Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wet Contentious April

Thomas Carlyle wrote about the "wet contentious April" and I believe a day like today might have served as inspiration for that quote. Lots of misty showers, intermittent downpours and no bright sunlight. Of course the precipitation is welcome although we were inside most of the day. Above is a nice shot of PJM rhododendron in our Japanese garden. I've seen lots of nice specimens around town and contrary to what many people think, this plant likes more sun than shade. It is very particular about soil and drainage. The Bower City Garden Club (Janesville) hosted their annual luncheon over at the Parker Education Center today and it looked like a large crowd based on the packed parking lot. This group volunteers here and has been very generous with supporting our collections here at the gardens. I was worried that our tulips wouldn't be blooming out front for this event, but as usual, we timed it perfectly (with help from a couple warm days in March and April!). See surrounding images for some recent tulip shots from the front of the building.

Despite showers this morning, we had a nice turnout of Grumpies. Bob, Jim and Vern worked on finishing our blue obelisks while Gary and Maury went on a trip to pick up fertilizer and order some more locks. They later hauled compost and small evergreens. We had a new Grumpy (Ed) start today and he worked with Charlie and Dick H. assembling tables for our plant sale. He also swept up the hort center and seemed to fit in well. Dr. Gredler is out mowing but did some odds and ends this morning. Bill is out raking and Larry is getting things ready for our work day on Saturday. Larry and I went on our first plant pick-up trip to a local nursery and stocked up on 2,000 petunias and some mixed perennials and tropicals. Despite cutting back a bit, these trips (3-5 per week) are essential in securing selection and availability. Janice has been working on plant sale signs among other things.

I'm not sure why people freak out about dandelions (see below). They are beautiful, nutritious and are here to stay! Kids are drawn to them when they bloom and form the "seed spheres." We don't treat all our lawns here at the gardens for dandelions and currently have a nice crop here and there. See for some interesting dandelion facts and for nutritional information. I had dandelion wine years ago but didn't care for it. However, most people don't realize how nutritious it is. I quote from a website, "This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"A Host of Golden Daffodils..."

I took the picture to the left this morning to show a portion of our parking lot islands that display over 300 varieties of daffodils. There are some really neat ones out there. Years ago we planted this collection and called it "Daffodil Daze" and really promoted daffodils as a durable and long-lived bulb option for the garden. We've lost track of most of the varieties but I'm amazed each year when I see the variability. See below to the right for my favorite color combo (clear yellow with red/orange center). Variety unknown. A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. William Wordsworth

Overcast and cool today but the rain should hold off until tonite or tomorrow. We've had a busy day thus far. Marv finished creating his "bench pad" and we'll install the new memorial bench shortly. He's out smoothing gravel paths now while Marianne has been working with Margaret all morning with a focus on weeding some areas that need it the most. She'll freshen up the cutting display as well. Shirley H. popped in as well and we put her in a weeding "hot spot" as well. Bob continued digging out some invasive perennials and did a nice job "air-edging" the beds around the koi pond. Larry did our first round of push mowing and has weedwhipped where needed. Dr. Gredler has been mowing and running debris to the dump. We saw Maury, Chuck and Dick H. I fertilized about 2/3 of our lawns in anticipation of the coming rains and will get the rest next week.

This Saturday will be a great workday with a large turnout of Rock Prairie Master Gardeners that will assist with the daylily division. When we did this task years ago, we learned quite a bit about "streamlining" this process and should have a productive morning. Our bagged compost sale has gone well thus far and we'll continue to sell this product every Saturday thru May. We're getting lots of "buzz" regarding our spring sale (May 15-17) and feel confident that we'll have a super turnout (particularly for the heirloom tomato plants). We sold 10,000 tomato plants in 2 hours last year. Nice shots below of grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) en masse and Juno iris (Iris bucharica) in bloom in our shade garden. This tough iris, native to Uzbekistan, Tadijikistan and Afghanistan, is hardy and when it emerges in early spring, the foliage looks like corn! Plant the bulbs (corm-like structures) of this species in October. The blooms are exquisitely beautiful and this plant will go dormant by mid-June.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cool And Sunny. Perfect.

Awesome weather today with blue skies and highs in the low 60s. I appreciate an April with that type of weather and the recent rains have really moved things along (including weeds). Nice shot of our tulips out front of the building today. We plant 2,000 new tulips each fall in front of the building for a splash of color prior to Mother's Day. It wasn't hard to take many good pictures today and we had a great volunteer turnout despite this being typically a "light day".

Larry's been working on equipment and picked up some new tables and chairs for use over at the visitor's center. He'll be weed-whipping this afternoon as our turf has grown considerably over the past week and we'll push mow for the first time at the end of the week. Janice was working on plant sale beans and now is outside targeting garlic mustard and other nasty weeds in the Scottish garden and woodland walk. Jenny worked on making new rose labels and is also doing some significant weeding in our "hot spots". Kay, Heidi and Barb all came in today and did a great job weeding the parking lot islands, around the horticulture center and beyond. It's nice to have this team back together for some serious spring work! Rollie is here putting in new memorial bricks and Bob is working with Jim W. to fill in tree sign holes and dig up more deadnettle (Lamium sp.) that has spread. Nice shot (to the right) of 'Powderpuff' magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri) in front of our visitors' center. Very showy although I'm a huge fan of the saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) and the nice range of pastel pinks on huge blooms. See below for a shot of our saucer magnolia in bloom down near the arched bridge in the Japanese garden.

See the bottom photo of Marianne with her cutting display. Janice also helps with this display. Many botanic gardens have set-ups like this that include samples of plants in bloom or of interest. Marianne does a nice job of representing various plants from around the gardens and keeps a nice fresh and artistic grouping of pretty cool stuff for visitors to enjoy and get a "taste" of what's going on outside!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sporadic Rainfall

More windflowers (Anemone blanda) blooming throughout the overcast gardens today. We had a smattering of rain today to follow our 3.5 inches over the weekend. It looks pretty ominous right now but everyone has been able to get outside today. It's truly amazing how quickly the garden "wakes up" with some heat and moisture. I took the shot to the left of the native North American merrybells or bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) that looks great in the early shade garden. Here seen in our gazebo garden, this 18-24" plant has drooping, golden yellow blossoms that last for 10-14 days in late April in to early May. There are five native species but they all look alike to me. To the lower right is an image of twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) with its interesting leaves and the buds of its very briefly blooming white flowers. Named after Thomas Jefferson and a herbaceous member of the barberry family, this plant has a long history in our country and is a great woodland perennial. See for the native range of this plant.

Nice Grumpy morning with the guys working on mulching a tough-to-reach area with shredded bark and others working on air edging. This edging, done with a flat spade, is a nice shallow way to separate turf from beds. The guys do a nice job each year as we freshen up these edges, collect debris and really lend a "clean line" and separation of vigorous turf from beds. Bob T. and Bill did most of that work while Dick H., Ron and Dick K. did lots of mulching. Marv air edged and is preparing an area for a future memorial bench. Terry is off this week but both Marianne and Janice kept busy attacking weeds and continuing to primp and prep various garden spaces. Larry has been working on cleaning up our lawn mowers and other equipment. We had a good batch of carpentry Grumpies today and Dr. Gredler was out mowing turf as well. Mary and Shirley weeded for a bit until it started really raining. Bill O. is feeling a bit better and is out tidying up and tackling some early thistles. I'm glad it wasn't a total "wash out" today. (note the play on words...). There is certainly no shortage of color out in the gardens as our earliest perennials come in to full bloom. See rock cress or wall cress below (Arabis caucasica) in a nice spot where it will spill over and between boulders. See for more information regarding this hardy perennial.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More April Showers...

Today is our first "Saturday Workday". Looks like looming showers and we've had some light sprinkles already. We schedule these workdays over 13 Saturdays from April thru November. The intent is to catch potential volunteers that only have weekends free and we typically average 20 or so volunteers although today might be light. Janice will take the crew out to the daylily collection to weed (lots of quack grass) and rake away mulch from the daylilies. Next Saturday we'll be dividing the 300 varieties in this same area and hopefully will pot up 2,500+ divisions. Larry will be working on equipment but has some projects ready in case we get a high turnout. Nice shot above of the bright variegated foliage of masterwort (Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated') that looks so vivid in late April as it emerges. This perennial prefers sun or part shade in rich, organic soil. Adequate moisture is essential and it's important to note that the variegation fades throughout the summer so looks best now! Pink flowers arrive in late spring thru early summer. Nice shot of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in bloom. This native wildflower has a long history of Native American use and is certainly a harbinger of spring. See for more information on this woodland perennial.
As I type this morning, the rain is really coming down and we have 8 volunteers waiting for a break in the action. We'll see if we get some clearing so we can head outside. There aren't many indoor projects as we've used most of those up on other rainy days. This is the only time of year that you can see the ground-level blossoms of the native American ginger (Asarum canadense). See below for the unfurling leaves as they emerge with silvery undersides. The blossoms are deep maroon and low to the ground and there is some debate as to weather they are self-pollinated or pollinated by insects. See bottom photo for the summer appearance of this hardy plant.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is It April 24 or June 24?

As much as I enjoyed being outside in the sun (first day of sunscreen application for me!), I don't like too many days like this in April as it can mess up early May and flush things along too soon. The shot to the left is of the white Guinea-hen flower or checkered fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris 'Alba') in bloom in our gazebo garden. Native to Europe, this bulb is endangered in certain regions but can commonly be found in gardens and is available for fall planting. See for more information on this neat plant. The straight species (Fritillaria meleagris) is conspicuously checkered with pink and maroon (I'll post a photo soon). I enjoyed using my new CANON Powershot today and was happy with the quality of photos. Nice shot of more hellebores (Helleborus) to the right. They'll finish up soon with all the heat but sure look nice when they're noticed!

Small crew again today. Marv and Terry were out "planting" more of our signs and securing them with Sakrete in their permanent locations. They've run in to some interesting things while digging and it seems that I always pick the spots with heavy clay, irrigation lines, power lines and/or a large rock! Janice cleaned up some garden spaces and arranged a nice cutting display. We hauled all of our annuals (that were recently potted up) from inside the horticulture center out to the yard for sunshine and fresh air. Some were really languishing inside and will probably get a little scalded outside. However, evening temperatures look ok for awhile and we don't have the facilities to keep full sun plants inside for very long. I did some shopping for supplies, sprayed Round-Up in some very weedy areas and treated our iris collections with grub control. Maury and Dr. Gredler both came in to help out as did Mary and Dave Hunt (two of our veteran volunteers). Nice shot of the blooms of 'Leonard Messel' magnolia below (Magnolia x loebneri) which is blooming a "smidge" early and is still subject to frost which is a very real possibility in the next two weeks. There's nothing as beautiful as a magnolia in full bloom, but there is nothing more unsightly than a magnolia that was in full bloom and was hit with frost making brown and shriveled blooms! The bottom shot is of 'Happy Centennial' forsythia in bloom today. This is a neat, compact forsythia and I've copied/plagarized some nice information regarding this shrub from the Missouri Botanic Garden website. This forsythia cultivar is a compact, spreading, deciduous shrub which typically grows 2-2.5' tall and spreads to 5' wide. Features slightly fragrant, light yellow flowers which appear in profusion before the leaves in late winter to early spring. One of the earliest blooming shrubs.. a true harbinger of spring. Ovate, leathery, dark green leaves are attractive throughout the growing season, but fall color is usually unexceptional.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Temperamental Day

We all came in today expecting sunshine and 70 degree temperatures. We heard about the slight chance of an isolated shower. Well, it was overcast, cold and occasionally sprinkling out there this morning. As I look outside, it's blue skies and sunny right now although still a bit chilly. Nice shot of grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) starting up in the sunny hot spots. In some areas, they've just emerged but I have some at home that are blooming as well. This is definitely one of my favorite bulbs and we must have 50,000 of these around the gardens in small groupings. The blue of this bulb helps balance all the yellows we're seeing with daffodils (Narcissus). However, there are so many wonderful daffodils that are more subtle than the bright yellow or whites. Unfortunately the variety below is unknown but beautiful none the less. The renowned horticulturist Wayne Winterrowd has said that "not knowing the exact name of a plant has never diminished his appreciation of its merits" (or something like that!). He has authored some nice books by the way.
Another great Grumpy day with Dick P., Dick H., Rollie and crew hauling back all of our terrace furniture and umbrellas from storage. Gary and Charlie spread shredded bark in the rose garden while Del and Ron spread mushroom compost over some of our annual beds. Dave and Vern worked on carpentry while Bob T. worked his "air edge magic" by tidying up edges of beds along turf. Maury helped in many capacities and continued to prime some of our obelisks before painting. Jenny and Janice worked on weeding and tidying various areas and shifted to indoor projects when the weather turned ugly. Larry had been helping everybody out and is repairing some electrical junctions and conduit in the rose garden. Bob was in digging holes, mulching and is currently digging up rampant deadnettle (Lamium). See to the left for a nice picture of a functional groundcover with nice leaf pattern and showy flowers. There are different species and varieties but be warned that it does reseed and can become a nuisance. We are destroying a good portion of our population as it now covers about 100x more area than we ever wanted! Vigorous is not always a good asset for a plant!

The American Public Gardens Association (APGA), of which I'm a member, has declared May 8, 2009 to be National Public Gardens Day, "an annual celebration of America's gardens." The APGA created this event to promote the awareness of the important role that public gardens play. Dan Stark, executive director of the APGA, says "National Public Gardens Day will not only be a time for families and enthusiasts to enjoy the gardens, but will also showcase the achievements and expertise provided by public gardens as well as their commitment to education and outreach programs that are vital to people's appreciation and understanding of the irreplaceable value of plants." Amen. Why not celebrate this day by becoming a member at Rotary Gardens!? See to download our membership brochure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Another nice sunny day albeit quite cool. Nice shot of hyacinths above. Tomorrow and Friday will be very warm and we're looking forward to that weather (followed by more April showers of course!). Happy Earth Day! Check out for information on how this day was started. We had preschoolers here today enjoying some programming developed by our Master Gardeners. Nice attendance and a well-received program. We hope to increase attendance in the future. Yesterday we received another shipment of plant plugs and Janice labeled and potted all of them. Our horticulture center is a maze of plants (see below) that gets moved outside for sunlight during the day but back inside at night to avoid the frost. We're not out of the woods yet in terms of frost!
Another very productive day with Marv and Terry installing some of our new garden signs and putting up the rest of our colorful obelisks. Bob helped dig holes for the signs and worked on digging out dead shrubs and mulching an area "in need." Kay was her normal "whirlwind" self and weeded a huge area of bedstraw, quackgrass and other nasties. She is worth her weight in gold around here as we love to tackle weeds early as it saves us time later in summer. Marianne was here this morning and catalogued our dead irises for replacement and arranged another nice cutting display for visitors to view what is blooming out in the gardens. Larry installed tree signs and bounced between a dozen small (but needed) projects. Dr. Gredler was here as was Maury and Vern. I spread crabgrass control fertilizer around the gardens and did get outside for a bit. We're getting prepared for a workday this Saturday and our big daylily division workday the following Saturday (May 2). Preparations for the spring plant sale have gone very well and we anticipate a huge success (and are praying for good weather). The peonies are really shooting up and I sure love the deep maroon, glossy growth as they stretch for light (see below).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Singing In The Rain!...Not Really.

Today has been cold and gloomy. We've had a steady light rain thru most of the day with cold winds. The moisture is ok but I'm looking forward to the warm up later in the week. The weeds should really get going then! Small crew today with Larry working on equipment and Janice potting up some new plants. Urban and Rose came in to paint our last 10 obelisks (deep blue) and Maury and Glenn also popped in. I gave another talk here at the gardens to a women's service club regarding "Container Gardening". Too bad they don't have a nice day to tour the gardens.

The logo to the left for American Garden Award represents an exciting new program that Rotary Gardens will be involved in this year. Only seventeen gardens in the country have been asked to participate in displaying select plants for the visiting public to vote on in terms of their favorites. This is the first flower evaluation program using cell phone voting technology. See for more information regarding this inaugural program. The plants are already here being nurtured and will be planted in their own garden location with appropriate signage. Nice shot of tulips in front of our building. They look beautiful although they were supposed to be pink!!! Not sure if I made the mistake or they weren't identified correctly. Regardless, we have a lot of orange/salmon tulips (1,000) blooming in front of our visitors center. Why sweat the small stuff? (but they should have been pink!). At the bottom is a close-up of the Grecian windflower (Anemone blanda) or thimbleweed. This fall-planted bulb (tuber) blooms in mid-April with low ferny foliage and large, 2-3" blossoms. Carrol took the picture below and we also have plenty of blue ones out there as well (see far bottom). They have perennialized well here and go dormant and disappear in the coming month or so. Lots of color out there in the gardens.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Not A Totally Lost Day

We had rain in this area from Saturday night thru this morning. I thought we'd have a "lost day" out in the gardens as I expected it to rain all day. We actually had some sunlight and it's been fairly dry for most of the day. Above is a picture of our observation deck with surrounding daffodils. This structure offers "all-accessible" fishing and affords a nice view of the arched bridge, Japanese garden and gazebo. I did a presention for the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary and this morning, some of the ladies and I went on a little tour of the gardens. We noticed (and appreciated) the very early blooming Rhododendron dauricum overlooking the zig-zag bridge. Native to E. Siberia, Mongolia, Northern China and Japan, this rhododendron is bone hardy for us although I wish we just had more!

Great Grumpy turnout today despite the threat of rain. Dick P. and Rollie picked up our memorial bricks while the carpenters continued to work on obelisks and other projects. Dave T., Jim D., Bob A. and Vern are a great team. Dick H., Del, Terry T. and Urban helped paint and do various indoor projects while Gary went out solo and mulched roses in the formal gardens. Maury, Charlie and Bob T. were also here. Janice and Marianne have bounced inside and out and worked on their own respective projects while Marv & Terry finished filling all our containers with potting mix and went on a much needed shopping trip for supplies. Dr. Gredler is doing more lawn work and Larry's been working on some water spigots out in the garden. I'm glad this wasn't a lost day at all! Nice shot below of 'Stresa' tulips blooming in our English cottage garden today. See the bottom shot for a look at my home gardening project. The image is of 10 cubic yards of mushroom compost in my driveway. Every three years, the wife and I topdress our entire garden with 1" or so of this material and the investment has been worth it. We're glad we spread so much prior to the rains and will finish this weekend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!!!

Perfect weather today with blue sky, plenty of sun and lots accomplished. Nice shot above of the pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) in our English cottage garden today. I love the unfurling blooms of this early perennial and once done blooming, the seed heads are wispy and showy as well. We have some pink varieties in the alpine garden as well. It wasn't hard to run in to color today as seen with pictures from today (more hyacinths below).
Marv and Terry have been hauling out more of our larger containers and custom blending our soil mix and filling the containers in preparation for planting in the coming weeks. We blend 2/3 soil-less potting mix with 1/3 mushroom compost and feel this will be a nice blend for our 50+ containers out in the garden. Dr. Gredler has been out mowing and accomplishing various gardening tasks. Marianne, Janice, Bob and Kay all transplanted annual plugs (over 800) in to larger containers which was essential as these will be part of one of our new displays. I think we all respect the amount of work done in greenhouses in terms of "bumping up" these plugs in to larger containers (see to the left). With cold evenings, most of these plants need to be inside, however, on days like today, we get them out for some fresh air and sunshine. Without a hoop house or greenhouse, we do a lot of moving plants inside and out in April and May. Oh well. We know the routine. See our cart of tender plants that we drive around all day to be in part sun (so the plants don't scald as they've not seen light for a week or so in the back of a semi).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My "Year Round" Preferred Climate

Awesome weather. If I could have 365 days of these temperatures (40 in morning, 70 in afternoon), I would be content. The garden hyacinths (Hyacinthus) are starting up now in the sunniest spots. This is about 2 weeks early but who really cares!? The nice blue variety above is 'Kronos' and looks good in front of the golden foliage of the falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mops) and has a wonderful fragrance. Years ago we had a hyacinth collection of over 80 varieties and I was impressed with the color range and fragrance. Lots of color out in the gardens today but my camera is still having issues although the shot above is from today. I ordered up a Canon Powershot SD1100 and hope it had less issues than my Olympus has had over the years. A digital camera is a great garden aid and always good to have around for quick shots! Out in our parking lot today, I took the shot below of some nice daffodils. About eight years ago, we planted over 8,000 daffodils representing 300+ varieties/species throughout our parking lot. Daffodils arae grouped in to 13 different categories called divisions. See for some of the basic divisions. The "windswept" look below indicates a cyclamineus daffodil and I enjoy these early bloomers for that interesting flower shape. Not sure of the variety but we'll become heavy on daffodils in the coming weeks!
Larry worked on removing some large limbs off of two hackberry trees in the gazebo garden while Bob helped him out and also accomplished lots of mulching in the arboretum. Janice and Shirley H. did weeding throughout the formal gardens as we attack weeds as soon as we see them. The Grumpies had a great turnout with Ron, Gary, Charlie and Rollie working on composting and some mulching as well. Dr. Gredler has been hauling loads to the dump and the ever-helpful Maury has been running around town for various supplies, drop-offs and pick-ups. Dave T., Jim D., Vern, Bob A. and Del were all working on carpentry projects (more obelisks) while Bob T. and Dick H. have been repairing our pressure washer (which we need operational to clean our ponds and other features). Geesje brought more treats and we look forward to when her health allows her to be our #1 weeding demon again. See below. The forsythia are blooming and it's recommended that you apply crabgrass preventer (if needed) before the forsythia are done blooming. The dormant crabgrass seeds are triggered after nighttime soil temperatures are over 50 degrees F for over three days. The window has started.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Very "Spring-like" Today

The weather was great today and we all spent time outside gardening. Nice shot (from yesterday) above of a "bulb lawn" at Pat H.'s home. Note the iris (probably Iris reticulata) and bunching crocus. Pat is one of our volunteers and a very talented home gardener. I walk my dogs by her home and have taken awesome shots of her showy (and inspirational) yard. Why not include some color in your semi-dormant spring lawns before they need to be mown? Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison has an awesome meadow garden full of early bulbs like this that are followed by short meadow grasses. Very low maintenance and showy. To the right is a nice shot of the golden lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta 'Taylor's Sunburst') that has a bit of burn on the outer needles but has a nice golden overtone and is an eyecatcher.

Marv and Terry worked on installing signs, obelisks, stepping stones and other miscellaneous projects. They are great about bouncing around to do the "flavor of the day" projects. Marianne did an awesome job cleaning up part of our gazebo garden that we rarely address. She's hauled out plenty of debris and found time to work on the cutting display as well. Bob and Stacy came in to help out and Dr. Gredler was around as well. Del and Maury popped in for various projects and we look forward to a busy day tomorrow. More plants arrived today. These are for a program called the American Garden Award. We are one of only sixteen gardens in North America that will display plants for this program (which will involve the public voting for their favorites). We have more compost being delivered tomorrow and should have tree and shrub deliveries in the next 2-3 weeks as well. Below is a shot of the feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster') actively growing. Termed a "cool season" grass for its quick growth and preference for cooler temperatures, this grass will be over 2' tall by the time our warm season grasses emerge in mid to late May. Now would be the time to divide and transplant this grass. See image at the bottom for what this grass will look like by mid-summer (note 'Tiger Eyes' sumac behind the grass). This is a great variety for a tough, upright, vertical specimen.