Saturday, March 31, 2012

Art In Bloom = Awesome!

I had a great experience in Milwaukee on Friday when I went and enjoyed the Fifth Annual Art In Bloom - A Tribute To Art & Flowers. Held at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM), this event exceeded my expectations as a first time attendee. I was scheduled to present at 2:30 pm on the topic of Perennial Partners for Stunning Shrubbery. While travel in to Milwaukee (and back) was challenging as usual, I arrived early with the intent of enjoying the floral displays and art collections in general. There was also a wide range of vendors selling garden art, statuary, etc. I've been to the MAM ( many times and have always enjoyed the collections and am also always struck by the elegant architecture of the building (see above). To the south of MAM is also the engaging Discovery World ( which is also top notch and well worth the visit. I was concerned about parking and pulled in to the underground lot under MAM even though the sign read FULL. I found the only open parking space which saved some time and headaches! From the minute I walked in the museum, I can only equate my experience to an "Easter-egg hunt-like" endeavor where I sought out the dozens of flower arrangements over all four levels of MAM. It was very crowded but I was able to enjoy all the arrangements. Every one was creative and as you look at these pictures, note those that also include the piece of exhibit art in the distance for which the arrangement was created. The arrangements, works of art themselves, echoed colors, themes and exhibit content in either an abstract or quite straightforward arrangement. Good examples of this "echoing" can be seen in the two photos directly below. Needless to say, I was blown away and was glad to have my camera. What I've posted here is just a fraction of the arrangements. My presentation went well with about 100 in attendance with lots of questions at the conclusion of the program. I was at RBG briefly this morning for a meeting of our Home Garden Tour Committee (Bill, Jean, Janet, Barb and Cora). We're finalizing some details for this July 21st event. I also saw Larry, Bill and Dr. Gredler working out in the gardens and on some other projects. Lots of work coming up and it will be nice to have the grounds staff back in action next week! Enjoy the images from Art In Bloom. The bottom three arrangements were not featured in the collections but were created by a renowned floral arranger who was in attendance at the event.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Our Neighbor To The North

We had some nice overnight rain and sprinkles in the morning today. I saw Kay, Pat, Magda and Dr. Gredler this morning but will be departing soon for the Art In Bloom - A Tribute to Art & Flowers event at the Milwaukee Art Museum. With a short day for me at RBG, I thought I'd share some of my many photos of Olbrich Botanical Gardens (OBG) that I took this past Wednesday evening. I really caught the perfect timing for some of these spring bloomers and was thrilled to have my camera with me. The image directly above is the OBG gravel garden coming to life. OBG is a wonderful garden that I visit multiple times during the year. See for more information and directions I usually try to catch all the seasons and have done some major photography here as there is a wide range of labeled plants. The staff does a great job and Jeff Epping, Director of Horticulture, is quite talented and has assembled a great batch of horticulturists. I caught a picture of Jeff (at the bottom) recently at RBG. I've come to know most of the grounds horticulturists including Mark S., Christian H., Samara E., Samantha P., Philip S. and Aaron W. They all do a great job and of course there are other staff involved as well. All the photos here were taken at Olbrich with the exception of Epping's photograph. To the right is the white checkered fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris 'Alba') in the meadow garden. We need more of these at RBG for sure. We've not tried this one in our "bulb lawns" but may in the future. To the left is the always beautiful, native trout lily (Erythronium americanum) in the woodland garden. We have a couple of these at RBG but I haven't gotten a good photo (until now). Their woodland garden was looking quite colorful with plenty more to yet bloom. Our woodland walk garden at RBG is becoming increasingly more colorful as we add more of the spring ephemerals. We'll also have a significant planting of other perennials (hostas, barrenwort, etc.) this spring as we still have some real estate in that garden to address. To the right is the hybrid trout lily (Erythronium 'Pagoda') and I lucked out with the backlighting on that shot. While strolling thru OBG I was impressed with all the "minor" bulb massing around the gardens. Directly below is a huge patch of Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) that carpets a small woodland planting area right along Atwood Avenue. Understory perennials then fill in later. This is a great spot to let the squill run wild and that electric blue can be seen at 35 mph along Atwood. Further below is a nice carpet of glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) used under some deciduous trees. As these trees later leaf out, these bulbs are going dormant. Why not add some early color in locations such as these that will later transition to different interest? The photos further down highlight the meadow garden with bulbs that will also go dormant, leaving the short meadow grasses (no-mow) to fill in as the soil warms up. Further below is also an inquisitive Robin wondering if it is truly May yet!?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Volunteers Converge!

I took the top image at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) last night. That tulip (Tulipa humilis) is called 'Persian Pearl' and was peaking throughout their meadow garden which I finally caught at peak (with perfect lighting for photos)! Now that is a true bulb lawn! I arrived at the gardens well before my talk on Sensational Shrubbery which went very well (crowd of 30). I was able to get thru the entire gardens and took many images of blooming and emerging plants. I'll actually be back at Olbrich next Tuesday night to talk about Annual Grasses and will probably arrive early again and see what else is peaking up around the gardens. To the right is one of my favorite foamy bells (xHeucherella 'Sweet Tea') showing that nice, early orange coloration. Foamy bells are the cross between coral bells (Heuchera) and foam flowers (Tiarella). There are some exciting varieties currently out on the market. To the below left is the emerging fiddlehead of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) which is amazing to observe daily as this fiddlehead stretches and unfurls.

The weather was gorgeous today with blue skies, plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the low 50 degrees F. We had an amazing turnout of volunteers and saw the return of many of our "veterans". Two photos above show Jim (waving) and Bob A. (driving over the speed limit) as they hauled obelisks to the gift shop to be sold. The guys, including Dave T., finished putting the copper caps on the obelisks and will continue on their endless list of carpentry jobs. Del and Stan (new Grumpy) collected leaves and then both Jumbo Jim and Stan (above photo) joined me for a tour of the Japanese garden where we talked about pruning and maintenance needs. It sounds like Stan has an interest in helping in that garden. Ron W. and Larry H. hauled and secured benches out in the gardens although the photo directly below shows Larry sitting down on the job! Dr. Gredler was out mowing this morning. Dick H. ran some loads to the dump and helped Maury run out for some donated aluminum rod and some supplies. Marv and Terry continued working on the elevated PVC planters (among other tasks) and Jumbo Jim was here with two RECAPPERS most of the day cleaning up in the alpine garden and Japanese garden. Bob D. also helped Jim in those same areas. The guys also transplanted some of our congested conifers from the alpine garden to an adjacent bed. Marianne worked on collecting more labeling information (for new perennial labels) out in the gardens and Luis was in to produce another good-sized batch of perennial labels for plants that will be arriving in May. Shirley H. and Suzy were back in action and did a nice job weeding and tidying in two different locations. Dave and Mary H. were in to tidy up their area as well. Bill O. came in later to help Larry with some projects and Pat was here as staff all day cleaning up the remnants of the stump grinding and he also did some mulching. We also saw Big John, Jenny, Dave E., Bev F., Kris K. and many others. To the lower right is the Korean tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) emerging and note all that brown "fuzz"! Further below the photo of Larry (sitting down on the job) is a sign for our upcoming Spring Tree Sale (April 20th and 21st, see that Pat is modifying from last year. We'll be heavily promoting this event along with our Earth Day event and Arbor Day event. The third photo down shows a neat patch (at Olbrich) of Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) emerging quickly. I like the look of these "domes" emerging. Also called Indian apple, raccoonberry, wild lemon, hog apple and American mandrake, this plant forms an edible fruit later in the season although there is some discussion/debate of when to consume this fruit. The oak leaves for our garden art project are trickling back to the gardens and I've included three here to enjoy. The six that have been returned all look great and will also look quite nice out in the garden once they are mounted. We're prodding artists to continue on this project as we need to still have all of these sealed/coated and ultimately positioned securely out in the gardens. There are still a handful left (undecorated) so if any blog readers have an outlet like a school art class that could decorate these in the next two weeks, give us a call and we'll supply one.

We had our annual grounds staff orientation lunch today and it was nice to have everyone together. Our team of Larry, Marv, Marianne, Terry, Pat, Big John, Janice and Jenny are top notch workers and we are lucky to have their talents and dedication to the gardens. I'm sure they all work at RBG for the hefty paycheck but hopefully they get some enjoyment out of it. All are seasoned veterans and know the routine. We talked about looming collections, developments, etc. and got a good feel for the year. April will be a bit goofy with John gone on vacation and me off on our trip to the Netherlands. However, we'll have no shortage of work and hopefully no shortage of volunteers either!

We're hoping to see more submittals for our Photography Contest here at the gardens (details at which has a deadline of April 30th. We're asking amateur photographers to submit three images taken at the gardens (can be from previous years) and the focus can be on plants, animals, garden areas, etc. at RBG. Winners will be included in our 2013 RBG calendar. Check out the website for more details. The two photos below feature the sporophyte stage of some mosses and a nice shot of pasque flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) in the alpine garden with the pergola (formal French garden) in the distance. The bottom photo shows our largest redbud (Cercis canadensis) just starting to peak in the Japanese garden. I'm off to Milwaukee tomorrow to present (Perennial Partners for Stunning Shrubbery) at the Art & Bloom event at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I'll try to blog early and will show some images of that event this weekend.