Wednesday, September 19, 2012

October Nights

It's always a shock to me when the cooler mornings arrive and I find myself with three layers on as opposed to heading out in a t-shirt every morning. Northern WI has already seen some frost which isn't unusual. However, the low temperature last night was between 36 and 39 degrees F which is cold enough to affect some of our tropicals. Note the "tinged" coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) two photos above. Tonight will be another cold one and we'll start digging up and storing some of our most sensitive tropicals in the coming weeks (prior to Oct. 1 for sure). At the top is a nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.) close-up which is a cold tolerant annual and will bloom strongly until hard frost. If you've never observed a nasturtium close-up, they are "other-worldly" in appearance and quite tasty (both leaves and flowers). Our Janesville Area Herb Society volunteers always use nasturtiums in the herb garden sections (3) that they have tended at the gardens for 22 years! Directly above is the 'Numex Twilite' hot pepper (Capsicum annuum). This is a beautiful pepper that is also used for culinary purposes and is classified as HOT at 50,000 Scoville heat units. There are many hot pepper varieties from the breeding program at the University of New Mexico and the Numex portion of the variety name is a good indication of that origination. To the right is the annual Palm Springs daisy (Cladanthus arabicus). Located in our Smelly Garden, this annual (from North Africa), also called criss-cross plant, has wispy foliage and a light fragrance as well. This annual is a powerhouse of blooms and has looked like this for four months. To the left is one of our four uniform containers near the gazebo. The centerpiece is the 'Diamond Head' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) with the gold filler being the 'Molten Lava' ornamental shamrock (Oxalis vulcanicola) and the trailer is the 'Bonfire Orange' trailing begonia (Begonia boliviensis). This composition is in quite a bit of shade but is quite colorful and showy.

Volunteers today included Kay out in the garden doing more purging of annuals here and there. She also spent time in the shade garden collecting leaves and other debris. We'll see her this Friday too. Mary H. and Nancy teamed up to also remove spent annuals as needed. This is almost a daily task and the cold temperatures are certainly a contributing factor. Mary W. and Elsa were in to do some work in the herb garden and Mary H. (#2) and her daughter did a nice job tidying up their assigned garden berm across from the shade garden. Dr. Gredler was in for more mowing and aeration duties. Bill O. came in to do some boxwood (Buxus 'Green Velvet') shearing near the herb garden and we also saw Steve B., Tracy B., Elaine, Cindi B., Dr. Yahr, Vern and many others as well. To the right are the wispy white flowers of the perennial black snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'). This perennial has featured maroon/green leaves all summer and the late white flowers are a nice addition as they extend well in to October. The foliage is a nice attribute as it combines well with yellows and whites during the early/mid summer months. Unfortunately we're seeing a tendency for this variety to drop plenty of seed so be vigilant! The babies will be quite conspicuous the following spring and are not easy to pull out! Directly below is the border that Don and Pearl maintain. I think the maroon/red combination is one of my favorites and the "near black" contribution from the 'Diamond Head' elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) and 'Prince' elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) is quite dynamic. Directly below is the German statice (Goniolimon tataricum) which has this long-lasting cluster of small, star-shaped blooms. This "dome" of color is quite impressive.While the morning was quite chilly, we all bundled up and went outside. Directly above is the glossy, dark maroon foliage of the 'Round Midnight' basil (Ocimum basilicum) which we think is one of our darkest varieties. This is also a culinary basil with plenty of uses. Marv and Terry spent some major time smoothing out our primary gravel paths which involves the use of our end loader. Marv has a good system for smoothing out and "fluffing up" the paths. Terry then rakes them smooth and they look as good as new. We do this 2-3 times each year and it really is worth the time as it not only improves the path surface but mitigates any mounds, bumps, dips, lumps and potholes. The guys do a nice job with this. They also worked on other projects including watering containers (windy today!). Big John ran some irrigation today but also worked on removing some small trees in the color rooms garden. He also did some significant weeding as well and placed new labels in the daylily (Hemerocallis) collection. To the right are the seed capsules of the 'Carmencita Pink' castor bean (Ricinus communis). Each of those spiny capsules, once dry, will split and reveal three seeds. Castor bean is poisonous (particularly the seeds) but is a wonderful large tropical that we use as a backdrop in our annual beds or where we want that "tropical look." To the left is the perennial fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) called 'Redhead'. I love this textural look and I'm sure visitors have been inspired to enjoy a tactile engagement with these specimens as well!

Marianne did a nice job tidying in the entrance garden and in many other locations as well. The wind made leaf collection a waste of time but Marianne purged spent annuals and did some weeding as well. She also watered, checked the cutting display and processed some woody plant labels that will soon go out in the gardens. Pat removed the moss rose (Portulaca) collection as it was suffering with the cold temperatures. He also worked on weeding, gutter cleaning, vine removal and other tasks. Jenny came in as a volunteer and did a nice job organizing all of our aluminum labels that we use for the annuals out in the gardens. I spent half the day fertilizing all of our lawns. I normally do it later in October but thought the smell (of the fertilizer) would deter the skunks and/or raccoons that are tearing up our turf looking for tasty grubs. The damage is becoming significant quickly and we don't want our wedding garden lawns (formal, sunken, gazebo) looking like mine fields! To the right is the start of fall color on the fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium') in the Japanese garden. This coloration will ultimately go thru a bright orange to a brilliant scarlet over the next three weeks. Below is a morning shot in the Smelly Garden which is still looking good and the popcorn plants (Cassia didymobotrya) are still blooming strongly with those fragrant, yellow flower clusters. At the bottom is the new shed that our Grumpy carpenters just finished. This structure will alleviate some of the congestion of supplies in the Horticulture Center and will be filled quickly with items yet this fall.

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