Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Color Hitting Stride

It was a beautiful day with sunshine and temperatures in the upper 70 degrees F.  There is a chance of rain both tonight and through Saturday.  We'll see what materializes.  The gardens are still saturated and we wont have to worry about irrigation until next week (thankfully).  We will be checking all of our containers though! Above is the 'Purple Rooster' bee balm (Monarda) in the English cottage garden which is a popular, mildew-resistant variety that actually originated at our local Flower Factory Nursery (Stoughton, WI).  I've been impressed with it as have the bees and butterflies.  We had a nice tour today from Indianapolis that enjoyed the gardens.  Many were associated with the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) which is a great museum but has awesome gardens around it as well.  The grounds staff took a trip out that way years ago and we had a great tour of the gardens at the IMA.  These tour participants had been up at Olbrich yesterday and were headed to Anderson Japanese Gardens (Rockford, IL) after their visit to RBG.  They were a fun group.

We had a nice turnout of volunteers today with many converging on the "Giant Garden" seen above.  Cookie and Resa weeded and tidied up the North point garden, their assigned garden first, then ended up weeding as seen above.  Kay (foreground above) tidied her portion of the shade garden first then ended up also weeding in this area.  Roy and Mary were installing more plants in this same berm and Eva helped here as well after finishing her planting project in the gazebo garden.  Jan. R. did a fine job weeding in the Scottish garden and Bill O. came in early for mowing.  Dr. Gredler mowed as well and Stan spent significant time in the Japanese garden.  Ron K. spent time in the woodland walk garden weeding and planting another 30 or so perennials. Chuck S. and Dave B. were out training on the new cart for mobility impaired guests and continue to refine and improve the suggested routes (also based on where this cart can and can't go).  We also saw Dr. Yahr, Maury, Mary W. and many others.  Further below are four zinnias looking quite nice out there and most are part of our All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden which is arranged chronologically by the year of introduction.

'Gold Sun' zinnia (Zinnia elegans) [AAS 1979]
'Red Sun' zinnia (Zinnia elegans) [AAS 1978]
'Magellan Pink' zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
'Zowie! Yellow Flame' zinnia (Zinnia elegans) [AAS 2006]

The grounds staff had a full day which included planting, watering and other clean-up tasks before the weekend.  Above is Cindy doing some planting near the larch area.  We continue to install annuals and will do so over the coming weeks to finish our major areas and put in filler for any gaps.  Cindy also worked on weeding/tidying the AAS garden which is arranged in 13 long beds and watered the holding yard later in the day.  Big John and Pat were both here for a half day.  John hauled gravel to continue repairing path washouts, planted and worked on some other projects.  Pat push mowed, weeded and continued tidying the east border (removing bulb foliage and weeding).  Terry also push mowed, sheared boxwoods (Buxus 'Green Velvet') in the herb garden, did blower rounds in the wedding gardens, etc.   I set out more plants this morning, gave my tour and had a meeting with Ron W. and Mary F.P. later in the day.  Below are some more plants looking good out in the gardens. 

'Avocado'  plantain lily (Hosta) in the woodland walk garden
flowers of the purple catalpa (Catalpa x erubescens 'Purpurea') near the shade garden
ripe fruits of one of our serviceberries (Amelanchier sp.) just getting targeted by the birds!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Sunshine Returns

It was nice to have the sunshine back today after all the heavy rains and overcast days.  It was very humid and hot in the sun but that's pretty normal for this time of year anyway!  Our focus today was extensive garden clean-up after all the rainfall created muddy washouts and path issues here and there.  There is a chance of rain over the next three days but I hope we have some significant sunshine for our annuals to start filling in nicely.  Directly above is the popcorn plant (Cassia didymobotrya) which has been a big hit out in the gardens for the past couple of years.  The showy yellow flower spires on this tropical smell like buttered popcorn and this was a plant that we've used extensively in the Smelly Garden over the past two years.  Directly below is the 'Magellan Orange' zinnia (Zinnia elegans) which is one of the many components of our orange theme throughout the entrance garden and terrace garden.  This color collection is starting to fill in nicely and wont be subtle in terms of "visual impact"!  Our lime theme is also looking quite nice.  The second photo down is the perennial, Armenian basketflower (Centaurea macrocephala) which I featured in the "bud stage" in a recent blog posting.

We had a stellar cast of volunteers today.  It was an amazing turnout and I hope I can remember everyone that came in today.  Above are Eva (left) and Janice in the reception garden where we had additional weeding help from Steve, Vicki, Marilyn, Suzy, Karla, Mary R., Bob K. and Shirley.  The "target" weed was purslane (Portulaca oleracea) today although there were some other options as well.  Some of this group later helped with a planting project in the gazebo garden.  Marleen was in to work in her area and she also helped plant later in the morning.  Many of our Grumpies helped with path tidying which was vital after the mess all these downpours have recently caused.  The second photo down shows Larry H., Zach and Larry (left to right).  The guys are skimming the mud layer off the gravel which will later be covered with fresh gravel and smoothed out.  These guys were later joined by Ron P.  The third photo down shows Bob C. (left ) and Gene repairing gravel washouts on some of our paths.  Zach (Larry's grandson by the way) helped the guys with this project as well.  Dave, Vern, Jim and Ron Y. continued carpentry progress on our new obelisks and the newly widened bridge in the Japanese garden.  Dick H. helped here and there and ran errands as well.  Denny J. came in to help move some desks with John, Larry and Dick H.  It's always nice to have Denny's help (and strength!).  Hal and Doris R. tidied up their area and we also had Dr. Gredler out mowing.  Bill O. was in this afternoon to help too.  The fourth photo down shows Betty (left) and Shirley planting in the gazebo garden.  They were later joined by many other helpers.  Bob T. came in later for some air edging duties and we also saw Deb G., Jason O., Pat C.,  Dr. Yahr and many others.  

The grounds staff had an equally busy day.  Above is Big John helping with post rainstorm clean-up efforts in the sunken garden which had some mild flooding.  Here he's skimming up washed out mud that collected on many of the paths.  John also helped haul furniture, dig/pot perennials from the "soon to be upgraded" color rooms garden, watered, etc.  Larry push mowed, helped with various projects this morning, helped move furniture and other tasks.  Janice helped get the Grumpettes going today and worked on weeding/tidying multiple areas.  She also tidied the Potter Daylily Collection as we have a daylily group from Chicago touring the gardens this Saturday.  Janice also organized some of our trial plants and worked on labels with Jenny.  Jenny tidied up multiple areas including the sunken garden, entrance garden and English cottage garden.  Pat did a great job clearing our east border of bulb foliage, debris, etc. and helped tidy up other areas as well (with additional bulb cutting).  Cheryl was in for a half day and did a nice job getting closure to the weeding and tidying of the entire terrace garden.  I hauled and placed plants, helped with volunteers and continue to plan for more planting in the coming weeks.  While July can be hot, we still have some decent weather for planting and once the annuals are in place, we'll move to perennials and woodies.  We like to have the yard empty by August...just in time to start receiving plants for the fall plant sale in September.  Below are more plants recently photographed in the gardens (with identification underneath the image).

'Whirlwind' plantain lily (Hosta) near gazebo
Regal lily (Lilium regale 'Album') in children's garden (super fragrant!)
breadseed poppy (Papaver somniferum) in English cottage garden
'Gartenmeister Bonstadt' fuchsia (Fuchsia triphylla) in shade garden (annual)
Incrediball smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Abetwo')

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Drenching Continues

The deluge continued last night all the way through the late morning today.  At one point, I couldn't imagine more rain coming down at one time than what was pounding the gardens.  Above is the third day in a row that this primary path has been flooded.  The water does ultimately drain away but we haven't had much of a break from the rain over the past six days.  While the rain abated late in the morning, the sky was still overcast and it was relatively cool, windy (but still sticky with humidity).  The sun did emerge by early afternoon though.  The next two photos down (from today) also show some of the ponding and washouts. The fact that the gardens are built on an old sand and gravel quarry really is beneficial for quick drainage and we're not suffering like many of those with heavier soils.  The third photo down shows the first storm passing over the formal gardens.

The day started with a full crew of Terry, Big John, Cindy, Cheryl, Pat and myself.  With pounding rain and limited indoor projects, the gang took off and saved their hours for future garden work which will certainly include garden clean-up later in the week.  I thought I offered a viable and fun indoor project for the gang when I suggested that we start testing and repairing lights for the Holiday Lights Show....  I think that prompted the "death stares" and subsequent departures!  :)   I don't think the potential for rain is over quite yet but my tour of the gardens today didn't reveal significant damage.  Our pond level is still ok although there are some muddy paths and washouts on some of the sloped gravel paths.  I did see some visitors in the gardens late this morning but I was on my own most of the day and trudged through more desk work (including bills!, ugh).  I had some volunteers stop by including Dr. Gredler, Dr. Yahr, Julie G., Mary W., Dick P., Dick H., Dave T. Dorothy T., Deb G. and Maury.  Below are some colorful shots from today (identified under each image).  With a nice warm up and some dry days, the gardens should really be lush and colorful although the weeds will respond just as well!  

'Pretty Belinda' yarrow (Achillea) in the formal gardens
'Dark Towers' beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) in the North Point garden
'Climax' plantain lily (Hosta) in the gazebo garden (HUGE!)
'All Gold' Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) cascading from rock wall gaps near fern & moss garden
'Prichard's Variety' milky bellflower (Campanula lactiflora) in the sunken garden (4' tall!)
'Ringsabell Mulberry Rose' hybrid bellflower (Campanula hybrida) in the English cottage garden
pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida) in the prairie
butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in the prairie
close-up of above
shoreline patrol cruising the pond

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another Downpour

Our rain gauge had another 2" or so of rain measured from last night when it came down consistently from 1 am until this morning.  We had a brief respite from the rain for about 45 minutes around 7 am before it turned black as night and came pounding down again.  The gardens have received 7.5" of rain over the past five days which is quite sufficient!  The heavier rains have created some washouts, muddy puddles and other path issues but we've dealt with this all before.  It became sunny and tropical this afternoon although it looks like more rain this evening and darkened up again in mid afternoon.  While we did some path repair and clean-up today, much of that will be for naught once the rains come back.  The bulk of our tidying will be done tomorrow.  Nice shot above of the 'Flamethrower' coneflower (Echinacea hybrida).  Below is 'Secret Passion' coneflower (Echinacea sp.) which will ultimately be a double form as it fills in....look at all of those petals!  These are two of the many perennials that we'll be installing out in the gardens over the next couple of weeks.

The early weather discouraged and thwarted many of our Tuesday volunteers but we did have some action inside with Pat C. (above) working on labels at the Horticulture Center.  Dr. Gredler came in for some inside work and Dick H. was around for some welding tasks.  Bill O. also came in for some odd jobs and returned for some mowing out in the arboretum after the morning rains abated.  Dr. Gredler was able to head out for some damp mowing as well.  Shirley H. and Patrea W. both came in later to help Cheryl with some weeding in the terrace garden.  We also saw Kris K., Chuck S. and some others today.  Below is the 'Root Beer' coral bells (Heuchera) with a nice foliage color contribution.  We've accumulated many of these newer coral bells and are interested in not just their vivid spring colors but what they look like during the heat of summer (and can they take a tough winter!).  The next photo down is the 'London Fog' hosta (Hosta) which is an interesting "streaked and misted" variety that is filling in nicely.  Further down are more recent shots of showy plants out in the gardens.

'Root Beer' coral bells (Heuchera)
'London Fog' hosta (Hosta)
golden weigela (Weigela 'Looymansii Aurea')
pink Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica 'Pink Form')

The entire grounds staff, sans Terry, was here today and everyone hit the ground running right at 7 am.  By 7:45 am though, it was a downpour.  Jenny, Pat and John left to save their hours for better weather although Big John returned for some push mowing and perennial digging in the color rooms garden.  Both Pat and Jenny did some gardening before the weather turned foul.  Cheryl, Janice and Cindy all worked on inside projects which included lots of cleaning, organization and tidying.  Once the weather cleared, Cindy did the cutting display and continued weeding progress on the All-America Selections (AAS) garden (looking neat and tidy).  Cheryl weeded around the terrace garden and as mentioned above, had help from both Shirley H. and Patrea.  Janice worked on some signage, research projects and headed out for afternoon gardening tasks.  Larry spent most of the day working on equipment and cleaning up the mowers.  This was the perfect rainy day for those activities.  I tackled the bulk of my desk work today which should allow me to get back out in the gardens to place many of the donated plants (seen above) out in the gardens.  We have many kind donors of plant materials (garden centers, nurseries, etc.) and these extras (picked up yesterday) will fill many of our voids and offer more color.  The price was right for sure!  Directly below are some of the new signs that will be installed out in the gardens that promote various opportunities and provide information with a scan-ready code for a smart phone.  The bottom photo is one of the residences (Bendlin) on the RBG Home Garden Tour last year.  We have eight great gardens this year and RBG will be the ninth site for this enjoyable event.  Tickets ($10 in advance) are currently available at RBG, K&W Greenery and Patty's Plants (Milton, WI).

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Good Soaking Continues

We've had close to 5" of rain since last Friday and the ground is quite wet.  That was a thorough soaking and we had another .2" this morning as well with more on the way.  Some sunshine and heat will help get our summer annuals filling out but it looks like more chances of rain throughout the week.  Hard to believe the difference a year can make with this time last year already being considered drought-like conditions.  While the rain sure saves us time with the hand watering and irrigation, we know the weeds will be responding well to this too!  Directly above is the 'High Tide White' flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum) which is one variety in our flossflower collection this year.  Butterflies love flossflower and while the color range is narrow (white, blue, pink), the flowers are long-lasting and great as a cut flower as well.  Directly below is the large and fragrant, pale yellow bloom of the Beijing Gold tree lilac (Syringa pekinensis 'Zhang Zhiming') in the color rooms garden.  This variety is always impressive and has coppery, exfoliating bark which is quite showy as well.  The next photo down shows the odd/interesting flower bud of the Armenian basketflower (Centaurea macrocephala) which will open shortly in to a bright yellow flower cluster like a thistle.  I'll post the photo shortly but thought this stage of the "pre-bloom" interesting.  The third photo down shows one of our Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') clusters looking nice and bright.  However, they do like to colonize and send out "root runners" as seen in the foreground!

The grounds staff had a busy day although I was gone all morning picking up plants for the gardens.  With morning rains, the grounds staff kept busy with indoor projects and later headed out in to the gardens.  Jenny (above) headed out for some weeding including the Flossflower (Ageratum) Collection seen here.  Jenny will finish her spring with us in two weeks although we'll have her back briefly in fall.  She is a dynamo at anything she does.  Thousands of the moss roses (Portulaca sp.) have reseeded from the collection last year and we're "culling the herd" as seen above.  Terry and John were going to shear boxwood (Buxus sp.) hedges but it was just too damp.  Terry worked on weeding, container watering, etc. while John ran some errands, repaired path washouts and dug up perennials for relocation.  Larry spent time tidying up the area around our newly widened Japanese garden bridge.  Cindy worked her impressive weeding "kung fu" this morning after the rain cleared and continues to tidy up our All-America Selections (AAS) display garden that is really filling in nicely.  I caught up on some projects after my plant run and was a bit out of tune with what volunteers were here this morning.  I know Jim, Vern, Dave, Ron Y., Maury, Dr. Gredler and many others were here as well.  We also saw Dr. Yahr and Bill O. this afternoon.  Our Horticultural Therapy Committee (Janice, Cindy, Linda, Mary W., Karen, Art and Elaine) also met this afternoon.  Hopefully we'll have some dry weather to finish up some planting in select locations and job security is assured with weeding over the next couple of months!  UGH.  Below are more plant shots from today.

blooms of the "baby lilac" shrub (Leptodermis oblonga) - not a lilac!
'Sea Foam' rose (Rosa)
'Thunderbird' foamy bells (xHeucherella)
'Little Swain' daylily (Hemerocallis)
underside of 'Blazin' Rose' bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida) leaf (annual)