Monday, February 28, 2011

A Salty Winter

This has been a tough winter for snow and ice and we're starting to see more damage on some of our bricks and other paving areas that were salted this winter. To the left is some of the salting along our front paths just recently. Of course, visitor safey is extremely important so we do make all efforts to keep this entry path clear and are quite aggressive with clearing paths particularly during the Holiday Lights Show. However, de-icing salts can have a detrimental effect on garden plants, particularly during rough winters when salt applications seem to follow every snow and ice storm. It is important to remember that de-icing salts should be used to loosen snow and ice for removal and not used as the primary pavement "clearant".

Over 11 million tons of road salt are spread on U.S. Highways each year which is an amazing amount of salt. I frequently see signs of salt (and salt spray) damage along the highways with browning pines, declining maples and other sensitive plants that wont tolerate salt and the increasing accumulation of salts in those soils. Of course, plantings along our highways in Northern climates should be selected for salt tolerance as it is an inevitability. Spring salt damage may appear as brown or yellow scorched leaves, stunted leaves or curled leaves. High salt levels in soils induce a "physiological drought" that affect the ability of plants to absorb sufficient water although it may be present in the soil. Excessive soil salts may also restrict the uptake of nutrients, induce twig dieback, induce early fall coloration on deciduous plants and can potentially be toxic. We use magnesium chloride de-icing salt at the gardens and although this type of salt, along with calcium chloride and potassium chloride, are less damaging than sodium chloride, there is no such thing as a "safe salt" when it comes to affecting plants. Consider the use of sand as an option and again, the minimal use of de-icing salts. A thorough and repetitive spring soaking of the soils with high salt concentrations may flush those salts deeper in to the subsoils and help mitigate some of the potential damage. However, the best approach is to minimize the applications of potential heavy salt loads in garden spaces and/or focus on those plants that are more salt-tolerant.

We had another good crew today with Larry, Marv, Terry and Dick W. heading out to remove and haul off about six trees that we've been waiting to take down. Dick H. was also here to assist as needed. We have some other "targets" out there and will address those this month. Urban was out to prune more crabapples while Pat and Dr. Gredler worked on painting the last our obelisks for this year. Dave, Vern, Bob A. and Jim worked on some special carpentry projects and have a full month ahead of them with carpentry projects (bench creation, etc.). Bill was in to help Larry later and Kay came in to work on her label processing. Janice was here in the afternoon and worked with Big John on their presentation for this Thursday evening (7 pm) entitled The Right Tool for the Right Job. Below is one of the ergonomic tool options that will be mentioned. We hope to get a great turnout for this event. We also saw Dave E., Jenny E., Chuck, Gary, Dick P.More saturation marketing... Don't forget the Wednesday evening, March 30th (6 pm - 8 pm)talk on Herb Gardening by Patty Bailey of Patty's Plants - Natural & Organic Garden Supply. Check out her website at I've known Patty ever since I moved to Janesville (13 years ago) and am looking forward to her sharing her plant knowledge and palpable enthusiasm! Remember that RBG members are free with all others asked for a $5 donation for this lecture. I'm sure she'll say something about dill (Anethum graveolens) and my favorite variety, 'Fernleaf', can be seen below.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fun At The Fun Day

The Master Gardener Fun Day looked to be a rousing success despite some snowy weather that I'm sure had an impact on travel and attendance. Mary Kay and Deb did a nice job getting set up for everyone and it looked like 12-15 Master Gardeners from other counties. Again, the intent of this program was to exchange ideas and network with other Master Gardeners. What a great idea and I hope this becomes an annual event with increasing attendance each year. I saw many of our MGV volunteers this afternoon at this event (Deb, Bev D., Mary Kay, Werner, Rosemarie, Mary B., Mary D., Bev F., Jumbo Jim, Barb C., Ernie and probably others I've neglected to mention). There was a nice lunch and my presentation on the role of the RPMGA members at RBG seemed well-received. It wasn't hard to describe the value of MGVs at RBG both historically and currently. I wasn't shy about promoting RBG memberships and future events either!

To the right are some of the Japanese silver grasses (Miscanthus sinensis 'Blondo') in our parking lot holding some of the recent 2" of fluffy snow that has drifted down over the past 24 hours. While the roads weren't too bad yet, I was happy to see those that made the trip to the gardens. The bottom photo is a display regarding gourds that Janice set up. Aside from the yummy lunch, it looked like participants could pick up all sorts of additional information, free seeds and additional swag.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Flower Scent On A February Evening

When I arrived at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) last night for my presentation on annuals, I was smitten with an overwhelmingly sweet scent in the visitors' center. It didn't take long to track down the culprit which was this potted, Japanese white wisteria (Wisteria floribunda 'Ivory Tower') which had been forced in to bloom (probably in anticipation of my presentation...). It must have been perfuming a good 3,000 sq. ft. of space and was just at peak. Dave Wanninger, who had given his Woody Plants presentation at RBG the night previous, was at Olbrich as well giving a presentation on Hydrangeas. We both had fairly small crowds but our talks were well-received. I do lots of presentations on annuals but am not sure that I've done this topic at Olbrich previously. Aside from a presentation tomorrow at RBG for the Master Gardener Fun Day, I have a hiatus for 10 days before another onslaught of presentations at the Chicago Flower Show and over in Michigan. My talk tomorrow is on the role of Master Gardeners at RBG which will be easy to do as they are so important here and I don't lack for slides or comments regarding their consistent value for and commitment to RBG. This event has attracted Master Gardeners from other counties in WI and IL to share ideas.

Today was light on volunteers which allowed me to really get thru some time-sensitive projects regarding seeds, presentations and spring orders. Dr. Gredler was in to paint some obelisks and Janice popped in briefly as well. I also saw Joy, Rod, Dave and Dorothy. Next week will actually involve me getting out in the gardens as I'll be talking with contractors about some reconstruction work for our Japanese waterfall system and I need to assess any winter/deer damage as well. The grounds staff will start back in five weeks so we'll be ready to hit the ground running in early April. We'll have our solid team of Larry, Marv, Marianne, Janice, Terry, John, Jenny and our "rookie" Pat. Little Jerry, though "retired", will hopefully be around as well. We have one more volunteer "soup event" on March 16th and again, we hope to get a great crowd that includes some potential volunteers that are curious about the possiblities here at the gardens. I'll talk about the gardens I saw in New York City (Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York Botanic Garden, Central Park and the High Line Park) which was by far my favorite trip of last year. Later in the month on March 30th (Wednesday night), we have Patty Bailey coming to talk about Herb Gardening (6 pm - 8 pm) as part of our monthly lecture series. This should be another well-attended event and we look forward to the continued momentum that this lecture series has provided. We've actually recruited many new RBG members at these events once they realize the value of supporting the gardens and all the neat little "perks" that membership provides. Do check out our website which Sue M. has been maintaining in a diligent and creative way with current information regarding a lot of neat things coming up (lectures, workshops, plant sales, tree sale, compost sale, bus tours, special events, etc...). If interested in details on any of these topics, visit for details. The orchid shots are from Olbrich last night as well and the picture below was sent to me from Todd, Director of Horticulture at The Morton Arboretum. What an interesting desk for someone who really likes turf! We were debating how to maintain this lawn... :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Another Nice Presentation

Dave Wanninger's talk last night on Woody Plants was very well received and we had 69 attendees for this event. Dave, as always, was very enthusiastic and while he went a bit long on time (not unusual for him!), everyone was mesmerized and appreciated his vast knowledge and willingness to answer myriad questions. There were also many questions during our break and after the presentation (see to the right). The next Wednesday evening lecture will be on March 30th (6 pm - 8 pm) and the topic will be Herb Gardening. Presented by Patty Bailey of Patty's Herbs (Milton, WI), this talk should attract a wide audience and we hope to have another solid turnout. Eleven of our twelve evening lectures have been scheduled and are all listed on our website ( Don't forget the additional six presentations arranged by the Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association (also on the website). The first of this series will be offered next Thursday (March 3rd) from 7 pm until 8 pm. Entitled, The Right Tool for the Right Job, this presentation/demonstration will be given by Janice and John, both of whom are active Master Gardeners and also RBG grounds employees. This series is free for RPMGA members and RBG members ($5 for all others). See the bottom picture for a shot of our tool wall with many samples that I'm sure will be featured during this discussion.

We had another great turnout of volunteers today and it was fairly mild outside albeit a bit overcast and breezy. Marv, Terry and Dick W. went out to bring in some of our last Holiday Lights Show displays while the carpenters (Dave, Jim, Bob and Vern) worked on making benches and some minor projects at the visitor's center. Larry and Bill went out to do some pruning in the afternoon. Urban was also here to do some pruning and Marianne juggled seed work, handout preparation and mailing work too. Janice was here to work on plant sale signs and Cindi came in to work on vegetable labels. Dr. Gredler and Pat were painting all morning (see Pat to the left with his favorite apron). We also saw Bev, Mary W., Dick H., Big John and others over here. Cool shot below of a wasp nest that the carpenters found on something that came in from the gardens for repair. I'm always amazed by Mother Nature's architectural skills!I've been working on more plant ordering and finalizing some presentations for early March. I speak at Olbrich tonight and will hopefully finish some other projects tomorrow. With my involvement with education this year, I attended the youth education committee meeting today that was well organized by Bev and attended by Mary D., Mary B, Sandy, Shirley and Dale. We have such great volunteers taking care of our youth education and there were lots of ideas on improving programs and making sure our existing programs are properly prepared and delivered. We hope to develop some new programs to highlight our "Smelly Garden" this year and will be doing more than ever to promote these valuable programs to various schools and the community in general. We also talked about examining the feasibility of being able to create a "mobile component" to our programs that would help address the diminishing school budgets that can't accomodate buses and travel to the gardens proper. With our mission to provide horticultural education, we realize that while the gardens themselves are a wonderful teaching tool, our entire potential audience may not have the ability to travel to the gardens for our educational services. Nice shot to the right of some of Marianne's seed organization and by next week, all of our seeds should be delivered to our growers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Three More Workshops

Lots of planning and event preparations were in full swing today. I spent much of the morning compiling details on four of our six workshops that will be offered this year. In yesterday's blog I mentioned the mosaic birdhouse workshop on April 9th. This morning we finalized the details for some other exciting workshops. Sue M. did a nice job putting everything on our website and details for all four events can be viewed at We hope to also include information on a future pruning workshop and are looking in to a bonsai demonstration/workshop. More details to follow. Note that all workshops have a maximum number of participants. The container above (picture from Peg K.'s house) is meant to inspire some interest in our May 18th (9 am - 11 am) container planting workshop with Becky Nickel, Master Gardener and landscape professional extraordinaire. All materials (including a container) will be supplied although participants can also bring one from home. The neatest part of this opportunity is that participants will get to size up plants from the RBG yard (vast selection)! I'll also help with this course. On July 30th (Saturday), there will be two opportunities. Unfortunately, they conflict in terms of timing but both should be well received. Shelley Ryan, host of the popular WPT show The Wisconsin Gardener, will be offering her silk scarf dyeing workshop (9 am - 11 am) that will utilize plants found out in the gardens. She will guide participants thru all the steps of this process and all participants end up with four scarves; three prepared by them and one done in advance by Shelley (see sample above). On that same day, Karen Mezera will be leading a rose workshop/tour (10 am - noon) that will address proper selection, soil preparation, maintenance, insect/disease issues, winterization, etc. regarding roses. She'll give a tour of the RBG rose collection and will address participant questions and provide rose care handouts. Karen is a past RBG volunteer, Master Gardener and is a consulting rosarian for the American Rose Society (ARS). She has been an ARS judge since 2005 and travels extensively for rose events and lectures on roses often.Aside from workshop planning, I was able to make some more orders and continue to work on upcoming presentations. I'll present up at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) tomorrow night on annuals and have a presentation this Saturday as well. Dr. Gredler and Bill worked on painting obelisks while Larry spent most of the day working on our CASE endloader and getting it ready for spring. Kay came in to work on plant sale labels and once that was complete, was drafted to help get handouts ready for upcoming presentations. We also saw Mary W., Gary, Jumbo Jim, Deb, Mike and L.P. Tree Service was here to grind up the pines (Holiday Lights Show) in to mulch for the gardens. Busy day! Dr. Gredler's gloves (below) always let you know what colors he's dabbling with that day! :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seed Ordering Complete

I finally finished my seed ordering today and it looks like we'll have close to 700 varieties of seed grown annuals this year (our second most ever). The timing, although later than usual, is perfect for organizing the remainder of our orders and getting them distributed out to the greenhouses next week. I was able to locate some additional fragrant plants for our "Smelly Garden" this year and added a couple more marigolds to our collection. I actually have had to stop ordering marigold varieties as we'll already be stretched to feature about 180 selections that I've found and I keep running across additional varieties....

We had some icy rain last night that turned in to a light snow that put a nice dusting on everything. The roads were slippery this morning but salting and some warming temperatures have made travel a bit safer later today. The shot to the left is the dwarf Himalayan pine (Pinus wallichiana 'Nana') which is a fine-textured, "five needled" pine that caught my eye this morning as I went over the the Parker Education Center for a meeting. Ornamental grasses (those not crushed by previous snowfalls) and conifers are still looking pretty good and continue to add interest despite the lack of flower power that should appear in five to six weeks.

The image to the right is the golden mugo pine (Pinus mugo 'Aurea') that has a nice gold coloration in winter that will become brighter in March, April and May and then fade to a green by mid-summer. Marv pointed out weeks ago that snowfall balled up neatly on top of this specimen in front of our visitors center so I caught a shot today. This specimen is getting large so we may consider moving it this spring or in a year at the latest.

Kay came in to continue her work on plant sale labels and Janice was in to work on her plant sale informational signs and spent time with Big John preparing for their talk on "The Right Tool for the Right Job" that will be held on March 3rd at the Parker Education Center ( 7 pm - 8 pm) and is the first of six seminars offered by the Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association (RPMGA). They'll be demonstrating the use of various garden tools that we utilize and recommend. RPMGA and RBG members are free with all others asked for a $5 donation. Dr. Gredler and Pat were in painting obelisks again and we also saw Mary W., Marv, Marianne, Urban, Bill, Bev D. and others over here today. The next photo down shows some snow on a dwarf white fir (Abies concolor) although I can't recall the variety right now. Neat powder blue needles though....The bottom photo is a mosaic birdhouse that is the end result of a workshop that will be offered at RBG on April 9th (limited to 15 registrants). See our website soon for details or give me a call.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cold and Slick Today

The roads were icy this morning as was my vehicle. We've had freezing rain and drizzle over the past 48 hours or so. We did have a nice stretch of warm weather last week although I don't like to see so much snow melt away this early. Below and to the right are the daffodils (Narcissus) starting to sprout along the sunny side of my house. They thought it was early April just recently I'm sure and a return to average temperatures should slow them down a bit. Above are just some of the seeds that Marianne and I are sorting thru this week. These will still be sorted and labeled (different color labels) depending on their ultimate collection designation (edibles, plant sale, trials, etc.) and then will be sorted by grower. Our goal is to get the seeds to our growers by next week which is later than usual but still in enough time for them to incorporate them in to their spring plans.

We had a nice turnout of volunteers today. Janice was here most of the day working on plant sale signs while Kay continued processing labels for our spring plant sale vegetables. Marianne worked on making labels and we sorted seeds most of the morning. Dr. Gredler, Marv and Pat worked on repainting obelisks (see below) while the carpenters (Dave, Jim, Bob A. and Vern) started on their custom cedar benches. We also saw Big John, Gary, Urban and Bill today. Our Horticulture Therapy Committee is meeting again today and we'll keep up momentum with important garden development and programming initiatives that are recommended as a result of this committee's recommendations.

Don't forget Dave Wanninger's talk this Wednesday evening (6 pm - 8 pm) on Woody Plants at the Parker Education Center. Free for RBG Members and $5 for all others. Call me at (608) 754-1779 with any questions. Check out our spring tree sale information on the website too as we're partnering with the Golden Kiwanis club to sell 10,000 small trees this April. All information regarding this opportunity is on our website.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Size Up Some Space For Veggies!

Janice was in doing some work regarding our spring plant sale offerings which include lots of neat vegetable varieties. This prompted my blog topic for today. For the past five years, we've been offering plants of heirloom tomatoes and a wide range of variable veggies and herbs selected each year. Above is a shot of freshly sliced heirloom tomatoes from Mary Ann M. Our spring plant sale is held this year on May 14th and 15th (9 am - 5 pm at the Horticulture Center). However, RBG Friends Members can come to the pre-sale on Friday, May 13th from 9 am - 5 pm and get a 10% discount. The member discount extends thru the duration of the sale (and the entire fall sale as well!). We'll be offering a wide range of heirloom tomatoes, hybrid tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, squash seeds, basil varieties and over 80 varieties of additional herbs. A neat focus this year will include compact vegetables for containers, hanging baskets, windowboxes and/or any small space. We'll also have a "plant your own container" component although details are still being worked out. We will also be offering a wide range of perennials for all garden situations. If this blog seems like a shameless infomercial for our spring plant is. Come support the gardens and subsidize my salary! :)

Consider the value of growing your own food at home. Many of us do it to a certain degree but maybe there is more opportunity to plant vegetables in containers, new beds or even open pockets in other areas of your landscape. Sales in vegetable seeds have increased 40% over each of the last three years. More people are getting back to growing their own food and it is exciting to see this movement (hopefully not just a temporary trend). Consider the convenience of being able to walk out to that containerized tomato plant on the back porch to pick a fresh, tasty tomato. You'll also feel better about knowing the "inputs" and maintenance regarding your vegetables and not wonder what weird sprays, fertilizers, soil modifications, shipping implications, etc. have been involved with your store-bought produce. Growing your own vegetables also allows for a wider variety of options beyond what is typically available at the grocery store and is a fun and educational endeavor. My primary points are to make space for veggies at home and come to our spring plant sale. Plain and simple. Get the kids involved too!
Today was cooler but nice and sunny outside. Urban was in to do some pruning and we had a productive committee meeting regarding our Home Garden Tour on July 23rd (Bill, Janet, Cora, Barb, Jean and Tim). Janice was in to work on various projects and we also saw Vern, Bill, Mike, Gary and Rich. I was able to almost finish two presentations that I'll be giving in MI in a couple weeks (Ornamental Edibles and Foliage Perennials). Next week will involve the last of my seed ordering and Marianne and I will get our seeds ready for the growers.
The volunteer soup night went well last night with about 80 in attendance. The soups (four selections) were good and there wasn't much left. I did a short talk on what's happening this year at the gardens and addressed some of the upcoming volunteer opportunities. My second talk was on the gardens of Los Angeles. We also distributed a survey for our attendees to fill out. The results of these surveys, which will be provided to many people, will help shape future garden modifications, developments and educational programs. Our next volunteer event is on March 16th and I'll talk about gardens of New York City. Spring is coming soon and I need another two months of preparation time!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Good Day For Soup

When I drove in this morning, it was already 48 degrees F. This is t-shirt weather in Wisconsin and certainly not consistent with what I'd like to see in February! Our nice blanket of snow is fast disappearing. It was overcast and drizzly most of the day which didn't stop progress around the gardens and Horticulture Center. It will be a nice night for our volunteer soup event tonight and it sounds like we'll have another great turnout (70+). Above are our Thursday afternoon volunteers working with Janice as they prepare the seed packets for our squash collection which will be offered at our spring plant sale in May. The easy part (for me) is ordering the seed. Janice then takes care of getting the packets and labels ready and coordinating the final packet processing. The group above did a nice job as usual and we look forward to their continued assitance with our spring preparations.
With the unseasonable weather, many Grumpies were able to get outside and bring in more obelisks (seen above), displays, cords, etc. I haven't been in the gardens since December and need to get out there soon. The obelisks above will receive a new color next week and we'll continue to get out in the garden as the weather allows. Terry, Marv, Larry, Pat, Bill and Dick H. all went out in the gardens to take advantage of the thaw. The carpenters (Dave, Jim, Bob and Vern) started work on six new cedar benches that will go out on the new North Point garden. Marianne continued work on organizing/purging our old photos and processed some surveys for me. Janice was here to work on her projects, with her groups and with our new volunteer, Cindi. We also saw Jim, Deb, Gary, Ron W., Del and many others over here today as well.
Hopefully by the end of the month, we'll have our six workshops for 2011 finalized and promoted. The image below is a silk scarf that represents a neat opportunity to dye garden silks with Shelley Ryan (July 30) as part of her "Scarves To Dye For" program. Shelley, host of Wisconsin Public Television's The Wisconsin Gardener, will guide participants thru an easy technique for dyeing scarves with natural materials. Ultimately, each participant will end up with four scarves. More details to follow. Keep an eye out for our other workshops that will include container gardening, rose care, pruning and creating your own stained glass, mosaic birdhouse.....Lots of fun things happening this year. Don't forget to sign up for the March 26 symposium (see our website) as it is filling very quickly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spring in 32 Days!?

Big John and his wife Jackie sent me this picture (above) yesterday of a nice shot of the gardens from a small plane their son was flying. I hope they'll do some low-level summer shots too!Despite the warm temperatures, we still have some snow although that may all disappear shortly with highs in the 50 degrees F tomorrow! I was looking at the calendar and I can't believe how fast this winter has gone. I'll need to get out in the gardens shortly to assess deer damage and start preparing for very early work out in the gardens, particularly involving the new North Point garden and the Japanese garden waterfall renovations. I'm finishing my seed orders this week and Marianne and I will organize them shortly by their final destination (our growers). I also have some upcoming presentations looming including one on annuals at Olbrich next Thurs. night, February 24th. I wont replicate my Garden Expo talk on annuals as I am careful not to offer the identical presentation to an audience that may include those that have previously seen that topic.

Larry and Bill spent most of the day cleaning up and servicing our garden vehicles which is vital particularly in winter. Kay was here today to work on processing more plant sale labels and both Marianne and Janice were also here to work on some of their projects. We had a productive education committee meeting (Chris, Dave, Karen, Scott, Mary Kay, Mary, Bev, Janice and Jane) this morning and look forward to a great year of educational offerings. Otherwise, it was pretty quiet at the Horticulture Center but it wont be long before things are buzzing along (probably tomorrow with such nice weather!).

We're excited to have Dave Wanninger from Beaver Creek Nursery coming to the gardens next Wednesday evening (Feb. 23) to present the topic of Woody Plants. The presentation will be held at the Parker Education Center from 6 pm until 8 pm and is guaranteed to be educational, inspirational and entertaining. RBG members can come for free with other attendees requiring a $5 donation. This will be the second of twelve evening lectures at the gardens. However, there are also six other evening opportunities that were organized by the Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association (RPMGA). The first talk is on March 3rd from 7 pm - 8 pm at the Parker Education Center. The talk is on "The Right Tool for the Right Place". Admission is free for RPGMA and RBG members with others being asked for a $5 donation. Two great opportunities coming up. Below is 'Little Lamb' panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) which may be one Dave covers. I'm sure he'll address hydrangeas and a plethora of other goodies.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Nice Symposium

I've been away in Pewaukee for the Midwest Perennial Conference and it was a fun and well attended event today. Above is the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) variety 'Vintage Wine'. Coneflowers and many other perennials and plants were mentioned today with the five speakers. Jim and Shelly Garbe (Shady Acres Nursery), along with George and Liesl Radtke (W.E. Radtke Nursery) ran another successful event which was apparently the 25th symposium in this series. Last night, we all had dinner and I was able to meet the other speakers: Pam Duthie (author, landscape designer from the Chicago area), Steve Folz from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanic Garden, Chuck Martin (Dow Gardens, Midland, MI) and Susan Martin (Walters Gardens, MI). The "plant speak" was fun and we had a great time. Pam and I realized that we were co-speakers over 10 years ago at a different event. All the presentations were well received. I went last and made sure I could fit my 180 images in my 1 hour time slot. There were about 300 attendees and I saw many people that I knew and was able to spend time with Ed Lyon and Richard Hawke (Chicago Botanic). Back to seed ordering tomorrow.

Don't forget about the volunteer soup dinner this Thursday night from 5 pm - 7 pm! Next Wednesday evening, February 23rd (6 pm - 8 pm) is Dave Wanninger's talk on woody plants. Maybe you'll learn about the linden viburnum (Viburnum dilitatum 'Iroquois') below... Don't miss it!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Here And Gone Again

The Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo went very well this weekend. It looked like a great turnout although I didn't hear the final attendance count yet. I'm sure the mild weather helped bring people in for that taste of spring and I thought our booth was as busy as ever. We were along "botanical garden row" with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Allen Centennial Gardens and the Paine Art Center & Gardens. Green Bay Botanic Garden was also at the show which was great to see (another "must visit" garden). Above are shots of our empty vs. full booth (picture from Sue Melton). Saturday was crazy and the aisles were tight with people. We handed out lots of information and again felt it was worth our time to expose such a vast audience to the gardens. There were a surprising amount of attendees that had travelled a distance for this Expo. I talked to people from MN, IA, IL and IN. My talk on annuals had about 350 people and the one on groundcovers, 150 or so.

I was able to catch up on desk work today but am headed to Pewaukee, WI this afternoon as the Midwest Perennial Conference is tomorrow and I'm one of the speakers ("Perennial Partners for Stunning Shrubbery"). I've always enjoyed attending this conference and it will be nice to expose not only the topic but RBG to the 300+ attendees. I have more talks coming up and am in desperate need of finishing seed ordering. It will all get done I'm sure!

We had a great turnout of volunteers today and it was warm (40 degrees F) and sunny. Larry started to unload our trailer and ran out for oil and other vital, shop items. The guys finished unloading the trailer of Expo goodies and worked on some odds and ends. I'm not sure if anyone headed in the gardens but I'm sure it's getting sloppy out there. Vern, Dave, Jim and Bob finished the blue pyramids (see below) and are now constructing six, custom cedar benches for the new, North Point garden. Kay was here to work on processing plant sale labels (see to the right) and both Marianne and Janice were in to work on projects as well. We also saw Marv, Terry, Del, Pat, Big John, Ron W., Dick P., Dick H, Gary, Lois and even Little Jerry popped in to say 'hi'. Will try to blog tomorrow but more likely, Wednesday night.

Friday, February 11, 2011

273.5 Miles Later

Today was a long journey that began early at RBG. I did about an hour of desk work then headed to Boerner Botanical Gardens ( in Hales Corners, WI. Traffic was light and I was there 65 minutes later. This wonderful public garden is on the south side of Milwaukee and I make sure to visit every year. I usually do one or two presentations there each year and today was another talk on containers to a receptive group of about 70 attendees (including some Boerner staff). It was nice to see Shirley (Exec. Director of Boerner) again as well as Sharon, Kristin and Pat. I'm still a bit under the weather but made it thru the day. I had delusions of walking around the gardens there this morning as I was a bit early. It was so cold though that I took some quick ornamental grass shots like the switchgrass to the above left (Panicum virgatum 'Northwind') and ran for cover. However, I did take time to stroll thru the bottom floor of the visitor's center which hosts the UW Extension offices and educational rooms. There were some really neat displays including an "uber-cool" root display as seen below. Kids can walk right under it. I'd love to develop some neat displays like that for RBG. Another really neat feature of the bottom floor was a poster pictorial of the history of the various public parks in Milwaukee. There were lots of historical photos and facts and it was great reading (in a warmer location).

After my talk at Boerner, I headed up to Sheboygan, WI which was another hour or so trip. I've been to Sheboygan before and think it's a neat town. I arrived a bit early so was motivated to get a hair cut and grab some lunch (not at the same time). My talk (again containers) was to a group of 60 or so and it went well. I spoke at UW-Sheboygan and the campus looked familiar enough that I speculated that I had spoken there at some point in the past. However, as I pulled in to the campus, I noticed Bookworm Gardens, a neat children's garden that I had read about and will actually go tour later in the summer when I return to Sheboygan to speak at the public libary. The garden has a fascinating history that can be viewed at I look forward to my return to Sheboygan (which is a Chippewa name for "passage between the lakes"). The two photos directly below are elements in that garden. I left Sheboygan at 4 pm and hit blowing snow all the way home which turned in to a 3 hour "white knuckle" drive. Tomorrow and Sunday will be Garden Expo time. No rest for the weary! The bottom photo is an old barn on the grounds of Boerner.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Expo Set-Up

Today for me was broken in to three portions; Garden Expo set-up, a long nap and an evening presentation. This morning I worked briefly on some odds and ends before heading up to the Garden Expo (Alliant Center) in Madison for early set-up of our booth space. I went up with Polly, Big John (both seen above) and Dick P. Most booths are set-up on Friday morning (tomorrow) before the show opens that evening from 4 pm until 9 pm. Today was easy access although I was surprised by the amount of booths and displays being set-up. Note the use of our culvert pipe planters above with Marianne's arrangements that are sure to be conversation starters at the Expo. Of course the larger landscape displays that involve temporary patios, decks, water features, plantings, etc. certainly require this early set-up. We left RBG at 9 am and returned by 12:30 pm. I still had some remnants of my recent illness and felt horrible. I went home and took a long nap and then headed to Elkhorn, WI for an evening presentation to the Walworth County Master Gardeners. I felt a lot better and made it thru my 3 hour talk on woodies, perennials and annuals. It was a nice crowd and I enjoyed chatting with some of the attendees. Tomorrow involves more presentations in Milwaukee (at Boerner Botanic Garden) and Sheboygan.
I did overlap with some of the Grumpies this morning and noted that the carpenters (Jim, Vern, Bob and Dave) were making great progress on our "blue pyramids". Look closely, does that pyramid look odd to you for any reason? They were scratching their heads on figuring out some measurements but were being well supervised by the characters below (Dick H., Pat, Marv and Urban from left to right respectively). We had a good crew this morning that also included Larry, Bill, Marianne, Janice, Mary and others. I was a bit out of the loop with everything going on but our focus will shift heavily to finishing seed organizing next week.