Friday, June 22, 2012

Filling In For Mother Nature

Today was another day of heavy watering and the team fell right in to old routines with our irrigation, sprinklers, hand watering, etc. This persistent dry weather, coupled with higher than normal temperatures, is challenging our ability to keep up to be honest. We essentially have held off on any major planting this week so we could focus on watering needs around the gardens. The top photo is the wooly sage (Salvia argentea) that many visitors ask about each year. Of course, this soft-textured plant is in our silver/white/blue theme this year and is certainly a plant that everyone wants to touch. This species of salvia is hardy to zone 5 and might make it through a milder winter. We've used it primarily as a seasonal plant though and it becomes increasingly more interesting as it gains height (18") and girth. I've never seen it bloom but know that it has showy white flower clusters. Directly above is the far slope across the water from our North point garden. Beyond the slope is the Janesville Ice Arena which is receiving some significant improvements including geothermal heating and cooling utilizing water from the pond. All of these flexible pipes and tubes are part of this installation and there were workers out on jet skis getting these in place. All the tubes have now been sunk in the pond. To the right is the variegated red scabious (Knautia macedonica 'Thunder & Lightning') that I'm becoming more impressed with every time I see it. The variegated foliage is a nice backdrop for the solid (and lengthy) flower presentation. To the left is the 'Prairie Splendor' purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) which was one of the first purple coneflower varieties to bloom the first year from seed. This variety is also known to be one of the earliest to bloom and will show flowers almost 2 weeks before other varieties show color.

This morning we had Kay and Shirley out weeding in various locations (color rooms, shade garden, etc.) and the ladies did their typical great job. Jan was in to tidy up the Scottish garden and I also placed a good 50 or so perennials in the garden for her to plant. These plants included many varieties for the "Scottish Highlands" section of that garden which includes many alpine selections. Dr. Gredler was in for mowing as was Bill O. Sharon came in and was a huge help with watering out in the yard. Don and Pearl popped by this morning to weed and tidy up two garden sections and we also saw Maury, Urban, Rose and many others as well. Dick P. was in to repair our water fountain this morning too. To the right is the 'Encourage' lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) which is a very heavily crested form. I like the texture offered by this selection (here seen in our fern & moss garden). Directly below is the dwarf goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius) in full bloom above lacy foliage (12" tall). The next photo down is a close-up of a single hollyhock (Alcea rosea) blossom which is showy from a distance and even more exquisite as you get closer.
The grounds staff did another nice job today and we continue to look forward to the resumption of rainfall and hopefully, the end to our spring/early summer planting in the coming weeks. I was at the gardens this morning to get everyone started and then headed up to Madison for various purposes including a tour of the Botany greenhouses and teaching garden with Cheryl, a RBG volunteer and Department Administrator for the Botany Department at UW-Madison. I'll share some of those photos tomorrow and of course, I left the gardens in good hands with our Friday team. To the right is a bloom of the Quickfire panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk') which continues to be the earliest blooming of all the panicled hydrangeas. To the left is the early growth of the 'Field of Dreams' variegated corn (Zea mays). While we've grown some different varieties of variegated corn in the past, this one looks like it will be just as showy as the rest and can be found in our Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Collection this year. Apparently the kernels of this variety can be popped.

Marv had irrigation zones running right away this morning and ran zones throughout the gardens to continue our pattern of keeping areas moist through this dry spell. Marv also moved many sprinklers around and spent some time shearing as well. Big John, while there a half day today, did a lot of watering as well. He had sprinklers going and did quite a bit of hand watering which included most of our containers. Without a doubt, this year has the most containers to monitor for watering and we didn't anticipate such a challengingly dry June! Jenny worked on weeding, labeling duties, garden clean-up and plenty of watering. We have Jenny through the end of next week (on the clock) as so many of her talents are most important in spring. Janice also weeded, tidied up here and there and had a full list of watering duties as well. Marianne popped in to do her cutting display too. To the right is one of the relatively new (and showy) threadleaf tickseeds (Coreopsis verticillata 'Sunset Strip'). This variety (18" tall) will bloom throughout the summer and is known for these showy orange/yellow bicolor blooms. Directly below is our "desk planter" that Victoria planted earlier this week. It will be fun to see these plants fill out. The bottom photo shows the stacked pvc planters (courtesy of starting to really fill out as the cascading tomatoes start to hit stride. No volunteer work day tomorrow but plenty of watering for Larry and Bill!

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