Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Today was another perfect day with blue skies, sunshine and ample warmth (74 degrees F). The gardens are still looking quite colorful with many plants still looking good after the light frost this past weekend. Fall color is not at peak for a week or two but we're seeing some nice hints of color around the gardens. To the right is the nice golden fall color of the hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) with 'Autumn Purple' white ash (Fraxinus americana) coloring up nicely in the background. The top picture is a leaf of our variegated ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba 'Variegata') in the entrance garden. While the leaf variegation is quite variable, overall it is a good look for this slow-growing cultivar. Directly above is another nice shot of the arched bridge from across the pond (observation pier). Note the equipment to the left of the bridge. We have Nature's Touch Landscaping rebuilding the boulder retaining wall along that coastline as it has suffered from settling and years of visitors rolling in the top row of rocks (usually teenage fishermen). The end result will be a sturdy wall with larger boulders and a nice defined, level pathway. The guys have spent two days with that backhoe trying to collect dozens of boulders that have been rolled in to the water over the years. Those three passengers in the hot air ballon (seen to the left) got a nice view of the gardens this morning with a low-level coast over the gardens. At one point, we thought they might land in the pond. The Janesville Hot Air Balloon Company has flown over many times and usually lands in the field near the Horticulture Center as they did today. I haven't been offered a free ride as of yet...

This is the time of year (like May and June) where there is no shortage of substantial work to be done. The grounds staff did a nice job today. Larry ran some irrigation until we found a severe leak with our valve system and had to shut everything down. Larry worked with this system most of the day which involved pumping out our valve chamber which was flooded. Larry also worked on pruning and some odds and ends. Big John worked on clearing out the front sign area and also did some container watering. He continued some selective removals in the azalea/rhododendron area too. Janice continued to clear the most frost-sensitive (ugly) plants from a wide range of the garden. She also had a Volunteer Committee meeting and helped with watering duties later in the day. I was able to get outside for some herbicide applications and had some meetings. I have three presentations this month that I'll be preparing for as well (Ferns & Mosses, volunteer dinner and Bulbs). To the right is a cool piece of sculpture/garden art that I saw at Jennifer E.'s house last night. I always like the personal touch in the garden and this art certainly caught my eye. Directly below is the start of fall color (golden) of our tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). Note the interesting leaf shape which is defined as "a simple leaf with broad truncate apex with a short acuminate lobe on each side" Dirr. When I worked at Fernwood Botanical Gardens & Nature Center in Niles, MI, this tree was growing native throughout the woodlands and there were some 100' specimens with perfectly straight trunks. A neat tree that you don't see much around here at all. Further below is the vivid red of the native, Virginia creeper vine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) that you'll notice hugging tree trunks and branches out in the woods this time of year. We had another nice group of volunteers out in the gardens today as well. Our youth education volunteers did another nice job leading young students thru the gardens and prairie for their youth program (Birds & Prairies). I saw Mary W., Mary D., Sandy, Laura, Bev and Shirley although I'm sure there were more helpers out there. The prairie looks pretty nice right now and the kids seemed to enjoy the program. We also saw a high school photography club (Edgerton, WI) come thru the gardens this morning. Bill O. was in to help tidy many pathways throughout the gardens and has collected more leaves than anyone in RBG history. Dr. Gredler was in to mow, aerate some lawns and run many loads to the dump. We're bringing debris back faster than we can haul it off! Kay was in to help with removals and did a great job removing annuals and tidying up one of the larger beds in the North American garden. Pat was in and helped with our pushmowing and helped tidy up the curbline of the entrance garden. Rollie and Dick P. were in to start placing the new batch of memorial bricks and we also saw Maury, Dick H., Jean and many others. I forgot to mention that we also saw Little Jerry yesterday. To the right is the dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea 'Lacinato') still hanging in there and looking good despite some nibbled holes in the leaves... The stonecrops (Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy') to the left (not at RBG) are showing the classic flopping form that so frustrates gardeners. When gardeners mention this occurance, I usually ask what their soil is like. Stonecrops will get quite lush and top heavy (floppy) in overly rich soils and would be more compact and upright in leaner soils (gravelly or sandy). These specimens could also be older plants and in need of a nice spring division for rejuventation. Again, this sedum would do better in tougher soils. To the right is the start of fall color for the oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) which can be quite a vivid red/maroon by mid October. This photo is from the home of a RBG volunteer but shows the nice merit of this hydrangea for color, form and leaf texture. Directly below is the vivid yellow blossom of the African daisy (Osteospermum sp. 'Voltage Yellow') which doesn't mind the cool evenings and really perks up in September and early October. That blossom is about 3" in diameter and a very eye-catching shade of yellow. At the bottom is the marbled nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus 'Alaska Mixed') which also shrugs off the chills and offers some nice leaf coloration and interesting blooms (both leaves and blooms edible).

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