Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Brief Taste of September

Despite the expected brisk morning, the day warmed up nicely to 60 and was perfect working weather. The nice yellow fall color above is from the swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). This oak is typically found in lowlands and along streams. Long-lived and durable, this oak can also tolerate average landscape soils and can live many years. Here it's positioned along our pond and the fall color is just starting to really peak.

We had another great Grumpy day with the fellas working on collecting leaves, bringing in spent hanging baskets, carpentry work and various odds and ends. Glenna and Marilyn helped Janice with lights and some gardening after break. Marianne came in again as a volunteer to get us ahead on the lights (hopefully). Jerry picked up many loads of debris and Larry was pulled in many directions helping others, working on the lights show and bringing in garden signs. Rick and Tony worked on woodchipping, composting, collecting mulch and graveling. I strung extension cords (pretty exciting work). Below is one of the fullmoon maples (Acer shirasawanum 'Palmatifolium') starting to really glow with fall color. I hope this one makes it thru our winter although it did make it thru the tough winter here last year.
As we continue to mulch/shred leaves and apply them over our annual beds I remembered an article I wrote about utilizing leaves in the garden. It is included below:

October days in Wisconsin bring us closer to enjoying the beautiful colors of autumn as deciduous trees, shrubs and various other plants change leaf color. Yellows, golds, oranges, reds, purples and all of the colors in between can be enjoyed and are celebrated in our state. Of course the price we pay with deciduous plants is the arduous task of raking, collecting and disposing of the leaves as they clutter our yards, sidewalks and gutters. Leaves have been important in forest environments for millennia. No one is out there raking and collecting leaves in the forest! Consider utilizing your leaves “on site” as a mulch for your garden or as part of a compost pile. With minimal effort, your annual deluge of leaves can become an important part of achieving gardening success.

It is important to note that leaves should ideally be shredded for fall use in the garden. Larger leaves, if used whole in the garden may have a tendency to mat down and negatively affect the penetration of air and water into the soil. Whole leaves may also deter spring growth as new plants struggle to extend thru this layer and they can be slow to break down into the soil. Some exceptions would include very small leaves (i.e. honeylocust) that can be used directly.

Shredding or mulching these leaves will create a product that has myriad uses in the home garden. There is a wide range of equipment that will shred leaves although a mower may be a good way of producing this product as well. Mowers with collection bags should be easy but if using a side discharge mower, set it at its highest setting and position plywood or another “backdrop” to help accumulate leaves. Another option is to mulch leaves right in to your turf areas with your lawn mower. Research has shown that this activity will create a lawn that greens up faster in spring, requires less fertilization and shows more vigor, thereby reducing weed competition.

Shredded leaves have been shown to improve soil tilth (structure) when incorporated in to the soil and will improve the “water holding capacity” of the soil and also add nutrients that will benefit surrounding plant material. When used as a mulch, shredded leaves can reduce soil water losses and suppress weeds. A 2-3” layer of shredded leaves (applied after frost) used around plantings will help maintain a uniform soil temperature all winter and will protect tender root systems. This shredded leaf “blanket” will also help prevent frost upheaval caused by the thawing and freezing cycles in late winter and early spring.

Shredded leaves are a great addition to your annual beds in fall and can be rototilled right in or left to break down over the winter. Scatter a bit of soil lightly over the top of a shredded leaf layer to help keep it in place. If developing a new area for planting next spring, lay five layers of newspaper over the area, cover with 3-4” of shredded leaves and scatter loose soil over the top to keep everything in place. Most weeds will be smothered by spring and you’re ready to prepare this area for planting. A 4-6” layer of shredded leaves can also be used to improve the soil in compacted, shady areas where grass will not grow.

Consider utilizing your shredded leaves in a compost pile. You can simply compost just the leaves and in 1-2 years, you will have a product called leaf mold. Make sure your leaf pile has adequate sunlight, air circulation and moisture. Periodically flip the pile over to promote more active decomposition. This special, fungus-rich compost is a great soil conditioner and helps with moisture retention. Consider researching this technique of creating leaf mold as it is an ecologically sound way of creating a wonderful soil additive for the garden.

Shredded leaves can also be an important component in a standard compost pile. Position your compost pile in full sun or part shade directly on soil. Alternate 3-4” layers of wet, green material with dry brown material (shredded leaves). The “green” material can be lawn clippings and garden waste. Add kitchen waste to this mix but avoid putting in any meat, fish, bones, dairy products, fats, oils, pet waste, diseased plant material or hardy weeds. Mix or flip this pile every 2 weeks and don’t let it dry out. There are many resources and products that will help you learn to compost garden waste. Shredded leaves can be a great component of your “garden recycling” program so before you bag them up, ship them off or rake them away, consider their value in your garden.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tropicals in Kenosha

Above is the start of fall coloration on the Marmo Freeman maple (Acer x freemanii 'Morton') which is a selection from the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL). This hybrid has the nice attributes of its parents, the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) and red maple (Acer rubrum). This tree has the fast growth rate of the silver maple and the harder wood and fall color the the red maple. There seems to be great variability in the timing of fall color with Freeman maples. We have some that have dropped leaves already and this one is just starting to turn color.

I had another talk (Using Tropicals and Containers) in the Kenosha area (Bristol) for Master Gardeners. It was another great group with lots of interesting and valid questions. It's always nice giving talk to gardeners, particularly those that haven't visited the gardens yet! I like to entice potential visitors to the gardens and have no shame in using lots of images from Rotary Gardens. Nice shot below of the immature green cones on our bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the arboretum. Bald cypress are tough plants and while in the pine family, they are a deciduous conifer and lose their needles in fall (as seen below). Bald cypress have a wide native range (not WI, although hardy in southern WI) and can tolerate extremely damp soils and areas with prolonged flooding. In southern swamps, bald cypress will form "knees" near the primary trunk. There is much debate about these rounded protrusions with many speculating that they are meant for structural support in soggy locations while others postulate that they are involved with gas exchange (carbon dioxide and oxygen). Regardless, it's a neat tree that is quite urban tolerant and durable. The spring image at the bottom (note the tulips) is to remind you to get out there and plant your spring blooming bulbs. The time spent now is always worth it when you enjoy the results in spring. We may be in for a doozy of a winter so why not maximize your spring color (and therapy) with some effort and expense now. Many bulbs are going on sale now and as long as you can dig a hole, go for it!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Beautiful October Day

Nice fall color of the native cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) with a nice backing of the clear yellow fall color of mulberry (Morus alba). It was downright frigid this morning but we ended up with a sunny day with blue skies and temperatures in the 50s. The rest of the week will be a bit warmer and we hope to accomplish lots of gardening and preparations for our lights show. Janice took Kay and Heidi out to clear perennials and tidy up. I am always amazed at not only the volume of work they do but their attention to details like tidying the area up before leaving. Jerry and Bill continued garden clean-up and cutting back shrubs. Larry worked on putting up his arches and drained our "ever flowing urn". He'll focus more on water features later this week as we like to drain and clean everything before it gets too cold. Marianne and Marv popped in and Marianne worked on converting our candy cane displays to LED lights. Barb, a new volunteer, continued with that work and did a nice job. Tony and Rick rototilled, spread gravel, hauled woodchips and stacked rock. A full day to day the least. They also finished the bench area below which was originally a bench set on soil amongst weeds. Looks great now. I ran about 3,000 feet of extension cords in preparation for the lights show. The image below is Dr. Gredler's contribution to the gardens this time of year. Our Grasshopper riding mower has a shredding attachment with a hopper. As he collects and shred leaves, he's able to dump these on our annual beds and we then rototill them in. We like to use as many shredded leaves as possible on our annual beds every fall.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Flurries

The image above is one that I took at a garden center many years ago. I thought it was a nice arrangement and the use and appearance of pumpkins this time of year is always nice (until squirrels or teenagers find them). We had some flurries today although nothing "stuck". It was windy and very frigid. Larry, Jerry, Marv, Terry, Rick and Tony braved the cold and accomplished a lot outside (debris clean-up, lights work, etc.). Aside from some hyacinth planting, Marianne and Janice worked on repairing lights which is vitally important before we take them outside. I'm working on the 2009 budget and have two talks this week that I need to finalize. Preparing the budget submission (which is a request) is always a juggling act of predicting needs, expenses and evaluating everything with an old-fashioned "reality check". The Grumpies hauled back benches, stored our terrace furniture, cut back roses, collected leaves and debris, brought in our fountain and otherwise had a super day. It's always nice to see a break room full of 20 people in the morning! My fall color shot of the day is below with the lovely Korean maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum). What a great range of warm hues. Also a nice picture of our authentic Japanese contemplation structure or Machi-ai. The colorful tree is the fall color of the fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium').

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nothing Like The Smell of Acetaldehyde In The Morning

Nice fall color of the native arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum 'Blue Muffin') above. This viburnum has nice white flower clusters, followed by clusters of blue berries and then this nice fall color. Arrowwood viburnums vary greatly in regards to fall color (by variety). Very little rain this weekend although today is very breezy and cold. Not a great day to do too much outside but I did manage to compost all my container planting yesterday. The title of today's blog is in reference to the prevalent use of leaf blowers this time of year. My neighbor fired his up this morning and spent three hours blowing leaves to the curb while 30 mph gusts added a bit of difficulty to that task (and my confusion as to why anyone would try to pile loose leaves...) Dozens of neighbors have been out every weekend doing the same thing. Gas powered, two-stroke engine leaf blowers are particularly bad in terms of pollution although today, the noise was the most bothersome. We have leaf blowers at Rotary Gardens but don't use them for leaf collection. We just use them on Friday afternoons to tidy up outdoor wedding sites. I've compiled some interesting information about leaf blowers that everyone should know. Nice image of the annual, purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Atrosanguineum') at the bottom.

  • Leaf blowers were developed and introduced by Japanese engineers in the early 1970s

  • Over 2 million leaf blowers are sold every year (figure from 2001)

  • Leaf blowers are currently unregulated in terms of emissions until 2011 as the EPA has finally released new guidelines for leaf blower emissions (35% reduction in emissions)

  • Leaf blowers alone create 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide each year and burn the equivalent of 6.4 million barrels of oil

  • 30 minutes of blower use is the equivalent (in terms of pollutant emissions) as driving a car 7700 miles at 30 mph. 1 hour of usage is the same as driving 17 cars for that same duration

  • Emissions from leaf blowers also include benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde

  • Leaf blowers don't just blow leaves, they whip up dirt, dust, and other particulate matter including pesticides, chemicals, fungi, fecal matter, fertilizers and spores.

  • The noise (decibels) of leaf blowers can be detrimental to both the operator and non-consenting citizens in the area of usage
  • What every happened to good old leaf raking and the exercise (burns 240 calories per hour)?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gloomy But Productive

Above is a picture of 'King Tut' papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) at Boerner Botanical Gardens. It has flopped a little after some earlier light frosts but still has a wonderful form and great texture. This image demonstrates the importance of texture in the landscape. Papyrus is not hardy here but will grow quickly in our summers and has equal value in garden beds, containers and the water garden. Not far from where I took the picture of the papyrus, I was delighted to see the blooms of an annual vine that I've tried to grow for many years. Below is the purple bell vine (Rhodochiton atrosanguineum) that is native to southwest Mexico. Note the dangling, tubular black flowers surrounding by rose calyces (grouping of sepals). For us, this vine has been a weak grower and peak flowering is quite late. This specimen looked good and I'm glad I took a decent picture of the intriguing blooms!
It started raining last night around 5 pm and didn't stop until this morning around 9 am. It's been cool and damp all day. For the most part, we all did inside work today. Marv and Terry decorated obelisks with lights and did some event prep outside as well. Marianne is testing, repairing and preparing our "icicle lights" that will be dangling from our larger trees. We have a local tree service (L.P. Tree Service) donate time and hang these for us which is much appreciated. Janice worked outside all morning with a dedicated high school group. They collected perennial debris and leaves from three different garden areas. Julie assisted and we were very impressed with these teenagers. Dr. Gredler hauled gravel and did some odds and ends. Rick and Tony also worked on lights and indoor activities. I'm putting together digital pictures from my files that we may use on some fancy new signs that will be installed throughout the gardens next year. We had a grant pay for the creation of 22 top quality garden signs that will really look professional and improve our interpretation considerably. Interesting picture below. I took this shot at Boerner again. They had just erected this framework around their large yew (Taxus sp.) hedges and presumably will cover this framework with fabric, burlap or some other covering. As labor intensive as this is, the benefits include minimizing damage from snow and ice storms and keeping deer from nibbling! I'm envious although we don't have the resources to accomplish this same level of protection. Look at the bottom image for their approach to protecting their famous rose collection! A lot fancier than rose cones but apparently quite effective.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good Working Weather

Above is the fall color of the three-flowered maple (Acer triflorum). Native to Northern China, Manchuria and Korea, this small statured maple (25-30' tall) has few insect and disease problems. Ornamental features, aside from the orange fall color, include interesting, trifoiate leaves and reddish, exfoliating bark. The weather today, although a bit brisk in the morning, was great for working out in the gardens. We had a great crew working throughout the day. Some Grumpies worked on carpentry tasks and helped over at the visitors center. Others helped clear leaves and perennial foliage from select areas. Rick and Tony topdressed the entire north path with a fresh layer of fine gravel and did a great job. Jerry continued to clean up debris and worked on shaping and cutting back woody specimens. Larry and I both worked on holiday lights preparations and Janice worked with various volunteers and cleared lots of debris (with Marilyn and Glenna) from the garden. Marianne came in as a volunteer to process new LED lights which was very helpful. Lots of great help today!
Above and to the left is another ornamental grass picture that I took at Boerner Botanical Gardens yesterday. This is the variegated silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus') which "plumes" out very late but has a wonderful contribution of vertically striped foliage during the growing season. This grass tends to arch over and should be divided every 3-5 years. Miscanthus universally prefers full sun but I've successfully used this variety in part shade, particularly where it gets hot afternoon sun but morning shade.

To the right is another neat toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana 'Dark Beauty') that I was unfamiliar with until yesterday! I was smitten by not only its late blooms (expected) but by it's flower power. There was a grouping of three specimens (36" tall) in a partly shaded location. The dark purple spotting on the orchid-like, creamy flower petals give this plant its namesake. I'll be ordering some of these for Rotary Gardens. The risk is that an early hard frost would knock these down, but oh, the rewards.... The image on the bottom is the fall color of the native little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). This is the variety 'The Blues' (48" tall) which has superior blue summer color and looks amazing this time of year as well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Day in Milwaukee

Today I headed to Boerner Botanical Garden in Hales Corners, WI (south Milwaukee) to do a talk for Master Gardeners. The day was cool and partly cloudy but I was able to take lots of pictures at the garden. The talk went well (container gardening and using tropicals) and it was an energetic and lively bunch. I recognized many people and had some nice discussions after my talk. I'm sure things went well at Rotary Gardens and touched base with Larry, Terry, Marv, Marianne, Jerry, Rick and Tony before I left this morning. I'm glad I took the time to walk thru the gardens. The staff does such a nice job and were just removing annuals. There was lots to see including some great ornamental grasses below. The image to the left is a nice switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal') used to great effect in a large massing. The grass to the right is 'Ferner Osten' silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) that only tops out at 5 feet
tall and is well known for its creamy plumes in fall thru winter. This specimen was visible from a great distance. Ornamental grasses are really coming to the forefront in the fall garden and will become vital "role players" in the winter garden. Observe grasses now for color and form and try to visualize spaces in your winter landscape that could use some visual texture and interest in our "4th season" of garden interst. Don't ever forget winter! I was surprised to still see so much in bloom after some evident light frost damage. The aromatic aster below (Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite') caught my eye for obvious reasons. Native to Kentucky and surrounding states, this aster has a slight minty fragrance when brushed and is a hardy, solid bloomer in our climate thru October (24" tall). Fantastic. With current name changes, the Latin name for this aster is now Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. Now isn't that a mouthful!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Cool Day (literally and figuratively)

Nice clear fall color of the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) above. When ginkgos get their best fall color, they drop their leaves within a day or so of that. Typically you'll see a ginkgo drop all of its leaves in one day. Ginkgos existed over 270 million years ago and were thought extinct until they were found in Japan in 1691. There were actually ginkgo species native to both North America and Europe that have been verified by fossil records and no longer exist. Ginkgo has also become a very popular botanical supplement and is popular for many uses.
The weather was frosty this morning but warmed to be a typical October day. I'm not sure we have any more 70 degree days left but maybe....Janice worked with both Kay and Kristine to start cutting back perennials and removing annuals in our sizeable shade garden. Our debris clean-up is monumental in scale but we're on track to get most of it done this month. Larry and Bill worked on removing a large willow tree in the Japanese garden that not only had a severe lean/curve but was in a tough spot. They did a good job and Rick and Tony hauled off the debris between working on path repair and other tasks. Jerry hauled back all sorts of debris and continues to do a great job with clean-up. I ran my first 2,000 feet of extension cords for our Holiday Lights Show and started with the cords that are the most difficult to run. We'll really transition to working on this event as we sure don't like putting lights up and running cords in the snow! The tree above and to the left is the fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium') that is green during the spring and summer but turns an awesome red with hints of orange and yellow. What a nice specimen! The image to the right is another shot of the Amur maple (Acer ginnala) with light coming thru the leaves.
Looks like plenty of rain on the way which wont be bad for the plants but sure affects our special events set-up. We've been accumulating various indoor tasks for the Holiday Lights Show so we can keep active inside as the weather dictates. Tomorrow I'm speaking at Boerner Botanical Gardens for the Milwaukee area Master Gardeners. I'll be speaking about container gardening and tropical plants. I always enjoy visiting that garden and will try to get some pictures in the afternoon. Below is a collection of Autumn Blaze pear leaves (Pyrus calleryana 'Autumn Blaze') that has a superior, wine red color with other leaves in the yellow and orange range. I think the color of this variety is also the best ever and while pears have been overplanted in urban environments, this regret is never in fall when some of the varieties become the real focal points in the late season landscape.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gloomy Monday

Today was damp and overcast all day although the sun did peak out a couple of times. I had to put a "sunny day" picture up though! Above is the 'Varied Directions' larch (Larix x marschlinsii) near our entrance road. This form is a real eye catcher and as a deciduous conifer, the needles on this tree turn golden (happening as I type) and they'll drop only to be replaced next year. We like using woody plants with interesting forms in areas where they will catch the eye. Another nice woody for arching, irregular form is the weeping white pine (Pinus strobus 'Pendula'). I took this picture last weekend at the Longenecker Gardens in Madison. You can find this plant at garden centers and nurseries but be sure to leave it space to "explore" it's intended dimensions (quite variable!).
We had a decent Grumpy turnout but the weather was pretty sour. Larry started taking down a lot of the Halloween remnants and Jerry helped haul back pumpkins and piles of debris. Janice worked on organizing our cluttered office and storage areas. Marianne worked on myriad tasks and has been trying to finalize our iris collection information. Marv and Terry brought in all sorts of obelisks for decoration and started working our Holiday lights show. Rick and Tony worked on preparing holiday lights and removing three large trees between sprinkles. I worked on presentations and deskwork which had piled up over the past weeks. Below is a nice shot of kale (Brassica sp.) that we plant in Sept. for late color that extends well thru November. Kale can take the frost and will sometimes overwinter with a nice blanket of insulating snow.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rainy Week Ahead

The weather forecast for this week doesn't look real good. Damp and cool is on the way although not entirely a surprise. Above is a shot of the Japanese garden last Friday. The fall color was very vivid down in that garden too. Our Saturday workday was very productive. We had about 12 volunteers show up to help with bulb planting. Our goal was to plant 7,000 tulips that morning and I didn't think we'd make it until two vans pulled in from Rock County Corrections. Out of the vans poured 19 "Workenders" or "Weekenders" that are individuals that have been convicted of minor felonies and are doing community service in lieu of jail time and/or fines. I wasn't prepared for them as they hadn't called to let us know of their involvement (strongly recommended). We organized quickly and this group planted 4,000 tulips in two hours (the other group planted the rest) and continued with leaf clean-up and garbage/litter collection. Overall, a bit stressful at the start but the final results of the workday were wonderful and all of the help was much appreciated. Nice fall color of linden (Tilia sp.) below. Lots of leaves will come down this week unfortunately. More gardening to come this week and serious progress on putting up our holiday lights show.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Before The Storm (Rain)

We've had the threat of rain all day although it hasn't materialized yet. I hope it passes by as we have the second night of the Halloween Walk tonite and are hoping for a large crowd. Last night was successful but being a school night, attendance wasn't as sizeable as it will be tonite and Saturday night. The image below and to the left is of one of the custom Jack O' Lanterns and part of one of the skits. Above is the fall color of the Amur maple (Acer ginnala) in our Japanese garden. This is a nice maple for fall color although in recent years, we've seen more reseeding of this species than in past years. In warmer climates, it can become quite a problem. This is a reliable maple species for superior fall color.

Fridays are always so productive. Janice and Kay continued to tackle the significant removal and cut-down of annuals and perennails (respectively) in the sunken garden. Marianne did a nice job finishing up the annual removal and tidying in front of the visitor's center. She also planted some of our last perennials for the year down in the Japanese garden. Marv bounced around between putting up holiday lights, digging grasses, rototilling and running for fuel. Dr. Gredler kept busy with mowing and turf care. Rick and Tony rototilled and continue to excavate areas that need fresh material, again as a result of earlier flooding. Everyone kept hustling and much was accomplished. The brilliant fall color seen to the right is on an ornamental pear. This is the Korean Sun pear (Pyrus fauriei 'Westwood') that has beautiful white, spring blooms, followed by nice glossy green foliage and the fall color that you see here. This is a great selection for a smaller tree in the 25-30' range. Note the nice fall color of the sassafras (Sassafras albidum) below which is a native tree to the Eastern United States. This tree will typically have lots of bright orange colors as well. This species is unique in that it may have up to three different leaf patterns; an oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped) and trilobed (see below). The crushed leaf stems smell like Fruit Loops too!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Frigid Warming to Cool

This morning was quite chilly at 39 degrees F. I'm between jacket thicknesses depending on the morning and went with one a little too thin. We had light frost on the metal roof of our Horticulture Center. The day was sunny and became pleasant although cool. Above is the fall color of white oak (Quercus alba) which can also be quite variable but is dyanamite this year. It was crazy today. The Grumpies helped set up for our Halloween Walk which starts tonight. Set up included putting up tents, running out tables and chairs, placing Jack O' lanterns along the paths, etc. It takes a good day to set everything up and we hope for good crowds. The event involves groups being led thru the gardens to hear various stories. The intent isn't to be scary but a little spooky (and entertaining). Spotlight on Kids, a local non-profit acting troupe for kids, plans, arranges and performs all of the skits.

We had our irrigation lines "blown out" today with a large compressor. We have an irrigation service that helps us out and does both a spring and fall check. This is essential so our irrigation lines and sprinkler heads don't freeze and crack due to surplus water left prior to hard freezing. Our system will be turned back on in April. Larry helped with the process and is certainly the most knowledgeable about our extensive system of 40+ zones on four computerized timers. Jerry cleaned up debris, pruned and mowed the arboretum. Janice helped clear debris from the sunken garden and worked with a high school group that comes in every week to help out. They counted and sorted our tulip bulbs out for fall planting during our Saturday work day this weekend. The tree to the upper left with the golden fall color is the only striped bark maple (Acer pennsylvanicum) native to the United States (Eastern U.S.). The rest are native to various parts of Asia. The bark is green with vertical white striations. The leaves are also quit interesting. The image to the right is from another striped bark maple hybrid called 'White Tigress'. I'll show some neat bark pictures of these in the future. Bark can be quite an ornamental feature in and of itself. Nice shot of some sumac (Rhus sp.) below taken at the UW-Arboretum this past weekend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cool and Damp Day

This shot was taken in our Japanese garden yesterday. Note the wonderful light coming thru the redbud (Cercis canadensis) leaves at peak fall color. The gravel looks great in the distance as part of our new and improved "dry sea". It's amazing what the conversion of 100,000 lbs. of gravel will accomplish! Today was overcast from start to finish with a steady drizzle from 9 am thru the entire day. Marv brought in obelisks, yanked plants and picked up pumpkins for our upcoming Halloween Walk. Jerry hauled piles of debris and continues to tidy up the Japanese garden, fern & moss garden and hosta hollow. Marianne pulled lots of plants and tidied up as well as possible considering the rain. Kay joined her this morning and they really took a dent out of the remainder of our seasonal plantings. Rick and Tony bounced between projects and everyone kept busy inside when the rain was the most "vigorous". I've been busy preparing for 6 presentations I have in the next month or so.
The fall color to the right is from a small sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) that was one of the first trees I planted here 10 years ago. It is marginally hardy for us and we do hope it continue to grow well (hopefully 15-20' tall). Native to the lower Appalachian mountains, branches from this tree were used by Native Americans for arrow shafts. The fall color is spectacular and quite noticeable from a distance. The serviceberries (Amelanchier sp.) are also coloring up nicely with combinations of red, orange and yellow (see to the left).
This time of year is when plant features of fall color, ornamental fruit and ornamental stems/bark come to the forefront. The close-up image at the bottom is the bark of the China Snow Peking lilac (Syringa pekinensis 'Morton'). This tree lilac gets large white blooms about 3 weeks after the French lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) have finished blooming. Reaching heights around 30-35' feet, this small, ornamental tree has stellar ornamental bark and stems and becomes quite interesting in the winter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Importance of Our Volunteers

The fall color is just starting to show on the 'Beaver Creek' dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii 'KLMtwo') in our woodland walk garden. These shrubs have fragrant, white, "bottlebrush-like" blooms in early May before they leaf out and are tolerant of partial shade. This is a nice durable shrub and few other shrubs can rival the fall color!

We had our volunteer potluck tonite at the gardens. In spring we have a more formal, sit-down event for volunteer recognition but the October event is more casual. We had about 100 people or so at the event and a great spread of food. I do a little presentation that includes images of volunteers and the gardens this year. I always feel remiss in not mentioning certain volunteers although it would be impossible to name them all. Volunteers have always been a huge factor in how well the gardens have developed. Volunteers not only help with gardening, they work in the gift shop, help with tours, facilitate educational programs, etc., etc. We have over 400 active volunteers and can't thank them enough.

Nice perennial, ornamental grass below. This is the Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and this time of year becomes very conspicuous with its "oat-like" seed heads that will eventually rattle in the breeze. Tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, this grass will reach 36" or so in height and will tolerate part shade. We've seen some minor reseeding issues so be aware of that potential. The seed heads are great in fresh or dried arrangements as well. Look at the great fall color of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) at the bottom.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mild Monday

Nice combination of colors on this 'Autumn Fantasy' maple (Acer x freemanii). This shot was also taken at the Longenecker Gardens at the UW-Arboretum. Awesome fall colors. I think this is the best year I've seen for color. I judge this not based on the usual "greats" like sugar maple (Acer saccharum), 'Autumn Purple' ash (Fraxinus americana), etc. but on those trees that normally have muted yellows or average color. This year, the green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), honeylocust (Gleditisia triacanthos var. inermis) and black walnut (Juglans nigra) which typically have ok fall color (yellow) are blazing yellow and look the best I've seen. If we can select woody plants for their 2-3 week window of bloom, why not for their fall color as well? What a nice asset. Nice close-up of the recurved needles of the white fir (Abies concolor 'Glauca') below. This fir has a lot of potential in the landscape and should replace the Colorado blue spruce in time I hope.
"Mild Monday" refers to the temperature, not the amount of work accomplished. Marv was all over, tearing out plants, composting and rototilling. Marianne began the arduous process of removing annuals in front of the visitors center and tidying up as she went along. Janice was pulling annuals and cutting back hostas while Jerry continues to clean up the Japanese Garden and is helping put our water features "to bed." Larry helped me with some event preparation (Halloween Walk) and keeps busy with equipment repair and gardening (as time allows!). Tony and Rick finished resurfacing a path, did some pressure washing and are now edging our north path to keep the gravel contained and to make it a lot safer to traverse that route. The Grumpies helped pull annuals, worked on the shed, painted and went pumpkin picking for our Halloween Walk.
While I wasn't distracted by fall color yesterday, I did notice lots of ornamental bark, stems and of course, ornamental fruit. This hybrid, deciduous holly (Ilex verticillata x serrata 'Autumn Glow') was awash with bright red fruits. This is the female and does require a male pollinator. The winterberry hollies are hardy here but like damp, well-drained soil on the acidic side. We don't have many nice specimens at Rotary Gardens but the image below was on an 8' tall specimen that really becomes a focal point and "eye catcher" this time of year.