Friday, March 27, 2015

Windflowers (Anemone blanda)

While it was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine, the air was still crisp with temperatures only reaching the lower 30 degrees F mark. That didn't dissuade Ron R., Urban, Pat M. and Alan M. from coming in to help out.  Ron continued cutting down ornamental grasses out in the gardens while Urban returned to more pruning duties.  Pat had some inside tasks and Alan worked on some painting. Alan also helped me and a delivery guy unload and push around 15,000 lbs of potting soil on pallets.  That was a work out.  Kay was in to peel more Spring Plant Sale labels (I think she's working on our excellent selection of tomatoes...check out our website for plant lists!).  Janice and Patrea worked on some projects and we also saw Cindy, Dick H. and many others.

Windflowers, also called Balkan anemone and Grecian windflower, are one of my favorite fall planted bulbs (actually corms) that herald the arrival of spring.  Native to Southeastern Europe, they are certainly hardy for us and will spread and colonize in an agreeable fashion.  Ours will be blooming in the next 3-4 weeks with a color range of blue, white and pink.  Oddly enough, we don't have any pink ones but we have some large patches of both the blue and white forms that have naturalized over the years.  The bulbs (planted in October and November) are quite small and can be planted 2"-3" deep.  Some folks will soak the bulbs overnight before planting but we never have bothered and plant them directly.  Blooming plants in late April and early May (in our area) are under 6" tall with lacy foliage but have large flowers up to 3" in diameter.  Windflowers are excellent candidates to be installed under a deciduous canopy.  These bulbs are getting ample light when they bloom which is before that overhead canopy fills in to create shade.  The anemones go dormant as the shade increases and they enjoy a dry summer dormancy.  They are inexpensive and can be mass planted in drifts, combined with other bulbs with a similar bloom time and are attractive to early pollinators as well.  Enjoy the images as it's impossible to take a bad photo of these photogenic spring bloomers!

Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades' combined with early tulips (Tulipa) and broad-leaved grape hyacinths (Muscari latifolium) at Keukenhof (Netherlands)
Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades' with tulips (Tulipa) in three containers at the Floriade (Netherlands)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Olbrich Awakens Too

All the photos in this blog were taken at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) last evening before a presentation that I gave on the importance of foliage in the shade garden.  Their garden is coming to life and I'm glad I was able to catch some low sun angles on plants like the 'Arnold Promise' hybrid witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) seen above.  The presentation went well and enjoy these images of one of my favorite gardens that I highly recommend to everyone.

It was a very busy day at the Horticulture Center and out in the gardens.  Marv and Terry took down some significant remnants from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) this morning among other tasks.  Larry H., Alan, Ron R., Bob C., Urban and Rich (new Grumpy) were all outside working on various tasks such as cutting back grasses, raking, pruning and also bringing in HLS stuff.  Dave, Bob K., Ron Y. and Jim worked on the production of more cedar obelisks that will be sold at our Cottage Garden Gallery and certainly at our Spring Plant Sale on Mother's Day weekend.  Pat worked on converting some signs for the Tree Sale which will be managed by the Golden Kiwanis Club but will be held at the Horticulture Center on April 24th and 25th.  Maury ran some errands for us and both Gary B. and Dr. Gredler did some significant painting today.  Dick H. ran to the dump multiple times and worked on one of our trucks.  Bill O. was in later to help out Larry and we also saw Dr. Yahr, Rollie, Dave S., Chuck S. and many others today.

 'Harmony' reticulated iris (Iris reticulata)
 snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) in the meadow garden
 crocus (Crocus sp.) emerging in the meadow garden
 vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis 'Christmas Cheer') - fragrant!
bark of the China Snow Peking lilac (Syringa pekinensis 'Morton')
bark of the 'White Tigress' striped maple (Acer hybrida)
 bark of the three-flower maple (Acer triflorum)
golden Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana 'Wate's Golden')
the gravel garden still looks awesome!
 uber cool willow and dogwood vining tower in the herb garden
 colorful dogwood (Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Beauty') stems
above and all the shots below show the colorful remnants of their winter containers - still looking great

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hiatus on Spring

It was another chilly day with suspended disbelief that Spring is actually here.  The birds are still chirping but the snow is still here for now!  Above are some of our repurposed containers providing some bright coloration on this grey day.  Below are three Shepherds College (Union Grove, WI) students last week enjoying these containers on a sunny day.  The students visited last week and supplied pansies and petunias for the Spring Symposium and many were given to volunteers last night at our very successful Volunteer Soup Night.  We had 80 people attend including a dozen or so new volunteers.   It was a fun gathering and a did a presentation talking about volunteer opportunities, 2015 plans and I also promoted visitation to Anderson Japanese Gardens (Rockford, IL), the Ball Seed Trial Gardens (West Chicago, IL), the Paine Art Center and Gardens (Oshkosh, WI) and the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

We had some action both out in the gardens and at the Horticulture Center today.  Urban was out pruning for a couple of hours and Pat M. worked on some projects at the Horticulture Center and out in the gardens.  Gena and Myrt (see photo at the bottom) did a nice job painting various objects with their 2015 colors and Pat R. and Kay (photo also at the bottom) continued with progress with assembling handouts, cutting up fliers and more processing of our Spring Plant Sale tags.  That sale isn't far away and will again have a wide range of perennials, shrubs, herbs and vegetables.  This is an important fundraiser for the gardens so spread the word (and/or disperse some posters!).  Bill O. came in to work on some projects in the afternoon and we also saw Kris K., Rollie and Dr. Yahr today.

 The bagged compost is here and ready to be sold starting Saturday, April 4th (8 am until 12 noon) at the Horticulture Center.  Delivery by Leo (Midwest Trading) and unloading by our Larry wasn't much fun on that snowy day but everything went well.
 we'll again have excellent air circulation in the sunken garden courtesy of the symmetrical nibbling by our area deer population
 Vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis) is opening up nicely
 our Lenten rose (Helleborus niger) is ignoring the snow right now
 our snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are currently snowbound

 winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) will open back up with some sunshine
 Myrt (foreground) and Gena (hiding)
Kay (left) and Pat R.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Smaller Scale Aesculus

The snow continues to melt today and hopefully will be gone by the end of the week with warming temperatures and possible scattered rain throughout the week.  Not much happened out in the gardens today but we had a good crew at the Horticulture Center.  Nancy N., Kay and Pat C. were the "terrific trio" (their words, not mine) and did great job continuing with processing our vegetable labels for the Spring Plant Sale which is only six weeks away!  Check out our website for more information on this annual fundraiser including some plant lists.  We'll also have a wide range of perennials for both sun and shade, shrubs, compost and other offerings!  Bill O. and Larry worked on some indoor and outdoor projects and Maury ran some errands for us despite needing to be in bed recovering from a bad cold!  Alan M. was in after lunch for some painting duties.  Both Dr. Gredler and Cheryl R. stopped by as well.

This blog is dedicated to two selections of Aesculus which encompasses the horse chestnuts and buckeyes.  We have some nice ones (various species) at the gardens and I've seen some spectacular specimens up at Longenecker Gardens at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum (Madison, WI).  The first set of photos promotes the smaller statured red buckeye (Aesculus pavia).  This North American native has a strong spring showing of red bloom clusters with many tubular flowers which are quite attractive to hummingbirds.  The palmately compound, shiny, dark green leaves are nice but may look a bit rough by late summer. The seeds are poisonous and mature height on this small tree is under 20' tall.  Position this species for maximum spring enjoyment as we have with our two specimens at the gardens.

 blooms just opening up (above)

 specimen at the Chicago Botanic Garden

 specimen at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is a dense, mounded, suckering mass of color when the blooms arrive on these erect panicles with many tubular white flowers (seen directly above and all the photos below).  The panicles can be 12"-15" and are quite upright on a plant that can tolerate part shade and shade equally well.  Mature height is around 12'-15' and keep in mind the spreading nature of this species and dedicate the appropriate amount of space.  Fall color can be a decent yellow but the impact of these flowers in June and July is worth the space on this tough selection.  We have three patches of bottlebrush buckeye at the gardens which look great although we'll have a day when we decide to not let them take up more space!  Great for pollinators too by the way!