Friday, January 31, 2014

Consider A "Seasonal Dash" Of Lime In The Garden

It's tough to categorize lime as a color in the garden.  As a variable (and subjective) color, lime can encompass a wide range of greens and head in to the "chartreusey" range. Regardless, the point of my blog is to emphasize effective seasonal plants that can offer some fun greens and bright lime components with flower and/or foliage.  Above is a chartreuse flowering tobacco (Nicotiana langsdorfii) which really looks dynamite with these bright pink petunias and the 'Purple Majesty' ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum) in the background.  Lime can offer a nice punctuation when combined with darker colors and can certainly brighten up a container or sunny border as well.  This blog focuses on seasonal plants but keep in mind the value of lime/chartreuse as it also relates to the flowers and/or foliage of perennials and woody plants too.  In 2013, we had two areas with a strong lime theme (see the next two photos).  They were very effective and note the use of the vining obelisks that were painted to give a nice lime vertical element along both long borders.  Read my blog yesterday for more information on our obsession with obelisks at RBG.  See further below for my tribute to lime and its impact in the garden.  Do consider a "seasonal dash" of lime in 2014!

Today was relatively quiet at the Horticulture Center and the weather wasn't too bad outside.  It looks like we'll have sporadic snow over the coming week but that isn't unusual!  Pat was in to process lights in the morning and later returned and went outside in the afternoon to bring in more lights from the Holiday Lights Show.  Janice stopped by for timely office work and Maury was in to run some errands.  Urban came in after the lunch hour to do some pruning and we also saw Bill O., Bev D. and Deb G.  It was a productive day for me with minimal interruptions, distractions or unexpected challenges!

lime border at RBG (2013) - maintained by Don and Pearl (volunteers)
lime border at RBG (2013) - maintained by Janet (volunteer)
mixed border with plenty of lime at RBG (2011)
'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) adding some bright chartreuse foliage (and red flowers in October) - not at RBG but can't recall garden location....
chartreusey coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) in a vivid annual border at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI)
green love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus 'Viridis')
'Sylphid' plume celosia (Celosia plumosa)
'Green Ball' dianthus (Dianthus hybrida)
'Queen Lime' zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis)
flowering tobacco (Nicotiana langsdorfii) - close-up
'Perfume Lime' flowering tobacco (Nicotiana hybrida)
'Sophistica Lime Green' petunia (Petunia)
'Lanai Lime Green' verbena (Verbena hybrida)
'Spring Green' cockscomb (Celosia cristata)
'Gypsy Lime Lace' sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas)
'Limon' Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum)
'Lime Zinger' elephant ear (Xanthosoma sp.)
'Royal Hawaiian Maui Gold' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta)
'Kong Jr. Lime Halo' coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
'Blazin' Lime' bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Obelisk For Garden Verticality

Today was quite "warm" (relatively speaking of course!).  It was in upper 20 degrees F range although the wind chill was significant too.  I had a presentation up in Dane County on Shade Plants that went well with less than 50% of the crowd falling asleep with my monotone presentation.  Actually, it was nice to see Lisa J. (UWEX Horticulture Educator for Dane Co.) up there as well as Paul Ganshert, Rich Miller and other green industry professionals.  I was lucky in that I missed the snow with my travels to and fro although we did get some blowing snow by the lunch hour.  It was a productive morning for the Grumpies with Pat and Urban out in the gardens bringing in lights and lots of indoor activity at the Horticulture Center.  Pat also processed lights for storage.  Jim, Vern and Ron Y. continued work on their carpentry project while Dr. Gredler and Gary continued with their respective painting projects.  Gene helped here and there and we later saw Bill O. who came in to help Larry.  Mark S. stopped by as well.  Maury was around and certainly others I missed seeing due to my morning gig.  Larry continued cleaning and sharpening tools which is a very important task over these winter months and our larger equipment is next on the tune up list.

It's important to mention and admit that I'm not using the word obelisk correctly.  The dictionary says that an obelisk is "a stone pillar, typically having a square cross section and pyramidal top.  Frequently used as a monument."  Well, my modified and refined definition of a garden obelisk is "a wooden, frequently painted, pyramidal structure with a square cross section that offers a strong vertical element in the garden and frequently a support for vines as well".  There are many styles of obelisks and we have been using them for many years out in the gardens. Our "carpentry-inclined" Grumpies make them annually and out in the gardens we have five different styles that are represented by heights of 4', 6', 7', 9', 12' and a 20' monster.  We sell a nice 6' cedar obelisk with a copper top in our Cottage Gallery Gifts for $125 plus tax and they are very popular.  We currently don't offer or sell plans for these although we're asked often about that possibility.  I've included just some of many obelisk photos I've taken over the years and keep in mind that the repainting occurs every winter as we plan for upcoming use in specific situations and color themes.  See further down for more obelisk information.

We've only had obelisks at RBG for the past 10 years or so.  It started with three six foot tall obelisks that we used to support vines.  I saw these in a catalog, cut out the photo and had our Grumpies build them just for fun. They looked neat and certainly offered a strong vertical element in the garden.  We also had lots of positive feedback from visitors regarding these structures.  The next year we started painting those original obelisks and a whole new world of opportunity opened up for us!  We currently have about 50 obelisks (see some above) that we secure out in the gardens each year.  As mentioned above, the paint colors selected for these are not random.  We coordinate obelisk color with collections and always rely on them as a strong vertical element and focal point out in the garden.  While we plant vines on many of these, some we don't at all.  For instance, in the top photo (2013), those obelisks (you can see six of eight in the formal annual sections) did not have vines and were selected for that strong blue impact.  We usually secure every obelisk with two stakes on opposite corners and use cable ties or screws on occasion to make sure that these don't get floppy (particularly once vines get established).  Proper anchoring is a must.  If we have time, we'll paint the anchoring stakes the same color as the obelisk so they aren't too conspicuous.  All of these are made of cedar and are painted or re-sealed each year.  Some have copper tops (from Menard's), finial tops or special pyramid tops made by the Grumpies for clean and sharp (literally and figuratively) contribution.

Above is the 20' obelisk in the "Jungle Garden" in 2013.  This actually had an opening for kids (or stooping adults) to pass under the obelisk (see below although the openings are hard to see).  The second photo down shows a view from inside the structure looking upwards.  Built in the fall of 2012, this giant obelisk has been used in two of our Holiday Lights Show displays (see fourth, fifth and sixth photo down).  While the scale of this giant obelisk may not be appropriate for the home garden, it works in the areas that we've positioned it.  There are unsubstantiated rumors of a second one being constructed this winter....

From left to right are Jim, Vern and Dave although Bob A. and Ron Y. are also involved with the obelisk creation and in this case, some repairs.
above is Rose doing a color conversion

These "garden pyramids" fall in to our originally errant (but creatively modified) definition of an obelisk in terms of their contribution out in the garden.  Note the color transformations over the years (seen below) and the fact that these structures are built to rest comfortably level on our 30 degree entrance garden slope.  We will be converting these to pink for 2014 if that gives you any hint on a color theme? :)

2013 Entrance Garden
2012 Entrance Garden
2011 Entrance Garden

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Marvelous Meadow Rues

It was nice to see a "warm-up" today with temperatures finally getting in the low 20 degrees F on a nice, sunny day.  We had some welcome and appreciated volunteer assistance today with Dr. Gredler continuing to repaint obelisks with his recent color range being red and blue.  Pat also helped with some painting and then headed out in the gardens to bring in more lights where they weren't frozen down.  It's going to be a "longer than usual" process for bringing in additional Holiday Lights Show (HLS) elements if we don't get some warmer weather for thawing (and for our volunteers!).  Patrea worked on a top secret painting project that will be a portion of our "Jungle Garden" this year.  Chuck was in for recycling and Maury came in to run some errands for us.  Bill O. tidied up the Horticulture Center and we also saw Kay, Cindy and many others today.

I love meadow rues (Thalictrum sp.) and have never seen them do poorly in the damper, partly shaded areas where we plant them at RBG.  Above is a bloom cluster of the columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium).  Note the "columbine-like" foliage as well.  A member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family, this perennial has been a real workhorse in the garden with a long bloom period (varies by species) and ornamental foliage.  There are 22 species native to North America although many of our best selections are from Europe, Russia and Asia.  Meadow rues can thrive in full sun if they have ample moisture although the best specimens I've seen have had some degree of shading (wet soils are a must).  They universally despise dry soils so don't even insult meadow rues with that situation.  Local garden centers will usually carry a couple species and varieties and it's nice to see a wide range of heights available from 1' tall to 10' tall!  The foliage, very "columbine-like" in appearance typically has a bluish-green tinge and rarely exhibits any insect or disease damage.  Some selections also feature deep purple or near-black stems.  I love the lacy flowers and the bloom window is quite long as the flowers also "fade out" nicely and maintain some decent color during that process.  Most bloom from late June well in to the summer.  There are lots of options out there and I encourage you to do more research as this blog doesn't begin to do this stalwart perennial justice.  Here are some of my favorite shots (and selections) below.

yellow meadow rue (Thalictrum flavum subsp. glaucum) - 36"+
yellow meadow rue (Thalictrum flavum subsp. glaucum) - 36"+
close-up of yellow meadow rue (Thalictrum flavum subsp. glaucum) - 36"+
columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium) - 36"
'Thundercloud' columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium) - 36" (Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit) - it has faded a bit here with early color like the photo above of the straight species

 white columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium 'Alba') - 36"
 white columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium 'Alba') - 36"
 white columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium 'Alba') - 36"
dwarf Korean meadow rue (Thalictrum kiusianum) - 12" moderate spreader
lavender mist meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) - 72"++ (we've grown it 10' tall at RBG!)
lavender mist meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) - 72"++
lavender mist meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) - 72"++
close-up of lavender mist meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) - 72"++
'Splendide' meadow rue (Thalictrum x delavayi) - 6-9' tall!
'Splendide' meadow rue (Thalictrum x delavayi) - 6-9' tall!