Monday, April 30, 2012

Vivid Foliage

We had some drizzle that started yesterday afternoon (Sunday) and extended until early this morning. While the gardens were damp (we're glad for the rain) and the sky was overcast all day, it was an extremely busy day, particularly in the morning. It was a great day for photographs and I do enjoy this time of year for observing fresh and vivid foliage throughout the gardens. The top photo is lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) holding rain drops, which I always think is neat. The photo directly above is the patterned foliage of 'Lance Corporal' knotweed (Persicaria virginiana) that has a prominent, maroon "chevron" on each leaf. This perennial is a bit of a reseeder although the late season, slender pink flowers are showy in their own right. To the right is the early dark foliage of the 'Heaven Scent' hybrid Jacob's ladder (Polemonium). While the leaves on this 18" tall perennial later turn to green, the spring show of blue flowers is always welcome in the partly shaded garden. To the left are the showy spring blooms of the double-flowering meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pleno') in the Scottish garden. This perennial, while a bit of creeping colonizer (particulary in wet soils), sure steals the show early in the season. This morning, Marcia and Rob from Urban Grow company ( stopped by to donate a three-tiered, repurposed, pvc planter that we'll display out in the Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Display this year. I'll post a picture soon as this is a neat set-up. I took them on a tour of the gardens and they enjoyed seeing some of our other innovative pvc, culvert pipe and pallet planters in the gardens. Later in the morning, we had four students (Occupational Therapy) from Madison College (MATC) come and do a presentation on sensory gardens and the demographics that will utilize these spaces. These four are students of our volunteer (and MATC instructor) Darcie O. This group did a wonderful job and we had members of our Horticulure Therapy Committee (Art, Sharon, Darcie and Elaine), volunteers and some of the Board of Directors in attendance. To the right is the showy English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) starting to bloom in the Scottish garden. Directly below is the showy flower cluster of the native blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium). This large shrub also gets a nice fall color and has proven to be one of our shrubs for tough locations. Directly above and to the right is the foliage and appearance of the golden Norway maple (Acer platanoides 'Princeton Gold') which is one of the most "asked about" trees every spring. While the spring foliage is the most vivid, this selection maintains a nice gold coloration until the leaves drop in November. We started with one specimen of this variety in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden a couple years ago and had so many compliments that we installed three more last spring in very conspicuous locations where they would be real "beacons of color." To the left is the quite vivid spring foliage of the Lady In Red ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Tuilad') which will maintain much of that reddish tint throughout the summer and to me, looks quite a bit different than many of the other maroon-leaf varieties (Diabolo, Summer Wine, etc.).

Marv and Terry hauled three weeping willows (Salix alba 'Tristis') to an approved location across the pond from our west garden edge. This is off of our gardens proper but is viewed from across the water (North point garden, terrace garden, children's garden). Big John and Pat, after starting on installing woody plant signs, shifted over to planting these with help from Dennis and some others. They seemed to go in quite well. John and Pat later moved to some painting (back porch) while Marv and Terry planted their own tree, a Rosehill oak (Quercus robur x bicolor 'Asjes'), near the main parking lot. This was the eighth of ten new trees that will be planted as part of our WI DNR Urban Forestry Grant. Marv and Terry then worked on various other projects including significant air edging in the children's garden. Larry worked primarily on the sunken garden pool and fountain today with a couple of side projects. Marianne did a nice job tidying up the entrance garden, did some weed removal near the gazebo and put together her cutting display. We had plenty of other Grumpies around with Stan (pruning), Urban, Gary, Rollie, Dr. Yahr, Dave T., Jim, Maury, Dick C., Tom C. and Dr. Gredler (mowing). Luis was in to place more tree signs as well. It was a busy day, simply put. To the right is a 'Remember Me' hosta (Hosta sp.) in the English cottage garden. I love how nice hosta leaves look in spring with colorful foliage and this variety is one of my favorites. Directly below is a group of youths that came in to use our Adventure Backpack Program. They seemed to enjoy the visit although we had to remind them to keep the noise down as they were quite zealous in their explorations. At the bottom is one of the three herb garden sections that will receive a "facelift" soon with new flagstone paths (note the excavation) and new signage.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Grand Goatsbeards

I was at work today for a couple hours as we had a scheduled work day and tour for potential volunteers on the calendar. It sprinkled over night and continued this morning with some miserable drizzle and cold winds. We initially didn't think we'd see many volunteers. Larry, Big John and Janice were in to help out. Larry and John worked on a couple projects first while John moved on to a needed gas run and potting up some annuals in to larger containers. Larry staked some trees in the main parking lot and continued making concrete bases for our woody plant labels. While we didn't end up having an official "work day" out in the gardens due to the weather, we had seven new and potential volunteers show up for the tour. Janice gave them the initial tour around the Horticulture Center and then I took them for a 2 hour tour around the gardens. The weather, while brisk and slightly damp, was bearable. It was a nice group of volunteers and we hope to see all of them often. Janice also worked on other projects. Also this morning was the continuation of the Compost Sale (staffed by Dennis, Gena and Pat M.). Gena and Pat helped John with his planting duties and Dennis also kept busy "between customers." While the compost sale seemed to be going well, the last clearance day of our Spring Tree Sale was fairly slow. Maury and some other Golden Kiwanis members ran that sale. We also saw Dr. Gredler, his son Richard, Patrick M. and many others.

I'd like to promote the use of goatsbeards with this blog posting. I should mention that none of the pictures shown in this blog are recent as we are still weeks away from seeing goatsbeards (Aruncus sp.) blooming out in the gardens. However, I wanted to mention the merits of these great garden perennials. The two top pictures and three pictures beneath them are all of the standard goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) which usually blooms in late May or early June for us in the garden. Native to the temperate portions of the Northern hemisphere in Europe, North America and Asia, this perennial is also known as bride's feathers for the wispy appearance of the flowers. Few would argue the merit of the impact of this perennial as seen in the pictures. While it can be a little floppy at time, this plant benefits occasionally from staking and "supportive neighbors." This species prefers moist, organic soils and does well in partially shaded ocations. I would never include any goatsbeard in deep shade though as they need some degree of sunlight. However, some of our best clumps at RBG are in full sun although the soils are very damp in these locations. Traditional goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) can top out easily at 4-5' in height although there are some shorter options that should not be overlooked. The two photos below show the dwarf goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius) which forms a short, textural mound (15" or so) with very fine foliage. Small, white flower sprays following in late spring / early summer. This selection is great for the front of the border or as a textural edger along a path. The flowers on all goatsbeards are also showy as they age to a brown and some species/varieties will ge a decent yellow (or even reddish) fall color in October.Another more compact selection of goatsbeard is Aruncus sinensis 'Child of Two Worlds' which hovers around 3' or so in height. Also called 'Zweiweltenkind', this variety (not pictured in this blog) is nice in the mid-border and offers that same flower impact as seen above. Also not pictured is the hybrid variety 'Horatio' which is a cross between the dwarf species seen above (aethusifolius) and A. dioicus. Topping out at 40", 'Horatio' has shorter, but no less showy, white flower sprays and gets a nice reddish fall color tinting. Another nice dwarf variety (with the same parentage as 'Horatio') featured to the immediate right and left here is 'Misty Lace'. Selected by Dr. Allan Armitage of the University of Georgia for heat tolerance, this hybrid is also bone hardy to zone 3 (30" tall). As with all the previously mentioned species and varieties, moisture is absolutely vital for the success of all goatsbeards so position them accordingly and consider moisture-retentive soil amendments like compost and/or peat moss to encourage plant health and strong flowering. To the lower right are the blooms of the variety 'Guinea Fowl' which has cutleaf foliage and strong, compact blooms. This variety, introduced from Europe, only gets 24" tall and wide. One of my favorite goatsbeards is 'Kneiffii' which is sometimes indicated as a variety or form of the standard Aruncus dioicus. This selection has very fine, cutleaf, filagreed foliage that offers interest before, during and after peak blooms (48" tall). The variety 'Whirlwind' is a cutleaf variety as well (also 48" tall). The bottom photo shows 'Kneiffii' at my in-laws house where it is happy in lots of sun but gets pampered with decent soil and supplemental watering as needed. Considering the durability and availability of a wide range of goatsbeards for the home garden, why not include them in your planting palette.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Arbor Day At The Gardens

Arbor Day at RBG was celebrated with free admission, information and the Janesville Shade Tree Advisory Council (JSTAC) set up an information booth for the day (thanks Mary Kay!). The top photo shows our gathering in the English cottage garden with various City officials, members of the JSTAC, DNR representatives, etc. Earlier we offered a tree planting demonstration (see above) in the main parking lot and installed a Prairie Sentinel hackberry (Celtis occidentalis 'KFS-KSU1') which has a nice, upright form. This is the sixth of ten trees that we'll be installing in the main parking lot as part of a WI DNR Urban Forestry Grant. All of the selections will also have signage giving information on the specific tree but also mentioning the importance of these selections as potential ash alternatives (due to Emerald Ash Borer). These selections are also very urban tolerant and will take the tough sites where we've positioned them. We then had a dedication ceremony (mentioned above) with local officials and representatives of various agencies (DNR included) about the value of trees and their importance in our community. To the upper right is another of the leaf art projects. We're waiting on our last five to be returned and once those are all sealed with preservative, we'll get them installed throughout the gardens. To the left is the dainty bloom of the dwarf yellow columbine (Aquilegia canadensis 'Corbett'). We have this variety in various locations but all the columbines are a hit out in the gardens.

I helped Janice briefly with volunteers this morning and bounced between some other projects. Our Spring Tree Sale Clearance went well and we hope the last day of the sale tomorrow (Saturday, April 28th, 8 am until 1 pm) will see significant traffic and sales. Thanks to the Golden Kiwanis members that ran the sale. After this event, we shift in to pre -Spring Plant Sale mode. See our website for details as well as listings of all the vegetable varieties and herbs that will be available. I had a nice lunch with Mary, the new Executive Director, and we talked quite a bit about the garden (not surprisingly). To the right are the interesting blooms (note the grey/green highlights) of the nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum nutans) which is a member of the lily family and is a fall-planted bulb.
We had a busy morning with lots of volunteer assistance. The photo directly above shows three of the eighteen students from Oakhill Christian School that came today to volunteer. These students come every spring and fall (over the past four years) with their instructor Kath and are great workers. The bottom two photos show more of the gang. A big thanks to Janice who kept everything organized this morning. This group spread shredded bark mulch over the entire Scottish garden which is probably the hardest garden to mulch as it has to be done with wheelbarrows and buckets. Jan, our volunteer in that garden, came in today as well and thanked the students for all the hard work in her designated area. We've not done much mulching in that garden space in the past (because of access) and the work today was very warranted and much appreciated. To the right are the blooms of one of our Jacob's ladders (Polemonium sp.). Most of our varieties are blooming and I'm really fond of the variegated foliage forms like 'Stairway to Heaven' and 'Touch of Class'. I'll post pictures of those in the coming week or so. To the left is the showy variegated foliage and spring blooms of the yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Herman's Pride'). This is one of my "go to" perennials for tough, shady locations. The form of this hardy perennial is rounded (basketball size) and the foliage really glows in the shade.

Ron K. (a new assigned gardening volunteer) was in to continue his efforts in the woodland walk garden and he has done an amazing job immediately. Kay was in to finish up processing our spring plant sale labels and then shifted to some weeding and tidying duties in the shade garden. We can always tell the areas Kay has addressed as they look pristine. Kay and I talked about the looming excitement of the female cottonwoods dropping millions of seeds in the next month or so if our season stays in the "advanced mode". Bill O. was in to help haul mulch for the Oakhill group and he helped check our garbage cans and assist Marv with some work. Marv was a big help loading up and hauling mulch this morning and he finished many tasks associated with the new parking lot trees in short order. Marv and Bill also backfilled the restacked wall section in the sunken garden. Marianne was in briefly to freshen up the cutting display and prepared for our compost sale tomorrow. We also saw Maury, Dr. Yahr, Vern, Ruth, Kris and many others. To the right is the close-up shot of the blooms on the quamash or camassia (Camassia leichtlinii 'Blue Danube'). The flower petals on this selection have hints of lighter blue on lavender. Value the close observations of plants as there is so much beauty in the details.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Flurry Of Activity

It was another busy day around the gardens this morning with plenty of activity occuring including some pruning by L.P. Tree Service as seen above. L.P. did a nice job thinning the hackberries (Celtis occidentalis) in the gazebo garden to allow in some more light and remove "dead wood." They also worked on a large silver poplar (Populus alba 'Fialaspire') in the arboretum. These guys are top notch and take care of pruning like this that is out of our "range of reach". We also had some trees delivered from Wirkus Nursery (Clinton, WI) that we'll plant next week. The second photo above shows the nice soft needles of the white pine (Pinus strobus) which is one of the remaining varieties for our Spring Tree Sale Clearance that will be held this Friday and Saturday from 8 am until 1 pm. We still have thousands of trees (2-3 year transplants, 15"-24" in height, bare root) available and they are all only $1 each. Directly above is the showy foliage of our 'Goshiki' variegated Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) near the zig-zag bridge. To the right is the subtle pink bloom of the 'Pink Lanterns' wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in the woodland walk garden. I'll never get tired of planting and observing any and all columbines. I happened to be in the woodland walk garden and many other areas with Luis this morning as we were checking out further woody plant labeling needs (additions, removals, etc.). He has a great handle on what's going on out there and has done a superb job keeping everything organized. We still have plenty of labels to produce and install but the progress is still way ahead of schedule. To the left is the 'June Fever' hosta (Hosta) that really caught my eye in the shade garden today. Many of the hostas that emerged earliest have some leaf damage due to light frosts we've received. However, I think they'll all recover and we're already attempting to control the slug damage that can also be so devastating. To the right is the showy spring foliage of the 'Cherry Cola' coral bells (Heuchera) which is quite unique in coloration. Our grouping of three of this variety really glows in the shade garden and usually necessitates another photo. Directly below is the foliage of the variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida 'Albo Variegata') that will go well with the blue flowers that should appear in the coming weeks. The flowers are supposedly fragrant although I've not noticed that feature. I do like the foliage of this variety as well as the golden variegated variety ('Aureo Variegata'). The second photo down is the near silver leaves of the 'Looking Glass' false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla) which offers some nice coloration in the partly shaded garden. Larry checked water features and then shifted to major clean-up mode after L.P. Tree Service finished pruning. We usually clean up the debris (to save on the final bill!) and Larry did a nice job with help from Dick H. Big John spent most of the day painting and priming although he helped stake some trees later in the afternoon with Larry. Pat continued his gardening efforts in the rose garden and finished excavating a "stubborn" hole that had some serious root issues. To the right is a shot of John and Pat (laying down on the job) a couple days ago painting the observation pier. It's looking quite nice thus far. Janice helped facilitate some tasks this morning and spent time weeding/tidying in the fern & moss garden among other duties. Bob C. and Del did some major mulching with shredded bark on the east end of the gardens while Ron W., Ron Y. and Gary composted the reception garden. Rollie was in to load up all the various carts with these material runs and Dr. Gredler mowed and worked on some other garden tasks. Dave, Jim, Bob and Vern continued working on their carpentry tasks, one of which will result in a cool "root box" for observing roots in the children's garden. They also reassembled our vertical planter. Maury helped with many projects and ran out for various supplies. Dick H., when he wasn't loading brush with Larry, took many loads of debris to the dump this morning. Suzy weeded with Janice in the fern & moss garden and was later joined by Mary D. Urban came in for some painting later in the day and Dr. Yahr was back this morning. We also saw Lynn, Mary (Exec. Dir.), Mary W., Mary Kay and many others. To the left is the eye-catching foliage of the variegated hedge maple (Acer campestre 'Carnival'). Despite the vigorous spreading of lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) and the ugly, late summer foliage that tends to get brown and dry....I love the fragrant little bells that appear in spring (see to the right). We also have the pink form although the flowers are VERY light pink (almost white). The variegated leaf form is interesting and there is now a golden leaf form as well. Directly below is the softly textured Davis' sedge (Carex davisii) near the zig-zag bridge. This clumping sedge is very fine textured and has proven to be a tough edging plant in this location. At the bottom is the bright yellow foliage of the golden Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Fenway Gold') in the English cottage garden. This ivy, and many other woody vines for that matter, can become thugs and should be controlled, cut back and manipulated often so they don't become too bonkers out in the garden.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Horticulture Therapy In Abundance

Many of the images in this blog were taken today at the Horticulture Therapy workshop at RBG. With the long title of Gardening to Enhance Well-Being, Working With Older Adult Populations, this educational event (joint RBG, UW Extension and Madison College) realized a turnout of close to 40 attendees. This included our speakers, members from our Horticulture Therapy committee (Janice, Dawn, Sharon and Karen) and a wide range of interested individuals from as far away as Oshkosh, Milwaukee and LaCrosse. Mike M. did a great job keeping everyone organized and while both Darcie O. and I added to the content organized by Mike, we had some nice presentations from six of Darcie's Occupational Therapy students from Madison College (Madison Area Technical College). The students not only did nice, informative presentations that supplemented the presentation content, they also organized and facilitated three activities at the end of the day (example above). To the left was a task that involved planting with impaired vision (note the dark/restrictive sunglasses). This exercise really gave participants an understanding of the challenges and frustrations that reduced vision may cause not only for gardening tasks but general day to day activities. To the right is a planting activity that was done with a faux arm brace to simulate a limitation with hand/arm usage. Many did the task one handed which was challenging and I think these tasks certainly had merit when you consider those that have to live and work with these challenges daily. The third task involved assembling wind chimes. We had many positive comments from attendees (about the tasty lunch too!) and the wrap up at the end of the workshop included getting input on what RBG can do to help accomodate their clients in terms of garden features and/or programming. Kay C. and three other Southeast Master Gardeners brought a very impressive tool display that had a strong focus on adaptability, ergonomics, etc. We appreciate them sharing this collection and the program attendees enjoyed looking at the wide range of tools and their potential applications. To the left is Darcie on a swivel stool that allows a range of bending and reaching while having the support of the stool itself. It took us 30 minutes to get her off of this as she kept swiveling and spinning.... I only had brief overlaps with the grounds staff today. However, they kept busy outside despite the sporadic drizzle and rain showers. It was a smaller crew today with Marv, Terry, Pat and Big John. I came up with a list of indoor projects for the guys and Marv and Terry went out early while it was raining and picked up some nice hedge shears for their future endeavors around the gardens. The guys spent a good portion of the day planting five large trees in the main parking lot (see to the left). They do a nice job and are no strangers to planting trees. Pat worked on many different projects including tidying up the rose collection, composting and working with John to finish digging out a tough hole (lots of roots) for a future tree. Big John, when he wasn't doing his Gordon's Fisherman impersonation (see to the right), spent the morning pressure washing the back deck and porch in preparation for near future painting efforts with Pat. John also worked on some digging projects and other projects as well. I'm not sure who else showed up at the Horticulture Center or was out in the gardens but I'm sure Dr. Gredler was around and I saw Maury milling around as well. Directly to the right is one of the 40 or so oak leaf projects that has trickled in very recently (nice job Jackie R.!). I like this "green man" rendition and I'm looking forward to the placement and installation of all these art pieces throughout the gardens. We are still waiting on some of the tardy artists (including both my daughters!) and once all these are sealed and placed in the gardens, we'll develop a map to direct poeple to the various art pieces. On September 9th, all of these are auctioned off with the proceeds benefiting the continued operation of RBG. At the bottom is a bumper sticker I saw out in our parking lot today. I could only nod.