We have exactly 51 days until the premier lighting of the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) as a feature of our ever-popular Taste of Chocolate event on Friday evening, November 30th. The HLS then runs another 12 evenings in December. As you can imagine, chocolate is strongly represented at this typically sold out event. See our website (www.rotarybotanicalgardens.org) for more information on this event very soon. The top photo shows just some of the crated lights that the grounds staff is going thru and testing. Those that aren't up to snuff are ultimately repaired or recycled if they have more serious issues. We have done a great job of keeping all of our lights in good working order and organized well. With a chilly morning after some light rain last night, it was the perfect start to the day for the guys to continue testing lights. Marv, Terry (two photos up), Pat (directly above) and Big John (behind Pat) all jumped in the lights testing for a good three hours this morning. Marv and John also had irrigation going out in the gardens before it is shut off for the season next week. While 51 days seems like quite a bit of time, it becomes a tighter window if the weather goes sour. I picked up some additional lights and HLS supplies today to augment our supply for this year. We were pleased to again be awarded the JEM (Joint Effort Marketing) Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism that will allow us to expand our marketing range and bring in more visitors to enjoy the unique HLS experience. Directly below is the reddening fall color of our compact Amur maple (Acer ginnala 'Emerald Elf') in the main parking lot. Terry and Marv shear this specimen (8' tall and 10' wide) many times during the year and the fall color is superior this year. The next photo down shows the start of the orange fall tinting on this creeping stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'). This is a colorful groundcover but does like to take up more space each year.
I didn't have time to blog Sunday night as I would have mentioned my weekend visit to Longenecker Horticultural Gardens at the UW-Arboretum. My family and I always visit in spring to catch the amazing colors of the crabapples (Malus sp.), magnolias (Magnolia sp.) and lilacs (Syringa sp.). Incidentally, these aforementioned collections at Longenecker have national reputations. The entire UW-Arboretum is amazing with natural areas, woodlands, wet;ands, the Curtis Prairie and of course, Longenecker. Dr. Hasselkus, retired professor emeritus of Horticulture (UW-Madison) has been the driving force behind this impressive collection of woody plants for the past 40+ years and I never fail to take my camera. Visit any time you can but understand that fall is quite impressive as well. Fall color this year was amazing and I saw some other plants of interest. Directly below is the Little Lime panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Jane') which has already featured the lime, white and pink stages of flower coloration. These drying, amber blooms will look great thru the winter and are nice in dried arrangements. We don't have this variety at RBG yet but I like the stature at 4' tall by 4' wide as many panicled hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) can become large (10'+). The next photo down shows the fall color of the Beaver Creek witch alder (Fothergilla gardenii 'KLMtwo'). I love the combinations of maroon, red and orange on this durable shrub. In May, this plant is smothered in small, bottle-brush-like white blooms (also fragrant). We have many of this variety in our woodland walk garden where it tolerates part shade with no difficulty.
I was gone most of the morning to the funeral for Dr. Luis Owano, long time volunteer at RBG. His family is truly wonderful and allowed me to say a couple words at the funeral. Luis' hard work here at the gardens will carry on with his monumental woody plant inventory and all the new signs he made that we'll place out in the gardens next spring. We'll also dedicate a tree to Dr. Owano at that time. On the way back, I picked up HLS lights and supplies and continue to work on the "to do" piles on my desk. After the guys (Marv, Terry, Pat and Big John) finished working on lights, they all headed out for various gardening tasks around the gardens. John also went on a gas run and Marv spent time on the CASE endloader getting our mammoth piles sorted and the growing compost pile turned over. Dick H. was in to run many loads to the dump. Jenny came in to work on organizing and processing labels that will be used for next year. Ron K. was in to work in his assigned garden space (woodland walk) and Dr. Gredler came in for some mowing/leaf collection rounds in the hot spots. Myrt, Mary and Gena came in this morning and started cutting down the daylilies (Hemerocallis) in the Potter Daylily Collection. As usual, they did a great job. Directly below is a little "grove" of five Tiger Eyes sumacs (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') which continue to catch attention from Palmer Drive as that fall color is becoming a vivid orange right now. At the bottom is our picturesque Japanese garden benefiting from the seasonal transition of color right now. While leaf collection becomes challenging in this space, the framework of trees and shrubs is perfect for this popular garden. Jumbo Jim and RECAPPERS have done a nice job keeping up with the leaves and while the cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) drop leaves early and make a mess, at least they're also done early!