Monday, September 30, 2013

More Good Weather

Today was another beautiful day of sunshine and blue skies.  We did get a bit of rain overnight on Saturday which helped green up the grass but we continue to irrigate and water as needed.  We're still deficient in moisture for the summer months and will continue to water as needed until we get some hard frosts.  Above is a nice shot of the pergola in the French formal garden.  The roses are still showing some color and I believe we have one more wedding scheduled for this space yet this year.  We had a great crew of grounds staff and volunteers today and with Larry gone on vacation, everything ran smoother today.  Below are some shots from today.  See the bottom of the blog for the announcement for an upcoming program at RBG.

'Zahara Double Cherry' zinnia (Zinnia marylandica) - annual
'Zahara Double Fire' zinnia (Zinnia marylandica) - annual
fall color on Coppertina ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Mindia') - woody shrub

How many Grumpies does it take to fill a bucket of water.  The answer is "two" when it involves Gary and Rollie as seen above (Rollie with hat).  The guys were loading up buckets to water new trees which is very timely as we like to give all the woody plants a good soaking in fall if Mother Nature isn't helping out enough.  The target trees the guys watered aren't near our spigots so this approach is currently the most effective.  Below (left to right) are Lloyd, Larry H. and Gene. The guys dismantled and stacked all our plant sale tables for storage which is no small feat.  Ron W. was in as well and ultimately these guys shifted to leaf collection out in the gardens as well.  The second photo down shows Dave (with a look of terror) and Jim finishing up a memorial bench. These guys, along with Vern and Ron Y., had many projects today including more bench work and some thoughts on Holiday Lights Show (HLS) displays.  Dick H. helped the guys with some projects and picked up a sweet donation of tools.  Del was also in to help out here and there.  Maury ran some errands for supplies related to the HLS and Dr. Gredler was in for mowing.  Betty H. spent more time "purging" her garden areas of spent annuals.  Eva came in to tidy the entrance garden and we also saw Darcie O., Linda, Mary W., Joan H., Bill O. and many others.  

we're seeing a lot of these puffball mushrooms emerging

The grounds staff had no shortage of tasks today.  Above is Terry smoothing out a flower bed after he removed all the plants.  Terry also set up sprinklers, watered containers and worked on many other gardening tasks.  Cindy tidied the front entrance garden, larch wall display and did a nice job watering out in the gardens and in the yard.  Big John ran irrigation, set up sprinklers, did some shearing, cut back some shrubs and worked on some other projects too.  Janice came in to work on various office tasks, many involving collecting data regarding our volunteers and their donated hours.  I spent time on multiple tasks, had a meeting and am becoming much more active in HLS preparations.  Below are some other recent images out in the gardens.

hips of the white Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa 'Alba') - woody
Short's goldenrod (Solidago shortii) - perennial
entrance garden color with the 'Dialogue' sculpture in the background
moss shot from "Mr. Moss" and his garden (same below)

Don't miss the Emerald Ash Borer Community Forum on Tuesday, October 8th at RBG (1455 Palmer Drive).  Sponsored by the City of Janesville, this event will include presenters that are familiar with this pest including Dr. Chris Williamson (Professor, UW-Madison Entomology), Rebecca Lane (Forester, Oak Creek, WI) and Mark Guthmiller (WI DNR Forest Health Specialist).  For questions, visit or call Leisure Services at 755-3030.

Friday, September 27, 2013

October Is Looming?

It was another beautiful day with warming temperatures near 80 degrees F.  It's hard to believe that October is just around the corner although the hint of fall color, like the Amur maple (Acer ginnala) below, certainly portends some cooler temperatures in the coming weeks.  At the top is our "ever-flowing urn" that has a thin sheen of water spilling over the sides that is pumped up from the bottom.  Someone floated a zinnia flower on top which I thought was a nice touch!  The photo above shows yours truly (left) with Bill Thomas, Executive Director from Chanticleer ( who came to visit today.  I met Bill years ago and if you haven't been to Chanticleer (Philadelphia area) you'd better schedule a visit as it is one of the best gardens in the country.  Bill was travelling in the area and it was nice sharing the garden (and lunch!) with him.  We had a busy day with weekend preparations and certainly hope that we get some rain Saturday evening which looks likely.  We continue to water as needed and spent some time primping the gazebo garden and North point garden which will both host weddings shortly.  Below are some other recent images from the gardens.

fall color (a bit early) of Amur maple (Acer ginnala) - woody plant
'Red Cathedral' amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) leaning on Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) - both annuals
cool seed heads of the 'China Purple' bush clematis (Clematis heracleifolia) - perennial

The grounds staff had a productive day.  Above is Cindy in the All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden that she's been maintaining since May.  While some varieties have been removed as needed, there is still lots of color in this chronologically arranged display.  Cindy did a nice job in here and we'll extend the interest of this collection as long as possible.  Cindy also watered and helped with some other tasks as well.  Terry set up sprinklers, push mowed, cut back perennials, dug out some thugs and helped tidy up for weddings.  Pat was back in action and also push mowed, watered, tidied up and worked on other projects as well. Janice also watered, weeded, tidied, did the cutting display and worked on some administrative tasks that are becoming pressing.  I bounced between projects and am finalizing a lecture I'm giving on Sunday at RBG.  Below is a neat coleus in the sunken garden.

'Fishnet Stockings' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) - annual

The volunteers were again invaluable today.  Above are Ron and Bev tidying up the sunken garden which gets a very quick accumulation of leaves daily.  I wanted an action shot of these lovebirds but they are attached at the hip and had to snuggle for this shot (insert nausea...).  :)  They did a great job.  Mary H. tidied up her area and Betty H. was in to tackle one of her two berms.  Kay collected leaves in her section of the shade garden and installed another wave of perennials.  Ron K. spent some serious clean-up time in the woodland walk garden and Eva was also in for some tidying up duties in the ornamental edible garden and entrance garden.  Dr. Gredler and Bill took care of their mowing duties and Vern finished up his lettering project on the new bench.  We also saw Chuck S., Dave and Dorothy T., Bill O. (#2) and many others today.  Below are some additional shots from the gardens.

grapeleaf anemone (Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima') - perennial
'Jack's Giant' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta) - annual
compact papyrus or umbrella grass (Cyperus involucratus 'Baby Tut') - annual
'David' garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) - perennial (fragrant!)
'Fireworks' rough goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) - perennial
27 Porta-Potties near our prairie for 2,500 attendees and participants of one of the largest cross country meets in the country (tomorrow morning) the math though.....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Foggy Start

This morning was cool and very foggy on the way to the gardens and throughout the gardens themselves.  I like the foggy look though as seen both above and below.  Above is the observation pier with the arched bridge in the distance.  Directly below are the formal annual sections and those obelisks have looked great all year.  They'll be out there with holiday lights on them soon as their contribution to the garden will continue throughout the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  The sunshine then took over and the fog and dew disappeared quickly.  Thursdays, as usual, are always productive and today was no exception.  There were a wide range of projects going on both at the Horticulture Center and out in the gardens.  It's always nice to see more visitors coming to the gardens to catch the late season color.  We've always been proud of our ability to extend the garden color and not look like a garden on "the decline".  Of course, frost will be a big factor but it doesn't make sense to even try to predict when that will arrive.  

formal annual sections this morning
the North point Adirondack chairs still offer a great view
the 'Silver Falls' aluminum plant (Dichondra argentea) cascades nicely

We had a diverse volunteer task list today but lots of able and willing help. Above is Janice (green) working with Vicki on repairing lights for the HLS.  All the lights have been tested and those in the "to be repaired" section have become our next target.  Joy O. came in to work with the ladies and Marilyn H. helped with this  task later in the morning too.  Shirley (directly below) did a great job tidying up the Scottish garden and sunken garden.  The bright haze around Shirley is from her halo, not the rising sun as you might think.  The second and third photos down show our Grumpettes removing impatiens from a bed that is looking a bit rough.  Marilyn, Eva, Karla, Susie and Mary R. all worked in this area and shifted in to an adjacent area as well for more tidying efforts.  Hal and Doris R. tidied up their assigned garden area with plant removals and primping.  Betty H. was also in to tackle her two areas as well.   The fourth photo down shows (from left to right), Ron P., Steve, Dick H. and Bob C.  These guys spent the morning disassembling our many tents from the Fall Plant Sale.  It is a science to make sure these tents are put away and stored properly so all the parts are together and ready to go for the sale next spring.  The carpenters had a busy day.  The fifth photo down shows Jim (left) and Dave on a cart.  They were out in the gardens repairing some items.  Vern and Ron Y. (sixth photo down) worked on benches.  Vern continues ink the lettering on a new memorial bench and Ron Y. is staining the last of the three new benches made by the guys.  Dr. Gredler did his mowing rounds and continues to aerate lawns as well.  We also saw Mary W., Marsha M. and many others today.

The grounds staff had a full day (or a full half day in Cheryl's case...).  Larry ran irrigation, push mowed, weed whipped, checked water features, watered and did a wide range of tasks.  Big John set up sprinklers, watered trees, shrubs, containers and the yard, sheared, cut back grasses and also bounced between various projects.  Cheryl did some watering and focused her tidying efforts near the gazebo which will host another wedding this weekend.  It looks like we still have nine more weddings scheduled with the last one on October 26th!   That can be a great time or a rough time depending on the weather of course.  The frequency and severity of the frosts will also be a big factor.  Janice helped orient our little elves (Vicki, Joy and Marilyn) with our lights repair procedures and went on to a wide range of gardening tasks later in the day.  She did a nice job with the Chestnut House volunteers yesterday (leaf raking) too which I forgot to mention.  I'm still bouncing between projects, had a meeting and continue to get poised and ready for the last stretch of 2013!  Below are some other shots from today.

'Early Amethyst' purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) - woody shrub
'The Blues' little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) - perennial
'Rozanne' perennial geranium (Geranium hybrida) - perennial
'Ginger Love' fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) - perennial
'Bright Lights' Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) in a re-purposed pallet planter - annual
"STOP" by the gardens and catch late season color before it's gone!!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Perfect Week?

This week has been perfect weather for the start to Autumn 2013.  The cool mornings warm up gradually with sunshine and blue skies predominating.  While we are doing more watering and irrigation to keep up, we couldn't ask for better gardening weather.  Looks like maybe some rain on Saturday night which would be excellent.  I just ran across some nice comments and recent photos of RBG from the blog of Nick Hermes.  Called "Confessions of a Plant Geek", Nick's blog can be accessed at  I've enjoyed his blog (he describes it as a blog about botanical obsession!) in the past and hope to meet him in the future.  It was another typical day of keeping the gardens tidy as we still hope to see an influx of visitors over the coming 3-6 weeks (depending on when we get frost in October).  Regardless, the color out in the gardens is still exceptional (like the mum above on the terrace) and fall colors are beginning to contribute as well.  Below are some other shots from today.  

patch of dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea 'Lacinato') - annual
Japanese shellflower (Chelonopsis yagiharana) - perennial (new at RBG)
Dahlberg daisy (Dyssodia tenuiloba) - annual
nicely backlit gladiola (Gladiolus, unknown variety) - annual

We had another solid crew of volunteers today.  Vern (above) has been working on "inking" in the letters for one of our new memorial benches.  I love the quote, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need", which is attributed to Cicero.  Vern has the patience of a tattoo artist (his former profession) as this project will take over a week easily.  Kay (below) and Eva (second photo down) did a nice job tidying up in the front entrance garden.  They are removing spent annuals, collecting leaves and accomplishing general tidying tasks.  They later moved on to some other areas.  Mary, Myrt and Nancy came in and did a thorough job of removing one of our larger impatiens plantings that was really looking sad.  The ladies collected many loads of debris and tidied up the space nicely.  Jenny E. came in for some volunteer action as well in her three assigned garden areas (formal perennial gardens and the hosta hollow).  Joy O. came in to test lights for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) and Dr. Gredler and Bill O. both did their mowing rounds.  We also saw Mark S., Mary W., Bev F. and many others today.

The grounds staff all had a variety of activities today and everyone was involved with some watering duties as well.  Cindy was here for a half day and worked on tidying the rose garden and watering two fairly large areas.  Cheryl tidied up the entrance garden bed along our frontage road (Palmer Drive), worked in the shade garden, tidied elsewhere and watered later in the day.  Terry set up sprinklers, helped water containers, re-sheared some large burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) and kept busy with myriad other projects.  Big John also had sprinklers going, ran irrigation zones, worked on a shearing project, cut back some grasses, helped water containers and also had a multitude of other duties.  I'm keeping up with my desk work piles and am starting the transition in to planning our fall gardening tasks and preparing for the Holiday Light Show which may seem distant on the calendar but to increasingly looming as there are so many preparations involved before we unveil the lights at the Taste of Chocolate on November 23rd.

seed capsules of 'Carmencita Pink' castor bean (Ricinus communis) - annual
seed capsules of above - each dried capsule will have three seeds (poisonous!)
'All Gold' Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) in nooks and crannies - perennial
the Jungle Garden pathway (this collection was a hit this year)
love this copper cheese vat planter in the English cottage garden featuring 'Royal Hawaiian Black Coral' elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) - annual
the Japanese garden stream spillway
the dry sea in the Japanese garden
$7 mums!  We're down to our last 60 or so.... (bulbs are in the gift shop)