This morning was quite cold and made me wish we had more insulating snow cover (around the gardens and my drafty house!). There is a chance of snow later in the week but these frigid temperatures (see above) don't make for outdoor work at all. Note on our little weather station above, in the upper left corner, that there is a "warming trend" at least! UGH. We had some fun around the Horticulture Center today though. I spent the day ordering more seeds, finalizing presentations and working on upcoming events like the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo (www.wigardenexpo.com/), Spring Tree Sale (April 19-21), Spring Plant Sale (May 11-12), etc. There is no shortage of work for me at my desk this time of year and my pace is dictated by what I know will happen in April as things pick up speed around the gardens! Dr. Gredler and Pat (seen below) continued painting this morning and will probably never buy lime paint in the future after this experience! Vern came in for some carpentry work and we also saw Dick H. briefly. Janice was in to work on various projects and met with Lori regarding future volunteer opportunities. Lori and I also talked about some of our upcoming events and volunteer needs. We should have a fun Volunteer Soup & Social tonight!
As I wind down with my seed ordering (should be done next week), I'm starting to locate some "perennials of interest" for the gardens. With all of the new coneflower (Echinacea) hybrids and varieties being offered over the past decade, I've avoided trialing unknown varieties that may prove to be poor performers or not be an acceptable "what you see is what you get" from those pretty catalog photos. I'm relying more on my photographs/observations and have been keeping an eye out for interesting coneflower varieties for acquisition. It was nice to see many trials out in Michigan this past summer (2012) for coneflowers and the collection at the Chicago Botanic Garden is top notch. While I have no intention of keeping up with all the new "eye candy coneflowers" in the catalogs, I will seek those out that have strong stems, a nice stature, heavy flowering, consistent color and durability. Below are some of the varieties that I think look interesting and have potential. I wont indicate which are hybrids but the variety listing should guide you if you decide to seek any of these out. This is just a smattering of what is out there but again, be wary of those that don't have much of a trialing history. Keep in mind that some of the varieties have a color transition from new blooms to older blooms. In sequential order, these are 'Doublescoop Orangeberry', 'Leilani', 'Sombrero Salsa Red', 'Snowcone', 'Pink Poodle', 'Pica Bella' and 'Green Jewel'. Note that many of these varieties are not new. I love the old gardening adage that "New plants aren't necessarily good and good plants aren't necessarily new!!!"