The photo above sums up the weather today although you should insert blowing snow and sub zero temperatures in to this scene for the complete picture on another polar experience.  My blog title is in reference to the fact that despite the closure of the Parker Education Center due to the cold, we had some great volunteer assistance today including some brave souls out in the gardens.  The photo directly below is of a very neat poster that Ken Tapp donated to the gardens which includes many of his best shots of monarchs in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children’s Garden last year.  Our “Pollinator’s Paradise” theme in this garden was very successful in 2014 for the second year in a row.  That garden space will go back to our “Smelly Garden” theme in 2015 which was well-received back in 2011 and 2012.  We’ll continue to explore plants for scent (flower and foliage) and plans for many of our other 2015 collections are well under way.


Most of the images in the blog today show some of the significant progress that has already occurred with taking in elements of the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) which experienced a record crowd of 27,035 attendees this year.  The image above shows just the beginning of some of our thousands of drop cords that ultimately get wrapped up and packed away efficiently.  This past HLS included the addition of over 40,000 new lights so storage had become a concern.  Pat M. came up with the idea to use the giant spools you see in the photos below for lights storage….The lights on the spools (donated!) directly below were from our half gallon milk jug luminaries.  “Storage via spool” will only take up 1/4 of the space of our crating system which we’ll still have to use regardless.  The HLS isn’t over for us until the last set of lights and the last cord is safely stowed away in our garage.


The images directly above and directly below will have a close relationship in terms of proximity both now and in the summer of this year.  The Grumpies are building these giant rulers which will be placed out in the New & Improved Jungle Garden this year which will feature many of the plants you see below.  Visitors will be able to see the increasing height of “the jungle” by viewing these rulers out in the gardens (idea stolen from the Green Botanic Garden to be honest!).  These tropical plants seen below are in the Horticulture Center for safekeeping and although temperatures (including drafts) and lighting aren’t ideal, we hope to utilize this material in five months!


Above are Gary B. (left) and Dr. Gredler processing cords.  Pat M. headed out to collect lights and was also working with the spools inside for continued processing of incoming lights.  Larry and Gene (new Grumpy) went outside for over 2 hours to bring in more lights.  Below (left to right) are Ron Y., Dave, Bob K. and Vern (Jim off camera) working on multiple carpentry projects including our 2015 Garden Art Project (more to follow soon on that event).  Bill O. came in to help out and Maury ran more errands.  We also saw Rollie, Janice and many others today.  I made it through two more catalogs and have started determining vegetable selections for our big Spring Plant Sale (mark your calendars for Mother’s Day weekend!) which will again feature a wide range of veggies, herbs, perennials, shrubs, bagged compost, etc.


It was another frigid day outside with no activity out in the gardens.  We actually closed the Parker Education Center due to the cold and correspond our closure to the Janesville School District doing the same.  Many of us came in to work including some volunteers as well.  While I continued bouncing between “desk tasks” like seed ordering, event preparations and catalog perusal, we had some additional activity in the Horticulture Center.  Pat and Larry H. were in for the entire morning processing lights for storage.  The guys put a huge dent in our post Holiday Lights Show (HLS) processing.  Maury came in after running some errands and Dick H. stopped by to size up more repairs on one of our snowblowers.  Dr. Gredler came in to work on wrapping up cords this afternoon and we also saw Bev F., Mary W. and a couple of others today.  There were lots of deliveries so I’m glad I was over at the building.
This blog is dedicated to the versatile perennial known as yarrow (Achillea).  For many years, the variety ‘Moonshine’ (seen above) was the standard and is still a great, full sun, drought tolerant perennial.  There are currently many new and relatively new varieties that have expanded not only the color palette but the heights of these selections.  There are more compact forms as well as those with earlier blooming and/or a longer period of summer blooming.  We have many selections of yarrow out in the gardens including the standard Achillea millefolium and hybrids that include this as a parent.  However, the sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) has also done well for us and can be seen further below.  Any of our yarrows that look scraggly in late summer are sheared to the ground to encourage fresh growth and occasionally we’ll see some reblooming.  Yarrow does expand as a perennial but is easy to divide and share.  I don’t thinks this “tough-as-nails” perennial will ever be ubiquitous and it’s nice to see such a wide range of colors too!
Song Siren ‘Little Susie’
 New Vintage White
 New Vintage Red
New Vintage Rose
‘Pretty Belinda’ (early)
 ‘Pretty Belinda’ (late)
 ‘Strawberry Seduction’
 ‘Summer Wine’
 Tutti Frutti ‘Strawberry Delight’
 Tutti Frutti ‘Wonderful Wampee’
 ‘Summer Pastels’
‘Montrose Rose’
‘Terra Cotta’
Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’
 Achillea ptarmica ‘Boule de Neige’
 Achillea ptarmica ‘Boule de Neige’

After another 2″ of snow overnight, we did have a sunny but very frigid Tuesday.  With temperatures well under zero degrees F, the only outside activity was some snow removal efforts by Larry and Bill.  We did have some nice help at the Horticulture Center though.  Larry H. came in to help process some lights and Pat M. was in as well a bit later in the morning.  Larry and Bill had some other projects after snow removal and Dick H. came back to work on a broken snow blower after plowing the Horticulture Center parking lot.  Chuck S. came in for recycling and Maury ran more errands for us. Bob K. worked on repairing an outdoor light at the Horticulture Center and we saw a few others here and there.

I thought a colorful blog would be in order on another cold winter day.  I’m focusing on the million bells (Calibrachoa) selections which continue to expand each year with many new varieties appearing each spring.  The variety above is ‘Aloha Volcano Sunset’ which I find spectacular.  I did a blog on these seasonal plants a long time ago but have some photos of more current varieties.  Appearing like small petunias, these floriferous plants are heavy on flower power in the basket, container and bedding scheme. There are so many out there including more clumping forms and semi-trailers!  We’ve dabbled with some but have to give them some added TLC later in summer by applying fertilizer with iron to keep the foliage green and the plant robust through the summer.  Full sun and perfect drainage is a must.  Almost all of these examples are of Calibrachoa selections in containers where they can thrive due to good drainage.

some of the many varieties seen at the Ball Customer Day (West Chicago, IL)
 CanCan ‘Purple Star’
 MiniFamous ‘Compact Dark Blue’
 ‘Aloha Tiki Soft Pink’
 MiniFamous ‘Compact Orange’
 MiniFamous ‘NeoViolet + Eye’
MiniFamous ‘NeoCoral + Eye’
MiniFamous ‘Double Rose Chai’
 Superbells ‘Lemon Slice’
 MiniFamous ‘iGen Tangerine’
 ‘Sprinkles on Top’ (mix)
 ‘Fruit Cocktail’ mix
Calibrachoa patch in Colorado

Of Tickseeds and HLS Takedown

The Holiday Lights Show (HLS) was a monumental success with record crowds and lots of positive comments.  The photo above was taken by my friend Steve.  He shot this photo through the glasses we were selling which made the lights look pretty cool.  We’ll be reviewing this event and all the challenges that come along with large crowds as well as facilitating such a popular event.  Last week some of our Grumpies started bringing in lights and cords from the HLS and today, despite the subzero wind chill, the guys headed back out.  Terry, Larry H., Gene P. (new Grumpy) and Larry all worked on bringing in lights and cords while Dr. Gredler was inside processing cords that have warmed up.  Maury and Bob K. had an electrical project at the main building while the carpenters (Vern, Dave, Ron Y. and Jim) had a wide range of projects.  Bill O. stopped in to help and we also saw Rollie, Gary and many others today.  I’m working on seed ordering and presentation preparations for 2015 and will have no shortage of work!

The photos below are some of many tickseed (Coreopsis sp.) selections that look exciting.  I took many of these photos at the Ball Customer Day (West Chicago, IL) this past July and enjoyed their trial gardens.  Many of the tickseeds are not winter hardy for us but will be strong bloomers for a season and can easily be used as annuals as well.  The vast majority of these are listed as zone 5 hardy and should thrive in sunny, well-drained areas.  I’ve not seen our coreopsis specimens perennialize well in certain areas but they are such strong growers even over a season of growth.  The variety name is listed under each photo and those that are hardy include a Z5 designation.  Listings as non-hardy refer to our climate here.

 Big Bang ‘Full Moon’ (Z5)
 Big Bang ‘Redshift’ (Z5)
Big Bang ‘Mercury Rising’ (Z5)
 Cruizin’ ‘Broad Street’ (Z5)
 Cruizin’ ‘Sunset Strip’ (Z5)
 Hardy Jewel ‘Citrine’ (Z5)
Hardy Jewel ‘Ruby Frost’ (marginal)
 Li’l Bang ‘Daybreak’ (Z5)
‘Route 66’ (Z5)
‘Corey Yellow’ (Z5)
‘Summer Punch’ (not hardy)
‘Mango Punch’ (not hardy)
Coloropsis ‘Salsa’ (not hardy)
Coloropsis ‘Jive’ (not hardy)
Coreopsis rosea ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (Z5, touchy)
Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Roulette’ (annual)