Tuesday, December 28, 2010


My younger daughter's favorite destination for many years has been to see waterfalls. We've seen the thundering Niagra Falls, waterfalls in the Rocky Mtns. and many of the waterfalls of Northern WI and MI. Above is Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan which is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi. Below is another waterfall in the U.P. My daughter would spend hours wading in these waterfalls and enjoying the experience. Of course, waterfalls on a smaller scale in the landscape can offer many of the same features of their larger siblings; sound, serenity, movement, wildlife potential, etc. At RBG, we have two waterfalls. One is located in the Japanese garden while the other is in the fern/moss garden. Neither waterfall is large but they are vital parts of their garden in which they are located. As manmade elements, these waterfalls do require maintenance, inspection and eventually replacement or removal. Having a sloping grade of course is helpful for intitiating a waterfall; for instance, the one seen below at the Chicago Botanic Garden. As with any garden feature(s), it is vital to know all the time and cost involved with purchasing, installing and maintaining these elements. Further below are some additional ideas for waterfalls and some nice settings.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Two More Talks Scheduled

Next week I'll be ordering our seeds for the year and will have a busy month of preparations that also includes organizing my talks and organizing seminars for RBG. In previous blog postings, I've mentioned Moss Gardening on January 19th and Woody Plants on February 23rd. We'll also have Herb Gardening on March 30th and Perennials on May 25th. The April 20th date will likely be Perennial Division but that has not been "firmed up" yet. Patty Bailey of Patty's Plants - Natural & Organic Garden Supply (Milton, WI) will be giving the seminar on March 30th from 6 pm until 8 pm. As a reminder, for all 12 of these monthly seminars, all RBG members are admitted free, all others will be $5 (per seminar). Patty will focus on a wide range of herbs and talk about how to incorporate organic growing methods in to your herb gardening approaches in the yard and container. Check out Patty's business at www.pattysplants.com/ and I should mention that her business was named "Small Business of the Year" for 2010 by the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. RBG has a nice herb garden maintained by the Janesville Area Herb Society and we look forward to including more herbs in not only that garden space but throughout the gardens as well. Our Children's Garden next year will incorporate lots of "smelly" plants including plenty of herbs.

On May 25th, we'll have a seminar on perennials given by Dr. Frank Greer from Madison, WI. Dr. Greer has been President of the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society for many years (12+) and is extremely knowledgeable regarding all manner of perennials. He'll use his home garden has an example on how to develop a space with appropriate perennials. I've been to Dr. Greer's garden and it is superb. As always, I'll have more information on all of these upcoming talks and our website will also include additional information. We're hoping for a great turnout for all 12 of these seminars as well as our symposia and bus tours.

Larry and Bill were here today doing some touch up snow removal and were making sure the paths are good for the Holiday Lights Show tonight. My parents and brother (with his wife) were in town last night and we came down to the lights show. Everything looked great and with only five more nights, we hope for some good attendance numbers. However, the weather will be getting quite warm and damp towards the end of the week which may affect the show. We'll see. Dr. Gredler was here today painting while Dave, Bob A. and Jim continued to work on our 2011 butterfly art projects. We also saw Maury, Gary, Big John and Rollie over today.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mr. Moss on January 19th, 2011

For 2011, we're putting together an evening, garden seminar series that will be held every month on a select Wednesday night from 6 pm until 8 pm at the Rotary Botanical Gardens' Parker Education Center. All of these talks will be FREE for RBG Friends Members, otherwise, an affordable $5 for everyone else. Our first speaker will be Mr. Dale Sievert from Waukesha, WI. I like to call him "Mr. Moss" as he has established himself as one of the top moss gardeners in the country and his 1 acre garden (which I've visited twice personally) is amazing for not only the use of moss but the design of the space as well. All the images in this posting are from Dale's garden. Dale's use of moss was just featured in the American Gardener magazine which is the publication for the American Horticultural Society. Dale will be talking specifically about his use of moss (design, establishment and maintenance) in his own garden (and containers) but will also be talking about his garden in general. Mark January 19th on your calendar and certainly contact me with any questions. In February, we'll be having a seminar on woody plants from Dave Wanninger (Beaver Creek Nursery). Dave has a vast knowledge of woody plants and will be sharing some of his favorites. In March, a seminar on herbs from Patty Bailey, owner of Patty's Plants, Natural & Organic Garden Supply (Milton, WI). Patty's Plants was just named Small Business of the Year (2010) from the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Tourism. More dates and details regarding these, and other upcoming seminars, will be on this blog soon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sit & Enjoy Your 2010 Successes (With A 2011 Plant Catalog on Your Lap!)

As more snow blankets the landscape and we start to wonder how long this winter will last, do spend time to sit down, relax and mull over your successes and failures out in the garden. I feel it is important to look back and assess what worked in terms of plantings, soil improvements, container arrangements, tool selection, etc. I used to rely on my memory but find myself taking lots of pictures and jotting down notes on an always handy notepad. I've been going thru my digital photographs from this year and it's nice to remember destinations, plants, combination ideas, etc. These pictures also remind me about those areas (both at work and at home) that really worked out nicely as well as those that might need a bit more attention. I took over 7,000 photos in 2010. As I sort them, over 2,000 will be discarded but the others get filed under various categories for easy retrieval in the future. When I see one that I want to keep fresh in mind (for any reason), I'll print it out. The Grumpies are always wary when I come in to the break room with more pictures as it usually means a new project of some sort; bench style, raised bed, smooth stacked rock on a steel rod (more on that later, top secret...), etc. Some gardeners keep more detailed notebooks, journals or binders with plant labels, sketches, notes, pictures, etc. This approach will vary for everyone but my overall comment is the garden and its successes are meant to be enjoyed. So many times we hear (or say), "I'd enjoy my garden more if I wasn't gardening so much." Take that time.

Our Holiday Lights Show has run five nights now and the crowds have been fairly steady. Last night was light on attendance as it was foggy and quite warm (33 degrees F). With all of that moisture, I had some difficulty with the power and roughly 10% of the show was off. Visitors, though warned of the outages, were understanding and hardly noticed those areas that were "touchy." We've been amazed by the number of attendees new to this event but are glad that we're bringing in a new crowd that will hopefully go home with tales of a winter wonderland. There are still eight more nights of the show and we hope to get some large crowds. Yesterday, Bill, Larry, Marv and Bob C. did a nice job clearing snow. We also saw Dr. Gredler, Dr. Yahr, Big John, Maury, Del, Jean, Cora, Barb, Tim and many others. I'm technically "off" until Jan. 3rd but will follow the advice given in the title of this blog. I'll enjoy the successes but have my 2011 catalogs ready to roll.

As a side note, the pictures in this blog represent just some of the variability afforded by garden furniture out in the gardens. Remember that seating is vital but the actual seating elements can be stylish, colorful and certainly a viable component in the landscape.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow & Ice Damage

It's getting to be that time of year where variable rain, snow, ice and everything in between affects our travel times as well as our trees. Last December we had a very heavy snow mid-month that created the issues seen above with Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis). In many cases, bending of branches caused by snow and ice will be alleviated as the snow melts. Many trees will recover from even severe bending of the branches. There are mixed recommendations on whether to brush snow/ice off of woody plants (particularly evergreens) to minimize damage. If this is done (at all), it should be done gently by pushing branches upwards to shed snow, not brushing snow downward which may increase chances of breakage. However, there is a "point of no return" that was reached last year. Note the summer shot directly above and to the right with remnants of that winter bending still quite evident. In some cases, gentle staking and straightening of the branches in need of correction can be effective (particularly with younger specimens) although removal is sometimes the only option if there is more evident damage. Below is Janice's Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) that split a couple years ago in a heavy snowfall. Of course, the physics of wind, snow loads, etc. can lead to this type of failure but there are other factors to consider such as the form and structure of the individual specimen. The species of tree is a big factor too and the Callery pear is a good example as it is notorious for weak branches and crotch connections. Our pears in the main parking lot have suffered each winter with breakage and cracking which becomes more prevalent with older age as well. Our spring clean-up efforts always include picking up branches throughout the gardens that have been shed during the winter. In some cases, snow and wind helps thin out the "deadwood" up in the canopy and may even take out a previously unnoticed hazard branch. Winter shedding of these branches by Mother Nature has, obviously, less of a chance of injuring staff or visitors here at the gardens. Of course, winter weather can damage, deform or destroy choice specimens and in the worst weather situations, damage avoidance is impossible. However mitigating the damage by proper selection, pruning and maintenance is possible. I ran across two websites that may be of interest that further discuss this topic. Check out http://urbanext.illinois.edu/icedamage/ from the University of Illinois and http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1411.html from the University of Minnesota for more information. Below is a upright Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris 'Fastigiata') at my parents house in the Chicago area. This narrow evergreen does not "shed" snow well and is prone to breakage (as evidenced by our three poor looking specimens at RBG). My parents use this ribbon to tie up the branches lightly and provide extra support during the winter months. It has been very effective (and festive!) thus far.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pesticides - An Interesting Article

I was just reading an article entitled, "There Are No Calories in Pesticides" in the Sustainable Times publication (November 2010). This article contained information gathered by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which is a non-profit organizaton based in Washington D.C. that uses public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG created "The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" (first published in 1995) which is meant to help people avoid those conventional fruits and vegetables found to be the highest in pesticides. Of course, eating organic, is a way to avoid these chemical "inputs" but by using this guide and avoiding the most contaminated produce, we can lower our pesticide consumption by 80%. The guide is not "built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks but instead reflects the overall pesticide loads of common fruits and vegetables". It's very likely that we are all consuming pesticides by the way.
I wont go in to the methodology used by the EWG but I'm sure you can research further if you like. What I found interesting was their "Dirty Dozen" list and their "Clean Fifteen" list. Ranked in order of worst first, the dirty dozen include celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collard greens, potatoes and grapes (imported). The clean fifteen (best first) include onions, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mangos, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato and honeydew melon. An interesting fact that amazed me in this article is that the U.S. exports 150 million tons of banned (in the U.S.) pesticides that may then be used on the produce that is later imported back in to the country. That sure seems backwards. The EWG went further to recommend ways of avoiding pesticide consumption on our produce. They recommended buying organic, buy locally grown (ask about growing methods), grow your own, consider using vegetable/fruit washes and peel fruits with higher pesticide levels (may only be partially effective). Organic produce sales have soared from 3% of the retail produce market in 2000 to nearly 11 percent in 2009 ($9.5 billion). Despite these trends, the eating habits of Americans are still of concern with an increase in calorie count but a decrease in nutritional value. The relentless promotion of fast food has not helped. At RBG in 2011, we will continue to promote growing your own produce and incorporating "ornamental edibles", compact vegetables in containers and old-fashioned heirloom varieties (to help preserve genetic diversity).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Philadelphia on January 18th

The lights show has run well the past two nights and I'll be on duty tonight. While the weather has been quite cold, we've had steady attendance at the event thus far. This is a quick blog to mention something that will be more detailed very shortly. Lori, our volunteer coordinator, is pulling together some evening volunteer events in the winter with the intent of not only getting together but keeping everyone informed on what is coming up this year. We'll arrange one in each of the months of January, February and March. I will also be doing short presentations at each of these and showing some of images of the various gardens I've been able to see over the past two years. The first volunteer event is on January 18th and I'll be talking about some of the gardens in the Philadelphia area. These first five images are of Chanticleer, the garden that awarded me the scholarship that allowed me to travel in the first place! A special thanks to Bill Thomas, Executive Director at Chanticleer, and the Board of the Chanticleer Foundation that awarded the scholarship. Lori will be sending out cards shortly to our current volunteers but if you are a past volunteer, potential volunteer or maybe a volunteer that for some reason doesn't receive the details, give Lori a call at (608) 752-3885 (ext 20) for event details. Put this first one on your calendar (I think we'll be having soup). Some of the other talks will include gardens of Los Angeles and New York City. The images here are just a sampling. We truly hope these events will help continue our connection with volunteers over the "off months" so we're ready to rock and roll in the spring. Whether me blabbing at these has any value is incidental as the true reason is keeping up the camaraderie. We hope you'll attend these and sit back and relax (although the bench below at Chanticleer is short on cushions, it look cool). Below is part of the campus of Swarthmore College which includes the Scott Arboretum. The entire campus is considered a botanic garden with the majority of plants labeled.
Below are two shots from Winterthur (actually in Delaware) but not far from Philadelphia. Cool gardens and natural areas.Below are some shots from The Morris Arboretum which is operated by the University of Pennsylvania. Neat garden although it poured rain when I was there. Further below is a new "canopy catwalk" that is quite amazing to traverse.Any visit to the Philadelphia area is not complete without enjoying the gardens and conservatories of Longwood Gardens (below), considered to be one of the best (if the not the best) botanic gardens in the country.