Monday, December 22, 2014

'Misty Lace' Goatsbeard

We had another very strong weekend at the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) with five nights remaining (Dec. 22, 23, 26, 27 and 28).  The weather might be a bit damp these next two nights but the show should still look great.  With the holiday season upon us, we had a small turnout today.  We saw Vern, Dave, Jim, Maury, Pat, Big John, Bill O., Rollie and Dr. Gredler in the morning.  Larry had some morning projects and returns tonight to work the HLS.  I'm finishing up some "end of year" projects and continue to chip away at the 2015 seed catalogs.

This blog is dedicated to one of my favorite, relatively new, perennials.  The 'Misty Lace' goatsbeard (Aruncus hybrida) has done very well for us and offers the nice, late spring, wispy white blooms.  This selection only reaches 30" in height so is a good "smaller statured substitute" for the standard goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) which can reach heights around 60" or so.  Like all goatsbeards, moist, well-drained soils are preferred.  This selection has done well in full sun with ample moisture and tolerates part shade as well.  The flowers transition from narrow plumes to a fuller look as they progress past peak (see bottom photo).  The flower "effect" goes on for almost 8 weeks and sometimes beyond.  There are some other exciting new compact goatsbeards out there that allow for "mid-height" impact in the partly shaded border or moist, sunny location!   


Friday, December 19, 2014

'Cheyenne Spirit' Coneflower

The patch of 'Cheyenne Spirit' coneflower (Echinacea hybrida) seen above was photographed at the Ball Customer Day (West Chicago, IL) this past July and really showcased the beauty and color range of this seed selection.  We started growing this variety last year and have enjoyed the color variability (photo directly below is from RBG).  This variety blooms the first year from seed and exhibits a color range including red, orange, purple, pink, scarlet, cream, yellow and white.  This brilliant color range is exhibited at a height between 18" and 30" on strong, sturdy stems.  This summer bloomer has a long bloom period and is excellent for wildlife.  This drought tolerant selection also looks great en masse as seen in these photos (most from the Ball Trial Gardens) and has been awarded both the Fleuroselect Gold Medal (Europe) and the All-America Selection (AAS) award in 2013.   
It was a quiet day at the Horticulture Center.  I continue to peruse catalogs and was only in this morning as I'll be at the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) this evening.  This is the fourth evening of our eleven night HLS.  With record crowds last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we'll be preparing for a busy night with the weather looking near perfect (unfortunately sans snow).  Maury ran some errands and I had some meetings but otherwise, pretty quiet.  Dr. Yahr stopped by and we had a nice chat about the HLS.   My blogging over the next two weeks will be intermittent as I'll be working odd hours and taking some vacation to prepare for Santa's arrival.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Foliage Begonias

Recent blogs have shared my obsession with foliage coloration and this "begonia blog" is no exception.  Many begonias are selected for foliage as the primary consideration like 'Jurassic Green Streak' seen above.  Great in partly shaded locations, particularly containers, these tender plants can offer so much in terms of not only leaf coloration but form and texture.  They are great as "stand alone" features but also blend well with other neighbors in the bed, border or container.  The parentage of many of these is elaborate and confusing to me as well but these named varieties are out in the marketplace and may have merit in your home landscape.  Most will also form flowers but they are secondary to the foliage or at most, complimentary.  I participate in a Facebook group about begonias and am constantly amazed and inspired by what I'm seeing primarily with these foliage begonias.  This Jurassic Series shown in this blog looks very exciting!

We had some great help today with a strong Grumpy turnout.  Ron Y., Dave, Jim and Vern continued on some carpentry help with assistance from Bob K.  Bob K. also did some last minute tweaking out in the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) prior to it starting up again tomorrow night!  We have eight nights left of the HLS and are looking forward to lots of guests enjoying this unique experience.  Pat worked on some indoor HLS tasks while Larry and Bill turned on the entire HLS to check for any problems.  The paths have dried out and the cooler temperatures have equated to the show being ready to rock and roll.  Maury ran errands for us and Janice came in to work on the 2015 Thomas Jefferson Collection.   We also saw Rollie and many others.  I had a lot of meetings today so I'm sure I missed some arrivals and departures but we continue to transition in to our winter mode which will include starting to take down the HLS in only 18 short days!  Enjoy the cool begonias below.

 'Jurassic Pink Shades'
 'Jurassic Silver Point'
 'Jurassic Swirl'
'Jurassic Watermelon'
'Fire Flush'
 'Black Fancy'
 'Cancun Christmas'
 'Dark Mambo'
 'Hilo Holiday'
 'Houston Fiesta'
Begonia benitochiba

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rattlesnake Master - Know It & Grow It!

Here are just some of the literally hundreds of photos that I've taken of rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) which is a superb, native perennial for full sun.  I love the spherical umbels (flower clusters) on this summer blooming plant that also features bluish/grey-green foliage.  The flowers age from a green to white to brown (see below).  The foliage (see further below) is long and strap-like with "toothed" margins.  This perennial is a member of the carrot family and will get 3'-6' tall depending on siting and rainfall.  The name "rattlesnake master" refers to the Native American use of the roots to treat rattlesnake bites.  I've also read that the leaf fibers were used in early shoe construction by Midwestern Native Americans (Wikipedia).  This perennial doesn't transplant readily once established due to a deep taproot but does set quite a bit of seed.  Rattlesnake master is also tolerant of a wide range of soils (including clay) although taller specimens may require staking or "supporting neighbors."  They are quite nice in groupings.  Many insects will be attracted to this native which also showcases a very interesting flower architecture that always catches my eye (and camera lens)!
It was a quiet day at the Horticulture Center.  Pat stopped by for some lights repair and Dr. Yahr popped in as well.  I continue to go through catalogs and will likely check over the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) tomorrow and Friday to make sure everything is operational and the paths are good to go.  Our recent damp weekend wont be repeated for the next "block" of the HLS (Dec. 19-23) which looks cooler.  The paths should harden up nicely and we shouldn't have many "moisture-related" issues.  We anticipate another strong crowd for each of the remaining eight nights of the HLS.  More rattlesnake master photos can be seen below. 

early flower color above before turning white (below)




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Main Street Coleus - WOW!

Today was another damp one although cooling temperatures later in the week should hopefully mitigate some of the messiness with this recent rain.  With the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) resuming this Friday night (12/19), we'd like to see this moisture freeze up and not be so problematic with a show so reliant on electricity!  It was a quiet day today with Larry working on indoor projects and me bouncing between various duties and the occasional 2015 seed catalog.  Ron P. came in to repair more HLS lights and we also saw Maury, Dr. Yahr and some others today.  Janice came in for some office work and is already planning some exciting modifications for the Thomas Jefferson Collection (year 2!) with Patrea W.

As I've been cataloging and organizing my photos from 2014, I'm continually reminded about all the neat plants I've seen this year.  I'm a big coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) fan to start with so was in "coleus heaven" when I attended the Ball Customer Day (West Chicago, IL) this past July and took over 3,000 photos in their trial garden!  Of course, coleus varieties were abundant and I photographed many I hadn't seen before including the Main Street Series included in this blog.  They were robust plants with some very interesting color and texture (like 'Abbey Road' above).  I envision a bright future for these selections and will be shopping for them later this winter and next spring.

 'Fifth Avenue'
 'Gran Via'
 'Oxford Street'
 'River Walk'
 'Sunset Boulevard'
 'Wall Street'
'Rodeo Drive'