Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Another small crew today with Dr. Gredler priming and painting, Maury priming and running out for more paint and Vern working on a revised drawing for an arbor/sitting structure. Dick H. came in to work on our utility carts and his tinkering skills are invaluable around here. We also saw Dr. Yahr today with Lynn and Sue, two of his daughters. He did a great acceptance speech yesterday for his award and received a standing ovation. Doug V. popped by as well. I've been working on spreadsheets and plant orders for spring. The cross-referencing and data entry are time consuming but well worth the time in the long run as all this advance work paves the way for Jenny to start cranking out labels in late winter. Below is our "obelisk preparation and conversion center" (Maury is way in the back)! See further below for a neat plant I can't wait to try this year.
Below is the new variegated variety of Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). This variety, 'River Mist', has bold variegation and is a real eye-catcher. The seed heads (green aging to amber) of this species are quite showy and lend themselves to the common name of this perennial, ornamental grass. The seed heads stand out nicely in a dried arrangement and "rattle" a bit when dried thoroughly. See the bottom photo for the green version with the dangling, oat-like spikelets turning brown in late summer. This native grass can reseed and we've seen "babies" around parent plants that take a little elbow-grease to remove but I would not consider this grass invasive. Topping out around 36", this grass can get marginal fall color but is also quite adaptabile to a wide range of soils and will tolerate partial sun. Ask for 'River Mist' this year at your local garden center or do some independent snooping around. Consider the value and merit of the straight species as well.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Another nice Grumpy crowd today but only Little Jerry braved the sub-zero windchills to go out in the gardens. Del, Dick W., Bob A., Dave, Vern and Jim worked on carpentry projects while Dr. Gredler continued to paint. Maury and Dick P. worked on some projects at the other building while Larry helped with odds and ends. We also saw Marv, Urban, Janice, Terry and Dick H. Marianne came in and continued processing seed orders and has been a huge help with getting handouts ready for my upcoming presentations. I have three presentations at the upcoming Garden Expo in Madison (www.wpt.org/gardenexpo/ ). We're getting our booth "contents" ready to go and will have plenty of handouts for those that like to know what's going on this year (or have never visited). This event continues to get better attendance each year and is a great venue for RBG exposure.
Dave, our Executive Director, recently hauled our old computers, monitors, etc. to a place that will recycle them for a fee. I remember seeing years ago a large truck at our local dump just pouring out computers, keyboards, etc. in to the dump. Out of sight, out of mind as they say. The term for this type of garbage is E-trash. Our nation disposes of over 400 million electronic items each year with less than 20% of that being recycled. While representing only 2% of our trash in landfills, E-trash accounts for 70% of the toxic waste in those same landfills. The European Union banned E-waste from landfills in the 1990s and hold manufacturers responsible for accomodating disposal. Unfortunately, large amounts of E-wast is exported to China, India and Kenya where processing E-waste is profitable but environmental standards and worker health protection is lax. Consider donating or recycling some of your items. It may take more time and/or money but you'll hopefully sleep better. Cell phones are a topic for another time. Most of my facts above were from http://www.dosomething.org/.
Below is a shot from years ago of our Garden Expo booth. We try to make it different each year but having live plants is always a challenge as they are usually exposed to freezing temperatures before they enter the Alliant Center. We used to give out free seed packets but don't any more as it seemed that there are those that are just cruisin' for freebies and had no interest in the gardens. My favorite was the attendees that would walk by our booth multiple times, not want any information, but would load up on their seed supply for the year! At least I'm still not bitter. Well, my tie and I are headed out. (grammar?)
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Another small but productive crowd over here today. Dr. Gredler continued with his obelisk painting and is probably tired of red paint. The good news (or bad news for him) is that I have five more "conversion colors" selected for other obelisks. Little Jerry came in to work on some indoor lights show work while Dick W. was here this afternoon helping cut reindeer antlers for Del's cutouts. Vern was here working on designing a neat new arbor sitting area that we'll install this year near the children's garden and Maury was in briefly as well. I ordered more seeds and should be done by Friday. I'm starting to move to plant orders and need to confirm herb selections for our spring plant sale (May 14-16).
So many of my orders coming in now are filled with the styrofoam peanuts which drives me crazy for many reasons (see earlier blog on stryofoam). There are biodegradable peanuts as well but I am also not a big fan of the "packing air bags". I was tickled to see Territorial Seeds sent a box with BIODEGRADABLE air cushions for packing. I found they are made by FP International (www.fpintl.com/) and as their website states, I hope they are "the future of packaging" with these earth-wise options. See picture to the left. Incidentally, that same box contained some CowPots (www.cowpots.com/) which will be part of our earth-friendly container display this spring. They've been around for a couple years but I've heard nothing but good things about them. See this NY Times article www.nytimes.com/2009/03/01/nyregion/connecticut/0301colct.html for some other facts. They are made with 100% renewable, composted cow manure. They break down quickly and enrich the soil, so they are very handy for direct planting out in the gardens (see picture to the right). The website has an interesting section on company history and I hope this product really catches momentum. There is no doubt that this resource is "renewable" with 98 million cows/cattle in the United States each pooping 120 lbs. of manure per day....There are some other exciting developments in utilizing manure as an energy source. See Dr. Yahr below not only leaning on a shovel but a post hole digger as well!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
We'll use samples for demo and will actually try some out and see how well the break down out in the environment. I also noted that the pots were stamped with FRANCE on the bottom and followed another link to additional information on the DOTpot website. See below.
Nice shot of 'Autumn Rain' iris (Iris germanica) from Tim that looks awesome. We'll see this baby in just over 120 days...
Monday, January 25, 2010
Busy day here at the gardens with Little Jerry, Dick H., Marv and Terry out bringing in lights from the gardens. The guys are also bringing more of the temporary pines from the gardens as well. Dave, Jim, Bob A. and Vern were helped by Dick W. with carpentry projects while Del continued his reindeer creation. Urban was out pruning and Larry bounced around helping here and there as needed. We also saw Maury, Gary, Dr. Gredler and Dick P. Marianne worked on processing seeds and handouts while Janice continued her gourd/cucumber seed projects (see below).
I've been working on finishing seed orders this week and am continuing to keep ahead with preparations for various seminars and talks thru February and March. I'm not lacking for projects and find myself writing more notes to help my failing memory. A neat project that we'll be putting together in display format this year will address many of the new biodegradable and recyclable containers. Janice is securing samples of many of these containers that we hope are the "wave of the future" and will help minimize all the plastics that go in to the landfills from our current nursery pots. To the left is an "Eco-pot". This hard, almost plastic-like, material is a nice ornamental pot. The twist is that it is made of biodegradable materials and is 100% biodegradable once it enters a landfill. From one of the primary suppliers,
"Our eco pots are made from grain husks (primarily rice hulls) and natural binding agents (starch based, water soluble binders and biodegradable additives). No pollutants are used or produced at any stage of the manufacturing process. There are no wasted materials because scraps are recycled back into the production process. Only a small amount of water is used in the binding formula along with safe and environmentally friendly organic pigments. A combination of heat and pressure is used to cement the ingredients together to produce a beautiful, durable, guilt-free pot."
Much of the display will also show peat and compost-based pots that can be "planted" with their respective contents and will break down quickly. We look forward to creating this display and hope that the selections of such products become more available in the near future. Another nice shot below from today. This is a golden falsecypress (Chamaecyperis pisifera var. filifera 'Golden Mops') that really looks good all the time. Now that is a showy winter yellow!
Friday, January 22, 2010
I've not been on my recycling rants recently so thought I would bring up aluminum recycling. A previous posting mentioned one of our volunteers (Chuck) who recycles our aluminum and donates the money back to the gardens. Of course aluminum goes well beyond cans but it always amazes me to see aluminum cans out in the environment or in garbage containers. I always hand pick them out. I've read that only 50% of all aluminum cans are recycled. Unreal. See below for some very interesting aluminum factoids and please do what you can to encourage proper recycling of aluminum (and all other recyclable materials for that matter!). I feel all places of business should have appropriate containers out for such easy recycling. Most of these facts refer to aluminum cans but consider all the other items made of aluminum as well. I read just recently on a blog that "More than 80 million Hershey's Kisses are wrapped each day in foil. Placed end to end, those foil wrappers would stretch 3157 miles -- and it's all recyclable." WOW.
*Aluminum is a sustainable metal and can be recycled over and over again
*Aluminum is the only material that is endlessly recyclable
*If we recycled all of our existing aluminum, we'd never have to make more
*Making new aluminum cans from recycled cans takes 95% less energy than using virgin materials
*Recycled aluminum cans can be back on the grocery store shelves in 30-60 days
*An aluminum can out in the environment will take 400 years to break down naturally
*Every three months, Americans discard enough aluminum to rebuild every single commercial airplane in America
*The process of creating aluminum from raw bauxite ore creates significant pollution
*By doubling our annual recycling rate of aluminum, millions of tons of pollutants could be avoided
*Every minute, an average of 113,204 aluminum cans are recycled and 350,000 aluminum cans are made
*Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for 4 hours or to keep your TV on for three hours
*Tossing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as disposing half that can's volume of gasoline
*The energy saved by recycling 1 ton of aluminum equals the amount of electricity used by a typical home in 10 years
*In 2007, 54 billion cans were recycled, saving the energy equivalent of 15 million barrels of crude oil
Recycling aluminum makes sense on so many levels so help stop the senseless disposal of a renewable resource. Talk the talk and walk the walk. Nice shot below of 'Fly Your Colors' iris (Iris germanica) from Tina.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
It was a successful Grumpy day as well with Marv, Terry, Little Jerry, Larry and Dick H. out bringing in lights. Bill came in later to do the same. Dave, Jim, Bob A. and Vern have moved away from flowers (sort of) and are now making the stems and leaves for these displays. Lots of sawdust flying, including from Del (below left) with his reindeer project. Dr. Gredler was sick today but we had Maury, Bob T., Rollie and John stop by as well.
As I wind down with seed orders, I start to go thru catalogs with perennial and woody plant offerings. I'm a big fan of hostas and like to acquire new ones for the gardens (and home!) each year. I thought I would include a small article that I recently wrote for the American Hosta Society (AHS) summer publication this year. As a National Display Garden for that organization, our hosta collection is very important and we hope to add 50-100 new varieties (new to RBG) this year. This article was originally meant to inform AHS members about RBG and our hosta collections. It may be of interest to you as well. We have many spaces that could accomodate hostas and look forward to our growing collection (pun intended). Nice shot of 'Orange Titan' iris (Iris germanica) at the very bottom from Laurie.
Rotary Botanical Gardens (Janesville, WI)
By Mark Dwyer, Director of Horticulture
Founded in 1989 by Dr. Robert Yahr, a retired orthodontist, Rotary Botanical Gardens (RBG) was initially developed with assistance from the two local Rotary Clubs in Janesville, WI. These 20 acres of display gardens are situated on City of Janesville land that originally was utilized as a sand and gravel pit over 100 years ago. The Wilcox Sand & Gravel Company made hitching posts and other items at their facility and the original office building for that company continues to be part of our expanded visitor’s center and housed the original offices for early garden staff. When mining operations hit natural springs, the pits filled with water and have become a six acre pond around which the gardens are arranged. While the land and original building was used for various operations over the past century, it eventually became the property of the city and was used for fishing, a BMX bike track and also has a storage space for various items.
This 20 acre piece of real estate is bounded to the west by Lion’s Beach, a swimming beach with beach house, which was a project of the Lion’s Club back in the 1950s and to the east by Kiwanis Pond, another reclamation project of a sand and gravel pit that was a project of that service organization. The gardens are located in “service club alley” which is a small portion of a large greenbelt that is part of Janesville’s 2,500 acres of park land. Janesville’s tag line is “Wisconsin’s Park Place”.
Dedicated to international peace and friendship, the gardens developed rapidly with very little direct funding. Dr. Yahr solicited financial and in-kind support from many organizations, businesses and individuals and the gardens began to develop without any City of Janesville funds. RBG is a private, 501(c)3 non-profit entity and receives no local, state or federal funding. The original and continuing mission of RBG is “To provide horticultural education and appreciation for everyone.” It is important to note that volunteers are the most valuable asset at RBG. With a very small permanent staff, volunteers continue to be instrumental in all aspects of garden activity, including education, special events, gardening, tours, etc.
There are over 20 different gardens within RBG’s 20 acres. The first garden built was the Japanese Garden which continues to be our most popular garden and is ranked one of the top 25 in North America. Other gardens include English Cottage Garden, French Formal Garden, Italian Formal Garden, Fern & Moss Garden, Sunken Garden, Reception Garden, and so on. These garden spaces are meant to reflect a certain garden style and/or contain specific plant collections relevant to that type of garden. RBG currently has over 1000 varieties of woody plants, 3,000 varieties of perennials, and features over 100,000 annuals each year representing 800+varieties. A substantial collection of over 400,000 spring blooming bulbs starts our spring and specialty displays and trials are common every year. Many displays are transitional and RBG puts on a “new face” each year with transitions of color and design modifications.
Aside from being a National Display Garden for the American Hosta Society (more about hostas later!), we are also a National Display Garden for the American Hemerocallis Society, the Hardy Fern Foundation, All-America Selections, the American Garden Award program and Fleuroselect (Europe). We also do plant trials for Ball Seed, PanAmerican Seed and Bailey Nursery (roses) as well. The gardens have been featured on HGTV (Great American Gardens), PBS (GardenSMART) and in many national gardening magazines. The American Horticultural Society (AHS) listed RBG as one of the best (and least known) botanic gardens in the Midwest. Our plant collections continue to grow as does our commitment to promoting sound environmental practices. Our educational programs, which include the local Rock County Master Gardener program, are geared towards all age levels and we continue to improve our interpretation and labeling initiatives. RBG also is involved with many community service organizations and is currently making modifications to allow for significant horticultural therapy programs. We are currently developing a small children’s garden that will facilitate many of our expanding programs.
Well, what about hostas? We love them here at RBG and currently have over 500 varieties. RBG, while still relatively young, is fortunate to have many areas of shade and part-shade due to existing large trees such as cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). When the gardens were started, many hosta donations from the local populace poured in to the gardens and were used for filler in those shady areas. In past years, we focused on identifying those that we could, remove those that we couldn’t and putting in new collections. The Wisconsin Hosta Society (WHS) has been extremely generous with donations from members over the years and has provided significant financial support of those collections. The Midwest Regional Hosta Society, along with the WHS, supplied funds in 2004 to create our Hosta Hollow garden. This small garden space is adjacent to our Fern & Moss Garden and has an overhead canopy of cottonwoods (messy!) and an understory of rare woody plants. Aside from specialty perennials and thousands of spring bulbs, this garden displays over 80 varieties of hostas and includes the complete collection from Eunice Fisher, a native WI hybridizer. Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI contains the only other complete Eunice Fisher collection.
Our 20 acres also includes our Woodland Walk Garden, Gazebo Garden, Color Rooms Garden and Shade Garden. All of these gardens have significant hostas, artfully combined with other perennials such as hellebores (Helleborus sp.), lungworts (Pulmonaria), barrenworts (Epimedium), Rodger’s flower (Rodgersia) and other perennials of merit. Colorful, shade tolerant annuals also punctuate these shady spaces. Most hosta groupings have been under planted with thousands of grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) that offer their early May color in the gaps between emerging plants that later fill those voids. Three years ago we divided many of our hostas and had over 3,000 divisions available for sale. Each year we try to add 50 varieties new to the gardens and will be focusing on smaller varieties and miniatures in the immediate future. We continue to rely on donations as our grounds budget is still quite meager. Shady Oaks Nursery and Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery have been major benefactors as well.
I don’t feel qualified to list what would be our most significant varieties as I think that is a subjective decision that has nothing to due with how new a cultivar is or how expensive. My favorite varieties here at the gardens include ‘Wolverine’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Torchlight’, ‘Inniswood’, ‘Osprey’, ‘Choo Choo Train’, ‘Majesty’, ‘Remember Me’, ‘Stained Glass’ and ‘June’. One of my favorite garden moments each spring however is seeing ‘Fire Island’ piercing the soil and offering a beacon of color. We can all wax poetic about our favorites but I’m preaching to the choir when I say that hostas are awesome and will continue to be a mainstay at Rotary Botanical Gardens in the future. While we’ll never accumulate a truly massive collection because of our size, we’ll continue to display a wide range of named varieties in a rotating collection that will extol the virtues of this stalwart perennial. RBG is proud to be a National Display Garden for the American Hosta Society since 2004 and will continue to maintain our quality collection.
For more information regarding Rotary Botanical Gardens, visit our website at www.rotarygardens.org or feel free to visit my daily gardening blog for RBG at www.rotarygardens.blogspot.com. Please come and visit. That’s why we’re here!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Small crew today with Larry, Bill, Little Jerry and Urban outside bringing in lights. Dr. Gredler worked on some obelisk staining and priming of those "plywood daisies". The weather was quite nice today actually. I had some afternoon appointments but am back for our monthly board meeting. Some of our best volunteers are also on our Board of Directors which is a very good thing as they can lend a day to day perspective. Maury, Dick H. and Mike M. stopped by today as well. My goal is to have my office table clear of catalogs by the end of the month. It has to be clear so we can lay out 1000+ seed packets and start organizing them by grower. Slow time? Below is 'Pussy Cat Pink' iris (Iris germanica), a dwarf bearded iris shot by Tim in 2009.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
I was reading an article recently that listed some predicted 2010 garden trends as determined by the Garden Media Group. I've included some of those trends below for consideration. Sometimes I think trends are started by saying that something will be a trend. Sometimes colors are mentioned too. Hearing that "orange is the in color this year" has no effect on me. Who determines that? I think the trends below seem pretty valid though... At the bottom is 'Island Pearl' (Iris germanica) taken by Tina.
*Edible gardens are in, lawns are out. There has been a 19% increase in new hobby farms around the country. Chemical inputs for turf will decrease.
*"Yard-sharing" is gaining momentum. This is the concept that sharing space, skills, resources, tools and time will be more popular in our neighborhoods.
*Slow gardening is in. Instant gratification is out. People are returning to a simpler life of cooking and gardening. Locally grown food demand is increasing as is growing plants (i.e. veggies) from seed.
*Mindfulness of resource managment and enviromental issues and impacts will increase
*Eco-boosting is in. People will seek products that work with nature, not against it.
*Multi-task gardens are in. Single-purpose gardening is out. Gardens will include more intentional, sustainable design that helps create wildlife habitats, moderate heat islands, absorb runoff, filter pollutants, etc.
*Perennials and shrubs are in. Divas are out. Consumers are looking for more easy-care, wildlife friendly, sustainable plants not those that need pampering.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I continue with my seed orders with a focus on getting our vegetable seeds here so we can get them organized and sorted as needed. I've passed along a press release below that I thought was very relevant as it relates to maintaining biodiversity worldwide. At the bottom is 'Bit O' Royalty' (Iris germanica) shot by Tim.
Food Producers say that Conserving Biodiversity is a shared responsibility
The International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) will be highlighting, throughout this year, the crucial role played by farmers to conserve ecosystems. IFAP will also be challenging national governments and the international community to put in place programs to help secure the planet’s biodiversity, while at the same time, ensuring that farmers have the necessary tools to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050 to feed a growing world population.
‘’The main issue for farmers is gaining recognition for the multiple roles that agriculture is expected to fulfil and identifying appropriate mechanisms in order to achieve them. We need to help and encourage farmers to improve their current practices, while ensuring they can sustain their families and remain competitive in the markets. These efforts all need be undertaken simultaneously, otherwise you will have food security problems or a compromised ecosystem,’’ said Ajay Vashee, IFAP President.
Farmers understand the need to protect and conserve biodiversity, and their role in doing so. At the same time, it is crucial that they maintain the economic viability of their agricultural activities. In 2010, IFAP will strive to find genuine and long-lasting approaches to better conserve and enhance biological diversity that can be implemented by farmers, and will advocate positive and constructive policy approaches to governments and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
“Through such practices as land set asides for wildlife and native species, conservation farming, organic farming, reforestation practices, pastoralism, rotational grazing and rehabilitation of degraded lands, farmers are contributing to the conservation and protection of biodiversity. However, this is a shared responsibility with the rest of society. All stakeholders need to participate. If these efforts are to be expanded on a global scale to reduce biodiversity degradation, appropriate funding, positive incentives for farmers such as payment for ecosystem services, training and policy implementation will be needed to achieve results,’’ concluded Vashee.
To move forward on conserving biodiversity, the world farmers’ organization advocates the following actions:
- Government policies for secure land tenure systems and adequate infrastructure that allows farmers to invest in long-term farming strategies related to biodiversity enhancement.
- Economic partnerships between developing and developed countries aimed at transferring and adapting stewardship programs, such as credit systems and extension services.
- Recognition of farmers’ indigenous knowledge of local resource management and conservation.
- Increased funding for the scientific research that underpins the development and sound understanding of how agricultural management interacts with biodiversity. Scientific knowledge and findings should be disseminated, scaled-down and be specific to the dynamics of a particular region.
- Strengthened farmers’ participation in the formulation and the implementation of research projects and rural development strategies to enhance biodiversity.
- Improved policy coordination and planning of environmental legislation affecting agricultural production. Often different government departments deal with these issues in isolation. There is also a need to increase capacity to enforce legislation in a coordinated way.
- Mainstreaming of the Agricultural Biodiversity program of work of the CBD (UN Convention on Biodiversity) with the programs of work of the other Multilateral Environment Agreements, such as the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), as well as with food security and rural development programs.
IFAP will be placing biodiversity as a policy priority in 2010. “Sustainable solutions can be found and many are already available”, said the IFAP President, “but responsibility must be shared among all stakeholders”.