The cold weather continued this morning with a windchill around -9 degrees F. We had some fluffy snow last night and shoveled off a 1-2″ layer of the light stuff from around the Parker Education Center this morning. Big John and Larry jumped right in to processing lights from the Holiday Light Show (HLS) for storage. With a significant increase in milk jug luminaries, lights and cords this year, an “orchestrated” storage will be in order as we’ll have a lot to pack away efficiently. Alan M. came in to help the guys and was also checking over some recent donations of lights. We are no longer accepting donated lights due to a volume that we can’t keep up with efficiently and the quality of most donations isn’t consistent with what we would spend time on for repair and re-use. Janice came in to work on some volunteer-based tasks. We also saw Maury, Gary S., Dave, Cindy B. and Bill O. today. I split my time between preparations for educational events this year, catalogs and additional preparations for the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo (February 12, 13 and 14). We’ll again have a booth and I have quite a few presentations to prepare. See www.wigardenexpo.com/ for more information on this fun event that includes displays, vendors and lots of educational opportunities. This event has over 20,000 attendees and is great exposure for RBG.
I’m a huge fan of sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) which is featured in the blog today. I grew up with my mom always having a huge patch of this fragrant annual along the side of the house. I remember the patch, looking a lot like the variety ‘Snow Princess’ seen above, blooming all the way through the summer and even through some frost. My mom would then pull up the plants in mid November (with my help) and shake off the seeds in to the same bed, thereby perpetuating what would become an excellent patch each year. Native to sandy beaches and dunes in the Mediterranean region (and some other specific locations), this heat and drought tolerant annual is also called “carpet flower” for obvious reasons. Reaching a height of only 4-6″, this plant does spread and cover a good-sized area with an individual plant spreading 12-14″. Tolerant of full sun and part shade, this easy-to-grow annual can be directly sown as seed after the last frost date in spring. Also excellent for the container and basket, sweet alyssum is a blooming powerhouse and will continue to show color and interest well after most annuals have been removed due to repeated frost. While flowers will continue to appear, consider a mid-summer shearing and remove the top 1/3 of the plant followed by some fertilizer. What’s exciting to see are all the newer varieties that thoroughly explore the color range of pink, lavender, cream and even hints of yellow. Fragrance, incidentally, is mild and most notable at dusk and in the evening. Note further below the variegated form ‘Frosty Knight’ as well. Some of these selections are vegetatively produced (purchased as plants) although there are still a wide range varieties that will grow well with spring sowing. At the bottom are some photos of how this durable annual can be utilized in the garden.
Lobularia ‘Bicolor Pink Stream’ (above and below)
Lobularia ‘Lavender Stream’ (above and below)
Lobularia ‘Raspberry Stream’
Lobularia ‘Silver Stream’
Lobularia ‘Sweetness Yellow’
Lobularia ‘Yolo French Vanilla’ (above and below)
Lobularia ‘Giga White’
Lobularia ‘Snow Princess’ (above and below)
Lobularia ‘Frosty Knight’ (above and three below)
nice use as a gap filler above
great for the container (above) or basket
sweet alyssum is an excellent path edger as seen above and below
sweet alyssum will also take repeated frost (photo above from November!) and are visited by many pollinators (see below)
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.