Monthly Archives: October 2011

Go Native!

removing sodOn October 17th, junior Kristie Saliba’s URI 101 class began installation of a “Native Plant System” in the URI Botanical Gardens. These students are interested in the Environmental Horticulture and Turf major, and it was a great hands-on experience  for them. The first part of the job was to prepare the site, and like any job done well, it’s all in the prep! Kristie’s students spent about three hours removing sod and spreading our own Botanical Gardens compost on the area. Mike and Kyle pitched in to help, as well as Kate Venturini, who designed the garden (and is the brains behind the Landscape Restoration Program at the Outreach Center).

kristie removing sodWhen the site was ready, volunteers from the URI Master Gardener’s Association began  planting. Native asters, goldenrod, and spiraea were donated by Rhody Native, the Rhode Island-grown native plants initiative. Vaccinium corymbosum (Highbush Blueberry),  Lindera benzoin (Spicebush), and Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi (Bearberry) were donated by the URI Botanical Gardens. The installation will be completed next week, and while some of the perennials are still small, they are off to a great head start with fall planting.

spreading compostOf course, there are many native plants already in the Botanical Gardens, as well as beautifully adapted, non-invasive plants from other parts of the world. But natives are a fundamental part of the landscape, which this garden will highlight. As I explained on the garden tours this summer, “Native plants feed native insects, and native insects feed native birds and amphibians, and you can just follow that right up the food chain.”  A simple way to understand the importance of these sometimes overlooked plants in caring for our landscape and environment.

spreading compost

Change is Good, continued…

greenhouse water gardenThe Horridge Conservatory  has a new, bigger, better, and very beautiful water garden, thanks to students of PLS 306, Landscape Management and Arboriculture.The Conservatory greenhouse has been in a state of “organized disarray” since July, when everything was pulled out for the reglazing work, including the existing water garden.

empty water gardenWith a generous donation of their time, Earth and Water Landscapes owner Joe Mack and two of his employees walked the class through the steps of installing an environmentally friendly water garden. Everybody pitched in as Joe explained the “whys” of a successful water garden — one with sparkling clear water, beautiful plants, and healthy fish.

building water gardenbuilding pond

placing river stonesfilling water gardenI’m looking forward to the rest of the Conservatory renovation, which will include not only the water garden, but a desert plant area, a tropical planting, and a large display of economically important plants, from coffee to cotton!

October Garden

white anemone flower

What’s left in the October garden? The weather has been so mild that many plants are still lingering in the slanted autumn light. Japanese Anemones look beautiful in the main garden. The white ones, ‘Honorine Jobert’ stand up proudly and make themselves seen. The pink ones, ‘Queen Charlotte’,  lie down as soon as they bloom, tangling themselves among the skeletons of the Sedums and Rudbeckias, tempting me to rip them out despite the beautiful pearly pink color and abundant flowers. Speaking of Sedums, they seemed to go by quickly in the wet grey week we had, along with my favorite aster, the bright ‘Alma Potschke’ in the main garden. The Actaea along the Kinney wall is still standing, the seed pods as eye-catching as the fuzzy white flowers.

actaea near stone wall

Annuals are still alive and well here on Kingston Hill, although the temperature really dropped the first week of October. Teri of Hidden Field Farm in Wakefield reported a killing frost the night of October 6, but we’ve been lucky. Or maybe not lucky — it feels a little like limbo. Do I pull out the tomatoes in the All-America Selections garden, which are still flowering and fruiting but look ugly and half dead? (I did.) What about the ‘Holy Mole’ peppers, and the Celosia ‘Fresh Look Gold’ ? (I left both –the peppers look healthy and productive, and the Celosia looks….interesting.) A hard frost is definitive, leaving no questions about what should be done.


Other bright spots of color: the Calendula near the front of the Kathy Mallon Outreach Center, the Dahlias of course, the Callicarpa with stunning bright purple berries near the fire lane. The Nepeta in the main garden, an occasional Rudbeckia. And the Rose Garden is full of pink, red, white, and yellow roses…  A wedding there on October 9th caught a beautiful perfect blue sky day among the late roses.


 The weather forecast is not for cold but for rain, which might spare the annuals but be the end of the perennial flowers. Of course it’s inevitable that they will all be gone soon, but what a gorgeous “Indian Summer” it’s been.

sedum autumn joy

Beautiful Strangers

large orange dahlia

The Dahlias are at their peak and I still don’t have my camera back!  I can try to describe them but really, a picture is worth everything here….Giant clear raspberry pink, pastel orange — 10 inches across! A huge deep red, a pink waterlily type with an orangey blush, a yellow cactus-flowered…And they grew! On September 6th I wrote that none of them were over 30 inches tall. I guess I have to take that back because some of the plants are now towering over my (5 ft) head. One of the reasons I love Dahlias is because they are so vibrant at a time of year when a lot of the garden is ending it’s display.   If you walk by the west end of the greenhouse building, take a minute to enjoy them.

shadow on light pink dahlia

The other part of the Dahlia saga this year is that I don’t know the cultivar names, since the tubers were unlabeled (tho that’s part of the fun!) Searching the internet in an attempt to figure them out,  I did find some beautiful pictures, but it’s still hard to say who ‘s  who.  I’m including a few pictures here and if anyone knows the names of these beautiful strangers, I’d love to hear from you.

large dark red dahlia