Monday, July 16, 2012

Garden Walks: Ripon Twilight Garden Walk

This post-apocalypsical "Terminator" on a stick a la Jeff Dunham sculpture was featured in the first garden I visited. Perhaps it was setting the tone for what I saw.

This walk is typically held 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, so it took me by surprise when I saw its hours posted as 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM. I think the United One Fund has always had a presence, but this year it seemed they had upped their involvement and even included a lot of information on their website.

I saw things on this garden walk I have never seen on a garden walk before, and seldom anywhere, in fact. This walk traditionally has lots of wine and cheese, softly played live chamber or folk music, blowsy pots of annuals, and of course, Rippin' Good Cookies.

That was not what was happening this year. First four of the gardens were far from the highbrow historic and campus area, two actually being in Fairwater rather than Ripon. None of the houses were built earlier than the 1970s. I doubt there was a Master Gardener in the lot. It was fairly obvious that none of the homes were landscaped by designers, or contractors of any kind.

Buffalo are not unusual in my part of Wisconsin. I know of four or five buffalo ranches within driving distance, but I haven't ever seen buffalo on a garden walk.

I have never seen hardy kiwi either, but this is what these are. The gardener said they don't have the furry outer skin, so washed and sliced in half and popped right in your mouth, they're great. I don't know what the late freeze, heat and drought is doing to kiwi, but pickings looked slim.

The gardeners here were full of surprises. Their garden was over the top.

They had a blue maize that grows to gigantic proportions. They had their melons growing on black plastic sheeting, and even a portable chicken coop for the free-range eggs. (And these chickens looked safe and happy.) I also walked by a single turkey in his own pen that challenged me as I went by. I talked back to him mentioning he is the only one of his kind...count the days, baby!

In addition to buffalo, turkey, and free range chicken, these gardeners were also cultivating Shitake and oyster mushrooms. This is a project I have been tempted to try. I even have the inoculated plugs with spores of the hen of the woods in my fridge as I type. What I don't have is the right length fir logs. With as much spruce tip fungal blight in this area, the last thing I want is to bring it into my yard and infect the two balsam and the one Fraser fir holding down the corner of my lot's sight line to the "Neighbor from Hell." (I didn't name him, one of my other neighbors did!)

These gardeners have the perfect spot for the mushrooms they have chosen to grow. Where they have a large property and a whole hedge row of established white pine, I have a solitary black Austrian pine. Unless I want to go all hermit-y and put logs in my front yard to grow mushrooms I can eat just in case of the Zombie Apocalypse, versus the hosta and daylilies that are very attractive.

These gardeners knew what they were doing and had some attractive flowers around the house but this approach hit me as almost an Old World style vineyard.

The gardener across the road had a method that seemed to work for him, but his garden was a tad frightening.

When I asked about what pruning style they used on the grapes, the response was, "Pruning?"

Excuse the out of focus picture, but this creature ran out of the garden foliage and crossed the path in front of me.

I think it was a muskrat, not sure. The tail looked rat-like. It has a six inch piece of cattail in its mouth.

This is reputedly the last American elm in Ripon. It has succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. It was in the yard of one of the houses on the garden walk.

Not sure where to put this last picture, garden art? Or just the wash?

The drought and the heat continue. The heat index right now at 5 PM is 102 degrees. Gardens on the Ripon walk all had brown crunchy grass. I worry about pollination in our gardens and farmlands. This morning checking my squash, I found dropped blossom, no developing squash. This is the variety that buried me last year with yellow crookneck squash. Waushara county was just added to the DNR's list of counties under high danger of fire, something the County Director of Emergency Services said would never happen as we have most of the state DNR's fire response equipment in-county.

So much for that...

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