Monday, November 28, 2011

Heading In To My Desk Season

With the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) essentially set up and ready to go, I'm spending more time at my desk with my winter activities. My priorities will include getting our seed orders compiled, preparing for upcoming presentations, sorting and organizing my 2011 (and some 2010!) digital photos and really getting caught up with finalizing information for our new woody plant labels. I need to go thru Luis' (our volunteer woody plant curator) thorough inventory of woody plants and review all the information so Gary is ready to produce the new labels this winter. Needless to say, there is no shortage of work and despite no snow accumulation yet, I feel like spring will be here all too soon! The top picture above shows Larry, who along with Ron W., worked on finishing our deer fence installation and moved on to wrapping our yews (Taxus sp.) with burlap. The clumps near the pergola that he is targeting in the photo have been decimated by the deer each year. Directly above are the berries of the European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) which are just waiting for relocation via "bird dispersal." It's not too late to target this thug in the garden which I talked about in detail in a blog within the past month or so. To the right is a close-up of our ornamental kale (Brassica sp.) which is looking even more vivid with the consistently cool temperatures this time of year. To the left is a close-up of the seed head of the Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). You can see how it gets it's name with that structure, which holds up fairly well throughout the winter and has a neat rattling sound.

We had a good showing of volunteers today with the Grumpies and some others trickling in throughout the day. As mentioned above, Larry H. and Ron W. worked on deer fencing and "burlapping" while Urban was out in the gardens too continuing his crabapple (Malus sp.) pruning. Dick H. and Maury as well as Rollie and Dick P. all went mobile to pick up memorial bricks from Madison, WI and Sturtevant, WI respectively. Del worked on cleaning and sharpening tools while Dave, Vern, Bob A. and Jim continued work on the oak leaf project for the 2012 art in the garden program. Gary worked on organizing his labeling information and records. Jumbo Jim and one RECAPPER came in and did some work on winterizing our roses and continued protection efforts on the yews (Taxus sp.) in the Japanese garden. Janice was in to work on some lights and we also saw Big John, Dave G. and some others today as well. The image to the right is the 'Carmen' stonecrop (Sedum spectabile) which has gone way beyond the pink summer flowers but continues to offer form and interest in the late garden. Directly below is one perennial that continues to bloom despite the weather and Mother Nature's "death punch" hasn't found it yet. This is the red scabious (Knautia macedonica) which has lots of bloom power (May thru November) and also the capacity to create lots of babies so be prepared! Regardless, these little "pincushion-like" blooms do offer color and interest very late. Larry worked on tweaking some of the elements out in the HLS today and we're running some tests on a couple areas that were touchy last Wednesday evening at our last lights testing. Larry also installed some tree signs and is finalizing our HLS needs for the final route (barricades, signs, etc.). We have accelerated all of our set-up for HLS over the years and with an early set-up start (typically early October), we aren't so rushed at the end with our troubleshooting efforts. I remember years ago being out in the snow, three days before the start of the event, trying to re-route cords and deal with power issues. With everything now ready by Thanksgiving, we also then have the ability to solicit businesses to rent the facility/HLS for holiday parties or we can promote the event for bus tours as well. I think we have three or four instances (aside from our normal HLS schedule) that will involve the lights. To the right is the bronze fall color of the American beech (Fagus grandifolia) in the Japanese garden. To the left is the seed structure of the Bush's purple coneflower or yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa). Seed heads, while ideally providing food for our winter wildlife, also have an inherent beauty (and form) as well out in the landscape.

We continue to garden outside and are focused on the last of our leaf collection before the weather turns sour on us. The leaf debris generated in a garden this size is unbelievable and recent winds have created more areas for us to address before snow becomes the limiting factor. Larry and I talked about some significant winter pruning and select removals out in the gardens too. We hope to have a good crew of Grumpies help with this pruning and it's been awhile since we've gone thru the entire gardens. Other winter projects (for Larry specifically) include vehicle maintenance and a lot of equipment cleaning, repairs, etc. This may be the "down time" for us but there is very little idle time! To the right is the foliage of the 'Plum Pudding' coral bells (Heuchera sp.) that is still looking pretty good near the gazebo garden. Directly below is an interesting mosaic of fall color on the leaf of the variegated wayfaringtree viburnum (Viburnum lantana 'Variegatum'). I will say that most of the leaves on this variety aren't as cool and just turn yellow very late in the season and drop. At the bottom is the clear yellow fall color of the columbine (Aquilegia sp.).

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