Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Annual Spring Cold

No posts for awhile as I've been nursing my annual spring cold. I'm glad I was healthy enough on Saturday to present at our annual spring symposium. We had a great turnout and the entire event seemed very well-received. Judy talked about vegetables, Ann about edible/medicinal weeds, Roy about his favorite plants and I did my top 10 lists of various plant categories. Roy brought peonies for everyone and the nasty weather held off until well after the end of the program. Mike M. did a nice job as usual orchestrating this event.

The beautiful shot of crocuses (by Dale S.) was taken in his yard (Waukesha, WI), not at Rotary Gardens. We have about 10,000 crocus here that should be blooming but there are only a few hundred that have escaped the nibbling attention of various critters. I love crocus but so do many others!

Rainy day today although yesterday included lots of clean-up out in the gardens. The Kangaroo container to the left is a great addition to our equipment inventory as they are collapsible, thereby easy to store, and can hold lots of material. You can't pile too much weight in these but they can hold a nice volume of leaves and other lighter debris. Highly recommended!

The grounds crew started officially yesterday and includes Larry, Marv, Marianne, Terry, Janice, Jerry and Jenny. It's nice to have our veterans back and we're looking forward to a great year. Janice and Jenny are here today doing inside work (signs, plant sale, etc.) while Larry is working on equipment. Urban and Bill have braved the elements and are pruning and cleaning up debris in the rain. Dr. Gredler is resealing some benches and is "chomping at the bit" to get out and start mowing soon!
Neat shot to the right of Helleborus niger in bloom. Note the mud splatters on the pure white blooms (sepals not petals) from our recent rains. It's nice to see these pop up even thru snow. Other hellebores are starting to unfurl flowers as well so keep posted on the progress of these stalwart, long-lived garden perennials.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nice To Have A Dry Day!

I couldn't get a good shot today of both the striped squill (Puschkinia libanotica) in the left of the above photo and the glory-in-the-snow (Chionodoxa sp.) to the right. Both are blooming at the gardens right now and this picture was from last spring (taken by Ed Lyon). We have masses of both of these bulbs and they bridge the earliest color to the April blooms of Narcissus and others. It's nice to see little pockets of color emerging here and there. To the left is another shot from Bill Olmsted of some of our earliest irises. It's nice of professional photographers to share their work as my intent in using it is for education and inspiration (not profit!). In going thru older pictures of the gardens and past displays, it's amazing to see how the gardens have developed and matured (and we see how we've all aged!).

Great Grumpy day again with Dick W. cutting down more grasses and Ron and Gary hauling out benches. Larry and Bob M. picked up some plants and Bob has been digging holes for our "bean towers". Dave, Jim and Bob A. worked on various carpentry projects and Dr. Gredler was painting (see Adirondak chair below) and running debris to the dump. Marv and Terry did some collective projects and came up with a great edging idea that we'll try next week. Janice and Marianne were in as well and Bev W. selected an "assigned" garden space in the sunken garden to maintain this year. We love when volunteers like to take ownership of an area. Overall, a very productive day and next week we look forward to the grounds staff starting. Little Jerry will be back in two week as his broken arm is healing quite well thus far.

I did a talk in Milwaukee last night at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, which incidentally is not only a top notch museum/historic home but also has an awesome garden around it. This was part of a lecture series and I presented to 40 or so people regarding new and exciting annuals. Most of the attendees had not been to the gardens yet and I feel we haven't targeted Milwaukee enough for those "day trippers". I hope some of the attendees are inspired to come visit! I wont blog until Monday as I'm off tomorrow. Note the pots below which contain caladiums. These tropicals should have their bulbs (corms) started early at 70+ degrees F to give them a jumpstart. All our caladiums are started in late March so they have some size by early June when we put them out. See sample caladium ('Scarlet Pimpernel') photo too. We put them all over our shady and partly shaded gardens!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March Showers Bring April Flowers

It is pounding rain right now and I'm so glad I cleaned my garden at home this past weekend. We're also fortunate that we've done so much in the gardens here as rainy days, while good for the garden, are lost days outside. We have more concerns about flooding but are helpless to prevent rising water levels obviously. Awesome picture above from Bill Olmsted of the Janesville Gazette. This shot really does justice to the Danford irises (Iris danfordiae) that we have around the gardens blooming by the hundreds if not thousands. This image was on the front page of the Gazette last week. I think I need a better camera for close-ups but we're fortunate to have Bill and others snapping away around the gardens. Another 65-70 degree day should really push things along out in the gardens as I see hellebores, pulmonarias and many early spring bulbs peeking out and deciding if "it's time" to burst on to the scene. Note more crocusus emerging to the left. The bunnies will get them very shortly. We don't plant crocus anymore as about 80% are nibbled before they bloom. Spring is always such an amazing (and busy!) time out in the garden.

Larry's working on getting the mowers ready for spring and Dr. Gredler is here painting. It wont be long and we'll be in full swing with the grounds staff starting next week. With Little Jerry down with a broken arm, we'll have Jenny helping outside as well. Aside from her labeling talents, she's quite a gardener with a great attention to detail. She'll be doing lots of planting with volunteers along with Janice and Marianne. We also have an intern (Bob) for 6 weeks who will help with odds and ends. Unfortunately some of our older volunteers are unable to help this year and while we appreciate everything they have done over the years, we sure wish they were still active volunteers and their absence will be felt immediately. These are volunteers that required very little assistance and were self-motivated and extremely dependable. Father Time catches up to all of us eventually!

Note the stack of bean towers to the right. Our Grumpy carpenters built 50 of these 10' tall towers for our heirloom pole and runner beans. Half will stay here and the other half will go out to the Rock County Farm. These sturdy structures will support various vegetables over the years and we look forward to promoting vertical gardening and featuring some neat veggies and climbers in the future. The carpenters are amazing and have built everything they've been asked, including some very elaborate benches and other items. See below for the strength of daffodils (Narcissus) poking up thru and lifting the woodchips. A couple of weeks and these will be blooming. We actually have close to 400 varieties of daffodils representing all 13 divisions (or types).

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Signs of Spring

I was surprised to see this bloom above emerging from gaps between our shoreline boulders. This is the bloom of the variegated giant butterbur (Petasites japonicus 'Variegatus') that is better know for it's huge tropical leaves (with splashes of yellow and cream) that spreads like wildfire. Hardy to zone 5, this rampant perennial blooms before the leaves and this early blossom above will open to form a fragrant whitish/yellow flower cluster. Petasites is very aggressive in damp, open soils (be warned!). We planted it years ago in these gaps so it would be contained. Note the emerging crocuses to the left. We have plenty of crocus in bloom now, particularly in those "hot spots" along sidewalks or near rocks that have radiant heat from the sun. Lots of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) as well. What a great weekend by the way! I did my April gardening clean-up this weekend and was glad that I did.

Great Grumpy turnout again today although it was a bit rainy. The guys dumped out our luminaries from the lights show and hauled various items around. Marv and Terry hauled out some containers and the carpenters kept busy with various projects. Marianne and Janice were here as well and Dr. Gredler ran some loads to the dump and is working on topdressing a turf area out in the gardens. I took a walk with Jerry and we came up with some ideas for the Japanese garden although the primary "spring push" will have to be tidying up. Our current pond level will start to flood that garden again with another 12" of rising water which will hopefully not happen!

With Arbor Day coming up on April 24th (always the last Fri. of that month) it's important to get children involved with tree planting and educate them as to the importance and value of trees in the landscape. I've plagarized some information from the Morton Arboretum website that is quite interesting in terms of quantitative facts on the value of trees. At the bottom of this post is a shot of our 'Princeton Gold' Norway maple (Acer platanoides).

The Chicago Urban Forest Climate Project (US Forest Service 1991) was a three-year study of the environmental impacts of the urban forest of the Chicago region. It found that the estimated 50.8 million trees in Cook and DuPage County combined contributed the following benefits.
Carbon Sequestration
Store an estimated 6.1 million tons of carbon
Further studies led to the estimate that 100 mature trees remove five tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year-equivalent to emissions from 1 car/year

Air Quality Improvements
The trees in our region remove these pollutants from our air
17 tons of CO
93 tons of SO2
98 tons of NO2
210 tons of O3
224 tons of particulate matter
Energy Savings
Optimally placed landscape shade trees could reduce local cooling energy use for 1.3%, cooling energy use by 7%, and peak cooling energy use by 6%
Increasing the region's tree canopy by 10% could reduce total heating and cooling energy by 5-10%
Reduced air-conditioning demands avoids CO2 generated from 'peak' energy production which is usually coal generated in Illinois.
Stormwater Management
The US Forest Service estimates 100 mature trees intercept about 250,000 gallons of rainfall per year in their crowns, reducing runoff of polluted stormwater.
Managing the Urban Forest for Environmental Benefits
Benefits depend on healthy trees

Large healthy trees remove 60-70 times more pollution than small trees
Large healthy trees sequester up to 1,000 more CO2 than small trees
Trees require quality care to remain healthy
Forestry program needs continued advocacy and support

The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful, and the ennobling.
- J. Sterling Morton

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day of Deliveries

Neat sprawling, weeping, contorted, goofy Jack pine above (Pinus banksiana 'Uncle Fogy') that looks great along the curbline in front of our visitors center. Don't forget that conifers can be selected and planted simply for interesting form, not just for function (foundation, screen, hedge, etc.)! Not many volunteers today. Janice popped by briefly and Dr. Gredler did more turf work. We had deliveries from UPS and received our first semi-load of shredded bark. We also had a delivery of all our potting soil for containers and starting some of our own tropicals. It's nice to get these materials early as we never know when we can get to certain projects and want to be "poised and ready".

Interesting article at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/dining/19garden-web.html?_r=2&ref=dining regarding a garden at the White House. I think it's a great idea and while I had heard rumors, I wasn't sure it would come to fruition. Glad to see that it will happen and hopefully will inspire others.

It is definitely picking up around here in terms of activity. Those that know me start to see my transition from layed back winter guy to spastic spring guy. Spring is exciting but can sure be stressful coordinating priorities and activities. Rotary Gardens is truly fortunate to have such great staff and top-notch volunteers. A friend emailed me the information below that might help others assess the impacts of stress on their lives.

A lecturer when explaining stress management to an audience, Raised a glass of water and asked 'How heavy is this glass of water?' Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, 'The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.' He continued, 'And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on. ''As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. ''So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can. 'So, my friend, put down anything that may be a burden to you right now. Don't pick it up again until after you've rested a while. Here are some great ways of dealing with the burdens of life:
* Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.
* Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
* Always wear stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
* Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be "recalled" by their maker.
* If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
* If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
* It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to be kind to others.
* Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.
* Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
* Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
* The second mouse gets the cheese.
* When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
* Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
* Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.
* We could learn a lot from crayons... Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.
*A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More "Realistic" Temperatures

Temperatures are back to normal and some of the emerging plants that I was worried about have slowed down again. Note the nice reflection of the weeping willow (Salix alba 'Tristis') on the opposite end of our pond. This is an old picture but looks identical today. That yellow is certainly eye catching and fades to green as leaves emerge later in the spring.

We had another great Grumpy day with Gary and Ron hauling out our garbage and recycling bins and the carpenters working on adirondak chairs (see below) for one of our garden spaces. We're not quite ready to sit in them yet and they will also receive some bright blue paint. Urban pruned and Bob T. swept up paths. Dr. Gredler worked on the turf most of the day and Marv and Terry had the arduous task of moving our mailbox (set in concrete). Marianne did all sorts of projects and Janice popped in briefly. Jim H. brought down three RECAPPERS to help clean up the Japanese garden. These gentlemen are part of program to get them out of jail and involved in community service (in exchange for a possible reduced sentence). Jim has been great with this program and really maximized their contribution with motivation and strong supervision.

Jenny also spent a good portion of the day working on labels. She is highly organized and extremely productive (despite the chaos seen below!). The importance of accurately and properly labeling our collections and keeping plant records is paramount to us. We do tend to run short on time to keep up with many of these activities but are looking at other interpretive tools and hope to expand the quality and extent of our labeling in the imminent future.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Is Looming

Above is one of our quote benches at the gardens. We actually have over 50 of these benches, each with an unique quote. I think we can all agree with this one. Normally spring on the calendar doesn't mean much in terms of weather although this week has been an exception with decent weather (more like April than March!). It was another nice day around here. I spent most of the day finishing orders and working on my presentation for March 28th here at the gardens. For this presentation, I will pick my "Top 10s" of various categories, particularly plants. This is so difficult! How do you narrow down so many plants to such small groupings?

Marv and Marianne came today. Marv continued sifting his compost pile while Marianne went out in the gardens and worked in the iris beds. She's tidying up signs and labels as well as accomplishing garden clean-up. Jim H. came to help with clean-up and Larry worked on equipment and got outside for awhile. Dr. Gredler has been aerating lawns already and continues to tidy up as needed. Our new Executive Director, Dave Jennings, started this week and will overlap Gary, our previous director, for a couple of weeks to "learn the ropes."

Some special events will be starting quite soon. Our bagged compost sale (see ot the left) will begin on April 4th. Over the years, we've sold close to 10,000 bags of this material as an organic soil amendment. This has been a great fundraiser for us and we'll also sell this material at our spring plant sale coming up in May (15,16,17). I had my green beer yesterday although it was tough to explain to my daughter (who dyed my beer) that more is not better with food coloring in particular. She also put food coloring in our Irish soda bread (see below). Interesting and unique look! (it was very green when we cut it open!).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Color In The Garden!

I just took this photo laying on my back. It was worth the effort to catch a good shot of Danford irises (Iris danfordiae) blooming in front of our Visitors Center. These irises (native to Turkey) are usually up at the end of March but have experienced the "warm up" and have decided to announce their arrival. At only 6" tall, we group these irises and usually get a couple good years out of them before they disappear. Considering their early bloom time, we purchase and plant them by the hundreds every year. Not too far away from these irises I found another species iris (not sure exactly which one to be honest) but you can't beat the appeal after a long winter! I wish I could slow down some of the growth as all our plants are saying "What happened to March? Now that it's mid-April, I better get going!". My worry is the imminent frosts that we'll still get over these coming weeks. Oh well, garden clean-up continues!

Jean, Barb and Janice worked on office projects this morning and Jenny has been correcting and printing out plant labels for this year. Kay came in to help clean-up out in the gardens and is focusing on all the twigs and branches that fell over the winter. Rose and Urban came in and were quickly recruited to do some painting and odds and ends. Dr. Gredler has been hauling debris (ornamental grasses) to the dump and Larry is out pruning. I've been bouncing between various small (albeit neglected) projects that have become very time-sensitive. Good crew all around and the rest of the week looks decent for more activity. Nice shot to the right of the 'Flame' willow (Salix hybrida) that gets reddish stems through the winter. This would be a 30' plant but we cut it down in April to 12" and let the new growth shoot up to 6-7' again (green stems) and it then repeats the winter color show on fresh growth each year. This has been a good plant to hold this slope as well.

I did a presentation for the Greentree Garden Club up on the west side of Madison last night. They were an enthusiatic group and it was again nice to expose the gardens to many that have not visited (yet). I only have six more spring talks and then have sporadic engagements in the summer. The value in these talks is certainly education and pursuing our mission of horticultural education off-site. These talks also bring in new visitors and future supporters of Rotary Gardens. We just need to get them here! Nice shot below of moss actively growing down in our Fern & Moss Garden. Hard to believe that most of that garden was under water last spring and the moss came back with no problem!

Monday, March 16, 2009

It Has Begun!

The blooms have begun! I took a nice stroll around the gardens today where the temperatures are a balmy 60 degrees with promises of 70 degrees tomorrow. I'd prefer a more gradual warm up but will take what we get (what choice do we have!?). I thought I'd see more in bloom but was still excited to see the bright yellow blossoms pictured above. This adonis (Adonis amurensis 'Fukujukai') is in the buttercup family and is native to Japan and Manchuria. Known in Japan as Fukujusoo (meaning "a plant of happy fortune and long life"), this plant blooms very early and continues to bloom as the lacy foliage continues to emerge from warming soils. Lots of bulbs are coming up and both snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) will be hitting stride this week.

Another great volunteer turnout today. The carpenters worked on various projects while many others went out in the balmy gardens. Urban and Del worked on pruning as has Larry today. Marv and Terry continued to clean-up the holiday lights show, particularly those things that we had to wait for in terms of thawing (posts, displays, etc.). Charlie and Dick H. worked on sweeping up paths while Dick W. continued to cut back ornamental grasses. Marianne came in and potted up our caladiums for an early start and I mailed off the last of our seeds to be started by the growers. I do a presentation in Madison tonite but will then not have one until next week.

I did a presentation in Paddock Lake, WI (west of Kenosha) this past Saturday and was happy with the enthusiastic crowd. I'm sure the warm weather had everyone inspired and my talks on shade perennials and container gardening seemed well-received. That is an area that we would like to draw more visitors from in the coming years. Most of the attendees had not been to visit yet and my comment was that they missed our first 19 years so why not come see us for our 20th Anniversary! Nice arched bridge shot taken today. We'll need to repaint this structure this year but what a nice feature!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Nice Day In The Windy City

I spent most of yesterday at the Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show. One of the award-winning displays can be seen above with this uber-cool flower quilt. The show has suffered in past years with decreased displays and vendors but the quality of show increased dramatically this year and I took many pictures. Ed Lyon and I both had good crowds at our presentations and I think I've encouraged some potential new visitors to drive west for 2 hours and see our botanic garden. Check out the cool moss display below. This artistic rendition was the centerpiece of the show and very well done.
Good volunteer turnout today for what would normally be a "light day". Dr. Gredler has finished the last of the pink obelisks and the picture below really relays how excited he is about it! Marv has been working on flipping our enormous compost pile so we have some available compost this spring. He's done an awesome job keeping up with this project and it's nice to let people know that we do indeed create our own compost on such a large scale. Marianne was in the office with me and she continues to sift and organize are old records and photos. I'm glad we're doing this now and not leaving it for another 20 years! Dick W. was out cutting down ornamental grasses in the garden. With some warm ups coming this month, we typically cut down most of our ornamental grasses although you could easily leave them up another month or so. The exception are the "cool-season" grasses like Calamagrostis, Deschampsia, Helictotrichon, etc. that start growing very early and benefit from having the old foliage removed prior to active growth. Essentially, you don't want to be cutting in to new growth. We prefer the "tidy look" early on. Perennial grass division is best done as the grass just emerges from the soil. It's important to note that dividing some of the larger grasses like Miscanthus, Sorghastrum, Panicum, etc. can be quite an endeavor! A portion of our obelisk assortment can be seen below.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Here And Gone

You wont see columbine (Aquilegia) like that above for another eight weeks or so but it sure is an exquisite bloom. I'm here briefly then gone to Chicago for the day. Good turnout of volunteers this morning. Marianne is back from her train trip and is helping process handouts and will begin the arduous task of going thru old records, photos, slides, newspaper clippings, etc. Our hope is to really sift and save the most relevant historical information from the past 20 years of our history. Marv, Dick W. and Dick H. are out hauling in displays and Urban M. is back from CA to do some more pruning. Now that Little Jerry is out with a broken arm, we'll need to rely more on volunteers for the last of our "winter" pruning. The carpenters are all here and it looks like everything is going well. Larry's back but at 50% after being sick for two days. Looks to be a nice day outside as well. Don't forget the importance of foliage color and texture in your shadier garden spaces. See the image below, taken at The Flower Factory nursery in Stoughton.
I would encourage everyone to look in to the definition and relevance of the term "carbon footprint". We all have an impact on the environment and the importance of minimizing negative impacts is vital. See www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/carboncalculator/ for an interesting way to compute your personal impact on the earth. Equally important is the ecological footprint that we collectively have on this planet. The definition of ecological footprint as plagarized from Wikipedia is "The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. It compares human demand with planet Earth's ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste. Using this assessment, it is possible to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity if everybody lived a given lifestyle." The disconcerting fact is that the total of humanity's ecological footprint on this planet (in 2005) is "1.3 earths". This means that we are collectively using natural resources 1.3 times faster than the earth can renew them. I wonder when that number will hit 2 and what percentage of this footprint is contributed by Americans? Food for thought! See our daylily (Hemerocallis) collection below. We'll be selling divisions of all 300 varieties in this collection on May 15,16,17!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Frigid (Nice Blue Skies Though...)

Above is a nice "summer teaser". This is my favorite purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Pica Bella') right now and although I like the look of some of the new ones, understand that overall plant vigor is important as well (not just fancy blooms). Speaking of blooms, note the close-up of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) below. I love this shade of blue in April!
Frigid today but nice and sunny. Jenny was here all day working on our 2009 labels and has made lots of progress already. We've streamlined and organized the process over the years and have an awesome system. Thank goodness for her help!!! Dr. Gredler was here painting this morning (more pink obelisks) and Bill and Dick H. worked on one of our trucks. We had lots of people pop by and look forward to a good Grumpy day tomorrow. Spring teaser below. This is an early May shot with the redbud (Cercis canadensis) blooming in the Japanese Garden. The pagoda structure was given in memory of Tom McKaig, a wonderful volunteer that took care of that garden for many years.Our former Executive Director, Ed Lyon, will pick me up tomorrow morning and we'll head to the Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show on Navy Pier. We both have presentations and schedule them back to back so we can commute together. Unfortunately, we'll leave in rush hour traffic but it can't be avoided. I'm speaking on "Ornamental Edibles" (see hot peppers below). This event has always been good exposure for Rotary Gardens to a crowd that can be considered "potentials" for coming out to visit us and become members!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Bountiful Year

Above is a nice shot of a basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Dark Opal') being used ornamentally with some coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides). We will be selling 25 varieties of basil at our spring plant sale along with starter plants of heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers and hot peppers. We've also packaged up heirloom runner and pole bean seeds for customers as well. Mike M. just posted all the spreadsheets for our plant sale offerings (and veggie display) at http://www.rotarygardens.org/. Check it out and see if anything looks of interest. Apparently vegetable seed sales are up over 40% this year as people shift towards growing some of their own food. It should truly be a bountiful year and perhaps a good year to let your kids, grandkids and neighborhood children become involved with growing plants and vegetables. Share your love of gardening!!! Note the 'Medusa' hot pepper below (Capsicum annuum).
Good day today. Unfortunately Larry was sick today but Janice has been here all day working on signs for our spring plant sale. Jean came in to work on the library and Dr. Gredler continues to wrap up cords. Chuck S. continues to recycle all our aluminum cans and donates the money back to the gardens. Dick H. was working on one of our trucks and Vern has been in as well and is refinishing a conference table at the Parker Center. I've been working on various projects and the last of my perennial orders.
My tour around the garden yesterday at times was frustrating and hopeful. Yes the deer have done signficant damage, and some of our fish died and the pond levels are reaching flood levels, and, and, and... However, those little signs of active growth can be seen with daffodils poking up, snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) budding are all inspiring. I was distracted, however, by the number of cigarette butts that could be seen around the gardens. They were probably "flicked" during our holiday lights show and we almost always find them after a wedding reception in the visitors center when smokers go outside and flick butts everywhere. Some Monday mornings involve hand picking 500+ butts from the ground. I'm diverging from horticulture but can't contain my frustration with such mindless (or mindful?) pollution. As a side note, 4.3 trillion cigarette butts are littered each year in this world with 250 billion from the United States. Butts take up to 12 years to break down in the environment and may contain cadmium, lead and arsenic. How many forests, including all plants and animals, have been killed by a carelessly tossed cigarete butt? When you see someone roll down their car window and flick a butt, have you ever fantasized about smashing in to their car? I have. Nice close-up of our native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Only an 7 week wait!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Conspicuous Consumption

To the left is a nice shot of the exfoliating bark of the river birch (Betula nigra 'Heritage') that offers wonderful winter interest and will eventually grow to become quite a large tree. Remember that all of our Midwestern gardens should contain winter interest as well!

I had a great time in La Crosse, WI this weekend and presented for the "Spring Into Gardening" symposium for the Bluff Country Master Gardeners. It was a nice turnout of 150+ gardeners and I think the entire event was well organized and well-received. This week I present at the Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show as well as another symposium for Kenosha County.
Great volunteer turnout today. Larry, Marv and Terry continued bringing in the remnants of our holiday lights show while Del and Dick W. continued to paint obelisks. Dr. Gredler and Charlie processed holiday lights inside while the carpenters (minus Jim D.) worked over at the visitors' center. The gardens still look messy but we're tidying up as time and weather allow. Unfortunate news includes the odd loss of some of our koi fish (dead and floating) in the formal pond and continued deer damage. We're looking in to the fish deaths and are hoping to minimize any more losses. We've rarely lost any fish in past years. Another bummer is that Little Jerry, one of our grounds people, slipped and broke his arm in the gardens last week and will be out of commission for awhile. Ugh! We wish him a speedy recovery of course as well as better balance. Nice shot of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) at the bottom. They'll be blooming soon with this "heat wave".

I've been recently thinking about how I can minimize my "footprints" on Mother Earth and ran across some disappointing statistics about American consumption. Check these out below:
*Americans eat 815 billion calories per day, roughly 200 billion more than needed (enough to feed 80 million people)
*Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food every day
*The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75
*The average American uses 159 gallons of water each day while more than half the world's population lives on 25 gallons per day
*Americans constitute 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of the world's energy

Thursday, March 5, 2009

If Only They Were Nuggets of Gold

I took a long walk around the gardens today and was both elated and depressed at the same time. I'm not sure there are many blogs that start with a picture of deer poop but the fresh pile above was one of THOUSANDS around the gardens. The deer did major damage and even nibbled things that they typically don't have a taste for yet (including western arborvitae and many Chamaecyparis). Ugh. The images below say it all...
I did see quite a bit of color and interest out in the garden but no flowers yet. The vernal witchhazels (Hamamelis vernalis) have swelling buds and I did see some snowdrops poking up but not quite blooming. I spooked a red fox out of hiding and watched it run across some very thin ice. Productive day for everyone. Kay worked on plant sale labels while Janice went thru old books and records with the intent of "purging and organizing". Little Jerry was out pruning again and we looked at some structural pruning out in the arboretum. Some of the trees are extending beyond pole saw range unfortunately. Larry's been jumping between projects. Marv, Maury, Dr. Gredler and Dick W. were all painting while the carpenters also kept busy. Nice warm temps today. I'm speaking in Madison tonite and LaCrosse, WI on Saturday so wont post a blog until Monday. Get out there and do some pruning this weekend!

Nice shot of a golden lodgepole pine to the left (Pinus contorta var. latifolia 'Chief Joseph') and a golden white pine below (Pinus strobus 'Hillside Winter Gold'). Talk about color! At the bottom is the ornamental bark of the China Snow Peking lilac (Syringa pekinensis 'Morton'). All shots were taken today. Keep checking your garden for signs of life and it's not too early to start tidying up and getting ready. Don't buy your tomatoes yet though!!!