Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lights Show Almost Ready

Today was our coldest morning yet this fall with temperatures in the lower 20 degrees F. At least it was sunny but the wind has picked up and it looks to be quite windy tomorrow as well. Despite the chilly start, we had a great group of volunteers and staff here working on myriad projects. The top picture shows the bright coloration of the golden Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana 'Wate's Golden'). This specimen is its "brightest" from November well in to April and can be seen from quite a distance. Some golden conifers just look sickly to me but this one shines! The shot directly above is the fall color on the tricolor European beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-Marginata') which has beautiful spring and summer foliage as well. Earlier in the season, the leaves are maroon with a nice pink edge. If you look closely, you can see traces of pink where that variegation was more prominent earlier in the year. To the right is the fall color of the fernleaf buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula 'Asplenifolia') which looks great. This isn't one of THOSE buckthorns that spreads everywhere!

Our volunteers today included some Grumpettes as well as Grumpies. To the left are Becky and Karen (sisters) and they did a nice job tidying up a large portion of the shade garden. They are both veteran volunteers at RBG and it was nice to have them gardening today. In the afternoon, Gena and Myrt worked in the gazebo garden doing the same type of fall clean-up. They gathered many loads of debris for our compost pile. Larry H. and Ron Y. worked on collecting leaves around the gardens while Dave E. did a nice job spreading a soil/compost topdressing over one of our newly planted (bulbs) borders near the North Point garden. Pat and Dennis were back at work with decorating the remainder of our trees (with John). The guys did a great job and it's a timely finish as I need to finish cords tomorrow. Dave T., Bob A., Vern and Jim continued to work on the oak leaf cutouts for the 2012 Art in the Gardens project. Dick P., Tom C. and Maury (along with help from Big John) worked on digging a trench (see directly below) for the power hookup for the new entrance sign. Note that John is the only one digging but at least he has three supervisors... Bill O. was in this afternoon to collect more debris out in the garden and Janice was in (as a volunteer) to work on some odds and ends. We also saw Kris, Mary W. and Cora was over spraying some branches for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). To the right is the upright maroon European beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck Purple') which is now turning a nice shade of orangey-bronze. This narrow specimen is a nice exclamation point in the landscape and its slow growth rate makes it suitable for smaller yards. We have four upright beeches and this is my favorite. Two photos down is the lasting color of the 'Havana' coral bells (Heuchera) which has a nice lime-green leaf with a white "frosting" between the veins. This variety also has a profusion of bright pink flowers in late spring thru early summer.
When the sun catches a grass like the one above (Miscanthus sinensis 'Blondo'), you can see the value and interest in regards to ornamental grasses in the landscape. This variety hold form well thru the winter but like most ornamental grasses in winter, will not tolerate a volume of heavy snow very well. We had a small grounds crew today with just Larry, Big John and myself. Larry helped me run more cords including some that are actually plugged in on the roof of our main building! Larry worked on multiple tasks including helping winterize our pumps and heaters as well as helping straighten and stake trees out in the gardens. Big John did more HLS work including decorating, pounding stakes, hauling trees, arranging greens, connecting cords, etc. He also trenched in some more cords (under gravel paths) for me which is something we do to minimize tripping hazards as well as avoiding snow blower "conflicts." John probably decorated the most trees and will help me finish up cord work tomorrow. I was out in the gardens this morning running more cords and then had some meetings and time-sensitive desk work to finish. To the right is the weeping Alaskan cedar [Chamaecyparis (Xanthocyparis) nootkatensis 'Pendula'] near the gazebo which has such a neat form. We pruned off the lower 5' of branches as they have been decimated over the years by the deer in the past. To the left is the fall color of the 'Winnepeg Parks' shrub rose (Rosa) that is quite showy right now. Many roses, particularly shrub roses and old-fashioned species, will get some decent oranges and reds late in the season. Look for fruiting (hips) interest with your roses too.

Last night, John Gishnock (lower right), owner of Formecology, LLC in Evansville, did a presentation at RBG entitled Gardens of Stone - Expressions of Our Natural Environment. Formecology ( is a landscape design, build and care firm. John had a very informative and engaging presentation for our 46 attendees. He used lots of visuals which were quite inspiring regarding the use of stone in the landscape for paving, paths, patios, walls, accent, etc. I hope to have John back at RBG in the future as a speaker (and consultant!). John's crowd can be seen below and the bottom photo illustrates our deer and sleigh arrangement (set-up by Marv and Terry) ready for the show! The last lecture for the 2011 season is Holiday Plants - Past and Present by Patty Bailey of Patty's Plants Natural & Organic Garden Supply (Milton, WI). Patty gave our March presentation on herbs which was VERY popular. Tomorrow signals the end of the year for our seasonal grounds employees and hopefully the end of our HLS set-up!

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