May 15, 2013
Lettuce, lettuce, and more lettuce! Have you ever wondered how many different kinds of lettuce there are? Did you know there are varieties of lettuces in colors ranging from lime green to deep maroon to green with red spots? From an Austrian variety of romaine lettuce called 'Forellenschluss' (speckled trout back), to a lovely deep-red loose leaf lettuce called 'Mascara', we've planted a rainbow of lettuce in Olbrich's Herb Garden. Also, make sure to check out our kaleidoscope planter (located near the Donor's Arbor) that has been planted with more colorful combinations of lettuce seedlings!
Lettuce is an incredibly versatile vegetable and can be grown in either containers or garden beds. Lettuce prefers the cool temperatures of spring and fall but with consistent watering and shade from the mid-day sun, lettuce can be grown throughout the summer.
In spring, lettuce seeds can be sown directly into garden beds about two weeks before the last average frost date. For our area, the last average frost date is usually around Mother's Day. If you would like lettuce throughout the summer, keep sowing seeds at two week intervals. Both rabbits and deer are big fans of lettuce (along with many other veggies, perennials, shrubs, trees, etc...) so you may want to set-up a fence to protect your crop - or your entire garden!
Spring is Blooming!
May 8, 2013
After a long, long...long winter and a cold, rainy spring, now it seems as if everything is blooming at once! Some of the earliest flowers are still knock-outs, like the yellow daffodils in bright bursts and the magnolia shrubs that create enormous fluffs of pink and white throughout the landscape. Newly blooming tulips seem to be glowing from within under the spring sun.
The Meadow Garden has moved on to its second round of blooms - the bright green fescue grasses are studded with the jewel tones of species tulips, grape hyacinth, and gorgeous purple fritillaries.
Little rolling hills are covered with clear yellow celandine poppies in the Wildflower Garden. They contrast beautifully with the periwinkle bluebells. And, the delicate redbud trees are just starting to add their deep pink overhead.
Best of all, the cherry blossoms are here! Just like a video version of Washington D.C. or Japan - cherry blossom petals really are floating through the air like pink snow! Enjoy the sargent cherry (Prunus 'Sargentii') between the Rose and Perennial Gardens and the Accolade cherry (Prunus 'Accolade') on the way to the Thai Pavilion. Both are hardy here and won't bloom for long.
For the latest photos and information on what’s in bloom, make sure to "like" Olbrich's Facebook page - and post your own photos there, too! We'd love to see them!
Changes in the Conservatory
May 2 , 2013
What happened in the Bolz Conservatory?
The annual conservatory maintenance and pruning was completed by staff and volunteers in early April, resulting in the Conservatory being closed to the public for 10 days. Much of this time was spent pruning and shaping of the plants - a necessity for their long term health. Pruning of the tallest trees also allows sunlight that would otherwise be shaded out by the lush upper level foiage to reach the the lower level plants. When this process occurs naturally it is known as a "light gap." The current self-guided educational exhibit throughout the Conservatory, describes the light gaps that staff created by pruning, and how the Conservatory will continue to change as the foliage fills back in. During this annual maintenance time, staff checks on the mechanical elements in the Conservatory as well. This year, outdated overhead light fixtures were replaced with more energy efficient LED fixtures.
Come visit the Bolz Conservatory soon and view the newly pruned space, for in a few months the tropical foliage will have grown back again.
April 4, 2013
FINALLY! Spring is on its way and the snowdrops are starting to bloom in Olbrich's meadow! Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are the earliest bulbs to bloom in our area, often coming up right through the snow. Snowdrops are a perennial bulb with nodding, white flowers and spear-shaped leaves. The common name, snowdrops, refers to the flowers' resemblance to little drops of snow.
Despite their dainty appearance, these little bulbs are incredibly hardy and very versatile. They will grow almost anywhere, though they prefer to grow in well-drained soil under deciduous trees and shrubs where they receive full sun exposure in late winter to early spring, changing to shadeas the trees and shrubs leaf-out later in spring. In optimum conditions like this, snowdrops will slowly naturalize by both bulb offsets and self-seeding. Once the flowers fade, make sure not to cut back the foliage until it yellows. Large colonies of snowdrops can be divided after the flowers begin to fade and while the leaves are still green.
A few scattered patches of snowdrops are a lovely addition to any garden space, and a welcome reminder winter really is giving way to spring. So take a stroll through the meadow at Olbrich and enjoy the beauty of snowdrops - you might even see a few early crocus too!
A Trailing Orchid
March 21, 2013
When you step inside the Conservatory, you may be awed by the height and depth of the lush green tropical "forest" straight ahead. But don't miss the hanging orchids displayed just inside the entrance! One of these spectacular orchids sports impressive four-foot-long trailing chains of delicate golden flowers. Each "chain" holds dozens of tiny flowers, some in full bloom, and some still in bud.
This orchid, Gongora (scaphephorus x tricolor), is a cultivated variety produced by crossing two different species, scaphephorus and tricolor.
Make sure to look closely at each flower. The maroon design on the gold and intricately shaped petals are beautiful to us humans, but are really meant to attract insect pollinators.
While orchids should generally be re-potted every year or two, this one has been growing in the same pot for nine years to create this large specimen plant. Imagine thatgorgeous string of flowers streaming down from its perch high up in a tropical tree!
Don't miss the rare chance to see this orchid since it's only there for a brief time while in bloom. And, make sure to check out this orchid's last surprise - get close to one of the small flowers and breathe in its amazing orchid fragrance!
March 13, 2013
Yes, it really is a starfruit!
The Bolz Conservatory has several tropical fruit trees including the one known as the Starfruit or Carambola. The fruit is called "Starfruit" because when sliced cross-ways, it resembles a five-pointed star. Locate the Starfruit tree (Averrhoa carambola 'Arkin') across the walkway from the birdfeeder. Search through the pink blossoms and light green foliage to find the oblong shaped, yellow fruit hanging from the branches. The botanical term for the growth pattern where the fruit and blossoms form directly on mature branches is called cauliflory. This characteristic is also found in other trees including the common backyard redbud tree and also in the Jaboticaba tree in the conservatory.
Haven't found the tree yet? You may want to look for the flock of canaries, they love the Starfruit tree and will commonly be seen hopping around in the branches. The canaries seem to find the leaves tasty. Busily the canary pulls off a leaf, chews the edges and then drops it onto the pathway below. The tree is not harmed by this relatively small amount of activity and the canaries have what appears, to us humans, to be a great time.
When you visit, also look for other tropical fruit trees in the Conservatory, including the calamondin orange, kumquat, guava and breadfruit. Their fruits appear at different times of the year, or for some, all year round so you will be able to see tropical fruit on any visit to the Bolz Conservatory.
March 4, 2013
As you rush toward the warmth of the Bolz Conservatory, stop first to look closely at the case of miniature orchids right outside the entrance. Big, bold orchids - like the ones inside the Conservatory - always attract attention. But, if you take time to marvel at each of the tiny orchids inside the case, you may be amazed at how small and intricate orchids can be.
The Miniature Orchid Exhibit Case displays about a dozen plants with blooms in all colors and shapes. Some blooms are held atop tall stalks, others dangle in clusters off pendulous stems, and some even have blooms as tiny as a pin head!
These mini-orchids, which normally live in a wet tropical environment, require extra care; they need daily misting and deadheading (taking off spent blooms). Luckily, the case provides a perfect little ecosystem for these special plants.
Make sure to check the case every time you visit - it's a rotating exhibit, with new orchids added as they come into bloom. These tiny orchids might be overlooked in the vastness of the Conservatory's tropics, but they certainly offer a "wow" factor inside this captivating case!