August traditionally is our most colorful month as our mid-season perennials are blooming nicely, the late season perennials are starting up (early this year) and our annuals are really looking great. I'm frequently asked what is the best time of year to visit the gardens? Well, of course there is never a "bad time" to visit! However, I respond (depending on the weather of course) that mid-May is ideal for bulbs, August is great for the peak of our summer annual color and October is nice for fall colors. The top photo is of the wooly sage (Salvia argentea) which is a marginally hardy, zone 5 biennial (two years to flower). We have this interesting plant in our white/silver/powder blue scheme and throughout other areas of the gardens. This is one of the most asked about plants in the gardens and certainly the one that gets touched the most! Directly above is the 'Summer Beauty' ornamental onion (Allium tanguticum) which is peaking right now and offers that spherical flower cluster (umbel) of interest. To the above right is the dark foliage of the 'Crimson King' basil (Ocimum basilicum). This Genovese-type basil has direct application in the kitchen and I think it may be the darkest of our basils this year. There is some close competition though from the varieties 'Round Midnight' and 'Dark Opal'. The value of dark maroon foliage can also be seen to the left with the annual, dwarf elephant grass (Pennisetum glaucum 'Princess Caroline') in the North point garden. We had a surplus of these this spring and John crammed all these under these birch trees. Note the nice contrast with the white birches (Betula populifolia 'Whitespire Senior') and the yellow Adirondack chairs in the distance.
We had another superb turnout of volunteers this morning with a strong contingent of Grumpettes. Grumpies included Bob C. (path tidying), Bob T. (air edging) and our carpenters (Vern, Jim and Dave) working on the new shed. Dr. Gredler was in for som mowing too. Dick H. was around to help with various projects as well. We also saw Gary, Maury, Urban and others later in the day. Hal and Doris helped weed as well. Grumpettes included Shirley, Terry, Amy (new volunteer), Marilyn, Sue, Suzy, Donna, Mary, Winnifred, Karen and Glenna. To the right is Janice (driving at a high rate of speed) with Glenna (next to Janice), Donna (back left) and Winnifred. The ladies mostly weeded in the Japanese garden, Smelly Garden, sunken garden and reception garden. Terri, Shirley and Amy also did some planting in the Terrace Garden. Directly below is the beautiful 'Queen Lime' double zinnia (Zinnia elegans). The second photo down is one of our planter bags with beets (Beta vulgaris) and 'Redbor' kale (Brassica oleracea) in the center. This bag planter, and many others, are being trialed and evaluated in our Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable display.
The three ladies directly above are the summer interns working at Allen Centennial Gardens (www.allencentennialgardens.org/) located on the UW-Madison campus. I'm not the best with names but we did enjoy their visit to the gardens today along with Ed Lyon, Director at Allen Centennial Gardens. Ed was the Executive Director at RBG for many years and we've kept in touch. The ladies are positioned amongst these giant elephant ears (Colocasia gigantea 'Thailand Giant'). We planted about 40 of these around the gardens and they are sizing up nicely with a height around 6' tall with 3'-4' wide leaves. We continue to water and fertilize them as we want to get them even taller. I've seen pictures of these well over 10' tall! We'll see. It was nice to see many visitors out in the garden and we again observed lots of interest in the edible garden. The summer poinsettias (Amaranthus tricolor), like 'Illumination' to the right, continue to elicit lots of comments in that garden space. To the left is the border that Don and Pearl take care of and it looks awesome with all the maroons and reds.
We had a small grounds staff today with Larry, Big John, Janice and myself. Larry ran irrigation all day, moved around sprinklers, watered containers and helped with other projects as well. Big John also accomplished lots of watering and did a nice job tidying up an area near the Smelly Garden that needed some attention. John also watered containers (with Larry) and did some odds and ends. Janice took care of yard watering (twice) and helped with the Grumpettes this morning. She had a meeting but also spent some significant time hand watering some of our dry spots out there. I had some meetings today, the tour with Ed and his interns and am getting plans set up for next week as I'll be travelling to MI for a conference. To the right is one of the 40 oak leaf garden art projects out in the gardens. This is the time to come see these beautiful art pieces in a colorful garden setting as we'll be auctioning these off on the afternoon of September 9th which is just around the corner. Below is another summer poinsettia (Amaranthus tricolor) called 'Early Splendor'. The next photo down is the beautiful bloom of the compact okra (Abelmoschus esculentus 'Lee'). You can appreciate the close relationship this plant has to the hibiscus and mallows. What a nice shade of yellow. At the bottom is one of my favorite plant combinations near the Smelly Garden with Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') to the left, 'Viette's Little Suzy' compact black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. speciosa), 'Summer Beauty' ornamental onion (Allium thunbergii) and 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora). Note the obelisk in the back.