The wind chill this morning was well below zero degrees F but it warmed up to around 20 degrees F by the afternoon. We had a nice turnout of volunteers that worked both inside and outside throughout the morning and afternoon. The photo above shows Vern (red) putting the second coat of primer on our garden art suns. The guys have totally finished some of these with the remainder to be completed on Monday. In the distance is Del disassembling the deer cutouts from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). He will then stack these on pallets for efficient storage. Directly below are Dr. Gredler (red obelisk) and Dick W. (blue obelisk) doing some painting this morning. Dr. Gredler came back to apply another coat of red this afternoon. Urban helped Dick with some of the blue painting. The second photo down shows the assembly line on the suns with the application of primer being the focus (and last stage of the process). That photo also shows Bob, Urban, Dave T. and Jim. The third photo down shows Dave (white) and Jim working on the suns as well. Jim D. (new Grumpy) was in to help wrap up some more cords and Pat, Larry and Dick H. went out in the gardens to take down more lights. The guys also hauled back the rest of the temporary spruces (Picea) although their trips this morning were quite frigid. Gary spent time creating templates for some new labels that will be used this year. These included labels for memorial benches and some nice signs that will recognize our assigned gardeners out in the gardens this year and beyond.
I've always appreciated a nice sunrise and/or sunset. The sunrise this morning was beautiful (7 am here) and worthy of a photograph for sure (directly below). This is a shot from the Horticulture Center parking lot across Palmer Drive to the east (obviously). I then took a shot of one of our "bean towers" at the same time (second photo down). Twenty five of these were built by the Grumpies four years ago and they were installed in the vegetable beds around the Horticulture Center. These towers are 8' above ground with 2' below ground (set in concrete). They've supported heirloom runner beans, gourds, squash, tomatoes and this year, they will be supporting miniature pumpkins (Cucurbita). Janice has selected some fun varieties that will lend themselves to being trained as climbers and the fruits shouldn't be too heavy for the elevated vines/stems. We'll offer seeds of these various varieties at the Spring Plant Sale (May 11th and 12th). With names like 'Baby Boo White', 'Batwing', 'Crunchkin', 'Goosebumps', 'Munchkin', 'Snowball' and 'Wee Be Little', these should be oodles of fun!
I spent more time today working on seed ordering and had small orders with three more companies. I now have 90% of my seed ordered and all the vegetable seeds for the spring plant sale have been ordered. I also worked on a grant, slide lists for upcoming presentations, plant records and am getting together spring plant orders. I was exchanging emails with Jeff E. (Director of Horticulture) at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) and we both agreed on the merit of the Black Lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Eva'). This dark-leaved shrub has textural value for sure but the threadleaf, almost black leaves have immense value too, particularly when placed near lighter plants (yellow, white, powder blue, etc.) that allow that dark foliage to "pop" out. The three photos down show this plant and the wonderful foliage and flower features. We have a couple of these around the gardens and every other year we cut them back severely for fresh new growth and a more compact size at 6' or so. These will normally get 8'-10'+ in size and have an arching or vase shape. Black Lace responds well to aggressive pruning and is durable in a wide range of soils and lighting conditions. I'll include this one in my talk on shrubs next week at Olbrich. At the bottom are some of my kitschy garden items on my porch table out back. The recent light dusting of snow and the collective stares of these creatures attest to the cold temperatures although it looks like rain next week!