Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Next Phase

The weather again was quite delightful and we had a great turnout of volunteers and saw many visitors out in the gardens today. Above is "the point" garden area that now has been graded with new topsoil and is ready for our next phase: the arbor structure construction. Above are Jim, Bob A., Vern and Dave determining where we'll need the support posts. Dr. Yahr and I were out there with the guys to spot the final location and the carpenters did a nice job squaring everything off. We'll start getting the posts in place on Monday. This project, while taking up quite a bit of time, has really gained some momentum and lots of interest from visitors. We'll probably have time to get in some trees yet this fall but will save the remainder of the landscaping for next spring. We'll have lots of gardening work over the next couple of weeks just with clean-up duties. There are concerning "temperature rumors" of 33-34 degrees F overnight this Saturday. If we get those temperatures, we'll have to start removing the most sensitive tropicals and will become "reactive" as plants start to look frost-tinged or compromised because of cold temperatures. Above to the left is Little Jerry pruning in the alpine garden. He's done a nice job pruning and shaping many of our conifers in this space and his eye is one of the best for pruning anywhere out in the gardens. To the right is Mary who was part of our Grumpette group today. Luis (white hat and sunglasses) to the left has been in the gardens these past two days (and many prior to that)continuing his woody plant inventory around the gardens. With our new laser engraver ready for action, we'll start on woody plants this fall. Luis, a vounteer and Master Gardener, has volunteered to update our woody plant records which will be an exhaustive task. However, Luis is one of our best so I have no concerns about getting thru this valuable project. I just wish my memory was better with trying to remember some of these specimens and help Luis out! To the right is Karen, one of our newest volunteers that has been helping out on Monday and Thursday mornings. We're happy to add her to our family and she's doing great work out in the gardens. Below is one of our more commonly used groundcover sedums. This is the 'Lemon Coral' stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Lemon Coral') that we've used as an annual although it should make it thru the winter as well. We'll see. It's quite showy and will get orange tinges thru the fall. We had a small crew today with Janice, Little Jerry and myself. Janice helped get our volunteers organized and moved on to clean-up in the woodland walk and watering duties. She also had her afternoon volunteer group come in for bulb sorting. Little Jerry continued working in the alpine garden and I was able to spend the entire morning outside and helped with watering as well. Big John and Dick Peck worked at the other building and made a "gas run" for our vehicles. Aside from the carpenters mentioned above, we also had Ron W. and Pat here to run for more pumpkins, haul back debris and collect leaves around the garden pathways. Del was here working on carpentry (custom birdhouses) while Maury worked on lots of different projects. Marilyn, Glenna, Suzy (to the left), Mary (above) and Karen (above) all worked in the fern & moss garden and did a thorough job cleaning up and collecting debris. Jumbo Jim had three RECAPPERS and they focused on debris clean-up in the Japanese garden. Hal, Doris and Mary H. were all here to work in their garden areas and we saw Matt and Valerie working on cleaning out water features. Dr. Gredler was here mowing and we also saw Dave, Mike, Gena, Todd and Mary today too. Nice shot of Suzy to the left and a neat switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Northwind') to the right. The switch grasses are looking pretty nice right now and there are so many suitable varieties including those with some reddish fall color. Below is a nice shot of our Ma' Chii' structure in the fern & moss garden and one of my favorite perennial mums, 'Mary Stoker'.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Classic Autumn Weather (and Tasks)

Does Big John's smile look forced above? I think it is as he dug up and potted over 60 purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea 'Prairie Splendor') that we had growing out in an annual bed. These were part of our American Garden Award display and this variety blooms the first year from seed. We didn't want them to go to waste and will transplant some and give the rest to volunteers. John had to do plenty of digging today but the weather sure was perfect for it. He also mowed and watered later in the day. We had a very productive day with Marv & Terry working on creating a new path (see below), running sprinklers and irrigation and accomplishing other tasks around the gardens. Marianne started working on holiday lights then moved to "sprucing" up the plant sale items near the main building, transplanting coral bells, planting kale and plenty of watering. Little Jerry continued to prune conifers in the alpine garden and tidied up here and there. We had Kay here working in the shade garden and she did her wonderful job as usual. Dr. Gredler was here to fertilize, collect debris, make runs to the dump and other task. Dr. Yahr was also here keeping an eye on the progress out on "the point." It's looking pretty good out there and three loads of topsoil came this morning and are being leveled out as I type! We also saw Vern, Del, Mary Kay and Mike today. Nice shot to the left of 'Dolce Blackcurrant' coral bells (Heuchera) with golden ornamental shamrock (Oxalis vulcanicola 'Molten Lava') in the shade garden. To the right is a foxglove (Digitalis purpurea 'Virtuoso Rose') still blooming strong in the English cottage garden.
I was able to get out in the gardens today to fertilize various lawns and was glad I took my camera along for the ride. The lighting this time of year is so nice and the colors really have a rich tone. I realized that I need to do more "walk arounds" to not only notice impending tasks but also to appreciate some of the neat plants, garden features and seasonal transitions that are out there. I went on WCLO radio today with Becky hosting and was able to promote all of our upcoming events for the rest of the year and even put a plug in for memberships and volunteerism at the gardens. Both our local radio and local paper (The Janesville Gazette) have been very supportive of our events and goals for engaging the community. To the left is the start of fall color on the Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'). It should continue to go thru orange tones in to some reds. Fall color, as with most plants, will vary from year to year but early signs seem to indicate some showy colors on the way in October. To the right is a unique amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) called 'Dreadlocks'. These specimens are in our sunken garden and if you remember the old love-lies-bleeding, this is a "knotted form" of that species. I think this annual is aptly named and is certainly a conversation piece in the full sun garden.
The shot above and all those below were taken last night at Olbrich Botanical Gardens up in Madison. I had a presentation regarding "Bulbs" that went very well although I had a small audience. I was asked if I knew that I was competing with President Obama who was also in Madison last night. I replied, "Oh, is he presenting on bulbs too?" I went early so I could catch the setting sun and took some nice shots. I like the random color above and was impressed with the extended interest and color throughout the gardens. Jeff and crew do a top notch job and I cant' say enough about that garden and encourage everyone to visit often. There were many visitors enjoying the gardens and it looked like the transition to fall arrangements, containers, etc. had begun. To the left is part of the herb garden and to the right is a container with the same Tiger Eyes sumac seen above. Olbrich uses quite a few woody plants in containers and they look great. Winter storage of these plants is the challenge for us but they seem to have that worked out at Olbrich. Below are some of the white bushclovers (Lespedeza thunbergii 'Avalanche') used to great effect in the rose garden at Olbrich. I featured the pinkish 'Gibraltar' in previous blogs but was smitten with this white variety and its cascading habit. Needless to say, this variety will be acquired for next year! The bottom photo is one of their tropical borders still looking sharp with a containerized succulent used for accent.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ditto Monday

The weather today was identical to yesterday with the chilly morning and nice, sunny afternoon around 70 degrees F. Nice shot above of our sitting area in the wishing well garden. It will be nice to develop this garden again next spring as we had a "split year" out there in 2010 with the irises being featured in spring, lifted in July and late annuals planted for interest thru the remainder of the growing season. The garden space really looks good right now but doesn't have any plantings/themes specific to children. Our intent next year is to make this a more interactive space with plants kids will be interesting in observing, touching, smelling, etc. As our newest garden, this area is certainly a "work in progress." To the left is a recent shot of the rose hips from the 'Dortmund' rose. High in vitamin C, rose hips have been used historically for many purposes including their nutrient content. I love the ornamental interest of these fruits and this rose (behind our pergola) caught my eye from 40' away. To the right is the delicate appearance of the tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland') that becomes wispy early in the season but gets this nice bronzy look in late summer. This is one of the more popular varieties of this perennial grass for full sun (preferred) or part shade. Below is one of the large, tropical leaves of the variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata') that looks so nice as a foliage plant in part shade (in this case, in our shade garden).
The progress out on "the point" has gone well this week and the majority of this project phase is now complete (see above). The guys (Nature's Touch) did a nice job with the rock placement and are currently working on spreading/filling with topsoil over that site. Our next step out in this area is to locate where the large arbor will be placed and oriented and we'll hopefully get it installed yet this fall. We'll then decide where we'll place trees, shrubs, turf, benches, etc. as we'll have a better feeling for the extent of this area once it is leveled and organized. We had a small crew today with Janice, Big John and Little Jerry. Janice and John started working on lights then moved on to other projects that including push mowing and watering. Little Jerry worked on pruning and collected debris. I had some meetings but otherwise worked on some odd jobs. I have another talk ("Bulbs!") up at Olbrich (Madison) tonight as well. Kay was here doing her usual top-notch tidying in the shade garden and we had Dr. Gredler, Dr. Yahr, Maury, Kay and Del here as well. To the left is the variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus' that looks so great with sunlight shining thru the plant. To the right is the seed capsule cluster from the 'Carmencita Red' castor bean (Ricinus communis) plant at Kay's garden. The vivid red is as showy as any flower and actually, the flowers of castor bean aren't real exciting anyway. Below is our ornamental edible wall planting (looking delicious) this morning and at the bottom is the beautiful (but thuggishly rampant) morning glory (Ipomoea sp.).

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Perfect Autumn Day

Today was perfect weather after a 45 degrees F cool, crisp morning. It was a clear blue sky and 70 degrees F though later in the day. Everyone had a nice bounce in their step today and it was a very busy morning. Nice shot above of the fragrant, Autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) in full bloom on our pergola. The timing of this vine (on three other columns too) is nice as it offers color and fragrance for the later season weddings. We have outdoor weddings thru the month of October! We are careful to keep as much color in the "wedding gardens" as we can thru the season but Mother Nature will have the final say on when frost will arrive. When in Madison yesterday, I stopped by the West Madison Agricultural Research Station to catch later season plants and trials. There was a worker there removing annuals and most of their seasonal displays had already been removed. However, their grasses and some other plants were still looking pretty good. To the left is one of my favorite grasses. This is the Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) that plumes out late and will get an orange/yellow fall color very shortly. This is one of the most under-utilized grasses in the landscape and at 36" tall, is quite showy in sun or part shade. To the right are the inflorescences of 'Positano' maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis). Many of our visitors mistakenly call these grasses "pampas grasses" which aren't hardy but have that plumey look as well. Below are some signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia 'Tangerine Gem') arching over our "ornamental edible" wall planting. This marigold species has edible flower petals and has lots of flower power until frost with masses of small flowers.Marv and Terry started the day hauling out our holiday light show displays from the garage. We'll have to test these shortly and start repairs as soon as possible to make sure we're ready to rock and roll in October. The guys then moved on to watering duties as our containers were quite dry. They also edged, sheared and helped fix a mower issue. Little Jerry was here pruning in the alpine garden and working on some rock work as well near the Japanese garden. Marianne and Janice started the day by testing lights (see below) for our holiday lights show. This is quite early for testing but we've decided to really hit the ground running with set-up for this event so we can have it up, tested and ready to go well before Thanksgiving. The ladies then moved on to watering, planting, the cutting display, etc. I was able to lay out some perennials for planting and did a round of herbicide on some of our areas with perennial weeds. The gardens are looking lush but we'll have to keep up with irrigation as it will be a dry week.This morning included the help of many Grumpies and three "Grumpettes." Shirley and Karen worked in the color rooms, sunken garden, reception garden and our annual beds. Their target job was weeding but also removing any spent annuals that are looking sour. Mary was out doing the same thing. The Grumpies worked on hauling up mums for the plant sale, dismantling our plant sale tables (see below for Ron B., Rollie and Ron W.), cutting back shrubs, fence painting and collecting leaves and debris. We had Del, Dick P., Dick H., Bill, Ron B., Ron W., Rollie, Maury, Gary, Urban, Bob A., Vern, Jim, Dave T., and Big John. Dr. Gredler and Dr. Yahr were here too. Everyone was involved and helpful today. We also saw Mike M., Chuck S., Dave, Joe, Polly and Lori. To the left is one of the switch grasses (Panicum virgatum) that gets an increasingly red fall color. This is the variety 'Rotstrahlbusch' that while having some reddish foliage in the summer, really gets darker towards October and can be quite impressive. Fall color will vary each year but this variety and 'Shenandoah' seem to be the best for a reliable red fall color on a compact (4-5') grass. To the right is the fall appearance of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) as it flowers and starts to turn a pinkish/red fall color. At the bottom is a nice shot of the arched bridge taken this morning.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn In The Air Today!

Yesterday was balmy and in the mid 80s. Today was windy, cool and in the mid 60s. Autumn is here. It was misting this morning but ended up a pretty nice day despite the winds. Nice shot above of the pumpkins that were donated for our upcoming Halloween Walk (Oct. 21,22,23). Lori (our new volunteer coordinator) secured the donation and Ron W., Ron B., Dick P. and Bob C. went yesterday to pick these up (from the fields). The assortment looks very nice and these are huge improvements over some of the pumpkins we've used in the past for this event (and the price was right!). We'll be having middle school kids and RECAPPERS carving these in a couple of weeks and the jack o' lanterns then become part of the route for this popular event. The Halloween Walk is a family-friendly event that is not meant to scare attendees but to engage them in interesting skits put on by Spotlight On Kids (SOK), a local organization. This partnership between RBG and SOK has a long history and we hope this event will again be well-received and well-attended. Nice shot to the left of one of my favorite coleus' (Solenostemon scutellarioides) called 'Freckles'. I order it every year and always enjoy the mix of yellow and orange on those leaves. This specimen is in the sunken garden but we have it in many locations. To the right are the inflorescences (flower/seed heads) of the maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) although the variety is in question. I mentioned the value of maiden grass, also called Japanese silver grass, in my talk on grasses this past Tuesday. Each variety has different features and merit and they have plenty of applicability in our gardens (as do all ornamental grasses, both perennial and annual). Below is one of the staples of our maroon/red theme this year. This is the 'Bishop of Llandaff' dahlia (Dahlia sp.) that is such a rich combination of almost black foliage (darkest in full sun) and bright red blossoms in profusion, particularly later in the season. This is one of my favorite dahlia varieties and it rarely gets over 36" in height. I prefer most of the darker leaved varieties as the foliage serves as a foil for the colorful flowers. Look in to the 'Mystic Series' for some other neat, dark leaf varieties. We had a small crew today with Terry, Little Jerry and Larry off. With the initial inclement weather this morning, we started on indoor tasks. Marv started bringing in our holiday lights show twinkle lights for testing and repair (never too early to start!) while Marianne sorted our new bulb order and did some nice organizing and tidying up in the Horticulture Center. Once the weather improved, Marv went to widening out a bed in the gazebo garden which involved sod removal, the addition of compost and some serious rototilling. He always does such a nice, thorough job and I can't remember ever having to check his work, ever. Marianne then moved to tidying up, hauling/arranging more plants for sale in front of the main building and watering. Janice helped make signs and helped water later as well. Big John was in briefly and hauled both plants and barricades (see below for the reason for the barricades). We also had Dr. Gredler here mowing, Vern doing drafting and also saw Mary W., Maury, Geesje and Kay. Nice shot to the left of the blossoms of kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Polygonum orientale), an old-fashioned, tall (8'+) annual that readily self-sows in the garden and is nibbled by the Japanese beetles. The later summer, arching flowers are quite showy though and always impressive. To the right are the inflorescences of the native prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) seen at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. I love this durable, perennial grass and the wispy blooms that smell like buttered popcorn. We have this grass growing in some pretty tough spots out in the gardens, including our parking lot islands. Below is the foliage of the variegated forsythia (Forsythia viridissima var. koreana 'Kumson') that has this neat "netting effect" on an low, arching shrub that while having minimal spring flowers, has dynamite foliage. We sold many of these at our fall plant sale.
Tomorrow is a huge cross country meet that always occurs this time of year and involves 50+ high schools and all their parents jamming in to the driving range and golf course adjacent to RBG. I believe that there is a school from Texas that comes every year too. It is actually a nightmare for us as it is near impossible to control the erratic parking on our peripheral lawn and parking lots. The influx of people wanting to use our bathrooms instead of the porta-potties and the general congestion is unbelievable. There are currently 20 porta-potties for 2,000+ people. That ratio doesn't seem right....We've had issues with the kids climbing over our fences and gates in to the gardens to warm-up or stage their school's equipment/tents/etc. We hope we have a smooth day tomorrow. I can sympathize with the logistics involved with this event but we have termed this as one of our worse days of the year because of the challenges it creates for our limited weekend staff. I hope some of the cross country parents buy our leftover mums though....There are also two weddings out in the gardens and homecoming photography later in the day. Crazy times. Too bad I'll be out of town! :) See below for the 'Pink Mass' shrub rose from Bailey Nursery (MN). This was one of their test roses years ago and always has looked awesome for us (picture taken this morning).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Last Day of Summer - 2010

Above is a beautiful dragonfly shot taken by Santos here at the gardens. He's quite talented at catching wildlife and has a superior eye for a good photograph. We appreciate him sharing so often. It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the first day of fall already! The temperatures are supposed to be over 85 degrees F which seems more like August! The rains yesterday were welcome and it's nice to have the garden uniformly watered and soaked as we were developing some very dry spots out there. It was overcast early, blue skies in the afternoon, now cloudy again. Temperatures made for a nice day out in the gardens and much was accomplished throughout the day. To the left is the leaf of the perennial sea kale (Crambe maritima) in our Scottish garden laying on a bed of bugleweed (Ajuga pyramidalis 'Purple Crispa). Yes, this is a "staged" shot! Incidentally, the leaves and flowers of the sea kale are edible. This zone 4 perennial loves full sun and is quite durable. I like the powdery blue, "cabbagey" look they provide. To the right is a close-up of the flower and fruiting structure of the tomatillo. Also called husk tomato, these plants have set copious amounts of fruit this year and we're looking forward to the bounty. The grounds staff impressed me greatly today as they really sunk their teeth in to many important projects. Larry had to leave early and we did see Little Jerry briefly (on his day off!). Marv and Terry can be seen above in the Scottish highlands (alpine) garden. They have spent many hours redesigning the rock work in this space. They've removed older, crumbling rocks and added many new ones as well. We chose to remove all the plants out of this space as it was an overgrown mess of 10% good and 90% bad. We'll start replanting native Scottish alpine plants this fall and finish up next spring. The fellas did a nice job and also worked on sod removal, graveling and other projects as well. Big John finished his juniper hedge shearing project (seen to the right). The last two hedges involved the most work as they hadn't been pruned in over two years and John had to cut out some thick branches. All four hedges look great and really re-establish the formality of that garden. Marianne did lots of tidying up out in the gardens and helped with some label creation, the cutting display and continued to "in fill" our plant sale plants in front of the visitors center. Janice continued to plant perennials, caught up with some labeling and did some moss work as well. Everyone really did well and we had some great volunteers as well. Kay was here and continued her remarkable progress out in the annual beds with weeding and clearing out unsightly annuals. It's not hard to see where she's worked as those areas are immaculate. Dr. Gredler was here to mow a bit and we also saw Julie, Jumbo Jim, Vern and Dr. Yahr. Above and to the left is Rose working on painting our Japanese fence yesterday with Urban. Maury and Gary have also been actively involved and it is looking great.
I took more pictures today and am observing the start of fall color throughout the gardens. Those hints of yellow, orange, red and purple are just starting up. However, I was smitten with the overwhelming bright pinks out there as well. I think the lighting this time of year really makes the pinks glow. Above is the new 'Fireworks' fountain grass (Pennisetum hybrida 'Fireworks') in the sunken garden although we have 400 of these scattered around the gardens, including throughout our maroon/red theme. My talk on Ornamental Grasses went well at Olbrich Botanical Gardens last night and I featured this grass along with many of our other seasonal grasses. The primary topic was neat perennial grasses but we're starting to use so many cool annual grasses that I've become a huge promoter of their usage in the border and container. The annuals to the left and right were shown in early blogs but I can't stop photographing them each week as they continue to look better and better. To the left is the 'Haight Ashbury' annual hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury') with variable pink in the leaves. This tropical will get almost 5' tall in our summers and while it rarely blooms, the foliage (edible by the way) speaks for itself. To the right is the 'Red Cathedral' amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus 'Red Cathedral') with gorgeous arching plumes of color. Even when it starts to flop, the arching blooms lend visual texture and interest. Below is an eyecatching perennial sedum (Sedum spectabile) called 'Neon' that really is aptly named. This specimen is tucked in a cranny between boulders near our observation pier and is as vivid as pink can be out in the garden. I'm going to get more next year and tuck them in other adjacent pockets for this late season effect. Today was day 17 straight for me at work so I'm off tomorrow but might be able to sneak in a blog if the wife doesn't notice......