Friday, February 7, 2014

It's Been A Great Run!

For readers of this blog, please consider this notice of an indefinite hiatus for the Horticulture Blog.  With recent restructuring, I'll need to spend more time on volunteer recruitment, retention and appreciation efforts which are all of the utmost importance to me. With our myriad events and activities, our volunteers continue to be an amazing and paramount part of everything we do.  I need to make sure that my efforts with these expanded duties are done to their best and fullest extent.  In order to accommodate and balance these vital duties along with my current workload and family life, the blog will have to take a "breather".  It has been fun sharing with all of you.

Started on March 24, 2008, there are over 1530 postings you can go back through and enjoy.  Do keep in touch with the gardens via FACEBOOK and our website at for the latest developments as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary this year!


P.S.  I'll still have my camera always in hand!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Expo Ready + Exciting Eryngiums

Big John, Mary, Denise and I converged on the Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center (Madison, WI) this morning to accomplish early set-up for our booth (see a portion above) for the WPT Garden Expo ( which starts tomorrow afternoon.  It was nice to avoid adverse travel conditions and the crazy set-up that occurs tomorrow morning with most of the other vendors in the display area.  The set-up went well and we're ready for a great weekend of exposing the gardens to a huge group of "spring-starved" gardeners.  We'll be promoting our 25th Anniversary as well as upcoming events and programs.  We're still selling tickets from the Cottage Garden Gallery at RBG and the event starts at 3 pm tomorrow. 

It was a productive Grumpy morning although I missed most of the action.  Gene and Gary worked on preparing windows while Pat continued bending aluminum rods for future use out in the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Jim, Vern and Ron Y. continued carpentry projects and we also saw Maury, Dick H., Terry, Dr. Gredler, Janice, Jumbo Jim and many others.  I'm sure I missed seeing others but everyone earned their pay today.  Larry is keeping busy with equipment clean-up and repairs.  I had time to scour more seed catalogs this afternoon which I always enjoy.

I've gathered some photos of perennial Eryngium selections in this blog.  I love the native rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) seen both above and below.  There are many species of Eryngium worldwide and they are members of the extensive Apiaceae family which is commonly called the carrot & parsley family.  With significant root systems, typically including a taproot, these perennials are all drought tolerant and do very well in our hot summers and in dry, sandy soils.  Excessive dampness isn't recommended for this low maintenance perennial. The long-lasting flowers consist of dome shaped umbels (multiple flowers forming the dome) that extend above spiny bracts. The bracts will frequently carry over flower color as seen with many of the blue varieties further below.  See below for some fun selections of this tough genus.

rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
candelabra sea holly (Eryngium eburneum) - not hardy for us
Eryngium amethystinum
Eryngium planum 'Blue Glitter'
Eryngium planum 'Blue Glitter'
Eryngium planum 'Blaukappe' ('Blue Cap')
Eryngium planum 'Blue Hobbit' (short!)
nice clump of Eryngium (not sure of variety) - mid July
variegated sea holly (Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost')
giant sea holly (Eryngium giganteum 'Miss Willmott's Ghost') - biennial
same as above - Denver Botanic Garden
same as above - Vancouver, B.C.
unknown Eryngium (but pretty sweet look...)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thomas Jefferson Collection

We're continuing our research regarding plants that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) grew at Monticello.  Janice, Cindy and Patrea are all doing great research for this two year collection that will feature over 150 varieties of vegetables, herbs, perennials and annuals that were grown by TJ.  These selections will all be arranged in 13 beds near the arboretum (the former All-America Selections Display Garden - which has moved...).  Each variety will have a nice educational sign and this historic display will also have significant color as we include old-fashioned annuals that were grown back then as well.  I've included ten selections of flowers that were grown at Monticello like the love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) seen above.  Keep in mind that some of my TJ samples seen here are more modern varieties although the original species was available and grown by TJ (not the new fangled selections of course!).   See some of the other plants that will be part of the Thomas Jefferson Collection this year further below.

Tomorrow we'll be setting up our booth early for the WPT Garden Expo (see brochure above) which starts on Friday.  John, Denise, Mary and I will get everything situated which also is nice as we'll avoid the Friday morning craziness of set-up.  I hope the crowd continues to grow for this event as I think attendance has been over 20,000 for each of the last three years.  That's a lot of people coming by our booth!  We have a great crew of volunteers lined up to staff the booth and both Kris K. and I will be there as RBG staff too.   It's fun to interact with the public and represent the gardens.  I'll get plenty of gardening questions too which keeps it interesting!

We had another productive day at the Horticulture Center.  Kay (directly below) worked on processing some of our first seeds to arrive. She's creating colored name labels for various plants that will correspond to their spring use (plant sale, certain collection, trialing plants, etc.).  This process has helped streamline the process of keeping our plants organized as they go from seed to the greenhouses and ultimately back to us as plants in May.  Patrea helped process some office work and also worked on painting the window seen below.  My photo of her award winning smile today didn't turn out but her help was most appreciated.  Pat (third photo down) was bending aluminum rods to use as cord supports for the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) this December.  We had this donated rod laying around and he came up with a good use.  I told him to use a vice as he was bending these on his forehead and getting dizzy.  Further below are some of our luminaries packed and ready to go out for storage.  Dr. Gredler was in for some painting and we also saw Maury, Art and some others today.

gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta)
heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
corkscrew flower or snail vine (Vigna caracalla)
globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) mix
flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum)
purple hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab)
Joseph's coat or summer poinsettia (Amaranthus tricolor 'Perfecta')
cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Golden Shrubberies

Today had a cold start but warmed up to 20 degrees F or so.  Looks like some possible snow later tonight and this weekend.  I'm happy to see that travel conditions up to the WPT Garden Expo (Madison, WI) for both set-up (Thursday) and take down on Sunday look pretty good.  I've had some harrowing driving in the past for this event and don't want to ever repeat a truck & trailer "jack knife" scenario!  It was a productive day around the Horticulture Center with plenty of volunteer activity.  Pat continued to process lights from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) while Dr. Gredler continued painting obelisks and an old window...We have a funky, fun use of old windows out in the gardens this year.  That's all I'll reveal...  Bill O. came in to help Larry inside and Dick H. finished repairs on one of our utility vehicles (thanks Dick!).  Larry and Bill continued to load up supplies for the Garden Expo trip on Thursday.  I'm fortunate to be surrounded by handy people without a doubt!  Urban came in for afternoon pruning and Rose stopped by as well.  Maury ran some errands and we also saw Mark S. and some others today.  I'm doing my normal winter "thing" and am ready for the Garden Expo this weekend.

I've been giving some recent talks on shrubs and never shy away from shrubs with golden foliage.  Keep in mind that while flowering can be a very ephemeral 2-3 weeks of interest, the foliage can carry the bulk of the ornamental interest from May until October.  While some people feel that golden shrubs look sickly and Nitrogen deficient, I see them as beacons in a landscape that has enough green.  Don't get me wrong.  I love all shades of green and while visual texture (leaf shape, size, form) is important, the foliage coloration (yellow, blue, maroon, variegated, etc.) can be a vital component in a composition, border or foundation planting for a longer period of time.  I wont have the time or space to elaborate on all the pros and cons of these selections (every plant has pros and cons) but enjoy these few selections for what they offer.  Keep in mind that most golden-leaved shrubs will get their best coloration in full sun and in the spring.  Some selections fade to a chartreuse (particularly in part shade) or perhaps get "crispy" in full sun without ample moisture.  Know your plant!  Both above and below is the Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') which is a golden form of the native staghorn sumac.  While getting a nice orange fall color, this selection also spreads by "root runners" and will colonize an area.  I find it easy to keep controlled (annually) and is one of my favorite larger shrubs.

'Golden Nugget' barberry (Berberis thunbergii) - not many fruits which are certainly a problem with other selections in terms of being consumed by birds, pooped out and spread throughout woodlands near and far.  Be wary of heavy fruiting barberries although they are a darn tough shrub
'Avalon Gold' dogwood (Cornus sericea)
'Hedgerow's Gold' dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Golden Spirit smokebush (Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot') in spring
Golden Spirit smokebush (Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot') in summer
Dream Catcher beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis 'Maradco')
Dream Catcher beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis 'Maradco') - spring growth
'Golden Sunshine' willow (Salix hybrida) - cut back severely to keep fresh and moderately sized
one of the many golden bluebeards (Caryopteris sp.) - blue flowers in late summer
Chardonnay Pearls slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis 'Duncan')
Chardonnay Pearls slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis 'Duncan')
golden forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia 'Gold Leaf')
'Briant Rubidor' weigela (Weigela florida)
Mellow Yellow spirea (Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon')
golden cutleaf elderberry (Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland's Gold')
'Nugget' ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
golden bird's nest spruce (Picea abies 'Repens Gold')
'Saybrook Gold' juniper (Juniperus chinensis)
golden falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mops')