Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Humidity

An oppressive heat settled on the gardens today with a sticky feel to it.  I was mostly inside today (no surprise to the grounds staff) but truly felt bad for our staff and volunteers that toughed it out in the gardens today.  By the afternoon, it was just Terry, Cindy and Janice out in a 100 degree F. heat index.  UGH!  This reminds me of last summer.  Nice shot above that I took this morning of a black swallowtail in the "Pollinator's Paradise" theme of the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden.  This butterfly ignored me as he/she? worked over this butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) this morning.  While there is a chance of rain this afternoon and over the evening hours, we watered today based on an expectation of no rain (which is usually a safe bet!).  Below are some additional shots from today.

'Carmencita Pink' castor bean (Ricinus communis) seed capsules - annual
'Green Jewel' coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) - perennial
'Early Splendor' summer poinsettia (Amaranthus tricolor) - annual
the "orange slope" in the entrance garden this morning
'Torch' Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) close-up - annual (7' tall!)

The grounds staff had a brutal but productive day.  Cindy (above) can be seen tidying up the entrance garden before a busy weekend.  She also watered, planted, tidied the All-America Selections collection and did more watering!  Big John and Pat were here for half days.  John ran irrigation, set up sprinklers and finalized his path widening project in the Japanese garden (looks great).  Pat push mowed, planted in the Scottish garden and watered.  Terry set up lots of sprinklers, sheared boxwood (Buxus) and watered containers.  Janice watered, fertilized, weeded, picked veggies and did the cutting display which features ragweed (Ambrosia sp.) as the "Weed of the Week!".  Of course the gang did lots of other small projects as well in the sweltering heat.  Below is the 'Punch Bowl' hybrid blanketflower (Gaillardia hybrida) which is an annual variety that I plant and photograph every year here.

Our volunteers wisely selected this morning for the bulk of their activities and we had a strong showing as usual on a Friday.  Above is Ron K. in the woodland walk garden (his assigned garden) where he did plenty of clean-up and some planting of new perennials.  He does a great job and has a lot of square footage (which he dominates!).  Below (in order, top to bottom) are Kay, Terri and Eva.  The ladies did a dynamite job on the front entrance garden bed along Palmer Drive. They weeded, removed spent annuals, gossiped, cut back unruly annuals and really made it look nice.  They were all pretty spent by the end of the morning but the results were certainly worth their mild discomfort in brutal temperatures.  Note that Eva looks ready to pounce like a crazed cheetah (which oddly enough is her nickname too...).  On my way to work, I see Eva walking briskly almost every day.  I think she puts in 7 miles before she gets to the gardens (not joking).  We also saw Maury, Cheryl, Vern (carpentry), Dick H. (carpentry), Bill O. (mowing), Dr. Gredler (mowing), Bob & Bev D. (watering), Dr. Yahr and many others.  Pat R. came in to help recruit volunteers for the Fall Plant Sale (see our website!).  The fourth photo down shows Art with our new cart for mobility impaired guests.  He gave a tour for three folks today and he and Chuck S. do a great job with cart tours and standard docent tours.  All of our docents are superb!  Long weekend ahead with hopefully some rain!  Check out the cool punkins (and other photos) below...

2013 Mini-Pumpkin Collection -varieties
some of the pumpkins from the collection at the Horticulture Center
many of these will be used in the RBG education programs
fruiting structure of Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) - native perennial
fruiting structure of Italian arum (Arum italicum) - non-native perennial
one of our 56 environmental quote benches out in the gardens
another neat morning glory (Ipomoea sp.) - mesmerizing (and vigorously reseeding) annual

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Vital Volunteers

We had a crazy morning with lots going on around the gardens.  A group from UW-Whitewater had a function at the Parker Education Center which made for a full parking lot and lots of visitors.  We saw many people out in the gardens as well and had Susan and Jesse from the Ball Seed Company (West Chicago, IL) come to tour the gardens.  We had a very strong turnout of volunteers including our stalwart Grumpies and Grumpettes.  Needless to say, a wide range of activities occurred today but ultimately, we saw Marilyn (above in the hosta hollow garden), Winifred, Karla, Vicki, Eva, Mary R., Doris R., Jenny E., Betty H., Geesje, Pat R., Joan F., Corky F., Steve, Larry H., Bob C., Zach, Ron B., Dick H., Del, Ron P., Dave, Vern, Jim, Mary W., Rollie, Dr. Gredler, Dr. Yahr, Maury and many others.  In lieu of relating all their many duties, suffice it to say they all did a great job with various tasks such as leaf collection (darn those cottonwoods!), skimming gravel paths, weeding, collecting debris, watering, organizing the pumpkin collection, carpentry, etc.  Below are some shots of a few volunteers at RBG this morning.

Vicki raking leaves (like shoveling in a snowstorm...)
Mary R. doing a nice job
Winifred's attention to fine detail
Eva (left) and Karla in the fern & moss garden
Jenny tidying one of three of her assigned garden areas
Bob C. (left) and Zach skimming and replacing gravel in the English cottage garden
Vern, Jim and Dave (left to right) working on three new benches
talented photographer (and RBG volunteer), Marsha M. with camera in hand
The Jungle Garden looking lush this morning

The grounds staff had plenty of duties including more watering in the areas most in need.  Larry (above) ran irrigation, watered, push mowed and worked on other projects.  We're not sure why he's wearing these wader boots but he's been known to wear them around town too....odd.  Big John set up lots of sprinklers, watered containers, push mowed and continued his significant rock edging project in the Japanese garden.  Janice helped coordinate our volunteers this morning in multiple locations, helped tour with our Ball Seed guests, organized the mini-pumpkin collection, watered and is doing some research to help us organize a portion of our hosta collection.  I toured the entire gardens and was very pleased with our "late summer look".  I had time to tour with our guests as well and worked on myriad projects, most of which have a tight deadline.  I sure hope we get some rain in the coming days.  Below are some other shots taken today.

'Blonde Ambition' blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) with purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Vintage Wine') and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire') in the back (all three are perennials)
'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus x powellii) - annual
'Dwarf Blue Bedder' flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum) - annual
'Black Olive' ornamental hot pepper (Capsicum annuum) - annual
'Haight Ashbury' annual hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) - annual
'Bright Lights' Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) - annual
'October Skies' aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius) - perennial
'Rubenza' cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) - annual

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mid-Week Clean-Up

With the start of Autumn still 24 days away, the gardens are seeing the transition to late summer with plenty of cottonwood (Populus deltoides) leaves fluttering down.  The recent heat feels like July but we were happy to have a cloudy day today which made it considerably cooler than yesterday!  I think both staff and volunteers appreciated the heat reduction and an added breeze made the morning quite comfortable out in the gardens.  We also had plenty of visitors today including two small tours.  The color is still fabulous out in the gardens but the fact that we're nearing the "home stretch" over these coming six weeks is apparent.  Come enjoy the gardens before cooler temperatures return. Above is the 'Cherokee Sunset' gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) which really shows some nice Autumn tones out in the gardens.  Below are some additional indicators of the approach of September.

fruit clusters of the oakleaf mountainash (Sorbus hybrida 'Oakleaf')
'Little Lemon' compact goldenrod (Solidago hybrida 'Dansolitlem') - perennial
'Shockwave'  variegated garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) - perennial

Our volunteers were a great help again today as they are every day here at the gardens.  Pat C. (above) was in early to create labels and get them out in the gardens.  Here she's in the English cottage garden.  Pat (and Gary) have really organized and facilitated the labeling program nicely over the last couple of years.  The progress is amazing.  Kay did a great job weeding and clearing spent annuals out of the entrance garden flower bed near the RBG sign.  She came back with many cartloads and Kay improves any area she works in very quickly.  Directly below are Mary (pink) and Myrt heading out in to the gardens.  Note that they both are eating cookies before collecting leaves out in the gardens (multiple locations).  The next photo down shows Janet behind the lime wall planting which she has maintained superbly since May of this year.  Janet was waiting for me this morning at 6:15 am so she could get right in to the action.  Dr. Gredler (third photo down) was in for his mowing duties and Stan spent time tidying in the Japanese garden this afternoon.  We also saw Dick H., Dr. Yahr and many others today.  The fourth photo down shows some visitors from the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG).  Janice and Richard (far left) brought two CBG interns with them as well.  Richard, Display Garden Manager at CBG, gave our grounds staff a great tour a couple weeks ago when we went to visit CBG.  I spent some time with our CBG friends this morning and they seemed to enjoy the gardens.

The grounds staff had a day primarily filled with watering but we also did accomplish some garden tasks as well.  Cindy and Pat worked half days today.  Pat set up sprinklers, sheared, staked plants, planted and watered.  Cindy also watered many locations, tidied up the Rainbow Garden, planted in the gazebo and watered the yard and greenhouses.  Big John ran irrigation, set up many sprinklers, watered containers, new shrubs and spent time on some re-edging/path widening work down in the Japanese garden.   Janice came in for some major watering duties and also spent time in the mini-pumpkin collection at the Horticulture Center.  I placed plants for installation, set up sprinklers and continue to spend a lot of time in air-conditioned comfort preparing for upcoming events including the big Fall Plant Sale (see our website for details!).  Below are some additional plants and gardens of interest (photos from today).

copper cheese vat planter (English cottage garden) with centerpiece of 'Royal Hawaiian Black Coral' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) - annual
'Lemon Queen' perennial sunflower (Helianthus sp.) with pollinators
'Tidal Wave' weeping katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)
the All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden still looking great
"Pollinator's Paradise" theme in the NancyYahr Memorial Children's Garden
gazebo garden with arched bridge in the distance
North point garden looking tidy