Thursday, June 30, 2011

92.7% Planted

Above is a close-up of a neat, double gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta 'Maya') that is one of our Fleuroselect award winners out in the gardens. At 18" in height, this floriferous variety is a real eye-catcher, particularly in larger masses. Fleuroselect ( is the international organization for the ornamental plants industry and is based in the Netherlands. Fleuroselect has been around since 1970 and their mission revolves around the testing, promoting and protecting of new plant varieties. There are Fleuroselect trial gardens in Europe and over 50 gardens worldwide that are display gardens for this organization. RBG is one of only six garden in the United States that displays for Fleuroselect and we've done this since 2002. We are in esteemed company with the other sites being Michigan State, Penn State, the University of Illinois, the University of Tennessee and Walt Disney World. Our Fleuroselect winners are mixed amongst the All-America Selections (AAS) in 9 large beds near the visitors center. To the right is a neat, double snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus 'Madame Butterfly') that was an AAS winner back in 1970. We like to feature older varieties too and the azalea-like blooms on this multi-colored (not just red!) snapdragon are amazing. To the left is the start of the drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) which is a beautiful, violet-maroon "ovoid" of color hovering at about 30" in height. This fall-planted bulb, while a late bloomer, is also a rampant re-seeder so let the buyer/planter beware. To the right are the peak blooms of the often planted but "never to be ignored" smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'). This hydrangea is a workhorse and will bloom on new wood after being cut to the ground each winter at the gardens. Ample moisture is a must for nice blooms like this.

We had a great turnout of volunteers today. The weather was in the mid 80 degrees F and while the morning was pleasant, the afternoon was quite muggy. I was able to lay out more plants this morning and our first shift of planters included Janet (new volunteer), Mary, Marilyn, Ernie, Karen, Shirley, Hal, Doris and Judy. Directly below, from left to right, are Mary, Janet and Ernie planting in the gazebo garden this morning. The gang did a nice job planting four areas and Judy actually planted for six hours straight (see Judy in the second picture down)! Our afternoon planters included Gena, Mary, Myrt and Nancy. The ladies planted two areas, watered and moved on to some crucial and well-timed weeding. Karen M. was in to prune and tidy in the Japanese garden and Jumbo Jim came in with four RECAPPERS to help in that same garden. Grumpies included Rollie and Bill S. spreading mulch, Dennis spreading path gravel and Bob C. and Ron B. replacing fine gravel on some of our paths near the Japanese garden (see the guys further below and to the right). Dick H. worked on various projects including getting the next batch of stakes prepared for Ariel (RBG intern) who did a nice job swapping out our new labels for the old today. Dave, Bob A. and Jim worked on repairing/building our plant sale tables which will go in to service in about 10 weeks. Dr. Gredler was in to mow and water and Bill O. came in to tidy up out in the gardens. We also saw Polly, Kelli, Mary Kay, Dr. Yahr, Elsa, Chuck, Ray, Maury, Geesje, Glenna and many, many others. It was one of the busier Thursdays that I can remember. The grounds staff was also busy today. Above is Janice planting seeds out in the Ornamental Edible & Contact Vegetable display near the arboretum. She was addressing the current gaps with nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) and small sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). Janice also watered, fertilized and helped facilitate our volunteers. Big John was in to water, clear debris, prune and did some significant planting in the sunken garden. Larry kept irrigation going and spent most of his time pruning in the Japanese garden with Karen. I spent the day hauling plants around and was able to keep a half step ahead of everyone.

To the right are Ron B. and Bob C. replacing gravel. We do this on an annual basis and will skim gravel that has lots of soil or weeds and replace with some fresh stuff. This sure puts a nice touch on most of the gravel pathways. To the left is the Lemon-A-Peel black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata 'Lemon Star'). This vigorous annual vine is growing up many of our blue obelisks as part of our blue/yellow theme. We are offering some "light guidance" for these vines as they like to grab on to neighboring plants as well and grow laterally. To the right is another shot of the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) growing in clumps along our shoreline above the zig-zag bridge. The birds will appreciate the berries in the coming weeks and we almost always enjoy seeing wildlife in the gardens. Another purpose of RBG is as a wildlife refuge although we don't enjoy the increasingly damaging deer browsing and some of the activities of woodchucks, bunnies and voracious Japanese beetles. Regardless, we hope to see more pollinators soon (bees, butterflies, etc.) and recent wildlife sighting include a large, soft shell turtle laying eggs and a hyped up muskrat along our shoreline. Our minimal chemical use policy in the gardens is also related to our appreciation of wildlife and minimizing any negative impact to those populations. Directly below is a bloom close-up of a sulphur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus 'Cosmic Orange') which has a profusion of vivid blooms throughout the summer (18" high). At the bottom is the silvery foliage of the 'Black Futsu' winter squash (Cucurbita moschata) that is part of Janice's 2011 squash display at the Horticulture Center. This rare variety (popular in Europe) is known for its heavy ribbing and dark color which ripens to an orange coloration. This squash supposedly tastes like hazelnuts. We'll see! Plenty of watering tomorrow and it will be a hot one!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Trifecta: Planting, Weeding & Watering (And Some VIPs)

Today was another beautiful, sunny day with plenty of activity around the gardens. I was amazed by the number of visitors around the gardens which included a couple of bus tours. We had some VIP visitors today as well (see directly above). These four ladies were from All-America Selections ( and included Macie on the left, Diane (Executive Director) on the far right and I apologize for not remembering the names of the other two ladies. Regardless, we had a delightful tour around the gardens this morning which of course featured our All-America Selections plantings and our American Garden Award program ( which features plantings that can be voted upon by visitors. The top picture is one of the 2011 AAS winners. That is a neat blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) called 'Arizona Apricot'. Kelli was able to meet the ladies too and after their lunch at the gardens, they headed off to visit Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners, WI. The ladies seemed to enjoy the gardens and we look forward to a future visit from AAS. To the right is the yellow shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea) which should offer some interesting "flower architecture" to our front garden. This was planted today, along with many other annuals, by Marv and Terry in the entrance garden. See Marv to the left and Terry to the right. We still have a couple weeks of planting to fill our gaps and get our perennials in the ground.

Marv and Terry planted, prepared areas for planting and did a great job running irrigation and moving sprinklers around the gardens. It truly is an art form to consider the best way of watering and keeping track of everything moving along. Terry also did some fertilizing. Big John also ran irrigation, weeded, planted and did some hand watering (including containers). Jenny weeded and continued with some of her label creation. Pat did plenty of hand watering, fertilized, spread mulch, planted and worked on some significant weeding in the reception garden. Marianne continued to clear weeds and bulb foliage debris but also watered and weeded multiple areas. She also did a nice job tidying up the patio area in the English cottage garden. I placed plants, gave my tour, sprayed herbicide and continue to try and stay a half step ahead of everything. Below is the wide flower cluster of the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) that is right along the waterfront. This is a neat shrub that will have berry clusters in a couple of weeks.. The "dotted line" in the image above is a single file row of Canadian geese (23) heading thru the pond near the alpine garden. You could still see who were the fledglings but overall, this was an orderly bunch. The 'Dancing Waters' fountain to the right is a nice feature but is again the target of unsupervised swimmers heading towards it. John and I have been getting the police involved as we don't have the time to cajole them out of the 'NO SWIMMING' (posted!) zone. With the incoming heat, the beach will be packed and all we ask is that our neighbors (the general beach visitor) will respect our shoreline and other garden elements. It has been challenging every summer with various situations that necessitate our immediate involvement. To the left is the maroon foliage of the 'Soldier' beet (Beta vulgaris). To the right is one of our containers in the fern & moss garden. The centerpiece is a golden elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta 'Elena') with surrounding begonias (Begonia boliviensis 'Bonfire').

We had Kay here today weeding (nice job) and Shirley helped plant and weed all morning. We also saw Maury, Dr. Gredler (mowing), Little Jerry, Pingting, Ariel and many others. I'm trying to solicit more help for our weeding duties which become quite extensive in summer. We are not shy about twisting arms with the promise of plant freebies! Below is a neat tickseed (Coreopsis 'Creme' Brulee') which is one of the heaviest blooming coreopsis on the market. I like that shade of yellow too! At the bottom are Victoria and Jordan who selected and planted another raised bed yesterday with Janice's assistance.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Plant Arrival & The Jenkins Arboretum

Nice shot above of the 'Mocha' coral bells (Heuchera villosa-type) with large, chocolate leaves (height around 20"!). Today was one of the few days that I didn't take any pictures as I actually wasn't out in the gardens more than a couple hours to spray some herbicide in select locations to help thwart the latest advances of countless weeds and unchecked grasses. I was off picking up plants (more on that later) for the entire morning. Weeding was a priority today with Jenny weeding most of the day in the North American garden. This area has our All-America Selections (AAS) and Fleuroselect displays and we were tidying up prior to a visit tomorrow from three AAS staff members. Their home office is in the Chicago area (Downers Grove, IL) and they'll visit RBG in the morning and Boerner Botanic Gardens (Hales Corners, WI) as well. Kay was back in action the past two days (Amen) and helped Jenny weed that area after doing some clean-up in her assigned section of the shade garden. Marv was here a half day and weeded and watered (including all of our containers) while Janice also weeded and did a nice job planting in the gazebo garden (caladiums, begonias, New Guinea impatiens). Larry ran irrigation which became more difficult to accomplish with many visitors today including a youth art class that was sketching/painting out in the gardens. They don't appreciate being hit by sprinklers for some odd reason. Larry also began pruning in the woodland walk garden to open the space up a bit while still maintaining shade cover. Big John worked on clearing more daffodil foliage and weeds and also push mowed. He went on a "plant procurement" trip with Pat later in the day too. After Pat did some weeding and mowing, he and I went out for plants as well (that being my second trip of the day with three trips total). These were trips to nurseries that were donating some surplus plants to the gardens that help augment our final plantings. Marianne tidied up the front of the building and did an awesome job planting 19 flats by herself in the sunken garden. That is a lot of plants and a lot of holes to dig! That might be a single day record at RBG! We continue to water as the next chance of rain is this Friday but of course we never count on it! We also saw Rose, Kris, Ariel, Vern, Bill O. (mowed the arboretum), Maury, Rollie, Ray and many others.

The pictures below are from the Jenkins Arboretum (Devon, PA) that I visited last week (Wednesday) as part of the APGA conference and I was really blown away. See for more information on this 46 acre botanic garden (20 accessible acres to the public) that has an interesting history as well. The woodland setting including awesome ferns, groundcovers, trees, shrubs and lots of art incorporated out in the gardens (see the "metal clothesline" below and the "birches" in the bottommost picture). Near the visitors center was a neat art project of huge ceramic watering cans (see below) decorated by various artists. I could tell that spring at this garden would be fabulous too with so many huge rhododendrons, etc. The setting was really engaging and I hope to visit again in the future. As with every garden I visited, the hospitality of staff and volunteers was amazing and I also met other conference attendees during this trip and garden visit. The second and third photos down feature the neat Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) that we have tried many times at the gardens to no avail (Zone 5 hardiness). It was thriving in moist, well-drained, organic soils at the arboretum where I caught many pictures of this North American native at peak bloom.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back To Business

Today was borderline overwhelming with playing catch-up after attending the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) national conference in Philadelphia, PA last week. The conference was wonderful and both Kelli and I felt it was well worth the time for the advantages of networking and "talking shop" with so many others from other gardens. I'll feature some of the highlights over the course of my blogs this week. Further below are some shots taken at the Mt. Cuba Center which is one of my favorite stops. On Thursday morning last week (in Philly), Ed Lyon and I went to the historic courthouse and paid to take an elevator up to the top of the central tower for a nice view of the city (at 570 feet or so?). I hate heights and really didn't enjoy the elevator getting stuck between the 17th and 18th floor for 45 minutes. There were five of us in this 12 square foot elevator and it felt like hours before we were rescued. The elevator operator had run that elevator almost daily for four years and had never had any problem. At least we didn't plunge to our deaths. Very memorable. Above is a duck family enjoying our shoreline and below is the almost-completed lower pool in the Japanese garden. Further below is the recently sodded North Point garden which continues to "mature" nicely. It was nice to see all the progress in the gardens when I returned although we unfortunately didn't get the rain that went both north and south of Janesville.We had a good crew today although some of the early rain (between 7 am and 8 am) may have kept some volunteers away. Marv and Terry continued to prepare some smaller areas for planting, did some watering and started to weed one of our tough garden areas. The weeds didn't bother to wait for my return and will be one of our primary challenges over the next couple of weeks. Marianne and Noah (her grandson) did a nice job weeding in the sunken garden and worked on some other projects. Larry kept irrigation going and spent significant time in the main parking lot pruning/shaping our larger barberries (Berberis) and burning bushes (Euonymus alatus). Bill O. helped Larry finish this job later in the afternoon. Big John popped by and Janice came in for our Horticulture Therapy Committee meeting this afternoon (which also included Darcie, Karen, Joan, Art, Victoria and Jordan). To the right are some of the marigolds (Tagetes) in our large marigold collection and to the left is a nice shot of the small waterfall in the fern & moss garden. My walk around this morning included plenty of photos as you can imagine. Surprisingly, I only took 1500 shots during my conference trip but feel I caught what I needed to and will sort thru the pictures soon. Also to the right is another nice shot of the Armenian basketflower (Centaurea macrocephala) in the formal perennial garden.

The Grumpies had a productive morning with Del and Bob C. skimming and replacing path gravel down in the Japanese garden while Dennis, Gary and Maury did the same in the Scottish gardens and color rooms gardens. This "refreshing" really looks good and is an annual endeavor. Pat and Dick H. went along the North path and cut back some overgrown brush and tried to tidy up one of our more unsightly paths. Shirley was in to weed in the gazebo garden and Dr. Gredler was in to do his Monday mowing. Dave, Jim, Vern and Bob A. started to repair our plant sale tables that have seen some wear and tear and will be making some new ones as well. With our next plant sale in September, we have to be ready to go. Ariel worked on processing some labels and was out in the woodland walk swapping old labels for new. The progress with the new laser engraver has been impressive to say the least. We also saw Kelli, Kris and many others over here today as well. Directly below is the 'Electrocution' plantain lily (Hosta) and the yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa). The third photo down shows the terrific trio of Marianne, Noah and Marv today. Below are a few of the many photos I took at the Mt. Cuba Center ( which was totally awesome. The natural areas were unbelievable and the formal gardens and future trial garden were exciting too. I was able to connect with a good friend, Peggy Anne, who works there and I enjoyed our tour (albeit, way too brief). I've wanted to visit this garden for years and am glad I finally was able to do so. Check out their website for more information and history.