As I type this blog around the lunch hour, the temperature is 50 degrees F with a projected high temperature of 63 degrees F. I heard the thunder last night and it was raining pretty good this morning as I came to work. I can't say that I remember thunder in January... The ground is still frozen in spots so the gardens are a mess as the rainfall puddles and pools everywhere. The two retention basins above were devised for runoff from the Horticulture Center parking lot. We'll see how much of this is left as it begins to freeze tomorrow and become a skating rink. It stopped raining this morning so Larry was able to head out and bring in more lights. Below are just some of the packaged lights ready for storage. Pat went out in the gardens for lights as well and Urban did some pruning along the shade garden. Vern came in to stain one of our teak benches (second photo down) and Dr. Gredler continued his obelisk painting with another coat of powder blue (third photo down). Dick H. did some welding work (third photo down) and we also saw Ron Y., Mary W. and many others today.
Cindy B. and I were emailing today about cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) which is one of my favorite annuals for a silvery, textural impact. That prompted me to pay some tribute to the plant which I photograph often and have grown every year here at RBG (see shots below). We plant cardoon from small containers and by the end of summer, we have a 4-5' wide by 3-4' tall plant (see directly below) that offers great color and rugged character. The second photo down shows cardoon with 'Black Magic' elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) along a border at Allen Centennial Gardens on the UW-Madison campus (a 2.5 acre, "must visit" garden). Ed Lyon, our former Executive Director, is the Director at that garden and always is doing some neat things. The third photo down shows the value of cardoon in a dark composition at RBG a couple years ago. We used silver and white to break up the rich combination and it was very effective. The newest foliar growth is always coming from the center so we will cut off the leaves on the outer edge as they age and flop on neighbors. In fact, you can snap them off by hand with the intent of keeping a "vase-shaped" or upright form. Old leaves can become matted and smother neighbors. This close relative of the artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is also considered an ornamental edible as the stems (frequently blanched) are used in many delicacies. The cardoon is a common vegetable in Northern Africa and has many other uses (including as a potential biofuel). Keep in mind the "real estate" this plant will dominate by mid-summer and plant neighbors accordingly. The fourth photo down shows the artichoke-like bloom which resembles a large, violet thistle. Our cardoons don't always bloom and it's odd that in some years, they all bloom. We plant cardoons primarily for the foliage though and have never been disappointed. The last cardoon photo below shows an October frost on the textural leaves.
I'm so blessed to have a job that allows me to bounce between different projects. It would be tough to do the same thing all day and I was fortunate to spend my day ordering more seeds, working on presentations, finalizing special event details, preparing for the WPT Garden Expo (www.wigardenexpo.com/) etc. I rarely look at the clock and pray for the day to end (it has happened though!). The registrations for our Spring Symposium (see below) are starting to roll in quickly. Check out our website for more information on this annual event which I think has four excellent speakers. Our website also has information on other upcoming events, lectures, etc. At the bottom is a new sign sample that Gary has been working on recently. These new, engraved signs will be used to recognize our assigned garden volunteers out in the gardens and is a big improvement over the previous laminated signs. Now Don and Pearl have to re-commit since we made them a darn sign! :)