Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Can We Get Back To January?

This continued warm spell has certainly been confusing for both plants and animals (including humans). It looks like the weather will start to cool down a bit thru the rest of the week but it's still unseasonably warm. It's odd to see Wisconsinites in t-shirts in January but these days have been quite balmy. Our Horticulture Center is adjacent to the Blackhawk Golf Course driving range and we've seen a flurry of activity out in that area over the past couple of days. As I walked thru the gardens today, I saw plenty of evidence of early emergence on both perennials and spring bulbs. Those in sunny spots or next to a "warm rock" were poking up a good 1" or so. This emergence reminds me of what we would see in mid March. A blanket of snow will insulate these nicely and these early emergers are quite frost tolerant. I worry about severe low temperatures combined with lack of snow in terms of potential damage. At the top is one of our early hellebores (Helleborus purpurascens) poking up in the color rooms garden and directly above is the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). Another week of 40 degrees F and those winter aconites would be blooming! To the right are the cones on the Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi) which is one of my favorite deciduous conifers. We have an "informal" garden area called the larch area based on the fact that there are a combination of European, American and Japanese larches punctuated thru this small area overlooking the pond.

We had another dedicated group of volunteers here today that took full advantage of the weather. Larry O. kept busy with more Holiday Lights Show (HLS) work and has been the mastermind with packing lights, cords, displays away in our small garage. He certainly maximizes our space. To the left are Pat (left) and Urban (right) continuing their second straight day of pruning in the Japanese garden. Their teamwork is quite impressive as they collectively tackle anything they can reach from our orchard ladders. Dick W. and Larry H. were here to continue bringing in HLS lights and cords. Dr. Gredler continued taking lights off of obelisks and had kept up with coiling and storing our drop cords as they arrive at the Horticulture Center. Janice was in to work on various projects including seed ordering and working with Nancy N. on re-organizing our reference library. Maury was here for various projects and activities including our Garden Development & Maintenance Committee that also included Iza, Gary, Dr. Gredler, Big John, Hal and Dick P. Gary also printed off more woody plant labels. We also saw Mary W., Neil, Bill O. and many others today. The plywood leaf cutout (48" high by 32" wide) to the right is one of forty that will be offered in early February for our 2012 Art in the Gardens project (like the butterflies of last year and daisies the year prior...).
Above is our new digital sign although I took the photo around 11 am when it was 50 degrees F! The software was installed later today so we can keep on top of changing messages and other information as needed. I think the sign looks classy and the digital lettering is not overbearing. We're considering some small, directional downlighting on the logo for better visibility at night though. We will use this sign to announce coming events, encourage memberships, collections of interest, welcome information for VIPS, weddings, etc. and I'm sure my birthday will be part of the rotation as well. The ornamental grass above is the little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues') still looking good with remnants of fall color and backlit seedheads (in the formal gardens). In walking around the gardens, I continue to notice colorful conifers and am glad we have planted such a wide variety of colors and forms around the gardens. To the right is a compact, golden Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis 'Aurea Compacta') in the Hosta Hollow garden. Although the needles look "chartreusy" close-up, the plant "reads" as a gold and will have the most gold coloration later yet this winter. To the left is another golden conifer of merit out in the gardens (near the shade garden). This is the golden Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader') which we hope will fill out to be a nice rounded specimen. The foliage is yellow throughout the year and we provide some afternoon shade to keep the needles from burning. For a nice blue conifer, the compact corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica 'Compacta') is looking quite nice in our color rooms garden. This smaller-scaled conifer (upright) would be perfect in a home landscape situation and has done very well for us.

Further below is a shot of our koi pond and you'll note a tank heater (circular, red, floating) in the corner of the pond. We get frequent questions about what we do with the fish in the pond. If you look in the lower center of the image, you'll see the faint color from both a white and orange koi hanging out in the bottom. We leave the tank heater in to keep the ice open although we don't need to feed the fish over the winter as they are quite inactive until the water warms up significantly. We check this heater often as we don't want solid, thick ice as that will affect oxygen levels in the pond and could be damaging to the fish. The bottom photo shows some frosted bugleweed (Ajuga sp.) still offering a splash of color in our snowless landscape.

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