Friday, October 26, 2012

A Day Of Lights, Cords & Gardening

It was a brisk start to the day but the sun came out quickly (as expected) and we had a typical October day which was just beautiful.  Everyone jumped right in to Holiday Lights Show (HLS) work and we all spent most of the day focusing on preparations for this event.  We promote that we have 300,000 lights as part of this event and I think that is a conservative estimate.  The set-up (and take down) of the HLS is monumental and while we have been testing and repairing lights for over six weeks now, Marv and Terry have been out putting up lights since the beginning of October.  The top photo shows one of our cherub statues in the formal gardens that I've used to unceremoniously dangle a cord for future connection.  I try to elevate cords out of the moisture and this irreverent approach is simply prudent!  The second photo above shows the beautiful reflection across the pond of one of our weeping willows (Salix alba 'Tristis') this morning.  Look closely in the reflection where two ducks were eyeballing me as I took this photo from our observation pier.  Directly above is the superior fall color of the sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) near the arboretum.  The leaves that get the most sun are either red or maroon with the interior coloration being orange and yellow.  Few deciduous trees will rival this motley assortment of great colors that the sweetgum provides in fall.  I remember huge specimens of this tree on the University of Illinois campus and the fall color display will always be memorable.  Despite the "ticklings" of light frost, there are still some perennials blooming out in the gardens.  Directly below is a bloom of the 'Dark Beauty' toadlily (Tricyrtis formosana) still limping along in the gazebo garden.  Some of the colder evenings next week should finish these blooms off but it has been a good run!  The next photo down shows the colorful foliage of two garden sage (Salvia officinalis) cultivars.  The purple is 'Purpurascens' while the variegated form in the back is 'Aurea'.  Both of these are zone 5 perennials and will occasionally overwinter fine.  Their foliage contribution throughout the growing season is nice and they are both truly "ornamental edibles."  Rose hips anyone?  The third photo down shows the bright and glossy rose hips of the 'Dortmund' rose (Rosa) which is one of the best for hip production.  These remain colorful throughout the winter although they start fading after the New Year arrives.

We had some awesome volunteer assistance today.  Dr. Gredler was here for a good portion of the day mowing the last of our turf and continuing with his leaf collection.  We have a shredder/hopper attached to his mower and as he mows up and shreds the leaves, his collected debris is then placed on beds as mulch.  It's an efficient system although he has to empty the hopper quite often as he mows the areas with heavy leaf accumulation.  Kay (directly below) did a nice job taking a dent out of the entrance garden slope.  She has such a nice smile (even when her eyes are closed).  This huge area still has some color but we need to get the annuals cleared out so we can continue to decorate for HLS and it's a lot easier to remove plants now before they get mushy.  Ron K. (next photo down) spent the morning in his assigned garden; the woodland walk.  Ron continued to cut back perennials and collect leaves.  He has a huge area and has remarkably kept up with everything during a very tough year.  Cindy (third photo down) was here all morning as well and did a superb job tidying up the shade garden.  She had a large section to tackle and did a very thorough job.  Cindy is a new volunteer and a Rock Prairie Master Gardener.  We enjoy having her around and hope to see more of her in the near and imminent future.  We also saw Maury, Vern, Margaret and many others today. 

We had almost a full crew today (sans Larry and Jenny).  Marv and Terry strung twinkle lights on some of our largest hedges which is truly an art form that they have perfected.  The guys do a great job of putting them on evenly so they will also withstand the winds and snow as well.  They also figured out a nice way to decorate our culvert pipes and worked on some other HLS duties.  Pat spent the entire morning decorating more obelisks and does a great job after being trained by our obelisk decorating veteran, Janice.  Janice also decorated some obelisks but additionally worked on gardening as well as potting up some plants for our upcoming fall symposium (The Winter Garden) on November 3rd.  It's not too late to register!  Check out our website at for more information on this and other upcoming events.  On November 2nd, there is a Market Mingle that may of interest (see website also).  Marianne hauled out and placed a vast number of our half-gallon milk jug luminaries along paths that will ultimately illuminate the HLS route for visitors.  She has a good system and will continue these efforts next week.  Big John decorated (with lights) our three huge "pyramid" structures in the entrance garden.  He also put up HLS displays, hauled debris and bounced between some projects.  I ran cords all morning and probably slung out a good mile or so of cordage.  I've got a good jump on this task and Larry has been helping as well.  We had a great day and look forward to continued gardening and HLS progress next week!  Directly below is the fall color of the Prairie Flame shining sumac (Rhus copallina var. latifolia 'Morton') which was released out of the Chicagoland Grows Inc. program.  We have five of these behind the big waterfall in the Japanese garden and the fall color is top notch.  The second photo down shows the fruit set of one of our crabapples (Malus sp.).  This variety is listed as 'Harvest Gold' which I think is incorrect.  It may be 'Golden Hornet'.  Regardless the fruit set is impressive and ornamental.  At the bottom is the still ornamental dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea 'Lacinato') that we have throughout the entrance garden. That leaf color and texture is quite showy.

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