Monthly Archives: November 2010

November Flowering

dogwood flowers november We’ve had frost and even snow, but other than that, the weather’s  been mild. I’m still eating tomatos from the garden, which I picked green and spread out on a table in the cellar.  They slowly turn red (or orange  — SunGold and Orange Banana) and taste pretty good, for November. Out in the Botanical Garden, fall color was subdued, but some perennials are still flowering. Some are “confused” and are just beginning to flower, instead of waiting for spring.

Since the trees were  less vibrant than last year, seeming to go from green to brown and gone in about a week, it’s been a treat to have these bright spots of color scattered through the garden. I’m not too surprised to see Violas and Calendulas, and even roses  flowering now (the roses were flowering at Thanksgiving last year). But the Echinacea and the Gaillardia are unexpected, since they love  heat and usually give up once it gets cold. The real surprises are the flowering shrubs….I ‘ve seen Rhodies flower occasionally in autumn, but not Kousa Dogwood. (I have a feeling that particular dogwood is on it’s way out). Eventually, it really does get cold and wintry, even here, so enjoy the flowers while they last.violas november

The right plant? The wrong plant?

corinthian columnThe mantra of sustainable horticulture here at URI is “the right plant in the right place”. Then there’s the opposite — “a weed is just a plant in the wrong place”. But more often, a plant in the wrong place is diseased, stunted, wilted,under attack, or just plain dead. Every plant has specific needs or preferences for growing conditions. These include light, moisture, temperature, and soil nutrients. In a site where the conditions don’t match the plant’s requirements, the plant will not thrive, and  will be more susceptible to pathogens, insects, and environmental damage. Once this happens, inputs of perhaps pesticides, fungicides,  extra water, or  fertilizer are needed, which is the UNsustainable part. Or, sometimes the inputs are used as an attempt to prevent the plant’s decline.

The inputs are unsustainable for a wide variety of reasons. They could be made from petroleum, a limited resource. They could irreversibly contaminate the groundwater or kill beneficial insects. When you think about it, even extra watering to prop up a moisture loving plant sited in a hot dry spot is unsustainable. Our clean drinking water is also a limited resource, as we know all too well from the past summer.

Another definition of  sustainability within  horticulture is:

“…design, construction, operations and maintenance practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” ( American Sustainable Sites Initiative).

So that’s what we try to do. But sometimes it takes a little bit of experimenting to find the right plant/right place. Yesterday as I cut back the peonies around the stage,the Acanthus planted behind them 2 years ago demanded my attention. It’s huge, green, and fresh looking.Very Healthy. The site faces south, in front of a 4-foot stone wall. The Acanthus, a native of the Mediterranean, obviously appreciate the extra warmth that radiates from the stones of the wall and the stage. I went looking for another Acanthus planted the same year. It also faces south, near the rose arbor, but has large rhododendrons behind it instead of stone. This one was puny compared to the one on the stage! A little bit colder, a little more shade, and perhaps a little drier with the huge rhodies behind it taking up moisture.  It makes all the difference in the world. I’ll  move the small one to a better site.