Monday, October 17, 2011

Back To Business

Nice shot above of 'October Skies' aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius) in full bloom out in the gardens. This variety, and 'Raydon's Favorite' (similar look), are my favorites for a late season, blue aster (the foliage is fragrant and deer rarely will nibble). This species also stays under 30" tall and is not floppy at all. Beneath that image is one of our pink mums blooming nicely (just a bit past peak) in a container in the reception garden. I thought this looked like an ice cream cone (strawberry) this morning! As always, it's tough playing "catch-up" after being gone on vacation but it didn't take too long to get up to speed and there weren't many brush fires to deal with as the gardens were in good hands with our grounds staff and volunteers (as always). That little "recharge vacation" should get me thru the next couple of weeks of garden work, desk work and running extension cords. Normally we are preparing for our annual Halloween Walk which is done in conjunction with the local Spotlight on Kids organization. We've both taken the year off which should allow us to get an earlier start on decorations for the Holiday Lights Show. In fact, decorating started last week and I saw evidence of outdoor light placement, display testing and the testing/preparation of many of our lights that are poised to go outside. To the right is the bronze/orange fall color of the pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens 'Debonair'). This is a deciduous conifer that will loose those needles but this narrow form looks great with upswept, feathery needles that are a soft green in summer and will continue to get more bronze over the coming weeks. To the left is a back-lit leaf of one of our Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) varieties in the Ornamental Edible/Compact Vegetable display. The chard display this year (24 varieties) was fun and Janice did a nice job of keeping it trimmed and was able to donate lots of the greens to area food banks. The chard doesn't mind the cold and continues to look good (although its days are numbered too....).

We had a great volunteer crew of Grumpies today. The third picture from the top shows Marianne (center) with many of the guys removing annuals from the front entrance garden. I saw Bob C., Urban, Dave, Ron B. and Gary up there helping with removals all morning. Maury was there too but was bouncing between projects. They brought back many loads but created a clean slate that will be the focus of our tulip planting this Saturday. We have over 4,000 white tulips (Tulipa) and 500 white ornamental onions (Allium 'Mt. Everest') to plant. We hope to have a good volunteer turnout for this workday (8 am until noon). We'll also be trying to sell the last of our bagged mushroom compost that morning as well (also 8 am until noon). Ron W. and Bill S. were out collecting leaves around the gardens while Jumbo Jim had two RECAPPERS and they worked on tidying up the Japanese garden. We have 10 staff and volunteers from the Chicago Botanic Garden visiting tomorrow and the majority of them are associated with their Japanese garden (quite nice) and are interested in a tour, including our Japanese garden. Dick P., Rollie and Tom C. (see below) did further work on our electrical project in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden (Smelly Garden). Dick H. helped clear plants and was also kept busy with truck repairs and dump runs (see bottom picture). Dr. Gredler was in later to mow. We also saw Kelli, Polly and had a nice visit from Roy Klehm who brought silent auction plants for the Fall Symposium (Plant Appreciation) on November 5th (check out our website and register now!). To the above right is another shot of the dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea 'Laciniato') that has looked great all summer and enjoys a cooler day. Further below is a close-up of one of our neat nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) that I believe is 'Strawberries & Cream'. Beneath that is a nice shot of the North point arbor with the surrounding mums looking pretty good. We had the full grounds staff in this morning. While Jenny and Pat are done for the year, we had Larry, Marv, Marianne, Terry, John and Janice out in the gardens today. Marv and Terry started removing hanging baskets and emptying containers. The guys brought back many of the larger containers for storage and still have more to process. Marv and Terry also removed other plants and continued putting up lights. Marianne coordinated annual removal efforts in the entrance garden (with six Grumpies) and moved on to more Holiday Lights Show related preparations. Janice was out to remove annuals, worked on lights and other indoor projects. She also started decorating obelisks out in the gardens for the lights show. Big John spent most of his morning removing annuals along our larch area planting wall. This was a huge amount of debris and as he removed it, Janice decorated the obelisks that are along this border. Larry did some light chainsaw work this morning on some debris and spent most of the day pushmowing with our mulching mower as the leaves are accumulating faster than we can collect them. We hope this is the last time we have to mow the turf but we'll see! Looks like 31 degrees F overnight this Thursday. That should slow things down a bit. As much as I hate to see the season end, it is not really "season end" for us as we have to rush to get the lights show up and can't do much of the work until we're done clearing beds, mowing lawns and collecting leaves. I did a walk around, had some meetings and spent time catching up on phone messages, mail and email. We have our volunteer appreciation dinner this Thursday evening and I'm putting together a presentation for that event as well. To the above right are the inflated pods of the annual balloon plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) which is in the milkweed family. Even when dry and brown, these pods hold their form for some time and are nice in dried arrangements. To the left is the start of the increasingly red fall color of the 'Winterthur' viburnum (Viburnum nudum) in the fern & moss garden. This species, though marginally hardy, has done fairly well for us although I have yet to see this variety flower or form fruits (for us). The fall color is spectactular though... With the lack of an early hard frost (thankfully), we're able to enjoy the October blooms of the golden pineapple sage (Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious') that is just starting to bloom with red trumpets (seen to the right). The last of the hummingbirds are working these over and this annual should hang in there until a hard frost. The standard, green-leaved variety is also blooming right now. Directly below is the start of orange fall color for the the three-flower maple (Acer triflorum). This smaller stature, hardy maple is a nice understory tree with ornamental bark, interesting leaves and of course, this showy fall color. At the bottom is Dick H. speeding out with another load for the dump.


The Plant Geek said...

Aster oblongifolius has always flopped for me in a number of different gardens. I've used 'October Skies' and 'Raydon's Favorite', both have flopped. I just planted 'Dream of Beauty', we'll see if that one flops. Although even floppy they look great, and it is also my favorite aster.

Mark Dwyer, Director of Horticulture, Rotary Botanical Gardens said...

Haven't tried 'Dream of Beauty' but don't disagree with you on the flopping, particularly with 'Raydon's Favorite'! I guess I like a shorter floppy aster than a 5-6' floppy New England aster! May try to cut back these aromatic asters in spring too and see if it keeps them more compact.