Friday, April 30, 2010

Looks Like A Storm Is A-Brewin'

It was a nice day "temperature-wise" although a bit on the warm side with the sun blazing down. However, the winds from yesterday have continued unabated and it's been downright breezy all day. As of lunch-time, the dark clouds are looming so we do hope we have rain but not as quick storm events. We prefer the slow, soaking rains and could use it. There was lots of debris (branches, twigs, etc.) out in the gardens as a result of the recent winds. Above is one of the yellow/charteuse leaved perennial geraniums (Geranium hybrida 'Blue Sunrise') that will have blue flowers soon and has the best yellow in spring before the summer sun makes it more chartreuse (still a nice combo with the blue flowers).

We had another nice productive day out there with plenty of volunteer assistance. We had 17 teenage volunteers from Oakhill Christian School (Janesville) come to help out with two adults from the school. They did a wonderful job of spreading over 30 cubic yards of shredded bark over our daylily collection and beyond. This was a difficult task as the proximity of plants, labels and other obstacles necessitated carrying in and spreading the mulch with buckets. Janice and Marianne helped keep the troops moving while Marv, Terry and Dr. Gredler kept hauling out mulch for the kids to spread. They did a great job and were even smiling at the end (see below). Kath (lower left) works at the school and is also one of our volunteers here at the gardens.
Aside from our large mulching project, the grounds crew kept busy with our Friday tasks. Marv and Terry installed three more benches and later moved to mowing and other duties. Putting up the daisy projects is on their immediate list as well. Janice, after helping with the volunteers, worked on daylilies, mowing and transplanting among other things and Marianne did her entrance garden tidying, cutting display and started some castor bean (Ricinus communis 'Carmencita Red') seeds. Dr. Gredler mowed and worked on various tasks. Margo came in today and was a huge help for Janice as she continued to organize and arrange daylilies for our upcoming plant sale and had some time to water the yard as well. Margo has been a volunteer at RBG as long as I've been here and we always appreciate her help. Kay was here and did another awesome (and thorough!) weeding job near the gazebo garden and we hope she continues to come often! We also saw Nancy, Mary and Gil over here today. The image to the left is of my neighbor's lawn and while most of us have been taught that this is "bad", I think it's quite colorful with violets, dandelions, etc. My comment, previously mentioned in other blogs, is simply that we spend way to much time, money, resources, etc. on our lawns. Having said that, we spend time, money and resources on our lawns here at the gardens as they are part of the "experience" and are highly trafficked. Look for opportunities to incorporate other plants like groundcovers and minimize lawn areas that aren't actively used (or needed). To the right is a nice stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina') that covers space nicely and here in our woodland walk, softens a path edge and space between rocks. However, it will start to grow across the path and like many groundcovers, should be held in check as needed. Another groundcover that is very colorful this time of year is creeping phlox (Phlox subulata). Below is the variety 'Candystripe' that is quite beautiful for about 3 weeks this time of year. Below the phlox is one of our 8 or so irises that have started to bloom early. This is 'Two Thumbs Up' and we anticipate many more starting to bloom next week. The "floodgates have been open" with this warm spring so we'll just enjoy it as it comes. The bottom photo was taken today in the wishing well garden and shows the start of another 1000 late season tulips along the shoreline.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Wind Was A-Howlin' Today

The wind was brutal today. The weather was strange in that it was overcast and drizzly this morning but relatively calm. It then became sunny but the wind became increasingly more significant. Nice shot above over our observation pier to the arched bridge in the distance. I was able to finish fertilizing the lawns today and the predicted rains tomorrow should soak everything in nicely. I'm also in the process of trying to "spot" where the daisies from our 'Petal Thru the Garden' art project will be located. We should have all 27 of them up by Mother's Day and will start tomorrow if possible. Nice shot to the left of a neat hosta called 'White Feather'. It emerges a whitish cream color but later will have streaks of green thru the leaves. We ordered three and will transplant them out in the gardens later. There seems to be some debate as to the summer leaf color (which will vary depending on climate I'm sure) but I'm sold simply on that fresh spring foliage. Neat-O. To the right is lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) that is beautiful (and fragrant) in spring but can get quite ratty (and rampant) later in the year. We have many forms of this groundcover including the pink-blooming and variegated forms. I can't wait to get the golden-leaved form in the future...

The weather didn't slow down the staff or volunteers today. Larry worked on pumping out the sunken pool, cleaning it, filling it and getting the copper fountain set-up and functional too. This is a full day project and he was bummed about all the debris blowing in to his freshly filled water feature. He also had time to do some mowing and odds and ends. Little Jerry mowed the arboretum, worked in the Japanese garden and is laying out a new path that will take some elbow grease in the coming weeks. Janice worked on sorting daylilies, plant sale signs and potted up transplants with her Thursday volunteer crew (see below).The Grumpies did another nice job this morning and were spread over multiple projects. Gary, Ron B. and Jim worked with Del and Pat on mulching the east border and also the west slope off the main building. This involved running, spreading and smoothing out over 30 cubic yards of woodchips and the guys did a nice job. Big John, Dick H., Maury and Rollie worked on installing new fence sections that will eventually connect with what was put up last year. They are working on a slope which necessitates more time but the progress was impressive. Dr. Gredler worked on all sorts of projects today. The carpenters worked on finishing up the 20 cucumber supports and took them out to the horticulture beds for installation (see below). From left to right is Jim, Bob A., Dave and Vern. It will be fun to grow and taste these heirlooms (good source of fiber and potassium among other good things). We also saw Geesje today who brought in some nice treats for the gang and joined us for break. Marilyn H. was back in action this spring and took on the challenge of dealing with an enormous garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) patch that was just starting to bloom. The danger with pulling it now is that it will still set seed despite being removed. My understanding is that the plant, once ripped out, decides to enact vengeance and puts remaining energies in to dropping seed very quickly. I was lucky to have sprayed so much of this weed back in March and despite that, we still have plenty out there. Marilyn placed these in black garbage bags (see to right) that will go to the dump (as opposed to a compost pile or other location where the potential seeds may become a problem). She did a great job and more than pulled her weight in garlic mustard today. After blogging about Fothergillas recently, I took a nice shot of Dave W.'s specimen in front of his home. Not sure which variety but the blooms were quite showy and fragrant.

The Bower City Garden Club (BCGC) luncheon was very well-attended and we had a full parking lot most of the day. Unfortunately, I think the winds kept many participants from enjoying the gardens but at least our tulip display out front was showy. The BCGC is sponsoring our globe amaranth (Gomphrena) collection this year and has collectively been a huge supporter of the gardens. Many of their members are volunteers here and I believe one or two of the ladies are on our Board of Directors. Some other plants of interest today included the "bouquet-flowering" tulips below (unknown variety). Note the gazebo in the background. These are a classification of tulips and while the flowers are a bit smaller than a standard tulip, you get lots on a sturdy stem that then divides in to smaller support stems. Look for them in the fall bulb catalogs (many colors). Beneath the tulips is a close-up of the white-flowering redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Royal White') that might not have the pizzaz of a crabapple but the flower architecture is unmatched. At the bottom is a foliage close-up of our golden little-leaf linden (Tilia cordata 'Akira Gold') in the fern and moss garden. The color right now is eye-catching and will continue to offer a chartreuse look thru summer as the brightness fades in our WI summer heat. This specimen has grown overnight (actually 6 years or so) from a stick to a 12' specimen and is a focal point near our moss island.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The "Dance" Continues

It was a perfect day outside today and it warmed up nicely from the 32 degrees F we saw on the thermometer this morning. Nice shot above of the dwarf yellow columbine (Aquilegia canadensis 'Corbett') in the woodland walk. I can't get enough of columbines and we must have 300 of them out there starting to do "their thing." Very productive day today for everyone. I was able to fertilize about 1/2 our lawns, talked daylilies with Lisa (who is working on our collection), was on the radio promoting the plant sale and did some odds and ends. Marv and John started the day by planting yews and a maple. John moved to rototilling and composting while Marv finished edging the arboretum iris beds (boy do they look sharp...4 irises in bloom already out there!). Marianne tidied the entrance garden, did her cutting display (which are works of art in and of themselves) and planted some perennials in the English cottage garden and woodland walk. Larry weed-whipped, went for supplies, picked up daisies and bounced between projects. Janice popped in on her day off to have her laptop "hooked" in to our wireless system. Bill was here all day spreading mulch and tidying up. Roy and Mary came in to weed their section of the shade garden and we also saw Jumbo Jim and four RECAPPERS who worked on removals and transplanting some shrubs. We also saw Dr. Gredler today and Karen M. kept busy in the Japanese garden. Above are some "vines of interest" out in the gardens. To the left is the fiveleaf akebia (Akebia quinata) which is a tough woody vine but not overly vigorous. This specimen (native to China, Korea and Japan) is in a shaded spot under the porch overhang in the English cottage garden and has been there for over 10 years. The flowers, while small, are a beautiful maroon and smell faintly of chocolate (also called chocolate vine). There is a variegated version of the chocolate vine but we haven't been able to successfully establish it yet. To the above right is the Japanese hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight') that is known for its silvery blue foliage and will eventually have white flower clusters after many years of establishment. This vine, similar in climbing habit to the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), is marginally hardy and slow to establish. I saw impressive specimens out East but think we're a decade away from that reality. We've planted a dozen or so around rough barked cottonwoods in the woodland walk in the hopes that they will work up the furrowed trunks.

It's not hard to find color out in the gardens this time of year. Below is the colorful foliage of 'Tiramisu' coral bells (Heuchera) with bright, vivid growth. Coral bells such as these don't look as bright and crisp after a WI summer but the spring growth is eye catching nonetheless. Good soil, excellent drainage and adequate sunlight are essential for coral bell success. Further down is my favorite grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) cultivar named 'Valerie Finnis'. I just love the powder-blue look. We use these in clumps of 20 or so bulbs (planted in October) and replicated in many locations. The bottom photo is of the Japanese wood poppy (Glaucidium palmatum) with huge, silky, purple-pink blossoms and bold, maple-like leaves. We have this perennial in multiple spots and get lots of compliments on them each year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Family New To RBG

Today was another beautiful day albeit a bit on the cool side this morning. We had left somewhat tender plants out overnight and I was happy to see they were all relatively ok this morning. However, we brought all questionable plants (mostly tropicals) inside for tonight which is calling for a slight chance of frost. Nice shot above from yesterday of some proud parents bringing their kids on a coastal tour of the gardens. I came in this morning to see Larry (below) already unloading 22 more pallets of mushroom compost. We needed to bulk up as we've already gone thru 16 pallets (45 bags per pallet) at our sale and this compost continues to be a hot seller. We like to have lots on hand at our spring plant sale (May 14, 15, 16) and are hoping for a nice weekend (both weather and attendance!). However, we do continue to sell this product every Saturday and have noted many repeat customers over the years that are hooked on the benefits of this compost in their gardens.
I wont keep lamenting about the early spring as we're all experiencing it daily. All I can do is enjoy the garden and various plants as they peak. They are doing what they have done for a long time and aren't worried about the calendar. We've been enjoying the 3,000 red tulips peaking in front of the Parker Education Center and while there wont be many left for Mother's Day visitors, the luncheon this Thursday, hosted by the Bower City Garden Club (Janesville) should experience some nice color. To the left is a close-up of a fragrant spring bloom of fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii 'Blue Mist') that is also known for bluish leaves and unfortunately, has variable vigor. Our specimen is ok but the spring blooms look great right now. We have about 15 or so various fothergillas around the gardens and I like them all, particularly those with superior fall color. If you decide to plant forthergillas, do provide appropriate soils, pH and drainage for these as they can be a bit "persnickety" (spelling?). The shot to the right is one of my favorite plant combos in my own yard with golden bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'Goldheart') in the background with Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in the foreground. Once the bluebells go dormant (mid to late June) we overplant with annuals. See below for a close-up of the exquisite blooms of bleeding heart. Gorgeous.We had a very busy day with a small (but talented crew). Jenny worked on labels, organized our new roses and did a nice job digging/dividing daylilies and weeding the sunken garden. Janice spent a lot of time spreading pre-emergent herbicide in our target areas that we've had trouble with in the past (with weed seedlings). We truly minimize our chemical usage around the gardens but have realized we don't have the manual resources to hand weed the entire gardens thru the summer. The influx of problem weeds last year (due to reseeding) was unbelievable so our hope is that we caught a good window to minimize weed issues later in the year. Janice did a great job and worked on other projects as well. Little Jerry continued his spring clean-up in the Japanese garden while Larry worked on push mowing, planting and some many other tasks. We were happy to have Kay and Margaret working together weeding the Japanese garden. What a great, motivated team and a great representation of how hard our volunteers work out in the gardens. Terry and John started the day planting some trees and shrubs then John and I went out to Song Sparrow Nursery ( to pick up our spring order. Located just east of Janesville, Song Sparrow is a dynamite, mail-order nursery and we got a nice tour from Renee', the nursery manager and a wonderful plantswoman and friend. John worked on some other projects later while Terry and I went mobile again and went out for 3,000 petunias and some other goodies from a local nursery. We also saw Dr. Gredler, Chuck, Shirley S., Sally and many others today as well. Crazy day but lots of fun. Above and to the left is a close-up of the Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) that is still used as a common landscape plant. This specimen is located in a yard along my primary dog route and the flowers are quite beautiful. Native to Central Asia and Southern Russia, this plant was introduced into North American cultivation in 1752 and has spread far and wide due to "bird distribution." We have this shrub at RBG but not as a specimen plant but as a woody invader in the surrounding woodlands. While not as annoying as European buckthorn or Japanese barberry, this shrub is a big concern and four Eastern states list it as noxious, prohibited or even banned in cultivation. The image to the above right is of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) starting to bloom at the gardens. Janice has included this as her weed of the week and we're hoping that gardeners will make a concerted effort to help remove and eradicate this horrible weed from their gardens and native areas. Check out for more information on this thug. Nice shots below of 'Jack Frost' false-forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost') at my in-laws and a close-up of dwarf flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa 'Rosea Plena') that looks great for 10 days or so in spring but has a real informal look and not much interest in my mind beyond spring.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Busy Day of Grumpies (And Grumpettes)

The shots above are from my garden this past weekend. This is an ornamental onion (Allium 'Purple Sensation') blooming almost four weeks early. These are in various stages of opening which is always neat to see when those umbels open up to form the sphere of florets. Granted, these are in a "hot spot" along the south face of my home, we have many in the gardens that while rarely seen for Mother's Day during a "normal spring," may be of interest very shortly. Oh well. As a side note, 'Purple Sensation' is a great variety (we have 20,000 at RBG) and affordable as a fall-planted bulb. LOTS of volunteers here today (Bill, Gary and Dr. Gredler in the loader above). At our morning break, I saw Pam, Julie, Janice, Bill, Big John, Ron B., Ron W., Bob T., Charlie, Bob C., Bob A., Vern, Dave T., Jim, Del, Rollie, Dr. Gredler, Maury, Mary, Shirley, Geesje, Larry, Dick H., Urban, Pat, Roger, Gary, Marianne, Marv, Terry and Little Jerry. It was a full house (nice to see) and we all complimented Janice on her appearance on the front page of the Janesville Gazette (she's usually just in the police blotter). Most of the guys worked on collecting leaf mulch, composting and mulching with shredded bark. Del and Rollie helped Janice finish her daylily project from Saturday and weeded the horticulture center beds with Urban. To the right is Rollie showing Urban the benefit on leaning on two shovels instead of just one for balance... Big John and Dick H. finished up the 'Dialogue' sculpture. To the left is Big John with his new shin guards (his third week anniversary gift) and very warranted due to his clumsiness (and recent shin injuries). Plenty of activity out there and a great crew today.

The grounds crew kept busy with Larry mowing, moving plants, etc. and Little Jerry working in the Japanese Garden. Marianne continues to do a nice job keeping the front of the building looking good, did some weeding in the terrace garden and put together another nice cutting display. After her daylily project was done, Janice worked in the fern/moss garden, laminated signs, etc. Marv and Terry spent most of the day edging the iris beds (see below) and really tidied them up well with a precise sharp edge. I ran around with flags to mark planting locations for the next couple of days, sprayed some herbicide and will be getting things in order for when I am off attending a course at the Chicago Botanic Garden next week (Healthcare Garden Design).
Rarely without my camera, I caught some additional neat shots out in the gardens today. Directly below is the emerging foliage of the golden fullmoon maple (Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon') that emerges 'orangey' but will be a nice bright yellow shortly (with faint orange highlights along the leaf margins). This small specimen is in the Japanese garden and has done well over the past four years or so. Below this shot is the fresh, bright foliage of the golden linden (Tilia europaea 'Wratislaviensis') that keeps its yellow coloration nicely thru the summer. This specimen is still a baby but its impact will continue to grow along with the eventual increase in size. We'll probably relocate it eventually. The bottom photo is similar to one I took last year and is a nice shot near the observation platform, thru a redbud (Cercis candensis) to the arched bridge in the distance.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Working Thru The Drizzle

Today is our first Saturday workday of the year and unfortunately it has been overcast and drizzling at times. Only the hardy souls showed up today. Above, from left to right, are John, Gene and Ernie working on processing 700 daylilies that were "healed in" our vegetable beds last fall. This was a neat donation that was inventoried by Lisa last year and the plan today was to lift, clean and sort these by variety. Marv and Margaret came later to help the guys, while Janice and Sue organized them after they were hauled over to our holding yard. These five volunteers, with Janice in charge, did a great job on this project. We thought to stay close to the Horticulture Center with potential rains and this project is also timely as we need to prepare this space for heirloom cucumbers and gourds. Our compost sale continued today with our volunteers, Heidi and Alice accomodating the sale after Marianne got everything set-up (she later worked on labels). Bill was also here collecting garbage, tidying up and he planted a small Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen') in the Japanese garden. Dr. Gredler worked on some lawn repair this morning. Larry worked on various projects and helped deal with a large tree and shrub delivery. We also saw Art and Polly over here today. Deb and I gave a tour for our Sunday watering volunteers (Sandy, Bob, Carolyn, Suzy and Gene) which is much appreciated task.

It was too cold to take out our tropicals (to the above left) today but we'll get them outside next week. I've shown some neat magnolias in the blog over the past couple of weeks and caught a glimpse of the blooms of one of our new ones (not yet planted) called 'Blue Opal' (right). This is a variety of the cucumbertree magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) and only has the blue "sheen" as the buds open and then go to the standard yellow. This is a neat feature and very unique to this variety apparently. Below are some additional interesting plants out in the gardens that I photographed yesterday. Directly below is the fresh foliage of the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) that is such a tough, durable fern and certainly strays away from the standard green ferns (which also have textural merit of course!). Next in line is the vivid foliage of the variegated five-leaf aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus 'Variegatus') which is one of the toughest shrubs for dry shade (or sun for that matter). While it is hard to find and relatively slow growing, scroll further down to see an informal hedge of these showy, arching, foliage-interest shrubs. The deer avoid them as they have significant thorns on them as well and the growth rate increases with better soil. Highly recommended for their durability. At the bottom is a nice shot of our southern, Japanese garden entrance. There is still plenty of spring color out in the gardens and more opening each day. Lots on our plate next week...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Earth Day! (A Day Late...)

I can't believe I forgot to mention Earth Day yesterday considering it is the 40th anniversary of this monumental "holiday"! We used to do more at the gardens (particularly for kids) regarding Earth Day but haven't done much recently. Initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI), Earth Day was "born" on April 22, 1970 and in 1990, Earth Day went "global". This event continues to emphasize global warming issues and a push for clean energy. Today was overcast and I truly hope it rains although we have a workday tomorrow from 8am until noon so a brief "precipitation respite" during that time period would be welcome. We ran more sprinklers today to make up for that lack of April showers. Today was the second of four days for the Ice Age Trail Alliance and we've all had some nice interactions with conference attendees out in the gardens. Note the neat red tulips (above and left) that while early, are still appreciated and have begun our red/maroon theme already.
We had a small but productive crew today with Marv and Terry (below) jumping right in to leveling an area with soil and planting some fernleaf buckthorns (Rhamnus frangula 'Asplenifolia') to form a hedge/separation between an annual bed and the Japanese garden entry. This is not one of the invasive buckthorns and has wonderful lacy texture. The drawback of this woody plant is that it seems to do well for about 10 years then gets thin and wimps out. I still think it has value in this application as we are replacing a previously removed hedge of scraggly junipers that was damaged by the snow/ice storms in December. Consider "living fences" for barriers and privacy out in the gardens.
Marianne worked on weeding, tidying and her cutting display. She also continues on her quest to provide new alpine and fern labeling which is much appreciated. Janice worked on weeding in the gazebo garden, azalea/rhododendron garden and planted Irish moss in the fern & moss garden. Janice is also researching and accomodating the "Weed of the Week" for Marianne's cutting display. I see a lot of merit in educating the public regarding these plants that may look familiar in their landscapes. Dr. Gredler mowed, ran debris to the dump and did more mulching around the gardens. I can't say enough about his role here at the gardens and he's pretty spry for being 111. Kay spent some time finishing off the weed population down in the wishing well garden, particularly around the irises. We're concerned that the irises are weeks ahead as well but you can't halt Mother Nature (and shouldn't even try). Oh well. We also saw Vern, Donna, Chris and Dan over here today. I had some computer issues to deal with but was able to get out and scout for next week's projects. Of course I had my camera and was very easily distracted by the double kerria or Japanese rose (Kerria japonica 'Pleniflorus') to the above left. This shrub is extremely durable and will take full sun or quite a bit of shade. It does start to form a colony but also has neat green stems thru the winter. Durable is a one-word description for kerrias and of course, their spring blooms are unrivaled...except by the 'Coral Lake' magnolia (right) that I spotted west of our education center. This magnolia is one of my favorites and has a very unique, coral pink coloration (with a slight fragrance). This variety (hard to find) is also known as a late bloomer, thereby avoiding the frosts. We planted this specimen as a 3' tall stick many years ago and it is now about 10' tall and looks great. The hybrid magnolia below is 'Tranquility' and is known for it's yellow blooms and rose blush at the petal base. We have lots of neat magnolias but I'm extremely impressed with the hardy magnolia collection up at the Green Bay Botanical Garden (GBBG), many of which were bred by Green Bay local, Dennis Ledvina. GBBG started about the time RBG did and is a nice operation (and extremely "visit worthy"). The bottom image is of the foliage of the variegated Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata 'Golden Eclipse'). The variegation is most prominent now and gets washed out in summer. However, this tree looks sharp and always catches my eye despite the fact that it hasn't bloomed yet over these past four years!?.