This morning was frosty but at least we had the sunshine right away. The day warmed up nicely to around 40 degrees F which was comfortable for working on more Holiday Lights Show (HLS) preparations. With most of the grounds crew (Marv, Marianne and Terry) finishing up at the end of the week, we're trying to get the entire show finished by Friday. Pat and Janice have already "officially" finished for the year although we'll see both of them here and there over the coming months. John will continue for another two weeks and then just Larry and I will be "on the clock" until April of 2013. We've had a great year and it's nice to find some closure with the HLS. Our testing nights are next week and all the problems should be corrected prior to Thanksgiving. The premiere lighting of this event is on November 30th as part of the Taste of Chocolate event (see our website). This event is usually sold out and this year will be no exception. Directly above are the showy fruits of the 'Red Peacock' crabapple (Malus) near the Smelly Garden. This one always has a nice quantity of glossy, persistent fruits that the birds will target later in the winter. Directly below are the stems of the 'Flame' hybrid willow (Salix hybrida) along our west embankment. These large shrubs were green-stemmed all spring and summer but the cool temperatures and direct sunlight really make these quite colorful. We hack these down to 12" in March to encourage fresh growth and a contained size of 7' or so for each plant. That fresh, vigorous growth is also the most colorful later that same year. The next photo down shows the colorful needles of the golden Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana 'Wate's Golden'). This specimen will become even more of a vivid golden yellow in the coming months and be a bright beacon until June of next year. The next photo down shows the late color of another of our perennial geraniums (Geranium sp.); this one out in the herb garden.
Directly below is the 'Blue Cloak' concolor fir (Abies concolor) that I can't stop photographing. The needles on this slow-growing conifer are 3" long and a beautiful powder blue. I never get tired of seeing this variety and appreciate the contribution it provides every day of the year. The next photo down shows one of the two bucket trucks from L.P. Tree Service that were here this morning helping with HLS tasks. That's John up in the bucket and he's a veteran at securing our "dangling icicle lights". Essentially, he's hooking the female end of a 100 count (50' long) strand of clear twinkle lights on horizontal branches that will allow the strands to dangle straight down. The guys lighly secure these in the larger trees with soft, aluminum wire that keeps them secure but allows us to pull them down in January. John and two other guys finished up this task and now we'll catch up with connecting power to all of these strands. The overall effect of having 250+ of these out in the gardens is quite amazing. We appreciate their efforts. The next photo down shows Whitey who helped John with decorating our recently obtained and secured spruce (Picea) trees with lights. Urban was out in the gardens pruning more crabapples (Malus sp.) and Stan did a nice job tidying up in the Japanese garden this afternoon. Pat was in to repair some lights and he also decorated some trees out in the gardens. Dr. Gredler helped process some new lights and was one of the attendees at our Garden Development & Maintenance Committee meeting (also included Maury, Hal, Gary, Joanne, Big John, Dick P., Christine R., Iza and me). Maury also ran some HLS errands for us this morning.
Larry, Big John and I went out right away to work on HLS projects. John continued decorating the new trees with lights. He also hauled and secured more trees and did some gardening to break up the day. Larry ran more cords for me, trenched in cords as needed and was helpful with attaching cords to some of the "harder to reach" icicles that L.P. Tree Service hung this morning. I took my tractor and trailer out and finalized the cords in about five garden areas. I'll continue to progress throughout the garden and should be able to catch up with our power needs by the end of the week. It looks like the weather will be decent over the coming days so I think we're in pretty good shape. Directly below is some of the backlit, exfoliating bark of the river birch (Betula nigra 'Heritage') in the Japanese garden. Ornamental bark can be a wonderful asset in the garden throughout the year but certainly becomes more noticeable (and appreciated) in the winter months. I do an occasional blog for the Wisconsin Gardening Magazine (www.statebystategardening.com/wi/) and my most recent topic is ornamental bark. This is a great magazine by the way and a thoughtful gift this holiday season for the gardeners in your family (including you!). The second photo down is a silhoutee of a cottonwood (Populus deltoides) which has nice bark and substantial branching. Most of the icicle lights hung by L.P. Tree Service today are dangling from cottonwoods like this one.
The bottom photo shows a fruit that was an interesting find for me today. I found this under a ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) tree as I was running cords. I thought it was a displaced crabapple (Malus) at first and then realized that it was the fruit of the female ginkgo. Most ginkgos sold today are male clones as the females, with age, will produce and drop vast quantities of this fruit which has a horrible odor when stepped on or crushed. This trait is not ideal for areas in proximity to streets and sidewalks. This lone fruit smelled bad and I did notice some other fruits nearby too. I thought we had all male ginkgos at the gardens but this one is certainly a female and she is just revealing this in 2012! Ginkgo has a long history of herbal use with leaf extracts, root extracts and the seeds (kernels) being of value. Do more research on this interesting tree/herb with a 65 million year history.