Today was sunny and more mild than in previous weeks!  We had a nice weekend too with highs near 40 degrees F. The temperature today ended up in the upper 30 degrees F and we had some nice activity outside with bringing in more lights and cords from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS). It was a busy Grumpy day with both inside and outside work going on all morning.  The outdoor crew included Alan, Peg and Larry.  Dr. Gredler, Marv and Pat were inside processing lights and cords.  Dave, Jim, Vern and Bob K. worked on some carpentry tasks with some help from Dick H.   Gary S. worked on a new sign and Bill O. was in later to help out with various duties.  We had a meeting/tour of the Japanese garden with Marv B., Jumbo Jim, Stan, Kristin and Karen.  We had lots of good ideas in this space primarily cared for by Karen, Jim and Stan with Marv’s focus on the areas of moss.  Janice was in for a good portion of the morning and early afternoon working on research for our Spring Plant Sale veggies.  We also saw Rollie, Bob C., John J. and many others today.  I had some meetings, a radio interview and continue to bounce between various projects with seed ordering fast becoming my biggest priority.

With our hot summers, I continue to rely on annual verbenas (Verbena sp.) to provide lasting color along the front of the full sun border or container edge.  They are great in mass plantings or as individual “blips” of low color (most are under 10″ in height).  There are so many wonderful varieties out there like Empress ‘Purple Charm’ seen above.  Many of the newer selections are offered vegetatively (as plants) although there are some great varieties out there that can be purchased as seed.  Preferring full sun and decent soils, verbenas are drought tolerant once established but we provide adequate pampering (to include fertilization every three weeks) which keeps them looking fresh.  We’re not adverse to cutting them back as needed to encourage fresh growth.  There are some neat varieties seen below…which is just the tip of the proverbial “iceberg”!

 Empress ‘Strawberry Charm’
 EnduraScape ‘Blue’
EnduraScape ‘Hot Pink’
 EnduraScape ‘Blue’ and ‘Hot Pink’ (mix seen at Ball Seed Trials)
 Lanai ‘Upright Lime Green’
 Pops ‘Pink + Eye’
 ‘Royal Cherryburst’
 ‘Wicked Cool Blue’
EnduraScape ‘Red’
 Enduro ‘White Blush’
 Superbena ‘Royale Iced Cherry’
Superbena ‘Royale Chambray’
 Aztec ‘Light Pink’
‘Empress Flair Peach’
Lanai ‘Lavender Star’
 Lanai ‘Purple Star’
Lanai ‘Upright Purple Mosaic’

Some of you loyal blog readers will remember Ed Lyon (well-represented in this blog) from his time as Executive Director at Rotary Botanical Gardens for four years.  I’ve known Ed since 1999 when he was a graduate student at UW-Madison (horticulture) and have watched him become a force in the world of plants as well as a dear friend.  His contributions at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Chicago Botanic Garden and RBG are significant and lasting.  For RBG, he helped expose our garden to a national audience and continues to be such a strong advocate for us as well.  His extensive plant knowledge is augmented by his experiences with working with staff and volunteers as well as budgeting, grants, graphic design, writing, etc.  He is extremely talented in many ways.  His most recent successful endeavor as Director of Allen Centennial Gardens on the UW-Madison campus has come to an end as Ed will be the next Executive Director at Reiman Gardens which is located on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, IA.  This beautiful garden will benefit from Ed’s experience, insights and leadership.  Below is a photo of Ed (and Jane) from a farewell/appreciation party last night.  We all wish Ed the best and know he’ll be back to visit (and vice versa).  Ed and I have been able to spend a lot of time together including being roommates at many conferences (Philadelphia, Vancouver, Denver, etc.).  Included in this blog are just a few of the many images of Ed (most of which include his camera which is always close at hand!).  Best of luck to Ed and his selfish career advancement goals!  :)
















While the day was overcast and cold (not unusual for this time of year!), we had a productive day at the Horticulture Center.  Pat M. was in to process more lights which continue to flow back in from the garden on a daily basis.  Larry H. headed back out in the gardens for more Holiday Lights Show (HLS) take down efforts.  We have a meeting today to review our event and come up with some plans for this upcoming December.  We’ll need to plan on larger crowds and adjust accordingly.  Before you know it, we’ll be dragging lights out of storage (late August) for testing and the start of HLS set-up all over again in late September.  Janice finalized our vegetable offerings for the Spring Plant Sale (mark your calendars for Mother’s Day weekend!) and we’re well over 100 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, hybrid tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, etc.  We’ll get the full listing of veggies and herbs on our website by the end of February.  We also saw Bev F., Urban, Marsha M., Karen B., Christy, Chrissy, Candace and Kris K. today.
As I continue to peruse seed catalogs and get seed orders together, I’m never shy about ordering plume celosia (Celosia plumosa) varieties.  In 2006, we did a big Celosia Collection (see further below) and the range of flower coloration is impressive, including some with maroon foliage!  These members of the amaranth family have a long bloom period in the summer and their feathery flower clusters offer not only color but visual texture. The flowers are also popular in settings for “tactile engagement”.  Included in this blog are some of the many varieties available in the market; the majority can be purchased and grown from seed (easy to grow).
‘Castle Pink’
 ‘China Town’
‘China Town’
 ‘China Town’
 ‘Kelos Orange’
 ‘Fresh Look Yellow’
 ‘Fresh Look Orange’
 ‘Fresh Look Red’
 ‘Fresh Look Yellow’ and ‘Fresh Look Red’
Celosia Collection (2006)
Celosia Collection (2006)
 ‘Century Mixed’
 ‘Castle Scarlet’
 ‘Castle Yellow’
 ‘Century Cream’
 ‘Kimono Salmon’
 ‘Kimono Velvet’
 ‘Kimono Yellow’
 ‘New Look’
‘Sparkler Yellow’
Today was another cold one but we do see the “warming trend” with temperatures now well above zero degrees F at least!  It was a beautiful day outside and some staff and volunteers took advantage and went out in to the gardens to bring in more elements of the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Larry and Bill headed out to bring in more arches and lights while Larry H. spent some major time outside as well.  Pat M. continues to efficiently process incoming lights.  Mark S. was over to tidy up the Horticulture Center and Janice stopped by to continue work on selection of our Spring Plant Sale (Mother’s Day weekend!) vegetables.  We had our Garden Development & Maintenance Committee meeting this morning which included Christy, Christine, Maury, Big John, Hal, Gary and Larry H.  We also saw Mary W, Shirley C., Marv B. and many others today.
I’m a big fan of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) as seen at the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL) in the photo above.  This denizen of the tall grass prairie also dominates our 1 acre prairie restoration at RBG.  This full sun grass will typically get 4′ – 8′ tall depending on soils and moisture and ultimately develops significant roots, making it quite drought tolerant.  This grass is less prone to flopping in leaner soils and while it doesn’t mind the richer soils, it may get quite tall and flop in those situations.  This grass has a light, “bluish cast” when emerging and maintains some of this coloration well in to summer.  Fall color will typically vary from a gold (seen below) to a showy pink (three photos down).  This grass has a long history of use in restoration projects, native plantings, wildlife-themed plantings, etc. but hasn’t had much value (yet) in the residential landscape as a taller grass option.  However, there are now quite a few selections of this grass being made for foliage color.  Many selections (see below) feature a more prominent deep pink or even red fall color.  Some selections are coming out now that feature more blue summer color as well (see ‘Mega Blue’ below).  The future of this grass in the landscape industry looks bright to me and the few examples below should help you form an opinion on the increased ornamental value of this tough and durable native grass in our traditional landscapes.
fall color of big bluestem in the RBG prairie (2014)
fall color of big bluestem in the RBG prairie (2014)
fall color of the big bluestem in the RBG prairie (2013) – morning shot with perfect lighting!
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red Bull’ in summer
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red Bull’ in fall
 Andropogon gerardii ‘Rain Dance’ (July)
 Andropogon gerardii ‘Rain Dance’ (July)
 Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ (October)
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ (September)
 Andropogon gerardii ‘Indian Warrior’ (September)
Andropogon gerardii ‘Mega Blue’ (summer)
Andropogon gerardii ‘Pawnee’

Today was another cold one although it wasn’t bad enough to keep some from heading outside (I stayed inside of course).  It was sunny with blue skies and it looks like a warm up towards the end of the week.  Terry, Larry H. and Larry headed out to bring in more lights and cords from the Holiday Lights Show (HLS).  Gary B. and Peg L. worked on removing lights from our arches inside and Pat M. continues to do a nice job with packing up lights and utilizing our new “spool method” for wrapping and subsequent storage of light strands.  Del came in for some cleaning and Bill O. helped out later in the morning and in to the afternoon. Dick H. had various projects and the carpenters (Ron Y., Vern, Dave and Jim) all had tasks as well.  Bob K. helped with various projects and continues to work on an electrical project at the Horticulture Center.  Dr. Gredler helped wrap cords and Maury ran more supply errands for us.  Gary S. worked on some label research and we also saw Rollie and many others today.  Janice was in for some work regarding our Spring Plant Sale (Mother’s Day weekend!).  I bounced between seed catalogs, plant orders and presentation preparations for the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo ( which is only five weeks away.  We’ll again have our information booth for the gardens and I have five presentations over those three days.

This blog is dedicated to the always interesting weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) which I think can be quite a showcase in the garden.  The specimen above is at Longenecker Gardens at the UW-Arboretum (Madison, WI).  We have three at RBG and I have amassed some photos of specimens at other gardens (see below).  No two specimens are the same and while they can be trained and encouraged a bit, ultimately they’ll get quite large and do their own thing!

 weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum (Clinton, IA)
weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum (Clinton, IA)
 weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) at Frederick Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids, MI)
 weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) in Philadelphia
 weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) at Rotary Botanical Gardens
 weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) – same as above (note the lights!)
weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) at Frederick Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids, MI) in 2009
 same weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) as above but four years later
 weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) at the Ball Seed Trial Garden (West Chicago, IL)
 weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’) at Rotary Botanical Gardens