Monday, August 31, 2009

Is It October Already?

Recent weather sure makes it feel like October. My favorite time of year includes the 70 degree days and 50 degree nights; but not in August! Above is the 'Autumn Colors' gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) that is in our seasonal Rudbeckia collection. Many of our collections, while still having some color, are starting to look a little rough and we're removing seasonals as they wimp out. We hope September will be a warm month but are seeing signs of an early fall (including plenty of early cottonwood leaves falling down). Recent bad news includes a positive diagnosis regarding late blight in our tomato collection. Interestingly enough, this is the blight that caused the Irish potato famine and has huge repercussions throughout the potato crop in WI, not just our tomatoes. See;_Gardeners_and_Growers_Need_to_be_Alert for more information and note some blight symptoms in the recent photos below.
Despite the blight thing and cool weather, the gardens are still looking great and we had a bumper crop of volunteers today as well as our Monday grounds staff. Little Jerry worked on pruning in the Japanese garden along with Karen. Marv and Terry composted, rototilled, planted a tree, edged and otherwise kept occupied. Larry worked on cleaning out the sunken garden pond (no small task) while Marianne worked in the irises, entrance garden and did her cutting display. Rose was here working on relettering the benches while Mary and Kristine weeded and tidied up various beds and borders. Jim brought down two RECAPPERS and they accomplished a lot of clean-up work around the gardens. It was another great Grumpy day with most of the guys helping set-up tents (John, Del, Dick P., Maury, Gary, Bill, Ron, Ed and Mike) for the plant sale and moving on to other projects. Urban and Dick K. worked on mulching an area and everyone kept fairly busy. Dr. Yahr was here as well. The carpenters (Bob, Vern, Jim and Dave) worked on installing air edging and finishing some carpentry projects. Deb, Bev and Robin came in to work on preparations for the GardenFest (Sept. 12) this afternoon and of course, Dr. Gredler was here to work on various projects including his new berm creation. See below for some colorfully inviting respite down near the wishing well garden. At the bottom is a very neat perennial called Hungarian daisy (Leucanthemella serotina) that blooms late, is over 6' tall and offers a nice splash of white in September. Great for the back of the sunny border.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Overwhelming Dampness

I'm back from my three day excursion to the Upper Peninsula (MI) with my younger daughter. We had some rain but enjoyed Sable Falls above and Tequamenon Lower and Upper Falls below. In terms of scale, that section of the Lower Falls drops 12' or so but the Upper Falls drop 50' and are the largest falls in Michigan. Amazing how progressed the season is up there with leaves starting to turn color and many late perennials in bloom. Latitude is a factor!!! One night got down to 37 degrees F.
While we had one day of rain up nort' der, it was consistent rain thru the week at Rotary Gardens with close to 4" of precipitation after today's sprinkles and the previous three days. The gardens are saturated but we were able to mow this afternoon and tidy up the wedding garden areas. Marianne, Janice, Terry, Jerry and I all did some work inside and outside when the weather allowed it. Dr. Gredler mowed later in the day and we saw Shirley come in to check labels in the gazebo garden. Urban, Bev and Dr. Yahr all stopped in as well. Should be a nice weekend although I think there might be more rain on the way. Many of our annuals are starting to wane (particularly petunias) so we're pulling out "undesireables" as we see them. We should still have good color thru September regardless of the increasing number of gaps. Nice heirloom tomato slices below as photographed by Mari Ann, one of our Master Gardener volunteers. The bad news is that we're seeing some symptoms on our collection that may indicate severe late blight, now prevelant in our County and not totally unexpected. Diagnosis to come soon but this blight could ruin our entire tomato collection and modify some preparations for GardenFest coming up in September. Nice north woods shot at the bottom. Pines destined to be telephone poles....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Good Weekend, Short Week

Nice shot above from Saturday with Cindy and Gary deadheading annuals in one of our entrance garden annual beds. We are cutting some annuals back severely (snapdragons, salvia, nicotiana, etc.) in an effort to get a new flush of blooms to extend color until October. Many annuals are fading quickly with the cool temperatures but we hope to have color until a hard frost in 6 weeks or so. We had a great turnout of about 15 volunteers on Saturday and accomplished many tasks.
Today is sunny and quite pleasant. I'm writing this blog in the morning as I'm leaving town today with my younger daughter to go camping up in the Michigan upper peninsula. Should be fun but cool weather. We had another great Grumpy day with the fence gang (Dick P., Rollie and John) finishing three more sections and reaching a point where they can't do any more fence installation until we get more materials. Jim, Bob A. and Vern worked on finishing some nice custom benches while Gene and Ron hauled plants and compost. Bob T. worked on more air edging in the arboretum. Ed worked on cutting back some overgrown shrubs while Charlie and Mike (new Grumpy) skimmed and replaced path gravel where needed. It is nice to have Marv and Marianne back and they jumped right in to their various tasks. Terry, Little Jerry and Larry are also here today working on odds and ends including pruning, fertilizing, watering, etc. Nice shot below of the 'Limelight' four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa). I love the bright pink flowers and chartreuse foliage which of course fits our chartreuse/pink theme this year! Nice shot below from Carrol L. of the view thru gazebo to the arched bridge. I've received so many nice digital shots from volunteers this year! No blog until Friday!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bright Ideas On A Gloomy Day

Although it was gloomy today with sporadic rain and drizzle, the Therapeutic Horticulture symposium has gone very well. Dr. Larson (University of Minnesota) did a great job talking about intergenerational gardening programs and brought lots of enthusiasm and ideas to a group of about 70 or so attendees. I helped facilitate a "sensory station" (smell) out in the gardens with Elsa R. (left side of the top photo) and we sampled various herbs specifically for scent. The attendees seemed pleased with the content, interactions and seemed to enjoy the gardens as well. Lots of questions about the 'Hot Biscuits' amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) seen to the left and mentioned in previous blogs. To the right is the marbled nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus 'Alaska Mixed') that was along our ornamental edible wall and was utilized as part of the "taste" portion of our break out sessions (both leaves and flowers of nasturtium are edible). Hopefully we will be able to host something very similar to this symposium in the future.

Terry, Little Jerry, Dr. Gredler and Kay held down the fort this morning while Janice and I helped with the symposium. Jerry and Doc mowed as did Terry. Terry also watered (before it rained) and was very flexible in helping put out "brush fires" today. Kay was a weeding whirlwind in the gazebo garden and continues to be so effective in dealing with problem areas. We also saw Bob T., Steve and Dr. Yahr today. Forgot to mention the weeding help of Sue and Kelley yesterday in the shade garden. Our team is so effective and the results show! Nice shot of arched bridge with a portion of the observation pier in the foreground. The new paint job on both of these sure looks nice.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Drizzle Transitioning To Sunshine

The day started out quite rainy with varying levels of drizzle but eventually became quite sunny (albeit cool). The overcasts skies allowed me to take some nice pictures, like that of the arched bridge above. The weather did affect our Grumpy day but we accomplished some work. Jim, Bob and Vern kept busy with building benches while Ron peeled labels. Maury ran errands while Dick P., Dick H. and John prepared for their next phase of fence installation. Gary cleaned up leaves and we had Little Jerry out pruning and tidying up. Suzy came in and while she weeded in the gazebo garden and woodland walk, Janice kept busy with labeling, weeding and other tasks. Larry has worked on tree signs and cleaning up our water features. I did a presentation about Rotary Gardens for the Waunakee, WI (north of Madison) Rotary Club. They were a receptive group and I enjoyed presenting to some new faces (and potential supporters!). I hope we get some more rain this afternoon and this evening. Nice shots below of more resurrection lilies (Lycoris squamigera) and our orange border (taken care of by Don and Pearl). That plume celosia (Celosia plumosa 'Fresh Look Orange') has been very popular with visitors this year. Beneath that is the annual copperleaf (Acalypha godseffiana 'Firestorm') and at the bottom, the smokebush euphorbia (Euphorbia cotinifolia 'Burgundy Wine') with 'Saturn' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Windy Wednesday

Today was quite windy with variable sun and clouds. I sure hope we get the rain that is headed our way. We ran irrigation and watered most of the day just in case... Nice shot above of one of my favorite, durable shrubs. The variegated fiveleaf aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus 'Variegatus') is durable in both sun and shade. It has showy variegation and an open form unless pruned. We have specimens in dry shade and while they are not growing very quickly, they look healthy and offer that bright "illumination" in a dark location. This shrub gets 5-6' for us but I took a shot of one at the Scott Arboretum (see below) that was close to 10' tall!
Today was another nice productive day with the fence guys (Dick P., Dick H., John and Jerry) all working to finish the last run on the east side of the gardens. They did a great job and with the exception of a couple short segment "add ons", the guys are done and the fence looks awesome. Larry and Janice came in for a half day to help water and tidy up the gardens. Little Jerry helped this morning and Dr. Gredler was here to mow, move soil, haul loads to the dump, spread woodchips, etc. It's hard to keep up with this guy (and he's 83!). Kay was here to weed and tidy around the visitors center and other areas "in need". If we had a dozen "Kays", we'd have no weeds out there. Bill was out cleaning up paths and he's another volunteer we'd like to clone. I can't say enough about the substantial role that the volunteers play here at the gardens. I met with Kathy at Jenka Blossoms to figure out our hanging baskets for next year and we set up an order for many of our tropicals (we already know the color theme for 2010). Nice shot to the left of dune grass (Panicum amarum 'Dewey Blue') near our terrace garden. I love the blue coloration of this perennial, ornamental grass although it's showing the same tendency of other Panicums (switchgrasses) by dropping seed and colonizing a bit. Oh well, this is a winner and we will use it in larger containers on occasion. Speaking of containers, to the right is our copper cheese vat with lime obelisk, caladiums and golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Goldilocks') creeping over the edges. This little patio is in quite a bit of shade, hence our "brightening approach".

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Pleasant Day Overall

Above is our 'Hot Biscuits' amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) with resurrection lily (Lycoris squamigera) poking out. Here's another case of overplanting an annual that just happens to blend beautifully when these bulbs emerge in August. The foliage of Lycoris emerged with spring bulbs and went dormant. These flowers above have no leaves now, just naked stems emerging from the soil. Great weather today with highs in the upper 70s and a slight breeze. We had lots of visitors today and kept busy with myriad garden tasks. The gardens are looking great. To the left is a segment of our "ornamental edibles" wall planting with lots of visual interest and potential in the kitchen. This border will be utilized this Friday as part of a horticultural therapy symposium that will have "hands on" sensory stations around the gardens. This collection will be used for taste. Speaking of taste, our heirloom runner and pole beans are starting to really produce. To the right is 'Dow Purple Podded' and while some are just hitting stride, most varieties are reaching the top of our towers and producing plenty of beans. These will be utilized as part of our September 12 GardenFest at Rotary Gardens (sponsored, organized and run by our Rock Prairie Master Gardeners for the fourth year in a row!). We had Kay, Heidi and Barb here for weeding duty and they worked in the reception garden, sunken garden and wishing well garden. We're deadheading many annuals as we go to help perpetuate a new flush of flower power thru September. Mary worked in her garden and Dr. Gredler kept busy mowing and moving soil around to create a new berm. We saw Vern, Dr. Yahr and Maury today as well. Little Jerry mowed and worked on pruning and debris cleanup after he finished. Janice worked on some weeding, planting and clean-up, peppered with hand mowing. Larry also mowed and worked on watering duties. I was able to spray Round-Up in our worst weedy areas and wanted to catch it before it rains over the next couple of days. Nice shot below of one of my favorite tropicals. Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyeranus) is great in part shade, whether in a bed or container. What wonderful foliage. The bottom shot was taken at City Hall in Madison and includes papyrus, purple fountain grass, some other grasses and the trailing aluminum plant (Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls'). What a beautiful composition, not reliant on blooms. Kudos.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gloom, Rain, Sun

Nice shot of fountain plant or summer poinsettia above (Amaranthus tricolor 'Early Splendor'). The leaves of this plant are edible (taste like spinach) and the youngest, most colorful growth has the most flavor. What a nice "ornamental edible". I was able to get some good photos out in the garden today with overcast skies and a threat of rain that only materialized very briefly. We had a great Grumpy day and continue to accomplish much around the gardens. See the fountain plant (Amaranthus tricolor) varieties of 'Aurora' (yellow highlights) and 'Illumination' beneath that image.
Marv & Marianne are off all week with a well-deserved vacation. Terry watered, weeded and fertilized between slight drizzle and rain while Little Jerry worked on pruning and path clean-up. Rotary Gardens has over 40 large cottonwood (Populus deltoides) specimens around the gardens that are quite messy not only during "cotton set" in summer but their leaves tend to drop early which is happening now. We collect leaves from our paths almost daily at this point in time and unfortunately the leaves also wreak havoc on our water features. Larry worked on these water features this morning as the leaves can clog up our pumps. He also ran irrigation and bounced around as a general "trouble shooter". Dick P, Dick H., John and Rollie all worked on the fence and may finish most of it up this week. They are sure doing a nice job. Ron and Bill collected debris from the paths and were joined by Ed, Ron and Gene once they were done with other projects. The carpenters worked on obelisks and Maury helped here and there as needed. Dr. Yahr spent some time down in the wishing well garden as well. Great turnout and we even saw Janice on her off day working on volunteer stuff. Nancy and Joyce were my expert weeders today and did a nice job as usual. See todays shots below of the formal gardens, sunken garden, reception garden, fern & moss garden and an annual bed featuring cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), wooly sage (Salvia argentea) and dwarf morning glory (Convolvulus tricolor 'Ensign Blue').

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Pleasant Day

When out at the Scott Arboretum (Swarthmore College), I rounded a corner to see the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) in full bloom (see shots above), covered in bees. This tree was native to a very small section of the southeast but doesn't exist natively anymore, only in cultivation. There were three large (30') specimens and while we can't grow it here due to hardiness issues, it is a great example of a showy native that also has great fall color and lots of history. See for more information. I saw some very neat woody specimens but experienced severe "zone envy" as so many wouldn't be hardy here!
We continue to get compliments on our color schemes this year and as seen above, the chartreuse/pink combo has weathered well in to the summer. We continue to weed but are also focusing on removing unsightly plants, deadheading and fertilizing to keep our annual displays looking nice thru September. Kay and Magda were here today weeding while Rose and Urban continued to prep and repaint the lettering on our environmental quote benches. Dr. Gredler was here to mow and work on other projects and we also saw Vern, Maury, Russ and some other volunteers throughout the day. Janice was off for her birthday but Marv, Marianne, Jerry and Terry kept everything looking nice. We did some watering, mowing, fertilizing, weeding, tidying, re-shearing, etc. Everyone had plenty of action today and we're ready for the weekend visitors, including the four outdoor weddings! I worked on organizing the rest of our plantings for installation next week and am designing our hanging baskets for next year. We are now starting to put in orders for next year and have a "feel" for what we're going to do in terms of color. Enjoy some shots of the gardens taken this morning.