Today was a return to more "normal" temperatures which is something that has eluded us all year! Today was crisp in the morning but it was a nice sunny day that ended up near 40 degrees F. As seen above, the evidence of deer activity out in the gardens is everywhere. I've not noticed much nibbling yet but it is just a matter of time once the ground freezes and we get some snow. Larry H. (seen below) came in to continue his burlap artistry on our yews (Taxus sp.). Some of his handiwork can be seen in the second photo down. He's obviously a little sloppy with throwing burlap around but the end result is perfect. These particular yews are upright forms ('Hicksii') that were decimated by deer three years ago. Larry did a nice job wrapping these and was here most of the day. We still have a couple of evergreens that we'll screen off and protect later this week or early next week. The third photo down shows our snow fence protection for some of the Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) hedge in the sunken garden. The height of that fence is only 6' which is no trouble for a deer to jump. However, by placing it 3' away from the hedge, we've created a questionable "landing zone" for the deer that may discourage any attempts at entering that "access envelope." This set-up has worked well for us in the past. We've exhausted our supply of burlap and most of our protective netting but should have enough to finish up for the season.
We had many other volunteers here today as well. Cindy (below) came in for another day of gardening and single handedly planted over 3,000 tulips (Tulipa) today. We had a very nice donation of tulips and daffodils (Narcissus) come to the gardens thru Jim H. (a Rotarian) and we're poking them in for additional color. Despite the December planting, our weather has still been mild and these bulbs should all do well. In the past, we've even planted donated bulbs as late as January with no loss of spring flower power. Pat and Urban were in for some more tree pruning out in the gardens and Urban also did some painting and prepping of our PVC planters. Marianne popped by this morning for some cleaning duties and milk jug luminary processing (we need empty, clean, 1/2 gallon milk jugs!). Marianne also continues to do a nice job of collecting and preparing any press releases, articles or other mentions of RBG out in the press. I think she's done this now for over six years. Dr. Gredler was in for painting and Maury stopped in as well. We also saw Dick H., Mary W., Tina B., Sue M., Rose and many others. The next two photos below Cindy show off some of the later features of the oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Many of our specimens still have some nice leaf color (maroon) and as the leaves drop, the showy, exfoliating/peeling stems become interesting.
I was solo today which worked out great as I was able to work on myriad projects including the continuation of seed catalog perusal. I'm starting to get my thoughts together for 2013 and our first order of business after the New Year will be to get all of our seed orders placed. We've been so fortunate to have such talented growers (all local) help start seeds and vegetative cuttings for our spring projects. We have very few limitations on what we can acquire and it is certainly fun to locate, plant and display new and interesting plant materials and combinations. Directly below is the colorful, winter stem color of the 'Flame' willow (Salix hybrida). I've featured this plant many times but it seems that the red stem color gets more intense as the season progresses. I think this coral-red competes easily with any red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus sp.). The next photo down is one of our rhododendrons (Rhododendron sp.) coping with the cold mornings by furling leaves to minimize the surface area of the leaves that would be exposed to dessicating winds. Evergreen rhododendrons always look "dry" in winter but they're just trying to cope with tough temperatures and conditions. The bottom photo shows some of our new Japanese hand hoes (great for weeding) that we'll use next year out in the gardens. These are becoming some of our most useful (and preferred) garden tools. They are great for skimming weeds but they need to be kept sharp!