Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekend Preparations Under Cloudy Skies

We had some nice rain overnight (3/4") which was welcome although the high winds did make a bit of a mess.  We've had the threat of rain throughout the day but as I type, we haven't had any (yet).  It looks like it could be a rainy weekend but I hope we just have a dry spell at least between 8 am and 12 noon for our Volunteer Work Day (planting) tomorrow.  After a nice soaking rain like that though, it's nice to have a day off from running irrigation and watering containers.  We had a very productive day and spent much of it getting ready for volunteers tomorrow and three weddings (one tonight and two tomorrow).  Of course we tidy the entire gardens but are now in the time of year where we have lots of planting and lots of weeds to manage.  Directly above is the 'Star of Persia' ornamental onion (Allium christophii) which is just starting to bloom around the gardens.  This fall planted bulb has softball size blooms on 18" stalks.  The spherical blooms are a cluster (umbel) of metallic violet blossoms.  We have a couple thousand of these around the gardens and they sure look great when they peak and are nice dried as well.  Directly below is the foliage of the 'Lance Corporal' knotweed (Persicaria virginiana) which spreads a bit but also has nice long, pink flower stalks late in the season.  I like the clean foliage but this plant does have an impressive reproduction rate!  The next photo down shows one of our thousands of columbines (Aquilegia) blooming throughout the gardens. This is a double form (unknown variety) seen throughout the color rooms garden.  The next photo down shows the needles of the Korean fir (Abies koreana) that looks neat with the silver undersides of the needles offering nice contrast.  The fourth photo down shows another of our many bearded iris (Iris germanica) varieties at peak bloom this week.

The grounds staff did a wide range of tasks today.  Directly above is Jenny who weeded, planted, cut back bulb foliage and bounced between many different projects.  All her hard work making labels and matching them to incoming plants has been extremely handy and helps us immediately install signs with our newest of plantings.  Jenny is also quick about making signs as we need them.  Terry worked on edging, weeding and hauling out plants for the planting work day.  Terry also hauled and positioned flats of impatiens for planting tomorrow as our "back up plan".  Big John push mowed and also hauled plants in preparation for planting tomorrow (the reception garden).  Pat mulched more trees, push mowed and worked on excavating an area that will ultimately be asphalted in the coming weeks.  Cindy weeded and cleared bulb foliage in the entrance garden and did some watering in the greenhouses.  Janice planted, weeded, worked on labels, did the cutting display and kept busy with a variety of projects.  I helped haul plants this morning and got a jump on laying out our planting scheme for tomorrow.  I'm also catching up on desk work that has been saved for the rainy day that hasn't arrived late this week.  

We had a nice volunteer turnout today as well.  Above is Rose who is working on entering volunteer hours in a database.  It was nice to have Rose over at the Horticulture Center as her usual location is at the Parker Education Center gift gallery.  Mary and Roy W. did some planting and weeding throughout the shade garden expanse.  Kay tidied up her area of the shade garden then planted and weeded in the sunken garden. Ron K. was in to tidy up the woodland walk garden and never has a shortage of tasks to keep up with during his visits.  We'll get him more perennials to install next week once the weeds and "undesireables" are effectively purged.  Mary H. and her daughter Kathy came in late this afternoon to plant a couple more annuals before the potential rains descend.  Dr. Gredler was in for extensive mowing and we also saw Vern, Maury, Bob K., Elsa, Lois and many others.  Below are some more interesting sights from today (identified under the image). 

perennial campion (Lychnis viscaria 'Fire')
variegated Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica 'Variegata')
golden foliage of 'Lightning Flash' tall tickseed (Coreopsis tripteris)
Coppertina ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Mindia')
beautiful but aggressively re-seeding, non-native dame's rocket  (Hesperis matronalis)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Snuck In Another Day

I've been watching the doppler radar the past couple of days and we've been missed by many storms that have gone north or south of Janesville.  It looks like we'll be hit later tonight with some heavy rains and the winds really picked up throughout the day.  I'm glad we were able to get the past couple of days in for gardening as I thought the entire week would be a "rain out".  I just hope the rain isn't happening this Saturday morning for our fourth of six volunteer planting work days (8 am until 12 noon)!  I hope to plant three more large areas and look forward to another solid turnout.  Above is the white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) just starting to bloom in the color rooms garden. We have three nice specimens and these lacy, draping flowers are quite showy (and fragrant!).  Directly below is the 'Red Majestic' purple contorted filbert (Corylus avellana) in the Scottish garden.  There is another variety called 'Red Dragon' that looks similar and I'm just pleased with having maroon selections essentially of the Harry Lauder's walking stick or contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta').  I trimmed some root suckers (green leaves and straight stems) off this specimen today which doesn't take long.  The next photo down shows the beautiful (also fragrant) dangling blooms of a pink locust (Robinia x slavinii 'Hillieri') which is asked about by visitors almost daily.  The third photo down features another neat false indigo (Baptisia hybrida) called 'Purple Smoke' which is one of my favorites for color.  The fourth photo down shows a classic lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus 'Chatelaine') in the English cottage garden.  Over the years we've bulked up on the classic English cottage garden perennials like lupines, hollyhocks (Alcea), foxglove (Digitalis), etc.

Despite my lack of volunteer pictures today, we had a great turnout.  Directly below (left to right) are Bob, Bev, Corky and Joan planting vegetables at the Horticulture Center in a bed that they cleared of weeds.  Janice has an entire team of volunteers (including the four below) dedicated to the vegetable beds and they collectively do a great job with planting, weeding, watering and harvesting.  Kay and Suzy were out in the gardens doing some major weeding while the Grumpies kept busy as well.  Larry H., Ron W. new Ron, Bob C. and Gene worked on various outdoor projects like path clean-up, mulching, etc.  Dick P. and Dick H. placed more memorial bricks while Jim, Vern and Ron Y. continued their carpentry projects.  Bev W. continued weeding in her garden in preparation for planting next week.  Pat C. did a nice job matching up more labels out in the gardens and organizing her labels for future and immediate use.  The Chestnut House volunteers came in this afternoon and planted two sizeable areas just outside the reception garden.  Del and Dr. Gredler worked on mowing and we also saw Dr. Yahr, Bill O., Mary W., Bev F., Maury, Janet M., Renee and many others.  The second photo down shows some of the student groups that came in today for the youth education program.  Our education volunteers do a dynamite job.

We had a light crew for grounds today but were able to cover a lot of ground.  Note the sweet bearded iris (Iris germanica) shot above although I don't know the variety...How would you even begin to describe that coloration?  With the rains missing us these past couple of days, we've kept up with watering containers and newly planted areas.  Cheryl was in for a half day and did some weeding and bulb foliage clearing as well as container planting and watering in the formal gardens.  Janice got the Grumpettes (Kay and Suzy) organized this morning, worked with vegetables at the Horticulture Center, watered and had the Chestnut House volunteers planting this afternoon.  Larry spent most of the day with the string trimmer going around the entire gardens.  The grass has not slowed down  yet and we have three upcoming weddings this weekend and want everything looking tidy.  I bounced between a couple projects after my plant pick-up and am trying to catch up the desk work that was planned for these rainy days that haven't materialized (yet).  Directly below is one of the dozens of peony (Paeonia) varieties blooming with ornamental onions (Allium) right now along our Palmer Drive flower beds.  The third photo down was taken today from the upper porch overlooking the English cottage garden and at the bottom....a female cottonwood (Populus deltoides) twig that blew down today showing that the "cotton" (seeds) will be ready to drop over the coming weeks.  When that happens, it will look like it's snowing and we'll then deal with many, many seedlings over the entire gardens.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great Volunteer Help Today!

It was a busy day at the gardens.  We knew the rain was predicted for later in the day so we hit the ground running and had lots of volunteer help from start to finish.  The weather ended up quite warm and sunny by late morning and while recent rains have kept everything wet, it was quite humid outside as well.  I saw lots of visitors around the gardens including many school groups enjoying a program with our youth education volunteers.  Directly above is a shot towards the Rath Environmental Center with lots of ornamental onions (Allium sp.) in the foreground.  While we're just past "peak" spring color, there is lots to enjoy this time of year and we continue to plant more summer annuals daily.  Directly below is a perennial, hybrid bluestar (Amsonia hybrida 'Blue Ice') which has some nice flower clusters well in to June.  The next photo down show another specimen of 'Starlite Prairieblues' hybrid false indigo (Baptisia hybrida).  I really enjoy the color shades on these flowers and this is a very long-lived perennial for full sun.

We had a wide range of volunteers throughout the day at the gardens.  Dr. Gredler was in for mowing and Dick P. came in to place more memorial bricks.  This morning, I worked with a group from Parkview High School (10 students and one teacher) that can be seen below.  They did a nice job hoeing out weeds in an area near the North point garden and they then spread a huge volume of shredded bark throughout this area once it was cleaned up.  The next photo down shows Magda (left) and Jenny.  Magda did a nice job planting in her assigned garden and Jenny helped her haul in containers and bring out more plants.  Magda has maintained her same garden space for 15 years or so and Marleen helps her as well.  Patrea (third photo down, see to the left) worked with Cheryl in the English cottage garden where they planted about 100 foxgloves (Digitalis) and 100 or so snapdragons (Antirrhinum) to start filling the gaps.  The ladies also did a nice job weeding that entire space. Roy (fourth photo down) and Mary did more planting in the shade garden and planted just across from their assigned garden as well.  Ron K. did more weeding and clean-up in the woodland walk with more planting to come soon!  Resa and Cookie (fifth photo down) planted almost the entire North point garden (their assigned garden).  There are two more small spots to plant in that garden but they planted all eight containers and the large beds around the structure.  Our Wednesday afternoon team came in to plant in the sunken garden.  The sixth photo down shows, from left to right, Myrt, Nancy, Mary and Gena.  The ladies did quite a bit of planting in that garden as well as some weeding.  Stan did more work in the Japanese garden and we also saw Del, Mary W., Maury, Vern and many others.

All the grounds staff "broke a sweat" today including me.  Pat cleared the gazebo garden border which I'll spray next with herbicide and we'll replant this reclamation project later this year.  He also continued his superb mulching out in the arboretum.  Cindy planted in front of the Parker Education Center which included converting four containers from spring pansies (Viola sp.) to our summer scheme.  Cheryl planted in two locations, worked with Patrea and continued work clearing weeds and bulb foliage near the gazebo garden.  Jenny did some more label work but spent most of her time weeding some rough areas east of the Parker Education Center.  She also cleared lots of bulb foliage and helped with other projects as well. Big John hauled and staged materials and tools for the high school volunteers this morning and moved on to a monumental task with Terry. The guys composted and prepared all the rose beds for some new roses we'll install shortly.  Both guys had other projects too but this took up the bulk of the day.  Below are some additional plants of interest out in the gardens and at the bottom is one of our cool garden art projects.  We have 36 of these out in the gardens and they sure are beautiful!

gas plant (Dictamnus albus 'Rubra')
ornamental onion (Allium karataviense 'Ivory Queen')
'Joseph Rock' peony (Paeonia rockii)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mist, Drizzle and Rain

We had overnight rain (about 1") and showers in to the early morning hours.  I was worried about a "rain out" today but the weather held off for the most part although there was occasional mist and some afternoon drizzle as well.  We were able to get a full day outside although there were a couple of essential indoor tasks to accomplish too (labeling work, etc.).  There is a chance of rain every day this week including Saturday which is another of our Volunteer Planting Days (8 am until 12 noon).  Above is a neat tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kokumon') which is at peak right now in the woodland walk with flowers near 12" in diameter.  I think Cindy included this one in the cutting display today as well.  Directly below is the 'Herman's Pride' yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) which has a nice clean variegation and these late spring blooms.  This clumping perennial is great for part shade or even deep shade where the foliage silvering becomes even more valuable.  The next photo down is a classic example of what a reseeding plant, in this case golden lemon balm (Melissa officinalis 'All Gold'), can do after a nice, long hot year....  Now that's a lot of lemon balm!  The third photo down shows the perennial globe flower (Trollius europaeus) opening up in the Scottish garden.  I like that "namesake", lemon yellow bloom and these plants are going on 15 years old and still doing well.  They prefer moist soils and are happy where they are located.

The wet weather (and holiday weekend) affected our "outdoor Grumpy" attendance although we had some indoor work as well.  Below (left to right) are Dick H., Vern and Jim D.  The guys were working on a planter that will be part of the popular Dinner Dance auction.  Check out the RBG website for more information on the exciting 2013 Dinner Dance.  Dick H. made some trips to the dump as well.  Dr. Gredler (second photo down) was out mowing and we had both Del and Bill O. helping tidy up the Horticulture Center.  Dennis J., RBG volunteer among other duties, came in to pick up the kiosk we're donating to the Ice Age Trail Alliance.  Terry and John helped him load it up and secure it on a trailer for relocation today.  Gary came in for some computer work as we're upgrading some of our computers including the one for the laser engraver.  Maury was in to run some errands.  Mary H. came in and planted a good portion of her area and we also saw Rollie, Dr. Yahr, Becky, RECAPPER ladies and many others.

The grounds staff had their raincoats on more today than off but toughed out the variable precipitation quite well.  Big John and Janice went on a plant run to get perennials from The Flower Factory (a nice selection returned).  Janice also worked extensively on labeling and some garden clean-up.  John dug up more perennials from an area we'll be replanting.  He also push mowed, mulched and helped over at the other building.  Jenny did a nice job with creating and matching up more labels out in the gardens and out in the yard.  Cindy did the cutting display right away and spent the remainder of the day on garden clean-up duties.  Cheryl worked near the gazebo garden removing weeds and bulb foliage from a long border.  Terry did quite a bit of path edging, push mowed, helped Dennis and worked on other projects as well.  Pat weeded the parking lot islands, did more mulching in the arboretum (looks great) and push mowed as well.  It was a busy day for everyone but certainly not a lost day out in the gardens.  We may have lost a day of planting but will make up for it tomorrow (hopefully).

Directly below are the single, fragrant blooms of the Scotch rose (Rosa spinosissima) which is peaking in the Scottish garden.  The next photo features the showy foliage of the variegated sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus 'Variegatus') which catches everyone's eye in the color rooms garden.  The next photo down shows the emerging foliage of the variegated catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides 'Variegata') which has a nice variegation through June which later fades to a solid green.  I like the large leaves of catalpa and this variety sure is showy in spring.  More planting tomorrow hopefully.

Below are some exciting shots from Sunday that were the result of one of our water lines bursting in the woodland walk garden.  Some of our AAS beds were temporarily flooded but the plants seemed ok today. Thankfully John caught it in the morning and turned off the water.  Larry will have some more repairs soon and this "mini-lake" drained off fairly well a couple of  hours later.  UGH!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Magic of Longenecker Gardens

My family and I have made a twice annual trek to Longenecker Horticultural Gardens at the UW-Arboretum (Madison) for many years now.  We always time our spring visit to coincide with peak spring color which will include the last of the magnolias blooming, peak lilac (Syringa) color and many of the crabapples (Malus) as well.  Our autumn visit is usually in October when we can observe superior fall color.  This 50 acre garden, while part of the UW-Arboretum, features close to 2,500 types of plants.  Founded in 1935, this premiere collection of woody plants continues to include vast assortments of trees and shrubs suitable for our climate including the nation's largest lilac (Syringa) collection and most current crabapple (Malus) collection.  The rest of the UW-Arboretum is also worth exploring as it includes woodlands, wetlands, the Curtis Prairie and many other features (along with a nice Visitor's Center).  Dr. Ed Hasselkus, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture (UW-Madison) has been the Curator of Longenecker for many years and is only the second person to hold that responsibility.  He has seen the organization and planting of this collection over many years and has formed a connection with so many of these plants that he's installed and watch grow over the years.  A tour with Dr. Hasselkus in the arboretum is a real treat and everyone is encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities. Longenecker Horticultural Gardens is a worthwhile visit for anyone as is the UW-Arboretum.  Find the time to make the trip and enjoy some of the sights like those I've included below (from two weeks ago).

Malus 'Louisa'
Syringa 'Purple Haze'
Syringa x hyacinthiflora 'Purple Heart'
Syringa vulgaris 'President Lincoln'
Syringa x hyacinthiflora 'Declaration'
Acer platanoides 'Schwedleri'
Aesculus pavia x flava (hybrid)
Prunus 'Hally Jolivette'
redbud (Cercis canadensis) grove
Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula'
one of many bluebirds
Halesia monticola 'Rosea'
Fagus sylvatica 'Spaethiana'