Monday, January 9, 2012

A Sign of the Times

My blog title has a double meaning. The first reference is to our brand new, cool entrance sign that arrived today (see above and to the right) and was being installed throughout the morning. My second meaning was a reference to the crazy weather patterns we're seeing with yet another winter day that is more like April than January! More on that later. Tom and Maury were to finish connecting the electrical service to this sign once installation was complete. The new sign has a double-sided digital display (the black box underneath) that will be programmed with information and messages from a computer in the Parker Education Center. I believe the lettering is not the uber-bright red but a "tasteful orange." There was some debate about having a digital sign in this area and it actually took City Council approval for an allowance to install this sign. The sign itself (installed by JNB Signs) is being entirely funded by a generous contribution from the Morning Rotary Club. Years ago they mentioned a donation and we had looked at the option of a new information kiosk. However, I'm pleased that discussions shifted to this sharp entrance sign that should have some nice impact (and visibility) along Palmer Drive. We'll have to keep surrounding plantings under 18" for visibility issues but that wont be difficult.

We had another great turnout of volunteers helping in the office, Horticulture Center and out in the gardens. To the above left is Del taking lights off of the tree cutout display that he actually built a couple years ago. We had lots of activity with the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) takedown this morning and the cords (some to the right) keep coming in regularly. Marv, Terry and Dick W. focused on removing lights, displays and obelisks from the formal gardens while Rollie and Larry H. continued removing lights from various trees and shrubs. Larry O. was in the reception garden taking down the overhead "pavilion" of lights. Pat (directly below) checked over our deer protection fencing and burlap and re-secured as needed. We're seeing deer poop and hoof prints so know they are scoping things out recently. He and Urban then moved on to some serious pruning in the Japanese garden. They are focusing on trees that will be less fun to prune when it is 0 degrees and 24" of snow. Dick P. and Dick H. started taking lights off the pvc arches that were brought back inside on Saturday by Larry and Bill. Dr. Gredler continued to remove lights from obelisks while Dave, Jim and Bob A. finished building/securing the new, custom-made bookshelf in the Horticulture Center office. Marianne was in to work on some projects including preparing more labels for Gary while Gary worked on producing more signs and started training Luis on our new labeling protocols. We also saw Kelli, Mary W., Rose and Bob T. Further below the photo of Pat laughing (not rare!) directly below, are Marv and Terry bringing in deer cutouts and Dick H. and Dr. Gredler packing away lights this morning. I had a call from Stan Stricker on WCLO radio today for a short interview on the potential impacts of having such mild winter conditions thus far in December and January. We talked about the concern that some plants might be triggered to emerge early as seen to the lower left with this 'Pink Frost' hellebore (Helleborus sp.) poking up this morning (8 weeks early). I also saw more evidence of early spring bulbs taking a peak to see if it is late March already. We also talked about the lack of snow and the importance of having a winter with not only sufficient snow but some severe cold that will help keep some insect populations in check later this year. While the mild weather has been a boon for HLS takedown, pruning, late mulching, etc., I do hope we get caught up with some winter conditions ASAP. To the right is the dried flower structure of the Quickfire panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk') that started blooming back in late June of last year. New growth will shed these bloom structures but they do offer something in the winter months as well.

I ordered seeds (and some plants) from four more catalogs today (The Cook's Garden, Select Seeds, Natural Gardening Company, Abundant Life Seeds). Ah, the simple joys of perusing catalogs for fun plants to try out in the gardens. I also talked to one of our custom growers and am excited about our 2012 acquisitons. Although I'm only up to about 70 varieties of annuals, I still haven't gone thru 90% of our catalogs including our big suppliers. I'll be up in Portage County this Saturday with Ed Lyon (Allen Centennial Gardens Director) and Sam P. (Olbrich Botanical Gardens) as all of our presenting at the Garden Dreams symposium hosted by the Portage County Master Gardener Volunteers and UW-Extension. Looks like travel conditions will be favorable and thanks to Char for arranging another neat event (I've done this one for three years straight). Lots more seed ordering and presentation preparations this week. To the right is a nice frosty shot of the prairie this morning although the frost didn't last long with the quick warm up. I've shown the plant directly below back in December and am amazed how well the foliage of the 'Electric Lime' coral bells (Heuchera) has held up yet this winter. At the bottom is a photo of Kelli and the gang at break this morning. The group expressed their appreciation of Kelli (and vice versa) and we all wish her the best as she transitions to a new job in the coming weeks.

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