Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Plenty Of Fresh Air

Today was the perfect Autumn day and some nice weather in which to garden outside.  The morning was a little crisp (not unexpected) and it still looks like two mornings of frost at the end of the week.  Considering everything was so advanced this year due to the weather, I suppose hard frost a week earlier than average is acceptable.  Despite my unnatural attachment to my desk and the piles I need to go thru soon, I was able to get outside for some planting and other duties.  The top photo is one of our many asters (Aster sp.) out in the gardens.  I'm not sure which variety this is but the visitors (and bees) sure enjoy the show!  Directly above is the fall color of the swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) which should get a nice solid orange and fade to a amber brown in November.  We have a couple nice specimens of this under-utilized oak species around the pond.  Directly below is the start of fall color for the Amur maple (Acer ginnala).  This species has become weedy further east with lots of seedlings germinating although we haven't observed that tendency (yet!).  The four Amur maples that we have in the Japanese garden are among our best trees for fall color in October.  The next photo down shows the thug known as garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) still looking vigorous.  If you have the time on a warm, sunny day (daytime temperatures over 60 degrees F) in the next two weeks, get out and spray these with an herbicide or manually remove them.  This time of year is perfect for going on a killing spree with both garlic mustard and European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) as your primary targets.  The buckthorn will hold on to green leaves throughout the month, well beyond any other deciduous plants holding on to their leaves.  We cut the buckthorn at ground level and follow up immediately with painting full strength herbicide (Round-Up) on the fresh cut.  This targeted, direct application is very effective in October and we have seen very little resprouting of that stump the following spring.  The window for these targeted removals is here folks!

We had some nice volunteer assistance today.  Dr. Gredler came in for his mowing duties and the turf looks great.  The skunks and/or raccoons had been digging up the turf looking for grubs these past three weeks.  A recent application of grub control in those problem areas has taken care of the problem and the turf is finally regenerating.  With three more weddings out in the gardens over the next two weekends, we'll continue to tidy up the garden but the frost will certainly have an impact on our seasonal displays and container arrangements.  Kay came in all morning and did a great job removing annuals and tidying up in the gazebo garden with Big John.  She brought back many cart loads of debris and will finish her project tomorrow.  The gazebo has vast drifts of impatiens and other tropicals that will not make it thru this weekend.  Their prompt removal avoids accomplishing this process when the plants have become mushy. Yuck!  Magda tidied up her garden and will plant some bulbs in that space next week.  Ron K. was in the woodland walk garden (his assigned garden) all morning.  He started with some clean-up and was later distracted by some bulbs I brought for him to plant.  He is a trooper and did a nice job finishing his tasks in that space.  Dick H. was in to run some loads to the dump as we are creating some sizeable piles by the hour this time of year.  We also saw Deb G., Chuck S., Maury, Vern, Glenn and many others.  Directly below is the fall stem color of 'The Blues' little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) which is one of my favorite mid-height grasses (40").  This variety has nice, powder blue foliage all summer and this fall coloration, while not unusual for little bluestem, is quite pronounced this year and very ornamental.  Speaking of stems, the next photo down features the showy stems (petioles) of the 'Orange Fantasia' Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) which looks great but will probably suffer with hard frost.  The chard was a prominent feature throughout the gardens and particularly in the Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Display.  The third photo down shows the Japanese garden today with nice fall colors.  The yellow tree in the mid-left of the photo is our largest redbud (Cercis canadensis) which of course looks awesome in spring too.

The grounds crew had a rewarding day of removing plants and accomplishing a wide range of tasks in perfect, 74 degree F, sunny weather.  Larry checked over the water features, repaired some irrigation heads and spent most of the day testing our Holiday Lights Show (HLS) displays for repair needs.  This is a timely project as we'll have to address the issues with these pieces that need repair very soon.  Big John worked on lifting and potting up more elephant ears (Colocasia sp.) for winter storage.  He also removed plenty of annuals with Kay, watered containers and moved on to other projects.  He and Pat will run another load of tropicals to our storage greenhouse tomorrow.  We're hoping that the frost wont be too severe but time will tell.  Pat also removed many plants in the North American garden which also included our largest patch of impatiens.  Pat also watered containers.  Janice spent significant time in the sunken garden this morning.  She removed annuals, raked leaves and started the clean-up process in that space that we'll accomplish daily to be ready for the Saturday event.  Janice also tidied up containers and other elements near the Horticulture Center and watered.  We hope to have some massive veggie picking this week in our beds around the Horticulture Center before it gets too chilly.  I spent some time sorting through the remainder of our plants that need to go in the ground and am figuring out the labeling needs for these new plantings.  I also planted a couple small trees and most of a recent iris donation that should look great.  Directly below is a toad that I disturbed today and the look I got from this little guy is one that I get from the wife almost daily....  The second photo down is our increasingly colorful compost pile.  Marv will push this around tomorrow and we'll continue to make room for the vast amount of organic material coming back to this pile.

As my younger daughter and I walked the dogs yesterday, I was struck by the fall color this year.  There were many theories that the drought and heat would adversely affect the fall color show this season.  I think the colors look as vivid as always and are quite striking.  However, I did notice the prevalence of ash (Fraxinus sp.) trees in all our yards, neighborhoods, parks and along the streets.  Directly below is a large green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and the second photo down is the 'Autumn Purple' white ash (Fraxinus americana).  Check out your neighborhoods and see how many of these trees are in evidence.  With Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) a stark reality in our community, we need to consider the implications of heavy tree losses and what that means.   Do more research on EAB to understand how it spreads and ultimately kills the tree.  There are lots of chemical promotions for combating this problem although they are not promoted as 100% effective.  Some communities are selectively removing ashes in advance of EAB which seems odd to me.  Regardless of the approach, realize that there are over 700 million ash trees in WI and EAB has devastating potential to reduce this population in the coming decades.  The loss of both of these trees below, assuming that scenario, results in the loss of the benefits that the tree also provides (shade, wildlife habitat, oxygen production, filtering of pollutants, mitigating stormwater runoff, etc.).  I saw the EAB losses in MI and OH years ago and it was tragic.  My comments here are only meant to encourage everyone to educate themselves on EAB and the implications for our communities and woodlands. 

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