Friday, October 31, 2014

A Hint of Snow For Halloween

Halloween started with some very light snow (see above) and it was a cold and windy day.  That didn't stop us from getting outside and the holiday was at least celebrated by Phoebe (below).  We don't allow dogs on RBG property but bumblebees are encouraged.  We had some great volunteer help today and while the wind made leaf collection difficult, there were still plenty of perennials and other debris to trim and collect.  Progress continued in regards to Holiday Lights Show (HLS) set-up as well.  With our "premiere lighting" at the Taste of Chocolate event (tickets selling fast!) on November 22nd, we have only three weeks to get everything in place, wired up and tested.  We're on track if we don't get too much more bad weather.  We'll see.  It was still a productive day despite the biting winds and 30 degree F windchill.  Below are additional photos from this morning.

 intense red fall color on 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) - woody tree
 intensifying orange fall color on Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) - woody tree
 excellent fall color on sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) - woody tree
late season blooms of witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) - small woody tree

The grounds staff had a busy day for sure.  We had some indoor projects and ultimately everyone ended up outside.  Directly above is Cindy working on packing up our cannas for winter storage.  We've been drying them recently and will have volunteer "babysitters" keep them over the winter for replanting in early April of 2015.  Cindy also helped with some HLS lights work on candy canes (with Nancy) and was out stringing the lights for the half gallon milk jug luminaries.  Pat (two photos directly below) finished up efforts on this "Tower of Power" which has close to 2,500 blue LED lights on it.  He's done a nice job with both towers and he came in late yesterday to anchor this structure against the aggressive winds last night and today.  The third photo down shows Terry, Big John and Bob K. (volunteer) working on securing trees for the HLS.  These are the donated trees we picked up yesterday and once in place, they'll all get a healthy dose of lighting.  Bob K. was a huge help today.  John and Terry also hauled out some other displays and HLS elements and continue to "live and breathe" this event daily.  Janice had some indoor projects, helped Kris K. prepare for the Fall Symposium (tomorrow) and also strung some lights.  I was "cord boy" all morning and caught up on other duties after lunch.


We had some stalwart volunteers today.  Eva (above) and Kay (below) both worked on collecting debris from various garden areas.  We are at least 83.5% done with fall garden clean-up and these two ladies have had an integral role in this progress!  They brought back many loads of debris and fought the winds as best they could.  Bob K. helped the boys with securing trees this morning and Dr. Gredler was out mowing.  Nancy N. came in to put more lighting on our giant candy canes. We also saw Marv B., Urban M., Kris K., Roman and many others today.  Further below are additional images from today.

 fruiting structures and fall color for the Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) - woody tree
fall color (top) and silver bottom of leaf for 'Fialaspire' silver poplar (Populus alba) - woody tree
 start of fall color on the 'Saratoga' ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) - woody tree
blooms of deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) still going - perennial

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Annual Tree Run

We had a nice "mini-convoy" this morning to Sunset Acres Tree Farm in Stoughton, WI.  The owners, Dwight and Deb, generously donated more pines from their farm for our 2014 Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  They also donated last year and we greatly appreciate their generosity in supporting this fundraiser. Check out for information on their neat set-up out there.  In the photo above, Dwight and Deb are the handsome couple at the far left in front of Big John (with the goofy hat).  Our "tree acquisition team" also consisted of Dick H., Larry H., Bob K. and Larry O.  Some of the action can be seen below.  There was also plenty of action back at the gardens with gardening, HLS work, etc.  I'm shy on volunteer photos from the gardens today due to my road trip but I know it was another productive day.

Aside from Larry and John going on the tree run, we also had Cheryl and Janice holding down the fort.  Cheryl worked primarily in the Scottish garden continuing clean-up efforts and Janice helped facilitate the volunteers this morning, worked in the Thomas Jefferson Collection, decorated obelisks with lights, etc.  Pat was in both this morning and this afternoon to continue work on his second "Tower of Power" out in the gardens.  Both Larry and John had afternoon duties as well and I was able to run some cords after lunch and catch up on desk work.  All I can smell is the pine sap which is "Mother Nature's cologne" today.  Below are additional images from today.

 fall color of Golden Raindrops crabapple (Malus 'Schmidtcutleaf') - woody tree
 orange fall color on American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus) - woody tree
 yellow fall color on 'Heronswood Globe' katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) - woody tree
 yellowing fall color on 'Dawyck Gold' upright European beech (Fagus sylvatica) - woody tree
 neat fall color on 'Purple Haze' filbert (Corylus hybrida) - large woody shrub

Above are the "yet to get fall color" leaves of the variegated sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus 'Variegatus').  There were many volunteers helping today but I'm a bit disconnected on all the activities.   However, I know that Kathy, Eva, Sue and Peg worked on garden clean up all morning and continue to augment our growing compost pile with additional materials.  Bob C. and Gary B. worked on putting lights on our arches and Alan and Ron P. worked on leaf collection as well.  Ron P. started the morning with some lights repair too.  Del worked on multiple indoor projects.  Jim and Dave continued work on the elf house and Ken finished painting the giant candy canes which are now ready for lights.  Dick H., Larry H. and Bob K. were on our tree run and Dr. Gredler did his mowing rounds.  We also saw Hal, Sallye and many others today.  I'm sure I forgot or missed some volunteers but I was sure happy with all the progress!  Maury ran errands including picking up a giant rental screen for our Fall Symposium which will be held this Saturday. Entitled Wee, Wild & Woody, this event will feature Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery (Westfield, WI), Ed Lyon (Director at Allen Centennial Gardens) and Dave Wanninger (Boerner Botanical Gardens).  Should be a great day.  Below are some additional photos from this afternoon.

 'Plum Royale' coral bells (Heuchera) - perennial
 red sphere of fall color for the burning bush (Euonymus alatus 'Compactus') - woody shrub
fall color on Pacific Sunset maple (Acer truncatum x platanoides 'Warrenred') - woody tree
more and more lights go out daily (above is our frontage road fence)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Decreasing Temps - Increasing HLS Work

It was a cooler day but still quite nice for both gardening and continued set-up efforts for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Above is the fall color on another of our ginkgos (Ginkgo biloba).  Fall color in general has been superior this year and we still have quite a bit of interest out in the gardens.  We actually had a group of high school students (51) tour the gardens this morning with our tour guides (Audrey, Layton, Chuck and Art).  They were from the Eau Claire area and en route to the FFA National Convention in Louisville, KY.  They were a nice group of kids and hopefully they enjoyed their chilly jaunt out in the gardens.   Our grounds staff kept busy and we had another nice day of much appreciated volunteerism.  Below are some additional images from today.
'Red Head' fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) - perennial
 'Flame' willow (Salix hybrida) stems getting redder every day - woody shrub
inflorescences of  'Blondo' Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) - perennial
 start of fall color on the variegated 'Kumson' forsythia (Forsythia viridissima var. koreana) - woody shrub
The grounds staff kept busy with a wide range of tasks.  Cindy (half day) worked on boxing up our elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) for winter storage and moved on to gardening efforts on the west end of the garden.  Much of the garden is still colorful as seen in the vignette above (Magda and Marleen's assigned garden).  Pat (half day) processed more HLS lights and continued his work on various HLS components at the Horticulture Center.  Cheryl worked on processing our labels for winter storage this morning and transitioned to significant gardening in multiple locations.  Big John and Terry had some light gardening duties but continue to focus the bulk of their attention on HLS set-up including installing displays, stringing out lights, etc.  I was able to run more cords this morning and continue to peck away at tasks both inside and outside.

 fruit clusters of the blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) - perennial
 fall coloring on cutleaf stephanandra (Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa') - arching woody shrub

We continue to have some great volunteer help and today was no exception.  Above is Roman taking out the mail with help from Kris K. (mom).  He's a cute kid that still owes me a drawing.  Ron P. came in this morning and worked with Pat M. on processing and repairing lights.  Directly below are Kathy (left) and Eva doing more general gardening in multiple locations.  The ladies work well together and had no trouble gathering debris for our increasingly larger compost pile back at the Horticulture Center.  Kay spent most of the morning tidying up her section of the shade garden which included more leaf and twig collection and additional cutting back of some perennials and shrubs.  She later jumped across the path (literally) to start on another area "in need".  Gena and Myrt arrived in the afternoon for more gardening efforts including plenty of leaf collection.  The second photo down shows Janice working with the Chestnut House volunteers as they cleared their raised planter gardens near the Horticulture Center.  These planters had a long run and looked dynamite all season.  Nancy N. (third photo down) came in to put lights on candy canes and Dick P. was in to install more memorial bricks.  Maury ran errands for us and Dr. Gredler did some afternoon mowing.  Further below are additional images from today.

'Black Pearl' ornamental hot peppers (Capsicum annuum) - annual
 golden fall color on columnar silver linden (Tilia tomentosa 'Erecta') - woody tree
Autumn-look on a row of 'Northwind' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) - perennial
fall color of Royal Raindrops crabapple (Malus hybrida 'JFS-KW5') - woody tree

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cords, Lights, Gardening

It was a cooler start to the day but the sun arrived and it warmed up in to the mid 50 degrees F.  Nice shot above featuring the fall color and form of the weeping 'Tidal Wave' katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) from beneath the foliage.  The late season color out in the gardens is still quite exceptional.  I'll be able to photograph nice fall color for the next couple of weeks I'm sure.  Don't forget that many of our perennials get a fall color transition as well.  This blog title is apt as we are really juggling a wide range of tasks including running cords, stringing lights, hauling luminaries and actually gardening!

 fall color on hybrid maple (Acer griseum x pseudoplatanus) - woody tree
 start of fall color for our large sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) - woody tree
 'Dale's Strain' coral bells (Heuchera americana) - perennial
 fall color on weeping larch (Larix decidua 'Pendula') - deciduous conifer
fall color of shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) - woody tree

We had a sturdy crew of volunteers today.  Above are Kathy (left) and Eva in the Thomas Jefferson Collection.  They were later joined by Mary D. and all three ladies removed annuals and cut back perennials in these thirteen beds.  They later moved to another area for the same treatment.  We're excited about featuring this collection in 2015 with some new additions to the fun assortment of 100+ historic selections.  Below is Kay who hauled back many loads of debris from her assigned garden area in the shade garden.  Vicki O. came in later and spent the afternoon accomplishing gardening tasks like raking and removing spent annuals.  Dr. Gredler was in for more mowing and leaf collection (second photo down, way back in the center on his mower).  Maury ran errands for us which included getting us various items for HLS set-up.  The third photo downs shows continued progress in the center of the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden where a new centerpiece will be installed over the coming weeks (top secret!).  We also saw Marsha M., Tina B., Rollie, Charlotte, Art H. and many others today.

The grounds staff always amazes me with their productivity.  Above is Pat going by with the top 10' of the 20' Tower of Power.  This is the second one he's worked on and they should be up and ready by the end of the week for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Two 20' tall towers like these with lots of lights will certainly be focal points in both the reception garden and formal gardens!  Larry worked on pounding more stakes for arches, loaded up debris for hauling to the dump and bounced between various other projects.  Cindy spent her second day delivering more half gallon milk jugs than the milk man.  She is in the process of spacing out 2,000 of these to line the paths of the HLS for our milk jug luminaries (C7 lights inside each jug).  She also worked on processing cannas and preparing lights.  Big John continued putting out more HLS displays and installing more lights in many locations around the gardens.  Janice jumped in to action with gardening, the cutting display and putting lights on obelisks and in the Japanese garden.  I spent a good half day running cords and have now "wired up" about 10% of the HLS with much more to go!

 starting to see more burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in the woods - not good!
 reddening fall color on Lady in Red ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Tuilad') - woody shrub
interesting bark of Eye Stopper cork tree (Phellodendron lavallei 'Longenecker') - woody tree
fall color on Crimson Spire hybrid oak (Quercus robur x alba 'Crimschmidt') - woody tree
fall color on 'Emperor I' Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) - woody tree