Friday, November 18, 2011

An Awesome Grounds Staff

Today was the last day for the grounds staff with the exception of Larry who will continue thru the winter and spend time working on equipment and other maintenance duties. We were able to go out for a nice lunch today and above (from left to right) are Terry, Marianne, Little Jerry (past staff, current volunteer), Big John, Janice, Marv and Pat. Larry and Jenny couldn't make it but RBG is truly lucky to have such dedicated and talented grounds staff that continues to work miracles every year as the gardens expand and improve. We heard more positive comments about the gardens this year than any year previously. This is a pointed reflection on all of our wonderful volunteers but certainly is a result of the solid commitment that our staff has for the care and improvement of the gardens proper. It was a LONG year with many challenges and it's always bittersweet to effectively end the season. John (to the right) is holding up all of the "task maps" that I gave him this year and I joked that at least he accomplished 25% of what was on there! To the left is the beautiful, exfoliating bark of the seven-sons flower (Heptacodium miconioides) which I've featured in the past for late season (late September/early October) fragrant white flowers. There are some considerably larger specimens up at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) that are very impressive and the bark is quite conspicuous in winter. To the right is the arching form of the weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Weeping Blue') near the gazebo that will continue to be a neat feature in the landscape, particularly in winter (note the HLS cords in that image!). To the left is the chartreuse fall color of our cut-leaf forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia 'Tremonia') which had been a good shrub for us with nice spring flower coverage as well.

We had a solid day of work out in the gardens to put the finishing touches on the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). Granted, we'll need to turn everything on this upcoming Monday and finalize power issues, etc. but for the most part, we are done with the outdoor component of the HLS. We actually had to purchase another 1,500' in extension cords (thanks Maury!) for the remainder of our wiring needs. Big John filled more buckets with sand as a back-up supply for our path maintenance during the HLS. John also finished decorating some items, cut and placed evergreen (pine) boughs and helped run cords. Pat was here as a volunteer and continued to "wire up" the temporary pine trees that are starting to lean on their stakes with all these heavy winds. John helped Pat as well. Marianne made some power adjustments, worked on securing icicle lights, tidied the reception garden and did a nice job going over some of our areas to make sure our connections are snug and everything is in order. Marv and Terry secured and decorated the last of our trees and wired up the last of our power needs. The guys also started decorating an interior display (tree) that looks pretty cool. Janice worked on repairing LED lights on our last obelisk and went out to straighten some of the lighting that has been compromised with the high winds. We also saw Maury, Little Jerry, Bill and Deb G. today. To the right is the snowy wood rush (Luzula nivea) in the woodland walk which has this neat white, haze of fuzz (not a botanical term!) on the foliage. The summer flowers are white (somewhat unkempt but not unshowy) and this grass relative can tolerate part shade or full shade. It is a spreading clump so keep an eye on it. It caught my eye today as it still looks pretty good. Directly below is creeping lily-turf (Liriope spicata) which isn't a grass at all (lily family) but has a nice appearance and can certainly soften an edge as seen along this brick path leading to the sunken garden. This perennial, while evergreen, will send up fresh foliage each year and can also take up some real estate as a groundcover. I've seen this plant used as a groundcover in full sun, part shade and deep shade and it always looks good to me. Although there are still 43 days left in the year, our primary gardening season is over. We will continue to collect leaves and debris as time (and weather allows) and will also continue our extensive winter pruning efforts over the next four months. Urban has already had a good start on pruning the crabapples (Malus sp.) and was at it yesterday. The Grumpies will have their last official work day this upcoming Monday although some of the guys (primarily the carpenters) will continue to come in as long as there are winter projects. We typically will have some odds and ends to do inside which will include not only new projects but repairs and other duties like painting, resealing benches, etc. After the New Year, the hardiest of volunteers (including some of our off-season grounds staff), come in to start dismantling and putting away the HLS. The weather (snow cover in particular) is a huge factor in what we can access and safely bring back to the Horticulture Center for a little thawing before it is efficiently packed away and stored. Larry has historically done a nice job orchestrating this post-event process and I rarely get involved as I'm waist-deep in catalogs, orders and other preparations for 2012. To the right is a compilation of leaves from our sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) that has finally decided to drop everything this week. Look at that variability of coloration though! The leaf to the left is one I've featured previously this fall as the coloration has become better each week! This is from the 'Golden Zebra' foamy bells (Heucherella) in our woodland walk. What you see as pink along the margins of the leaf lobes was bright yellow five months ago. I really like the foliage on this perennial (from May thru November). Now that's impact. Conifers should always be considered for their appeal throughout the year but of course they become more conspicuous in the winter landscape. To the right is the contorted European silver fir (Abies alba 'Green Spiral') just outside of our English cottage garden. This specimen, when planted years ago, didn't impress me much but I like it now as it has filled in and become an eye catcher.

I've been thinking about next year for quite some time and am not starting from scratch. I find that I need to start earlier and earlier each year to get seed orders, plant orders, label information, etc. ready before "crunch time" starts in April. Some secrets for 2012 that I can reveal include a moss rose (Portulaca) collection, improved Smelly Garden, improved Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable display, Grains of the World (more on that later), oodles of new perennials, a new border planting, lots more new labeling (particularly for woody plants) and plenty of color with a vast array of neat annuals. Thanks again to a top notch grounds staff (Marv, Marianne, Terry, Janice, Larry, John, Pat and Jenny) for a great 2011 and an even better 2012! Directly below is a leaf of the 'Dale's Strain' coral bells (Heuchera americana) with a red sweet gum leaf nearby. Enjoy the details in every garden, especially your own.

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