Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tulip Time (A Bit Early)

Tulips are blooming well in the gardens right now albeit a bit early. This species tulip (Tulipa tarda) is one of my favorites with its white-tipped, bright yellow petals. It's not very tall but is heavy on impact. If you plant it in an area that doesn't get a lot of supplemental water in the summer, it will last for many years. Tulips in general will persist longer in those well-drained soils that don't get overly wet during the summer. The image below is a better shot of the 'Orange Queen' tulips out front. They opened up significantly today and revealed a lot more glowing orange. We've had lots of comments on these thus far although we're still asked about our Tulip Time display (2000 and 2001) that featured over 25,000 tulips representing 500 varieties and species. It was spectactular but was removed after two years when it lost vigor and appeal. I wish we had the money to replicate it again....

We're continuing to dig up perennials around the gardens for our perennial division day this Saturday. I'm flagging perennials around the gardens that are in need of division or will be removed entirely from the collections (because we usually have plenty of that type). I'm very pleased with our spring progress and at the risk of jinxing it, I'd say that we're way ahead of where we've been in past years. Crunch time is coming and we have lots of plants rolling in daily (see below). The yard will start to fill up and before too long, we'll have 100,000 plants to poke in the ground, label and maintain. It's all good though. It's a lot of fun too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An "Octobery" April Day

The orange tulip in front of the building is 'Orange Queen'. We're getting lots of comments on the vividness of these tulips. We planted 1000 of these last fall in groups of 20. We plant them 6" deep in a tight clump to simulate a "bouquet" effect in the garden. These look dynamite and are a nice transition to all the orange we'll have for summer color in the exact same location. Once these lose color, we dig them up for volunteers with the instructions to plant them immediately and let the foliage continue to die back. We have no shortage of volunteers interested in adopting these colorful bulbs.

The weather was frigid this morning but warmed up enough to be quite comfortable while working out in the gardens. We didn't get close to frost temperatures and hopefully wont in the near future. The cooler temperatures should help lengthen and "preserve" tulips and other bulbs blooming right now.

I walked the entirety of the gardens which I always enjoy. Of course it's tough to put "blinders" on as I see weeds and other distractions. I take a notepad now to write down some "action items" as my memory is not what it used to be. I'm always ready with back up projects for volunteers and wont run shy of things to do until December at this point. I took many pictures today and caught this neat grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum 'Mt. Hood') with its little "snow-capped" tops. Years ago we planted 50 taxa of Muscari and there are some neat ones out there. Weed control efforts are in full swing as we're seeing lots of little devils popping up everywhere. Time spent now with proactive weeding saves a lot of time later in the season. We're only limited by the number of hands helping out there right now!

Don't ever forget to enjoy the beauty of emerging foliage on deciduous plants. Many times the new foliage has a neat color and/or texture. This image below is of the golden cutleaf elderberry (Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold' with pinkish new growth that will age to bright gold and shoot up to 6-7 feet tall in one season. Note how far it was cut back in winter (down to 15"). Love this new growth (and this shrub in general).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chilly But Constructive Today

I scraped some ice off my windshield this morning but really can't complain as the day ended up being nice enough to accomplish a lot of work at the garden. The founder of Rotary Gardens, Dr. Robert Yahr, is back from Arizona and we had a nice walk thru the gardens and looked at some areas that we hope to improve in the future; including the future garden for his late wife Nancy. He is a true visionary and really has an eye for design. It would not be an exageration to say that Rotary Gardens would not be what it is today without Dr. Yahr's persistence, ideas and tenacity. The grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) look great today and the cool temperatures will help preserve the blooms. It's going to get a bit frosty but that's no surprise. The curveball for us will be bringing plants in and out every day. They need sunlight and fresh air but can't take the chilly nights at this point. It is a true juggling act that could be avoided if we had a greenhouse. However, a greenhouse would bring some of it's own challenges as well as some added expenses.

One of my favorite tulips is pictured here ('Prinses Irene') and is blooming in front of our visitor's center. Every fall we plant 2000 new tulips in that garden. The other variety is an orange one ('Orange Impression'?) that I'll show in the near future. When all of these tulips are done blooming, we dig them out and give them to volunteers to plant at home. This display usually corresponds to our color scheme that year (lots of orange this year, and blue!). Tulips are certainly a classic and I wish we had more $ to put them in every fall. Our talented "carpentry Grumpies" built this bench to surround one of our hackberry trees (Celtis occidentalis) in the gazebo garden. I envision this bench being used quite often. Special thanks to the talented Dave, Jim, Bob and Vern.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Enjoy It While It Lasts!

A nice day despite cooler temperatures. Spring will again show this week that the influence of winter is still here despite the recently nice weather. Highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s. Ugh! This image shows the 3' of green on our 8' arborvitaes. The original intent of this hedge was enclosure and definition of the sunken garden. Bambi(s) really nibbled away up to 5' or so as the snow levels extended their reach. Not much we can do about it except hope that these arborvitae will regenerate and fill out again (while also relying on more protection on our part; repellants, fences, etc.). However, it's tough not to get discouraged when you see this damage daily.

The bleeding hearts (Dicentra sp.) have emerged very quickly. Cool temps will slow them down this week but look for them to bloom by the first week in May. We enjoy this perennial immensely and love the white variety 'Alba' as much as any. Your decision as the foliage yellows in July is whether or not to cut it down as it goes dormant. We cut some do
wn to make room for neighboring perennials that are filling out but will leave some with their dormant golden/yellow foliage for interest. Try the variety 'Goldheart' for a beautiful golden leaved variety that looks good thru the entire growing season and has a nice, deep yellow coloration.

We have more bagged compost coming tomorrow, plants from Nebraska (Bluebird Nursery) on Tuesday that will have to be protected inside and a big perennial division work day this Saturday. A busy week interspersed with less than desirable weather. This is WI of course so we'll cope! Summer teaser below.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Sassy Saturday

The weather today was windy and cold to say the least! I didn't work today but I'm sure Larry, Janice, Jerry and the volunteers all had a productive day. I spent the day in Richland Center which is about 2 hours northwest of Janesville. I was helping some friends lay out some windbreaks and other trees on their rural property. The topography in that part of Wisconsin is spectacular with rolling hills and limestone outcroppings. Their land sloped down to a woodland hugging a stream. I took this picture of Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) that was among many wildflowers. I was happy to see the lack of garlic mustard and European buckthorn (at least not yet) in their woods. They have some other issues to deal with but overall, have a beautiful property. Interestingly enought, the seeds of Dutchman's breeches are spread by ants that will take the seed (assuming it food) to their "nests", where they later germinate. This plant was used by Native Americans to treat syphilis as well. I always wondered how the herbal uses of plants are determined? Trial and error could be (and probably was) fatal in some instances I'm sure.

A neat plant that I photographed yesterday is this fumewort (Corydalis solida). In the poppy family and under 10" tall, this plant is planted as a tuber in the fall. They like well-drained soil in part sun and obviously bloom early. The foliage is very similar to the Dutchman's breeches seen above. The dainty purple/violet flower is beautiful above the lacy foliage. This is another example of reaping the rewards of fall work. Not sure how long this will live as it can be fussy but we'll enjoy it while we can. Summer teaser below of our All-American Selection garden last summer.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Do We Really Need More April Showers!?

With such gloomy weather today (thundershowers), I thought I'd show a nice colorful combination from last year. While it looks like a variegated rose bush, this is the combination of the shrub rose 'Pink Mass' with a new, variegated forsythia called 'Kumson' (Forsythia viridissima koreana 'Kumson'). The rose is one of my favorites and I love the silver veination of this forsythia even though the blooms aren't very profuse. This shrub can be cut back severely even twice per year as it tends to splay out and take up a lot of square footage. Imagine a branch of this in a fresh arrangement though.

Our rose garden has a wonderful collection of shrub roses from Bailey Nursery (MN). Installed last year, over 100 roses represent 28 varieties in their Easy Elegance series. We are one of very few trial and display sites for their roses. The deal is that we pretty much leave them alone and take observations and notes during the year. This data is then sent back to Bailey. The benefit for us is the ability to show some truly, low-maintenance roses for the home landscape. We used to have lots of hybrid teas, grandifloras, etc. but I don't miss having to put on the white suit, block off the garden and poison the environment with my Solo MistBlower shooting out various chemicals to maintain the appearance and health of roses that most homeowners would not be interested in maintaining anyway. I probably lost a couple years of my life being in close proximity to so many chemicals.

Not much to report about today. We're getting our containers ready outside and continue to dig perennials for division. We find it easier to remove the entire perennial, dice it up, pot the divisions and later return a portion of the plant (if warranted) to the original site. It's amazing how many divisions we've made already. We brought some plants, soil and pots inside for the Saturday volunteers to work inside on division. We certainly don't want any idle time at Rotary Gardens! Summer teaser below.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back to April Weather

Hepatica acutiloba up above. It's a great woodland ephemeral. The temperatures were still on the warm side for this time of year but the winds and overcast skies allude to both more rain and falling temperatures thru next week. I took this picture of hyacinths ('Kronos') in front of our visitor's center. We did a collection of hyacinths years ago and displayed over 80 varieties. My favorite variety is this deep, blue-violet 'Kronos' which has a nice scent as well. Hyacinths, planted in October as bulbs, should be in areas where they don't get a lot of water/irrigation during their dormant time. They will last longer in those soils and come back for many years. They sure do pack a lot of "flower power" though for such a short plant.

The crew from Wisconsin Public Television came to shoot a segment of The Wisconsin Gardener. Shelley Ryan, the host came with Kerman, Frank and Greg. They are a fun group and despite some retakes due to wind, visitors and other distractions, we ended up with two pretty good segments on horsetails (Equisetum) and hellebores (Helleborus). These four work well together and have a great sense of humor. Shelley does such a wonderful job "on the fly" and we certainly had fun today (and beat the rain that started in the afternoon).

Boxes are arriving daily with plants for the gardens. The UPS and FedEX guys visit often this time of year. It's just like Christmas when we open these boxes and see what "goodies" have arrived. Of course, the "goodies" are immediately in need of repotting, labeling and basic TLC. It's always a juggling act to deal with plants that are shipped from warmer climates. Many times these plants are weeks ahead of where they would be in our climate. We don't like leaving this tender growth outside over night, so we'll move plants in and out during the day and pamper them until it gets past mid-May and they can be planted in the garden. Many plants will be coming in next week as well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

The past couple of days have been unseasonably warm which is not unusual for April. I had a call today asking if it was ok to plant coleus (tropical) outside now. It would be alright if we were in mid-May but as the forecast is already showing, the threat of frost is still quite real. It's a shame to see some early blooming bulbs and other plants finish flowering quickly because of the heat. However, you can't help but enjoy another harbinger of the season; the forsythia ('Happy Centennial' is the variety shown here). There are some neat golden or variegated foliage forsythia out there that offer extended interest beyond the 10 days of typical blooms. We accomplished a lot today and I was able to spend an hour exploring the entire garden with my camera and notepad. Tomorrow we have Shelley Ryan coming from Wisconsin Public Television to film a segment for her show, The Wisconsin Gardener. We'll look at Hellebores and horsetail (Equisetum). Hopefully the predicted rainfall will hold off until later and we can get some good footage. Shelley has been a huge advocate and proponent of Rotary Gardens. This segment will be the 10th segment shot at Rotary Gardens in the past 12 years.

We're continuing to divide perennials as time allows but are now shifting to more lawn care duties and weeding. Many weeds have germinated and will have to be dealt with ASAP. Time spent in April and May weeding will save lots of time in mid summer if you can tackle that first wave of weeds. Some other unique bulbs are blooming like the white checkered fritillary seen here (Fritillaria meleagris). This is a long-lived bulb and while the "checkering" is hard to see on this white variety, the dark pink blooms have a conspicuous maroon checkerboard pattern as well. Plant these bulbs in well-drained locations in October. No summer teaser today but a glimpse of the peak bloom of the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) that will be hit with light frost soon and the flowers will be done. Enjoy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Unseasonably Warm Today; Implications?

More tulips sprung open today with the onslaught of late May temperatures. It was almost 80 degrees today which I'm sure put everyone in a good mood (although the plants were confused). You can literally see the day to day changes as plants stretch out of the ground and the buds on trees swell and begin to open. It's not unusual to have an April hot spell. However, the danger is in being duped in to thinking that winter's touch (frost) is no longer a danger. We'll have more frost and the early emergence of tender plant growth may be susceptible to damage in coming weeks. However, why not enjoy the sunshine!? Unfortunately, many of the early bulbs will finish sooner than normal with more unseasonably warm days on the way. It sure is good working weather though!

This image is from Saturday and shows some of the wonderful youth of Janesville helping us pot up perennials for our May plant sale. I was very impressed with these kids. We have worked with many teens that need to fulfill community service hours and they can be difficult to motivate when we are part of their "forced servitude." However, enthusiastic groups like our Saint Matthews helpers were motivated and hard working. Our larger workdays can be a challenge to prepare for and orchestrate, but with the help of other staff and volunteers, we manage to pull it off successfully. We never want a volunteer to feel that we're not prepared to maximize their valuable contribution of time!
The image below is one of my favorite spring bulbs. This windflower (Anemone blanda) is planted as a small bulb in October. While short in stature, this plant has lacy foliage and very large, daisy-like blooms. It is probably one of the more asked-about bulbs out in the spring garden. The blooms emerge in late April and last a week or two depending on the temperatures. The foliage goes dormant and disappears by mid-June. Buy these bulbs by the dozen and look for the pretty blue variety too!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Well, It WAS a Daily Blog...

I had a good run for awhile there. Saturday was crazy at the gardens with a wonderfully productive (albeit chaotic) work day. Daffodils are going crazy (Note Narcissus 'Pistachio' to the right). We had 25 teenagers from St. Matthews youth group come and help pot up perennial divisions from the garden. The forecast was for rain all day so we set up everything inside our Horticulture Center. The weather was nice and I had another 20 adult volunteers in need of a job out in the gardens. The kids were very productive and once we hit our groove, we had volunteers digging perennials from the garden, dividing them and then getting them to the kids for repotting, labeling and pricing (May 17 sale). We must have added another 2,000 divisions to our growing collection. Our work days are always fun and this was no exception. We had a donut break and although I was surprised by the number of teenagers "chugging" coffee, I didn't mind the increased output....

I think visitors miss a lot of the subtle features of the garden like this wall "sculpture." I can't remember the history of this piece but I will say that the hard scape of the gardens is superior; retaining walls, sculpture, brick work, etc. We do a lot with plants no doubt, but the overall setting of the gardens is a combination of elements that goes well beyond just flowers. There are many focal points and subtle design features that relay to the visitor that they are entering a new garden space or "garden room." These same techniques can be used effectively at the home garden scale.

The summer teaser is of our salvia collection last year (150 varieties). This year it will be annual vinca (Catharanthus) of over 170 varieties. More about that later....

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Momentum Builds...

Colorful species tulips blooming today. This is a nice "hot spot" with heat from surrounding rocks. I'm not sure which Tulipa this is but it sure stands out with that blue Chionodoxa. Back in 2000, we planted over 500 varieties of tulips in tight groupings of 50. That first spring (we left the display in for two years) had cool temperatures and really preserved the vibrant display. It was an unbelievable collection. I doubt we'll ever replicate that display as it was quite costly (and labor intensive!). We have tulips around the garden but not to the extent that we used to. Regardless, it's beauty like this that should encourage and motivate us to continue gardening in the fall with the intent of planting bulbs for spring rewards.
The daffodils shown here are determined to do their thing despite the "damp" conditions. Years ago we planted 20,000 daffodils along our north path, both along the shoreline and up the slope of the old sand and gravel pit. It's inspiring to think that visitors will see these daffodils in 100 years and wonder when they were planted. Unfortunately, these submerged clumps are doomed. Oh the vagaries of nature!

By the way, if you are reading this blog, there is a a little blue "comment" tab at the bottom of each post. Feel free to comment, add input and/or ask questions. The intent of this blog is not only to give a "smidge" of what is going on daily out in the gardens but to interact with volunteers, visitors and those interested in what we're doing at Rotary Gardens. The image below is of a small, golden fullmoon maple (Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon') in the Japanese garden near one of our lanterns. Of course deciduous plants haven't "leafed out" yet, but they will soon. Are we forgetting about winter yet?!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Terrific Thursday

Even though there was a threat of rain all day, it held off and we had a level of "high productivity." Our "Grumpies" spread compost, worked on carpentry projects, dug tree stumps and did many miscellaneous chores. This historic group of volunteers (primarily men) are named after the Grumpy Old Men (of movie fame) and were started at the inception of the garden. The group has grown to include over 25 guys that bring all sorts of talents (carpentry, electrical knowledge, engineering background, etc.) as well as a solid work ethic. I am truly amazed at how much this group accomplishes and how active these guys are at their age (no disrespect intended). I wouldn't want to arm wrestle any of these Grumpies and the gardens are fortunate to have their support and dedication. Many of them are also on our Board of Directors and serve in other volunteer capacities at the gardens.

Note more Chionodoxa forbesii in our front sign bed. This bulb has perennialized and has been there for my 10 years at the garden (I remember planting them). Lots of daffodils (Narcissus) blooming on time in the gardens. Years ago we planted over 300 varieties and probably have over 50,000 bulbs in the ground. Leaving the foliage to photosynthesize thru June is important although they can sure look sloppy in the landscape when the foliage flops and sprawls. Try mixing daffodils amongst other perennials that will emerge later and obscure the foliage. I'm often asked what the difference is between a daffodil and a jonquil. Narcissus encompasses all daffodils which are categorized into 13 divisions. Jonquils are just one of the divisions. I believe there are over 30,000 varieties of daffodils right now. We've planted them en masse (typically in groupings of 25 bulbs) and enjoy their contribution to the April garden. Summer teaser below with a monarch enjoying South American verbena (Verbena bonariensis). Coming soon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Heat Wave (With High Winds)!

More hellebores blooming today (Helleborus orientalis) among many other things! Temperatures reached over 70 degrees today although the winds were pretty extreme. We were able to work on the last of our pruning and applied a lot of compost over the entrance garden in front of the Parker Education Center. We had some volunteers come in and help pot up perennial divisions for our upcoming sale. We've already potted up irises and daylilies. We'll move on to ornamental grasses and sedums next. We brought in soil this afternoon in anticipation of possible rain tomorrow. We'll be ready to work inside if the weather warrants it. The next picture gives an idea of the progress thus far with perennial division. Warmer temperatures may necessitate dividing even more perennials in the next week or two as they emerge quickly from the warming soil.

We're also keeping a close eye on our interpretive signs. We are "re-sinking" signs for trees and shrubs and are straightening our metal signs for perennials. We have over 400 signs for tree and shrub memorials; plus another 4,000 metal labels out in the gardens. They all need to be checked annually for replacement, repair or removal. Our signage is primitive but effective I feel. Much of our audience is interested in the "experience" of the gardens, not so much the names of the plants. However, with our mission "To promote horticultural education and appreciation for all people," we need to be able to keep track of what we have and both accurately and effectively relay that information. There is a fine line or balance between appropriate labeling and not cluttering things up too much.

Note the "summer teaser" below with images of our new terrace garden. A nice place to relax and enjoy the gardens. The gardens around this terrace are being developed over the next couple of years!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The "Snowball Effect" in April

All sorts of bulbs are starting to bloom. With warmer temperatures finally arriving, the flush of blooms comes fast and this "snowball effect" will reveal something new every day. The drawback of unseasonably warm weather is that plants may bloom earlier than normal and/or finish blooming in a tighter window. Regardless, we have no control over that and can only enjoy spring color like that of these glory-of-the-snow. The larger pink blooms are Chionodoxa luciliae 'Pink Giant' and the smaller blue are Chionodoxa forbesii. These October planted bulbs are extremely long-lived and while under 12" in height, are a delight in the April garden. Plant them en masse for future generations to enjoy. They go dormant by mid-June only to return the following spring. Look for them at garden centers this fall and from reputable mail-order resources.

We were out today spreading blended mushroom compost around the gardens. This is a great time for us to address large areas before perennials engulf the space. We are careful to taper the compost away from the emerging plants. We apply a 1" topdressing every year to existing perennial beds as an organic mulch that will eventually break down and enrich the soil.

Sculpture is an important part of the garden. We have many statues and about a dozen metal art pieces. This rose sculpture (note the cardinal on top - also metal) is one of my favorites and was created by local artist Brady Lueck who does wonders with sculptural steel. Many of these pieces are commissioned as memorials and go thru an acceptance process with our Garden Development Committee. I'm not a huge fan of modern art but I do like most of our pieces at the gardens and particularly those that have a link to horticulture or nature in general. As with all additions to the garden, we have to consider proper location, future maintenance and adequate funding to perpetuate the existence of these features over time. Very little lasts in perpetuity, which is something we try to relate to donors. We'll be putting up a cool sunflower sculpture this year as well as an enormous bronze sculpture (12' tall) of bear cubs climbing a tree trunk. Come check it out!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blue Skies and Sunshine!

A previous posting showed these "pillars" on the ground before installation. Here they are used as an upright element along a raised border that will be almost entirely focused on blue. These 4" pvc pillars will be modern containers with all sorts of nice things spilling out. The blank grounds space will be filled with all sorts of "goodies." It was beautiful today and the blue sky echoed this long border. I feel blue is underutilized in the garden. The quest for "true blue" continues with plants such as roses, dahlias, gladiolas and some other plants. Remember that the "visual cooling" provided by blue is not only pleasing to the eye but also is quite relaxing. We will have blue throughout the gardens this year. With all of our obelisks and pillars of blue out there, the April visitor already has a hint of what is to come. It's not too difficult to find seasonals with blue blooms (petunias, salvia, etc.) but with so many shades of blue out there, we'll focus on sky blue and a true dark blue. The "purplish-blues", while beautiful, wont be our focus this year. Can blue be overdone out in the garden. NO!
We have lots of Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) blooming right now. This little bulb packs a lot of punch when it comes to a bright blue color in spring. These bulbs are easy to plant (in Oct.) although the warning is that they will reseed prolifically and in open beds, you'll have the "grasslike" foliage of the babies filling in the gaps the following year. It then takes a couple years for these to bloom and seeds continue to drop. We don't mind these "colonies" as all the foliage of this plant will go dormant by early June and disappear until the following spring.
Lots more visitors are streaming in to the gardens and this week looks to be sunny and dry for a couple of weeks. We're finishing pruning, composting beds and otherwise, getting ready for the "fast and furious" time of year. Even our formal garden cherub is happy to see the sun today (notice blue drifts of squill in the rose beds behind the statue)!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Sunday of Anticipation

I normally don't work on Sundays unless it's during our plant sales. However, I put in 30 minutes of time at 12:30 am this morning when the Janesville police called to say that our alarm had gone off at the Horticulture Center. They needed someone to let them in to check the place out. I was out the door 5 minutes later and I'm sure looked quite disheveled when I arrived to meet the two squads that were waiting for me. It was an errant alarm so no big deal until I was on the way home and saw red and blue lights in my rear view mirror. Of course I freaked out but it only turned out to be one of the officers I had just met and he mentioned there were some lights still on at the horticulture center. I said they were motion activated and would go out. Needless to say, the heart rate was accelerated as I hadn't been "pulled over" in 20 years (for forgetting to put my lights on at night in case you're curious!).

This statue is in our reception garden and depicts a female druid. She is cradling a small pine tree. This is one tough woman. She looks good after 100 years and has a long history in Janesville. She originally stood on top of the House of Mercy (nunnery) in Janesville which was the precursor to the Mercy Health System that has spread throughout Southern WI and Northern IL. She is on permanent loan from the Rock County Historical Society and was refurbished before being put in place in 1992. Unfortunately, she has been vandalized over 5 times; being pushed over many times and once was struck with bricks. Ron Sutterlin (Sutterlin Restorations) in Janesville has refurbished her twice now and she looks great. In a couple months, she'll be surrounded by white and blue flowers and is an important part of Rotary Gardens and Janesville. Best wishes for her "continued health"! The summer teaser below is a shot from last year of a moth (not a bee) on a 'Merlin Blue Morn' petunia. We like visitors of all sorts at Rotary Gardens.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wishful Thinking Will Net Results

Today was our first Saturday work day of the season. We had five people help with some indoor dividing and potting of bearded iris (Iris germanica). A typical work day might have two dozen volunteers but we were happy with even this modest turn out considering the cold and wet weather. The 500 or so iris divisions that were potted up today will be part of our spring sale on May 17th. It was time well spent, although admittedly, not the best time of year to dig up and divide irises. I remember an early April work day from years ago that involved us planting trees thru three inches of snow. The first image here is of a crabapple blooming last May but if you look closely, you'll see our arched bridge in the distance. This shot was taken by Santos McGill, a frequent visitor with a great talent for photography. He's been very generous when sharing interesting or rare shots such as this one. This crabapple doesn't bloom for awhile but will certainly signal a transition to warmer summer months on the way.

We had 210 cubic yards of shredded bark arrive in three loads over the past two days. The semi almost got stuck in the muddy morass of our back yard area but managed to dump all three loads successfully. We'll start spreading this shredded bark as it dries out and we can both access the piles and drive thru the garden without tearing up the saturated turf. We typically put another 1" topdressing of this material over existing areas of the same material as it does break down over time and requires refreshing. We'll use rougher, larger woodchips (donated) in more peripheral areas or those with just trees and shrubs. Regardless, we're stockpiling materials for spring use once the weather is more conducive to those activities. I'm looking outside at light flurries as I type so hopefully next week will be our target week to really get out there and achieve some "momentum". Summer teaser image below. This image is from our red/maroon collection last year and hopefully relays the importance of every volunteer at Rotary Gardens!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Friday of "Productive Preparation"

We had a great Friday here at the gardens and typically get lots of work done in preparation for the weekend. We have a work day tomorrow but the weather forecast includes rain and/or snow... We dug up some bearded iris to divide and plant in pots for an indoor project tomorrow. Normally you don't divide bearded irises until late summer but these are specimens that we're removing from the gardens to sell at the spring plant sale on May 17. We don't like having any plants in the gardens that can't be identified and/or labeled. We are maintaining and developing our plant collections with the intent of being able to always identify all plants in our "outdoor musem."

I can't say enough about foliage. We all enjoy those first blooms of spring but seeing lush green foliage like this emerging (picture taken today) is a welcome sight. Most people confuse this foliage with that of daffodils (Narcissus). However, this is the foliage of the resurrection lily (Lycoris squamigera). This foliage will photosynthesize and store energy in the bulb portion of the plant. The foliage later dies down in June. In August, you'll see the leafless stems of this plant emerge, topped by beautiful pink, trumpet-shaped blooms. The flowers last about two weeks and this plant is reliably hardy to zone 5. Mulching will help with hardiness as well. These bulbs will form very long-lived colonies.

We're looking forward to an exciting spring and the gravel yard at our maintenance facility will soon be filled with over 100,000 annuals, 4,000 perennials and dozens of trees and shrubs, all looking for a home. Lots of neat things coming up and the busy time has hit full force. Summer teaser below: