Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy December!

We had a decent day of weather and quite a few volunteers coming in to help. It was hard to believe it is December already! Tomorrow night is the Taste of Chocolate event and I'll be around to turn on the Holiday Light Show (HLS) for attendees of that event. Larry will actually have the lights turned on briefly tonight for a "mystery" bus tour that will arrive. We've had many of these "mystery" tours in the past and the premise is that people have no idea where they'll be going. Larry put the finishing touches on the HLS today and will let me know if there are problems tonight that I need to address tomorrow. We alternate nights for the HLS and keep in touch regarding challenges. To the right is the chocolate colored leaf of the maroon, hairy alum root or coral bells (Heuchera villosa 'Purpurea') that is still holding color quite nicely and doesn't look too different during the summer months.

We had a great turnout of Grumpies this morning as evidenced by the pictures above. At the top are Dennis (left) and Larry H. (right) in the Japanese garden continuing to wrap our yews (Taxus sp.) with burlap. The burlap is a deer deterent and wouldn't be necessary for these plants if we didn't have our deer buffet problems. The guys ran out of burlap and moved on to using tight "bird netting" which should also prove effective. To the left are some of the yews (Taxus sp.) that were covered earlier this week. The second photo from the top shows Dick H. (left) and Del (right) working on cleaning up and sharpening tools. Dick H. also worked on some other projects (including a dump run) and Del has been doing a great job cleaning, sharpening and organizing our tools over the past couple of weeks. Little Jerry is also sharpening our Japanese hand hoes and hand pruners at home. The third photo down (from above) shows Bob A. continuing with his primer applications on the new oak leaf art projects. The guys have them finished up although we may put another coat of primer on them yet this winter before they are sold next year. Vern, Jim and Dave helped with carpentry projects and we also saw Gary, Maury, Big John, Dr. Gredler, Luis, Janice, Bev, Mary W. and others. Urban continued pruning trees all morning and we later had Bill O. in to help tidy up. Myrt and Gena finished tidying up the fern & moss garden and moved on to the gazebo garden. Pat was in this afternoon to continue putting protective netting on the yews (Taxus sp.) in the Japanese garden. To the right is the still golden foliage of the golden sweet flag (Acorus gramineus 'Golden Pheasant') in the Japanese garden. This perennial is not in the grass family but sure offers that nice look. We have three clumps of this along the edge of the new lower pond in the Japanese garden and it looks pretty cool.

With my handy Canon PowerShot SD1100IS in my pocket today, I was able to capture plenty more interest out in the gardens. Directly above (top picture) is the maroon fall color of the P.J.M. rhododendron. This shrub has evergreen foliage (green in summer) and later in the winter, those leaves will curl inwards to offer less surface area for drying winter winds to do damage. Many gardeners use anti-dessicants on conifers and broadleaf evergreens (rhododendron, boxwood, etc.) to help minimize moisture loss over the winter months. I have mixed feeling on these products but don't disagree that a tough winter can be quite damaging to many plants holding on to their foliage. The second photo down shows the golden wood rush (Luzula sylvatica 'Solar Flare') in the woodland walk garden. We have the variegated and green leaved versions of this species (a grass "relative") but I like this charteuse/golden variety for evergreen (or "evergold"!) color in a shaded garden. Directly above are the fruiting structures (obovoid cones) of the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the arboretum. I featured these this summer when they were green "golf balls" and now they are splitting open as the seed ripen inside. Pretty cool. To the right is the neat foliage of 'Rosalie' coral bells (Heuchera) near the fern & moss garden. Based on my November and December blogs (previous years as well), it should be evident that coral bells are long contributors in the garden. We almost never cut back Heuchera foliage in fall as the current growth will help insulate the ground and the tender new growth that emerges next April. A nice winter mulch arond the crown will help minimize these plants from "heaving" out of the ground with the freezing and thawing in March. Clean them up (delicately) in spring. To the left are the colorful, red stems of the 'Avalon Gold' red-stem dogwood (Cornus stolinfera). This shrub has bright yellow leaves, white spring flowers and the extended interest of these stems that get their best red coloration late in the season and thru the winter.

Larry worked on HLS projects all day which included straightening and staking more of our decorated white pine (Pinus strobus) trees, getting our barricades up, tweaking displays and ultimately running another test as we found one small electrical issue today. I had a meeting and am continuing to juggle a couple projects. It's actually refreshing to have so many projects as I can switch back and forth and not spend an entire day on one monotonous project. I'm going thru seed catalogs, our woody plant inventory, organizing photos, preparing presentations and many other duties. To the right is the interesting bark of the native hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) which becomes even more apparent and interesting this time of year. This specimen had lots of lichen on it (harmless) and caught my eye this morning. We probably have 15-20 large hackberries out in the garden that pre-date the start of the gardens. They are great for structure and shade. The only drawbacks of this tree (in my mind) are the messy, small berries (good for birds though) and hackberries drop their leaves over a long period of time so we're constantly collecting. There is a nice "elm-like" form (vase-like) though on mature hackberries. Below is the evergreen yucca (Yucca filamentosa) which has form all year. I prefer the variegated varieties but all yuccas are pretty tough. At the bottom is our "dragon" which will get "fired up" (pun intended) tonight and tomorrow night.

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