Friday, September 14, 2012

Cooler Mornings

The light fog on this chilly morning (48 degrees F) made for a nice picture of the arched bridge as seen in the above photo. It was chilly this morning but the day was beautiful with sun, blue skies and a high temperature of 75 degrees F. The "rain" yesterday amounted to 2/10 of an inch which barely wet the ground. We ran irrigation all day and even set up sprinklers in various areas. The morning dew though was thick and made flowers like the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia 'Fiesta del Sol') directly above just glisten! I had a nice walk around this morning and do appreciate the cooler, "fall-like" mornings. I wonder when our first frost will be this year? Not far from the Mexican sunflower was one of our many patches of 'Purple Majesty' ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum) as seen to the right. I love this annual grass and the flower heads, while showy and architectural, produce lots of tasty seed for the yellow finches and other wildlife. There are other neat varieties with similar flowering structures. Research 'Jester', 'Purple Baron' and the chartreuse-leaved 'Jade Princess' for some other options.

I didn't see any garden volunteers out in the gardens today with the exception of Ron K. in the woodland walk and both Dr. Gredler and Bill O. mowing. Ron planted another 250 or so perennials in the woodland walk which included a vast assortment of columbines (Aquilegia sp.) that we like to poke in all over the gardens each fall. He has done such a nice job in that space and is now faced with the perpetual challenge of collecting leaves as they start to bury that space. Dr. Gredler did his mowing in the morning with Bill finishing up in the afternoon. With a wedding this evening and three tomorrow, we spend significant time getting the garden tidied up for the influx of visitors. We also saw Rose and Urban (painting at the Horticulture Center) as well as Maury, Dr. Yahr, Mary W. and many others. Marianne volunteered this morning and helped prepare many labels for our alpine garden work session tomorrow morning (thanks Marianne!). To the left is the variegated, Japanese Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium fortunei 'Pink Frost') in the English cottage garden which always catches my eye in spring with the sharp foliage. It's nice to see the pink flowers just starting to add to the show. This species/variety should bloom strongly until frost. To the right is the beautiful (and tasty) 'Rosa Bianca' eggplant (Solanum melongena) in the English cottage garden. I eat a lot of eggplant although whether you eat it or not, it sure is a true "ornamental edible"! Directly below is one of the many varieties of purple elephant grass (napier grass) that are becoming so popular. This grass (Pennisetum purpureum) variety is 'Vertigo' and it is a nice mid-height component in the bed, border or container. Getting 3-5' tall, this annual grass has narrow blades and gets the darkest color in full sun. Imagine combining this grass with plants that feature reds, yellows or whites near this textural and colorful foil. The white blooming plant is a dwarf flowering tobacco (Nicotiana 'Perfume White').
The photo above was taken in the English cottage garden this morning where Lynn (RBG volunteer) has artfully combined annuals, perennials and vegetables. Note the Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) in the foreground and to the back left, the amber plumes of the 'Hot Biscuits' grain amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus). Some ladies on a tour yesterday commented on the beauty of this garden and noted this "hodge podge" approach. Mission accomplished! A repeated element in this space also includes ornamental hot peppers with a focus on those with cool foliage. To the right is the 'Purple Flash' ornamental hot pepper (Capsicum annuum) which does have small, showy, glossy purple fruits but look at that interesting foliage!

Our grounds staff had another busy Friday getting the gardens watered, mown and prepared for our weekend visitors. Big John ran irrigation, set up sprinklers, mowed, hand watered and helped haul out some materials for our work session tomorrow in the alpine garden. Marv also ran irrigation zones and set up many sprinklers with Terry. The guys also removed a dead tree, sheared, watered, mowed (Terry) and bounced between many timely projects. Janice helped make some signs, inventoried our new plants and spent time in the gardens watering and weeding as well. Everyone was involved in some way or another with watering our copious containers and/or the holding yard. To the left is the golden dragon willow (Salix x sachalinensis 'Golden Sunshine') which has bright gold foliage from May until frost. This plant, if left alone, will grow 20' tall and wide in time. We trim this variety back severely in winter to keep it in the 6' tall range and the best gold coloration occurs in full sun. We sold this variety last week at our Fall Plant Sale too. To the right is our number #1 hummingbird magnet in the gardens. This is the 'Black and Blue' indigo sage (Salvia guaranitica) which is always showy and is mass planted throughout our reception garden every year. One of our volunteer photographers, Santos, has achieved some of his best hummingbird photographs in close proximity to these annuals. Directly below is the rugged looking cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). Though just an annual, this plant will gain some size and interest quickly over our warm summers and will occasionally bloom nicely (see blog from yesterday). At the bottom is a scenic shot thru the English cottage garden to the formal gardens. The container collection in the center of that garden was changed over by Marv, Terry and Lynn last week to feature flowering kale (Brassica sp.) and pansies (Viola sp.).

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