Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Smelly Day

Today was the first of our four Smelly Garden Family Fun Days and it was nice to see so much activity in the Smelly Garden today (see top photo). Sarah (RBG intern) and her volunteers did a nice job helping facitiate this event and despite the heat, it looked like there was steady traffic. The photo directly above is the 'Zowie! Yellow Flame' zinnia (Zinnia elegans) which is in our All-America Selections collection. Reaching about 3' tall in full sun, this zinnia offers a "flame-like" appearance but note the magenta overtones closer to the flower center. I imagine this is an awesome cut flower and we'll continue to grow this variety every year for it's mass appeal! Not far from these zinnias are the annual vincas (Catharanthus roseus 'Pacifica Burgundy Halo') seen to the right. Even with this heat, the annual vincas (all varieties) out in the gardens look great with clean, glossy foliage and showy flowers. This variety gets about 15" tall and you can see the impact of these blooms with the prominent white centers. To the left, you can see the flower power of the 'Arizona Sun' blanket flower (Gaillardia grandiflora) which is actually a zone hardy, short-lived perennial. However, this plant is an award winner for All-America Selections and Fleuroselect and we use it typically as a bedding plant. I've seen this variety bloom strongly all the way to the hardest of frosts in October.

This morning was quite nice with a cool breeze (78 degrees F) and overcast skies. We heard thunder to the north and heard that Madison received some light rain. When the sun came out, it became quite hot again although we didn't hit 100 degrees F (only 98 degrees F)! I started some irrigation zones early and Marv continued running zones throughout the entire day. He also worked his "sprinkler kung fu" and addressed some of our drier flower beds. Marv has been quite creative with how he positions and rigs up his sprinklers for maximum coverage. We have all learned a thing or two about this process from Marv. Marv also planted caladiums in the gazebo garden. Terry's "to do" map this morning was all blue highlighter which meant that he was out watering, setting up sprinklers, watering containers, etc. He gave a good soak to the entrance garden and found some very dry spots. Marianne planted in the entrance garden early, watered, weeded, tidied and did her cutting display. She also watered the yard (round #2) and inventoried some plants for me. Pat did some significant weeding, plenty of watering, yard watering (round #1) and some other odds and ends. I also did some watering, spent time on the last of our Home Garden Tour preparations (it's this Saturday, see our website for details!) and caught up on most of my desk work before my vacation next week. To the right is the 'Limelight' panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). I like this color stage although we still will see this lime color turn white, pinkish and then brown in October. This variety has few equals. Directly below is the 'Blazin' Rose' bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida) which we plant in drifts throughout our partly shaded gardens. That foliage really pops! The second photo down is the 'Torch' Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) which tops out over 6' tall and is smothered with these orange daisies. This is also an All-America Selections winner and is a "must have" in a garden for butterflies (particularly monarchs).

With the cooler morning temperatures, we had some nice volunteer involvement at the gardens. Directly above are (left to right) Mary, Gena and Myrt. After their modeling shoot, the ladies spent time planting annuals in two different locations and also did some weeding as they went along. While we're still filling in little gaps here and there, the ladies addressed two larger areas that still needed to be filled. While this is the latest we've planted annuals, we had that hot weather delay and I feel there is still significant merit in installing these plants in the ground as they'll still have 12+ weeks of interest. I also abhor gaps as they tend to host our magical purslane (Portulaca oleracea) collection that pops up everywhere. To the right is the 'Summer Jewel Red' scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea) which is an annual with plenty of color. I hope to see hummingbirds around this plant soon! There is also a 'Summer Jewel Pink' for a slightly different look.

Jan and her daughter came in to work in the Scottish garden and did a nice job after we turned off the irrigation that was soaking them down. Dr. Gredler came in for some light mowing and he also helped water out in the terrace garden. We also saw Art, Gordy, Mark S. and Mary W. To the left and lower right is one of our compact vegetables in the Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Collection. This is the 'Minnesota Midget' melon (Cucumis melo). Bred by the University of Minnesota in 1948, this variety ripens in 60 days and produces small, 4" diameter, sweet melons (cantaloupes) that are said to be "sweet all the way to the rind". This variety is also short vining which lends itself nicely to this support which also keeps some of the fruit off the ground. Directly below is one of the flower shades provided by the 'Thumbelina Mix' zinnias (Zinnia elegans). This variety, an All-America Selection from 1963, has a mix of colors on small-statured plants (18" tall). At the bottom is a white gerbera daisy (Gerbera ‘Drakensberg White’) which is a primary component in our white/silver/powder blue scheme this year.

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