Friday, November 30, 2012

Poised and Ready

Today was another warm one with cloudy skies becoming sunny later in the day.  Tonight is the premier lighting of our Holiday Lights Show (HLS) at the end of the Taste of Chocolate event at the Parker Education Center.  Rita (above) is all ready for the holiday festivities.  This fashion statement wouldn't appear odd if Rita didn't wear these items every day of the year... I believe the Taste of Chocolate has 240 guests which is a sold out crowd for this fundraiser.  I'll do some minor tweaking out in the show this evening as needed and we'll finalize any changes, modifications or additions next week.  It was a quiet day around the gardens this Friday.  Pat came in this morning and did some major pruning out in the gardens and continues to focus on "de-suckering" crabapples (Malus sp.). We also had Dr. Gredler painting Adirondack chairs (below) and Rose came in to apply some new paint color to our horizontal PVC planters (second photo down).  Urban was in to help out with that and we also saw Maury this morning.  Maury ran some errands which hopefully included our last purchase of lights for the HLS.  We also saw Big John, Janice and some others today.  The third photo down shows just some of our sand buckets ready for icy paths.  Tonight is safe although we hope for snow and no rain for the entirety of the HLS. We minimize our use of salts out nin the gardens and the sand sure comes in handy.

Next week for me will involve plenty of catalog perusing as I try to finalize some of our collections and purchases for 2013.  We've already ordered many of our larger, tropical annuals as well as our hanging basket arrangements.  I hope to finish most of my ordering yet this month although I still need to figure out some of our color schemes for next year.  After winning the All-America Selections landscape design contest, we're determined to be a repeat winner and already have a top-secret plan that should look pretty cool next year.  Below are some hints of what is to come next year.  The top photo is a 'Lime' dwarf flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sp.) that will be part of our lime green planting along the raised wall in the larch area.  I think we can do lime very effectively and there are no shortage of plants for that palette.  The bottom photo is an annual flossflower (Ageratum).  Our display beds always feature an annual of choice.  In 2012, we featured moss roses (Portulaca sp.) which faired well with our hot and dry summer.  In 2013, we'll accumulate and display as many flossflower (Ageratum) varieties as we can.  While mostly blue, these varieties also include some other colors, many shades of blue and a wide range of heights for the sunny garden.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hugging Yew

Today was a beautifully sunny day with balmy temperatures around 50 degrees F.  This is t-shirt weather in Wisconsin although the morning was still a bit on the brisk side.  We had a great turnout of volunteers throughout the day.  The top picture shows Larry H. hugging one of our yews (Taxus sp.) in the fern & moss garden.  As he hugs these yews, he's also securing a 1/2" mesh bird netting over the entire plant to keep deer from doing too much browsing damage on these delicacies.  Directly above is Bob C. who helped with this endeavor.  We're also putting burlap around various plants for the intent of deer protection and/or winter screening from damaging winds.  Pat was in to do more pruning out in the gardens. Jumbo Jim brought in three RECAPPERS and the guys continued garden clean-up in the Japanese garden with Stan.  They also did some nice protective burlapping in that garden as well.  Dave and Jim (below) repaired a bench and worked on some other projects.  Del was in for more deer cutout work and Dick H. came in to run additional loads of debris to the dump.  Marianne was in to replace some of her luminary milk jugs out in the lights show. Urban arrived this afternoon to prep some of our horizontal, PVC tubes for repainting.  Dr. Gredler continued to repaint some of our Adirondack chairs and will have no shortage of objects to paint over the coming months.  Gary did some labeling work and Maury helped with various projects.  We also saw Dick P., Kay, Bill O., Rollie, Rose, Tom C., Big John and many others today. 

Larry spent some time tweaking elements out in the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Larry also finished securing signage and barricades out in the HLS.  Our new LED displays are animated and there are a multitude of cords and controllers to make sure everything looks as intended.  We're ironing out the last of our problems with these displays before our premier lighting tomorrow night at the Taste of Chocolate event (now sold out I believe).  Directly below is one of our rebar flower displays (with rope lights) that are nice for a "horticultural theme" out in the gardens.  We have over 90 rebar displays like this as part of the HLS.  I had some meetings and various tasks.   I don't look at these next couple of months as "down time" as I'll be hard pressed to get all the ordering and planning done before April arrives.  We'll just keep chipping away at it.  The second photo down shows our plywood deer launching the sleigh in to the air.  Marv and Terry did a nice job securing this display.

There is still plenty of color out in the gardens if you take the time to observe in more detail.  This time of year is ideal for enjoying the structure of ornamental grasses and the form of interestingly shaped trees with showy forms (weeping, upright, etc.).  Directly below is the maroon fall color of the leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum) which doesn't start coloring up until early November anyway.  The next photo down shows the ornamental kale (Brassica sp.) that continues to look great even on the coldest of days.  Interesting seed heads can also have ornamental value as seen at the bottom with goldenrod (Solidago sp.) in our prairie restoration garden.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Today I was working on a brochure that we'll be producing that will help educate the public regarding the implication of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in our communities.  With EAB (native to Asia) being found in Janesville this year, there should be plenty of concern about what this pest will do to our ash (Fraxinus sp.) populations in our community, state and nation.  The metallic green, adult borer seen above is only 1/2" long and 1/8" wide and was first found in Michigan in 2002.  While the adults do little damage, it's the larval stage below that consumes the inner bark and phloem of the tree, creating the serpentine (S-shaped) galleries seen in the second photo down.  This nibbling essentially cuts of the flow of water and nutrients in the tree, causing dieback and death thru starvation.  It's thought that once this larval stage is present in the tree, it takes about three years for the tree to die.  I was at a symposium recently in the Milwaukee area and talked to the Parks Manager for West Bend (WI).  He said that EAB was found three years ago in their community and the devastation and loss of ashes in unbelievable.  He mentioned that they can't even keep up with ash removals in their parks.  The overplanting of ash in many communities is becoming a liability for sure.  On a trip to Michigan six years ago, I saw the effects of EAB and the scale of ash death was quite noticeable and depressing.  Most of these blog images were taken from the internet and were supplied by various universities and government agencies for education.  The internet has lots of information on EAB above and beyond what is presented here.

The most visible sign of EAB infestation is significant crown dieback in the ash (Fraxinus).  It is important to first identify and locate any ashes on your property for examination.  There are many online references for proper identification or an arborist could ID your ashes for you as well.  There may be epicormic sprouts (suckering) on the tree, bark slits and the characteristic 'D' shaped exit hole (see two photos below) in the bark.  The exit hole is 1/8" in diamter and can have any orientation in regards to the "flat side".  There are other beetles and insects that normally will visit ashes so focus on the characteristic signs of EAB.  While the adults can't fly very far, the spread of EAB thus far has been quite methodical although odd populations have sprung up here and there presumably as a result of firewood movement.  EAB is easily transported long distances in infested firewood.  The bottom photo shows the logo on one of my T-shirts which says it all.  Transporting firewood in to state parks, campgrounds, etc. could have a horrible impact on native ashes (700+ million in WI alone) and there have been significant efforts to limit the spread of EAB thru education initiatives.  Early detection efforts have value as they help slow the spread of EAB.  There are currently proactive chemical treatments that are offered to thwart EAB in desireable trees.  I'm not up to speed with all of these new chemicals but there is a wealth of information on the internet and from various Extension sources.  Do some more research on this topic as denial wont change the fact that at least for us in this area, EAB is here and is just in the infancy of infestation. 

Today was a relatively quiet day around the gardens.  Pat was out pruning and I saw Maury early with some new paint that we needed.  Del, Dr. Gredler and Urban were all in the Horticulture Center working on various painting or pre-painting projects.  I continue to look ahead to 2013 although I have some 2012 work to finish (including this EAB pamphlet).  Our pamphlet will also stress the importance of "ash alternatives" in the landscape.  I'll sink my teeth in to seed ordering next week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

England Bound

Our trip this past spring to the Netherlands was so well received, we decide to help organize another international trip.  The Chelsea Flower Show & English Gardens Tour is a joint venture between RBG and Travel Scope travel agency (Janesville).  Organized between May 20th and 30th, 2013, this trip will hit some of the best horticultural highlights in the world, not the least of which is the 100th Anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show (see next two pictures below).  This trip will include gardens, castles, shopping and a free day to explore London.  See and look under the EVENTS tab for more information on this awesome trip.  I'll be going along and will have my camera in hand.  The itinerary on our website will give you more information on specific destinations, cost and other details.  Check it out!  All the images here are from destinations that we'll see once we "hop the pond."   The third photo down is Chartwell (home & gardens of Sir Winston Churchill) while the fourth photo down is Wisley which is the flagship garden for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).  The fifth and sixth photos down are from Great Dixter, the estate of the late Christopher Lloyd.  The final two photos are from the Sissinghurst Castle gardens (created by Vita Sackville-West).  As a disclaimer, all the photos in this blog posting were pillaged from the internet and are intended for simple enticement purposes.  The destinations I've just mentioned are only half of what we'll see.  Check out our website for more information.   

Today was quiet at the gardens.  Larry, Big John, Urban and Bill O. were out in the gardens working on various tasks while Del and Dr. Gredler were in the shop painting.  Janice came in to work on some projects as did Maury.  We also saw Tom C., Kris K., Kay and many others.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Culinary Redirection

The primary task out in the garden today was putting up our makeshift deer barriers as seen above.  This "culinary redirection" at least keeps the voracious deer population (20+) away from the arborvitae (Thuja sp.) hedges that they've nibbled in the past.  Of course, we'd prefer seeing the type of deer in the top photograph as they are very low maintenance and don't eat much!  This is the fifth year in a row we've pounded stakes and secured thousands of feet of snow fencing as physical barriers.  We've already seen evidence of deer in the gardens and they've already damaged some sumacs (Rhus sp.) and a small pine (Pinus).  We don't have the budget for repellants so will continue to put up barriers around the tastiest of our collections which has been quite effective. Directly below is the 'Peach Crisp' coral bell (Heuchera) which had a bright orange spring coloration but had faded with the heat of summer and now the cooler late season temperatures have finalized the transition to this interesting chartreuse.  The next photo down shows the winter form of the 'Dallas Blues' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).  This variety has a nice, powder blue coloration during the growing season but this wispy winter form is quite snow tolerant and should look good until we cut this grass back in March.

We had a busy morning at the gardens this morning.  Our deer fence installation team, directed by Big John, consisted of Larry H., Lloyd, Bob C., Dick H., Russ, Rollie and Dick P. and Maury (seen below).  It's tough to tell these two guys apart when they are both wearing goofy red hats.  It was cold work this morning and unfortunately, part of securing the fence with cable ties required glove-less hands.  Some of the guys also collected debris later in the morning.  Dick H. came back later in the afternoon to help Big John continue with the deer fencing.  The next photo down shows Urban (ground level) and Pat doing more pruning in the color rooms garden.  These guys are a great team and continue to progress with significant pruning while the weather is still decent.  The next photo down shows Del frantically working on more deer cutouts for the gift shop.  The next photo down shows Bob. A, Jim and Vern working on a "no-stoop" garden trough that we'll put out in the gardens next year.  The guys have really built some neat, accessible planters over the years and they have a full winter of projects ahead to keep them out of trouble.  Dave T. was also helping with the carpentry but he's not as photogenic as the other guys.  Stan spent more time tidying up the Japanese garden this morning.  Gary continued his progress on labels and I believe finished and installed the remainder of the labels for the woodland walk garden.  Janice was in to peruse some of our catalogs and is already thinking about 2013 veggies.  We also saw Ron Y., Tom C. (more electrical help, thanks!), Marv, Marianne, Jim H., Bill O. and many others.

I've never walked out in the gardens (or any garden) with my camera and not taken shots of interesting features like the ornamental bark of the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) on the Parker arch (directly below) separating the reception and sunken gardens respectively.  This is an older specimen with a good sized trunk but look at the exfoliation!  The next photo down shows the late fall tinting of the 'Caramel' coral bell (Heuchera) which also still has some significant color.  We don't removed coral bell foliage until the spring as it is colorful late in the season and this growth helps insulate the newly emerging growth in spring.  The third photo down shows the fruit cluster of the black jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens).  This arching shrub (in the rose family) has nice white flowers in spring and while the fruits aren't overly showy (pea-sized), they are interesting and persist through the winter.  I'm most impressed with how well black jetbead tolerates shade and poor soils.

Big John finishes his grounds duties tomorrow and was a big help today with installing the deer fencing.  John also did various odds and ends and we'll continue to do some of our last tweaking for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Strong winds this weekend tangled up a good portion of our dangling icicle lights but we're trying to everything in place before the premiere lighting of the HLS for the Taste of Chocolate event (might be sold out already...).  Larry helped with many HLS duties today and worked with Tom C. on some final improvements.  The two photos below were taken last Wednesday at our second testing night.  Everything looked great and stayed on all day!  I'm working on 2012 "closure items" but am balancing that with 2013 preparations (seed ordering, presentations, etc.). 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Foggy Start

The fog was thick this morning as seen in the top picture of the gazebo this morning.  Big John and I turned on the entire Holiday Lights Show (HLS) though as we have another test this evening and wanted to make sure everything was running well.  When the entire show will stay on for the day, we're in pretty good shape.  We had very few problems and with the premiere lighting next Friday evening (November 30th) at our Taste of Chocolate event (selling out fast), we'll have time for some final adjustments as needed.  The image above is one of our three "pyramids" along the front entrance garden slope that is having an "extended contribution" for the HLS.  These three structures punctuated the entrance garden slope plantings this summer that were primarily white, silver and powder blue.  Below is one of the many 1/2 gallon milk jugs that Marianne set around the gardens.  These look awesome at night and are a safe and effective way to delineate paths for our HLS visitors.  The next photo down shows some of our electrical handiwork out in the gardens.  Oddly enough, this contraption with eight outlets is what has solved most of our power problems out in the gardens.  Thanks for Tom C. for lending us this and rigging it up for us earlier this week.

It was a light day for volunteers.  Del came in and worked on creating more of his deer cutouts for the gift shop.  Dick H. popped in and ran out for some supplies for Del.  Dick was later drafted in to helping Del with some of his deer prep work.  Chuck S. came in to process our recycling.  We also saw Kris K. and Maury popped in as well.  We didn't have any gardening occuring today which seemed odd because of the warm weather.  We'll keep poking away at garden clean-up though over the coming weeks as time (and Mother Nature) allows!  Directly below is the colorful (and evergreen) foliage of the Blondy wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Interbowli') which catches the eye this time of year.  Frequently used as a groundcover or trailing plant, this variety has a nice bright, consistent variegation.  The next photo down shows a really sweet winter arrangement that I saw at K&W Greenery ( here in Janesville yesterday.  Your empty containers (or spaces) near the front door could have something like this!  Just perfect for the holidays.  Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison) does a great job with winter containers as well.  The third photo down shows the male catkins (flowers) of the contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') which is also called Harry Lauder's walking stick. 

Our skeleton grounds crew just included just Big John and myself.  John worked on putting up the last of our twinkle lights as some were very recently donated.  John also helped adjust some luminaries and did a great job troubleshooting some of the smaller problems out in the HLS.  Aside from helping John turn everything on, I was only in the gardens briefly dealing with some cord issues.  I spent most of the day organizing all my new catalogs and getting poised and ready for 2013 seed ordering.  I'll delve in to this fun (literally) project next week.  Directly below is the fine-textured foliage (yellow fall color) of the fernleaf buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula 'Asplenifolia').  This lacy, large, upright shrub does have some nice texture and is not at all like the invasive European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).  The next photo down shows the wood rush (Luzula sylvatica) in the Scottish garden.  This grass-relative stays green throughout most of the winter and there are some neat varieties with either variegated or golden foliage.  The third photo down shows the foliage of the variegated sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa 'Fruhlingsgold') that is getting a nice pink tinge on the foliage that previously had a conspicuous creamy variegation.  At the bottom is a photo of pincushion moss from Dale S., our moss expert and consultant.  You can see how it gets its name!  We don't have this species...yet.  I'm off the next four days so blogging may not resume until Monday.  I'll soon be giving details on our spring trip to England (May 20-30).  This English Gardens Tour includes the 100th Anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show, Sissinghurst, Wisley, Hampton Court, Canterbury, Great Dixter, Leeds Castle and much more!