Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Cozy Day Inside

Today was overcast with some drizzle that eventually turned to some very light snow. Directly above are the female catkins (flowers) of the gray birch (Betula populifolia). We're seeing catkins form on many woody plants in the Birch family (Betulaceae) like the filberts (Corylus) but they wont open until late winter. The temperature dipped quickly although it was nice and cozy inside. All the photos in the blog are recent with the exception of the top photo of 'Merlin' Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris). I show this as it is one of the "ornamental edibles" that we'll focus on next year. A Swiss chard collection you might ask? Why not! is my reply. I've been pouring over the new 2011 catalogs and as always, I'm excited about making selections for next year. We're still figuring out details but something we want to focus on in terms of vegetables and "ornamental edibles" are those that are compact and lend themselves to smaller spaces, containers, windowboxes, etc. We'll display many of these compact veggies but will also include them in our spring sale (May 13-15). Janice and Kelley have begun the research and we're excited about some of the varieties we're locating. I'll start featuring some of the catalogs we're going thru as I think it's important to share those resources. Most seed companies have online catalogs (and ordering) as well which will save on paper in the long run. Some of the latest of perennial fall colors are still quite nice out in the gardens. To the left is the "marooning" of the 'Ruby Glow' wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) that normally emerges reddish, has yellow blooms in early spring then darkens up (from a greenish/maroon) late in the season again. Nice perennial and deer proof too. To the right is the exfoliating bark of the seven-sons flower (Heptacodium miconioides). This durable, large shrub/small tree is known for late white flowers (Oct.) followed by reddish calyxes (Nov.) but I also like the bark. The larger specimens (some good ones are up at Olbrich in Madison) consistently have nice ornamental bark as well. I've featured this woody plant in previoius blogs. It is one to "know and grow."
We had a nice contigent of volunteers today. Above is Dr. Gredler re-staining one of our benches (note how is hand is just a blur of motion!). We bring most of our cedar benches back to the Horticulture Center each winter for a light re-sanding and preservative stain treatment. This is Dr. Gredlers third bench with thirty to go! We'll also be doing more indoor carpentry projects and repainting garden elements shortly. Urban came in to prune crabapples (Malus) out in the gardens and both Larry and Bill were in and out of the gardens today for various reasons. Vern, Bob and Bob worked on their carpentry project this afternoon and we saw lots of Maury coming and going with supplies as needed. Tom fixed an electrical box and is working on replacing some exterior lights for our garden signs. We also saw Janice, Barb T., Deb, Bev, Little Jerry, Chris from LP Tree Service and Sue M. (our marketing person) was over to talk about our 2011 events and their promotion. Marv & Marianne stopped by too and are back from FL. Below are some of our recently "bundled up" upright yews (Taxus x media 'Hicksii') that were deer fodder last year. I just hope the deer don't have the taste for burlap too.......

Monday, November 29, 2010

2011 Perennial Plant Of The Year

This blog is dedicated to the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2011 as selected by the Perennial Plant Association. The 2011 selection is the Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii). This is a perennial I've known for many years and am a big fan of this specific plant for the very reasons it's being advocated as the "perennial for all seasons." Before I describe this plant, I should mention that the Perennial Plant Assocation (of which I'm a member) is a great trade assocation (incorporated in 1984) that is "dedicated to the improvement of the herbaceous perennial plant industry by providing education to enhance production, promotion and utilization of perennial plants." Visit http://www.perennialplant.org/ for more information. This Perennial Plant of the Year started in 1990 and the "winner" is selected by the members of the PPA (I voted for this one!). Above is a huge drift of Arkansas bluestar (also called threadleaf bluestar, narrowleaf bluestar and Hubricht's blue star) in spring with nice wispy, textural foliage. In early spring, that foliage (reaching 36" tall and wide) is covered with light blue flowers as seen below. While the flowers aren't overpowering, they are showy for roughly two weeks. The textural foliage then takes over for the summer (second photo down). This perennial prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Adaptable to a wide range of soils, this plant does prefer "moist and well drained" soils if possible. I've seen it used as a single specimen and perhaps more effectively, in larger drifts. We have Amsonia hubrichtii at RBG but I would like to have more! This species was named after Leslie Hubricht who first discovered this plant growing in Arkansas in 1942. The ferny, alternately arranged leaflets (3" long) are very fine, giving a soft, visual texture to this hardy plant (to zone 4). Once established, this perennial is drought tolerant, deer resistant and has no known insect or disease problems. There are many other species of Amsonia with some of the same characteristics. In very high pH soils, some chlorosis (early yellowing) of the foliage has been observed. The most dramatic feature of this perennial is when it starts going thru a color transition in to the fall. See below for the gradations of chartreuse in September to yellow/orange in October. The brilliant late season color of Arkansas bluestar should be combined with darker foliaged companions and with backdrops that accentuate that bright coloration. I'm glad the PPA is promoting this native perennial as I've been impressed with it every time I see it and think it has plenty of merit in the garden. Do remember to give it some fun "neighbors" to hang out with to maximize the appeal!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Verticality In The Garden

Vertical elements are absolutely essential in most garden areas and situations. Notice the use of the word "elements." These upright elements in the garden can be plants or objects. Their intended function is the same; to engage they eye, lead the eye through the composition and lend a sense of scale to the garden space itself. The use of vertical elements can be on a 20 acre estate or in a small container. The concept is the same. Above is a grouping of upright cacti at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. When a narrow, vertical element is repeated strongly, it can be a very powerful design effect. This effect is also used in architecture. However, out in the garden, it can be cacti as seen above (not for us in WI!) or perhaps ornamental grasses like the narrow and upright 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'). Below are some four-sided vining structures repeated throughout a border at the Denver Botanic Garden. Note that these elements, while not uniformly spaced, are all the same style and color. Their white color balances a combination that goes through many seasonal color changes and could seem quite "hodge podgey" without these "anchors." Uniform spacing of repeated vertical elements is not essential but has more relevancy in a garden setting more formal than seen below.Conifers and evergreens are logical living elements for a vertical effect. Regardless of your climate, there are suitable species and/or varieties that lend themselves to this use. Now, these "exclamation points" as they are frequently called, don't necessarily have to be uniform or extremely narrow. The selection of their form, while perhaps important to the overall design effect, may not be as vital as choosing their locations. Vertical elements can be situated to be focal points; drawing the eye immediately to that location, or can be used as repeated elements to help unify and define a space. The selection of appropriate conifers and evergreens should of course take in to account the cultural requirements of the plant itself but should also be considered for their value as neighbors to other plantings and their overall impact as a vertical plant. Maintenance is also a consideration, particularly if their is much pruning/shearing/control, etc. as seen below with these woodies at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden (Los Angeles). Other examples of evergreens used for an upright effect are upright cypress trees used in Pasadena and the repeated use of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria sp.) at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in a formal garden expanse.
As we consider our landscapes and gardens, we tend to look at open space at ground level for gaps that need filling or perhaps the desire to add a certain color and texture. There is nothing wrong with this approach but we need to consider the obvious and that's the fact that we garden in three dimensions. While plants will certainly gain in height, we need to carefully look for additional opportunities to supply specific upright elements for that strong vertical in any space. While plants can accomplish this goal as seen above, non-living elements can have a similar effect. Non-living elements can also contribute other features to the garden like color, texture, sound, etc. Below is a beautifully stacked, boulder pyramid at Northwind Perennial Farm near Lake Geneva, WI. This is the centerpiece, or focal point, of Roy Diblik's "Know Maintenance" display garden. Plantings around this pyramid represent different maintenance levels with the intent of displaying and promoting appropriate perennials based on the available time for maintenance by the home gardener. The pyramid is a strong vertical element in this large garden. Further below is a large fountain at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This water feature is sited so it is the distant focal point as seen from many of the shoreline gardens. While it is a strong vertical element (at 50'+), it also lends sound and movement to the garden as well. At RBG, we use lots of painted obelisks (similar to what is seen above at the Denver Botanic Garden) and have been using upright, cylindrical planters over the past couple of years. This year included 24" diameter, inverted culvert pipes as vertical planters in our maroon/red theme. The two pictures at the bottom show our use of 8", painted PVC planters that are a combination of living and non-living elements in this vertical contribution. The plant trailing out is the aluminum plant (Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls') and by the end of the season of trailing, made those uprights transition from red to pure silver. In summary, include vertical elements in the garden for both form and function.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grasses With More Than Just Passing Interest

This is the time of year where the contribution of ornamental grasses becomes not only more evident, but also more appreciated. Above is the 'Morning Light' Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light') in mid-summer, offering texture and a nice anchoring point near this bench at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This is one of my favorite, taller grasses with very fine texture (narrow leaf blades). Whenever I've talked about ornamental grasses, I mention that although many have superior winter interest and while that may be their primary trait/contribution, they should also be good garden neighbors for other plantings and certainly have an interest during the growing season as well. I've been going thru many of my digital photos taken this year and am coming across lots of grasses that I saw in my travels. I've included only a few in this posting as this is the "tip of the iceberg" for what is available to the home gardener. Below is a strongly variegated Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) called 'Cosmopolitan' seen at the New York Botanic Garden.
It is important to remember that ornamental grasses run the gamut in appearance, height and certainly cultural requirements. When we select a grass (or any plant for that matter) we have an expectation of that plant. Perhaps we want something with colorful leaves, scented flowers, wildlife value, food production, etc. Again, we have an expectation. However, remember that it is a "two way street" and that plant has an expectation of you. In regards to grasses, that grass expects proper soil, watering, placement in a preferred solar exposure, division, fertilizer?, etc. Knowing your grass in advance in terms of what it will do for you is fine, but also know what you need to do for that grass. Grasses might be termed low-maintenance by they are never no maintenance (what plant truly is?). Division of larger grasses is warranted after 3-5 years or may be indicated by a "donut-like" appearance in spring with a dead center and vigorous growth on the outer ring. Consider the inputs involved with the division process. Below is the golden wood rush (Luzula sylvatica 'Solar Flair'). This grass (actually a grass relative) provides a nice beacon of gold in a shady spot. We have this at RBG and I saw it on many of my trips. This tough perennial is drought tolerant and will adapt to a wide range of soils. It definitely needs some shade as it can get "crispy" with too much sun. Developments of new varieties of ornamental grasses continues in earnest. In many cases, new varieties are located when a chance seedling shows an interesting characteristic and is trialed to make sure this feature is "stable" and worthy of consideration as a new variety. Many of our native grasses have been used for decades over in Europe as landscape plants prior to them becoming more popular Stateside. A good example would be our native switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Many varieties were developed decades ago (primarily in Germany) for having reddish foliage that becomes increasingly more red (and ornamental in fall). Many of these varieties were also shorter in stature as well, being in the 3-5' range as opposed to the 6-8' range like some of the bigger varieties. Below we have the 'Ruby Ribbons' (Panicum virgatum) switchgrass which is a new variety from Dr. Mark Brand of the University of Connecticut that has one of the old-fashioned red leaved parents and continues the tradition of being colorful and having shorter stature (3' or so). This looks to be a neat variety for sure.
Our gardens, while being able to include a wide range of perennial grasses, can also benefit from partially hardy or annual grasses for all the same reasons we select other varieties. Annual grasses may offer an interesting color or form and have extreme merit even for their short season of interest. We plant probably 1,000 annual grasses each year around RBG. They are in annual beds, containers, perennial borders, etc. Consider again the merits and needs of each variety. The grass directly below is pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) which I noticed at the New York Botanic Garden. This is the first time I saw it in bloom with those wispy pink inflorescences and was very impressed. I've seen its picture in catalogs and always assumed the pictures photo-enhanced. However, the hazy pink was extremely ornamental and although native to North America, has a zone 6 hardiness ranking. Darn it. The bottom photo is a maroon sugar cane (Saccharum officinale 'Pele's Smoke') that is bold, ornamental and that maroon is a wonderful foil for neighboring plants with yellow or white. I'll do a future posting on other annual grasses of merit. Do visually scout the landscape (yours included) this winter to see the value of grasses in the winter "scene" and note those areas that would benefit from including that interest in the future. Ornamental grasses are one of those "untapped resources" that hopefully will become more utilized by gardeners in the future.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Season Shifts

"When the bold branches bid farewell to rainbow leaves, welcome wool sweaters." B. Cybrill. After an evening of drizzle last night that wanted to become snow, it is overcast and cold this morning. I was again very thankful that the lights show is essentially up and ready as it seems winter, while not here on the calendar yet, seems to be moving in quickly. Above is one of the many 'V's' of geese we've seen over the garden these past couple of weeks moving along on their migratory routes. Of course there are many geese that will overwinter in the area as urban spaces will accomodate their winter feeding and occasionally provide open water situations. Our pond areas will have geese year-round unless the water freezes entirely. With springs feeding our pond, it is rare to have it freeze entirely over but on occasion, we've had a light layer of ice. The ice gets thicker on the west pond (Lion's Beach) and we've seen ice fisherman and ice skating on the thicker portions. Above are some of our LED (light-emitting diode) lights that have the benefit of drawing minimal electricity and being long-lived (and vivid!). The drawbacks (currently) to LED lighting options are the cost and the fact that they don't generate heat. Our "old school" lights will melt off snow and show off nicely whereas LEDs might remain buried and never show up if the snow doesn't naturally melt off. We priced the entire conversion of our lights show (literally everything) to LEDs and it was around $100,000! We are adding some each year and in areas where LEDs are prevalent, our power concerns are minimal. Below is our gazebo yesterday morning during our lights test. This structure looks great at night. Marv and Terry put the lights on this weeks ago and mentioned the "spongey" nature of the cedar shake roof tiles as they walked on it. I like the moss/lichen covered look as seen below but we're pricing replacement shingles for next year as that roof is now 17 years old. Four days off now so blogs will be intermittent. Final lights work next week and my shift to seed ordering and interior duties. Winter is on the doorstep as they say (but spring seems awfully close too).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

99.9% Ready To Roll

Special thanks to my beautiful daughter who at age 10, put together the new "header" at the top of this blog. She is quite talented and works for a reasonable rate! It was a dreary day today with some sleet in the early afternoon. However, it was significantly warmer this morning than yesterday morning and we had a very productive day. Above is a neat flower arrangement created by Jackie, Big John's wife. Very colorful and little maintenance required (no watering either)! Larry and I went out early to adjust cords which also entailed a heat gun and major muscle power to get some cords out of the frozen gravel paths. We trench in many cords to minimize tripping hazards for our Holiday Lights Show patrons. We then turned the entire show on and went around addressing all the minor problems that were identified during our test night on Monday evening. I didn't mention it but we had a photographer from the Messenger and a film crew from Local Vision getting some shots and footage of the show to help promote the event. We will have another test night next week in advance of the December 4th premiere for the Taste of Chocolate event. Tickets are going fast for this event as usual. Tom C. came in for a couple hours and helped us troubleshoot our remaining power problems. He also did some repairs and improvements on our existing power boxes and has some additional work to complete on Monday. He has been a tremendous help in consulting with us regarding power issues. We're 99.9% ready to roll with the show (assuming no rain!) and just have some displays to put back in place once Randy repairs them Saturday. Our five hour test window today went well with NO issues. Nice shot to the above left of the concolor fir (Abies concolor 'Candicans') just west of the building. I love all evergreens but prefer this fir over the ubiquitous blue spruce, any day of the week. We have quite a few fir (Abies) species and varieties around the gardens and they have a strong presence throughout the year. Recently I showed the 'Venus' coral bells (Heuchera). To the above right is 'Saturn' with a light silver patina over dark leaves.

We had a nice turnout of other volunteers as well today. Dick H. and Pat continued working on our deer fencing around the sunken garden arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) hedge. After finishing this up, they put burlap around some of our more sensitive specimens in the Japanese garden. The burlap is meant as a deer barrie but also as a wind screen for protection. Hopefully deer wont eat burlap... Bill came in to do some clean-up and continued the burlap project this afternoon. Del worked on some carpentry as did Vern and two of his friends. Dr. Gredler was here to do some painting and took the mower out for the last time to collect some late falling leaves in the arboretum. Larry will get the snowblower attachment on the mower this Saturday. We also saw Maury, Janice, Big John, his wife Jackie and their daughter and granddaughter. It was a nice day for "closure" as we segway in to our winter projects and preparations. To the left is the late season, pinkish color of the little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues') out in the garden and to the right is the winter contribution from the dune switchgrass (Panicum amarum 'Dewey Blue') that is one of my favorite taller (and blue) grasses. Aside from noticing hundreds of geese flying overhead today, I was able to spot some additional interest here and there. Below is the fall color of the invasive gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) that while vigorous in an uncontained garden situation, has beautiful blossoms (featured in the past) and this reddish fall color. Our populations have an edging containment. At the bottom is another switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). This is 'Northwind', introduced by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm (near Lake Geneva) which is a "must visit" destination for sure. Note the use of a row of these grasses to screen the retaining wall (hard to see isn't it?) and soften harsh architectural lines. Ornamental grasses have not only color, wildlife interest, movement, etc. but also form and function!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nothing Like A 30 Degree Drop

Today was a slap in the face with highs in the low 30 degrees F. Yesterday was 60 degrees F and balmy! Oh well. We were lucky to have such a mild November. The top picture above was taken today of the fall color of the 'Brandywine' foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia). The image directly above is the early spring foliage of the same perennial that is then topped by fragrant white flower spires for over a month in mid-spring. Remember, multi-feature plants are the way to go! With so many of us having limited spaces in our gardens, having plants with multiple seasons of ornamental contributions should be a goal. Oddly enough.... that's the theme of our spring symposium on March 26, 2001. "Your Garden: Maximized" will feature topics like trees for small spaces, heirloom vegetables for containers and small yards, neat plants for small gardens and landscape design tips for the smaller garden. Check out our website at http://www.rotarybotanicalgardens.org/ for more information on this garden symposium. Speakers include Jeff Epping, Ed Lyon, Doreen Howard and yours truly. Speaker biographies and more event details will be added in short order. What's up with the logs to the left you might be thinking? These 30 logs, all 20" tall and 10" in diameter (maple and pine donated from LP Tree Service) will be used as supports for the rope barrier that will surround the train display at our Holiday Lights Show in December. The Garden Railway Society will use these in a couple of weeks for a more rustic barrier (with threaded ropes) to separate the masses from the trains. Different trains run each night of the event! To the right is a nice ornamental grass that I've been observing the past couple of years. This is a Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) called 'Border Bandit' that has not only the nice winter interest you see here but very narrow summer foliage with creamy, horizontal bands. The bands aren't as prolific as some of the other "banded" silver grasses but showy nonetheless. This grass is a manageable 5' tall at maturity which is a nice size for most home gardens. Our grasses are looking spectactular and while they do "come in to their own" this time of year, grasses should be contributors during the growing season as well; in pots, borders, beds, foundation plantings, etc. Don't miss the opportunity to try the many species and varieties that are out there and available for acquisition. Below is the very moss-like, non-moss called Irish moss (Sagina subulata 'Aurea'). This low, flowering perennial really is a nice moss look-a-like and this golden variety helps brighten up any area where it thrives (part sun best). We actually had quite a bit of activity out in the gardens today and at the Horticulture Center despite the chilling temperatures. I was able to make some cord adjustments for a couple hours this morning (toes still frozen) but spent the remainder of the day in meetings and working on other projects. Larry helped outside and worked on many smaller projects as well including repairs on some of our displays. We had Tom come in and re-route some electrical service, offer recommendations and otherwise share his knowledge. We'll run everything tomorrow with the new modifications and see how she holds up. Rollie, Big John, Ron W., Pat and Dick P. came in to put up deer fencing. They worked for awhile but this job necessitates "ungloved" fingers and the guys decided to finish up on Monday after they lost all sensation in their digits. Maury was here running errands, putting together some projects, measuring out in the gardens and being a big help overall. Bill came in to help Larry with some display modifications and tidying work as well. We also saw Vern, Mary W., Rich S., Jim, Bonnie and others today. To the left and right are some of our Japanese lanterns in the Japanese garden. I was touring the Japanese garden today looking for recent deer damage and had the time to really look at these lanterns. No recent deer damage by the way, knock on wood. I believe we have seven or so lanterns throughout that garden space and while I don't notice them much anymore, they are great focal points in that space and add more to the "experience" of that garden. Unfortunately, both of these have been vandalized in the past (2006) but were restored and set back in place nicely. Directly below is the sloped bank along the west side of the Parker Education Center. That sea of red/orange are the stems of the 'Flame' willow (Salix hybrida 'Flame'). I've featured this woody plant recently but noticed how deep the color has become with the dipping mercury these past weeks. The stems, while green in the summer, are the primary attribute of this plant in winter when they hold that nice red coloration. These willows are also extremely durable and certainly are functional in mitigating erosion on that steep slope. Cool. The bottom picture is the fall color of the 'Kumson' forsythia (Forsythia viridissima var. koreana 'Kumson'). The summer leaves are green with that cream webbing over the veins. That green then goes deep maroon in fall, leaving the cream intact and looking good. Not much for the spring yellow flowers (sparse) to be honest, but this forsythia has really nice foliage appeal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Test Night #1

We came in today with some significant rain coming down. With tonight being our first scheduled "test night" for the lights show, we were worried about finishing up in the rain and of course, the moisture is always an issue. Nice shot above of 'Dale's Strain' coral bells (Heuchera americana) still looking good in the gazebo garden. The rains abated for most of the remainder of the day and it became almost balmy (upper 50 degrees F) when the sun peaked out. Some serious rain hit Madison and Rockford and apparently Rockford had a tornado as well. I spent the day outside running cords and adjusting various elements of the the lights show. Larry also checked cords and displays around the gardens after we turned everything on this morning. We have plenty of "issues" to contend with but this is no different than our first test night for any of the previous years. We'll make adjustments over the coming weeks and cold temperatures and hopefully no rain would be helpful as well. To the left is the yellowing fall color of black jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens) that also has some interesting fruit (drupe) clusters that form after the white spring flowers are pollinated. This arching shrub (rose family) is extremely tough and adapted to bad soils and minimal sun exposure. We have a nice patch of them in a tough, shady spot in the gazebo garden and they have thrived. To the right is a close-up of the fall color of another barrenwort (Epimedium x rubrum). This perennial has done well for us in partial shade and challenging soils. I've shown many barrenworts in past blogs and my interest in them is well established. After conceding to what appeared to be an apparent "rain out" today, the Grumpies rolled in as the sun came out. It was a very productive day out in the gardens. Above is one of our vehicles hauling supplies for deer protection which was the primary "flavor of the day" activity. Dick P., Rollie, Big John, Maury and Ron W. all helped secure fencing and protect our "target hedges." We'll finish this task tomorrow and will start burlapping smaller specimens for at least some protection (primarily in the Japanese garden). We're still protecting the sunken garden hedge (see to the right) but the damage is so severe that there is little to no regeneration around that entire hedge. I'm really not sure what the future of that hedge will be but total removal is not out of the question. To the left is Urban who was out again pruning back crabapple (Malus sp.) suckers and having a great time. Pat and Bob were here to finish up on their pathway regraveling project and helped the other guys later on. Bill O. was here to lend a hand here and there and was a big help. Vern, Bob A., Dave and Jim worked on the accessible planters and some other carpentry items. Terry came in and put up almost all of our remaining lights displays. He did a nice job of not only placement but of really securing these displays. Randy will be back Saturday to finish up his corrections and modifications. We appreciate his time greatly. Dr. Gredler was here to paint and do some other projects and we also saw Dick W., Little Jerry, Mary W., Janice, Polly, Dick S. and others. Below is the fall color of our English oak (Quercus robur) in the Scottish garden.This time of year marks the transition for me from cord running to 2011 planning. I've always kept busy thru the winter (as has Larry) but I've never had more on my plate for the following year. I'm looking forward to going thru the seed catalogs and starting to come up with some planting schemes. However, I also have to work on designing two garden areas, verifying labels that can be made on the laser engraver, getting presentations ready, etc. Needless to say, it can be just as busy as spring or summer in terms of time. While I'm fairly desk bound and will add 15 lbs. over the winter, the amount of work I can get done before April will translate to how smoothly our spring will start. I truly feel that the gardens have improved every year and we'll make sure that 2011 isn't the exception. We'll start working on our collections research and other tasks as early as next week. My other big project is labeling and sorting the 7,000 digital pictures I took this year, many on my travels to Chicago, L.A. and NYC. To the left are the shiny black seeds of the blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis). This hardy perennial has the leaves of an iris, flowers like a lily and has seeds like a blackberry. These seeds are great in dried arrangements too! To the right is more fall color on one of my favorite perennial geraniums. This is Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Karmina' and the fall color is secondary only to the beautiful pink blooms in mid-Spring. This geranium will tolerate part sun (as most will) and seems very drought tolerant. The bottom image is of the cone set for the Tanyosho pine (Pinus densiflora 'Umbraculifera'). I saw some monster-sized versions of this pine at the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL) and the reddish bark is very striking.