Friday, August 31, 2012

Rock Island Revisited

I'm back from my third excursion to Rock Island State Park (WI) with my younger daughter. Included here are just some of the many photos from our trip. We had rain (Sunday) all the way up to when we took the passenger ferry from the Washington Island to Rock Island. There was also a car ferry from the tip of Door County over to Washington Island. Prior to any ferry activity, we explored The Ridges Sanctuary ( just north of Bailey's Harbor on the east shore of Door County. This 1600 acre preserve is unbelievable and while we were deterred ultimately by a downpour, we hope to come back and enjoy the trails of this special place. Once on Rock Island though, the weather was beautiful for the three nights and four days we stayed there. We will likely never tire of hiking all the trails, swimming (chilly) and looking for wildlife. We also enjoy all the shoreline bluffs, stones and scenery. My daughter was age six, ten and now twelve for these visits and is a veteran camper. Read more about the history of this island and park online. Nice to be back and the shortened week next week will be filled with Fall Plant Sale preparations.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Fun

I'm continually impressed with how nice the gardens look right now. We are really at peak summer color and I hope we see more visitors enjoying the gardens. There was a small tour out in the gardens today and a bus tour from Stillwater, MN stopped by yesterday afternoon. We enjoy hearing the compliments and this year, we've talked to many visitors that are surprised on how nice things look despite the heat and drought. That is a true testament to our committed ground staff and their long, sweaty hours of watering. The top picture shows our "lady fountain" in the English cottage garden. Flanked by hanging baskets of Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'), this fountain pre-dates my arrival at the gardens and has been a nice feature at the gardens. We actually have lots of neat garden elements, statuary, etc. here and there around the gardens, many of which have some significant history. The second photo up is our berm of impatiens filling in nicely and directly above is the start of our 10,000 Autumn crocuses (Colchicum autumnale 'The Giant') out in the gardens. To the right is the 'Gallery Cobra' dahlia (Dahlia) along our orange border. The dahlias have liked the cool mornings and are blooming strongly all around the gardens. To the left is our Japanese waterfall running nicely this morning. This is a new and improved waterfall installed last year and it offers some nice sound and movement in that garden space.

The grounds staff had recollections of July as they all had significant watering duties. Marv kept the irrigation zones going most of the day and also set up sprinklers in multiple areas. He also worked on edging, container watering and other tasks including preparing our holding yard for incoming plant sale goodies. Terry also set-up sprinklers, push-mowed, watered containers and went around the gardens for his Friday blower rounds. Big John was in for a half-day and also worked primarily on watering. He also push-mowed with Terry this morning. Janice hand-watered multiple areas, checked on the moss gardens and helped me with some other projects. Marianne was in to do her cutting display as well. I spent most of the day preparing task lists for next week as I'll be on vacation. I was able to walk the entire gardens and was again amazed at all the color. I also spent some time spraying herbicides in a couple locations as the afternoon was quite hot and sunny and perfect for these applications. To the right is a Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) leaf close-up in the English cottage garden. Directly below is the fragrant bloom of the annual sweet sultan (Centaurea imperialis 'Imperial Bride White'). This one smells unbelievably sweet, particularly at dusk. The next photo down shows two fragrant blooms of the Carefree Wonder shrub rose (Rosa 'Meipitac') in the rose garden. These are setting another nice flush of semi-double pink blooms right now and are quite showy. This variety is also a 1991 All-America Rose Selection winner. Of course we had some good volunteers in today. Kay (above) did another nice job weeding in multiple areas. We truly don't have one large area that is weedy but that's not to say that we don't have weeds. These past couple of weeks have included plenty of suggestions for "wandering and weeding". We're tidying up all areas in regards to weeds, deadheading, staking and/or removals if necessary. Kay is one of our best "wanderers" and can fill a cart quickly. Rollie and Bill O. were in this morning to take care of most of the riding mowing out in the gardens and Dr. Gredler came in later to touch up the last of the areas. Bob T. (to the right) was in for most of the morning and worked on touching up our "air edging" in the larch area. Air edging involves using a flat spade to create a sharp, clean separation between turf and a flower bed (where traditional edging doesn't exist). Bob is our veteran air edger and has trained many "grasshoppers" in this art form. We're glad to have his skills out in the gardens and his efforts quickly improve the appearance of any space he's addressing. We also saw Chuck, Maury, Dr. Yahr, Vern and some others today. To the left is the 'Peach Whirl' copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana). This variety is planted along our orange wall and features some very exquisite foliage.

Janice and I loaded up her grain samples (potted) this afternoon for her to haul over to the Garden Festival. Hosted by the Rock Prairie Master Gardeners, this annual event is fun and educational for the entire family. Held at the Rock County 4H Fairgrounds from 9 am until 3 pm, this event also has free admission, vegetable tasting, kids activities, entertainment, food and a pie baking contest among other things. Janice will be talking about our Grains of the World Collection (sponsored by the Rock County Farm Bureau) and I'll be addressing Ornamental Edibles. Check it out. To the right is the leaf of the 'Diamond Head' elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta). I first saw this variety at the New York Botanical Garden three years ago and the rich chocolate coloration caught my eye. We have about 50 of these scattered around the gardens and they look great with lighter neighbors for contrast. Directly below is the nicely variegated foliage of the variegated corneliancherry dogwood (Cornus mas 'Variegata') in the Japanese garden. I call a plant like this "multi-featured" as it has nice yellow blooms in early spring but the variegated foliage extends interest until fall. The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is 'Skyracer' which has topped out over 12' tall in the Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Collection. That bloom is over 15" in diameter! At the bottom are our most oftenly used Adirondack chairs in the Smelly Garden. I need to sit here at dusk some evening and see how fragrant that garden can become at "peak scent" time.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The WWW Is Formed

Mark your calendars. August 23rd, 2012 is the official designation for our Women Weeding Warriors (WWW)! Formerly called "Grumpettes", the ladies decided to rename themselves and they were here in full force today. Whereas all our other volunteer groups (Grumpies, Assigned Gardeners, workday volunteers, etc.) have remained steady in terms of the number of volunteers involved, the WWW has grown from four ladies a couple years ago to well over ten volunteers each Thursday morning. Some of their activities can be seen above in the All-America Selections (AAS)display garden. We had Karla, Sue, Glenna, Mary R., Suzy, Karen, Nicole, Zoe, Maya and Donna in this space today and they did a great job deadheading spent annuals, removing failing plants and weeding. This display is part of a landscape design contest arranged by AAS and we are competing with other gardens for the best and most creative use of our AAS selections. I think our display is awesome and these ladies have been involved since it was planted back in early June. To the left is some early fall color on the Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') which we normally wont see for another six weeks or so. To the right is Glenna doing her balancing act thru that garden to target weeds and other plants to snip. Grumpies included Del, Bob C., Eugene (new), Ron W., Ron Y., Larry H., Bob A and Dick H. We also saw Maury, Dick P. and Rollie at other times during the day. The second photo down shows Sue C., Mary R. and Karla while the third photo down shows Ron W. (left), Larry H. (back) and Ron Y. I asked if the guys if they were just joy riding and mentioned that "Joy riding" would be a good blog title with that picture at the top! We also had Dr. Gredler in mowing and saw Hal, Doris, Sarah, Kris, Stan, Bev, Art, Marv, Marianne and many others. It was a busy day around the Horticulture Center and out in the gardens. A bus tour from MN also enjoyed the garden today. It was nice to see another day with visitors in abundance. We had a smaller grounds crew today but managed to get plenty of tasks done. Janice got the WWW ladies organized and motivated this morning and later moved on to watering, working on some signage and interpretation. She and I are both giving presentations at the Garden Festival this Saturday (August 25th) at the Rock County Fairgrounds, hosted by the Rock Prairie Master Gardeners. Janice is talking about "Grains" and I'll discuss "Ornamental Edibles". Big John set-up sprinklers right away and had them moving around all day. It's interesting how dry it has become again and although there is a chance of rain over the next three days, we're not going to count on it. We're no strangers to major watering and will continue with these efforts tomorrow as the gardens are at peak and we don't need thirsty and wilted plants! John also worked on edging, mulching, planting and container watering. Pat was here early to continue staining the wood siding around the Horticulture Center and later transitioned to finishing a mulching project from yesterday. He also helped John water containers. Larry had irrigation zones running all day and he spent significant time on repairing irrigation heads around the gardens. He later helped John water and accomplished some odds and ends around the Horticulture Center in preparation for the upcoming fall plant sale (see for more details on the sale). Incidentally, we still need plenty of volunteer help for the sale. Call Lori (608-752-3885 extension 20) to see what times are available. To the upper right is the grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor 'Tunisian') forming seed at the Horticulture Center. I thought this seed head looked like a column of steel ball bearings as I walked by this afternoon. To the left are the ornamental fruits of the 'Chilly Chili' ornamental hot pepper (Capsicum annuum). Of course these get more coloration as the season progresses and their best months for showy color are August and September. We probably have 40 varieties of ornamental hot peppers (Capsicum sp.) around the gardens and being "ornamental" doesn't mean they're not "edible". To the right is one of the white mandevillas (Mandevilla hybrida 'Giant White') blooming in the entrance garden. These are really growing well now and there is no shortage of new blooms.

I spent the day helping with volunteers, in meetings, some watering and getting ready for being gone on vacation next week. I'll blog tomorrow but wont be back online for a week or so. Directly below are three plants of interest and a nice shot of the formal gardens today. Directly below is the native, white wood aster (Aster divaricatus 'Raiche Form') near the fishing pier. This one is blooming early but that has been the story all year! The next photo down is the annual bloodleaf (Iresine herbstii 'Brilliantissima'). Also called the "chicken gizzard plant", this foliage annual has bright pink and maroon highlights and really catches the eye in both full and part sun. The next photo is a perennial stonecrop (Sedum 'Razzleberry') which is a nice low plant at 10" or so. The foliage emerges a bluish-grey but darkens to light maroon. The raspberry colored flowers start in late summer and extend well in to fall.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Smelly Kids

The blog title does not refer to malodorous kids but those that were in the gardens today enjoying our Smelly Garden Fun Day. I saw lots of parents, grandparents and kids around the gardens and as seen above, the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden was quite active with visitors of all ages enjoying all the fragrant plants, crafts and activities. Kris did a great job with this event as she did this past Sunday. Janice and Mary D. were out in the Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Display also sharing information on the various vegetables and displays in that area. Visitors were being directed to enjoy both areas and it was nice to see so many people out in the gardens. To the right is a morning shot of the moss island that was refurbished this past spring by Dale S. (Mr. Moss). To the left is a simple combination of 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) and Double Pink Knockout rose (Rosa 'Radkto Pink') which is getting another significant flush of blooms as are many of our roses (Rosa).

Today was another clear and sunny day and the temperature was a bit more "August-like" with highs in the upper 80 degrees F. The mornings are still cool which makes for great working weather. The grounds staff hit the ground running as usual. Marianne did quite a bit of tidying in the entrance garden (see her directly below buried in a sea of grasses). She also watering, weeded and refreshed the cutting display. She ended the day purging and watering the yard (in that order). The grass in the picture below is the annual feathertop grass (Pennisetum villosum). Big John and Pat installed our 10 new, custom tree signs out in the main parking lot islands. These signs will be for our new trees that were funded by a WI DNR Urban Forestry grant. John moved on to helping Lisa I. purge and plant daylilies (Hemerocallis) in the Potter Day collection. They planted some new varieties and removed some of the less exciting varities as well. John also did some watering. Pat finished planting some hostas from his task yesterday and after installing signs with John, moved on to mulching and watering. Terry did a nice job cleaning up the main parking lot with the blower right away and both he and Marv set up sprinklers in many areas. It's starting to get dry again and we'll continue to irrigate as needed. The guys also edged in the terrace garden, sheared shrubs and took care of the container watering needs. You can see the guys two photos down scooting thru the gardens. To the right is the 'Arrabona' plume celosia (Celosia argentea plumosa) in the Fleuroselect garden this morning. That red was quite vivid and I like this new variety. Today saw another strong volunteer turnout. Above are the showy leaves of the variegated pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea') in the hosta hollow garden. This small, understory tree has the same branch layering as the green-leaf species but the leaves really "pop" due to this variegation. Pat C. came in today to help with inventorying our labels which will become a full time task as we attempt to streamline our interpretation. Kay helped out this morning with weeding many areas and continues to always to put a dent in the enemy weed population. Gena and Myrt arrived in mid-Morning and spent time working out in the North point garden. I had them cutting back South American verbena (Verbena bonariensis) severely in that space so it will bounce back and continue to bloom. If we were to leave it go, it would quickly lose color as it went to seed. This severe cutback will add another 4 weeks of bloom on to this plant. To the right is Rose touching up one of our many entrance garden benches. Her husband, Urban, came in to do some pruning on two larger trees (crabapple and willow) and continues to show his pruning prowess. Bill O. came in to shear and help collect debris. Jan R. spent some quality time tidying up in the Scottish garden as she has for the past 15 years. We also saw Lynn in the English cottage garden this morning but chased her away when the irrigation system came on. We also saw Maury, Dr. Yahr, Lori, Ed G. and many others. Of course this doesn't come close to listing all the wonderful volunteers that helped Kris and Sarah with the Smelly Garden Fun Day. We appreciate everyone helping with the smelly kids.

To the left is the 'Bonfire Scarlet' trailing begonia (Begonia boliviensis) which is positioned nicely on this new retaining wall leading down in to the sunken garden. To the lower right is the 'Tie Dye' Helen's flower which I featured awhile back. I had to share this better picture though. If you look closely, the bi-color look is offered by the curling (fluting) of the petal which combines the reddish underside of the petal and the orange coloration on the top of the petal. That's really neat and those blooms, while small (1" diameter) are prolific and long-lasting. Below is one of our goldenrods (Solidago sp.) blooming. The label said 'Golden Baby' but I don't think that's right. Regardless, the goldenrods are poised and ready for September and we have close to 30 species/varieties out in the gardens and they are all "contributors." The bottom picture is a sweet morning shot of that entrance garden slope. Note the drift of annual feathertop grass (Pennisetum villosum) and dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea 'Lacinato') amongst all the other neat plants.