Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Double Barrel

Today was another wonderful day of sunshine and temperatures in the upper 70 degrees F. This was the perfect fall day that we should all enjoy and remember when we're in that snowy January waiting for spring! As the first Wednesday of the month, today was a free admission day at the gardens and we saw lots of visitors enjoying the late season color. There was also another successful Story & Stroll program which brought many children and families to the garden. There was also a large group of kids here this afternoon enjoying the Smelly Garden. Thanks to our youth education volunteers! The top picture shows Marv bringing back two (of the five) large culvert pipe planters from the North American garden. As I took this picture, I thought it looked like a double barrel shotgun. Marv and Terry made quick work of getting them out of the way this morning after the Grumpies dug them out on Monday. The second photo down shows some of the work occuring along the Japanese garden shoreline. This Bobcat was able to pull in boulders that had been pushed in to the water and the guys are doing a nice job rebuilding the shoreline edge which had really eroded and sagged over the past decade or so. Directly above are just some of the visitors we saw today enjoying the gardens. To the above right is the 'King Tut' Egyptian papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) looking nice out in the gardens and although it wont make it thru a hard frost, this sedge (Carex) relative has awesome texture and receives lots of attention in the many places it is utilized around the gardens. To the left is the variegated fuchsia (Fuchsia triphylla 'Firecracker') which has the double whammy of awesome, pink-variegated foliage and dangling orange flowers. I've featured this plant many times over simply because I can't walk by without taking another picture.

Volunteers today included Kay (see directly below) who worked with Pat on clearing out one of the large annual berms just east of the visitor's center. There was a lot of biomass to get out of there and Pat had to use a saw and sturdy shovel to remove the castor beans (Ricinus communis 'Zanzibariensis') which had topped out at about 12' tall or so with 6" diameter trunks. Kay later tidied up in the shade garden after the first project was complete. Dr. Gredler was in to work on the turf and we also saw Dr. Yahr, Magda, Maury, Dick P., Tom C., Ron, Bev and others. It's nice to have such consistent and dedicated volunteers as they have made such a huge impact on the gardens and this year in particular went very well. I truly consider this a "break out year" in terms of showing the visiting public what we're all about (both with our gardens and our educational mission). The trick will be maintaining that momentum which is closely tied to our fundraising and marketing efforts too! To the right is the always showy (and native!) prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) near the North Point garden. We have this shorter (30") grass around the gardens and I like it when it is blooming like this and starting to get an "orangey" fall coloration. The inforescences (flower/seed heads) smell like buttered popcorn when peaking (they really do!). I like large grouping of this grass in full sun. Very textural. Further below the shot of Kay raking is a nice shot of kale (Brassica sp.) still looking great (unknown variety). Our kale should look good thru the rest of the year and doesn't mind some brisk evenings..I'm sure today was the ideal outdoor day for the grounds staff. While we started with hooded sweatshirts, it was t-shirt weather by lunchtime for sure and shorts are still in evidence (not on me!). This year the grounds staff has worked in some extreme cold and heat and this week has certainly been ideal. Marianne worked on purging more spent/ugly annuals from the terrace garden and entrance garden. She also put together a nice cutting display that features many of the plants still looking great out there. I receive dozens of compliments on the cutting display each year and am sure to pass it on to Marianne who has made this part of her routine a great way to engage visitors regarding some plants to look for out in the gardens. Although I've seen cutting displays at other gardens, I've never seen as many samples and fresh combinations. Big John did some handwatering this morning. Unfortunately, due to some major valve problems, our water system is shut off. John (and others) had to haul all water in watering cans today. John continued working on clearing unsightly annuals out of the "flag berm" which is our planted area along Palmer Drive (that has our three flag poles). John also watered containers, helped at the Visitor's Center, cut back some tropicals for storage and hauled some bagged compost. Marv and Terry, after hauling the blue culvert pipe planters, moved on to clearing more frost-tinged annuals out in the gardens. The guys did a nice job organizing our "back yard" at the Horticulture Center and moved on to cutting back golden ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Nugget') in the parking lot. We cut them down to a couple inches every year or two and they bounce back the following year with 3-4' of fresh, colorful growth. To the above right are some of the 'Grasshopper' sedges (Carex sp.) which has offered great color and texture amongst our ferns in the fern & moss garden. I'm not sure how hardy these are so we'll leave them in and hope they'll make a repeat performance next year. To the left is the increasingly awesome fall color of the Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'). We see variable fall color on our 50 or so specimens out in the gardens although this one (near the east gate) is the most impressive right now. To the right is one of my favorite ornamental grasses. This is the Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) which blooms late, can tolerate part shade and gets around 36" tall. The plumes are actually pinkish at first and go to cream by late September. This specimen is in the woodland walk garden where it only gets morning light. This grass will also get an orange/yellow fall color. I worked in various projects and was able to get thru the gardens on a comprehensive tour. I was out with Dr. Yahr too and was also able to get around with some herbicide for the second time in over a month. The sun and heat were perfect to target some problem weed areas. I also met with Maury, Dick P. and Tom C. regarding some additional power outlets (out in the gardens) that we'll install tomorrow. Who said prairies were boring!? Directly below is a look at our prairie which is being utilized again tomorrow for youth education. That pink/tan coloration is given by the fall coloration of the prairie grasses, primarily big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). At the bottom is the fruiting structure of the Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus). The capsule from this large, deciduous shrub, is splitting, showing the orange/red seeds inside. A different species of this shrub (Euonymus americanus) with similar fruiting structures is called "hearts a bursting" because of this similar look.

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