Around twenty four deer could be oberved at the gardens today although the damage they caused was non-existent compared to their warm-blooded counterparts that have already started to tour the gardens for a snack. The top photo shows Terry (left) and Marv hauling out deer for one of the displays that they put up for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). I'll have to post some shots of their creation this weekend as it is quite impressive and that's all I'll say. Directly above is the sunken garden where Big John secured these three groupings of deer yesterday as part of the HLS display. Del, one of our Grumpies, has made these for years and there are some for sale in the RBG Cottage Gallery Gifts. I hope the Market Mingle held at the Parker Education Center went well tonight and was well-attended. Directly below are the showy fruits of the 'Early Amethyst' beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) near the gazebo garden. While the fruits are small, they sure offer an interesting color this late in the season. The next two photos down show the beauty that frost can add to the garden. The second photo down is the huge, rugged leaf of the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) that is normally silver but had this nice "frosty patina" this morning. This plant is not winter hardy but can be found every year at the gardens and was a huge component of our white/silver/blue theme this past summer and in the Ornamental Edible display (edible stalks). The next photo down is a leaf of the common lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) which always looks nice after being tinged by Jack Frost.
We had some nice volunteer assistance today. Cindy (directly below) came in for her second Friday in a row and was a huge help in clearing some of the last annuals along the front entrance garden slope. The large silver plant in front of her is actually the exact cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) that I featured above. Kay also helped tackle that slope and the two of them together were a force of nature. I saw them going back and forth with full carts, empty carts, full carts,empty carts. Well done ladies! Dr. Gredler came in to do some mowing and Ron K. spent all morning purging leaves out of the woodland walk. Maury ran up to Madison to pick up our huge rental screen that we put up for the symposium and when he returned, he, Mark S. and I assembled it (no small feat!). We also saw Chuck S. and many others today as well. The second photo down shows the ornamental, exfoliating bark of the three-flower maple (Acer triflorum) which should become even more interesting during the winter. The bark on this species gets even more interesting with age. There are actually still some plants blooming out there after eight light frosts over the past four weeks! The third photo down shows the field scabious (Knautia arvensis) in the Scottish garden which is a blooming machine from June until the hardest of frosts. The last of the pollinators are targeting these frost-resistant blooms (1.5" wide) when the day warms up.
The grounds staff had a very busy day out in the gardens. It was Pat's last day (on the payroll for 2012) and he spent most of the morning working on gardening tasks. He finished cutting back some roses (Rosa sp.) and did a nice job hauling the huge pile of leaves that Ron K. accumulated in the woodland walk. Big John worked on securing the deer displays in the sunken garden, some light HLS decorating and he put up many of our larger HLS displays around the gardens. John also helped haul some items over the Parker Education center for the symposium tomorrow. Marianne was in all morning and finished decorating the saucer planters in front of the main building (they are going to look dynamite). She then continued her work on spreading half gallon milk jug luminaries along the HLS route. She has a good system and much of the way the lights are placed is directly related to the available power. We've gotten better at this each year! Janice was in to help Kris K. with final preparations for the symposium which included getting all the name lanyards created (among other duties). It was also Janice's last day on the time clock for 2012. Marv and Terry worked on their deer/sleigh project which is bigger and better than last year and will be one of the neatest features of the HLS this year. I'll get some photos soon but to fully appreciate it, you'll have to come to the HLS! I worked on various HLS duties and some other tasks this morning but left early to try to "nap away" a persistent cold that I'm hoping to shake by my presentation tomorrow at the symposium. UGH!
The gardens still have many beautiful plants; as your garden should as well. Directly below is the 'Silver Tower' Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis). There are many varieties of this Miscanthus species and this would be our tallest at close to 10' at maturity. Be wary of other Miscanthus species as some can become quite aggressive. The inflorescences (flower/seed heads) are top notch though and reminiscent of pampas grass which is not hardy for us. The next photo down features the showy fruits of the Korean mountain ash (Sorbus alnifolia) which also has impressive, white spring flower clusters and an orange fall color. I wish I had taken this shot a week ago as the birds have already been nibbling the fruit clusters (which I don't mind at all). The third photo down features the capsules of the European spindletree (Euonymus europaeus) which gets great fall color (maroon) and these pink fruiting structures that finally split open, revealing the orange seeds. Despite the toughness and beauty of this large shrub, it has proven to spread by seed in areas where it was introduced and we're starting to see many seedlings too with our milder winters. These may be destined for removal but I sure enjoy the fall show! The next photo down shows the architecturally impressive weeping Alaskan cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula') near the gazebo. What a nice form. We had to prune off the lower branches as the deer nibbled them to down to nubs a couple of winters ago. Taxonomists are also calling this Xanthocyparis but the old name is still quite common in the nursery trade. The last photo shows the frost resistant foliage of the Italian arum (Arum italicum) which will stay green throughout most of the winter. This plant is a spreader in warmer climates and has proven happy in our woodland walk garden where it ultimately forms bright orange fruiting clusters in late summer, reminiscent of the native Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).