Monday, December 31, 2012

Closure Begins

The 2012 Holiday Lights Show (HLS) ended last night with a healthy crowd of 600 or so attendees.  It was a nice night with plenty of snow still on the ground.  We're still finalizing attendance numbers but I think we're in the 10,000-11,000 range or so.  Unfortunately, two nights were cancelled due to the weather but we had strong showings every other night with a record attendance of close to 2,600 last Sunday night.  Above are Jim (new Grumpy on the left), Pat (center) and Urban.  These guys started bringing in the luminary strands today for processing and packing away.  Thus starts the two month long process of taking down the HLS in an orderly fashion.  The weather will be a factor of course but we'll keep chipping away at it.  I'm off today but popped in to see the guys.  Dave, Bob and Vern were working on carpentry projects and painting while Del was packing away some of his HLS deer.  Bill O. and Larry were also bringing displays back in and Dr. Gredler came in for some painting.  We also saw Dr. Yahr, Gary, Dick H. and Maury.  Back to work next year (Wednesday).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Winter Wonderland

The Holiday Lights Show (HLS) was truly a Winter Wonderland last night with all of the snow.  Oddly enough, for the first eleven of the sixteen years of history for this event, it was actually called the Winter Wonderland Walk.  It became the HLS in 2008 I believe.  I took all of these images last night.  Granted, the snow removal efforts yesterday were Herculean and challenging with such a blend of snow, slush, ice and everything in between.  Thankfully, the paths weren't too bad last night.  Thanks again to Larry, Bill O. and Mark S. for all the snow removal assistance yesterday.  We did some additional salting and sanding of the paths last night as path conditions changed with close to 500 attendees enjoying the show.  It was chilly but the overall effect was nice as seen in these shots taken last night.  I only had some minor power problems and the heavy, wet snows (now frozen) created some work and adjustments.  However, the next two nights should be well-attended and the snow may stick around (literally) for awhile.  Towards the bottom is the Membrino family (Mark, Jenny and the girls).  The Membrino's were some of my Trail Walkers last night whose duty is to make sure the paths are safe and everything is running smoothly.  Volunteers are instrumental in the facilitation of this event.  I don't work the show until next Friday so will enjoy some time off before I return to getting my seed orders together in earnest after the New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Calm After The Storm

Yesterday afternoon got nasty in this area with wet, blowing snow, high winds and ultimately, 5-6" of accumulation over the slush from the morning round of sleet.  We actually got lucky as heavier snows and tougher weather occured further north of us.  The roads were slick as I headed home and I spent a couple hours shoveling my driveway and sidewalk at home.  We decided to wait and clear all the snow today and with the help of Bill, Larry and Mark S., we did the best we could prior to the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) this evening.  The gardens were beautiful with the new snow as seen in the sunken garden above and in shots further below.  The lights should look pretty neat with all this white stuff.  The shoveling was challenging because of the underlayer of ice/slush depending on where we worked.  Our snow blowers had some issues with the heavier snow but we ultimately finished after six hours of clearing.  Larry can be seen below.  We also saw Dr. Gredler (painting), Dick H. (plowing), Pete and some others.  We weren't in the Horticulture Center much until later in the day.  I was worried about power problems (for the HLS) because of that "slush layer" but my early testing was successful with everything coming on (fingers crossed for tonight).  The second photo down shows the frozen tread marks of one of the City of Janesville plows or probably a Caterpillar that helps with the plowing.  The sun certainly helped melt some paved areas and the day was quite nice out in the gardens with plenty of fresh air.  Not sure how much I'll blog before New Year's as I'm off next week (except for working the HLS).  I'll try to sneak some in from home....

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Friday = Slush

Today has been mostly rainy which turned our slushy 3" of snow from last night to mega-slush.  Above are Dick H.'s tracks from plowing our Horticulture Center parking lot this morning (thanks Dick!).  The snow was as heavy and saturated as you can imagine and I saw many struggling with shovels and snow blowers as I came to work.  No doubt we need the moisture but I would have preferred the format of snow as opposed to this drizzle that has gone on all day, sometimes quite heavily.  With a winter storm warning in effect and a blizzard warning this evening, we've cancelled the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) for tonight.  Travel conditions will continue to worsen and the HLS itself would have many electrical issues due to the moisture and path safety is a major concern as well.  We feel we should be fine for the upcoming Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and will focus on path clearing/maintenance tomorrow morning.  I shoveled a bit this morning and it was some heavy stuff to move around, most of which has now melted with temperatures in the upper 30 degrees F.  Tomorrow and hopefully beyond should be colder and more conducive and safe for having the HLS.

Well, I can't say it wasn't a productive day though!  I have started my data entry (seen above) for our 2013 seed order.  All of our items are entered and ultimately these listings help us create labels, sort seeds by grower and by collection as well.  While laborious, this data entry saves us lots of time later on in the process as we approach spring.  With the poor weather, we didn't see too many volunteers today.  Bob A. (below) came in for some painting and Jim D. was in to do some carpentry early this morning.  Dr. Gredler continued painting cucumber trellises and we also saw Maury and Dr. Yahr.  The next photo down shows our Christmas cactus (Schlumbergia sp.) at the Horticulture Center starting to bloom.  This specimen was donated many years ago and has been a reliable bloomer despite us not doing much for it.  Christmas cacti are originally native to the coastal mountains of Brazil and have no actual foliage.  The segemented stems acutally photosynthesize and are relatively easy to propagate.  Blooms (pollinated natively by hummingbirds) can be encouraged by increased darkness later in the year and watering should be monitored closely.  For a long-lived houseplant, consider these as a fun gift but do some research on their proper care.  What's that at the bottom you might ask?  Oh.. just a photo of Great Dixter, home and garden of the late Christopher Lloyd, in East Sussex near the south coast of England.  This garden will be one of many that we see during our May trip to England.  See for more information.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Looks Like A White Christmas Ahead

It was a ghost town at the Horticulture Center today.  Dr. Gredler (above) was in for his daily dose of painting tasks. Here, he's putting a fresh coat on our cucumber supports.  We use short-vining varieties like 'Patio Snacker' for these trellises which help keep the cucumbers off the ground and allow better air circulation.  We've also planted compact squash and melons on these as well.  We have a winter weather advisory late this afternoon with a blizzard warning for tomorrow.  The good news is that the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) will get some of the "white stuff" but we'll see how well we can keep up with snow removal tomorrow afternoon before the next lighting of the HLS (Thursday night).  Urban came in to size up some pruning and he and I looked at some options out in the gardens.  He later came back and pruned out in the gardens after lunch.  While out with Urban earlier, I photographed this Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) below starting to bloom in the gazebo garden.  There are many buds on our hellebores but upcoming weather should help resolve their "seasonal confusion".  Janice was also here most of the day and continued her vegetable research and variety selections for 2013. 

I continued with seed ordering and presentation preparations today.  I was working on a presentation regarding new annuals and tropicals and kept coming back to many of my 2012 photos of elephant ears (Colocasia and Alocasia) that I took this past summer.  With all the heat, our elephant ears, like the 'Thailand Giant' (Colocasia gigantea) below, did very well with ample moisture and fertilizer provided.  The shot below gives an idea of leaf size for that variety but these specimens ended up close to 10' tall by the end of the season.  Some of the other favorites that I saw are seen below with their identification directly under the photograph.  Some of the photos are from last year too.  Note that most of these can only be obtained as plants as they are propagated vegetatively.  You'll note many varieties from the Royal Hawaiian breeding series (PlantHaven) of Dr. John Cho, plant pathologist from the University of Hawaii.

Colocasia gigantea 'Thailand Giant' above

Colocasia esculenta 'Mojito' above (Chicago Botanic Garden)

Colocasia esculenta 'Midori Sour' above

Colocasia esculenta 'Elena' above

Colocasia esculenta 'Diamond Head' above

Colocasia esculenta 'Coffee Cups' above

Colocasia esculenta Royal Hawaiian 'Hawaiian Eye' above

Colocasia esculenta Royal Hawaiian 'Blue Hawaii' above

Colocasia esculenta Royal Hawaiian 'Maui Gold' above

Colocasia esculenta Royal Hawaiian 'Hawaiian Punch' above

Colocasia esculenta Royal Hawaiian 'Black Coral' above (2 photos)

Alocasia hybrida 'Sting Ray' above

Colocasia (unknown variegated variety)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Looming Snow?

We had some snowflakes come down today but it looks like a larger system will provide us with snow tomorrow night and in to Thursday morning.  With the next showing of the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) on Thursday evening (4:30 pm - 8 pm), we'll be spending time clearing the paths and making sure they're safe and passable.  We had a skeleton crew today although plenty of work was accomplished.  The top photo shows our shovels poised and ready to go.  If we get heavy snow, hopefully we'll have some volunteer help with clearing paths.  Directly above is Dr. Gredler's recent painting project which involves painting this trash bin orange (originally powder blue) to coincide with our color theme in the entrance garden.  His next projects are in the distance as all of those cucumber supports will need another coat of paint.  Aside from Dr. Gredler, Del was in to continue working on more reindeer cutouts.  There has been a high demand for these deer and Del has been feverishly working to produce more for our Garden Gallery gift shop.  Our gift shop also has lots of neat, locally made merchandise worthy of consideration.  Urban went out in the gardens to prune and Maury was in briefly for some errands.  Larry did some work out in the gardens and is starting to service our vehicles in the Horticulture Center.  We also saw Kris K., Dick H. and some others today.  Late yesterday afternoon, we also had a productive meeting of our Horticultural Therapy Committee which included Janice, Art, Karen B., Darcie O., Mary W. and Cindy B.  Directly below are two of the recently constructed, sharp, pinnacle tops for our eight new, narrow obelisks (7' tall) that will be used out in the gardens next year. 

I'm continuing to work on seed ordering and am preparing presentations for the 2013 Garden Expo which is hosted by Wisconsin Public Television at the Alliant Energy Center (Exhibition Hall) in Madison this February (8th-10th).  I'm speaking on Trendy Annuals and Vertical Gardening which are topics I usually prepare for this event.  However, I'm also presenting on Annual Grasses for the Garden and Container which should be a fun topic as well and new for me.  RBG always has an information booth at the Expo which is a great way to encourage visitors to come see the gardens.  With attendance numbers over 20,000 each year, this event is quite popular and Shelley Ryan, host/producer of The Wisconsin Gardener show, has helped make this event what it has become over the years.  Further below are some more images of the HLS which should see some serious attendance numbers for the remainder of the event (details at

Monday, December 17, 2012

HLS Delivers!

Included in this blog are photos that I took this past Friday and Sunday at our Holiday Light Show (HLS).  The good news is that we've already had around 2,300 attendees for this event.  The bad (unfortunate) news is that we had to cancel the show on Saturday night because of rain.  Weather is such an important factor and it looks like some wet snow is arriving on Thursday of this week.  On Saturday, Larry couldn't get a good portion of the lights on due to the excessive moisture and our ground faults on many of the outlets.  Thankfully, it was dry enough by yesterday afternoon to get everything back on again.  The event has gone very well with very few problems.  The next four day grouping for the HLS (December 20, 21, 22 and 23) should be quite busy.  We'll also have the HLS on December 27th thru the 30th.  Check out our website for more information.  It was nice to talk to visitors to see where they were from and how they heard about the show.  There were MANY first-time visitors (to the gardens in general) from outside the area that we attracted with our expanded marketing for this event as a result of that JEM grant from the WI Department of Tourism.  We've also had some great entertainment at this event including the Edgerton High School Choral Singers below.  The trains, as always, are also a big hit as is Santa, the quilt display, our gift shop and all the refreshments.

It was a quiet day at the Horticulture Center with Janice and I doing research in the office.  Janice is still scouting out vegetable varieties and I'm starting on some of my spring presentations that are just around the corner.  Vern, Bob and Jim continued work on their eight new obelisks and Dick H. and Pat were in as well.  Dick H. made a fuel run and Pat is continuing to repair some of our recently donated lights.  Maury ran some errands and Dr. Gredler was in for more painting.  Gary is sizing up some future labeling ideas for use out in the gardens and elsewhere.  We also saw Rollie, Mary W. and many members of our Horticultural Therapy Committee that arrived after I finished this blog.