While I'll always take the time to enjoy a flower, I've come to appreciate foliage attributes more and more over the years. Foliage not only offers visual texture but can be the primary contributor of color as seen in the two top photos taken today. The top photo is the silvery leaf of the 'Looking Glass' false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla). While this perennial (15" tall) has nice blue flower clusters in early spring, the bulk of the color contribution comes thru the remainder of the season with this showy silver foliage. In part shade, this perennial seems to glow. There are lots of great false forget-me-not varieties including 'Jack Frost', 'Langtrees', 'Diane's Gold', 'King's Ransom' and many others (most featured in previous blogs...). All of these varieties also have interesting foliage. The second photo down shows the annual, hybrid bloodleaf (Iresine 'Blazin' Rose') that we use every year in our partly shaded annual beds. This tropical willl reach 2-3' tall and the combination of dark foliage with bright pink veins is hard to miss amongst hostas and other perennials in the partly shaded or shaded garden. Directly above is a shot from late yesterday afternoon of the Noon Rotary Club members planting our Fleuroselect (Europe) collection in the afternoon. We had fourteen enthusiastic helpers and they planted a good 1,500 annuals in short order. We are one of only six North American locations that have a Fleuroselect display garden. To the upper right is 'Big Top Gold' coral bell (Heuchera) which has huge leaves that go thru color transformations in the orange/green range throughout the growing season. The undersides of the leaves are a dark pink. To the left are the fragrant blooms of the 'King of the Blacks' carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus). We actually planted these last year and while they filled out, they never bloomed. They overwintered fine and are blooming nicely (lightly scented too!).
We had some nice volunteer involvement out in the gardens today. Ron K. was in to work in the woodland walk garden and he and Jenny connected regarding some labeling needs. I also placed another 40 or so perennials for Ron to plant in various open locations. These new plantings included many hosta varieties. Kay was in this morning and did a great job weeding in one of our nightmare areas with Jenny. Janet M. came in a bit later in the morning and joined the ladies in their weeding onslaught. Karen G. arrived early to tidy up in the Japanese garden and Dr. Gredler came in for some mowing. Bill O. was also in to mow the arboretum and did some shearing later in the day. We also saw Gary, Joanne (later weeded too), Iza, Christine R., Mary and Dr. Yahr. To right is the 'Mesa Bright Bicolor' blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora). Although many of our annuals are still establishing, there is no shortage of color throughout the gardens. Directly below is the yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) near the North point garden. The second photo down shows the South African dill-leaf ursinia (Ursinia anthemoides 'Solar Fire') which is planted along our orange-themed border. The third photo down shows one of the new, double African daisies (Osteospermum ecklonis '3D Coral Sand') which is one of our trialing plants. The "3D" series looks interesting and while I like African daisies, they rarely make it thru our summer heat for an extended display throughout the entire growing season. The day was very pleasant with high temperatures right around 72 degrees F. It was a nice temperature to work in and quite a difference from our recent, 90 degree F days. Tomorrow looks to be nice as well but the heat will return this weekend. Despite the rain yesterday, we kept irrigation running and Larry ran many zones around the gardens throughout the entire day. Larry also worked on his string trimming duties, push mowed, pruned and watered as time allowed. Big John push mowed as well and moved on to planting, watering, reseeding (grass seed) and accomplishing many odds and ends. Janice worked on some timely sign/label creation this morning, watered and spent some more quality time in the Ornamenal Edible & Compact Vegetable Collection planting more goodies. We had lots of visitors out in the gardens and many stopped to chat with Janice about that interesting garden space. Pat worked on some significant weeding, mulching and planted a long border near the gazebo garden (see to the right). Pat also helped water containers with Janice. Jenny worked on some labeling duties and weeded with Kay. After helping Ron with his labels, Jenny took an inventory for labeling needs in the newly refurbished Engish cottage garden. I hauled more plants out for volunteers as I think we'll get a good turnout for planting tomorrow. The cool weather saved on some traditional watering but we continue to water regularly as we have another hot, dry weekend ahead of us. To the left is the 'Evolution' plantain lily (Hosta sp.) which I really like for the balance of hot and cool colors on each very unique leaf. Actually, tomorrow night, RBG will be hosting members of the Wisconsin Hosta Society for their monthly meeting. They plan on having a "leaf show", meeting and tour by me later in the evenng. Members of this group (and the group itself) have been very supportive of the gardens both verbally and with financial assistance (directly for grounds). We continue to add more hosta varieties each year and it's nice to see the "permanent" collections (perennials, trees, shrubs, vines) continue to expand. To the right is the 'Purple Rooster' bee balm (Monarda didyma) in the English cottage garden that was originally a selection from our local The Flower Factory nursery. This bee balm has not only engaging blooms but very clean foliage that is quite resistant to mildews and other foliar problems. Directly below is the "lime green stage" of the emerging bloom clusters for the Incrediball smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Abetwo') which is promoted as a smooth hydrangea with 12" diameter blooms. Exaggeration? Probably. However, this variety seems to have some "oomph" when blooming on very strong stems and is certainly larger than the old "tried and true" variety 'Annabelle'. Those blooms will "whiten up" very shortly. At the bottom is our vertical wall planter (planted by Janice and Rose) filling in very nicely at the Horticulture Center.