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Garden Photo of the Day

A Wisconsin Jungle

This area is adjacent to the main entrance of the Community Center. Every year we transform it into "The Jungle." The composition changes slightly from year to year depending on what we have planned for other areas. For instance, this year our four tropical smoke bushes were not needed elsewhere so I massed them in the center back of the main bed. The jungle continues to the right. Besides the smokebushes, visible are Red Abyssinian banana, Banana Gran Nain, King Tut papyrus, Borneo Giant elephant ear, Black Coral elephant ear and Albert the alligator. Albert will be leaving soon for the Okefenokee Swamp.

Thanks to Chris Neumann, Lead Horticulturist for sharing the gardens at Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge in Madison, Wisconsin!

"I don't want to say good-bye to summer but I forced to admit it is fall. Here are more photos of some of the gardens at Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge, the non-profit continuing care retirement community for which I work. Our tropical plants are finding this warmer than average September just fine and act as if summer will never end. Elsewhere on campus, the asters, mums and goldenrods are saying cold weather is on its way."

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Closer look at Red Abyssinian banana, Banana Gran Nain with Red Star cordyline, King Tut papyrus and Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Light Green sweet potato.

My assistant, Linda, watering in the Jungle. Red Star and Red Sensation cordylines, Australian Sword fern and elephant ears – Borneo Giant, Mojito, Black Magic.

We plant these beds with annuals every year but, unlike the Jungle, it can change radically from year to year. This year we went with a succulent theme, using agaves, echevarias, paddle plants, cacti and others.

Agaves A. attenuata and 'Spot', Golden Barrel cactus, Setcreasea 'Purple Queen', Echevaria, zinnias and marigolds.

Agave 'Kissho Kan', unknown Agave, echevarias, Caribbean Tree cactus, Persian Queen geranium, marigolds and "dead" sedges.

By the entrance to the Health and Rehab Center. Coffee Cups elephant ear, Gay's Delight coleus and Senator Rose wax begonia.

Fall is here in the Rock Wall Garden – Alma Potschke aster and Fireworks goldenrod.

October Skies aster and Deam's black-eyed Susan bloom in the Garden of Twenty-One Stones across from the entrance to Pioneer Prairie independent living.

One of our restored prairies, this one east of the Settler's Ridge independent living apartments. Big Bluestem (grass); Showy, Stiff and Canada goldenrods; New England, Smooth, Frost and Heath asters; Sweet black-eyed Susan.

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  1. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 10/06/2015

    Good lord, Chris, but you do a super fabulous job with the landscaping at Oakwood Village. Those elephant ears are almost beyond belief...esp. when one takes into account that this is in Wisconsin. Do you start them back up early in the season in a greenhouse so they have a headstart before they get put in the ground? I know you are probably in the middle of putting out pumpkins, gourds, hay bales and scarecrows to create festive fall magic but you obviously take good care of winterizing these tropical beauties. Awesome job all the way around.

    1. Chris N 10/06/2015

      No real greenhouse. We start all the elephant ears in pots although we were behind this year, so none of them were potted up until June 9! Some in the photo are in the ground and some are still in pots. Big pots. I try to arrange the plants so the pots get hidden.

  2. DarliBarli 10/06/2015

    It was a joy to see Chris' gardens, and I particularly liked that he was so specific in naming the plants. I AM curious about how he winters the more tender species, for example, the bananas, and hope he can let us know. I am at the beginning of creating a home garden on a big property here in Bowling Green, Kentucky where the overall climate zone is 6b with micro-climate pockets everywhere, and know it is warmer than where you are in winter. Good job with the photos as well! Thanks, Michele!

    1. Chris N 10/06/2015

      I'm glad you like them. We do our best to keep things interesting (in a good way) for the people who live here. The bananas and tropical smoke bush go dormant and overwinter in our utility building where it stays about 55 degrees all winter. I don't water them all winter. The elephant ears are stored as bulbs or stems (depending on the type) in peat moss. Some of the other plants, such as the cordylines, don't go dormant, so they are stored in the same building under lights and kept watered lightly.

      1. DarliBarli 10/06/2015

        Thanks so much for your very quick reply! Very good info!
        I planted some elephant ears here about 3 years ago when I was visiting - and am delighted they lived on without me - and you should see them now that they're getting some TLC! I have bulbs and seeds rolling in every day and am just abaout hysterical with plant lust!
        Warm regards, Darlene White

  3. User avater
    HelloFromMD 10/06/2015

    Wow, these gardens are the work of masterful gardeners. How wonderful for all who live there. So cool that you have a garden that you can change up yearly, that makes it so exciting to garden. Fantastic gardens. Very beautiful. I have Baby Tut and have King Tut on my 'Must Have' list. Now I am adding 'Black Coral' to my list. The shining leaves keep the black from receding from view. Really great plant. Spectacular jungle.

  4. hontell 10/06/2015

    Wow, Chris, glad to see other tropical fanatics in the northern reaches of the country. Everything grew in so beautifully. I am truly jealous. Keep up the good work. H

    1. Chris N 10/07/2015

      Thanks. Bananas and elephant ears are so easy to overwinter and make such an architectural and exotic comment in the garden that I can't imagine not using them anymore.

  5. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/06/2015

    Chris! So excited that your are sharing photos again. I LOVE what you do. I thought it couldn't get better than the photos of the jungle until I hit the desert. Wow. Those are beautiful specimens. When do I need to be there to pick them up and take them home! :) Super gorgeous; great arrangements; killer plants. You are in the right job!

    1. Chris N 10/06/2015

      You should have been here today to help dig them up. I have tons of the Agave (Manfreda) Spot. Although, I suspect you had your eye on some of the other agaves.
      By the way, I do have the best job in the world. I get to interact with people who have gardened all their lives, have the best co-workers, my imagination and skills get a thorough work out, and they pay me to play in the dirt. What more can you ask for?

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/06/2015

        Really, it doesn't get any better than that. You really are talented, too. Wish Wisconsin were a bit closer to Ohio. I'd definitely have been there to help uninstall, especially if souvenirs were involved! Thankfully I have some of the agaves already, as well as Manfreda Spot, so I'm not too sick with jealousy. Keep up the good work!

        1. Chris N 10/07/2015

          You and Jeff inspired me to look seriously at showcasing the three small agaves and other succulents we had in a garden setting. Then, my wife and I visited the Ruth Bancroft Garden in California, and I decided we needed BIGGER agaves. Unfortunately, couldn't find 6' tall ones but the ones I found weren't bad. Of course, then we didn't have enough other succulents so we got more echevarias, cacti and paddle plants to make it work. It turned out to be a show stopper. People told me they took the long way around just so they could walk by this garden. I try never to do the same thing twice with this area but I think we'll do another succulent garden next year. I'll have to come up with a new twist, though. Maybe I can get a gila monster to visit from Arizona.

          Photo of a little flowering agave at Ruth Bancroft Garden.

          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/07/2015

            I'm so glad you were inspired because you really brought your art to that garden. That is an amazing shot of the 'little' Agave. Ruth Bancroft is definitely on my list, as is Huntington Botanical Gardens. We didn't have to to get out the Ruth Bancroft when my wife and I were in SF last year, but a lot of the big agaves in Golden Gate park were sending up giant asparagus-like shoots, signaling their soon to come departure. I was amazed.
            Cherry shared some links with me about the San Franciso Airport gardens. I think you'll be inspired!


          2. Chris N 10/08/2015

            A couple of years ago, my son's fiance (and now wife) stole him away to California. They are in the northern Bay area so we have been through the SF airport a few times now. We did not know about these gardens but will find them next time we go. I have a cousin in Anaheim so we'll add Huntington to the list for next time we visit. thanks for the tips!

          3. Chris N 10/08/2015

            Just looked at the links. Fantastic! Please thank Cherry for these.

    2. Chefin1950 10/07/2015

      I know Michele would have provided us with a link to your GPOD from last year, does anyone have it?

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/07/2015

        Good morning, Marsha. If you go to the top of this page, there is a 'search' box next to the Fine Gardening logo. If you type in 'Neumann' and search, it will bring up a page with every GPOD that features Chris's amazing work.

        1. Chefin1950 10/07/2015

          Thanks Tim, that did the trick. I also wanted to let the current editors know that we miss all the little personal touches of Michele's.

          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/07/2015

            I know! I also know that everyone is 'dancing as fast as they can'! I guess it's like the rest of the world: overworked and underpaid! :)

        2. Chris N 10/08/2015

          Thanks for the trick, Tim. Thanks for asking, Marsha. I've used a circuitous route to find older posts.

  6. User avater
    gringopeligroso 10/06/2015

    Chris!! And I thought LAST year's display was fantastic....and it most certainly WAS!!!! This year, you and Linda seem to be giving the Milwaukee Domes and Olbrich Gardens a run for their money!! Good for y'all!!!
    I'll echo the question from Ms White about the procedures utilized to overwinter the Musas and the Ensetes in particular. I have a couple in containers, but they're outgrowing their confinement and look NOTHING like y'all's specimen. I've a feelin' y'all don't grow yours in pots, or am I wrong? Also, the Cordyiines are spectacular!! I've a couple of them, also, but the grasshoppers here shredded them un-mercifully...sigh.....

    1. Chris N 10/06/2015

      All of the bananas, both Musas and Ensetes, are in pots. We have 20 and 24 inch square pots and 20, 24 and 30 inch round. I've found that even in big pots they tend to get stunted unless we dig them up completely and give them new potting mix every couple of years.
      The Milwaukee Domes and Olbrich Botanical Gardens here in Madison are both great. Olbrich is the better of the two for inspiration. I steal some of my best ideas from Olbrich. Another great garden is Rotary Botanic in Janesville, WI. They had a tropical planting this year that put ours to shame. The Abyssinian Reds, planted in the ground, were literally 12 feet tall. How do I know? The display had a storybook theme which included giant yellow rulers. Very impressive.

  7. lesliefarrelldelongpre 10/06/2015

    Wow! I was blown away by your pictures of the jungle,...
    and really every picture after that. I have never seen such a conglomeration of beautiful jungle plants, in one area. My next favorite was the asters and goldenrod, very complementary. Thank you for posting. This is a keeper!

  8. OregonGardenGal 10/06/2015

    Wonderful! If I ever get too old to keep up a garden, I want to live there!

    1. Chris N 10/06/2015

      You're never to old to garden. One of my favorite memories is of a 105 year old resident potting up cuttings. Part of my job is to make sure everyone who lives here gets a chance to get their hands in the dirt. If you can get down on the ground we have community garden plots. If that's not possible, we have elevated table planters. The marigolds in the succulent garden were all started from seed by residents in assisted living. So if you enjoy growing green things and need to get your hands dirty, we'll find a way so you can do it.

  9. PeonyFan 10/06/2015

    Wow! I've never seen a retirement center with such fabulous plantings! Makes me want to live there. Thanks for sharing.

  10. GrannyMay 10/06/2015

    What a gloriously varied and interesting series of gardens to enjoy! Chris, you have created a masterpiece!

  11. Schatzi 10/06/2015

    WOW! Gorgeous pictures, Chris. The aster and goldenrod are spectacular. You do a fabulous job - thank you for sharing it with us.

  12. CJgardens 10/07/2015

    Chris, Thanks for sharing again. I live and garden in central Wisconsin and I shared your gardens with my gardening friends and we put them on our list places to visit. I assume you have people just stroll through your gardens or do we have to be invited by a resident? Anyway your designs are so wonderful. I appreciate how you work to involve the residents at whatever level they can participate. Also thanks for sharing how you overwinter your tropicals without having a greenhouse. I just might try them in the future.

    1. Chris N 10/08/2015

      The grounds are open to visitors as long as you don't show up with a shovel and start removing plants (had to make sure Tim V knew that in case he is ever in the neighborhood.) If you show up with a pair of gloves and start pulling weeds, we'll make you an honorary member of the horticulture staff. Seriously, come visit anytime. If you call me before hand, I might be able to give you a tour (and provide you with weeding gloves if you've forgotten yours.)

  13. hudit 10/08/2015

    Beautiful gardens. Do you have the smoke trees in containers? Have you dug them out of the ground and relocated them? I have a smoke tree I'd like to move but don't know how it will do. thanks!

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