Friday, October 30, 2015


It's hard to believe that Halloween is tomorrow!  We had another decent day, that while starting cold and foggy, experienced a nice progression to sunshine and temperatures in the mid 50 degrees F.  Fall color still abounds around the gardens.  Above is the 'Akikaze Nishiki' Shantung maple (Acer truncatum) looking brilliant in the Japanese garden.  This is the time of year when fall color, ornamental grasses, colorful fruiting and showy bark all contribute significantly in the late season garden.  It was a very productive Friday out in the gardens for both HLS preparations and gardening.

 fall color on ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
 fall color on fernleaf buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula 'Asplenifolia')
 fall color on 'Sunglow' vine maple (Acer circinatum)
 fall color on PJM rhododendron (Rhododendron sp.)

Our stalwart volunteers continue to be so essential at the gardens on a day to day basis.  Above are Kathy (left) and Eva ready to head out in the gardens.  The ladies, later joined by Dave, focused on finishing clearing the formal perennial gardens and then worked in the upper Japanese garden for clean-up.  Marv (below) worked on his two moss areas which look quite vivid.  Kay (second photo down) took a big chunk out of the tidying needs in the Scottish garden which needed her attention.  Dr. Gredler came in for some mowing duties and Maury ran errands.  Pat M. worked on his other "Tower of Power" for the HLS.  The Chestnut House volunteers (third photo down) helped with some significant leaf clean-up with help from Janice.  Dick H. was in to run to the dump and helped stake trees for the HLS too with John and Terry.

 Chestnut House volunteers (left to right) - Janice, Janelle, Travis, Dawn, Victoria (red vest), Kim, Janelle's mom and Jordan

John (second photo down) and Paul from L.P. Tree Service ( hung lights all day at the gardens with two of their bucket trucks (see above and below).  The guys did a great job which included putting lights on the Parker Education Center.  Thanks to John, Paul and Chris for the donated time and sponsoring this event for the 17th straight year!  We'll see the boys back next week to finish up hanging almost 500 dangling icicle lights!  Larry H. was a big help in running back and forth to help the guys out too!

The grounds staff worked almost exclusively on HLS preparations.  As mentioned above, Larry H. spent most of the day helping out the L.P. Tree Service fellas.  Janice worked on decorating huge candy canes for placement next week and helped with the Chestnut House volunteers.  Cindy continued with her half gallon milk jug luminary project and makes excellent progress every day.  We should have those up and ready by the end of next week including the 600 new ones on the expanded route to the gazebo this year.  Big John and Terry staked lots of trees for decoration and had a lot of miscellaneous HLS projects too.  I ran cords all day and finished up two more garden areas (with many more to go!).

 fall color on vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis 'Sandra')
 fall color on Lavender Twist redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Covey')
interesting foliage on the 'Pulverulenta' elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
fall color on 'Purple Haze' hybrid filbert (Corylus hybrida)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

All I Can Smell Is Pine

I was offsite for a good portion of the day with this gang of trouble-makers above... We ran a convoy out to Sunset Acres Tree Farm ( in Stoughton, WI to cut and haul off 60 white pines (Pinus strobus) that were kindly donated by Dwight (above and third from the left) and his wife Debra.  This is the third year they have donated trees for use in our Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Above (left to right) we have Dick P., Maury F., Dwight, Larry (top), Big John, Bobby K. (low), Terry N., Dick H. and Dave.  It was a workout but we successfully cut (see below), dragged, loaded, secured, hauled and unloaded these trees which started to go in to place immediately this afternoon with assistance from Big John!

While we were gone, Janice was in charge and helped organize another nice turnout of Thursday volunteers.  I might miss some names unfortunately but know that Kathy, Eva, Bonnie, Peg, Jim D., Ron Y., Pat M., Alan M., Gary B., Dr. Gredler and many others were around to help out today.  It was a bit drizzly and quite windy but it was another very productive day.  However, all I can smell is pine!  We all came back coated in pine sap which isn't the worst smell in the world - instant air freshener.  A big Thank You! again to Dwight and Debra at Sunset Acres Tree Farm.  Keep them in mind for your holiday tree needs!

Big John above
we brought back two enormous pines (one above) for specific use

Dick H. (above) was an expert with the chainsaw and securing our tree loads!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gloomy Day - Lots Accomplished!

Above is another fall color shot of some Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) looking good on the Rath Environmental Center brick.  Fall color is still quite nice out in the gardens which were overcast today with plenty of rain and drizzle this morning.  We were able to address some significant indoor projects this morning at the Horticulture Center with many of them related to our Holiday Light Show (HLS).  The rain was gone by late morning but it was simply chilly and damp out in the gardens.  We had a nice volunteer turnout and had a productive day and were happy for the beneficial (and timely) rain!

fall color of Korean maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum)
 fall color of 'Royal Purple' smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)
 fall color of 'Green Mountain' sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
 the prairie looks good and was used today for education

Our volunteers today included Eva (peeling labels inside) and both Patrea and Ron P. repairing lights for the HLS.  Above (left to right) are Nancy, Patty and Gena peeling labels this afternoon.  We also saw Dr. Gredler, El, Maury, Dick P., Gary and many others today.  The indoor progress with these projects was much appreciated.

The grounds staff started inside with various projects but moved outside once the drizzle disappeared.  Big John and Terry retrieved and tested many of our LED displays inside and later hauled them out in the gardens and installed them for the HLS. The guys bounced between both indoor and outdoor projects.  Cindy worked on processing labels while Bob K. prepared arches for the HLS, went on a supply run and repaired the lights on one of our trailers.  Larry H. had some early indoor projects but later went out in the gardens to install more lights in various locations.  I caught up on desk work and had plenty of meetings.

I had a presentation on "Bulbs in the Landscape" last night at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) which went well.  As always, I try to get up there early and beat sunset for some photography and was happy to catch not only some late season color (above and below) but some of the art installations for their GLEAM - Art in a New Light exhibit.  I really enjoyed the gardens and these art pieces although unfortunately GLEAM is done after this Friday, October 30th.

 rearview mirrors through prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

 sculpture near the bridge to the Thai Garden

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Delayed Drizzle

The day was actually quite nice with a threat of rain later in the day.  Some light drizzle arrived later in the day but we were all able to get a full day in out in the gardens which still look wonderful.  The fall color on this 'Purple Ribbons' vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis) above looks great.  It's amazing how much color there still is out in the garden beyond the vivid fall coloration seen in many locations.  Our focus today was the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) set-up and everyone put some time in on that as our volunteers continued to tidy up in many locations.  Some guys from Paulson-Kimball Construction came over to move our two HLS "houses" in to position too.  These were a big hit last year and include a workshop for Santa's elves and the home of Santa and Mrs. Klaus.

fall color on 'Chiba Gold' Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) - woody shrub
fall color on Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) - woody vine
Appalachian sedge (Carex appalachica) - perennial
fall color transformation on bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)
spotted deadnettle (Lamium sp.) has taken some frosts and still looks good

Our gardening volunteers today included Eva (above), Kathy (below), Alan (second photo down) and Kay.  The ladies focused on the sunken garden for clean-up and it looks excellent.  Alan was tidying up the woodland walk path which has lots of leaves down.  Dick H. made some runs to the dump and Pat M. worked on some HLS tasks related to the next Tower of Power installation.  Nancy N. continued to put primer on our new Adirondack chairs and we also saw Chuck S., Mary W. and many others today.

The grounds staff made the most of this day.  Cindy continued putting out milk jug luminaries and installing the light strands in this neat HLS feature.  I think we now have about 2,500 of these and Cindy is doing a nice job getting them in place.  Big John put out lots of displays, obelisks and worked on pumping out the sunken garden as well.  Bob K. decorated more arches and had a wide range of HLS duties too.  Larry H. emptied some containers but moved on to installing lights in many locations.  Janice continued decorating arches, tidied in the English cottage garden and had myriad other tasks as well.  I was able to get a pretty full day of running cords in and focused on the woodland walk garden which is done now.

fall color of the katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) which smells like cotton candy right now!
'Milan' coral bells (Heuchera) - perennial
'Dale's Strain' coral bells (Heuchera) - perennial 
'Swirling Fantasy' coral bells (Heuchera) - perennial
variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus') - perennial