Winter hasn't released that lasting grip yet and we had a chilly start to the day and a fairly cool week. It was nice and sunny though and I continue to take the classic photo that you see above. Despite recent warm days, there is still snow and ice in certain garden areas with more shading like the Japanese garden. We had a superior turnout of volunteers today for plenty of work out in the gardens and inside work at the Horticulture Center. We continue to take down Holiday Lights Show (HLS) elements although the tough winter is assisting as well. See directly below for Santa's reindeer starting to lose altitude in the sunken garden! Pat M. worked on bringing in more lights and other elements as did Larry H., Lloyd, Larry and Bill. The guys also brought in the 20' tall "Tower of Power" for processing as it will go back out in the gardens as a summer element. Pat did a nice job of orchestrating the original set-up of this obelisk and the transport today. There is a rumor that a second "Tower of Power" will be created shortly.... Bob C. and Gene continued garden clean-up which involved cutting back lots of perennial grasses. The guys also bounced between some other projects. Urban was in for pruning and Maury ran errands for us. Gary worked on creating and processing more labels (third photo down) and Dr. Gredler shifted from painting to cord processing with Gene (fourth photo down). Ron Y., Jim, Dave and Vern had plenty of carpentry work and Bob K. (new Grumpy) is working on some electrical improvements. Gary B. did more painting as did Del. We also had our Horticulture Therapy Committee meeting with Darcie, Tammie, Cindy B., Mary W., Karen, Janice and me. Our Home Garden Tour Committee met later in the evening (mark July 12th on your calendars for this event!). The second photo down shows the results of a partial prairie burn that the parks department started this morning. It was still a bit damp so they'll be back to finish it in the coming weeks.
I ordered some new varieties of false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) today and couldn't help but think how under-utilized they are in the garden. Also called smooth ox-eye, this native perennial thrives in a wide range of soils, forms a nice expanding mass and can tolerate part sun (full sun preferred though). While there are many "daisy-like" perennials out there, false sunflower is extremely durable with a long summer bloom period and a nice mid-height stature usually between 3' and 5'. There are some more compact varieties and the variability in flower forms is quite nice with double forms, semi-double forms and single forms. Some selections (see below) also have red "halos" in the flower center which adds more interest. Above (and directly below) is the 'Summer Sun' false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) which is one of my favorites. There are some varieties that also have slightly darker foliage with hints of maroon in the spring although I'm partial to the "webbed" variegated forms seen at the bottom of this blog. The variegated variety 'Loraine Sunshine' has lots of foliar interest with this white highlighting of the leaf veins. While an occasional green shoot will appear, we prune it out quickly and enjoy the combination of blooms and foliage but appreciate that the foliage contributes from May until mid October. The newer variety 'Summer Pink' has pink tints to the foliage as well. Regardless, you can't go wrong with considering false sunflowers for steady, reliable impact in your gardens.
'Summer Nights' (note red "halo" in center)
'Tuscan Sun' (compact)
'Asahi' (compact double)
'Loraine Sunshine' (foliage)