Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photo Contest Materializing...

The photo above, while obviously not taken today, was taken on a day with very similar temperatures in April! The high today was 55 degrees F which isn't too unlike our April weather where you would see this redbud (Cercis canadensis) blooming near the observation pier (note the arched bridge in the distance). The photo above was also one that was included in one of our past RBG calendars. We've done RBG calendars for three years in the past and they continue to become more popular and are a nice item to sell in our Cottage Garden Gifts (gift shop) at the Parker Education Center. I've supplied the bulk of the photos for our calendars in the past but we're now formulating final details for an amateur photography contest that will be offered very soon that will allow participants to submit their favorite RBG photos for inclusion in the 2013 RBG calendar. I'm really excited about this and thank our committee (Tina, Kris, Bill, Lisa and Sue) for finalizing details (which will be announced in about three weeks). The warm weather brought in all sorts of volunteers today including Jumbo Jim to the left who was selecting donated seed (thanks Ferry Morse and Doreen!) for the Rock County Farm. Jim also facilitates the RECAPPER efforts at the gardens and is actively involved in myriad gardening projects. To the right is "Sawdust Larry" who has been running the chainsaw for two solid days to deal with some target removals. He, Dick W. and Bill O. were out hauling back debris from these removals and our winter brush pile is getting larger by the hour.

Urban was out in the gardens pruning in the woodland walk garden this morning. Maury was in to put another coat on his yellow pvc pipe planters (left) and only has three left to paint (green). Dr. Gredler continued his obelisk painting and we had some nice help from Rose (and later Urban) with painting our big blue pyramids a lighter shade of blue. The bottom blog photo shows Larry and Bill bringing one of the three pyramids in this morning. To the lower right is Rose inside one of the pyramids with the start of the conversion. We offered to pass her bread and water in her confinement but also told her she couldn't leave until she was done with the inside of that one! Dick H. was in working on some vehicles and other projects. Today we were happy to find a buyer for our older pick-up truck. We also saw Gary, Mary W., Kay F. and others today. Janice was in for a good portion of the morning working on the information sheets for our plant sale offerings. I'm down to finding a couple bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) varieties and selecting herbs and our plant sale orders will then be complete. The seed orders are arriving daily with five deliveries just today! I also worked on some spreadsheets, small projects and had a nice lunch with Kelli (recent RBG Exec. Director), who is enjoying her new job at Blackhawk Technical College. Tomorrow I'm going out in the gardens to look for winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) blooming as I think we may be getting close for these early bulbs that we don't normally see until mid-March.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Great Teamwork!

We has another great turnout of volunteers today and the weather was nice enough for some guys to get out in the gardens as well. There was lots of activity going on at the Horticulture Center as evidenced in the photo above. Can you spot the five Grumpies!? Del to the lower right continued to work on reindeer with Dick W., who can be seen in the distance wearing the ball cap. To the far left is Maury continuing to paint our pvc planters. Bob A. in the center is priming and repainting the recently repaired garbage and recycling bins. In the far distance is Dave T. (bending over) who, along with Jim D. (not in above photo, probably napping), continued repairing more of those same bins. Dr. Gredler was also in continuing to repaint our next batch of obelisks (red becoming orange). To the right is evidence of some wildlife out in the gardens. Hopefully there is still enough available foraging material and the bunnies aren't girdling any of our trees or shrubs!

I spent the morning catching up on bills, paperwork and some other odds and ends. I also put some time in to my "Eat Your Landscape" talk that I'll give at the WPT Garden Expo at 12 noon on Saturday, February 11th. I'll also give this talk at the Chicago Flower Show on March 15th. I've done this topic a couple times in the past but wanted to create a new presentation as I've amassed lots of photos over the past year that are perfect for an improved discussion. I'll certainly be including plants like the 'Magenta Sunset' Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) to the left and the red-ribbed, dandelion-leaved chicory (Cichorium intybus 'Red Ribbed') to the right. Both have very nutritious greens that will regenerate after numerous cuttings. The chicory (photo from Ron & Bev's garden) sure looks like a dandelion but it's important to mention that dandelion greens are hightly nutritious as well. The intent of this program (in my mind) is to get people motivated about growing their own produce in ways that don't require a large garden space. I'll emphasize smaller stature, ornamental options that can be incorporated in to garden beds, borders, containers, etc. The photo directly below shows the 'Soldier' beet (Beta vulgaris) that we incorporated throughout our reception garden last year. The maroon foliage worked well in our pink scheme and we had lots of questions on this ornamental edible that has not only the "beets" but nutritious foliage.Urban and Pat were out pruning in the arboretum today and helped clean-up some significant debris that Larry created with some chainsaw removals. Dick W. also helped with some of this clean-up and will be back tomorrow as well. Marv and Terry hauled over our oak leaf cutouts to the Parker Education Center as they will be available starting this Wednesday (February 1) for artists/sponsors to pick-up ($40 materials/registration fee). Check out our website at www.rotarybotanicalgardens.org for more information on this program (and many others). The guys also helped haul debris from Larry's targeted removals. Dick H. was in working on one of our trucks too. Marianne (to the right) was in to process our biggest seed order and we talked about starting to sort these and label them next week. Marianne also worked on organizing some drawings and other projects. Luis was in to continue data entry for our woody plant label production with the new engraver. We also saw Bradford, Karen B., Bill O. and many others. Today was also the first meeting of the year for our Horticulture Therapy committee (Darcie, Janice, Mike M., Art, Dawn).

To the left is one of Marv's new gloves which he thought was blog worthy. I'll let you decide. At least his baby soft hands will be protected. To the lower right is Maury working on the pipe painting. I did mention that if he would set the cup of coffee down, he could paint twice as fast.....No luck. Those pipes can also be seen in the bottom photo. We're really making great progress with our winter projects and the pace has been record-setting thus far with the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) take down allowing more time for these traditional projects. We continue to check our deer protection out in the gardens and surprisingly have not only seen very little nibbling but not a lot of tracks either....Unfortunately, February has always been the "Severe Browsing Month" for us in the past so we'll keep attentive. I should be done ordering seeds yet this week as we locate the last of our plant sale varieties and focus on finalizing our collections.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Persian Shield

One of my all time favorite annuals for foliage is pictured throughout this blog. I took all of these photos over the years at many different gardens. We've grown Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) every year that I've been at RBG and I wouldn't be without it. The foliage is truly amazing and quite hard to describe verbally. This is a perfect example of how a picture is worth a thousand words. I thought the Missouri Botanic Garden website had the best description by saying that "the foliage is an iridescent purple flushed with silver, with a dark purple underlayment broken up by dark green veination." Perfect. This plant is native to Burma and does not enjoy full sun. Ideally, position this plant where it receives afternoon shade. We purchase about 50 of these in 4" pots each spring and they end up around 24" or so by the end of the season. Persian shield does like rich soils that are moist but well-drained. We also fertilize ours every two weeks. As seen in many of these photos, this plant is a great candidate for not only the partly shaded border but the container too.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Moss Rose Collection Ordered

Today was very productive for me with more seed ordering accomplished and lots of odds and ends taken care of this morning. I'm pretty sure I'm done ordering all the seed varieties for our moss rose (Portulaca) collection. The moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora 'Fairytales Cinderella') above is one of the many vegetative varieties out on the market. I've included some of these in the collection but have currently focused primarily on seed varieties. I've found 67 varieties thus far and we'll probably add another 20 of the vegetative-type varieties as well. Some of my seed order today can be seen to the right. I also spent some time on our Home Garden Tour (July 21st, 2012) as preparations have to start early so we can get the details confirmed and tickets produced before Mother's Day. We have seven wonderful home gardens this year with the majority being in neighboring Milton, WI. I also worked on some presentations and finalized the listings for two more garden areas that are in need of our new woody plant labels. Luis will be in on Monday for data entry and production. The stacks of labels below are just some of what Gary and Luis have prepared. There are another 4,000 blank ones on the way! Marianne has been preparing the labels for these (double-sided industrial tape) but we also need to come up with a good system for creating concrete anchors for these (just the woodies). I've been thru too many gardens where labels have been pulled out, knocked over, moved or are missing. We'd like to really secure these out in the gardens and will come up with a plan of attack soon. Maury was in for a good portion of the day and started painting the first four of ten pvc pipe planters (see to the lower left). These four will be painted blue while the others will be either orange (3) or lime (3). These will be quite conspicuous out in the gardens and we're not shy about some vivid colors out there, whether with plants or other garden elements. Dr. Gredler was in all day continuing to paint obelisks. He came up with a nice way of putting on the second coat of lime on the 9' obelisks (see to the lower right). Doc then started converting some red obelisks to orange. He asked my why not paint them red again. My response, much to his chagrin, was "Red is so last year, orange is back in." Bev and Deb stopped by to talk about the leaf art project for 2012 and some Garden Festival (August 25) details. Next Wednesday, February 1st, interested artists/sponsors can pick up an oak leaf (primed plywood) cutout from the Parker Education Center for a $40 registration/materials fee. There will be only 40 pieces offered and they go fast! Details regarding this project can be found on our website (www.rotarybotanicalgardens.org). It will be nice to see the creative results displayed out in the gardens. Dave G. and Dean stopped by today and we also saw Bill O. briefly. Directly below are Tom and Nancy working on sorting/sifting/organizing the contents of our flat file system yesterday. We're really making sure our historical records, plans, etc. are organized and safe. I've even made multiple copies of all my photos, computer files and presentations from the past seven years or so. At the bottom is our weeping Jack pine (Pinus banksiana 'Uncle Fogy') specimen in front of the Parker Education Center. I think we'll move this specimen up higher so it can cascade down. The close proximity of this specimen to the curbline (bottom of photo) has caused some problems with "pruning by snow plow."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chipping Away

Nice winter shot above of the Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) in the main parking lot. This grass (30" tall) doesn't mind part sun locations and also gets a nice orange/tan fall color. We haven't had many heavy snows yet but this species is pretty good at standing up thru a tougher winter. Unfortunately this grass is not as available as it should be! Today was a lot more continued work on projects that have already been put in motion. There is an unbelievable amount of work that needs to be done before the spring season and I'm always amused by those that ask if we have anything to do in winter!? I spent more time on seed orders today and had a couple of meetings. Our Spring Tree Sale Committee met and this included many members of the Blackhawk Golden "K" Kiwanis club. Four of the members are also Grumpies (Maury, Dick P., Dick H. and Dick K.)! This will be the second year we partner together for this Spring Tree Sale (April 20th and 21st, 8 am - 3 pm, Horticulture Center). We've ordered 12,000 small trees that include Norway spruce, Colorado blue spruce, Black Hills spruce, Eastern arborvitae, white pine, Concolor fir, red oak, sugar maple and swamp white oak. Details on this sale will be on our website very shortly (if not already). To the above left is the compact corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica 'Compacta') in front of the Parker Education Center today. We actually have a very interesting assortment of choice dwarf conifers throughout the entrance garden that get "lost in the shuffle" with all the summer color out front but are very prominent in winter. To the right is a tough little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) specimen in the parking lot still showing some of that orange/pink dormant coloration. I'll continue seed ordering tomorrow and will attempt to finish the third of my three presentations for the WPT Garden Expo ("Eat Your Landscape"). Our gift shop is currently selling advance tickets for this event which is always a good way to beat the winter doldrums. To the right is the Harry Lauder's walking stick or contorted European filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') which is always quite fetching in winter. This variety does need plenty of aggressive thinning though to maximize the appearance and minimize "stem congestion."

We had a great turnout of volunteers today. To the above left is Maury who is starting to prepare our pvc pipe planters for painting. Dr. Gredler was in to work on more obelisks (wood sealer). Pat and Urban were out doing more pruning in the garden and Larry was out there as well. Dave, Jim, Bob and Vern worked on more carpentry with the focus being on repairing the garbage and recycling bins. Del and Dick W. continued their carpentry work on the plywood reindeer cutouts. Bill O. was helpful for many with his assistance. Dick P. and Maury also tried to repair some plumbing issues at the other building. Dick H. worked on bending more of our aluminum stakes for the new woody plant labels (see to the left and right). We also saw Gary, Terry, Tom C., Jumbo Jim, Mary W. and many others. Marianne worked on processing seed orders, preparing plant stakes and tidying up the break room. Janice was in to work on preparing vegetable information for the plant sale. Tom & Nancy F. brought in some seed packets (recent donation to RBG) that they had inventoried and sorted for me. They then revisited their project from years ago which is organizing our flat files which contain lots of valuable information. Directly below is one of two recycling units that were just donated to us. These will be very handy in both the main office area and for rentals as well. We have so many wonderful corporate and individual donors that make a huge difference each year with their generosity.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yummy Chili

Our Volunteer Soup Dinner (actually chili) went very well last night and we saw between 75-80 attendees. Janice's vegan chili was yummy and no one went home hungry (there were two other options too). It was nice to see many of our veteran volunteers but we also had six new "potentials" that we hope will join our RBG volunteer family this year. Above are Margaret (left) and Rita (right)...or is it the reverse? Rita joined the RBG staff recently as the Administrative Coordinator and Margaret, a long-time RBG volunteer, is doing an internship at RBG and helping streamline many of our forms and processes. Her business background will be very beneficial for RBG. They have been called twins by many and each is used to being called by the other's name. Last night they stood up together and it was like seeing long lost sisters! Gary and Lori made some nice comments last night and my presentation on Japanese Gardens seemed well-received. I also talked about some of the upcoming events, activities and collections for 2012. These volunteer-oriented events have proven so valuable for maintaining a connection with our volunteers over the winter months and we hope it becomes a nice recruiting opportunity too as we see new faces at each of these. Our next event in this series is on Tuesday, February 28th at 5 pm. I'll talk about Garden of Philadelphia-Revisited which is based on seeing more gardens last summer at the American Public Garden Association (APGA) conference. To the upper right are Gena (left) and Myrt (right) who were in today to remove lights off of our last remaining obelisks from the HLS. The ladies made quick work of this project and packed up the lights nicely. The obelisks will receive a different paint color shortly... To the left is Dr. Gredler continuing work on painting obelisks today. We also saw Maury, Mary W. and Bill O. today. Bill assembled some new recycling containers and worked on some inside projects. Dick H. also popped by to size up some of his looming vehicle repairs.

I split my day with presentation preparations and seed ordering. I put in a good sized order from Johnny's Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com) which has a great assortment of vegetables and plenty of annuals as well. While my biggest seed orders are in already, I still have about 30 catalogs to peruse as I finish out selections for the grounds as well as our spring plant sale varieties. The bottom left and bottom right images were taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden this past year and show some of their vertical wall planters. I finished my presentation on Gardening Vertically today which I'll give twice at the WPT Garden Expo (www.wigardenexpo.com/) and will present here at RBG on Wednesday, May 16th as part of our 2012 lecture series. This topic, while not new, has become very popular as gardeners attempt to maximize their space and use opportunities to grow plants in situations that are efficient and low maintenance. This topic covers living walls, vertical planters, container options and some innovative "re-purposing" of materials to create opportunities to garden vertically; even on balconies, decks and in tight locations. I'll also feature some of the living wall work being done internationally by Patrick Blanc. If you GOOGLE his name with the words "living walls", you'll see some of the interesting things he's been doing. I plucked the bottom image off the internet as it shows some of his work. Interestingly enough, those plants are not growing in soil but are rooted in to an "engineered" fabric system that has water (with nutrients) distributed over this wall. Essentially, this is large scale hydroponics that avoids the additional weight of wet soil and also protects the structure from excess moisture. Mr. Blanc wrote a book ("The Vertical Garden: From Nature to the City", 2008) on the subject and I encourage you to look in to it further as I'm still trying to grasp all the details. This "urban greening" has lots of merit but at this point is still quite expensive to install retroactively....