Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Welcome Rain Day

We had some nice overnight rain that persisted throughout the morning, took a break over the lunch hour, then returned to dribble thru the afternoon. Overall, I was pleased to have more precipitation but it was very cool today and quite a bounce from our recent July weather to early April weather! We didn't have to do any watering today including containers (which is a rare day). The bummer about the rain was our loss of another day of large scale planting. We normally would have had six to seven Grumpettes to help plant today and while we did have some Grumpies and other volunteers, it was a smaller crew than usual. Above is a shot of our pergola and French formal garden this morning with the Star of Persia ornamental onion (Allium christophii) in the foreground. To the right is the 'Pretty Belinda' yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in the formal perennial garden. To the left is Dick H. working on our Cushman utility vehicle this morning which has been having some issues recently. Dick is one of our "uber-handy" volunteers and seems able to fix just about anything. Dave, Jim, Bob and Vern had plenty of carpentry work to attend to in the Horticulture Center and more lumber arrived for some imminent repairs on the gazebo. Maury went on a plant run with Big John this morning and also went out for some vital supplies. We also saw Dave F., Rollie, Larry, Mary, Stan (seen below with Jumbo Jim) and Dr. Gredler was in for some projects and ultimately some mowing during the gap in the rain. Jumbo Jim had four RECAPPERS with him and they did a nice job tidying up the Japanese garden. To the right is the Armenian basketflower (Centaurea macrocephala) which has some very interesting flowers that are quite large (3" tall and wide). Further below Stan and Jim is a shot of the newly painted arched bridge which looks dynamite. Great job John and Pat. With additional painting help on the gazebo over the coming week or so, we'll have all our painting "targets" taken care of for the year. Yay! After his plant run (to the Flower Factory) with Maury, Big John worked on hauling and setting out impatiens in the large berm that we traditionally plant with a tapestry of impatiens. This is one of the few areas that gets the same treatment each year and the traditional display always turns out quite nicely. John also helped Janice plant the horizonal PVC tube planters, went on a major fuel run and ended up in the sunken garden pool cleaning out the pump filter on our fountain. All of the recent leaf, twig and cottonwood (Populus deltoides) seed debris keeps plugging up the filter but we think we'll be ok for the two weddings that will occur this Saturday. Janice spent some quality time sorting out our ornamental edibles, vegetables and other plantings that will soon go in to our Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Display. She also selected plants/seeds for our PVC pipe planters and worked on many other projects as well. Jenny continued matching labels to our incoming plants and did a great job preparing our new perennial labels and creating labels as needed. To the above right is the 'Dark Towers' beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) in a sizeable grouping near the North point garden. To the left is the light pink flower cluster of the Black Lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Eva') which is one of the best shrubs for dark, textural foliage.

The rain day was timely for me in that I could chip away at my pile of desk work that I have to ignore this time of year as I'm running plants out in the gardens and trying to keep ahead of our planters. I finalized some details on the oak leaf garden art project and was able to set-up plants in many of our unplanted containers for Cora to plant tomorrow. I also walked thru the Japanese garden with Jumbo Jim and Stan and we formulated a plan of attack for our early summer pruning. To the right are the nicely margined leaves of the variegated Corneliancherry dogwood (Cornus mas 'Variegata'). Directly below is one of our oak leaf garden art projects (great job Phil!) and note the interesting detail in the bottom photo.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hanging Out With Shelley

Despite my brief appearance at the gardens this morning, it was a very busy morning with lots of staff and volunteer projects occurring immediately. Above is Kelley F. planting in the shade garden this morning. I headed up to Madison today to have lunch and meet with Shelley Ryan, producer and host of The ItalicWisconsin Gardener show on Wisconsin Public Television. Shelley is a good friend and has featured RBG fourteen times in the 20 year history of her show! Her exposure of the gardens has brought many visitors to the gardens as she has a huge following for her show. We went over some details regarding an upcoming shoot at RBG and "talked a lot of shop". To the right is the flower bed that is maintained by Don and Pearl who were here for the second day in a row to finish planting this space. They then shifted over to the moss rose (Portulaca) collection and helped finish the planting of that area with Marianne. Kay and Renee worked on weeding and removing bulb foliage near the North point garden and Bev W. weeded her garden space in the sunken garden. Ron K. planted more perennials in the woodland walk garden as he also continued to tidy up the space. In the late morning, Mary, Gena, Myrt and Nancy came in and planted annuals in our display beds to the east of the English cottage garden. To the left are Marv and Terry planting potatoes near the Horticulture Center this morning. Dr. Gredler came to do some mowing this morning and I'm sure other volunteers showed up throughout the day. It was a nice turnout and I was barely able to keep ahead of the group before I had to leave. To the right is the new 'Guinea Fowl' dwarf goatsbeard (Aruncus hybrida) which tops out around 24" with finely textured foliage. I've recently promoted 'Misty Lace' dwarf goatsbeard which I like for many of the same reasons. However, 'Guinea Fowl' peaks two weeks later and helps carry over that same look as 'Misty Lace' starts to fade. This morning was also busy at the Horticulture Center as Becky N. facilitated the Container Planting Workshop for a group of five participants (which included Kris K., our education coordinator). Above is Bev, one of our volunteers, enjoying her arrangement and to the right is Dennis, one of our Grumpies, also taking the class. Shirley, another of our volunteers, was also a participant. Becky does a nice job and one of the perks of the workshop is that participants can pillage plants out of our holding yard which includes a vast selection of neat annuals.

After planting some spuds, Marv and Terry went on a road trip to pick up more plants including a large quantity of impatiens. The guys then worked on removing a large, downed tree branch, watering, pruning, irrigation and other projects of merit. Pat cut back bulb foliage, tidied up some areas, watered and did a nice job organizing flats in the yard to help Jenny out with labeling. Jenny spent most of the day matching labels to plants and also did some hand watering. Big John also went on a plant run (later in the day) but worked on planting containers, watering, running irrigation and other projects. Marianne was in later to plant, water and tidy up the entrance garden. To the left are the "close to ripe" berries of the Autumn Brilliance apple serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora). Once the berries are ripe, the birds will clear these berries off easily in a day or two. This variety, and most serviceberries for that matter, offers the "trifecta" of interest with white spring flowers, colorful berries (great for wildlife) and a nice orange/red fall color. To the right is the showy foliage of the 'Jack Frost' false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla). At the bottom are Gena (left) and Myrt in the distance planting with Nancy and Mary today. This is the All-American Selections garden and we continue to infill with more selections as they arrive from the nurseries. At the bottom is the fernleaf elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Laciniata') in full bloom near the gazebo garden.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Windy Yet Again

Catherine the Great once said, "A grItaliceat wind is blowing, and that either gives you imagination or a headache." I think today we had a little bit of both. We actually had a very successful planting day with lots of staff and volunteer involvement. However, the consistent winds made watering a necessity despite the recent precipitation. It seems like we've had five straight days of winds which do create some clean-up and watering issues but the breeze also affects my ability to get out in the gardens with some timely herbicide spray. The top photo shows the Star of Persia ornamental onion (Allium christophii) peaking out in the gardens. I love this metallic lavender bloom sphere (umbel) and would count this amongst my favorites of the fall-planted ornamental onions. This species, when dry, holds form nicely in an arrangement (or even out in the gardens) and can even be spray painted....

We had some serious planting going on in the reception garden today. This was the garden space that we had hoped to plant this past Saturday as part of the Volunteer Workday but we had to cancel due to rain. However, we do have Volunteer Workdays scheduled over the next three Saturdays (8 am until noon). Jenny and Kay sunk their teeth right in to planting that garden early this morning and were joined by some moms and their children (upper right) that were a big help as well. I believe there were five moms and each had one child. Dr. Yahr and Mary W. also helped. Bev and her granddaughter Moira (left) were also instrumental in the planting and later, both Big John and Pat helped with the planting too. Janice and Miriam started planting our moss rose (Portulaca sp.) collection this morning and were later joined by Marianne. This collection, in our demonstration area (near the arboretum), will feature over 50 varieties of moss roses (Portulaca sp.). Janice also had her afternoon volunteer crew in to plant some hot peppers (Capsicum sp.) Don (directly below) and Pearl C. planted a good portion of their garden area today and will return tomorrow morning to finish up. They did a nice job as usual and it was tough to keep ahead of them. We also saw Mary H. and her daughter maintaining their space as well. Grumpies included Del and Ron B. mulching and composting, Gary working on making new plant labels, Ron Y. working on various projects and Ron W. painting the gazebo. Dick P. and Dick H. worked on a couple projects as well and Rollie and Maury went on a road trip to pick up one of our memorial brick orders. Jim and Dave worked on some carpentry repairs and we later saw Vern as well. Stan worked in the Japanese garden as did Karen. We also saw Kelli, Jumbo Jim, and many others. To the right are the tall bloom spires of the fall-planted foxtail lily (Eremurus sp. 'White Beauty'). I find the foxtail lilies always engaging although we haven't had many perennialize very well. They are tricky to establish. The second photo down shows Dr. Yahr and Jenny planting this morning.
Above is Marv, who along with Terry, did a niItalicce job rototilling, smoothing and preparing three large beds for our planting attention very shortly. The guys also prepared more custom potting soil, pruned, watered and worked on myriad tasks. Marianne did a nice job weeding in the main entrance garden and put together another nice cutting display. She later helped with the moss rose (Portulaca) planting project with Janice. Janice bounced between the moss rose planting project and other duties at the Horticulture Center. Big John hauled some plants then went on our first of two plant runs (I went on the second trip). John, after his return, then moved on to composting and planting. Pat pushmowed, composted and helped get the reception garden planted. Larry worked on pushmowing, cleaning up the pump/fountain in the sunken garden, a donation pick up and some other tasks. To the right are the showy pink trumpets of a new dark-leaved beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis 'Pocahontas') which is an introduction from Intrinsic Perennial Gardens which was our perennial supplier for the Spring Plant Sale. Lynn planted a couple of these in the English cottage garden and they look great. This variety has distinctive pink flowers while other dark-leaf varieties like 'Husker's Red' and 'Dark Towers' are a whitish pink (still good varieties though!). To the left is a portion of the moss rose (Portulaca) collection that should be completely planted by tomorrow. To the right is the perennial sea kale (Crambe maritima) which has edible leaves and flowers. Here in our Scottish garden, the many specimens also offer a nice powder blue contribution. At the bottom are the showy chartreuse flowers of the commonly planted lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) which is a tough perennial for a wide range of conditions. At the bottom is the tumbleweed ornamental onion (Allium schubertii) which is somewhere around the size between a volleyball and basketball. Although marginally hardy for us, we plant these in October in "hot spots" that get lots of radiant heat.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Timely/Untimely Rain

Well, we have had some awesome rain over the last 12 hours and it looks like there is more to come yet today and possibly on Monday. Thus far it has been a nice soaking rain and is very timely. Unfortunately, it was a strong enough rain to thwart our Volunteer Work Day this morning. We were planning on planting the moss rose (Portulaca) collection, reception garden and some other smaller areas. However, we'll catch up on that next week and I can't complain about the rain. Janice and I were talking that we'd rather call off a work day for rains then a tornado or other natural disaster!!! It's all a matter of perspective. Above is the annual love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) photographed in my front yard yesterday. We've had this annual resowing itself around our garden and this is one of the few cases where I don't mind a little "movement" and repopulation of this engaging annual. The neat seed pods later in summer are also very interesting as is of course, the minute details of this colorful bloom.

This morning we had Janice, Big John, Larry, Bill O. and Sue (working the compost sale). We focused on indoor projects to start although Bill went out in the deluge to empty the garbage cans. I hope it clears before the afternoon wedding in the rose garden.....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tough Odds

We did get 3/10 of an inch of rain last night which is always better than nothing. There is a slight chance of rain this evening and in to the morning. Although, with considering our recent odds, I wouldn't bet on it. The recent winds though were so severe that we spent a good portion of the morning just picking up branches, twigs and other debris. I even noted plants that had damaged/dry foliage from the winds as well. We were surprised to only find two major branches down although the clean-up efforts were significant regardless. The top photo is of one of our 'Henry Kelsey' climbing roses (Rosa) on the pergola in the French formal garden. This variety also has a light fragrance. We spent some time in this space today as there is a wedding there tomorrow. Directly above is Ron who is our new assigned garden volunteer in the woodland walk. He's been doing a great job with clean-up/weeding in that space and installed 100 or so perennials today throughout that garden. Not far from where Ron was planting today was another nice patch of the 'Misty Lace' goatsbeard (Aruncus hybrida) as seen to the right. Kay was in all morning and helped clean up the significant debris from the windstorm which was very helpful. We were a bit "short staffed" today (Terry, Janice and myself) but made it thru the day. Pat was in to paint the gazebo (lower right) all morning as well. Dr. Gredler did his mowing rounds and we also saw Dr. Yahr, Chuck S., Deb G. and Bob D. (red t-shirt below). Bob worked on rototilling some of the vegetable beds around the Horticulture Center. To the left is one of the larger branches (in the gazebo garden) that we'll have to deal with tomorrow. It looked like a nice crowd of visitors around the gardens today and I spoke with quite a few that had questions. One group of visitors was really smitten with our horizontal, PVC pipe planters out in the gardens and we had quite a chat about how to best use these for vegetables. The second photo down is the 'Hakuro Nishiki' dappled willow (Salix integra) showing off that pink & white new growth. This is a grafted form and the image is from Rita's garden in Fitchburg. We also have one looking nice out in the gardens with a strong foliage contribution.

Our skeleton crew kept quite busy today. Janice worked on hauling out and placing the moss rose (Portulaca) collection that we hope to plant tomorrow as part of our Volunteer Work Day (8 am until 12 noon). She also worked on organizing the vegetable collection that will be planted at the Horticulture Center, pushmowed and did quite a bit of watering. Terry also pushmowed but additionally did a nice job rototilling and preparing three areas for planting (hopefully next week). He also mounted one of the oak leaf art projects and spent time watering as well. To the right is a Portland rose (Rosa) called 'Jacques Cartier' which I think looks neat and it also has a very nice fragrance. Our roses are really starting to offer some serious bloom interest.

I spent most of the day hauling plants out to the gardens for installation. I placed plants in the shade garden for Kelley and Sue although they needed to reschedule. After placing perennials for Ron in the woodland walk, I started hauling over annuals for the reception garden. We'll have a very blue component in that space this year with minor hints of silver and white. I believe I hauled out four cart loads (double rack) of plants for this space. I hope we get 30 people tomorrow as that will reallly help us out and it will be reasonable to assume we'll get everything planted that I placed today. To the left is the always impressive orange bloom of 'All the Rage' shrub rose (Rosa sp.). This variety is one of many out of the Easy Elegance series from Bailey Nursery (MN) that we've been trialing for the past five years. We do have some replacement roses yet to be installed in the French formal garden but we'll do it shortly to fill in some of the openings and locations where roses were removed. To the right is another delphinium (Delphinium sp.) in the English cottage garden looking great. Below is our biggest patch of goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) in the sunken garden that is really staring to bloom nicely. At the bottom is a shot of our archway leading from the reception garden to the sunken garden. Note the climing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) filling in over the arch. This archway was the part of the entrance to the original Parker Pen company here in Janesville.. Big Volunteer Workday tomorrow!