Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An invitation for observations

I know some of you out there have great experiences in the Garden.

Why not share them? Please let me know if you'd like to be added to our posting list (if you're not on it already).

Who knows, you might find that you enjoy it!


Hydrangea Garden

The Hydrangea Garden, to the left of the service road heading up to the Support Area, has been fabulous all summer. The work of Garden Manager James Arnold, it's the epitome of a wonderful staff-driven project.

James is keen on hydrangeas, and has created this garden as a specialty collection, but it's open to all of our Garden visitors to enjoy. He's actually put in this garden single-handedly, without student crew assistance, much outside funding, or help from other horticultural staff members.

Most recently, he's created a lovely entrance into the Hydrangea Garden from Highway 76.

Our neighbor and friend, retired Microbiology Professor Fred Stutzenberger, is enjoying walking through the Garden on his daily walk back and forth from his office in Long Hall. It's certainly much nicer than crossing at the light and going along Perimeter Road.

The hydrangeas are still flowering, so if you're able, drop by and visit. He's just about got all of the individual plants labelled, and an introductory sign is in. I'll be working with James to do several more small interpretive signs this fall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Visiting other botanical gardens

It's always rewarding to visit other botanical gardens.

I'm heading off tomorrow for a conference (Garden Writers Association) in Raleigh, NC. I'm keen as I haven't been to the 'Research Triangle' in NC for some years (at least 11 or 12) to visit the botanical richness there.

Home to three major universities, the 'Triangle' has the NC Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill (focused on native plants), a favorite of mine, the JC Raulston Arboretum (at NC State University, focused on interesting plants from around the world), and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens (at Duke University), which includes a variety of lovely gardens, including a wonderful native plant area. We'll be visiting all of these during the conference. In addition, there are wonderful private gardens (Montrose) and great nurseries (Plant Delights and Niche Gardens) included, and interesting gardening vendors in the exhibits.

I had a thoroughly enriching time last year in Portland at my first GWA conference. I think that garden writers (really garden communicators) are essentially gardening educators (like I am) and are keen gardeners, too (ditto).

So it's well worth self-sponsoring attendance (since SCBG currently doesn't have the budget resources to underwrite professional development experiences).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finally a bit of rain

It's been a long dry 'end of summer' period. Most plants are suffering again without additional water, including many established plants. If you planted perennials, shrubs, and trees in the (then rainy) spring, do keep them watered deeply once a week through dry spells like this.

But thanks to irrigation, spring plantings on the walk to the front of the Hayden Conference Center from the Hanover House parking lot are looking fabulous. SCBG horticulturist Kathy Bridges has added an excellent array of long-flowering perennials that look wonderful now - please come take a look!

Late yesterday afternoon, when it started to rain, I was working in my office and activity out the window caught my eye.

Mockingbirds, a group of at least five, were perched in the Gordonia outside enjoying the rain. They were flapping their wings, fluffing their feathers, and definitely looked happy to finally have a bit of a bath.

What fun!

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Corn Moon Night Walk

I had almost 40 people for a full moon hike this evening. A big group, to be sure, largely family groups, but also couples and singles. There were also many more young children than usual, perhaps because of Labor Day weekend.

One of the things I love about summer and early fall evenings are the sounds -- ground crickets, tree crickets, katydids, owls, tree frogs, etc. And, with digital technology, it's increasingly easy to learn more and share the sounds (and sights) of nature day and night.

I used my iPod nano for the first time, attached to a small portable speaker, to play (the quite different) calls of crickets, katydids, and cicadas, with the backdrop of the real-time nocturnal symphony. It had helped me distinguish between their sounds and songs, so I thought it would be helpful for a group program (as long as the tech part wasn't too distracting).

It worked well, and hopefully encouraged participants to listen more closely on more peaceful night-time excursions. I've been using a simple Birdsong Identiflyer for birds and frogs in the field, which is great. Low tech and effective.

Check out songsofinsects.com for some excellent recordings (and information about more extensive collections. I have all of Lang Elliot's CD and accompanying guides (with Wil Hershberger for insects). They're great, especially with the portability provided by mp3 players.

Check out this great singing insect jukebox from their website.

(double-posted on this blog and Natural Gardening)