The primary task out in the garden today was putting up our makeshift deer barriers as seen above. This "culinary redirection" at least keeps the voracious deer population (20+) away from the arborvitae (Thuja sp.) hedges that they've nibbled in the past. Of course, we'd prefer seeing the type of deer in the top photograph as they are very low maintenance and don't eat much! This is the fifth year in a row we've pounded stakes and secured thousands of feet of snow fencing as physical barriers. We've already seen evidence of deer in the gardens and they've already damaged some sumacs (Rhus sp.) and a small pine (Pinus). We don't have the budget for repellants so will continue to put up barriers around the tastiest of our collections which has been quite effective. Directly below is the 'Peach Crisp' coral bell (Heuchera) which had a bright orange spring coloration but had faded with the heat of summer and now the cooler late season temperatures have finalized the transition to this interesting chartreuse. The next photo down shows the winter form of the 'Dallas Blues' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). This variety has a nice, powder blue coloration during the growing season but this wispy winter form is quite snow tolerant and should look good until we cut this grass back in March.
We had a busy morning at the gardens this morning. Our deer fence installation team, directed by Big John, consisted of Larry H., Lloyd, Bob C., Dick H., Russ, Rollie and Dick P. and Maury (seen below). It's tough to tell these two guys apart when they are both wearing goofy red hats. It was cold work this morning and unfortunately, part of securing the fence with cable ties required glove-less hands. Some of the guys also collected debris later in the morning. Dick H. came back later in the afternoon to help Big John continue with the deer fencing. The next photo down shows Urban (ground level) and Pat doing more pruning in the color rooms garden. These guys are a great team and continue to progress with significant pruning while the weather is still decent. The next photo down shows Del frantically working on more deer cutouts for the gift shop. The next photo down shows Bob. A, Jim and Vern working on a "no-stoop" garden trough that we'll put out in the gardens next year. The guys have really built some neat, accessible planters over the years and they have a full winter of projects ahead to keep them out of trouble. Dave T. was also helping with the carpentry but he's not as photogenic as the other guys. Stan spent more time tidying up the Japanese garden this morning. Gary continued his progress on labels and I believe finished and installed the remainder of the labels for the woodland walk garden. Janice was in to peruse some of our catalogs and is already thinking about 2013 veggies. We also saw Ron Y., Tom C. (more electrical help, thanks!), Marv, Marianne, Jim H., Bill O. and many others.
I've never walked out in the gardens (or any garden) with my camera and not taken shots of interesting features like the ornamental bark of the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) on the Parker arch (directly below) separating the reception and sunken gardens respectively. This is an older specimen with a good sized trunk but look at the exfoliation! The next photo down shows the late fall tinting of the 'Caramel' coral bell (Heuchera) which also still has some significant color. We don't removed coral bell foliage until the spring as it is colorful late in the season and this growth helps insulate the newly emerging growth in spring. The third photo down shows the fruit cluster of the black jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens). This arching shrub (in the rose family) has nice white flowers in spring and while the fruits aren't overly showy (pea-sized), they are interesting and persist through the winter. I'm most impressed with how well black jetbead tolerates shade and poor soils.
Big John finishes his grounds duties tomorrow and was a big help today with installing the deer fencing. John also did various odds and ends and we'll continue to do some of our last tweaking for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). Strong winds this weekend tangled up a good portion of our dangling icicle lights but we're trying to everything in place before the premiere lighting of the HLS for the Taste of Chocolate event (might be sold out already...). Larry helped with many HLS duties today and worked with Tom C. on some final improvements. The two photos below were taken last Wednesday at our second testing night. Everything looked great and stayed on all day! I'm working on 2012 "closure items" but am balancing that with 2013 preparations (seed ordering, presentations, etc.).