Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Models In The Garden?

Today was another warm, sunny day with plenty of activity out in the gardens. We had a group of kids come through the gardens to enjoy a program with Kris and had a tour group consisting of twenty four Lake County Master Gardeners (IL) visit this afternoon. With a cooler morning, there were also plenty of visitors meandering around the gardens. The top photo is a shot of our All-America Selections display garden this year. These plantings are filling in nicely and we received many positive comments about the color scheme. Directly above is our Ma Chii' structure in the fern & moss garden. I spent some time in this garden this morning and the ferns look pretty good with the exception of some that are in tougher spots with dry soils and/or more sunshine. We have every variety of Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum) available and while many look similar, I like this 'Wildwood Twist' to the left as it has a nice silver "presence" in the garden. The fronds are thought to twist as they unfurl but I don't see anything remarkable about the stature of the plant. That silver though is second only to variety 'Silver Falls' for impact. To the upper right is the 'Praying Hands' hosta which has a very distinctive look to the leaves. This variety was discovered by Jerry Williams of MN and was named the 2011 Hosta of the Year by the American Hosta Society.

The grounds staff had a busy day of watering, tidying, planting and various odds and ends. Janice worked on watering, moss care, harvesting veggies (lots) and many other projects. She helped Lynn in the English cottage garden this morning as well. Big John set up multiple sprinklers and had those moving around the gardens all day. He also push mowed, planted lots of caladiums in the gazebo garden and watered in other locations. Pat push mowed, watered containers, planted, tidied and bounced between multiple projects. He also continued watering our new trees in the parking lot which is becoming a full time job! Larry had irrigation zones going early, set up sprinklers in various locations and helped Pat water containers. Larry also did some push mowing, weed whipping and some other tasks as well. I placed some plants for installation tomorrow and continue to catch up on some timely desk work. Tomorrow I'm involved with the Trial Garden & Plant Health Field Day at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners, WI. Sponsored by UW Extension, this event brings in a professional audience and my topic will be on The Edible Landscape. To the right is 'The Blues' little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) which is one of my favorites for summer (and fall) color! Directly below is the the 'Punch Bowl' blanket flower (Gaillardia hybrida) which I've featured a couple of times but got a really nice shot of it this morning in the English cottage garden (which has never looked better!).
Of course there is not a day of the week that we don't have great volunteer assistance at the gardens and today was no exception. With the hot afternoons, we understandably see more volunteers in the morning during the cooler hours of the day. Directly above is Kay who cast a wide net today for weeds and also did some planting in the shade garden. With so many beautiful women volunteers in the gardens today, it was only fair to feature all of them! The third photo above is the double gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta 'Gloriosa Double') which is looking sharp. I never fail to promote Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) which can be seen directly above Kay. That foliage is so unique and in a partly shaded composition, really catches the eye with that silver "overlay" on the foliage. To the left is Janet who continues to do a great job on the orange planting. This long bed (140' long by 6' wide) has seen many color schemes in the past but I think this orange really works. To the right is Mary H. who, along with her daughter, spent more time tidying up the area she has maintained diligently for over 16 years with her husband Dave. Mary is a great gardener and her area always looks nice.

Magda (to the left) used some elbow grease in her assigned garden area as she had a patch of rampant alpine strawberries (Fragaria) covering a huge space. She dug almost all of it out. We know we'll be fighting this vigorous groundcover for awhile but this was a good first step. Magda's garden bed is the perfect combination of woody plants, perennials and showy annuals. She has maintained this mixed border for many years and her previous career as a floral shop owner/arranger comes in handy with her creative combinations. To the right is Lynn who continues to improve the English cottage garden with her every visit. We had some nice comments about this garden from our tour today and there are some very interesting plants in this garden. Dr. Gredler was in for some late afternoon mowing and Ray was out working in the vegetable collection today. We also saw Bill O. early this morning. Directly below is the crested male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas 'Grandiceps Wills') in our fern & moss garden. At the bottom is our stacked PVC pipe planters (donated by www.theurbangrow.com) with cascading tomatoes that are filling in nicely. I did a talk tonight at Cedar Crest (a local retirement community) and showed some slides from my trip to the Netherlands this past April. It was a great crowd which included three of our past volunteers (Dave K, Gwen D. and Kay M.). It was a fun and engaging crowd. Off to Milwaukee tomorrow but I'll share some shots of Boerner Botanical Gardens (Hales Corners, WI) tomorrow night.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hitting Stride

I think the gardens are nearing their summer peak in August this year. It's looking pretty good out there. After being gone a week on vacation, I couldn't believe how our annual plantings have filled in and how green the gardens look after some rainfall last week. As usual, I arrived to piles of "catch up duty" but was able to tour the gardens. Everything looked great which was no surprise. With another warm day today, watering again became a priority. The grounds staff has done a nice job keeping up with watering over the past couple of months so we're not going to give up yet! The top photo is a nice shot of some of our "resurrection lilies" (Lycoris squamigera) popping up already (about three weeks early). This perennial foliates in the spring and the foliage (looks like Narcissus) then dies back in mid-June. The flowers then pop up on these whitish, leafless stalks, hence the name. Directly above is the 'Chilly Chili' hot pepper (Capsicum annuum) which continues to get more showy as the summer continues. This one has very little for "heat" but lots for show! To the right is the 'David' garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) which is one of my favorite, mid-summer blooming perennials for a clear white contribution. The fragrance is nice too (particularly at dusk) but this variety is also quite mildew resistant as well. We have some large groupings of this perennial in the sunken garden at perfect peak bloom right now. Also in the sunken garden are four containers like the one seen to the left. The 'Diamond Head' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) has really filled out nicely with 'Orange King' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) in the mid-level and some 'Illusion Garnet Lace' sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) as the trailer. Note the absence of any flowers but plenty of foliage interest.

We had a nice assortment of talented volunteers today. Dave, Jim and Vern continued work on their shed project and continue to do a nice job. Most of the guys helped purge the yard (see below) of scraggly leftovers to start the morning. This included Ron W., Maury, Ron Y., Ron B., Bob C., Bill S. and Larry H. The guys later moved on to some different tasks like air edging, pruning and debris clean-up in various locations. Pat was in as a Grumpy today and continued re-staining the Horticulture Center. He later joined Ron B. for some air edging near the moss rose (Portulaca) collection. Gary was in for some label creation which he'll continue later this week. Bev came in for some much appreciated weeding in the sunken garden and Janice worked with three volunteers in the Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Collection. They picked some major produce which they shared with other volunteers. We also saw Mary (Exec. Dir.), Leslie, Dr. Yahr, Rose and Urban. Dr. Gredler was in for some mowing and Bill O. was in to help water and tidy up here and there. Volunteers for our Home Garden Tour Committee meeting included Elaine, Janice, Cindi and Karen B. I'm sure I've missed some names too. To the right is the 'Tie Dye' Helen's flower or sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) which is a great plant for later summer blooms. Below the picture of the fellas is the desk planter that the carpenters built for Victoria, one of our volunteers. Most of the grounds staff still had some tasks and responsibilities (watering) that carried over today on their "to do" maps from last week. Big John had noted a leaking water line yesterday so he and Larry dug and dug (and dug) to get it repaired. Larry ran irrigation all day although we couldn't use some of our watering sources until Larry was finished with the repairs. Larry also worked on more watering in various locations. Big John, after assisting Larry, spent the remainder of the day watering containers and watering in general. Marianne replanted some containers, watered, weeded, inventoried plants and put together another nice cutting display. Marv and Terry continued working on their shearing project from last week. The guys had recently sheared the boxwoods (Buxus 'Green Velvet') in the North point garden but were now touching up all the hedges that they sheared earlier in the formal gardens. They also did a nice job moving sprinklers around and helped with watering duties as time allowed. To the above right is the fruiting structure for the Italian arum (Arum italicum) which will be a solid orange red in a couple of weeks... To the left is the dark maroon bloom of the 'Cherry Brandy' gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta). This variety has various shades of the burgundy but I selected this as the darkest leaf and took the photo. I like this variety a lot and it is tough in our heat/sun. Don't count on it as a perennial as it rarely will come back and is better off replanted each year as an annual. When we had our big maroon/red theme years ago we had big drifts of 'Cherry Brandy' and it looked pretty neat. To the right are the ripening seed heads of one of our quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) selections. This is the variety 'Shelly 25 Black'. Quinoa is one of our eight grains that we're featuring in our Grains of the World collection this year. Quinoa possesses the best amino acid balance of any known grain. I'm not sure what that means but it sounds good. Below are some scenic shots that I took today. In order, we have the orange wall planting, Smelly Garden (Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden) and the North point garden with the arbor floating in a sea of South American verbena (Verbena bonariensis).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012 Color Theme Update

Included in this blog are some shots of the entrance garden that I took about a week ago. With few exceptions, I'm very happy with the results of our white/silver/powder blue combinations and am glad to see the compositions fill in nicely. Of course, the watering requirements have been substantial but the overall look is quite effective. This color theme is also echoed in the terrace garden to nice effect as well. The bottom photo is from last Sunday as we had a great group of volunteers help weed in the alpine garden. Some of our own volunteers are in this shot as are members of the WI/IL Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. We had a great work morning last Sunday followed by a tour. From left to right are Werner, Damon, Joy, Jane, Dave, Iza (front and center), Ed and Rose Marie. I think we weeded that entire garden which was a timely project. Back soon from vacation with plenty on the agenda. I'm sure our top notch grounds staff and dedicated volunteers have kept the gardens looking great!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 18th Annual Home Garden Tour

This past Saturday, July 21st, our 18th Annual Home Garden Tour was in full swing with thankfully overcast skies and temperatures in the upper 80 degrees F. The forecast was for more sun and a high near 95 degrees F. We had close to 400 attendees for the event which included our wonderful volunteers that helped facilitate the day. I heard nothing but positive comments with the exception of some travel problems related to construction and our map. We are always learning how to improve this event and will continue to do our best to create a quality event. A big THANK YOU to our seven garden homeowners (Schulz', Bendlin's, Schuh's, Skinner's, Agard's, Babcock's and Miller's) that have spent months keeping up with watering and offered their beautiful settings for this vital RBG fundraiser. See just some of the highlights below! I took about 500 photos on Saturday! I'm on vacation this week but will sneak in a couple blogs if my wife doesn't catch me. As I type (literally), she just asked if I'm working again!

The photos below (including the top photo) are from the garden of Dave & Barb Bendlin. Their yard was striking from the front curbline to the back fence and it was amazing how much they had packed in their yard. The water feature was impressive as was the garden shed. There was no shortage of color and interest throughout the yard and their "hands on" role was apparent. And all the rocks! Awesome. Below are some shots from the home and garden of Tom & Sue Skinner. This property was simply beautiful with this historic home, outbuildings and plenty of plants! I was most impressed with the use of well-designed containers and various planters for color and noted some very rare annuals that offered lots of interest as well. There were also many pieces of art and that personal touch wherever I turned. I took many photos in this garden!
Below are some images from the garden of Matt & Konya Schuh. Set along the Rock River, this property included some colorful plantings, containers and some neat outdoor spaces for entertaining. The grass in the second photo down is the 'Jade Princess' ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum). I thought the outdoor fireplace was pretty cool too.
Below are some shots from the beautiful garden of Doug & Mary Agard. The Agard's were on the Home Garden Tour many years ago and I was just as impressed this time as I was back then (even more so actually). The woodland setting was accented with many plantings, water features and an expanse of turf that I'm sure was challenging to keep green this year. The Agard's personal touch could be seen throughout their landscape. Below are three shots of the expansive garden and nursery of Jeff & Penny Miller. The nursery, Land of the Giants Hosta Farm, carries an amazing amount of hosta varieties and attendees could tour the nursery as well as the garden. I loved the water feature and wide range of color around the property. Jeff & Penny did a nice job keeping up with watering over such a huge area. Below are some images from the garden of Dave and Milly Babcock. I had been to their garden years ago (beautiful back then of course too) but couldn't believe all the color. The pond and waterfall were neat as were the woodland trails and property punctuated with wood duck houses, bluebird houses and bird feeders. Milly is an expert with perennial combinations and her use of annuals was impressive as well. The garden of Mark & Karen Schulz is below. I enjoyed seeing the woodland perennials, rare shrubs and trees as well as the pond. The woodland approach to the home was really neat as there was so much understory color. I'm sure this garden was a challenge to keep watered this year and I really envied the setting. The third photo down shows the architectural grace of the white culver's root (Veronicastrum). Also note the blue spray-painted ornamental onions (Allium)!This garden had some varieties that I haven't even tried at RBG yet and Mark & Karen gave me a personal tour which I appreciated at the end of an exciting day. Below is most of our Home Garden Tour Committee. We're missing Bill O. and Dave G. in this photo. The back row (left to right) are Tim M., Barb T., Ruth B. and me. The bottom row (left to right) are Janet M., Jean S. (Committee Chair), Patrick G. and Cora O. This group works year round to prepare this event and we'll be viewing/selecting gardens for next year in the coming weeks. Thanks to this group and all the wonderful volunteers (56!) that helped with this event.