A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fall Foliage Festival

Yesterday was the final large event put on by Rutgers Gardens for the year. It was their annual Fall Foliage Festival. It's a great way to wind up the season. There are still flowers in the Display Gardens, the trees are just beginning to turn color and the air is crisp and cool. Perhaps a little too cool for my liking although we were very fortunate to escape the snow that has blanketed the midwest. Instead, we've been getting light frosts in scattered areas throughout the state. The daytime temps hover in the 50's (10's C), not bad if you are outside for short periods or moving around but chilly if you are standing at a display, especially if you are in the shade.

Last year, I helped with the set-up but didn't work the actual event because I had made other plans for the day. This year, I worked both days. I must be getting old. I'm exhausted and everything hurts.

Friday, I put on lots of layers and headed over to help set up for Saturday. It was definitely cold, but I was doing hard physical labor unloading plants from trucks and trailers and moving them around the field where they were to be displayed. I don't mean cute little pots of pansies and mums, although there a few of those. No, I was manhandling trees and shrubs. You know, like the ones they move around on carts at the garden centers? We carried them. After several hours of that, I was glad when the Head Hatter showed up and asked for help making potpourri.

That was something else I had done last hear. The potpourri is made from flowers that are grown in the Display Gardens and then dried in a shed. Maybe I should submit a photo of the shed to Melissa's Garden Shed Hall of Fame. Here's a picture of it that I took in June when I was taking photos to use in the newsletter I created for the Open House in July.

I used a photo taken from a different angle for the newsletter. I should also get some pictures of the interior with all of the flowers hung from the ceiling to dry. We wanted to make the potpourri outside since it puts a lot of dust and pollen in the air but it was too cold and windy so we worked inside with the side door open. Once we had filled our box, I called it quits for the day. I needed to get home to update Garden Voices and then I had plans to go out for the evening.

The following morning I was up with the sun. While the blueberry muffins were baking in the oven, I packed up my crockpot, ladle and potato soup that I had made ahead of time and then donned lots of layers again. The Log Cabin, a historic structure at Rutgers Gardens was reserved for use by the volunteers. It has a kitchen where we set up a buffet of goodies and coffee and tea to help keep warm and, best of all, real bathrooms.

Since I had never worked the event before and had no preference as to where I wanted to work, the original plan was to use me as a floater, filling in for people who needed to take breaks and giving me an opportunity to get to know the various jobs. It was frigid when I arrived. My first post was at the Unpaid Holding Area where people could leave their plants (trees/shrubs) so they didn't have to carry them around as they shopped. When they were finished shopping, we wrote up their order for the cashiers, they paid and upon presentation of a receipt marked "Paid" we moved their plants to the Paid Holding Area while they walked back to the parking area to get their cars and bring them along the fenceline to pick up their purchases.

The only reason I am telling you all this is despite the fact that I was tired and sore from lifting and carrying plants for hours the day before, the holding areas were the only areas in full sun all day. I planted myself there and lifted and carried plants for hours again rather than circulating around the other displays which were set up in the shade and so cold that the people working them wore hats and gloves to keep warm. Selfish of me, I know, but warmth beats out sore muscles any day!

Like the Open House, there was lots to see and do. There was a winery that offered winetasting (I'm told the pomegranate wine was delicious), a farmer's market with fresh produce, a beekeeper selling honey and giving demonstrations. For the kids there was a costume contest, face painting and pumpkin painting, a corn maize and "strawhenge". There were tables of bulbs. There were fresh flowers (a florist gave a demonstration on creating a holiday centerpiece), dried flowers and potpourri. There were even caramel apples. And, of course, the wonderful plants that people come from miles around to buy. I was sorely tempted by some variegated Japanese iris but didn't give in to temptation. I planted a lot of Japanese iris this spring and have German bearded iris, English iris and miniature iris to plant this fall.

At the end of the day, we cleaned up and then retired to the Log Cabin where a fire had been lit to warm us while we had dinner. As usual, I had a great time working this event. If it is this much fun to work there, I'm sure it's also great fun for visitors. You should definitely put this one on your calendar for next year!


At 7:49 PM, Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Oh I love that shed--but the door totally makes it. With a plain white door, it wouldn't be nearly as hall of fameworthy as it is!

At 3:44 PM, Blogger snappy said...

Sounds like you had another busy day.It sounded fun anyway.Have a bath now to saok those sore muscles.love the shed...


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