Friday, July 31, 2009

Fantabuluous Friday!

The weather was partly sunny but quite pleasant today. We did have a smidge of rain yesterday and didn't have to water quite as much today. Nice shot above from this morning. The formal gardens look great and are particularly "sharp" with the great pruning from Marv and Terry. The pink hanging baskets are the not-so-subtle repetition of our pink theme from the front of the building (as seen below).
We had a very productive day. Volunteer activities included Bill mowing and tidying up, Kay weeding like a demon in the shade garden, Dan doing the same in the woodland walk and Nancy/Tom weeding and planting in the gazebo garden. It would be tough to list the various tasks accomplished today by Janice, Jerry, Marv, Terry and Marianne but they were numerous and significant. We get so much done when Larry isn't here! :). Fridays are again, the opportunity to primp the gardens before the weekend "onslaught' of wedding attendees, visitors, tours, etc. Leaving shortly so will finish with some more pictures from this morning.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dark Skies, Bright Gardens

Today had some drizzle and has been overcast all day. I hope we get some more rain to save us watering time tomorrow. It's amazing how liberating it is to not have to water, thus shifting attention to other gardening tasks and needs! Nice shot above of our Ornamental Edible plantings along the larch area. This space is filled with herbs, vegetables, plants with edible flowers, etc. This bed will be utilized as part of a hands-on portion of a horticultural therapy symposium in August here at Rotary Gardens. Below is the center planter in the reception garden. Note the reliance on foliage color and texture. In the center is a clump of variegated giant reed grass (Arundo donax 'Versicolor') that we use every year (non-hardy). Repeated along the edges is the wooly sage (Salvia argentea 'Hobbit's Foot') that attracts children of all ages to touch and appreciate its soft texture.
We had a good turnout again for the Grumpies with Del removing old fence as Dick P., Rollie and Maury put in some more sections. Gary and Ron picked up debris and started assembling plant sale tables. Ed worked on graveling some paths while Bob T. staked lilies and air edged at the horticulture center. Bob A., Jim, Dave and Vern finished some potting benches and are producing parts for our 30 new obelisks (to be sold in the gift shop and at our September plant sale). Suzanne, Suzy and Glenna weeded a large flower berm today, doing a great job even thru the sporadic drizzle. Shirley cleaned out weeds in the color rooms garden while Dan (our new volunteer) did some damage (good) in the weedy woodland walk. Geesje brought in some yummy treats for break and we hope to have her talents out in the gardens again when she is 100%. Various master gardeners and volunteers have also been doing a great job with our vegetable collection at the Horticulture Center (Rose and Karen yesterday, Beth today). Larry is now off for a well-earned vacation and kept busy today dealing with various projects and coordination of tasks. Bill helped tidy this afternoon as well. To the left is a close-up of one of our beans (Phaseolus) in bloom. The Japanese beetles are starting to work on the leaves but the blossoms are quite showy and variable on our collection of 25 different heirloom runner and pole beans. Speaking of blooms, examine your hosta blooms at a close distance. They are quite beautiful and many varieties have been selected for fragrant blossoms. We usually deadhead (cut off) the flower stalks beneath the foliage once they brown out but they sure look nice now ('American Sweetheart' to the right). Our moss island (below) is looking pretty good right now and loves the cool temperatures and ample moisture. We tried a dangerous experiment this year when we sprayed Round-Up over this area to eradicate the thousands of weed seedlings brought in with the flooding from last year. The moss yellowed, the weeds died, then the moss "greened up" again. Amen. Janice has done a great job with this popular garden feature.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We're Getting There...

Today was lovely with sunshine and upper 70s. We're complaining about how cool it's been but we're very fortunate considering some of the heat and drought issues in TX, WA and even parts of WI. Nice shot above of our Ma' Chii' (spelling is wrong I'm sure) in our Fern & Moss Garden. This quiet retreat has a nice view and is a nice spot to take a break. We had lots of visitors today and were able to get most of our significant watering/irrigation accomplished this morning. I took the time to go around the entire gardens and was pleased overall. We have some "rough spots" but should be able to address those in the coming weeks. Our primary limitation is labor at this point. I love this "mini-border" in our sunken garden below that is actually mirror-imaged on the other side of the path. This composition reflects (to me) a perfect balance of flowers and foliage.
The fence gang of Dick H., Dick P., and Rollie were joined by the grandson of one of our volunteers (Rose). They put up a significant amount of fencing and are poised to do more shortly. We had Kay today and she helped Marianne plant and weeded in the entrance garden and reception garden. Her progress is always immediately apparent. Rose and Urban worked on painting today. Marianne planted, cut back perennials, weeded, tidied up and watered. Terry working on pruning, weeding and watering while Marv kept irrigation and his sprinklers going all day while he bounced between various priorities. Little Jerry worked on pruning back trees that were in the way of the fence fellas and ran irrigation as well. I gave our new assigned gardening volunteer (Dan) a tour of his area and we're happy he'll be tackling the woodland walk; which is screaming out for attention right now. I also met with Randy, a volunteer professional photographer, who will be targeting certain plants for close-ups for our records. It's always nice to add more people to our happy family. Nice shot to the left of one of my favorite stonecrops (Sedum spectabile 'Samuel Oliphant') with petunias in the foreground. To the right is a nice perennial, ornamental onion (Allium 'Summer Beauty') that really looks great from now thru the summer as it maintains its flower form until frost. Enjoy some other shots from today. I think we've achieved our goal of looking better each year (with less $!!!).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Missed The Rain

We had a nice chance of rain last night that went unfulfilled unfortunately which prompted lots of hand watering here at the gardens today. The soil isn't totally dry but we don't want to let it get to that point either! Larry ran irrigation around the gardens and we hit the driest spots with hand watering and hit all the containers again. Nice shot above of one of our Bailey Nursery test roses (Minnesota Red). The rose collection is looking pretty good although I think the Japanese beetles feel the same way. Nice new dwarf zinnia below (Zinnia marylandica 'Zahara Starlight Rose') from All-America Selections. This one has done great in part shade thus far.
We had a small but productive crew today. With Dr. Gredler gone, Little Jerry and Bill took care of all the riding mowing while Larry did all of the push mowing. Kay and Heidi planted a couple hundred pink Angelonias to fill in a space that needed "something". They then shifted to weeding. Barb, Mary and Joyce also hand weeded today. There seemed to be a lot of activity and visitors around the gardens today. It was nice to see Luis, Tom and Donna out taking pictures and enjoying the gardens. There are many talented photographers sharing their digital images with me and I greatly appreciate their generosity. Nice shot below of Art giving a tour last week. The tour guides are the unsung heroes around here as they deal with large groups, lots of questions and variable weather patterns. We have a great batch of volunteer tour guides and note how Art has his tour trapped so they have to listen to his well-crafted diatribe!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Successful Home Garden Tour!

We had a wonderful Home Garden Tour this past Saturday. The weather was sour on Friday but Saturday was sunny with a light breeze and temperatures in the mid-70s. Over 500 people enjoyed eight homes in the Janesville area including the Riley residence above. I took many pictures and heard many complements regarding the organization and quality of the tour this year. This was a successful fundraiser for us and we hope to continue to refine and improve this event. The picture to left is from the Olmsted/Hathaway garden on the tour and shows the value of a mature golden Hakone grass (Hakon

echloa macra
'All Gold') in a shady situation. The image to the right is from the Barton residence and shows the value of colorful coral bells (Heuchera) and also shows the personal touch of the gardener with that neat planter (with scented geranium). I took hundreds of photos and all eight gardens were high quality and inspirational for everyone.

We had another big crew here today with the Grumpies. The fence crew of Dick H, Dick P, Rollie and John got rolling early and accomplished a nice length of installation. Marv and Terry worked down in the wishing well garden along with many other Grumpies, including Dr. Yahr. Gary and Ron removed some small trees while the carpenters kept busy with building potting benches. Nancy and Shirley were here to weed today as well. Marianne bounced between weeding, planting, watering and fertilizing while Little Jerry continued to prune and tidy in various areas. Larry got back in to running our irrigation zones and helped with various projects. I ran for some more donated plants and have been stuck inside organizing the "wrap up" for our weekend Home Garden Tour. I was able to take my family thru the gardens yesterday and was able to enjoy it (while planning for today's tasks...). Some of those images are below.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Calm Before The Storm?

Looks like a doozy of a storm system is heading our way. We had another .5" of precipitation last night in the form of a heavy downpour. This is one of the first days we've had all summer where we didn't water anything. Tomorrow is our 17th Annual Home Garden Tour that features eight area home gardens and we've never had rain for this event. The forecast calls for scattered rain but I hope it waits until the end of the event at 4 pm. Nice shot above of our formal annual sections. Marv and Terry do an awesome job shearing our boxwood hedges (twice per year) and this garden is filling in nicely. We've had some criticism regarding the bright blue obelisks but it's safe to say that they wont go with being un-noticed! Below are some of our seasonal berms starting to peak. We had Susan from Ball Horticultural Company (West Chicago, IL) come out to visit today and she looked at much of their plant material in this very space. Nice visit.
I hope I don't forget anyone; volunteers today included Dr. Gredler, Dr. Yahr, Vern, Don, Pearl, Kay, Joann, Magda, Olive and Steve. Kay and Joann were knee deep (literally) in weeds in the reception garden and everyone spent time weeding today. Fridays involve a lot of garden "tweaking" and preparation prior to Saturday weddings. Little Jerry, Janice, Marv and Marianne were all here doing various garden tasks and preparations for the weekend. There is a wedding this evening in the rose garden that I hope misses the downpour. I'm finally caught up with desk work after being gone and while daily garden operations are my priority, I have to get the ball rolling on our fall plant sale and lights show in December. With limited staff and volunteers, the value of being proactive can't be overstated. I'm not a "last-minute" type of person but find I'm doing things later than usual depending on other distractions. With the prevalence of weeding over the past couple of weeks, we will make great efforts to minimize mechanical removal of weeds and hope to accomplish more mulching and early weed control with pre-emergents. We do try to minimize chemical usage but there are select cases where it is very warranted as a result of our lack of "manpower". Nice shot of 'Satisfaction' lily (Lilium) below in our English cottage garden. This is an O-T hybrid or essentially a cross between an Oriental lily and a trumpet lily. The benefit is a nice height (48"), later bloom time but wonderful color range and engaging scent! These really perfume the entry in to the garden and we'll continue to plant more lilies over the upcoming years. Nice shot at the bottom of our "fence offensive". The guys (mainly Dick H, Dick P, John and Rollie) have been going gangbusters on installing this fancy new fence around the periphery of the garden. It lends a professional touch, will help direct entry traffic (away from hopping over, thru or under the fence as they have been doing) and might slow the deer down as they size up a jump. We'll see. Great progress though...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lots of Visitors Today

One of my favorite annual contributions to our chartreuse theme this year is the flowering tobacco above (Nicotiana langsdorfii). Note the very pendulant lime trumpets and vivid coloration. Nicotiana is a nice annual but many will reseed and you'll have to deal with seedlings the following year. We planted over 30 varieties/species of Nicotiana this year and will continue to do so. What a neat annual. On the topic of annuals, see below for two of our main players in this 2009 color theme. The pink petunia is 'Tidal Wave Hot Pink' which gets tall and wide. The plumes behind the petunia are from a celosia (Celosia argentea plumosa 'Sylphid') that has greenish-yellow plumes and is quite textural. The lacy leaves in the back are from a cosmos.
We had another productive Grumpy morning with Dick P, Dick H., Rollie and John working on new fence installation. Del took down the old split rail fence in that same area while Charlie and Bob T. worked with Dr. Yahr down in the new wishing well garden. Bob A., Dave and Vern worked on assembling potting benches and obelisks. Ron helped Larry and Del today. Larry weedwhipped, watered, and did lots of odd jobs while Jerry and Janice kept busy with their respective projects. We had a "weeding quartet" of Suzanne, Susie, Marilyn and Glenna today and they did a wonderful job of weeding and "last minute" planting in some of our annual berms. I'm working on some presentations and preparations for our home garden tour but was able to assist with a tour from Grant County (WI). What a great group and we saw lots of visitors out in the gardens today. See below for another shot of 'Sylphid' celosia and at the bottom is a view of our vegetable trials (the beans are starting to really climb!).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Heading Towards Peak Color!

Above is a nice shot of the annual gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta 'Becky Golden'). This variety is quite short and is a small portion of our rudbeckia collection that includes over 50 varieties of these colorful annuals. There are some neat colors and forms. This collection should peak once we get some heat but I was amazed by our color this week and feel we're headed towards a good time to enjoy particularly annuals and summer perennials peaking. Below is another composite bloom although on a perennials. This is a hybrid coneflower (Echinacea hybrida 'Green Envy') that really caught my eye yesterday. We have maybe 40 varieties of the newer Echinaceas and are excited about what is next to come. I will say that not all of them seem garden worthy and that old adage "New plants aren't always good and good plants aren't always new" comes to mind.
The day started out drizzly but we haven't seen any significant precipitation. We received .5" of rain yesterday but could use a good, all-day soaker of 2" or so. It has been overcast with possible showers over the coming days. We'll see. We had Kay, Mary W., Roy, Jan and Rose weeding today and had the "fence boys" worked yet again (John, Rollie, Dick H. and Ron). Marv composted, tilled, sheared, repaired irrigation lines, prepped and watered while Marianne tidied, planted, weeded, watered and bounced around. Janice did some planting in the fern & moss garden as well as the alpine garden and finished with some weeding. Little Jerry spent the day in the Japanese garden pruning and we had Bill to help push mow and tidy. Dr. Gredler worked on myriad projects and among other activities today, I gave a tour to a nice bunch of Master Gardeners from DeKalb, County (IL) that came to visit. We had lots of traffic in the gardens today. Below is a nice shot of our new seating area in the wishing well garden. Dr. Yahr really moved things along and orchestrated the progress on this area. This space will accomodate 60 youth or 40 adults and we see it as a nice space for outdoor education (and possibly entertainment). That garden continues to develop. Two more shots at the bottom. Remember that all coneflowers aren't purple (Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan') and enjoy the bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) in full bloom near our observation platform.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sustaining The Momentum

I think our pink and chartreuse theme for this year has worked quite well as seen in our entrance garden above. This area received loving attention from Marianne and is flourishing. Today was overcast and provided the opportunity to take some nice shots before we had sprinkles in the afternoon. See other entrance garden shots below.

The struggle this time of year is keeping up with not only weeding and watering but making sure our current displays will extend in to late summer. We start to do a lot of deadheading and fertilization to keep our annuals looking good thru September. Despite our relative lack of heat this summer, our displays are vibrant (as is our weed collection). It certainly is a juggling act to deal with an ever-changing outdoor environment. Dick P, Dick H, Rollie and John all came in to continue installing our new metal fence. This fence (nice looking) will replace our decaying split rail fence and looks very professional. The guys are doing a nice job and are making quick work of it (100' down, 900' to go!). Kay, Heidi and Barb all came in to "re-weed" an area that not only did they plant 6 weeks ago, but have weeded multiple times. I love sending this weeding force out on Tuesday morning as they get so much accomplished. Janice was hear weeding as well and little Jerry mowed. Dr. Gredler, Bill and Larry all worked on mowing and other odd jobs while I continued to catch up on my pile of "to do" things and get organized for our Home Garden Tour this Saturday. Peg K. was here doing her magic in the English cottage garden and we hope to see more volunteers filter in for some weeding action soon! Nice shot of the statuesque sunray flower (Inula) below with blooms 48" above ground level. I think this is the species magnifica but am not sure.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bogged Down With "Catch-Up"

No time to blog from work today but will catch up soon. Had a great trip out west and enjoyed the highlights above; Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs), Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University flower trials (Fort Collins). Lot of other neat stops and a great trip for everyone (despite the 2700 miles!).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mental Rejuvenation

Nice shot of bloodleaf (Iresine hybrida 'Blazin' Rose') above. We have this in the gardens but this shot was taken at Bill and Mary's garden. They will be on our Home Garden Tour on July 25th. This plant can take partial shade and really adds some foliage color. That pink veination is exceptional. There is also a green leaf, chartreuse-veined version of this called 'Blazin' Lime'. The image to the left is one of our borders taken care of by Don and Pearl. They do a wonderful job and note the repetition of orange on the obelisks and with the plume celosia (Celosia plumosa 'Fresh Look Orange'). This border will just look better as the summer progresses.

The day has been cool and what started as an overcast morning became a steady drizzle that has continued thru the day. The amount of precipitation thus far isn't a lot but it is a nice soaking rain. I hope it does this all night to be honest but we could use daily highs of 85 degrees F to keep things moving along. It's 70 degrees F as I type! Ugh.

We had Cindy and Kay weeding today and saw Mary H. out in her area as well. The rain chased everyone away with the exception of Dr. Gredler who is regraveling our lot behind the horticulture center. Marv, Marianne, Terry and Little Jerry have all been out weeding, watering, etc. and we decided to stop watering recently to let Mother Nature have a crack at it. We're hoping to have another great work day this Saturday and as our wonderful volunteers immerse themselves in purslane weeding, I'll be at Rocky Mountain National Park. Looking forward to the mental break but it looks to be an exhaustive amount of driving. Regardless, I hope to see some other gardens and know that ours is left in good hands. I am really pumped about this new ornamental millet (Pennisetum sp. 'Jade Princess') to the right. Note the already famous 'Purple Majesty' millet (Pennisetum glaucum) behind it. Not sure how tall 'Jade Princess' will ultimately get but I am loving the illumination from this plant and look forward to the inflorescences. Note the dried bloom remnants of the tumbleweed onion (Allium schubertii) below in our color rooms. We haven't had a lot of these fall-planted bulbs survive in the gardens but those that have, bloom with flower umbels that are 15-18" in diameter and still look good in to mid-summer as they dry. Now that's flower architecture!