Thursday, December 22, 2011

HLS Has More Than Just Lights!

All the pictures in this blog were taken last night (Wednesday) at the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). While the lights may be the primary attraction (for most), we have truly made this event a fun family outing with the help of the Wisconsin Garden Railway Society (thanks Don, Joella and all the other members!), all of our entertainment volunteers (note the Blue Notes further below), the donated refreshments, quilts from the Rock County Quilters Guild and so many volunteers helping out. Attendance was decent last night and should be strong tonight and tomorrow night before Christmas. There are still six more nights of the walk next week (December 26-31) too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The picture above was taken of our 'Dialogue' sculpture this past summer. This sculpture (20 years old) will have a new sign this upcoming spring giving more information on this important garden feature designed and installed by O.V. Shaffer back in 1991. This blog is a photographic retrospective of this garden element. Thanks to Bill O. and Doug V. for scanning so many historic slides and photos of the gardens over the past two years. I'll do some more of these "before/after" blogs this winter and am developing a substantial historic presentation on the gardens this winter. The three photos directly below are after the patina formed on the bronze sculpture. Note the second photo down which shows the area under the sculpture as the primary entrance to the gardens from 1991 thru 1999. Look further down for some neat installation photos and the last two shots show the artist, O.V. Shaffer who is a well known independent artist and former art professor at Beloit College. We also have another Shaffer sculpture called 'Biota' at the Southeast corner of the gardens.

Not much action out in the gardens today. It was drizzling this morning with cloudy skies. I spent the morning snooping thru seed catalogs and saw Tom K. and Mary W. at the Horticulture Center. Marv and Marianne stopped by too. I'll work the Holiday Lights Show tonight and three nights next week as I alternate with Larry. I don't know the count from last night but the weather wasn't too bad and I heard (from Mary W.) that the traffic was steady. My blogging over the next week or so will be sporadic as a warning for those that can't do without it! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The HLS Continues...

Last night (Monday) we had 458 attendees at the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) and it was a nice steady crowd throughout the evening. That is a good showing for a school night and we did see quite a few kids. Of course the train set-up (see above and further below) is always a huge attraction. The Wisconsin Garden Railway Society does a great job each year and various members will bring different trains each night. While the lights are an attraction, I've seen parents trying to drag their kids away from the trains to go out in to the HLS and usually are successful if they promise a return to the trains. We've seen kids entranced for hours in front of those trains. We had more great volunteer help last night but of course my pictures don't capture all the volunteers that work as greeters, ticket sales, gift shop help, quilt raffle helpers, trail walkers and refreshment volunteers. To the left are Bev and Ron who worked the ticket sales booth and are veterans at this task (and many others). To the right are Bob C. (left) and Maury (right) with their European shoulder bags (not man purses) with supplies for trail walking. Note that Bob has a kneeling pad around his neck which was prompted after his first night of kneeling on gravel at the HLS to replace 50+ luminary bulbs! With a chance of freezing rain tonight, we'll see how the show goes in terms of keeping things lit and attendance numbers. We're happy to see that we have almost reached our total attendance for the HLS from last year with 10 nights left to go!Tina stopped in today to share some photos she took at the HLS as well as some other neat shots of RBG. Tina photographed our marigold (Tagetes) collection this year among other things and has done a nice job in the past with many photos out in the gardens. She was one of our volunteer photographers of the iris collection years ago and we appreciate her continued commitment to being a RBG shutterbug. I'll share some more of her RBG pictures in upcoming blogs. Larry and Bill worked out in the gardens pruning most of the day although we also saw Pat M., Maury, Dr. Gredler, Big John, Bill and some others at the Horticulture Center as well.

I'll be "off" until January 3rd after tomorrow but will return for three more nights of the HLS next week. There wont be any easing in to January as there is a tight time line for me to get out seed orders, prepare presentations and get everything ready for spring. I like to be proactive but it becomes more difficult each year with more challenges. Gary and I have moved forward with starting on our woody plant labels and we already have three garden areas completed. Our realistic goal is to have all those labels (for the entire gardens) to go out before Mother's Day. We're considering some options for label bases to secure them in the ground and will look at some other signage opportunities for our laser engraver. To the right is a colorful shot of one of our weeping willows (Salix alba 'Tristis') that was taken at sunset a couple days ago. That house in the upper right of the image gets a good look at the HLS! The images below of the gazebo and HLS deer/sleigh combo were also taken recently. At the bottom is some of the pruning handiwork accomplished by Urban and Pat yesterday. This is our only example of espalier in the gardens. This apple (Malus) was here before I started and Urban has worked on this for many years. This specimen is now close to 25' tall. The guys pruned it back nicely and also modified the wall anchors as needed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Good Night

I worked the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) last night (Sunday) and we had close to 700 attendees which was a very good Sunday night. The weather wasn't too cold although there wasn't much snow left from Saturday. The forecast doesn't look real good for snow prior to Christmas but the plus side of that is path safety and saved time and materials for keeping the paths clear of snow and ice. Mother Nature is in charge of that component of the HLS. I was able to take all the pictures in this blog last night and caught some better shots of the show. Tina B., one of our volunteer photographers, was out in the show taking shots as well and I look forward to the results of her efforts. To the left are Pat (left) and Big John (right) who were our trailwalking volunteers last night. We usually have a couple of trailwalkers to keep an eye on the show and make sure visitors are safe (and staying on the paths!). Note their matching man purses which have supplies (bulbs, flashlight, etc.) that might come in handy. We also had Hal and Doris out on the trails as well. Preliminary counts for the HLS attendance thus far hover around 3,200 which is a strong start. We need to keep up this momentum and hope for good crowds for the remaining 11 nights.

We had a good turnout of volunteers today. Pat and Urban were out pruning in the garden while Larry and Bill were also outside securing some of the HLS trees. Gary was in to print up more woody plant labels and Maury was in working on some details for our 2012 tree sale. Maury also took our recently donated truck (used) for re-lettering. This vehicle will be extremely handy and we'll retire/sell one of our other ones at some point. Dave, Vern, Bob A. and Jim worked on carpentry projects which included efforts on our horizontal PVC planters for next year. We also saw Kelli, Mary W., Ron W., Rollie, Bill O. and Dr. Gredler.

I'm on deck to work the HLS again tonight as Larry and I split up the evenings with each of us taking about 9 nights. In past years, we've had more of a need for our troubleshooting efforts but so far so good with the HLS in regards to power issues. I'm a bit nervous about some rain/sleet/slush coming Tuesday and Wednesday this week but we'll deal with that as it arrives.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Record Pace...

The Holiday Lights Show (HLS) is off to a great start with attendance numbers of 650 on Friday night (opening night) and a record attendance of 1600 last night (Saturday, December 17th). We had about 1" of snow over night Friday and the white stuff always makes the show look better and brings more people in to the show. Larry and Bill took care of all the snow removal. Larry turned everything on last night and stayed until 10 pm as there was the "adult portion" of the show from 8 pm until 10 pm that also involved a band, bar, etc. inside. I, along with some of my family (see below), was at the show last night and it was interesting to see all the cars parking along Palmer Drive and even at the east end of the gardens. I've never seen it packed so much and while the crowd was substantial, the lights show looked great and I heard nothing but positive comments as I circulated thru the crowd. There were lots of H.S. instrumental performances too as part of the entertainment and that always brings a good crowd too. With our Taste of Chocolate attendance, some early bus tours and rentals, our attendance might be around 2,600 total thus far. With NBC15 (Madison) broadcasting the weather (David George) from the gardens this past Friday night during the show, I'm sure that will bring in plenty of people as well. David really did a nice job promoting the show. Our marketing has gone far and wide and I talked to some people from Milwaukee last night that heard something on WI Public Radio about the show. Cool. The combination of lights, trains, entertainment, quilt display, refreshments, gift shop items, etc. make this the perfect holiday outing. I'm working the show tonight and tomorrow night and I hope we keep seeing strong numbers as this event, as nice as it is for the community and all attendees, is a vital fundraiser that needs to support RBG thru the "leaner months."