Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Frigid Frolicking Fun

Today was quite cold although at least we had the sun shining throughout the day. There was again, lots going on at the gardens today. The top picture is the leaf of the golden false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla 'Diane's Gold') which is actually a selection found in the Madison, WI area. The spring foliage is bright yellow aging to a "summer chartreuse" and we're seeing the return to yellow right now. Today was also the check presentation for the $15,000 grant that RBG received from the WI Department of Tourism to help promote our Holiday Lights Show (HLS). We had plenty of VIPs including the WI Secretary of Tourism, Stephanie Klett along with WI State Senator Tim Cullen, WI State Representative Joe Knilans and Eric Levitt, Janesville City Manager. The crowd above, left to right included Christine Rebout (Executive Director of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau), Susan Melton (RBG marketing, CVB marketing, etc.!), Kris Kringle (aka "Santa"), Amanda Moucha (Funds Development at RBG), Stephanie Klett (WI Secretary of Tourism), Representative Knilans (in back), Kelli Cameron (Executive Director at RBG), Senator Cullen (in back), Polly Schluter-Punzel (Facilities Coordinator at RBG), Lori Ebneter (Volunteer Coordinator at RBG), Gil Sedor (Board Member at RBG), Eric Levitt (Janesville City Manager) and John Pearse (Board Member, Treasurer for RBG). It was a nice dedication with comments by many attendees. RBG will certainly benefit (as will WI tourism) with the use of this grant. I hope it brings a couple more thousand attendees to the HLS! Amanda and Santa can be seen to the above right too! To the left is the showy bark of the Himalayan birch (Betula utilis) in the shade garden. This bark is as showy as the grey birch (Betula populifolia) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) in my mind and I hope to use more of these in the future. That creamy white bark is striking, particularly this time of year.

The grounds staff (Marv, Terry, Marianne, Big John and myself) spent most of the day outside as we're in that home stretch for setting up the lights show. Marv and Terry continued securing trees (see to the right) for others to decorate with lights. In this picture, Marv is the guy buried in the tree wiring the trunk to a stake. The guys not only secured all the trees but put out the remainer of the obelisks and worked on some other HLS preparations. Big John loaded up our sand buckets for our potential icy paths during HLS and moved on to a solid day of putting lights on trees and running cords. Marianne set out more lights for the newly secured trees, decorated trees (see below) and did a nice job connecting and securing our tree icicles out in the gazebo garden and woodland walk. She has a nice system that minimizes tangles and keeps the icicles hanging nicely. I ran a couple hundred drop cords and am about 90% done with running power out in the HLS. I'll tweak areas tomorrow and Monday in preparation for our first evening tests next week before Thanksgiving. We also had some solid volunteer support this morning with the help of Kay, Pat and Dennis. Bill O. was also in to work on some tire repair and Jumbo Jim had three RECAPPERS with him to help tidy in the Japanese garden. We also saw Mary W. today. Two photos up is Kay working out in the woodland walk garden where she collected many loads of debris. The wind was challenging but that didn't stop her from doing a great job of tidying up that space. We thought she was tough with no hat this morning (32 degrees F) but she had it on soon after this photo was taken. Kay was the only one gardening this morning (thankfully!) although Jim and the guys did a nice job in the afternoon. The picture above shows some of Dennis and Pat's jobs today. Here they are putting lights on the five trees that Marv and Terry secured on the arched bridge this morning. The wind coming across that water was frigid but the guys toughed it out. To the right and left are Pat and Dennis respectively decorating more white pines (Pinus strobus) in the formal gardens. Hard to believe these were just cut Monday morning and are now secured, decorated with lights, wired up and ready to roll. The trees were a bit bigger this year so the staking and decorating is a bit more challenging but we'll adjust! Tomorrow we'll put the finishing touches on the HLS and I'll probably turn everything on and get a feeling for how well everything will "stay on". We will ultimately test this show multiple times before the premiere at the Taste of Chocolate event at RBG on December 2nd (there is still room to attend, call soon!). The bane of the lights show is rain. We always hope for a little snow but are not real keen on rain and/or sleet. With an improved "power grid" out in the gardens, I think we'll have very few power issues and should have time to modify and adjust prior to the opening of HLS to the public on December 16th. Check out our website at for more information as there are also other event components like refreshments, live music, Santa, quilt display, gift shop and a cool train set-up by the Southern WI Garden Railway Society. To the right is the fall color of the silver linden (Tilia tomentosa 'Sterling') which is looking quite nice right now and is still showing the silver backing on the leaves (which it does in summer too). Below is the exceptional fall color on another of our perennial geraniums (Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Karmina') which we use in many locations. At the bottom is a fallen ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) leaf which is just as interesting on the ground as it is on the tree. The fan-shaped leaves are quite unique and give the ginkgo the other common name of "maidenhair tree".

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