Friday, October 19, 2012

Tough Student Volunteers

Today was dark and drizzling until about 1 pm when we saw a smidge of blue sky and some sunshine.  It then clouded over again.  The regional radar showed a huge system circulating over a good portion of Southern WI, Northern IL and Lake Michigan with plenty of rainfall.  The top photo shows the scenic Japanese garden this morning and directly above is our best Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') which is at the East gate where the Halloween Walk ( will start these next two evenings at 5:30 pm.  While it was a dreary day, we had some great volunteer assistance out in the gardens.  Directly below is a dedicated contingent from Shepherds College (Union Grove, WI) that came to help out in the gardens.  Directly below (left to right) are Leslie (instructor), Sean, Daniela, Joe and Donovan in the North Point garden where our activities started.  Assisted by Janice and RBG volunteer (and RPMGA Master Gardener) Cindy B., the gang did a great job clearing annuals and container plantings from the North Point garden.  Although it was muddy work and the drizzle never let up, our crew was very productive.  I think everyone's boots were 10 lbs. heavier by the end of the morning.  Heavy rainfall nudged the group back inside where we prepared our bulbs for the planting work day tomorrow (8 am - 12 noon).  Leslie has brought Shepherds College students to the gardens over the past four years and most of these students are also involved with horticulture classes as well.  Leslie is also a horticultural therapist, has presented at RBG in the past and is a great resource for us.  The second photo down shows the gang in action (Janice is in the red coat).  The third photo down was neat as I referred to this portion of the day as "bulb time" (during significant rainfall).  Sean, Daniela, Joe and Donovan were all processing spring bulbs in the left of the image while Marv, Terry and Marianne were processing Holiday Lights Show (HLS) bulbs to the right.  Dr. Gredler can be seen further below with his umbrella/mower combination in action.  Cindy B. was a huge help today with our volunteers as was Janice.  Cindy actually went back out in the afternoon to finish removing annuals from the North Point garden.  We also saw Dr. Yahr, Dick H., Mary W. and others.

Marv, Terry, Marianne, Big John and Janice all started on inside HLS work this morning.  It was the perfect day to test and repair lights which continues to be more daunting as our lights are getting older and more "frustratingly fickle".  Marv and Terry also unpacked some new LED displays that should look nice out in the HLS.  Pat came in too to help with this process and is excellent with lights repairs.  With the exception of some brief periods of dryness when we could get outside, the HLS work was the order of the day.  Marv and Terry also brought back obelisks and our cucumber supports from the gardens.  Marianne was also out in the gardens coming up with some HLS ideas which involve a tape measure, lights and a brick (top secret).  Aside from helping orient our volunteers this morning, I really sunk my teeth in to desk work which includes finishing presentations for our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner (October 23) and our November 3 Fall Symposium (The Winter Garden).  There is still time to sign up for the fall symposium!  Check it out at  I'll be talking about "Landscape Design for Winter Interest" while Brent Gustason from Midwest Groundcovers (St. Charles, IL) will be discussing "Plants for Winter Interest".  Brent is an excellent speaker and highly sought after for his knowledge.  In the afternoon, Stan Tekiela (author, photographer and naturalist) will be discussing "Uncommon Facts about Common Birds."  This should be an exciting day.  Directly below is the orange/brown fall color of the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in the Japanese garden.  Say that Latin name five times really fast!  This is another deciduous conifer that looses its needles like bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) or tamarack (Larix sp.).  The second photo down shows the very unique fall coloration of the 'Red Fox' katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Rotfuchs').  Normally, katsuratrees have a clear yellow fall color.  However, 'Red Fox' had deep maroon spring leaves that maintain a maroon tinge throughout the summer as well.  That pigmentation affects the fall color and makes the Autumn leaf transition quite interesting with some of the dark pigments retained on the leaf edges.  At the bottom is one of our top 10 small trees for fall color.  This is the Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) in the Japanese garden.  Although marginally winter hardy for us, this specimen has made it for five years now and we hope to enjoy flowers (not seen yet) and increasingly ornamental bark on this species as it ages.  That fall color is quite vivid though! 

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