Friday, October 21, 2011

Staff Retreat

Today we had a staff retreat to Rockford, IL and enjoyed nice weather and some time "away from the office." Kelli took 15 of us out for lunch first (John, Kris, Marv, Marianne, Janice, Jenny, Pat, Larry, Terry, Amanda, Lori, Polly, Sue, Mark S. and me) and we then headed down to Rockford to get a preview, "behind the scenes" tour of the new Nicholas Conservatory. The conservatory opens up in a week or so for the public and we certainly appreciate them accomodating our early visit. The staff were very cordial and gave us a great tour of the entire building (conservatory, offices, greenhouse, etc.). When Kelli and I were out in Philadelphia for the APGA (American Public Garden Association) Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Kelli met the Director for the conservatory and they arranged this much appreciated tour for our staff.

The Nicholas Conservatory is located in Sinnissippi Gardens which is operated by the Rockford Park District (as is the Conservatory). I remember visiting Sinnissippi many times in the past and enjoying the extensive rose collection outside and the original greenhouses (now removed). The gardens have gone thru many phases and it was nice to observe that improvements will be made around the existing lagoon and throughout the extent of the original park as well. The conservatory was very impressive with lots of water features, plants (of course), art work (see to the right) , etc. We spoke with some of the staff that were maintining the plant collections. When we arrived, we watched a DVD that gave a brief history of the conservatory which included a really cool, "quickened" time lapse sequence showing not only the construction of the conservatory structure but the delivery and installation of the huge palm trees and larger plantings. As we left, we invited their staff to come up to RBG next year so we can return the hospitality. These images are just some of the many I took today. I definitely plan on visiting this conservatory in the future and was reminded of the fact that this destination is only a couple minutes from Anderson Gardens, the premiere Japanese garden in North America.After departing the Nicholas Conservatory, we drove to Edwards Orchard (Poplar Grove, IL) for a visit to their various shopping opportunities which included all sorts of food items, jams, jellies, fudge, apples, pumpkins, etc. It was quite crowded and I never did determine the entire extent of this operation but it was quite large in scale. The shot to the right shows the mums lining the exit from the larger retail barn. I ran in to an old college buddy (Scott) in the retail area and met his wife and daughter. Scott is a landscape architect in Rockford and some of his current work involves the garden improvements around the lagoon adjacent to the Nichols Conservatory. I hadn't seen Scott since my wedding back in 1999! We had a safe trip back and I think everyone had fun and it was a nice opportunity to have some staff bonding. Kudos to Kelli for setting this up (and buying lunch!). To the left are some signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lulu') that weathered the light frost last night and are still looking vivid (at RBG, under the 'Dialogue' sculpture).

While our staff retreat didn't start until lunch time, I saw many of the grounds staff early this morning. Marianne, Marv and Terry were in early followed by Janice and John. John was helping Mark S. with some work (as a volunteer) while Janice worked on some preparations for the upcoming symposium and made labels for our "soon-to-be-planted bulbs). Marianne finished testing/repairing our lights (YAY!) while Marv and Terry braved the cold and put up some lights out in the gardens (see to right). I worked on my presentation about Bulbs for next Wednesday, October 26th (6 pm - 8 pm) and worked on some other odds and ends. Kay was in to remove spent annuals in the reception garden and she came back with many loads. Dr. Gredler was in to mow and collect leaves and Del stopped by this morning to continue painting the plywood deer cutouts (white) for the Holiday Lights Show. Tomorrow is a work day and I hope we get at least 20 people in to plant our tulips, alliums and lilies! The bottom picture shows some happy gnomes at the home of our volunteers Ron & Bev (Happy 50th Anniversary!). Directly below are the late inflorescences (flower/seed heads) of the variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus'). These heads don't emerge until October (as they do any many other varieties as well) but I like that pink tone. The volunteer appreciation dinner last night was a load of fun and attended by close to 110 people.

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