Friday, June 25, 2010

Post #560

The image above may look like an optical illusion with the vertical hosta but this is an image sent to me by friends Tom and Donna that experienced some horrible storms east of here (Big Bend, WI) and lost many of their trees and had structural damage as well. What a tragic loss as you can see here many plants that benefited from the shady location. Tom and Donna are professional photographers and horticulturists. They've been working with our fern collection as volunteers and have replicated many of the same ferns in their garden so we can evaluate them in tandem. We wish them best in the recovery of their property, garden and structures and are glad they weren't injured. This container below was at the Lincoln-Tallman House (museum) here in Janesville. We know President Lincoln never saw 'Jade Princess' millet (Pennisetum glaucum) but here, it is a nice centerpiece to colorful container.
I spent most of the day inside (unfortunately) working on getting everything organized for next week when I am on vacation. It was another perfect day of sun and relatively low humidity. Marv and Terry worked on watering, edging and other tasks in preparation for the weekend. Marianne did her cutting display, watered, weeded and tidied up in general. Little Jerry was here to mow with Dr. Gredler and Janice continued on some of her projects from earlier in the week and pushmowed with Terry. We had Kay here weeding in the color rooms garden and shade garden. She is one of the few volunteers that can pull her weight in weeds in a couple hours. She does a wonderful job as does Bill who was here working on shearing boxwood "domes". We had three ladies painting in the alpine garden, led by Lois W. Mary H. was out cleaning up in her area and we also saw Dr. Yahr, Maury, Chuck, John, Elsa, Jean, Cora, Janet, Bev and Dave. Nice shot to the left of dwarf wood betony (Stachys monieri 'Hummelo') with masterwort (Astrantia major), unknown variety, in the front. This is a good example of not only mixing flower colors, but flower forms (architecture). To the right is the variable foliage of the variegated five-leaf aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus 'Variegatus') which is a durable shrub for sun or shade. Below is another copperleaf or calico plant (Alternanthera dentata) called 'Mai Tai'. Note the variable pink patterns overlaying the creamy patterned leaf. Foliage can certainly be as interesting and effective as blooms!
This will be my last blog until Monday, July 5th. I can't believe I've posted so many and have enjoyed it immensely. It's often challenging to keep up with so many blog postings but it has generated more interest in the gardens and serves as a "diary" of our seasonal activities and plants of interest. When I get back, we'll finish planting and get ready for our iris division and the Home Garden Tour & Luncheon. Directly below is a neat bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida) for part shade called 'Blazin' Rose'. This plant can get 2-3' with ample water and is a nice component in those dappled sun areas. At the bottom is my darkest daylily (Hemerocallis) at home called 'Africa'. Daylilies will really be coming apparent over the coming weeks.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Normal June Day

The weather was perfect today in my mind. It was nice and sunny and not too humid. This heat coupled with our damp soils will really get our plants moving along (weeds included). Nice shot above of the Endless Summer hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Bailmer') that is usually purchased with blue blossoms but will rarely keep that blue without some soil pH assistance for acidity. I actually think that the pink is quite nice though. Many our our hydrangeas are starting to bloom and I'm quite fond of most of them.

Great day again today with a strong volunteer turnout. Larry helped get the Grumpies going and worked on mowing and watering our containers, which is a two hour task. Many were in need of attention despite the recent rains. Little Jerry was here doing more pruning and planted two small trees in the Japanese garden to replace some that were lost due to flooding in 2008. Janice helped coordinate some of our volunteers, fertilized and worked on other tasks. It was Jenny's last day as we only get her in spring for two months. She finished most of her label placements and has done another great service to the gardens with her organization and label making skills. We'll see her throughout the year though and look forward to her continued work at the gardens. Nice shot of a new copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana) to the left called 'La Bamba'. The variable, copper, tan and cream leaves offer great visual interest and we've used this variety in many of our containers. We seem to use many of the copperleaf varieties (all annuals) every year and count on them to get in the 18" range and contribute as a foliage plant. To the right is a new coreopsis (tickseed) called 'Jive' that while not hardy here as a perennial, can be used as an annual as it produces abundant flowers the first year. This is a color breakthrough for coreopsis and looks great. Above is a shot of Shirley, her grandkids and Magda in the foreground weeding one of our flower beds. After we plant our major beds, we try to weed the gaps before they fill in with plant growth. This task is essential as it is a lot more difficult to be retroactive with our weeding after the beds have filled in and the weeds have gained a foothold. We also have a couple million cottonwood (Populus deltoides) seedlings to cull out of these gaps. We also had Marilyn, Suzy, Mary and Laura helping weed three other primary areas. Big John was here as a Grumpy and dug out some old elderberries (Sambucus) to be replaced with 'Tiger Eyes' sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'). John went with me later to pick up some donated plants from a very supportive nursery. Pat, Bob T., Ron B. and Bob C. worked on air edging while I also saw Roger and other Grumpies working on projects. Del helped move plants around the yard and watered for us. Dr. Gredler was here as was Dr. Yahr. I rarely lose track of our volunteers but had meetings that affected my time out in the gardens today. It sure looked like a lot of work was accomplished. I was able to spray herbicide over the brick walkways in the sunken garden that were over-run with purslane. Below is a new margeurite daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens) that we're trialing for Ball Seed. This is the variety 'Madeira Deep Pink Improved' and should offer solid color season-long on a compact, 15" plant. I like the various shades of pink (flower age being the factor). Beneath the daisy is another trial plant, a strawflower (Bracteantha sp.) called 'Dreamtime Jumbo Light Pink'. This plant is quite compact but the flowers will hold color for quite some time and will show a golden center once the petals totally unfurl. Looking forward to vacation next week and after my blog tomorrow, I'll be offline until July 5th.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Damp, But Not A Deterrent

If the picture above doesn't scare you, I don't know what will. That's Marv as our first participant in the "daisy face" photo opportunity. We just put this flower up today in the thoughts that visitors might like a picture and it's positioned with all sorts of annuals behind it. We'll see how often it's used although Marv spent about 30 minutes making weird faces thru this daisy...Nice shot to the left of a tango lily (Asiatic hybrid) called 'Cappuccino' along the sunny edge of our woodland walk garden. With rains this morning, Dr. Yahr and Dr. Gredler worked on peeling labels for reuse in other areas (right). This is a nice rainy day project but with the drizzle fading by mid-morning, we were able to get outside for most of the day. Marianne worked on organizing the Horticulture Center (and it really needed it) and later went out to weed and plant. Marv and Terry bounced between edging, working on water plants, staking and other duties. Big John removed a dead tree, watered, weeded and did a nice job putting in another 100 or so perennials (mostly daylilies) in the main parking lot. It looks like we may get more rain later which will keep everything damp. Little Jerry was here pruning in the Japanese garden and I was able to lay out plants for planting today and tomorrow. We saw Maury, Rollie and Steve today and were fortunate to have Margo (below) come in for some planting in the larch area and sunken garden. We had some nice compliments from a bus tour that came thru the gardens today. Barb and Dave gave nice tours and I answered some plant ID questions from the group. I believe they were from the Chicago suburbs and I told them to come back in late July or August to see our annual beds peaking around the gardens. We've seen a decrease in bus tours over previous years due to the fact that the General Motors plant, having closed, is no longer part of a tour package that would entice visitors to see GM, RBG and The Tallman Historic Home as a one day event. We have some great tour guides and I'm glad the tour today had dry weather to view the gardens. To the left is the start of summer blooming for the bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), that while native to many Southeastern states, will do fine here as a large, suckering shrub. I remember going to the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL) as a kid and seeing these enormous, mature colonies near their original visitors center and was struck by their appearance. To the right is the drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) that has a neat ovoid umbel that opens up a nice deep "pinkish-maroon". This is a great partner plant to "shoe horn" in each fall (fall planted bulb) with the understanding that it blooms in July at 30" tall and may reseed in open soils. We've moved them from areas that we need to plant with annuals as we don't want to wait too long to plant. The drumstick allium comes as inexpensive bulbs in the fall and looks great in tight groupings. Below is the beautiful 'Gartenmeister' fuchsia (Fuchsia triphylla) that has maroonish green leaves and is smothered with "orangey-pink," trumpet shaped blossoms. We plant these by the dozens throughout our shade gardens to great effect and they are appreciated by the humminbirds. The bottom shot is a close-up of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) at my house. Look how neat that center pattern appears. The larger outer flower petals (florets) are called the sterile ray florets. The fertile disk florets are clustered in the center and become seed after being fertilized. Don't ever hesitate to observe flowers up close. They are so neat. I learned that the spiral arrangement of the center of a sunflower follows a mathematical model. Sunflowers are tough and can extract nasty substances from the soil (lead, arsenic, etc.). Sunflowers were planted en masse around the Chernobyl nuclear event to help extract uranium from the soil. Interesting..

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Second Day Of Summer

Nice shot of Little Jerry above hauling his ladder out yesterday. He was on this same ladder today shaping a burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in the Japanese garden. It was a warm, muggy day from the beginning and the damp morning became subtropical very quickly. Today was a little bit of this and that around the gardens although with each day, we have less to plant (and hopefully less to weed too!). Below is the native (to 20 States) winecups (Callirhoe involucrata) blooming nicely on a slope behind our 'Dialogue' sculpture. This is a nice groundcover but it is tough to weed "thru it" as some weeds really can get a foothold and require wet soils to pull them up and thru this colorful mat that blooms June until August. Little Jerry worked on pruning in the Japanese garden and was joined by Karen M. They do a nice job and June is the target month for most of their shearing/shaping in that garden. Larry weedwhipped, mowed and kept things moving along as I was gone for most of the afternoon. Big John dug out some weedy trees, prepped an area, mowed and planted today. It was a brutal day out there for everyone. Jenny was here and did another nice job playing detective and found (or created) labels for some of our annual clumps out in the garden with no ID. Janice was here to tend to the hostas (slug repellants) and weeded. We were fortunate to have Kay here continuing her work in the shade garden where she is dealing with lots of debris and a haze of aggressive weeds (who would have trembled had they known Kay was heading their way...). Shirley was here to plant with her grandkids and Dr. Gredler continued to mow out in the gardens. Bill was here to shear and tidy too. Jan R. did another weeding circuit in the Scottish garden this morning. We also saw Dr. Yahr, Gary, Mike, Bob, Nancy, Maury and had Ernie here this morning air edging. Another great day but rough to be outside with that heat and humidity. Strong storms tonight they say... Nice shot to the left of 'Pink Octopus' bellflower (Campanula punctata) with very exquisite blooms. Too bad this plant seems to be on the dessert menu for our bunny population! To the right is the never dull 'Stella D' Oro' daylily (Hemerocallis) that takes all sorts of corporate landscape abuse and always looks good everywhere despite being planted literally by the millions. Below is one of the new coneflower hybrids from Terra Nova nurseries. We'll be planting this soon and so far, I like the vivid look of 'Flamethrower' (Echinacea) and hope it is a sturdy plant. It is reportedly fragrant although we'll test that out soon. Showy for sure!It seems like we've had a record number of visitors this spring. Aside from the peony and iris people, the day to day tours and general visitors seem to be quite regular. There have also been a record number of outdoor weddings (not only Saturdays but Fridays and Sundays too). It's nice to see this and I hope this trend continues as we'll continue to look better each day as our summer displays fill in nicely. Below is a new bloodleaf (Iresine 'Cherry Delight') that is a big part of our red/maroon theme and can be seen to the left in a container. There is not much literature on this variety but one of growers started some for us and it looks to be a wonderful foliage plant for full sun (needs moisture) or part shade. Regardless, that vivid cherry maroon hue is eye catching and we think these plants will get 24"+ in short order (perhaps necessitating a little trim...). To the right is our 'Birdhouse' gourd (Lagenaria sp.) stretching out for something to grab. Two days ago, these DID NOT have those "grabbers" but the plant realizes it needs to cling and gain some height or be left as a groundcover. It is interesting to see the "life" that many climbers display as they seem determined to find something in range and strech towards the sun. Nice shot of another daisy project below. We planted flowers around most to help augment the display. We still see lots of visitors enjoying this additional garden feature.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On Borrowed Time

Today started with some rainfall and we thought we might have a wet day inside. The weather cleared quickly and we had an entire day with primarily overcast skies. It got extremely muggy and as I type this at 9:30 pm, it is raining outside and there has been thunder and tornado warnings. The image above was in the gazebo garden this morning and doesn't even show all the geese that came charging across the turf towards the pond. We seem to have three resident families of over 20+ geese total. They've been friendly enough but have been pecking away at some of our new annuals and are quite "messy". Nice shot below of the Noon Rotary Club members that came out to help plant this afternoon. We had Whitey, Hal, Maury, Gary, Ron and Heather. They did a nice job and the rains tonight should get everything soaked in nicely. It truly was a nice day of volunteerism and accomplishments aplenty. Marv and Terry sheared, rototilled, planted and bounced between many projects. They continue to be a nice team. Marianne planted, weeded, watered, did her cutting display and got thru everything I put on her list. Janice was here this morning and worked on creating signs, weeding and helping facilitate volunteers. Larry was all over the place with watering, repairs and other projects. Little Jerry worked on pruning various trees and shrubs. I kept placing more plants out in the gardens to address the remainder of our open spaces in need of annuals. Nice shot to the left of Quickfire hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) which is known for blooming very early and I've always been impressed with it. To the right is our plantings behind the visitors' center. The wax begonias go very well with the bloody dock (Rumex sanguineus ssp. sanguineus). Nice shot below of a new red cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus 'Rubenza') that is a Fleuroselect winner and a big part of our red theme this year.
We had another great Grumpy turnout. Big John, Del, Rollie and Pat all worked on mulching on while Ron W. and Urban planted annuals with Mary. Dick H. worked on some repairs and Dave, Bob A., Vern and Jim continued their carpentry work. They've made some very nice gates for the new arbor. Gary and Dr. Yahr did some planting too and we also saw Maury, Dave, Mike, Julie, Geesje and many others too. I kept my camera close at hand today and was repeatedly glad that I did. Below and to the left is the 'Tropical Rose' canna which an All-America Selections winner and a canna that is easy to grow from seed (start it early though). This canna also stays around 36" and looks beautiful right now. Japanese beetles enjoy nibbling on cannas so hopefully they'll overlook these in our annual beds. To the right is the wooly sage (Salvia argentea) which is actually a zone 5 perennial. We grow it simply for the bold, white foliage that has everyone touching it. This specimen is in a cluster of containers in the middle of our English cottage garden and we've planted over 50 of these around the gardens primarily as an annual with significant foliage interest. Below is the golden spiderwort (Tradescantia x andersoniana 'Sweet Kate') with the nice combination of blue flowers and golden foliage.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Calm After The Storm

It was a busy weekend after a wicked storm came thru on Friday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. The sky turned black, the winds whipped sideways...and then there was a 50' tall boxelder (Acer negundo) in our back yard that had fallen in a nice gap away from the garage and playset. Above is Larry and Maury who were nice enough to come over Saturday afternoon to help dice this tree up. We spent a good two hours on it and I continued on it today for a couple more hours. I'll have a tree service remove the largest portion that is still precariously perched on our fence and supported by two branches jammed well in to the ground. Better safe than sorry. Neat shot of the illumination that a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) can provide. This is in Janice's garden and the setting sunlight caught it just right.
While we didn't have any major trees down in the garden, Larry and the gang spent time cleaning debris up on Saturday. Jumbo Jim had three RECAPPERS and they did a nice job collecting debris and hauled back over 20 large loads of branches. Bill was there helping prepare all the wedding sites prior to the three weddings that missed the storm. There was a scheduled Friday night wedding that probably had to relocate due to the weather. I came in for a couple hours and brought my younger daughter. We gave a tour to the WI/IL Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (see below). There were about 10 members and we had a nice walk around the gardens. My daughter met one of the members, a young lady from Turkey that is currently a botany student at UW-Madison, and chatted her ear off.We hope to finish planting our annuals this week although the weather forecast might slow us down a bit. We only have about five medium sized areas left to plant and tomorrow is a scheduled planting day for the Noon Rotary Club. They've done this for about four years now and after their scheduled lunch meeting, we'll get a dozen or so members (if it's not raining) to help install another 2,000+ annuals. Some shots included here are from my home garden. My wife and I actually shot the same composition (purple coneflower, lily, lamb's ears, and if you look closely, bindweed!). To the right is the variegated false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides 'Loraine Sunshine) that has variable variegation (and reversions to green) but still looks neat to me (30" tall). I probably blogged last October about planting lilies out in my home garden. Well, this double yellow below looks great and I've become re-addicted to lilies (Lilium).

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Fern Garden Is Full Again

With a high probability of rain tonight, we jumped on planting over 90 ferns in the fern & moss garden today with the hopes that a nice soaking ran will be timely after installation. After Marv and Marianne hauled the ferns, I placed them out, then Marv, Marianne and Janice planted them right away. We filled all the gaps that were created years ago when flooding damage killed many of the ferns in this space. To the left is the linear male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas 'Linearis') that is one among many that catch my eye with their interesting texture. That garden has two beds each for the general fern catagories of Asian, European and North American origin. We also have a small space for ferns from regions that don't neatly fit in to those general categories. To the right is Marianne just getting started with planting this morning. All our ferns are now "double labeled" and will be mapped as well so we don't lose track of what is out there. While down in that area, Janice was able to touch up her moss area and I caught here sitting down on the job again (which is really the only way to avoid squatting on the moss).
Aside from planting ferns, Marv also worked on running irrigation, pulling thistle and various other tasks. Marianne also planted more containers, did her cutting display, weeded and tidied up here and there. Dr. Gredler was here mowing and we had Shirley and her grandson, Wes, out planting two areas this morning (see to the right). They were here yesterday too and I mentioned that I hope we see them Monday if they are going to make this a habit, which would be ok with me! Dick H. was here fixing one of our utility carts and worked on a truck as well. His next project is an overhaul of our Cushman utility vehicle which will benefit from his attention. Mary H. was here tidying up her garden area and we also saw Maury, Ray, Urban, Rose, Cindy and Scott. LP Tree Service was here at the gardens today removing a large cottonwood (Populus deltoides) near the pond. This tree needed to be removed prior to the work involved with the new retaining walls that will go along that shoreline in the coming weeks. The tree crew did a nice job and made quick work of that tree and did a nice job cleaning up as well.

Coming up on July 16-18 at the Walworth County Fairgrounds (Elkhorn,WI) is the EcoFair360. Their tag line is "Join us for three days of exploration, education and inspiration of all things green." There will be seminars, displays, food and all sorts of neat things going on. I believe I'll be giving a talk at this event ("Energy Efficient Landscape Design", yet to be confirmed) and we hope attendees will be inspired to travel over to see RBG during that weekend. See for more information regarding this exciting event.

It wasn't hard to find color in the gardens today. One of my favorite sedges was really looking good down in the fern & moss garden today. To the left is the golden sedge (Carex elata 'Bowles' Golden' or 'Aurea'). This sedge offers some nice coloration in semi-shade and is quite durable in a wide range of soils. Provide adequate moisture for the best look (and height, 24"). We use this specific sedge in many of our shadier gardens to offer color and texture in areas that become less reliant of flowers and more dependent on foliage. To the right is a hybrid toadflax (Linaria hybrida 'Enchantment') with fragrant, magenta and gold blossoms. This annual looks great in the cooler months of the growing season and tends to wimp out in July and August. What a vivid color though. I estimate that we are about 86.4% planted with our annuals and should be able to finish the rest next week if we aren't too rained out. We still have a dozen trees and shrubs and a couple hundred perennials to put in but this has been a record spring for planting due to such wonderful volunteers. I'm "off" tomorrow but will be here to give a tour to the WI/IL Chapter of the American Rock Garden Society. Should be fun. Our 2010 "impatiens swirl" below, layed out by Marianne. Looks sweet.