I had a morning presentation today on Container Gardening at the Thrive! Over 60 Expo held at the Pontiac Convention Center here in Janesville. I followed Ho-Chunk Bingo which was a first for me. Sponsored by the Janesville Gazette, this event was quite crowded as there were booths, vendors and other features aside from my topic (which attracted 50 or 60 attendees). I saw some familiar faces (including many volunteers...Geesje, Jan, Fred, etc.) and scooted back to the gardens to continue fertilizing our lawns in the off chance that we'll get some rain overnight. I quickly realized how out of shape I am after pushing that fertilizer spreader around for two hours. Time to get lean and mean as crunch time is just around the corner (as is our spring plant sale!). To the right is the showy (and fragrant) foliage of the golden lemon balm (Melissa officinalis 'All Gold'). A member of the mint family, this herb can be a spreader and reseeder but really has some eye catching color (as opposed the green leaf version). We also like to use this variety in the Smelly Garden and the Ornamental Edible Collection. Directly below is a cool alpine plant that I never noticed in the past. This is the leatherleaf powder puff or globe daisy (Globularia cordifolia). I thought the little flowers looked neat and these specimens are in our alpine garden which is currently at peak for color. Members of the Wisconsin and Illinois Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) will be helping us renovate this space later in the summer as part of a grant we received two years ago for some improvements. The next photo is another of our cool tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) in the fern & moss garden. This is an unknown variety but I'm sure Song Sparrow Nursery carries it if you match my photo to their catalog! We had another nice volunteer turnout today and of course I can say that every day around here! We had a nice combination of our "Grumpies" and "Grumpettes". Suzy and Mary R. came in to weed the sunken garden while Shirley was in the color rooms garden battling some entrenched weeds. Bob C. did some composting (larch wall planter) while Del did more mulching with shredded bark near the Japanese garden. Tom C. came in for some electrical improvements over at the Parker Education Center. Dr. Gredler was in for some mowing and we saw Urban this afternoon as he was pruning out green "reversions" that are showing up in our variegated Norway maple (Acer platanoides 'Drummondii'). We also saw Dick H., Dr. Yahr, Sandy C., Dave E. and many others. Our Thursday volunteer team from the Chestnut House was also in attendance and they did a nice job weeding out the vegetable beds around the Horticulture Center. Our vegetable collections at the Horticulture Center have fluctuated over the years with heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers, eggplants, heirloom pole beans, gourds, squash and other odd and ends. This year we'll be training tomatoes up our vining supports and will include an expansive bell pepper (Capsicum) collection. All varieties that we'll later display are also on sale at our Spring Plant Sale (see our website for details). To the above right is the always impressive bloom of the Rock's peony (Paeonia rockii) that is close to 12" in diameter. Oddly enough, we've never observed seed pods on this specimen as someone collects them every year, knowing full well how expensive this peony is to purchase. We weren't going to collect the seeds anyway but the sheer audacity of someone helping themselves for logically, the opportunity to make some money. To the left is the common, but always enjoyable, dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'). This lilac, while smaller statured than French lilacs (Syringa vulgaris), has lots of flower power and enjoyable scent. I've also seen this shrub in some of the toughest urban situations where it is not just existing, but thriving! There are some examples in Janesville of this lilac in narrow, hot, parking lot islands with minimal soil, no supplemental watering, salting impacts, etc. and they still look just fine. To the right is another azalea (unknown variety, unfortunately) that is just glowing near the zig-zag bridge.
The grounds staff kept busy today. Big John and Larry had some set up duties at the other building and Larry moved on to lots of plant sale preparations, tree staking and the installation of many more of our tree signs. Pat worked on the roses, "planted" tree signs too and then spent the remainder of the day painting. Janice weeded various areas and worked on many projects between a meeting and her involvement with the Chestnut House. Jenny continued her weeding focus in the shade garden and it looks so much better. She also helped water late in the day as the rain never did materialize. Below is a shot of in our fern & moss garden and at the bottom is some of the recent progress in the herb garden. Note the statue in the center holding up a ball cap.