Monday, November 30, 2009

2010 Preparations Begin In Earnest

I'm officially in a 2010 mental state now as I consider what worked for us in 2009 (like this sunken garden border above) and what didn't. With the lights show essentially up and ready to go with the premiere lighting this Friday night, I can sink my teeth in to all the seed catalogs and start putting together some ideas. Despite the fact that some of our summer annuals for next year wont be planted for 6 months, the clock is ticking for selecting, ordering and procuring seed so we can distribute our orders to our four growers. I like to have everything (annuals) selected by January and then move on to woody plants and perennials that we like to obtain locally. We're still in our budget preparations for next year so I need to make decisions based on the approved budget in the coming month or so. It was nice to have four days off but it's time to rock and roll for 2010. Below is a shot of the front of our visitors center a couple of years ago for the Holiday Lights Show, originally called the Winter Wonderland Walk.
While I started my winter preparations for 2010 today, Larry was out "fine tuning" the lights show and helping facilitate Grumpies. Although the Grumpies are on hiatus until spring, we still had a lot of guys here today! The carpenters kept busy while some guys helped with projects out at the other building while some pruned and the remainder mulched. Little Jerry and Urban pruned most of the day and Dr. Gredler continued his journies to the dump. Bill came in for more tidy up work as well. It was a nice day outside and everyone took advantage of it except me! How about the vehicle below for tours around the garden!?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Glad For the Early Start

The swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) leaves caught my eye today with their subtle orange coloration. We had consistent light drizzle throughout the day but managed to continue to test and modify the lights show based on some needs that became apparent last night with our test. We had about ten people (volunteers and staff) join us on our test walk last night and overall, the show looked great. We took the opportunity to mark problem areas with tape that we are addressing today and are modifying some power issues to minimize problems during the show. Nice shot below of the late fall color of a perennial geranium (Geranium cantabrigiense 'Karmina') in our woodland walk (picture from today). The landscape isn't totally brown and I continue to find little "hints" of color.

Larry and I worked on lights today while Little Jerry pruned in the color rooms garden and Bill continued to collect leaves from around the gardens. Marianne and Marv came in today and ran out for some last minute cords, lights, misc. supplies that we needed to complete the lights show. Marianne stayed to make some neat lights decorations for our deer displays. Vern was here for awhile and Dr. Gredler continued his trips to the dump throughout the day. We also saw Maury for a bit as well. Overall, the day was dismal in terms of weather but allowed us to continue with our event progress and garden maintenance. Every day that it's not a blizzard is a gift at this point so we'll continue outside as long as possible although larger projects will wait until spring. Nice shot (below left) in our woodland walk of Italian arum (Arum italicum) in front of variegated Japanese sedge (Carex hachijoensis 'Evergold'). To the right is the fall color of a barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Royal Cloak') beneath our terrace garden. Many barberries get a nice fall color that should also be considered an asset. Unfortunately, barberries are becoming more frequent in woodlands and birds "disperse" the seed far and wide so do keep that in mind as well. I will now transition in to 2010 preparations which include seed ordering, garden designs, signage, interpretation and preparation for presentations.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Pseudo-Closure" For 2009

Nice shot of the arched bridge with icicle lights from this morning. We turned the entire show on this morning and with the exception of a few minor problems, the show has not had major outages and we'll see how it looks tonight. Today was our last official Grumpy day and the last day for Marv, Marianne, Terry and Janice. The Grumpies worked on woodchipping (Ron W. and Charlie), cutting downs spireas (Dick W., Bob T. and Ron B.) and putting up the remainder of our deer fencing (Maury, John, Gary and Rollie). All the major hedges are protected and we'll address protection issues for solitary specimens next week. Vern, Jim and Del worked on carpentry projects while Terry T. continued his bathroom painting projects. Dr. Gredler cut up the remainder of the greens and continues to haul loads to the dump as time allows. It was a productive Grumpy morning and we look forward to having the guys back in April. Some guys come in for indoor projects (painting, etc.) over the winter and we hope many will come in January to start taking down the lights show. Nice shot below of yet another neat sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) leaf that caught my eye this morning.
Marv and Terry worked on some lights repairs/exchanges out in the garden and did some odds and ends in preparation for the lights show. They are truly a dynamic duo (when not napping). Janice replaced and repaired lights out in the show and helped Angie string grapevine thru some obelisks for indoor decorations. See picture to the left for Angie's start to the grapevine work last week. These obelisks should look cool inside and will be nice features. Marianne repaired more lights, checked her luminaries and helped get some back-up lights ready to go if needed. Little Jerry continued to prune in the color rooms garden and with the help of Urban and Bill in the near future, should be able to address the majority of our aesthetic pruning over the next couple of weeks. Bill was in this afternoon continuing to collect leaves and debris from select spots. Larry helped check over the lights and displays and is making some improvements and corrections throughout the day. Another one of our quote benches is seen below. I've gotten used to seeing all these benches around the gardens but I imagine a new visitor might note all these quotes and perhaps be inspired in some way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our Last Workday (Until April!)

We had wonderful weather this morning for our "day of decoration" workday out in the gardens. Felicia (to the left) was one of about fifteen volunteers that showed up today to help decorate the 180 white pine (Pinus strobus) trees that we put up temporarily for the holiday lights show. We lit up the entire show today so our volunteers could plug in their lights, test them and wrap them around the trees. Tree decorating is a science, particularly with white pines as they aren't as rigid as spruce (Picea) or firs (Abies) or Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Marianne layed out all the lights yesterday so with Janice's supervision (Janice seen to the right) our crew did an awesome job and we're ready for our testing next week. I finished running the last of the cords and both Larry and I did some troubleshooting of lights that were out or nibbled on by critters. The rabbits (or squirrels) seem to enjoy chewing on net lights which really cripples some of our lit hedges. Regardless, nothing new in terms of challenges and we have plenty of time to test, tweak, modify and improve the show prior to the premiere lighting during our taste of chocolate event ( Dr. Gredler was here to work on cutting more greens and ran some loads to the dump. Bill did another nice job collecting leaves and debris from the gardens and continues to be one of the few that continues to be dedicated to clean-up as winter looms. One of our last blooming perennials continues to offer color. The pictures below show the fall-blooming, perennial onion (Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa') that started blooming in late September and continues to send up buds despite all the frosty mornings. The flowers will retain some color after the plant goes dormant but so far, this specimen in the alpine garden, is still "struttin' its stuff."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thru The Eyes Of A Deer

We had another great day of weather today. Sorry, no post yesterday as I took the day off to hang out with my younger daughter. Lots of work accomplished yesterday including much progress on our impromptu, informal deer fencing seen above. The guys have done a nice job protecting our arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) hedging that has been decimated over the past three winter seasons. Snow fence has it's merit although we wonder if these barriers will encourage our resident deer to "expand their palette"? Ugh. In some instances, the snow fence is two sections high (seen below) or we're using additional wire to keep them from going under or over one level of fencing. We'll see how effective it is but I certainly appreciate all the effort (and expense!) that has gone in to this endeavor.
We had a small crew today with Marv gone and no Larry or Little Jerry. Terry worked on setting up more trees for decoration and bounced between various "last minute" preparations for the lights show. Marianne continued to haul out lights for our work day tomorrow and also spread greens, ran cords and tidied up here and there. Janice worked on gardening projects, the last of our bulb planting (help from Marianne) and helped Terry as well. Kay came in to garden for the last time this year and didn't disappoint us with her multiple loads of debris from the color rooms and Scottish garden. Dr. Gredler and Vern were here to work on some projects including more soil work to level out an area near the main road. We also saw Bev, Deb and Maury over here today for various reasons. Next week is both joyous and sad. We'll be celebrating the set-up of our lights show after many weeks of work but most of the grounds folk (with the exception of Little Jerry and Larry) will finish until next April. Marv, Marianne, Janice and Terry did an awesome job this year and we look forward to their continued involvement at RBG. I was running cords by our oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) and noted the wide variability of fall color that is certainly dependent on sun exposure. The image shows fall color from left (most sun) to right (least sun). Interesting. Beneath that photo are some others I took today and was happy to see continued interest this late in November. The kale (Brassica sp.) is still looking good but note the little green caterpillars (in center) still munching on the purple one! At the bottom is the annual Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) that still is contributing as it dies a slow death.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dismally Drizzlin'

Not much for colorful photographs today. Above is a water bottle in our pond that I'll mention later. It has been on and off drizzle and rain all day. While not untypical of a November day, this cool rain made me thankful for our early start with the holiday lights show preparations. Marv and Terry continued to stake up trees for decoration this Saturday and worked on some inside projects as well. Marianne placed lights out by their respective "target trees" and worked on more lights preparations. She prepares back-ups for various luminaries and other lights that may require an entire strand to be replaced during the show. Her organizational skills are second to none. Urban was here to do some pruning, Vern worked on carpentry projects and Dr. Gredler continued to cut greens for the lights show and a winter container class coming up soon. Kay stopped by and we hope to see her this Friday if the weather is ok. Little Jerry worked on pruning and I ran some cords between rain drops.

Plastic bottles, specifically water bottles, bother me. The one above was out in our pond and I can't help but wonder how it got there? It is amazing to see the amount of litter in our botanical garden ranging from cigarette butts, fast food bags, cans, bottles, etc. I can't imagine an mentality that justifies littering the environment with the possible (though not probable) assumption that others will pick it up. Some interesting facts about plastic water bottles in our country:

* The average American spends $400 annually on bottled water
* Americans consume 7 billion gallons of bottled water each year
* Bottled water costs almost 2000 times that of tap water
* 86% of used plastic water bottles end up in the garbage (1500 every second)
* It takes 17,000,000 barrels of oil to produce these bottles (not to mention the fuel consumption associated with delivery of these bottles)
* That many barrels of oil could fuel 100,000 cars for an entire year

Consider the implications of using and accepting certain packaging mechanisms. There are implications!!! Stepping off the soap box...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prelude To A Beautiful Day

I couldn't pass up taking a shot of the sunrise this morning (shot taken from the Horticulture Center). What wonderful colors and the day progressed nicely to be partly sunny with a slight breeze. The temperatures have cooled a bit but still great weather to accomplish some work. Janice was sick today and we hope Kay is still recovering from last week. Little Jerry worked on pruning in the Scottish garden and color rooms garden while Bill continued to collect debris from some of those tough to reach locations. Larry and I turned on the lights show and started addressing issues (mostly things that weren't plugged in yet!) and we should have everything done by the end of the week. I'm still carrying around my camera to catch garden interest shots and noticed the barrenwort (Epimedium x rubrum) below with reddish leaves, not too different in coloration from the fresh spring leaves that also have a hint of pink/red. No need to cut these down until spring and they do add interest in the November garden.
Dr. Gredler was here to make more dump runs and continued to mow some areas with stray leaves. The riding mower will soon be converted to a snowblower as we need to be poised to keep our paths clear for the lights show. I'd rather have a foot of snow to deal with than drizzle. We'll see what December holds for us soon enough. Scott S. (aka "Mr. Christmas") came in to help decorate today. This guy is in to Christmas hard core. I believe he has a room in his house with lights and decorations year round (not kidding) and the horn on his truck beeps Christmas tunes. Interesting. He'll be here Thursday as well and is a great guy and a great decorator. See below for the 'Toffee Twist' sedge (Carex flagellifera) which while not hardy, looks great until repeated heavy frosts. This grass relative is used all over the gardens and normally, we remove it in October. We decided to leave these up as they still have interest (that is its normal color). The bottom photo is one of our quote benches and the saying is just as pertinent and appropriate as it was 20 years ago! Our founder, Dr. Robert Yahr continues to be our primary advocate for continued support of this resource.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Annual Tree Expedition

We had great expedition out to the tree farm this morning to cut and load up over 200 white pines for our holiday lights show. There was great teamwork in abundance and the progress was amazing. We ultimately secure most of these cut trees on stakes and will have them decorated with lights this upcoming Saturday. Some of the trees are simply used for screening or sacrificed for greens. The process when very well with our convoy of six vehicles (including five trailers). We had plenty of room to load these trees up and were able to get them back in good order and get them to their locations for Marv and Terry to secure with wiring (see to the left). Thanks to Ron B., Ron W., John, Mike, Jim, Dave T., Dave J., Polly, Peggy, Larry, Bob A., Bob C., Roger, Charlie, Rollie, Terry, Maury, Jerry, Dick H., Kurt, Doug and the dog.

While we were gone, Marv and Terry put up more displays and lights while Marianne worked on a combination of lights and gardening. Janice worked on garden clean-up and later tested more lights. Little Jerry was here to do more pruning and clean-up and Urban stayed behind as well to continue his work on crabapple suckers in the color rooms garden. With the rest of this lights show up by this Saturday (see deer to the right!), we'll be able to start testing everything next week to "iron out the bugs." Nice shot below of the seed structures of the Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). I like this grass but we're seeing more reseeding over the years and those that grow it should be ready for babies popping up. This is a nice grass for dried arrangements and makes an interesting rattle once the seed heads dry and a breeze carries thru.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feeling Less Anxiety...

I would have to say that our preparations for the Holiday Lights Show have gone very well, perhaps the best yet. The nice weather helped but we really sunk our teeth in to this event early and will be able to finish up next week and get everything tested. It takes a good week or two to tweak/adjust for power issues but we're on track to be ready for this event. Marv, Terry, Marianne and Janice all worked on this event today and were able to accomplish some gardening as well. Rose and Urban finished the first coat on all the gates and will add a coat next spring. Dr. Gredler was here mowing and hauling debris to the dump. I was off-site most of the day doing a presentation on container gardening for the Potpourri Garden Club. They were a nice group and very cordial. I wished I had taken my camera to take pictures of Karen's (member of club) fall garden which is one of the best I've seen using so many grasses and perennials with extended interest. We also saw Maury, Del and perhaps others that I missed while gone! Nice white pumpkins above (my house) used for decoration. I think we would use more around here for decoration if I felt confident that they wouldn't end up smashed. Note the golden Irish moss (Sagina subulata 'Aurea') to the left as you look up towards a Japanese lantern. To the right is one of our obelisks doing double duty as it becomes pretty neat during the light show with all the twinkle lights wrapped around it. The destiny of this obelisk after the lights show involves a deep red paint job (color hint for next year). See below for a fall composition that includes a nice yellow extension cord. I think I have about 5 miles run now and will finish the last mile next week.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Productivity Abounds!

We had another great turnout of volunteers today with Grumpies accomplishing some major work. Nice shot to the left of our arched bridge this morning as you peer thru a weeping willow. The fence crew of Dick P., Dick H., John, Gary and Maury continued to put up our makeshift deer fencing which consists of snow fencing and wire. They are protecting our arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) hedges that have been repeatedly decimated over the years. We should have done this last year as some of the damage looks permanent. Regardless, the guys are doing a good job and we're already noticing deer tracks thru the gardens so our timing is perfect. Roger, Ron B., Bob C., Charlie and Trevor worked on planting the last of our daffodils, cleaned up debris and loaded up sand buckets for our winter path treatments during the lights show. Del, Bob A., Vern, Dave and Jim worked on various carpentry projects and we had the gardening skills of Suzy, Glenna and Marilyn this morning as well as they continued to clean up some of our last areas for perennial cutting and leaf collection. Janice helped the ladies, worked on lights and continued to garden thru the afternoon. Larry and I worked on lights and cord issues while Bill and Dr. Gredler kept busy as well. The weather was perfect again and spirits are still high despite the reality that the weather will soon get back to "normal". The shot above and to the right is the bark of the white poplar (Populus alba 'Fialaspire') in the arboretum. Don't forget the value of ornamental bark, particularly during our long winters. Nice shot below of the autumn needle color of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) which is also a deciduous conifer. Tough tree.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Frigid To Fantastic

This morning had a touch of frost (see our prairie to the left) but the layers started coming off as the day progressed. This afternoon was sunny and pleasant. I can't remember a nice November with so many sequential days of unseasonably warm weather. No complaints here as I went to town on slinging cords all over the place. Marianne, Terry and Marv all worked on Holiday Lights Show related activities and preparations today and have been instrumental in getting this event ready to roll. Little Jerry was able to garden today and continued debris collections and shrub cutback/pruning. Dr. Gredler has been hauling loads to the dump and continues to collect leaves as they accumulate in various turf areas. His obstacle course is the web of cords around the gardens right now. See another power box to the right. Our power network in the gardens is quite variable so there are come creative (but safe!) cord networks out there to accomodate our show and minimize issues during the event. Rain is the bane of this event and we hope December remains cold! Nice shot below from our volunteer Patty on a misty day at Rotary Gardens back in early Autumn. What a beautiful shot!
Urban and Rose came in for more gate painting and Vern was in to oil one of the new walnut benches. Vern also helped plant some ornamental onion bulbs (Allium 'Mt. Everest') in our wishing well garden although I prepped the holes with a drill and auger arrangement (see directly below). This set-up works well if you don't encounter major roots or rocks. The auger makes a 3" diameter hole and I drilled these holes 8" or so to accomodate the large allium bulbs. I used to drill 20,000+ holes like this every fall but bulb funds have dimished over the years (and my back has recovered). Maury was out picking up deer fencing supplies today and Polly, Rod and Sally were over at the Horticulture Center painting some displays for our Taste of Chocolate event coming up in December. Check it out on our website. This event includes the premiere lighting of the Holiday Lights Show for attendees (not too mention ample chocolate consumption...). Nice shot at the bottom of a dwarf Japanese larch (deciduous conifer) in our alpine garden with a nice orange/yellow hue with needles ready to drop. This is Larix kaemferi 'Wolterdingen' and looks neat thru the growing season as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is This Early May?

Nice fall color of the Diabolo ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo') above out in the gardens although most have lost their leaves. The summer color of this large shrub is a dark maroon. Today was another nice day although it was hazy and overcast until this afternoon when the sun came out and blue skies emerged. Our small crew did a great job outside. We missed Kay today as she was sick but Janice went out and did more gardening, lights work and decorating. Larry spent most of the day in the reception garden working on his "pavilion" (see left) which is quite involved but really neat when you walk under it when lit up at night. I ran cords all day except for some meetings that I had to attend. Little Jerry worked on the east border with shrub cutting and leaf collection. Bill helped out today by collecting leaves out of those hard to reach locations. Dr. Gredler was here to run loads to the dump and worked on adding soil to some low spots out in the gardens. Rose and Urban came in yet again (yay!) to repaint our gates and have taken full advantage of the nice weather (see below). As much as we discourage public displays of affection here at the gardens, these two are decidedly incorrigible. Interesting shot (bottom) of a leaf that is all around the gardens. This is the white back-side of a leaf from the upright white poplar (Populus alba 'Fialaspire') in our arboretum that has grown quickly and its leaves are everywhere right now but look neat when you see that white underside. This tree sends out some major root suckers and I imagine wants to create a colony. More of the same tomorrow (including weather!).

Monday, November 9, 2009

This Weather Is On Borrowed Time!

One of my favorite "bench quotes" out in the garden is above. We had another mild day and accomplished a wide range of tasks. The Grumpies had another great turnout and we had Charlie, Roger and Mike scraping up old mulch from the rose garden with John, Rollie, Gary, Dick P and Dick H. all working on pounding stakes to create some temporary deer fencing around our tasty arborvitae hedges. I wish we had done this over the past couple of years. Ron W. and Dick K. helped decorate arches for our lights show (see below). Ron came back with his wife Bev and continued on the arches. We appreciate their effort and hard work (see them two shots below...). Ron B. and Bob C. worked on woodchipping and cutting back daylilies. Urban and Rose were here for pruning and painting and all the carpenters (Del, Dave, Bob A., Jim and Vern) were all here today as well.Marv and Terry continued putting up displays and string lights around the gardens. Marianne and Janice started with tulip planting in the English cottage garden then Marianne moved to string cords and Janice continued bulb planting and general gardening. Jumbo Jim brought in four RECAPPERS that helped plant bulbs and collect leaves. Little Jerry continued to cut back shrubs and Dr. Gredler ran more loads to the dump and continued collecting/mulching leaves out in the turf areas. Larry was a big help with lights set up and all I did today was run cords.

There is still lots of interest out in the gardens despite most of the perennials being cut down. See 'Rave On' coral bells (Heuchera) to the above left. The ornamental grasses are really looking nice including the tall purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea 'Transparent') that starts to yellow up and is a nice grass (see to right) for "transparency" (pun intended). These grasses, while tall, allow for a view thru them as evidenced in the picture. Most of the foliage is in the lower third of the plant with the inflorescences extending well above that to 7' or so. I love all Molinias and we're happy to include many here at the gardens. Speaking of puns, it's a nice time of year for reflection. See below. Get it? "Reflection".