Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Plenty Of Planting Today

Despite some dark skies, heavy winds and the possibility of strong storms, the day was actually pretty nice and we only had a brief 5 minutes of rain or so (more would have been ok though...). The photo at the top shows planting being done along our shoreline which was funded by a grant focused on shoreline improvements. The plants were brought to the gardens by Emma and Kaylee from Tallgrass Restorations (Milton, WI) and all species are native to North America and can take periodic wetness. This border averages about 12' in width (see to the right) and is fairly soggy thru the summer. However, we've seen fluctuating water levels over the years with this shoreline being 15' wide or so or totally underwater (for a short period of time). Regardless, the ladies from Tallgrass essentially placed our 1,800, native perennial plant plugs in three sections; really wet towards the water's edge, semi-damp in the middle and drier (but wet tolerant) on the upper portion. The planting "gang" fluctuated throughout the day but included Marianne, Margaret, Winifred, Art, Jenny, Janice, Larry, Pat, Mary W. and Big John. We have about 25% left to plant which we'll install on Wednesday. This should look nice and while it took longer than we thought for planting, the end result will be nice. Thanks to all those that helped plant! The photo directly above is Mary B. with a group of youngsters coming thru the garden as part of the ongoing "Plants Program" which continues to be quite popular. To the left is a new, hybrid dwarf mullein (Verbascum hybrida 'Jackie in Yellow') that only gets 16" tall and will rebloom with continued deadheading (the removal of spent blossoms). What a nice shade of yellow!. See our volunteers, staff and the Tallgrass ladies hard at work! To the right is the neat foliage of another cool coralbells (Heuchera) called 'Plum Royale'.

With Memorial Day yesterday, we had a shift of many Grumpies coming in today. It was one of our busiest work mornings with not only fifteen Grumpies but all the grounds staff as well. It was tricky sharing vehicles this morning for various projects but we made it thru the morning. Bob C. and Dennis mulched and woodchipped areas around the periphery of the Japanese garden while the carpenters (Dave, Jim, Vern and Bob A.) continued work on their various projects. Bob T. was out continuing his air edging progress while Ron W., Ron B., Rollie and "new Ron" took down our last three plant sale tents and then headed out front of the building to dig out bulbs from the center planters in our entrance garden. Del and Dr. Yahr cleared some waning alliums out of some large beds near the arboretum (future ornamental edible / compact vegetable display) while Dr. Yahr also helped do some planting in the gazebo garden. Mary and Roy were in to do a final weeding of their section of the shade garden in preparation for some planting tomorrow. Chris and Bob G. were in today to plant a couple hundred annuals on the south side of the sunken garden which they have maintained for 15 years+? Bev W. will be in tomorrow to also plant in that garden. With Marianne and Janice facilitating the shoreline planting, I was able to haul plants out to two more areas for planting tomorrow. We'll see how much we still have to plant along the shoreline tomorrow morning as both Emma and Kaylee stayed later to keep plugging away (pun intended).We all had a pretty busy day with fresh air (20-30 mph wind gusts) and sporadic sunshine. Above is Big John clearing out the 'Brazen Brass' ornamental mustard (Brassica juncea) from the bed where he planted these about five weeks ago. They are starting to bolt (bloom) and oddly enough, this same border had a similar mustard that went to seed last year and John was able to see the effects of rampant reseeding from the previous season of mustards. He did a nice job clearing this long border, rototilling it and smoothing it out for planting (hopefully tomorrow). John also mowed and helped plant at the end of the day. To the left are the vivid pink blooms (over blue foliage) of the 'Firewitch' pinks (Dianthus grationapolitanus 'Feurehexe'). To the right are the buttery blooms of the 'Carolina Moonlight' hybrid wild indigo (Baptisia hybrida). This is our first one (of 10 or so) to bloom at the gardens and we look forward to them as they get bigger (36"x36") each year! Pat pushmowed and then spent the rest of the day planting along the shoreline. Marianne planted the shoreline all day but had time to do another nice cutting display. Janice cleared the terrace border and containers and moved down to the shoreline for planting as well. Larry weedwhipped, mowed and worked on many other tasks including planting the shoreline in the afternoon. Jenny cleared a good portion of the ornamental onions (Allium 'Purple Sensation') clumps on the entrance garden slope in advance of composting and planting in a week or two. Jenny then moved on to the shoreline as well. Marv and Terry were in the North Point garden most of the day installing edging and getting the area ready for sodding after the irrigation is installed (hopefully soon!). The guys also took care of watering containers which was timely after we realized the rain that looked promising for quantity made a pretty wimpy appearance. Little Jerry was here to mow and prune some evergreens while Dr. Gredler did a nice swath of mowing thru the gardens as well. We also saw Karen, Bill O., Elsa, Mary H., Dave H., Lois and many others as well. To the left is the nice foliage of the 'Wolverine' plantain lily (Hosta) and to the right is Bev leading a group of students for the plants program today. Our educational volunteers are so vital to pursuing our mission of horticultural education and appreciation and we truly hope that students of all ages learn something from the gardens and form a connection to this very special place. More planting tomorrow interspersed with watering, weeding and some herbicide use to catch up in our nightmare areas. We don't have enough hands out there weeding and it's very tough to walk by with a load of plants to be planted. However, when I see our yard of "to be planted" items, priorities become apparent!! Below is a beautiful bloom of one of our many tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) around the gardens (this one is in the woodland walk). The bottom photo shows the nice blue flower clusters of the popular, hybrid bluestar (Amsonia hybrida 'Blue Ice') that has some nice impact in June. At only 15" tall, this nice little clumper packs some major flower power and we like to put it in groupings of five or more specimens.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

No Lack Of Rain

Today was quite damp particularly after lunch. Big John was in today as was our "Sunday Watering Team." I can imagine their chagrin after watering all the containers and the yard this morning only to see some significant rain come this afternoon. Oh well. I will say I'm glad all of our plantings from yesterday are nice and damp as it will be sunny and 90 degrees F tomorrow. You never know about rain though....It is nice to have John and the volunteers there on Sunday to make sure everything is also ok out in the gardens. Their were two weddings scheduled for today at the gardens although I believe the timing coincided with some of the most significant rains. My wife and I have spent the last three nights working on our hardwood floors and while the end result should be nice, it has been a bit laborious... The bloom to the left is one of literally thousands on our Twisty Baby contorted black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia 'Lace Lady') that is in front of our house. This specimen was planted probably 10 years ago at 3' tall out of a #5 gallon container and is now about 25' tall and wide. The branches, stems, leaves, etc. are all contorted and I've pruned it in to an open form. I'll post a picture soon of it in full bloom as it is just starting. What is interesting is that most nursery sources and other references say this variety tops out around 12' tall and rarely gets flowers! We didn't have flowers for many years and then saw a couple here and there. This year is a bumper crop and the entire tree will be covered with dangling, fragrant blooms as seen to the left. You'll see the native black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) blooming the same time here and there in the woodlands and the blooms really have a nice scent. This tree, originally native to the SE United States has naturalized over a wide range of North America although it can be a bit weedy and some States are becoming concerned. The wood is long-lasting for fence posts and the black locust is also a nitrogen-fixing legume.

Below are some updated photos of our deck planter greens filling out after 35 days from sowing. We'll probably cut some soon and it's been fun and easy to do this with my daughter. We'll probably go with herbs as replacements in the coming week or so. Well, back to applying coat 2 of 4 on our second upstairs room floor....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Another Successful Planting Workday

We had another very successful planting work day today. The skies were overcast all morning and while I worried about rain, it never materialized although there was a very light mist at one point. The top picture shows Lily who was a big help today. She helped to plant and when I took the picture above, she was sorting our empty containers. She really got in to helping out and I think her traditional pink frosted donut at break was very well earned. The image directly above shows the fourth area planted by our great volunteers. This is our "impatiens berm" and has been planted that way for many years. The gang planted 3,000 impatiens in that bed and Big John and a couple volunteers stayed an additional hour just to make sure it was finished. I spent most of yesterday laying out two large beds in our entrance garden for the group to start on this morning. Both these beds will have the blue and yellow theme and I'm sure I spaced out about 10,000 annuals. I couldn't believe how fast our crew went thru those two areas! We had 27 volunteers and staff included Janice, Big John, myself and Larry was bouncing between helping us out and doing his traditional Saturday tasks like cleaning up wedding gardens, checking water features, etc. The first two areas were planted by 9 am so the gang moved to the reception garden where I had already arrived to lay out more plants. To the left are Luis and Mary planting in the reception garden. To the right is the golden hops vine (Humulus lupulus 'Nugget') which is vigorous and has nice foliage until the Japanese beetles track it down in summer. To the left are the pure white flower clusters of the Japanese snowball viburnum (Viburnum plicatum 'Popcorn') that comes well by its name! The teamwork exhibited today was neat to observe as our projects involved more than just planting. We had people (Lily) collecting empty pots, flats, labels, etc, while others swept up and still others watered. We really finished an area, cleaned it up and finished each project in an orderly fashion. Bill O. was here to tidy up out in the garden and Karen M. was raking the paths in the Japanese garden. We saw Urban sanding one of our gates in preparation for Rose's "painting attention" next week. I'm missing a couple of names of our planters but do thank them along with Mary, Gena, Dennis, Luis, Laura, Gary, Bev, Ron, Jody, Big John, Janice, Lily, Sue, Ariel, Mary Q., Magda, Bob C., Margaret, Maggie (on her birthday!), etc. After break, Laura led a crew to start on the impatiens berm mentioned earlier. I kept up with the reception garden volunteers as they finished and Janice took a small crew down to the fern & moss garden to weed and plant lots of plugs of golden Irish moss (Sagina subulata 'Aurea'). Very moss-like in appearance, this wispy, flowering groundcover has a nice chartreuse coloration and established patches already in that garden "glow" this time of year. I ordered about 300 plugs that Janice and crew finished planting today. Above and to the right is a shot a took of the Ma' Chii in the distance with lots of primroses (Primula sp.) in the foreground. Directly below is one of the first large beds planted and is right along the road (Palmer Drive).
Above is Laura planting out front. I hope our next three Saturday workdays (8 am - noon) have similar attendance as we still need to plant a good portion of the gardens. I save the larger areas for these larger volunteer groups and we still have areas like the "Smelly Garden", terrace garden, ornamental edibles/compact vegatables, etc. Tomorrow Big John and our Sunday watering team will be at RBG in the morning. Larry and Elaine S. will be in on Monday to take care of watering needs. With the temperature prediction of 91 degrees F on Monday, I'm glad I wont have to worry about watering as it is covered. Finally! Two sequential days off. Today was the last day of our compost sale and Carol C. had some sales. However, we still have some bags left over that we'll sell thru the summer and carry them over to our fall sale (Sept. 10-11). I did keep my camera with me all morning and was able to take photos of volunteers and plants alike. To the left is the dark maroon foliage of the 'Obsidian' coral bells (Heuchera) which I think may be the darkest of all the maroon coral bells. To the right are the front line planters just starting the impatiens berm after break. It was a great day. Further below is Ariel, our intern, who came out to help today. To the right is a close up of the exquisite gas plant (Dictamnus albus 'Rubra'). That neat foliage is from a variegated Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata 'Golden Eclipse') that should also bloom in about 2 weeks.. At the bottom is neat shot in the fern & moss garden late this morning.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Planting And Other Fun

There was lots of planting going on today. Above are Margaret and Marianne planting our marigold (Tagetes) collection with help from Terry. They planted about 2,000 plants representing over 150 varieties. They did a very nice job and we had time to get everything watered in as well. This collection should be neat and while we don't have every variety of marigold on the planet, it will be quite an assortment. Margaret later helped Janice in the fern & moss garden. To the right is the nice, glossy foliage of one of our European beeches (Fagus sylvatica 'Tortuosa Purpurea') that also has an interesting form. To the left is 1 of 34 of our cool butterflies out in the gardens. Pick up a brochure/guide at the Parker Education Center and come check them out! I spent most of the day setting out plants for the planting work day tomorrow. The day started with Marv, Marianne and Terry all hauling plants to certain areas which I then visited and spread out the "ingredient" for our display. During the workday last Saturday, the group of volunteers caught up to me and I'm determined to stay ahead of the group (which I hope is sizeable!). I have some "back up" plans too that should keep everyone productive all morning. There is a chance of rain tomorrow night which might be timely for soaking everything in well for the long weekend. We have picked up or received about 75% of our plants for "spring planting" and will get the remainder next week. We still have a solid 5 weeks of planting ahead of us and look forward to getting things in the ground. It's too bad that we can't make a request of Mother Nature to give a good soaking every late afternoon right after planting. The watering duties here at the gardens, despite the benefits of our extensive irrigation system, are still very labor intensive with so many thirsty plants, containers and areas not quite in range of the irrigation. To the right is a leaf from the 'Stained Glass' hosta. I've been taking lots of hosta pictures lately as the foliage still looks good before the summer inputs of heat, slugs, etc. take their toll. The Midwest Regional Hosta Society will be having their annual conference on July 7th thru the 9th in Madison, WI this year. Ed Lyon, our former Executive Director and Director of Allen Centennial Gardens (UW-Madison,) is giving the keynote presentation while I'll be giving a presentation on "Good Neighbors For Hostas" and will focus on all the other perennials that go well with hostas. Below is one of three areas that I layed out with plants today for tomorrow's work day. Actually, Marv and Marianne both had time to help plant a good portion of this berm late this afternoon. Aside from Margaret's help with marigolds and other tasks, we had plenty of good volunteers around. Directly above is Ron W., who along with his lovely wife Bev, planted a good portion of our entrance garden "sign berm" this morning. Marv later joined them, finished it up and watered it in well. This is the first taste of our blue and yellow theme as visitors pull in to the main parking lot. Ron and Bev are excellent volunteers and I was happy to hear that they would be joining the planting workday tomorrow. To the right is a close-up of the huge bloom of the double-flowering horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumannii'). To the left is the blue-grey foliage of 'Carolina Blue' hosta. Mary and Roy came in to weed their half of the shade garden and will plant their space later next week. We also saw Maury, Vern, Dave G. and many others. Dr. Gredler did his Friday mowing and Ariel, our new intern, started her label inventory in the Scottish garden and color rooms gardens. It's nice to have her on board and we think she'll fit in nicely (despite the fact that she didn't bring donuts during her first week....). We think we'll see her for planting day tomorrow.

Marv fertilized and watered our containers and moved on to other tasks including the planting mentioned above. Terry planted, mowed, pruned ("meatballed" some shrubs) and tidied up the wedding sites. There are garden weddings both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Marianne lived and breathed marigolds for most of the day but had time for her cutting display and some additional planting. Janice planted in the fern & moss garden, mowed, watered, weeded, etc. To the right is the maroon-brown (can you visualize that color?...) foliage of 'Molly Bush' coral bells (Heuchera) that is looking quite nice. That is certainly a rare foliage color shade. Speakin of interesting foliage on coral bells, directly below is the maroon/pink-spotted foliage of 'Midnight Rose'. The color is best this time of year and I have this one at home. The flowers are quite weak but the foliage is pretty awesome. Further below is a nice bed of 'Purple Sensation' ornamental onions (Allium 'Purple Sensation') near the shade garden that are combining well with the repetition of similarly colored obelisks. After my full day, my wife and I spent another 6 hours sanding floors that we're refinishing at home. Body...locking...up. If you live near Janesville, consider coming to help with trowelwork over the next four Saturdays (8 am - noon).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keep Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

As quoted from lyrics to the song Rollin' by Limp Bizkit, the title of my blog refers to the fact that we accomplished all manner of projects today and kept rolling along. If you have an interest in hearing the song, look for the Limp Bizkit album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. That should be easy to remember (and it's pretty good too). The top picture shows our ornamental onions (Allium) starting to peak in the formal annual sections (defined by boxwood hedges). We planted these over eight years ago and they still come back strong. In two weeks, we'll cut them down (they'll be back) and we'll overplant with annuals. Directly above is a picture I took last night before the start of the lecture on Perennial Favorites by Dr. Frank Greer. Dr. Greer can be seen in the blue shirt in the middle of the image. It was a wonderful talk full of colorful images that not only featured plants but showed the progression of Dr. Greer's small garden in Madison (mostly shade) over the past 30 years or so. We had 67 attendees and I think everyone enjoyed the presentation. I'll be giving the next lecture on Gardening In Containers on June 15th (6 pm - 8 pm). We've averaged about 75 people for the first five lectures and are pleased with the attendance. To the right is a nice bloom close-up of the Starlite Prairieblues hybrid false indigo (Baptisia x bicolor 'Starlite') that is looking pretty darn good right now. This is our first one to bloom here and I'm a big fan of baptisias in general. To the left are Shirley and Janice who eerily enough, had on the same hats and footwear today. Spooky... I never left the Horticulture Center grounds today which is fairly uncommon (except in winter). I spent the day out in the yard organizing annuals by ultimate planting location. I set aside five good sized groupings of plants that we'll hopefully install this Saturday. See below for two of the groupings which will be part of our yellow/blue theme in the entrance garden (obviously!). I also put various color flags in the flats that will be going to our "Smelly Garden" and those going to the "Ornamental Edible / Compact Vegetable" display. The weather was cool but no precipitation.Above is our ornamental mustard (Brassica juncea 'Brazen Brass') "wall" planter. There are still some pansies in there that are buried but I'm happy that this will ulimately be a solid wall of maroon very soon. We'll probably transition this planter in 2 or 3 weeks before this plant decides to bloom. We had a similar mustard in an area last year and let it bloom (bolt) and those wispy yellow blooms dropped a lot of seed that has germinated over a vast area. To the right is the bloom from a hybrid magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii x tripetala) that is just past peak. To the left is the showy foliage of the variegated feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam'). Today Jenny spent the day organizing our marigold (Tagetes) collection and setting it out for planting tomorrow. She is always so organized. Janice worked on her netting for the squash collection and had some help from Big John later in the day. Janice also helped get some volunteers going out in the gardens and planted up a whole bunch of small containers (second picture from the bottom) with scented plants that we'll use for our programs for the Smelly Garden. Our Grumpy, Joe, gave her a hand with that planting. Big John hauled marigolds (150+ flats) and rototilled the garden in front of the Parker Education Center so it's ready for planting this Saturday. John, aside from helping Janice, also finished composting the future squash collection beds. Larry ran out for plants (mainly impatiens) and later worked on mowing, securing our new (red) obelisks, watering and some other tasks. Little Jerry and Dr. Gredler were in to mow and we had help out in the gardens from Shirley, Ernie, Gena and Mary who all weeded and removed some spent bulb foliage. We had some good Grumpies around as well with Dennis, Ron B. and Joe disassembling our plant sale tables. Dennis and Ron then helped John tidy up the entrance garden after the rototilling. Del worked on gravelling while Dick H. repaired some vehicles and equipment. Vern, Dave and Bob worked on their fancy planter for the Dinner Dance (July 16) auction and we later saw Maury, Mary W. (helped with watering and marigold hauling), Elsa, Geesje, Harold T., Bob T., Kris and Ariel. Ariel was later trained by Gary on our laser engraver and plant labeling processes (see bottom photo). To the right is the shoreline that we'll plant on Tuesday with 1700 plugs of native perennials that will tolerate the fluctuating water levels. That soil is quite damp and we've seen the water level come up to that curb and even over the curb to the right with severe flooding (like 2008). The browning you see was from a water-safe herbicide applied professionally a couple weeks ago. We'll poke in these plugs right thru this mat.