Friday, December 2, 2011

Chocolate & Snowdrops (?)

When I was in the Japanese garden yesterday, I ran across this patch of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) above poking up with some confusion and thinking it was mid-March! They'll be fine as the ground gets colder and we get some snow. November weather this year, being quite mild, obviously created the confusion for this overzealous patch which is actually the first grouping that I photograph every April as it is in a location that gets some radiant warmth from a nearby rock. To the left is a garden gnome that is enjoying the perfect amount of snow that I'd like for the HLS (2" or so). And NO!, that's not in my yard...I collect gazing balls and pink flamingoes (no offense to those that do...). The picture to the right is one I took last fall at the home of one of our volunteers (Rose). Check out the creative use of the seed structures of the Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi). While the orange, inflated seed structures are cool, the unripe berries inside and most of the plant is poisonous. This perennial is a rampant spreader too! Cool decorations though.

Today was quiet around the Horticulture Center but very active over in the Parker Education Center. Tonight is the annual Taste of Chocolate event and we have a sold out attendance of 200 people! When I came in this morning, Polly, Mark S., Big John and others were already at the other building starting with set-up and decorations. Lori, Amanda and Kelli are also involved as are the committee members for this event. I haven't been over to the other building today but I'm sure the decorations are top notch. This event has become more popular over the years and as much as I like to think the HLS is the primary attraction, I'm sure the chocolate at least plays a minor role... It looks like the weather will be perfect tonight and I'll be back this evening to turn on the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) for the premiere lighting of the event. Years ago we had an ice storm that affected attendance at the event (hazardous travel) and negated the HLS as the paths were like a skating rink. Larry fired up the show briefly last night for a bus tour and said there were no problems. I featured a red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus) in the blog yesterday and to the left are just some of the shades of stem colors that dogwoods will achieve. These were used in our winter container class last December. Below are the airy plumes of one of our maiden grasses (Miscanthus sinensis). These will stand up pretty well through light snows and while this species is showing some reseeding issues in warmer climates, we've avoided that problem (for now).I worked on myriad projects today and came across the mother lode of awesome photos that I took this year at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Anderson Gardens (Rockford), Allen Centennial Gardens (UW-Madison campus) and Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison). I love these gardens and would not visit without my camera. I'll really sink my teeth in to seed ordering next week and have some interesting ideas on new annuals to try for 2012. Janice and I will meet soon to discuss our vegetables and other edibles for 2012 as we try to coordinate our selections based also on our spring plant sale, our trials and what the Rock Prairie Master Gardeners might like for their cool Garden Festival late in the summer (at the Rock County fairgrounds in 2012).

I saw Ron W., Maury, Vern and Amanda at the Horticulture Center today. No one gardened today but we'll continue clean-up efforts next week if the weather is ok. To the right is a "burlap tower" that is protecting an upright yew (Taxus sp. 'Hicksii') that was decimated by the deer last winter and is still recovering. Below is the golden fall color on the drying leaves of the hornbeam maple (Acer carpinifolium) which has very un-maple-like leaves. I can't wait to see this small, unique tree fill out in the upper Japanese garden. At the bottom is a last reminder to get out in your woodlands and locate the European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) which is still holding on to green leaves. Anything showing green in that picture is evil. This is the border along the Horticulture Center. It's not too late to cut these now and paint the fresh stumps twice with concentrated Round-up. This "target time" will be gone within the next week or two. Don't forget Patty Bailey's talk on Holiday Plants - Past & Present next Wednesday evening (December 7th) from 6 pm until 8 pm. at the Parker Education Center (free for RBG members, $5 for all others).

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