Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dreary Day II

Today was another cloudy and cold day and we had some light flurries thru most of the morning. There was no accumulation and of course, nothing left of the snowflakes from yesterday. The weekend looks quite a bit warmer so I think we'll have a respite from the cold. It was a great day for working outside though and there was lots of activity around the gardens throughout the day. The top picture is our golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold') wall planting that has filled out so well over the years (6?). We've had lots of compliments about the look of this planting and how the arching grasses soften the boulder retaining wall and hides the nooks and crannies. This time of year, this variety (and most of the Hakone grass varieties) start to get tinged with fall color. In this case, we're seeing the start of some pink on this grass. Directly above is the peak fall color one of our perennial cranesbill geraniums (Geranium sanguineum) in the herb garden.

We had a great volunteer turnout with lots of Grumpies and one Grumpette. Gary and Big John worked on securing more protective deer fencing (to the right) around our tastier offerings out in the gardens. We protect all of our arborvitae (Thuja sp.) and will also protect select pines and some other potential targets. To the left, Pat (goofy red hat) and Dennis helped John plant the last of our bulbs in the English cottage garden this morning. They planted a hodge podge of bulbs (tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths, ornamental onions) that will look great next spring. Pat and Dennis then moved on to spreading shredded leaves over some of our beds. Dave was out collecting leaves and debris and we also had the assistance of Dick H., Rollie, Dick P. and Maury. Dave T., Vern, Bob A. and Jim worked on carpentry projects and Del also had some projects as well. Jenny was our lone Grumpette and was as helpful as always. Even water lilies (Nymphaea sp.) have neat fall color (see to the right). Bill O. was in this afternoon to help collect leaf debris. We also saw Kelli, Mary W., Lori, Amanda, Jance and others at the Horticulture Center today.

This morning was busy at the gardens with our irrigation contractor arriving to accomplish the winterization of our irrigation system. This took the entire day as we have four controllers that run almost 50 zones that all have to be cleared of water before the "hard freeze". Larry worked with the contractor and they methodically worked thru the gardens over the course of the day. We also had L.P. Tree Service come to remove some trees in our parking lot islands. We will be replanting trees (more appropriate and hardy selections) in these islands next spring and were happy to see them go. However, the parking lot sure looks a lot more "open" now. We never take the decision to remove trees lightly and only do so when there is a valid reason. While the L.P guys were here, they also helped us get some lights on the building as a bucket truck is a lot handier than a ladder! L.P. Tree Service has not only done tree work at the gardens since our founding 22 years ago but has also donated time helping with our lights show for the past 13 years. Below are some images of their activities today.

The grounds staff today included Larry, Big John, Janice and myself. Aside from helping with the irrigation winterization, Larry also helped coordinate the tree removal activities and lights set-up efforts. Larry's "institutional knowledge" is invaluable and was called upon many times today. Big John worked with Pat and Dennis with the bulb planting this morning and after helping Gary with deer fencing, moved on to cleaning up the parking lot mess from all the stump grinding activities this morning. Janice worked on decorating some obelisks this morning and later went out to start clearing the herb garden. Janice decorated almost all the obelisks this year and only has a couple left. I was able to run cords almost all day and was pleased with the progress. I kept my camera in my pocket and didn't hesitate to peel of my gloves to get some late season images like the 'Blue Sparkle' dwarf larch (Larix laricina) to the right as it turns yellow and drops needles (deciduous conifer). To the left is the fruiting structure (hip) of the red Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa var. rubra). The hips are quite showy this time of year and have a long history of many uses. Research rose hips and their uses and you'll be amazed. They are also higher in vitamin C than oranges.

Next Monday we go on our annual tree run to cut, load and haul back 150-200 white pines (Pinus strobus) that we use as temporary displays for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). These are donated by Paul's Tree Farm (Avon, WI). We secure them on posts (recently pounded in) and then decorate them with lights. We do many grouping of trees that look great with some light snow. This has been an annual trek and we typically get 10-15 Grumpies to help with this process. Outdoor volunteerism in the gardens will dwindle by the end of the month as we finalize the lights show and finish our fall clean-up tasks. Our carpenters keep busy thru the winter and once the 2012 New Year hits, we head out and start dismantling the lights show. It is still a busy time now though and we hope our efforts with the HLS are rewarded with 10,000+ visitors. A recent, $15,000 grant from the WI Dept. of Tourism should help bring people to the show. To the right is the superior fall color of one of our oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia). Below is an annual pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) hanging in there. This "cool season" annual can take tough months of April and October (doesn't enjoy the summer heat though..) and I was surprised to see this one hanging in there. At the bottom is the fall color on our golden Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica 'Chiba Gold'). This variety has golden foliage in summer too (most cultivars have green or variegated foliage) although there is a variable white pattern on many of the leaves. It was interesting to see the intense yellowing fall color but the remnants of some of that white pattern.

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