Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back In Action

It was nice to be in action after three days of relative inactivity! The day was perfect with blue skies, sunshine and highs near 80 degrees F. With every month this year acting like the following month (April like May, May like June, etc.), our August sure seems a lot like September with cooler mornings and moderate daytime temperatures. Regardless, it was a nice day to be out in the gardens as staff, a volunteer or a visitor. The top photo shows our formal annual sections with lots of the dark-leaved dahlia (Dahlia 'Mystic Spirit') which also had nice orange blooms. The centerpieces of these eight sections didn't fill in as well as I had hoped. We had three 'Diamond Head' elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) in each section and while they thrived in other locations in the gardens, they never really "caught stride" in this locale. Odd and unexpected! The photo directly above shows a view through our colorful English cottage garden to the formal gardens beyond. To the right is the 'Blonde Ambition' blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) which has interesting inflorescences that are attached to the stems at 90 degrees F. These structures look like they're floating in the air (like minnows) and this selection is from David Salman of High Country Gardens and is a 2011 Plant Select Winner. This hardy grass is also used as a turf substitute, particularly in more arid climates. To the left is a colorful shot of a portion of the shade garden maintained by Kelley and Sue. We use lots of colorful annuals in our shady areas for "punch".

We had another nice turnout of volunteers today with Mary H. and her daughter doing a nice job in their assigned area. Kay came in to weed and I asked her to "weed and wander." Well, she made it just inside our east gate and collected a nice cartload of weeds from our Fleuroselect Collection. Kay was able to trapse thru that area with her superior balance. There isn't much room between the plants for access but she is the perfect combination of a ninja and ballet master with her ability to negotiate these types of garden beds. Dr. Gredler was out mowing/aerating again and we also saw Urban, Gary, Rose, Bill F. and Bill O. Bill O. worked on a couple of projects around the Horticulture Center and then went out to re-shear some of the boxwoods (Buxus hybrida 'Green Velvet') that he's been "meatballing" all summer long near the pergola. Bev I. was weeding and watering in the veggie beds at the Horticulture Center. To the right is 'Defiance' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) with elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum 'Princess') in a container (1 of 4) in the sunken garden. Directly below is our large urn planter in the middle of the pergola in the French formal garden. That maroon plant coming off the edges is the trailing copperleaf (Alternanthera reinickii) which is one of my favorites for containers and/or as a groundcover. The grass in the center is the 'Fireworks' variegated purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum). The next photo down shows the hanging baskets on that pergola. The original pergola, which had carved Indiana limestone pillars, blew down in a wind shear over 10 years ago. The entire pergola (columns and overhead arbor) was then rebuilt and those columns that you see here are hollow with steel supports on the inside.Directly above are some of the trailing tomatoes coming out of our horizontal, elevated PVC planters. Janice was out in this garden Sunday and interacted with many visitors (including the young lady in the bottom photo). The Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Collection has been so very popular this year. We will continue to expand and diversify this collection next year as well. To the right is some variegated hot pepper (Capsicum annuum 'Jigsaw') growing around one of our informational sign logos (English cottage garden). Note the variable foliage on this neat ornamental pepper that will soon have a vast array of colorful fruits as well.

The grounds staff had a busy day too. Larry ran irrigation all day but also spent time replacing four irrigation heads out in the gardens. We are constantly observing and evaluating our irrigation system and try to keep up with upgrades and repairs as needed. Larry does a nice job fixing not only irrigation heads but it seems that we end up damaging or slicing a water line every other week. He's quick with the repairs though. Larry also set up some sprinklers for some dry areas and did some push mowing in select areas. Janice worked on some indoor projects, was out tidying in the gardens and took care of some watering later in the day. Big John worked on push mowing, watering, fertilizing and mulching. He had a diverse list today and made quick work of his tasks. Pat sheared boxwoods (Buxus) and barberries (Berberis) and also helped with push mowing. He and John took care of container watering and Pat also hand watered some other areas. Pat also planted another 30+ hosta varieties (new to the gardens!) throughout the shade garden. To the left is one of four containers on the North Point patio that feature the 'King Tut' giant papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) as the centerpiece. I love this plant for the interesting texture and its durability in a container, garden bed or water garden. We usually trim any of the errant stems and new ones are always coming up weekly. Although not hardy, this sedge-relative is always welcome in our garden and is replanted each year. To the right are the showy stems (petioles) of the 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) which is one of over 127 All-America Selections varieties in our display garden this year. I think Swiss chard is as beautiful as any plant in that collection and the added benefit of edibility/nutrition should not be overlooked. Directly below is some of our many groupings of dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea 'Lacinato') in the entrance garden. This is one of the plants offering the subtle blue compliment to our primarily white and silver theme. This kale (also edible) is a nice textural plant and will continue to put on some size this month. At the bottom is one of our visitors with pretzel bean (Vigna unguiculata) glasses.

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