Monthly Archives: September 2012

These are a few of my favorite things…

Aster 'Alma Potschka'

Last night was the final “Tuesday Tour” for the 2012 season. Every Tuesday from May through September, I walk over to the Gazebo by the Outreach Center at 5 pm to offer a one hour garden tour for anyone who shows up. Sometimes it is as many as ten people. Other nights, one lucky person gets a personalized tour!

I always start with a quick history of the Garden — what I know of it, anyway. I know that the “Learning Landscape”, which became the Botanical Gardens, was created in the 1990s by URI Plant Science faculty and staff, RINLA members and their generous donations of time, money, and materials,  Plant Science students, and URI Master Gardeners.

Reaching back in time, I know that the west side of the Outreach Center building was the  headhouse of the original greenhouses on campus, built around 1905. The stone walls which enclose part of the main garden have a WPA plaque dated 1940. I have two aerial photos of the formal gardens from 1959 and 1966; you may have seen them on our website ( ).  Other than that, it has been hard to dig up any other history of the Garden, even with the help of the patient folks at the University Archives. I would love to hear from anyone with historic information about (or pictures of)  the Garden!

WPA plaque garden wall

So, with the history of the Garden briefly covered, the rest of the Garden tour highlights a few of my favorite things! I love to point out native plants, and talk about the connection between native plants and the health of our local ecosystem/food chain. Any colorful flower is OK in my book, as well as tall perennials that make great focal points, backdrops, or screens. Of course, ground covers are nice, helping to reduce the ever present chore of weeding. And so are foliage plants, which patiently beautify the gardens with none of the admiring looks that their flowering relatives get! Trees make me happy — deciduous trees which leaf out in celebration every spring, and evergreens that keep the landscape from becoming entirely black and white in the winter. Flowering shrubs, from early Witch Hazel to late Rose of Sharon, create spaces of color and fragrance to enjoy.

iris and poppy

I’ve always enjoyed watching insects in the Garden. Honeybees are at the top of the list, being a former beekeeper, but also all sizes and shapes of wild bees. Butterflies never fail to delight, and moths as well. Dragonflies enjoy the Garden with it’s abundance of food for them and I love watching them bask in the sun like lizards.

monarch on echinacea

Whether I like it or not, animals live in and visit the Garden. Rabbits and deer, moles, voles, and mice can be destructive, and many times I wish I had a way to keep them out of the Garden. That said, seeing them quietly walk through the grass,  or hearing a beautiful bird song  in the trees, makes me grateful for the little bit of wildlife I encounter here.

deer in the garden

Really, all of the Garden is full of my favorite things.

honey bee


The Colors of Autumn

Under sunny skies or gray, colors of the garden seem at their fullest right now.

bi color dahliaMany thanks to Donna Lane and the Rhode Island Dahlia Society for their generous contribution of Dahlia tubers to the Botanical Gardens! After losing many tubers to decay in storage last year, I contacted them and they were kind enough to offer us a great selection. No, I still don’t know the variety names, but any reader who does is invited to let me know!

large red dahlia

tropical garden

red seed pod closeup

The tropical garden at the back of the All- America Selections Display Garden between the greenhouses became as colorful and lush as I had dreamed of. The large green leaves right in the middle are a cold-hardy banana plant, which will stay outside all winter (with some protective mulch and wrapping), and hopefully delight us in the spring by being alive and well.

goldenrod and physostegia

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Physostegia are a great combination for fall. Goldenrod is underused as a perennial garden plant. I think it is unfairly associated with hay fever. The real villain is usually ragweed, which doesn’t have conspicuous flowers and thus evades suspicion!

cajun belle peppers

‘Cajun Belle’ and ‘Cayenetta’ are two peppers growing in the AAS Garden. Medium hot and very productive, they add to the Colors of Autumn at the Botanical Gardens.

I Can’t Stand Long Goodbyes

Titan Arum wilting

But that’s what you get with a Titan Arum. Audrey began to wilt a little bit by the afternoon of September 2nd. The next morning, she was standing tall again but the edge of the spathe remained slightly wilted. Visitors to the greenhouse both days were thrilled however, to see our beautiful, rare,  and fleeting blossom. Pictures of the crowds are being held hostage by a corrupted memory card in my camera, but I hope to liberate them soon!

Over the next week or two, Audrey will further close and wilt, until the prehistoric-looking flower is just a memory.  When the stalk is completely dead, it gets cut it back. The corm will be repotted into the biggest pot I can find, and then go through it’s dormant period in a dry place (not the greenhouse). About 6 months from now, we’ll expect to see a “spike” — most likely a leaf — pushing up through the soil, and the pot will be returned to the greenhouse to go through the next part of it’s life cycle.

Here’s a link to the time lapse video made by Randy Stevenson of URI New Media. It highlights the two days of Audrey’s bloom. I love the part where the sun comes up and shines in through the greenhouse. Thanks Randy!


open titan arum

Photo courtesy of Lisa Tewksbury