The morning was brisk and the day didn't look real promising for a warm up with rain in the forecast. I spent most of the day up in Madison hanging out with Shelley Ryan, host and producer of The Wisconsin Gardener program on Wisconsin Public Television (WPT). It's hard to believe that Shelley has been doing this for 20 years. She is one of the neatest people I have ever me and without a doubt, the 15+ segments she has done at RBG have helped encourage awareness and visitation of RBG. I encountered rain on the way up to Madison and saw some snow as well although it didn't "stick". The trip back was damp too. Shelley is from Blue Mounds and said the snow was actually acumulating lightly this morning. We talked shop and are already discussing the next WPT Garden Expo which will be held on February 8th, 9th and 10th at the Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center. We always have a booth at the Expo and I've seen this event morph in to a very anticipated, well attended and much appreciated venue. I've always done some presentations at this event and it's traditionally been a great way to connect with current and potential visitors and supporters of RBG. The top picture shows some of the many leaves that we're still collecting. These are the leaves from one of our English oaks (Quercus robur) in the main parking lot. While most of our trees have dropped their leaves already, there are some that are still thinking about it over these next couple of weeks. The leaf clean-up duties at the gardens are monumental and we'll continue to work on this project until the snow flies. The leaf directly above is from one of the many Diabolo ninebarks (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo') in the gardens. The summer leaves (maroon) will typically get a bright, reddish maroon in fall but there are occasionally some other colorations that become apparent. Directly below is the exfoliating bark of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) and further down, the frosted leaves of the 'Black Scallop' bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) peaking out of some fallen leaves. This is a durable groundcover (moderately spreading) that also has neat blue flowers in early spring.
This is the time of year when our toughest of volunteers becomes apparent with the cold temperatures warding many others away. Kay came in this morning to continue removing the last of the annuals from the entrance garden berm. She showed me how many of our plants in that area had some serious roots and were challenging to dig out. I think the heat and drought were a factor as we observed some annuals developing major root systems that we've not noticed on previous occasions when they were removed. I'm sure there is a correlation there somewhere! Urban headed out in the gardens to continue to remove the suckers and water sprouts from the crabapples (Malus sp.) around the gardens. Urban has been doing this for many years and does a nice job. Bill O. was in this morning and worked on repairing one of our John Deere gator tires and later moved on to gardening work. We also saw Maury and many others. Directly below is ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea) still looking great. Every morning, our remaining kale look frosty and withered down. With some minor heat and sunshine, they perk up nicely and should look great beyond even Thanksgiving. The next image down is of my twinspur (Diascia barberae) at home. This is the variety 'Juliet Pink Eye' which looks great even now (planted back in May). This is a cool season annual (like pansies) that like the cooler months of spring (April thru early June) and the later months of summer and fall (late September thru October). Cool season annuals don't thrive or bloom well in the hot summer months but will rebound in fall (as my twinspur did) with cooler temperatures.
With Janice and Pat finished for the year (not necessarily as volunteers...), it was a small grounds staff today. Big John started out with some more gardening which included cutting back perennials and planting bulbs (tulips) in the formal gardens. He also set up more displays, ran cords and bounced between some different projects. Larry was a big help running cords to various displays and tweaking some of our cord arrangements. With some expanded displays this year, we might run out of cords shortly and will have to obtain more as needed. The guys also had some indoor plans ready in case of the arrival of rain. The photo down below is interesting as it is a collection of three plants, only one of which is desireable. The larger grey stems are from the desireable black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) which is a very nice shrub. However, the tan stem (just left of center) is from a red mulberry (Morus rubra) and all the green leaves are attached to smaller stems of a European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). When all the leaves were on the chokeberry, the interlopers were hard to detect. However, now is the time of year to look around the "knees" of your shrubs for these other plants that take advantage of the camouflage. Both of the non-desireable plants were probably introduced by birds as they were nibbling on chokeberries and pooping out the seeds from these other plants. That is also why fence rows get all sorts of woody plants growing up thru them (or under power lines) as the birds like to "deliver" seeds to various locations, particularly directly below where they are perched. Back to the situation below...I would be sure to clarify the non-desireables and then cut them at ground level. With a small paintbrush, I would then apply a full strength herbicide (Round Up concentrate) or other brush killer directly on the exposed cut. While it would be near impossible to removed the mulberry and buckthorn by traditional digging (without damaging the chokeberry), this "cut and paint" routine has served us well. Look for this situation as it is more prevalent than you might think.