Friday, October 5, 2012

Calm Before The Frost

Today was a quiet day around the gardens although both staff and volunteers had plenty of work to accomplish prior to the weekend.  The wedding tomorrow will be chilly but fall color is nice!  It sounds like light frost this evening with a heavy frost overnight on Saturday.  I've seen predictions of as low as 26 degrees F which should effectively finish off most of our annuals.  This morning was brisk at 35 degrees F but it turned out to be a nice, cool, Autumn day and perfect temperatures for being outside.  The fall color continues to be impressive albeit very brief this year.  At the top is the always beautiful fall color on the Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') which will continue to have more orange and red highlights over the next week or two.  We have many of these around the periphery of the garden and they are staggered along our frontage road (Palmer Drive) for impact.  I've had a half dozen people stop by in the past couple of weeks asking what that vivid shrub is out in the gardens.  The photo directly above is the fall color of the Angelica tree (Aralia spinosa).  This small tree has extremely spiny trunks, stems, etc. and does tend to colonize an area as a thicket.  While it also has beautiful creamy white summer flowers, the wicked spines of this species have also helped garner the common names of Devil's walkingstick and Hercules' club.  Directly below is another of the colorful, smaller switchgrasses (Panicum virgatum).  This is the selection Ruby Ribbons ('RR1') which is out of the University of Connecticut.  At only 36" tall, this variety is great for the mid-border and has reddish highlights all summer but the heaviest coloration is right now.

The grounds staff worked on myriad projects today.  Marv and Terry started the day by unpacking some new holiday displays (see directly below) for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  This gingerbread man is part of a more elaborate display but you'll just have to come to the HLS to see where it is featured!  The HLS this year should be dynamite and I hope we have huge crowds and a nice, light layer of fluffy snow.  This display is a sponsored piece from generous donors and we hope to have additional sponsored displays shortly.  Next week we'll start sinking our teeth in to decorating out in the gardens and I'll get my cords ready to go.  Marv did some nice work with the CASE endloader moving piles around, staging materials at the Horticulture Center and in general, doing some much needed organization of materials.  He (and Terry) also brought back some of our larger containers from the gardens that have been emptied.  Terry helped with these projects and also spent time emptying containers, push mowing and tidying up garden spaces.  Big John was in this morning to continue his composting project along the recently removed orange wall planting.  He also checked water features and continued removing annuals out in the gardens.  We saw Pat briefly as well.  I was out in the gardens this morning but spent most of my day catching up on desk work and planning for 2013.  The second photo down shows the native Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) at peak fall color up the trunk and branches of a cottonwood (Populus deltoides).  I blogged about this vine earlier in the week and the specimen below is right across Palmer Drive from the gardens.  Now is the time of year when the fall color reveals the location of these vigorous vines.  The third photo down is the true Autumn crocus (Crocus sativus) which is an October bloomer for us.  While we don't have many out in the gardens (marginally hardy), they are welcome when they do bloom.  This species is the source of the precious spice, saffron.  With the cooler temperatures in the garden, many of our "cool season" grasses are showing renewed growth.  They were almost dormant this summer with the heat and drought but have bounced back in their more preferred season.  This is the tuber oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius) which has some nice variegation.  My best shots of this grass at peak are early May and early October!     

We had some nice volunteer efforts out in the gardens today.  Kay was in early to start annual removals in the shade garden.  With so many impatiens and begonias in this area, it was prudent to remove them before this chilly weekend as they will be mush next week.  Kay filled many cart loads with debris, tidied up and shifted over to finish another area near the zig-zag bridge.  Ron K. came in accomplish more leaf collection in the woodland walk garden and he planted another 200 or so spring blooming bulbs for color.  Again, the leaves seem to be dropping quickly which isn't a bad thing once we catch up with collecting them.  Maury F. ran some errands for us and was here for some other tasks.  Dick H. finished brake repairs on one of our trucks and made some runs to the dump for us.  Mary W. was in to work in the herb garden with Elsa, Lois and Ellie.  The ladies removed tender herbs and tidied all three sections of that garden.  Bill O. swept up the garage and went out for leaf collection as well.  Dr. Gredler was here for a good portion of the day accomplishing his Friday mower rounds.  We also saw Deb G., her sister & two grandsons, Dr. Yahr, Jim W. and many others.  Directly below are the seed heads of okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) which I've never observed in the past.  These look neat and the fact that we couldn't even give okra away to most of our volunteers allowed me to see this stage of seed capsule formation!  The next photo down is the late-blooming and vivid monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii) which will take some light frost and typically remain blue thru most of October.  At the bottom are the golden fall colors of the Eyestopper corktree (Phellodendron lavallei 'Longenecker') and the orange of the Juneberry or serviceberry (Amelanchier lamarckii) respectively.  This serviceberry is one of many available species (and numerous varieties) although all of them get decent to awesome fall color.   

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