Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beautiful Bidens

You may not know Bidens well as it is not always commonly available despite its value in our hot, summer landscapes.  Also called bur marigold, black-jack, beggar-ticks, cobbler's pegs, tickseed sunflowers and many other common names, this plant (aster family) is a perennial in the warm, frost free environments of SW North America.  For us in the Midwest, Bidens is a long blooming annual that will show color from late June all the way until frost.  Being both heat and drought tolerant, this tough plant despises shade and/or overwatering.  Most varieties are mature at the 12"-15" range.  My first experience with Bidens many years ago was seeing it billowing out of large containers and hanging baskets.  This plant has many varieties with flowers (usually 1"-1.5") in the yellow range of coloration but more recently, deep gold and hints of red have been promoted in some of the newer varieties.  Both above and directly below is the new variety 'Gold Jingle' which really has a shade of warm orange.  Whether you use them in containers (don't overwater) or along a sunny border, you'll get your money's worth with a long period of bloom and very little pampering.  I'm excited to see some of these new varieties and an increased focus on a North American native that has continued potential in our landscapes and a bright future (literally and figuratively!).

Bidens 'Gold Jingle'
 Bidens 'Giant Double'
Bidens 'Campfire Fireburst'
Bidens 'Beedance Painted Red'
Bidens 'Beedance Striped Red'
 Bidens 'Rapid Double Yellow'
 Bidens 'Mexican Gold Compact'
Bidens 'Sunbeam'

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Deluge of Dahlias

As I type this blog on a winter day with plenty of white on the ground and a nice blue sky, I thought some "blog color" would be in order.  With the Holiday Light Show (HLS) in good order (see for information) and the garden put to bed for the winter (aside from our winter pruning), my thoughts turn to ordering for the 2016 season.  As I review my notes and images from 2015 travels, I can't believe the number of dahlia selections that I stumbled upon.  My trial garden visits to Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan had more dahlias then I had ever seen and my experience over in the UK also confirmed the importance of the dahlia in summer and fall planting schemes.  Above is Dahlia 'XXL Veracruz'.

I remember the summer I started at RBG in 1998.  There was a large bed of enormous dahlias with the dinner plate size blooms.  They were gorgeous although they all had something in common which included significant staking and high maintenance.  The trend in dahlias now is more compact height (under 30") with sturdy stems and frequently, dark foliage coloration.  The gamut of dahlias is amazing and if you can ever go to a Dahlia Society flower show anywhere, do it!  I went to a show at the Chicago Botanic Garden years ago and could not believe the variability in color and size of the dahlias on display.  The dahlia aficionados were intense but understandably in love with these excellent blooms.  Regardless, all the varieties here (and I photographed literally hundreds of varieties) were under 30" in height and photographed in peak summer.  

 Dahlia 'Large Temptation Red'
 Dahlia 'Hypnotica Lavender'
 Dahlia 'XXL Taxco'
 Dahlia 'Dalaya Red & White'
 Dahlia 'Dalaya Shiva'
 Dahlia 'Starsister Orange Stripes'
 Dahlia 'Maxi Romero'
 Dahlia 'Starsister Red & White'
 Dahlia 'Mystic Memories'
 Dahlia 'XXL Sunset'
 Dahlia 'Delightful Georgia Peach'
Dahlia 'XXL Durango'

Monday, November 23, 2015

HLS Ready To Rock & Roll

The 2015 Holiday Light Show (HLS) is ready to go.  All of the photos here were taken on Saturday evening at the Taste of Chocolate event which went well both inside and outside.  The set-up was monumental this year with an earlier start due to a route expansion, tens of thousands of new lights and more to see than ever.  This fundraiser is fun for the entire family. More event details can be seen at

Tickets are on sale now and consider the merit of getting your tickets in advance for express entrance  (avoid the long lines)! Tickets are available online at using a credit card or PayPal, in RBG’s Cottage Garden Gallery during regular business hours, at Culver’s of Janesville and Newville, Festival Foods of Janesville and at all Blackhawk Community Credit Union Janesville branches

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pre-Thanksgiving Day Snow

This blog is a bit tardy and actually covers both Friday and Saturday.  We had snow arrive on early Friday evening and 18 hours later...we had 11 inches of snow.  The snow was mushy on the bottom which made snow removal difficult but essential as we needed to prepare for the Taste of Chocolate event on Saturday (which went well).  My feelings on pre-Thanksgiving day snow are reflected in the image above (this face is on the reception garden wall facing the sunken garden).  I'll admit, I wasn't real excited about a day of removing snow both at home and work...however, it was the type of snow you'd like to see on Christmas morning and was beautiful.  On Friday, Bob K. (below), Terry, Big John, Larry and Cindy all worked on primping the Holiday Light Show (HLS).  The grounds staff is finishing for the year although I'll have some winter help from Big John and Larry H.  Volunteers included Dr. Gredler, Maury and Bill O.  The nine photos below were taken on Friday before the snow arrived.

Bob K. working on some outlets in the reception garden
fall color of maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus') - perennial
bright fall color on 'Royal Purple' smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) - woody shrub/tree
late season look of variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus') - perennial
Ironclad viburnum (Viburnum sieboldii 'KLMfour') - shrub
Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) - perennial
winter bronzing on 'PJM' rhododendron (Rhododendron sp.) - shrub
'Solar Eclipse' foamy bells (xHeucherella) - perennial
neat view to some mosses in the Japanese garden

After the snow stopped falling, we had 11" on the ground and about 6" on the warmer pavement and paths.  Maury came in to help shovel (thanks Maury!) and Big John, Bill O. and I ran snowblowers for a couple hours on Saturday to clear paths for the premiere lighting of the HLS as part of the Taste of Chocolate event.  The snow didn't clear real well and dipping temperatures created some slick spots that we needed to deal with before people circulated through the show.  Everything should melt off over the coming week or so though.  Bob T. and Barb C. helped as trail walkers and guests had many positive comments to say about HLS and the Taste of Chocolate.  The snow I just complained about made the HLS look AWESOME!  Below are some additional snowy images from the gardens.

our giant Adirondack chair helps show the amount of recent snow!

snow on Tiger Eyes staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') - woody shrub
 above is this pyramid at 3 pm and 9:30 pm with some nice lighting