Monday, August 29, 2011

Calm Before The Storm

I think I've used the same blog title in the past and it probably was in reference to the same time of year when we're getting close to our crazy plant sale preparation time. Although our sale doesn't officially start for 11 days (September 9th for the Members Only Presale, 9 am - 5 pm), we'll see the start of plants arriving this week and early next week. With this being our 13th Annual Fall Plant Sale, I think we have some good systems and protocols in place for getting ready and Marianne seems ready to go (Amen). The image at the top is another summer poinsettia or fountain plant (Amaranthus tricolor) called 'Illumination'. The brightest growth is always eyecatching and this leaf amaranth species is also edible (tastes like spinach). Directly above are the leaves of one of our ornamental shamrocks (Oxalis hybrida 'Charmed Velvet') with dew this morning. This annual looks great along our partly-shaded borders and has small, white flowers as well. To the right is a nice image of the arched bridge this morning as seen from the North path. The water is a little low which can be seen by the bottom of those four support posts just above the waterline. To the left is another hyssop (Agastache cana 'Purple Pygmy') in full bloom in the scented garden. The foliage is scented on this plant but the flowers (edible) are really attracting bees, pollinators and other insects.

We had another great day of solid volunteerism with the Grumpies and other volunteers. Del and Dennis went out to take down the tents from Sunday and later joined Ron, Larry, Dick and Maury with the task of setting up our plant sale tents and moving tables around the yard to be set-up for looming deliveries. Bob C. and Dick K. worked on skimming paths of older gravel and freshening up the paths. Pat and Urban worked on scraping up old pine needles and debris in the upper portion of the Japanese garden and started to spread a nice layer of compost in a space (with many hostas) that hadn't been composted in many years. Gary, Rollie, Maury and Dick P. helped Marv and Terry plant two large 'New Horizon' elm trees (Ulmus hybrida) across the pond from the new North Point garden. Janesville City Parks gave us the go ahead to install five trees over there (that we will maintain) and these will look great from the distance and start to screen an unsightly view of the parking area for the National Guard Armory. The guys bounced between many different projects. Dr. Gredler was here to mow and work on some lawn repair projects. Dave, Jim and Bob A. continued their work on re-installing the Japanese garden fence (see Dave and Bob below). We also saw Harold T. and his daughter, Mary Q. (weeding), Kris, Kelly, Lori, Bill O., Janice, Deb, Bev, Fred, Rose and many others. Congressman Paul Ryan was the speaker today for the Rotary Club meeting at the visitor's center. To the above right is the amber flower plume of a neat grain amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) called 'Hot Biscuits'. Directly above is mountain spurge or annual snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata 'Kilimanjaro'). The actual flowers are very small and most of the color is created by the yellow and green bracts that surround the flower. This annual can reach almost 4' tall and really looks great at dusk as well. The grounds staff kept busy as usual with myriad tasks. After Marv and Terry planted trees with the Grumpies, they moved on to watering, gravel work and some other tasks. Big John was in to spread compost in a newly cleared bed that will be planted next spring. He also replaced some path gravel and worked on watering all our containers. Marianne tidied/weeded in many areas, worked on her cutting display, watered and is making the transition (mental and physical) to our primary plant sale organizational expert. Larry ran irrigation most of the day to keep up with moisture levels around the gardens. With days in the upper 70 degrees F and nights in the 50 degrees F, we're cutting back on watering. However, it looks like Thursday will be a "scorcher." Larry spent most of his day weedwhipping around the gardens. I was a "desk jockey" the majority of the day with plant sale preparations and looming presentations calling my name. To the right is the colorful foliage of a new foamy bells (Heucherella hybrida) called 'Brass Lantern'. This foliage is quite orangey in spring but fades to this, still interesting color, later in summer. To the left is a neat bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida) called 'Cherry Delight'. Placed in this chartreuse border, the maroon/red really pops, particularly with some fortuitous backlighting! This variety is hard to find but packs a 30" tall punch in full sun (needs plenty of water!). To the lower right is a bloom close-up of a neat perennial gaura (Gaura lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink') in our English cottage garden. Gauras are universally floppy but long-blooming perennials and will bloom from July until Frost. They benefit from "rigid" neighboring plants that will help support their wavy and floppy stems. We occasionally lose some over the severest of winters but I love the bloom shape, profusion of blooms and the amazing number of pollinators that zero in on this plant all the way until frost. We have a white-blooming gaura mass planting in the parking lot that receives no attention and it has thrived for years. With the squash being such a hit this past weekend at the 6th Annual Garden Festival (great job Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association, particularly Deb, Fred, Bev and Jim!), I thought I'd feature some additional neat ones. Directly below is one of the squash/pumpkins that I think looks awesome. Native to Australia and named after a town in New Zealand, the Jarrahdale winter squash (Cucurbita maxima) has beautiful blue-grey skin with heavy ribbing. This squash is used in pies and has a delicious, orange flesh. Imagine this one as a Jack-O-Lantern! Janice sure picked out some neat ones this year. At the bottom is a shot of the Eastern black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia 'Torch') blossom in the gardens. Thanks to Santos, our volunteer photographer, for this one (and so many others!).

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