Wednesday, February 20, 2013

RBG Welcomes Brent Back!

We're excited to have Brent Heath coming back to RBG this April.  Brent and his wife Becky own Brent & Becky's Bulbs ( and have been long supporters of the gardens.  Brent was part of our Bulbmania Symposium back in 2001 and I've seen him multiple times since then but not in Janesville.  He and Becky are very well connected in the horticulture industry (internationally) and are extremely knowledgeable.  We order plenty of both summer bulbs/tropicals from Brent and Becky as well as many of our fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs too!  Their products are well-represented at RBG.  Brent will be presenting The Tropical Paradise Garden (Tuesday, April 16th, from 6 pm until 8 pm) which includes a presentation on how to weave tropicals throughout your landscape.  The second component is a "plant your own" fragrant container garden with tropicals.  Brent will also do a book signing of his wonderful books on tulips and daffodils.  This experience is limited to 35 participants so check out more details at the RBG website (  The photo above is a tropical border at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) from last year and below is one of our 2012 containers at RBG containing 'Diamond Head' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta), 'Orange King' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) and 'Sweet Caroline Red' sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas).  

Tonight I'm presenting at the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society ( meeting at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI).  This will be a fun talk on plants as I'm presenting along with Ed Lyon (Director of Allen Centennial Gardens and former RBG Exec. Director), Jeff Epping (Director of Horticulture - Olbrich) and Mark Konlock (Director of Horticulture - Green Bay Botanical Garden).  We've all compiled some of our favorite plants with a focus on new introductions and will give a fun talk and bounce back and forth.  One of the perennials that I'm promoting is the 'River Mist' variegated Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) seen below.  This grass came out a couple years ago and is quite colorful in the sunny or lightly shaded border.  The standard green species is nice too and both will form these "oat-like" fruiting structures.  Note in the second photo down that the variegation on 'River Mist' is also represented on the fruiting structure!  'River Mist'  just has a bit more "oompfh" in the garden and we've planted this variety in many locations (24-30" tall).  I spent the day continuing to make plant orders, organizing information for Jenny to start making labels for annuals, light naps, meetings, etc.  

Today was busy around the Horticulture Center with a continuation of many winter projects already in motion.  Vern (below) continued sanding benches prior to the application of new stain/sealer.  Vern has resealed most of the newly sanded benches and they look as good as new.  Pat continues work on the "tower of power" conversion to yellow.  The second photo down only shows the top 2/3 of that structure which Pat recently finished.  The bottom third can be seen in that same photo in the back left (white).  The third photo down shows Pat preparing the bottom section for painting and he's already devised another way to secure lights on this structure in 9 months.  Note on that structure that the carpenters have created some openings for our shorter and more flexible visitors to walk under the structure which will have vines on it.  There will of course be a "bypass lane" around the structure which will be the centerpiece of our "Giant Garden" which will include a very bold, tropical experience!  The fourth photo down shows Dr. Gredler (seated), Jim (green) and Urban, all painting obelisks.  We're nearing the end of that repainting project but have some others coming up soon.  Janice arrived in the late morning to work on more spring plant sale research and preparations.  We also saw Terry N., Nick K., Bill O. and many others today.  Larry went shopping for more salt (incoming snow) and to other stores for additional grounds needs.  

The volunteer soup dinner last night (see below) went very well.  We had about 60 people in attendance and these events continue to be a great way to stay connected to our volunteers. The response to all the soup was very positive and I enjoyed Janice's vegetable soup immensely (should have gone back for seconds...).  Lori had some nice comments and Mary followed up with some nice dialogue including a recognition of existing staff with a special "thank you" to Marv and Marianne for all their continued commitment to the gardens (46 years of combined service!).  My talk on the Michigan Plant Trials went well and perhaps I inspired some trips to view the four botanical gardens that I visited.  I also featured 50 or so really neat plants (mostly annuals observed at trial gardens) to look for in the garden centers this spring.  

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