Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Clean Up (and Set-Up) Continues

We had a busy morning with volunteers and staff around the gardens. The weather was chilly but the day turned out decent although it was fairly overcast much of the time. The top picture shows Larry (left) and Dennis (right) who hauled and spread woodchip mulch all morning. I had a pretty extensive "Grumpy List" out this morning and the guys made it thru a good portion of the list by lunch time. The image directly above is the bronze fall color of the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) which is a deciduous conifer with an interesting history ( of discovery and later distribution around the world. We have five of these trees in various locations and I always enjoy this "bronzing effect" in fall before the needles fall off. To the right is the interesting fall color on the foliage of the 'Golden Zebra' foamy bells (Heucherella) in the woodland walk. Keep a watchful eye on your perennials in fall as many do contribute fall color late in the season.

To the left are Gary (left) and Dave (right) securing snow fencing this morning as a deer barrier around our arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) hedges in the sunken garden. This will be the fourth year in a row that we've resorted to these physical barriers in the attempt to thwart significant browsing from an increasing deer population in our greenbelt. Big John, Ron and Dick H. were spotting and pounding in stakes for Dave and Gary to use for securing the fence. The work went very well and this process has been streamlined over the years. We'll finish the remainder of these protection initiatives on Thursday and probably next Monday as well. While Dennis and Larry worked on woodchip mulching around the west end of the gardens, Pat cleared out mums around the North Point arbor structure to make room for incoming bulbs (1,000 'Blushing Lady' tulips) later in the week. Dick P., Maury and Tom C. worked on some electrical projects at the main building while Rollie was out mowing in the arboretum (see photo directly below). Urban was out pruning crabapples (Malus sp.) and continuing the work that Little Jerry started last week. Del continued working on his reindeer cuttouts and the carpenters (Dave, Jim, Bob A. and Vern) built a new "riser" for the Parker Education Center and were involved with a meeting (also including Kelli, Amanda, Bev D., Deb G. and me) to discuss options for the art project out in the garden (i.e. the butterflies from this year) next year. We have some great ideas and will explore them further. We also saw Mary W., Laura B., Kelli and others today. Above and to the right are the cool seed heads of the Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) which even rattle in the breeze and look great in dried arrangements.Directly above is a visual update on the kale (Brassica) still looking showy out in the gardens. While I was able to run some cords this morning, I spent a good amount of time with preparations for the upcoming symposium this Saturday. I'll keep pecking away at running cords though as we have a tight timeline with set-up and testing being completed in the next three weeks. Larry continued setting up arches for the lights show which will be decorated with lights tomorrow. He'll also start setting up what we call the "Olsen Pavilion" in the reception garden which involves lots of stakes, ropes, lights, etc. Big John worked on pounding plenty of stakes for the deer fencing, hauled our Adirondack chairs back to the yard and did some gardening tasks as well. John was also in this past Saturday with a list of tasks which included hopefully our last use of the push mower out in the gardens. Marianne worked on lights, sorted bulbs for planting, worked on garden tidying and continued placing luminaries out in the gardens for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). Marv and Terry continued honing their decoration skills as they ran more displays out for placement, secured decorated obelisks and continued putting lights on various shrubs and hedges. We've had such wonderful teamwork for not only fall clean-up efforts but also the monumental task of getting the HLS up and ready to go. The "behind-the-scenes" work is quite extensive.

Despite the light frosts, the roses are still blooming nicely. To the above right is the Double Pink Knockout rose (Rosa 'Rakdtkopink') looking great as are many others. The majority of our rose collection are shrub roses and we appreciate how low-maintenance many of them truly are for us. To the left is the upright bloom of the 'Wichita Mountains' goldenrod (Solidago sp.). This variety is quite late blooming and is striking with narrow "columns of bloom." To the lower right is just some of my handiwork as I get out there and get the power "web" in place. I'll have to get pretty serious about this task this week and keep plugging along (pun intended). Directly below is the maroon/red fall color of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) and at the bottom, another shot (from underneath) of the fall color of the three-flower maple (Acer triflorum).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fast Friday

Fridays always seem to go quickly and today was no exception. Although it was frosty this morning, the day turned out to be sunny and beautiful with highs in the mid 50 degrees F. The top image is the fall color of one of our serviceberry (Amelanchier lamarckii) specimens in the arboretum and directly above is a colorful look in to our woodland walk garden with the glow of those three Beaver Creek fothergillas (Fothergilla gardenii 'KLMtwo') in front of the pillar. That pillar is a portion of one of the original dozen Indiana limestone pillars that supported our pergola in the formal rose garden years ago. In 1999, we had a "wind shear" or sudden downdraft of tornado-like proportions that not only leveled many trees around town but knocked over our original pergola. We saved the broken pillars and eventually used them for a "ruins-like" appearance in the woodland walk garden. Also peppered throughout that space (with the same design intent) are elements from our 2006 vandalism like broken containers, statuary, etc. To the right is the deep maroon fall color and fruiting structure of the Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) which I only get excited about this time of year because of the fall color. It has shown a recent tendency to establish by seed and is becoming challenging with many seedlings to target. Even after four light frosts, we still have some perennials blooming out in the gardens. To the above left is the 'Dark Beauty' toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana) in the back of the gazebo garden. I'm excited about this variety and love the exquisite, orchid-like blooms. The fact that this perennial has interest around Halloween (at least this year) is also a bonus too.

We had some nice volunteer assistance today from Kay who essentially finished the shade garden clean-up although we know we'll have another round of leaves to collect. She was very thorough and did a great job as usual. Pat came in to help put up lights in the entrance garden and we appreciate his time. Hopefully we didn't "sour" him on that task as we'll see if he'll help us again with lights next week! We also saw Maury, Luis, Gene B., Mark S., Roy K. and others at the Horticulture Center today. Larry and Big John will be in tomorrow with probably some assistance from Bill O. To the right is another of our latest blooming perennials that shrugs off light frost with no problem. This azure monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii 'Baker's Variety') has been in the gazebo garden for a dozen years and always impresses me with the late bloom time (expected of course) but a shade of blue that can't be found elsewhere in the October garden. Very impressive. The last time I featured the plant seen below, it had white flower clusters in late September. This is the seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) which is a large shrub / small tree with late white, fragrant flowers. As the flowers finish, the calyces elongate and turn a rich, rose-red as seen here. This is a neat effect. The calyx (made up of sepals) is the structure that protects the emerging flower bud as it forms and opens up. I've shown the fruits of the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the past but we have so many visitors enquiring about these interesting structures as they are very profuse this year. These are actually cones that are covered with green, fleshy, shield-like scales. The seeds are inside and these spheres should start to turn more purple and dessicate (dry). I'm going to observe this and take photos as I've not seen this progression of maturation in the past. Pretty cool. There must be 5,000 of these out on our bald cypress in the arboretum. I took the image to the right out in the arboretum today too. While we're all smitten with orange, yellow, red and maroon fall colors, these "white leaves" caught my eye on the ground. These are actually the leaf back sides of the white poplar (Populus alba 'Fialaspire') that is in the arboretum. Like flipping a coin, those that land "heads first" show this silver backing and it is quite fetching. To the left is the yellowing fall color of the "skeleton-leaf" silver maple (Acer saccharinum 'Born's Gracious') near the gazebo. I'm not a huge fan of silver maples with the exception of this variety.

Grounds staff today included Marv, Terry, Marianne, Janice and me. Marv and Terry worked on the endloader a bit today and spent the majority of the day putting up and securing displays and stringing lights on various hedges and shrubs out in the gardens. Marianne processed many of the new LED lights we purchased recently and headed out in the gardens for some planting of lilies (Lilium sp.) and Jacob's ladder (Polemonium sp.). We should finish our planting (bulbs and perennials) by the end of next week. Marianne also did a nice job tidying up in the English cottage garden (and beyond) which will receive some decorations next week. Janice helped work on lights, assisted me with signage for the upcoming symposium and decorated many obelisks (with LED lights) for placement out in the garden next week. I worked on fall symposium preparations this morning as the garden thawed out and then went out to string another 1,000 feet (literally) of extension cords near the arboretum. I lay out my primary cords first and will hit this task full steam next week. I also finished some small projects and met with some potential donors regarding a memorial tree option here at RBG. To the right is a close-up shot of the true, fall crocus (Crocus sativus) in the gazebo garden. Also called the saffron crocus, this bulb blooms later than the "Autumn crocus" or Colchicum autumnale that blooms in September. The true fall crocus is in the Iridacea or Iris family whereas Colchicum is in the Liliacea or Lily family. Regardless of the botanical differences, the late color from both is quite welcome. Below is a backlit shot of some yellowing foliage of one of our magnolias (Magnolia hybrida 'Yellow Lantern') which looked neat (in spring too with yellow blossoms!) and at the bottom is a photo from yesterday (taken by Janice) showing Mary (bright yellow) and Gena (black) cleaning up in the fern & moss garden yesterday. Along with Myrt and Savannah (not pictured), the ladies collectively did a nice job. The red/orange maple to the right is the previously featured fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium') at peak near the Ma'chii structure. This variety is also called 'Maiku jaku' in Japanese which translates to "Dancing Peacock". ???. I think the deeply dissected leaves look like peacock feathers?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blue Skies Arrive

The day started with some significant drizzle bordering on rain. However, it cleared up fairly quickly and we had blue skies, sunshine and some puffy clouds until mid afternoon when it became grey again. The image above is of one of our three, three-flower maples (Acer triflorum) really peaking with that "fire orange" fall color. This one is near the gazebo. This maple was "discovered" by noted plant explorer, Ernest H. Wilson in 1917 on the Korean peninsula. The spring flowers of this Asian species are in clusters of three, hence the name. Aside from awesome fall color, this tree also has showy, ornamental bark and is a hardy, smaller-scale maple for the landscape. I'm always amazed at how much fall interest is out in the gardens and am not lacking for photos of colorful plants out in the gardens as evidenced in recent blogs. My talk last night on Bulbs was attended by 33 people and the topic seemed well-received (I only had 10 people drift off to sleep...). We also sold bulbs from our gift shop after the event which seemed only appropriate! To the right is one of the many obelisks that Janice is decorating for later placement out in the gardens. To the left is one of our later blooming perennials that isn't hard to notice this time of year. This is a perennial, ornamental onion (Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa') which will bloom well in to November and will actually keep some of that violet color in to December.

Today's staff was identical to Tuesday. We had Janice, Big John and me. Janice worked on decorating obelisks, symposium details, coordinating our afternoon volunteers and later went shopping for our next batch of LED lights for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). Big John set out our candy cane displays for HLS, worked on decorating pink obelisks in the reception garden, planted daffodils (Narcissus) and ornamental onions (Allium) in the parking lot beds. John also started pounding in the large fence posts that will be used to support our temporary trees for decoration. I worked on compiling information on the silent auction plants that will be offered at the Plant Appreciation symposium (registration deadline Monday!) on November 5th. I continued to work on our six new garden area signs, worked with Gary on labels and was essentially desk-bound. I'll get out tomorrow and sling some more cords. To the right is the Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia 'Alba') still blooming strongly in the color rooms garden (48" tall). This perennial started blooming over a month ago and is still hanging in there. Directly below is one of our many maidenhair trees (Ginkgo biloba) starting to turn gold. Some of our ginkgos have already dropped their leaves but many are still going thru the transition.
We had a great turnout of volunteers today despite the damp start this morning. While we didn't have any early "Grumpettes", we did have a good crew of Grumpies. Above are Pat (to the right) and Dave (in the distance to the left). The guys were hauling and spreading compost over our flower beds near the arboretum. This was the area that held the Ornamental Edible and Compact Vegetable Display. We'll repeat this theme in the same space next year but will expand the collection to include even more varieties. If you look closely, the guys above were choreographing their raking motions and movements as they sang the old Sam Cooke lyrics, "That's the sound of the men, working on the chain gang...". Rollie ran the endloader to keep up with loading utility carts with compost. Ron and Steve went out and cleared the remainder of the reception garden planters and containers and moved on to leaf collection. Dennis and Bob C. also worked on collecting leaves which continues to be a full-time job. Dick H. was in to work on one of our garden vehicles which he later hauled off for servicing beyond what we could accomplish "in house." Dave, Jim, Bob A. and Vern were all in to continue on carpentry projects and they built a neat support/roller system for some of our larger rolls of plastics and fabrics. It's nice to have such handy people around the gardens. Gary spent the morning catching up with data entry for labels and Maury was all over the place running errands for everyone. We also saw Kelli at break and Mary W. was in briefly. To the upper right is one of the maples (Acer sp.) on the adjoining Lion's Beach lawn. I'm pretty sure this is one of the Freeman maples (Acer x freemanii) which is a cross between the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) and red maple (Acer rubrum). There are many varieties with variable fall color. This one is quite brilliant this year. To the left are the fruits of the native coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatas). Also called Indiancurrant, this suckering shrub is quite durable although slightly unkempt in appearance. I love the color of the berries (primary feature of interest) which will attract birds in the winter.

Our afternoon "Grumpettes" were in today and spent considerable time cutting back ferns, collecting leaves and tidying up the fern & moss garden. Mary, Myrt, Gena and Savannah (Gena's granddaughter) did a great job and brought back many loads of debris for the compost pile. This team, including Nancy (not here today), have done marvelous work all spring and summer and we hope the team is intact and inspired for similar opportunities in 2012. To the right is the fall color on one of our oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) out in the gardens. Their fall color, while naturally variable from year to year, will fluctuate depending on location, sun exposure and other factors. Most will maintain consistent fall color well in to November. Below are the October, confetti-like blooms of the witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana). While the flowers, individually, don't have a lot of impact, they'll bloom for a couple weeks and as the leaves drop from the plant, the "haze" of yellow becomes more apparent. I saw lots of witchhazels blooming at Devil's Lake State Park (Baraboo, WI) a couple weeks ago (this species is a North American native). At the bottom is an Autumn shot of the Japanese garden from yesterday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Tribute To Orange

It was a grey day outside with some very light drizzle to start the morning. Overall though, it was good working weather to be outside and everyone worked on a combination of lights and some gardening. I put down my first cords today and found that I haven't lost the advanced skill of unwinding and stretching out cords! As I was out in the gardens, I was amazed at all the extended color, particularly with the "oranges." I think the fact that we haven't had a hard frost is one of the factors but regardless, I was glad I had my camera with me to catch some nice plant shots and images of our staff in action. The top picture is the "orange stage" for the fall color of the fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium') in the Japanese garden. This brilliant orange will soon go to a brilliant red. The four specimens that we have spaced throughout that garden are in various stages of fall color depending on the sunlight they're receiving. Note the bottom picture in this blog as that bright red tree is the peak fall color for this maple (same as the one at the top). The second image down shows the fall color of the three-flower maple (Acer triflorum) which ends up "coloring up" quite nicely although the degree of orange fall color is quite variable each year but usually quite nice. The keys above are Kay's and the brick "key chain" is so she doesn't lose her keys...(courtesy of Big John). To the above right is the fall color of the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) near the arched bridge. These needles will fall off shortly (deciduous conifer). To the left is the "fire orange" fall color of the 'Green Cascade' fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum), also in the Japanese Garden.

Kay was in to continue her clean-up efforts in the shade garden and did a very thorough job. We'll see her Friday and she'll continue gardening in that garden space. Little Jerry (image directly below) was in to prune some crabapples (Malus sp.) in the North American garden which is an annual task as they tend to sprout up plenty of suckers each year. It was nice to have Little Jerry back in action. Pat was also in to continue filling luminaries for use out in the Holiday Lights Show. He also peeled and processed many of our annual labels from this year that were brought in after the plants were removed and composted. We also saw Maury, Dick P. and others today. Our irrigation guy, Ray, was in to look at some problems we're having with our water system. To rhe right is the brilliant fall color of the Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) in the Japanese garden. I hope this specimen thrives as it is in a protected spot (marginal hardiness). The great fall color is always expected but as this specimen ages, the "camellia-like", white blooms will be interesting (ours has not bloomed yet) and the bark is extremely ornamental with age on this species.Above are Marv (left) and Terry (right) hoisting our huge wreath display in to place. The guys spent most of the day on the HLS and have hauled out many displays and secured them in place. I could have helped them with this 200 lb. display but opted to just take a picture and shout encouragement. The guys also worked on some brief turf repair and will have no shortage of lights or displays to put up over the coming weeks. Marianne and John bonded today and started with lights preparations and then worked together on decorating the "slanted pyramids" (see to right) on the entrance garden slope. We were able to purchase quite a few more LED twinkle lights for the event this year and not only do they look great, but their power draw is so minimal that they will lend themselves perfectly to our "trouble areas" for power. Marianne moved on after lunch to clearing plants and cutting back perennials in the English cottage garden. We're clearing all garden areas at this point as most will have lights displays and need to be ready. Big John moved on to planting shrubs in and around the Japanese garden. He planted yews (Taxus sp.) and variegated dogwoods (Cornus sp.). After running cords in the morning, I worked on desk work and ran handouts for my Bulbs lecture this evening (6-8 pm, come enjoy the program!). To the left is the "bronze-orange" fall color of the shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria). I think this specimen (near the zig-zag bridge) has its best fall color this year and is quite prominent from a distance. Note the "un-oaklike" leaves. These leaves will turn brown and stay on the tree thru winter until new growth pushes them off. To the right is the orange fall color of the Korean maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum) in the arboretum. This orange will also go to a nice deep red over the next week or so. The transition of color is always exciting to observe and this species has later fall color which frequently peaks in November.

Over the coming weeks, we'll continue our clean-up around the gardens and will remove the last of our annuals and container plantings. The color in the reception garden (directly below) is one of our last beacons of seasonal color (picture from today). We'll remove those plants soon but didn't have the heart to do it quite yet. At the bottom is a nice shot of the Ma' Chii structure in the fern & moss garden with that fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium') at peak fall color.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hitting The 50/50

This is the time of year where the grounds staff has a 50/50 split between gardening tasks and preparation for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). In a week or so, the percentages will shift heavier in to the HLS preparations as we take advantage of some of the warmer days before mid-November cold makes it considerably more unpleasant to be outside. The image above is of an area we're calling our North Point Border. With the creation of the North Point garden this year, we noted the need for a visual and functional separation between that new garden and both the alpine garden and French Formal garden (rose garden). The area above is a raised border about 60' long and 15' deep. For orientation, I took this picture from the North Point garden and what you see is the alpine garden in the distance to the left and the pergola (in the rose garden) at the top of the image. We'll be planting oodles of bulbs out there shortly and will follow up next spring with the addition of woody plants and perennials. To the right is the Autumn moor grass (Sesleria autumnalis) which is a great, short clumping grass that we've used in many tough (full sun) locations around RBG. To the left is a portion of our Horticulture Center that Del is using to "touch up" the plywood deer cutouts that we use out in the gardens for the HLS.

Grounds staff today consisted of Big John, Janice and myself. John went out and continued clearing perennials and pockets of remaining annuals from both the shade garden. He also made a run for gas and decorated obelisks with lights for the HLS in the afternoon. Janice did some office work, went shopping for LED lights and supplies for the HLS and continued to decorate obelisks with lights. The day was overcast with occasional drizzle but never amounted to much rainfall. We saw the sun by the afternoon. I finished my presentation for tomorrow night at RBG (Bulbs, 6-8pm), continued work on our six new garden signs and am working thru my desk work so I can get outside with cords (probably tomorrow). To the right is some interesting pink fall color on the Sunjoy Gold Pillar barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Maria'). This color should go to orange shortly but I love this stage too. This upright variety was bright gold thru the summer. Despite Japanese barberries (Berberis thunbergii) becoming a weedy nuisance in many woodlands, I've always appreciated their vivid and variable fall coloration. Directly below are some of the luminaries awaiting attention and placement from Marianne. Above is a shot of our compost pile today which becomes quite large this time of year. It's tough to visualize the dimensions of this pilefrom the photo but as you view it, it is about 10' tall, 20' wide and 60' long (and growing). Marv has done an awesome job managing our composting and suggested the idea over seven years ago. He has done most of the mixing, turning, piling, sifting and processing which has resulted in budget savings (we buy less compost) and it is very appropriate to recycle and re-use our garden debris. Marv has done some tests with his compost and some of our purchased compost and his has less weed seeds (kept hotter) and is just as easy to work with out in the gardens. Pick up a book on composting basics or scour the internet for sources and see how easy it is to do this process on any scale. The basic recipe involves 3 parts "brown" material (dry leaves,etc.) to 1 part "green" material (grass clipping, etc.). Marv is good at guiding ingredients in to the pile as needed and to the left you see his sifter that is used to create the final, fine compost that goes directly out in to the gardens. The pile just beyond the sifter is next in line for sifting. Marv has spent many a volunteer hour sifting composting which removes (obviously) rocks, twigs, plastic labels and other unwanted debris from the final product. To the right are some of our larger containers, emptied, cleaned out and flipped over for winter.

We saw lots of volunteers around the Horticulture Center today. Kay came in and dodged raindrops for awhile with John as they worked on clearing out portions of the shade garden. She did a great job as usual and we appreciate her continued involvement and valuable time at the gardens. Maury was in to run some errands which also included getting some LED lights for the HLS. We also saw Bev D., Bev F., Mary W., Pam T., Dick H. and Jumbo Jim today at the Horticulture Center. Kris was over to talk with Janice about the looming Plant Appreciation Symposium on November 5th (it's not too late to register! check it out at Below are the last of the hot peppers (Capsicum sp.) picked at the gardens yesterday. Note the streaked/striped peppers that are from the 'Sparkler' variegated hot pepper (Capsicum annuum). At the bottom are Terry (left) and Marv (right) hunched over the boxwood (Buxus sp.) hedges in the formal gardens yesterday. This is the third time they've worked on these hedges, although this time was to put on lights, the previous two involved shears!