We had another cold and typical winter day although the sun was shining and we were able to continue progress on taking down the Holiday Light Show (HLS) out in the gardens. We describe the take down of this event as “surgical” as it has to follow a logical progression so we can process, pack away and store lights and other elements in a logical fashion. Big John and Larry were here to continue the process out in the gardens and Peg was in to help process the “dangling icicle lights” that were retrieved yesterday and brought in to thaw out. Kay came in all bundled up and headed out to help the guys collect lights later this morning. Maury was here to run some errands as well. Chuck S. popped by to make a recycling run which included some of our “retired” lights strands (sans bulbs which we save). I continue to peruse catalogs which is one of my favorite tasks. However, an ever increasing number of seed/plant catalogs arrives each winter and it seems I have less available time to peruse, making this a very focused task!
It is important to note that all the photos in this blog are courtesy of the Chicagoland Grows Plant Introduction Program and specifically Dr. Jim Ault of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
I’ve always been a fan of the perennial false indigo (Baptisia australis) and the various species of Baptisia that grow natively in North America. Seeing the results of all the hybridizing over the last 10-15 years has been exciting with many excellent varieties coming to market. I’ve been smitten by Dr. Jim Ault’s (Chicago Botanic Garden) introductions in the past with the four selections in the Prairieblues Series. These include ‘Midnight’, ‘Solar Flare’, ‘Starlite’ and ‘Twilite’. All are excellent and I wont pretend to understand all the breeding that resulted in these excellent selections or those I’m featuring today in the blog. There are also some wonderful varieties coming out of Walters Gardens (Zeeland, MI) from the work of Hans Hansen. The Decadence Series (Walters Gardens) is quite exceptional as well with some fun color ranges. However, I’m very excited to see eight more varieties of Baptisia coming out of the Chicagoland Grows program (http://www.chicagolandgrows.org/perennials/false_indigos.php) this year. I’ll be promoting these in some of my talks and these photos will certainly show why these spring bloomers deserve real estate in the full sun garden. The variety directly above and directly below is ‘Blue Mound’ which has a nicely dense and rounded form with classic blue/purple blooms. Individual details (height, form, bloom time, etc.) on other varieties can be found on the website listed previously. I haven’t met a Baptisia that I didn’t like and now I know that I’ll have eight more friends to play with shortly!
Mark Dwyer, Director of Horticulture, Rotary Botanical Gardens
I am the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Gardens (Janesville, WI). Along with a talented grounds staff and dedicated volunteers, I enjoy being involved with this wonderful botanical resource. My educational background is in landscape architecture and urban forestry but it didn't take long to become a plant enthusiast and find a lifelong career.