Monday, January 31, 2011

Progress Before the Blizzard

Above is a shot of the yews (Taxus sp.) in front of my home. They are directly beneath the gutters which were dripping all weekend. It looks like we'll get a good amount of snow over the next three days which I always view as a mixed blessing. While safe travel is important to everyone, so is spring snow melt out in the gardens and that nice snow blanket that helps in the winter. Of course, additional height with our snow out in the gardens just extends the reach of our hungry deer!

We had a nice turnout of volunteers today and will see how the rest of the week fares in terms of volunteers being able to make it to the gardens. Marv, Terry and Pat were all out in the gardens and brought back many of our displays. It is an art form getting the displays neatly arranged and stored in the garage but Larry has that down to a science. Larry helped process incoming displays as did Dick H. and Bill O. Dick W. cut some grasses and willow branches for a project with Marianne and helped the guys with their endeavors as well. Dr. Gredler was here to re-stain one of our outdoor garbage bins and Urban was in to continue his painting projects (see to the right) on the Adirondack chairs that will truly be "bright beacons of color!" Marianne was in to work on multiple projects. She initially came in to work on sifting and sorting historical photos but was re-routed when two boxes of seeds came in need of her attention. Our three biggest orders have come in and Marianne goes thru every packet and cross-references the packing slip. While we rarely find errors, it has proven valuable to double check. One of the orders was from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( and included many of our plant sale vegetables. The seed packets were very colorful (as seen to the right and below) and included some very neat varieties of squash. To the right is 'Black Futsu' squash that while picked deep, dark green, will age to a chestnut orange during storage. Janice really picked out some cool varieties, all of which will be displayed this summer throughout the Horticulture Center beds and will be available in seed packets at the spring plant sale (May 14 & 15). Marianne also worked on her photo project after the seed were all organized. I was able to work on presentations and programs although I didn't get to order any more seeds (tomorrow, hopefully). The four carpenters (Jim, Dave, Vern and Bob A.) started on their next project which can be seen at the bottom of this blog. I can't reveal much more information but this is one of three such structures that will be out in the gardens this year. The carpenters will not be lacking for any work this year as they currently have a back log of projects as it is. We also saw Gary, Mary W., Chuck and Laura here today. It was a very productive day both inside and out, though the impending snow will make us all "insiders". That's no problem for me as I spend my entire days behind the computer this time of year putting on "winter weight." :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hang In There!

It's a nice sunny day out there today with temperatures in the mid 30 degrees F. February is a tough month for the winter doldrums but put it all in perpective and enjoy the progression in to spring. Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) like those above and below (variety 'Alba' below) are only 100 days away! Find solace on the worst winter days in your seed catalogs, gardening catalogs and other outlets. Of course, winter has a beauty all its own too!!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Three More Seminars Announced!

Our monthly lecture series is 91.66% planned with 11 of the 12 lectures scheduled (December to follow soon!). Check out the education menu on our website at for more details on these exciting educational opportunities. RBG members may attend for free with all others being asked for a $5 donation. All talks are held at the Parker Education Center from 6 pm until 8 pm. Perhaps purchasing a membership for yourself or a friend (a great gift idea!) would be wise as you will also get myriad other benefits and discounts. Briefly, listed below are the three seminars for September, October and November. The three top images are meant as supporting visual fodder with the sole intent of selective, contagious enticement!

On September 28th, the topic will be Ornamental Grasses. Join Nancy Nedveck, co-owner of The Flower Factory Nursery (Stoughton, WI) for her presentation featuring a wide range of hardy, perennial grasses for all areas of the garden; sun and shade. Nancy is very knowledgeable and not only does her nursery sell over 200 varieties of ornamental grasses, it offers a total of over 4,000 varieties of perennials.

On October 26th, I'll be talking about Spring Bulbs for the home garden. The timing is perfect to promote not only the visual spring merits of planting beautiful bulbs in fall, but also the proper selection, installation, maintenance and subsequent care of these bulbs will be covered as well. We plant lots of bulbs at RBG and I'll mention some of my favorites for colorful impact (and low cost!).

On November 16th, the topic will be Gardens of Stone - Expressions of Our Local Environment. Join John Gishnock, owner of Formecology (Evansville, WI), in an engaging discussion regarding the use of local landscape materials as well as aspects of natural stone work. This will include functional, aesthetic and emotional uses. At Formecology, John works as an ecological designer, project manager and tireless advocated for sustainable approaches to landscaping.
Today was fairly busy in the morning with lots of volunteers at the Horticulture Center. The afternoon was a little more quiet as the day progressed. Dr. Gredler worked on painting projects (primarily Adirondack chairs) with both Urban and Rose. Vern came in to repair one of the new Adirondack chairs and some other odds and ends. Del was in briefly to work on some carpentry and we saw Bill later in the day. We also saw Big John and Jody. Marianne came in and we continued our selective purging of some old photos and slides. See pictures below of Marianne and one of our slide set-ups. Essentially, there is a vast photographic record of the history of the gardens that has been collecting dust for decades. There are thousands of slides, newspaper articles, pictures, notes, etc. We're going thru everything with the intent of selecting the most important/relevant items for either an organized scrapbook (Marianne's project) or for scanning in to a digital format for easier retrieval and use. The value of this history is related to its accessibility, relevancy and potential use. This is a monumental project that will ultimately result in a safer, permanent, organized storage of the most valuable portions of this information. Marianne and I are comfortable purging this information and sifting as needed. I can't imagine this project in 50 years! The graphic of the little girl reading a book is on our brand new poster for the Story and Stroll program here at RBG. This program is developed for pre-school aged children along with their parents or caregivers. Children will participate in a few stories then go for a stroll out in the gardens or play a few games inside if the weather is a factor. This is a popular program and we're trying to get the word out. The information on this program is on our website but we also need people to distribute posters (let me know!). Next week will be intense seed ordering, frantic presentation preparation and the juggling of some special event preparations! It's never dull around here!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nine Deer Removed From Gardens

The day started out with some snow and we received about 2" of the light stuff. The weather didn't deter a dedicated group of Grumpies from coming in to work both inside and out. The "removed deer" can be seen above although evidence of real deer out in the gardens is painfully
apparent but not as concentrated as we've seen in past years. We hope this bodes well for minimal browsing around the gardens. Marv, Terry, Dick H. and Pat went out in the gardens to bring back Holiday Lights Show displays, cords and lights while Larry and Bill did some of the same later in the day. We had another great painting crew of Dr. Gredler, Rose, Urban and Del working on obelisks and Adirondack chairs (see bottom photo). Vern, Bob, Dave and Jim started their new, "top secret" project that is shaping up nicely. I'll probably spill the beans regarding these garden elements but am tight lipped at this point. Janice, Jenny M. and I met regarding our upcoming spring symposium (check it out at Marianne was in to get handouts prepared for the looming Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo (Feb. 11, 12, 13). We saw many others trickle in including Little Jerry who was the guest of honor at his retirement party. Held over at the Parker Education Center, we had 33 attendees come to recognize Jerry's monumental efforts in the gardens over the past decade as both a volunteer and grounds staff member. Everyone had a great time and it was a wonderful lunch with items brought by participants but the set-up by Polly, Lori and Joy was most appreciated as well. I did a little presentation with images of Jerry thru the years out in the gardens and didn't hesistate to "roast" him as well. Below is Karen M., Little Jerry and Larry. Note the picture above and to the right. Jerry, Larry and Marv are never shy about hitting any buffet fast and furious. My talk for the Milton Garden Guild (at Milton H.S.) last night went well and I think I had about 30 people or so. I spoke on annuals and it was a great crowd with plenty of questions. I've been bouncing between education duties and seed ordering all day and hopefully will make more progress tomorrow with ordering. Looming presentations in early February will slow me down so I like to have most of my spring preparations done prior to that maelstrom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Trip To Los Angeles?

Cold temperatures may have you thinking about warmer climates. Many of our volunteers travel to Florida and Arizona for some of the winter to get some sunshine and warmth. I occassionally experience some envy about getting away but would not want to miss out on our four seasons in WI. The next best thing next to actual travel is "virtual travel". On February 17th we'll be having our next volunteer soup dinner (5 pm - 7 pm) at the Parker Education Center. Our first one on January 18th was very well attended with close to 90 people! We hope for even a larger crowd this time. I'll be talking about some of our upcoming events and garden collections and will then do a presentation on the gardens I saw this past July in the Los Angeles area. I was able to attend the American Horticultural Society's National Youth Garden Symposium in Pasadena and had some time to explore some of the gardens in that area. The conference was very informative and organized. My only previous trips (2) to CA were to San Diego so I was able to experience the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles which is quite staggering in terms of size and population. Anyway, I did enjoy the gardens I visited and am looking forward to the presentation. The intent of these "soup dinners" is threefold. We want to get our volunteers together in a social setting and provide information on the upcoming year so we can hit the ground running in spring. The third reason is to entice potential volunteers to come and see what we're all about and connect with staff and other volunteers. Please RSVP with Lori at (608) 752-3885 (ext. 20) if you are coming and do consider bringing some potential(s) that might be interested in getting involved at the gardens. There are so many opportunities.It was a smaller crowd today with Dr. Gredler continuing his commitment to obelisk conversion. I believe he stained many of the wood tone obelisks and has moved on to more painting. Bill came in and helped tidy up around the horticulture center and headed out to the entrance garden to haul back lights, cords and displays. He collected quite a bit of event stuff that we'll process tomorrow. Marianne was in and we continued going thru historic photographs and choosing those that will be scanned in to a digital format for easier retrieval (and longer life!). It's very interesting seeing older photos and how much the garden has developed over the last 22 years. Marianne is doing a dynamite job of organizing our historic information so it is safe and accessible. Previously, most of these materials were collecting dust in boxes. We also saw Gary, Big John, Mary, Jim H., Dave, Dorothy, Christine and Sue. I was able to finish two more seed orders and continue preparations regarding the details of our spring tree sale (with the Golden Kiwanis club), workshops and other activities. Tonight I do my first talk of twelve over the next 30 days or so. I'll be presenting ot the Milton Garden Club the topic of "Exciting Annuals." Back to seed ordering and presentaton prep tomorrow (and our little appreciation party for Little Jerry).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

14,876 Brush Strokes

There was a lot of painting going on today as evidenced in these first two photos. My estimate on the # of brush strokes may actually be very conservative. Dr. Gredler, on the left, has been working on our obelisks for over a month now (not just the one you see there!) and his latest color conversion involves this bright lime (which shows up great out in the gardens). In the distance are some of the wood tone, taller obelisks that will receive another coat of sealant of some sort. Rose, to the right, was painting the first set of Adirondack chairs that will go out in the new "North Point Garden" this spring. Her husband Urban was helping and Vern was in to assist and work on his desk sanding project. What you would notice with a closer look at Dr. Gredler and Rose is a "paint history" of their recent endeavors on their clothes! The Adirondack chairs will be quite bright with the other three sets (seen below) getting similarly bright colors. Our talented carpenters put these together in short order and they will be a well-used feature out in the gardens proper.
Bill and Larry were outside most of the day bringing in cords from the Holiday Lights Show and Urban spent a bit of time pruning as well. We also saw Mike M., Rod, Mary D. and many others as well. I spent almost the entire day on seed orders and made significant progress. I'm almost up to 500 varieties of annuals and will shift focus to some of our plant sale offerings like tomatoes, peppers, basil, squash, etc. In past years, I've been done by now with seed ordering but we have a lot on our plate this year and are working on many projects and programs. Winter months are not slow by any stretch! We have three confirmed workshops (container planting, stained glass projects and scarf dyeing with natural materials) that will be finalized shortly. Stay in the loop!

Make sure your calendars have the evening of February 23rd (6 pm - 8 pm) marked off for the lecture on Woody Plants at the RBG Parker Education Center. Dave Wanninger, of Beaver Creek Nursery (Poplar Grove, IL) will be our speaker. Dave has spoken at two of our previous symposia and is a highly sought after speaker throughout the Midwest for his plant knowledge. For those that have heard Dave speak, they would agree that no one ever sleeps thru his talks as they are #1) very interesting and informative and #2) Dave's presentation style is "high energy". Dave is extremely knowledgeable about a wide range of trees and shrubs and will be talking about his favorites as well as those he feels are both high impact and low maintenance. Bring your questions for Dave as well. Dave lives in Janesville (only two blocks from me) and has a fabulous yard too. Remember that RBG members are admitted free, with a $5 donation fee for all others. With such a great turnout at our first lecture (Moss Gardening), we expect another great showing at this "don't miss" lecture. Consider becoming a member of RBG and take advantage of all the benefits; including the August 4th Members Only bus trip (on our website).

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Pile Shrinks

Today had some light snow but it was considerably warmer than this weekend which was very frigid. It was warm enough to entice a good-sized group of Grumpies to come in to bring in more lights, displays and trees out in the gardens. Marv, Terry, Larry, Dick W., Dick H. and Pat all went out to bring in elements from the lights show. Bill O. came in later to help Larry continue this work out in the gardens. We're making considerable progress in getting the show put away and it has been a nice team effort. Jim, Dave, Bob A. and Vern were all here to finish work on the Adirondack chairs and butterfly projects and are now moving on to some "specialty" work that is top secret (and related to our color themes this year...). Dr. Gredler was here to paint and we had Jim H. inside wrapping up cords as they arrived and thawed out. Janice came in to work on some projects and Marianne was here to help as well. Marianne has been going thru historical photos and files that we're purging but pulling out the most relevant items for scanning. I'll feel better once these historical elements are digitized so we wont ever lose them. We also saw Mary, Gary, Mike, Karen, Darcy, Sue M. and Tom C. over here today too.

Above is one of the marigolds (Tagetes sp.) that I ordered today. This is 'Moonsong Deep Orange' which has huge, 3" globular flowers and is also an All-America Selection in 2010. I've ordered most of the marigolds but still have to go thru another 30 or so catalogs to finish my seed ordering for this year. The pile is shrinking; just not fast enough! I'll also be ordering compact vegetable and herb varieties that will lend themselves better to a smaller spot in the garden or in a container as seen below. We're promoting the incorporation of smaller edible plantings in the landscape for those that lack the space but desire fresh produce. We'll have a huge display of these options out in the gardens. In addition, at our spring plant sale, we'll be offering many varieties of compact vegetables and herbs and will also have a "container planting" option at the sale itself. The intent is that customers can purchase pre-planted containers, plant their own or even bring their own container for planting. Details still need to be worked out but we'll have volunteers help with this process and the final cost will be based on what materials are utilized for the containers. At home, we grow most of our vegetables and herbs in containers and have had great success.
I was reading an article in the magazine Landscape Architect and Specifier News (January 2011) and the title, "Wi-Fi Damaging Trees Worldwide, Study Says" caught my eye. I'm paraphrasing right out of this article and I should also mention that there are some that question the results of this study.
"A five year study by Wageningen University in the Netherlands concludes that radio frequency radiation from Wi-Fi networks is harmful to trees, causing significant variations in growth as well as bleeding and fissures in the bark. Trees (ash) placed closest to Wi-Fi radiation demonstrated a 'lead-like shine' on their leaves that was caused by the dying of the upper and lower epidermis of the leaves."

The city of Alphen aan den Rijn ordered the study when local trees displayed a disease condition that could not be attributed to a virus or bacterial infection. In the Netherlands, about 70% of urban trees are showing these symptoms whereas only 10% were affected five years ago. Trees in densely forested areas are hardy affected at this point.
Just some food for thought. It should be interesting to see if this study is replicated and what the implications will be if this is a verified threat to our trees....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blurry Vision

I've been staring at my computer screen all day which I'm sure can't be good for me. I see spreadsheets even when my eyes are closed.... Above is a portion of the spreadsheet I create as I order seeds so we can keep track of varieties for later redistribution to our nurseries. This spreadsheet is also used for labeling and for separating out colllections with color coded labels so we can be ready to roll when the marigolds above arrive in four months as plants! More seed ordering and spread sheet action next week for me.

We had a busy day around the Horticulture Center with Dr. Gredler here all day making red obelisks a deep, midnight blue (part of our blue and yellow theme this year). Maury was in and out all day and we had a meeting with some Golden Kiwanis members to finalize some details for our collective tree sale on April 22 & 23. We'll be offering small transplants of Norway spruce (Picea abies), Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens glauca), Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca 'Densata') and Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) and are getting our posters and promotions ready to go. All of these trees will be $1.75 each and we have 10,000 total to sell. With proper promotion (and interest) we should be able to sell out. Janice was here to work on her projects and Bill came in to tidy up the Horticulture Center and help Dr. Gredler. We also saw Mary W., Mary D., Jim, Big John, Marv and Marianne. Below are some more shots from my Olbrich excursion yesterday.
I always enjoy the winter containers at Olbrich including those I saw yesterday. Note above the colorful use of golden arborvitae (Thuja), pine (Pinus) and hot peppers (Capsicum) in this hanging basket. What an eye catcher! The greens in the container below are punctuated with red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus) and sumac (Rhus sp.). Olbrich clears snow off a large percentage of their paths allowing for winter visitation (recommended) and thereby does create some nice container arrangements for punctuated color interest throughout the gardens. Using the photos below as examples, winter is a great time to appreciate the interest (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) that our plants can provide during the four months that we are huddled inside. The image to the left shows a golden falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mops') that offers that bright coloration all year round and is even more engaging with some clean white snow clinging to it. To the right is the dried flower of a panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata, unknown variety) that to me is still very interesting. This dried head will be shed in spring with new growth but will be quite rigid and noteworthy for the balance of the winter months. I love the panicled hydrangeas as many will start white, age to pink, amber and then have this nice winter effect. It is not a shrub that only has flowering impact for two weeks! Lots of great varieties out there now but put them in full sun for the best growth and don't let them ever get thirsty. Yesterday (and today) was so frigid, the rhododendrons below felt the same way I did. This is a natural process by the plant to help minimize winter moisture loss (and winter damage) of those evergeen leaves by shrinking their surface area. Warmer temperatures, spring moisture and sunshine from a higher "solar angle" will cause the leaves to unfurl in a couple months.
My winter blogs never fail to mention ornamental bark; which was much in evidence at Olbrich. To the left (below) is the furrowed bark of the three-flower maple (Acer triflorum) and to the right is the coppery, exfoliating bark of China Snow Peking lilac (Syringa pekinensis 'Morton') that is always so captivating. It was sad to see that some of the lower bark had been peeled off (probably kids) and my photo was taken further up in the tree. Showy nonetheless. Further below is the peace symbol out in the rounded lawn area in the middle of the garden and of course, no winter landscape should lack colorful stems like those of the red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus sp.) at the bottom of the blog. Get outside and see what catches your eye.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Down, Eleven To Go...

Dale Sievert's talk on Moss Gardening last night (Wednesday) went very well and we had 77 people come to enjoy the images of his moss, wonderful gardens stories and his dry sense of humor. Everyone seemed to like the topic and it was a rapt audience. We hope to have even larger crowds at the remaining eleven topics as we continue to promote them heavily for their value.

I spent most of the day up in Madison today and was able to swing by Olbrich Botanical Gardens (above) for a quick run thru their conservatory and gardens. The conservatory was about 75 degrees warmer than the outside temperatures and I certainly got my "fix" of plants. Olbrich does a nice job rotating local art and photography in to their visitors center and I enjoyed some neat stained glass pieces including the one to the left by Don Spencer of the structure in Olbrich's rose garden. The other neat thing that I recommend others checking out is the educational displays and interpretation regarding coffee in the conservatory. There were all sorts of neat signs (see to the right), displays and living coffee tree specimens regarding one of the most popular products in the world. Below is one of the coffee specimens (the fruits aren't beans, they're drupes that are harvested when red). Go check it out! The conservatory is always nice to visit and my younger daughter is always quick to locate the various birds that live there as well. I noted lots of parents and smaller children in the conservatory and what a great day for it. Further below are more images from within the conservatory. Tomorrow I'll show some neat bark and winter interest shots I took outside before my fingers and camera became frozen.
I had a nice lunch with Shelley Ryan, producer and host of The Wisconsin Gardener on Wisconsin Public Television (WPT). We talked shop for the most part and caught up as I haven't seen her in many months. Shelley hopes to do more segments at the gardens this year and we'll be arranging a date(s) for her to come and run her very popular scarf dyeing program (using materials from the garden). Shelley will be featured at the WPT Garden Expo very shortly and of course we'll have our RBG booth up there (Alliant Center Exhibition Hall) as well (February 11,12,13). I'm a bit out of touch with what happened around the horticulture center today but we had many volunteers arriving as I headed north. I saw Bob A., Jim, Maury, Larry, Bill, Marv, Terry, Dr. Gredler and Marianne. I'm sure there were plenty of others too! Back to seed ordering tomorrow!