  Further below are some other plant photos from today.

'Tie Dye' Helen's flower (Helenium autumnale) - perennial
eyeball plant or toothache plant (Spilanthes oleracea) - annual
'Red Cauli' stonecrop (Sedum telephium) - perennial
'Fat Spike' amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) - annual
'Serenade Mix' Chinese aster (Callistephus chinensis) - annual