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Gotta get a little dirt on your hands

Well folks, here I am after being gone for a spell. My last posting was back in June and you all may be wondering as to the why, what for, and so on of my absence. Well, it’s complicated and in many ways hard to explain so let’s get started.

For this week I decided to look at some of the plants we are adding in 2014. I could go on and on about the weather and this winter but hell, it’s been done. Maybe later.

I am doing a major renovation of the Tunnel planting. These are the plants on top of the tunnel leading from the parking garage to the main museum building. It has the paperbark maples and useless skylights that you hopefully notice on your above-ground walk to the museum entrance. The maples I mean, not the useless skylights. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is my favorite tree so I always notice them.

The perennial layer in this area has some Echinacea Big Sky Sundown™ (‘Evan Saul’) and many many self-sown children and grandchildren of Sundown, a few Geranium Roseanne (‘Gerwat’), several Sedum ‘Black Jack’ and ‘Matrona’, a few Agastache. I will say that the ItSaul Plants bred Sundown has been the toughest “fancy” Echinacea to date for me but the whole area needs a major reboot after a decade or so.

I am putting some Echinacea back in. I’m going with what I have heard described as the reddest one currently on the market – Sombrero™ Salsa Red (‘Balsomsred’). I have seen this and it is a beauty. Here are some photos from Boston in 2012.

Sombrero™ Salsa Red (Balsomsred)

Sombrero™ Salsa Red (Balsomsred)

Salsa Red grows to 24 to 26 inches tall. I so want to say to around 2 feet and be done with it. I mean, I’m all about exactitudes. Don’t get me wrong. But let’s get real. For a design, guess about 2 feet and run with it. I want easy viewing of the fountain for passers-by so this height will work nicely. Plant spread should be about one and a half feet (16 to 22 inches).

This is part of the Sombero™ series from Darwin Plants that includes yellows, orange and coral so if you prefer a different color in your garden there may be one you will like. I am definitely deadheading to prevent seedlings. It is a lovely thought to leave seedheads for the birds but I can assure you the birds do not eat all the seeds and you soon have garden full of plants that look far more like the species Echinaceas than your red or orange or double hybrid (see above). It won’t take long for you to have a garden of mixed plants evolving (or de-volving) farther and farther from your fancy originals each year. I would suggest you have a separate planting for feeding the birds.

Echinacea ‘Marmalade’. Photo courtesy Chris Handon.

Echinacea ‘Marmalade’. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

I’m also putting in some Echinacea ‘Marmalade’ cause I can’t stand to go another year without it. Thank you, Plants Nouveau, for this introduction.

The National Gardening Bureau has declared 2014 the Year of the Echinacea. I can get behind that. You can go to their website for a very nice history of Echinacea and dozens of photographs. Definitely check them out.

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Kniphofia 'Mango Popsicle'

Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle’

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Every year I seem to become a bigger fan of Kniphofia, the red-hot pokers. Plant breeders have increased the bloom time on these considerably while also making them tougher. Many new cultivars will bloom June to October with the heaviest flower production in the first couple months. I am repeating Patty’s near-by selection, ‘Mango Popsicle’. This Terra Nova introduction is a blooming machine in a gorgeous shade of – what else? – mango. It almost glows. Love this plant. L-O-V-E!

Those were tiny plugs when they went in the ground last Spring. They came as 72s – that means 72 plants in a 9X18 tray. Kniphofias want good drainage and especially so in winter. Full sun gives you the best performance. Deadhead as individual stalks finish. That keeps the nice clumps of spiky foliage looking neater.

Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'

Phlox paniculata ‘Peppermint Twist’

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I’m a big fan of Phlox paniculata for their long period of bloom in summer, usually early July into early September at a minimum. It’s also one of the plants that has performed best in the tough environment of the Mall. I’ve had ‘Peppermint Twist’ at home for a couple years and love the color and the pattern of the blooms so I’m adding it this year.

Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'

Phlox paniculata ‘Peppermint Twist’

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I’ve not noticed any mildew as of yet. With phlox you can never be certain of absolute immunity from this foliar scourge but by selecting resistant plants you greatly reduce the amount that shows up on your plants. Rarely is any cultivar immune 100 percent of the time but just because one has it this year does not mean it will next year. ‘Peppermint Twist’ is around 3 feet tall and I would space small plants about a foot apart, larger ones 18 inches. I have had reversion on mine at home but love the solid color as well.

In the Northeast Border Garden, Gwyn is doing some rehab work and adding new plants. Including Helleborus x hybridus ‘Sunshine Ruffles’, a member of Chris Hansen’s Winter Thrillers™ series. ‘Sunshine Ruffles’ is a double yellow with some red picotee on each “petal.”

Helleborus x hybridus; L-R: Sunshine Ruffles, Red Racer, Grape Galaxy. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

Helleborus x hybridus; L-R: Sunshine Ruffles, Red Racer, Grape Galaxy. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

We won’t see blooms this year, but next year the show should begin. I really like the pictures of these so if they are that beautiful I may steal them from Gwyn and put them in one of my areas. We already have a couple cultivars from this series we planted last year. Look for ‘Red Racer’ and ‘Grape Galaxy’ in the Southwest Border Garden as they should bloom nicely this year.

Helleborus x ballardiae HGC® Pink Frost

Helleborus x ballardiae HGC® Pink Frost

Katie is adding to our Helleborus Gold Collection® with some more Helleborus x ballardiae ‘HGC® Pink Frost’ (my favorite).

The “HGC® Pink Frost’ and ‘HGC® Cinnamon Snow’ plants have the heaviest flower production of all the hellebores on the property. They also have some of the best foliage with some silver gray and burgundy on the early leaves. Future years will hopefully see more cultivars from this collection in the gardens. Remember, hellebores are deer proof AND shade loving. You can’t say both those things about hostas.

Scent First® Pot Coral Reef

Scent First® Pot Coral Reef

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The Cutting Garden has slowly lost perennials so I am adding some new plants. There is a ton of Dianthus hitting the market right now. I decided to try one of the new ones from Whetman Pinks in the UK and introduced to the US market by PlantHaven. The cultivar I chose is ‘WPO7OLDRICE’. You may better remember the cultivar name of Scent First® Pot Coral Reef and for our purposes here I will shorten it to Coral Reef.

As the full name implies, these were bred for scent. Coral Reef has 1 to  1.5-inch double coral flowers with a white piccotee edge on each petal and a spicy fragrance. Repeat bloom and glaucous blue-green foliage helped to get Coral Reef a spot in the garden. Heaviest bloom will be in spring and deadheading will help in insuring that reblooming habit. It was also bred for pot or container use so it is a very compact 9x 9-inch plant with flowering stems rising to about 12 inches. The resulting cut stems will be best used in small arrangements or tucked amongst larger cuts I suppose.

Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’)

Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’)

More foxgloves are being introduced that are true perennials. The foxglove one traditionally finds is the biennial Digitalis purpurea. For a long time it seemed all one could find in perennial foxgloves were strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis, a hybrid of D. grandiflora and D. purpurea) and the yellow flowered foxgloves (Digitalis lutea & D. grandiflora). Fine plants, but one desires something fresh for the garden. Jim is introducing Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’) to the Southwest Border Garden.

This 18 inch hybrid (D. grandiflora x D. obscura) is sterile so it sends all that energy normally reserved for seed production into flower production from early summer into fall. That is considerably longer than the bloom period on traditional foxgloves to say the least. It is another PlantHaven introduction.

We all want perennials with long bloom time so when cultivars are developed or found that extend the color show we are quick to add them to the garden. If that plant also earns a 4.5 star rating from the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Plant Evaluation Program then you definitely want it! Such is the case with Veronica spicata ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ which Chad is putting in the Garden for Everyone this year.

Deadheading will keep this purple-blue speedwell blooming from mid-June to mid-September. Now, they won’t have flowers every day as the new buds need time to develop. So don’t get yourself all worked up if there is a week or two with no flowers. ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ is only about a foot tall when in flower (dwarf!) with a spread just a little wider. Blue is an oft sought color in the garden so a perennial with its extended bloom is most welcome. The low stature of ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ sort of relegates it to the front of the border but that purple-blue color can go with almost every other flowering plant you may have near it be they red, orange, yellow, pink, red, or other shades of blue/purple. That sort of versatility is great to work with.

Royal Candles (‘Glory’)

Royal Candles (‘Glory’); Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

I could not secure a decent photo of ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf,’ but another Veronica spicata we are adding is Royal Candles (‘Glory’).

Royal Candles is larger at 18 inches tall. I suspect colors of the two are very similar since Royal Candles is called dark purple while ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ is purple blue. We planted some ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ last year at Westerley but I cannot for the life of me picture the bloom.

I almost forgot. Royal candles earned a very solid four-star rating in the CBG trials.

I’ve touched on but a few of the new plants going into the IMA Gardens in 2014, and only perennials at that. There will be new annuals, grasses, trees, and shrubs as well, comingling with our already tried and true selections.

Okay, I am way over the suggested 300 to 700 words. No wonder it takes so much time for me to write these things. Time to quit on this and get outside. It’s sunny and headed for the 50s today. Gotta get a little dirt on my hands.

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Greenhouse, Guest Bloggers, Horticulture, Oldfields

 

Baaaaaa

Hmmm. March 1. I don’t know you can call today “coming in like a lamb,” nor do I really see it as “coming in like a lion.” After all, 30s and some snow aren’t so freakish for March 1. But it is hardly sunny and 40s either. Maybe it doesn’t really matter what March comes in as. Maybe what really matters is that March comes. The weather may not sing “SPRING” but the calendar does a little trickery on the mind and I believe it is spring (despite three more weeks of official winter). There’s just something about March arriving that says you’ve made it. You survived another winter. You didn’t get put out on the ice floe. Wolves didn’t chew through the front door and drag you to their den for a January dinner date. Little things like that.

March is also the time of year when I am most likely to start losing plants that I am overwintering in my office. They’ve been here since late October, held on through November, December, January and February, but now are almost screaming “I can’t freaking take it anymore!” They work so hard to make it on limited light and my lackluster watering schedule. Eventually some of them simply say to hell with it. And that is okay. Actually they look better than usual this year. Don’t know I can say the same about the ones in my basement at home. I tend to throw the poor things down there and shut the door, only taking a cursory glance when I’m forced to go to the basement for something else. I’m a bad horticulturist. I should probably be spanked. But the majority of the plants usually make it and before you know it REAL spring is here and they and I almost break into song.

Despite my dislike of winter this year……. Okay. I know. At some point I dislike winter every year. But this year I knew early I would not like it, and despite fairly mild weather, it has felt bitter cold. Let’s start again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Horticulture

 

Changing of the Seasons

The start of fall always seems to creep up with early sunsets, cool nights, and the changing of the leaves. One of my recent photo assignments here at the IMA was to document the Fall Equinox: Hungry Ghost event.  I knew there would be great photo opportunities because of the beautiful weather and long evening shadows. This year’s activities included lantern making and music by members of Butler University’s Orchestra. The musicians played their instruments while in canoes and on the land surrounding the lake in 100 Acres.

As the sunlight faded, the music started and the lanterns were lit. The large crowd gathered on the south side of the lake to watch the lanterns be released. Some had messages written on them to honor a “ghost” such as, “We miss you Grandpa,” while others were decorated with colorful illustrations. I documented this animated GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)as the lanterns were being launched into the blue night.

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Photography, Public Programs

 

Creating an Outdoor Performance

Today’s guest blogger is New York-based artist and choreographer Rebecca Davis, who created a performance this summer in 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.

Creating a one-hour work of art in a large outdoor setting for an unknown-sized audience was quite a challenge.  What could I create that wouldn’t be swallowed up by the scale of the setting?  How could I keep an audience interested for that length of time without the focus that comes with presenting a work in a theater?

Several months and ideas later, I decided to create a sculpture and drawing in performance that would leave a tactile and visual record of its own making.

To create the sculpture, we used the audience and the surrounding trees as our loom. We wended our way over, under, and around them as our white hand-knit dresses unraveled into an increasingly large and complex web.

I used chalk, typically used to mark large fields like the meadow for sporting events, to create the drawing.  The idea was to create constellations whose shape would be determined by connecting audience members to one another. Most of the audience took cover in the shade rather than on the perimeter as I had hoped, making the constellation drawings difficult to render.  The parched grass also made the chalk lines nearly invisible.

This performance was a reminder of the medium’s vulnerability. Certain variables can only be worked out in performance, which is both thrilling and terrifying. The unknown is multiplied when the work calls for audience participation. One never knows if people will participate and how. I would like to thank all of the viewers who stood in the blazing sun for an hour to participate, and to Lisa Freiman and everyone at the IMA for this wonderful challenge.

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Contemporary

 

Indigenous Hexes

Now that the season is drawing to a close, we can take a look back and see where The Artist has been spending his time this summer thanks to the Arduino geekery that Kris wrote about earlier. I’m going to fill you in on what happens to the data that he collected to create the visual representation that you see on the map.

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Technology

 

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