Monthly Archives: February 2013

Winter Blues

broken tree

The view from February…

More than halfway through winter, and here it is. I am completely uninspired. I’m sure the weather has something to do with this. It’s 40 degrees F and raining, with half-melted dirty snow banks slowly disappearing under the deluge, and plenty of mud. (I don’t mind April mud, it’s different in April!) End-of February rain holds no promise for me. No thoughts of seedlings, buds, sprouts, sunshine, or warmth. A walk through the Botanical Gardens yesterday confirmed that Kingston is indeed the land of broken trees, due to the blizzard. We have a big clean up coming, as soon as rain, mud and snow let up.

Although the Conservatory has some beautiful flowers blooming right now, (you can see them here) I think it is simply Springtime that I am longing for. There is something about  the feel of the sun on my face, and the smell of the soil, that isn’t the same in the greenhouse. The greenhouse got me through December, January, and almost all of February, and I appreciate that! But I am ready to get outside.

In a few more weeks, I’ll be starting seeds. Around here gardeners plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. With transplants like tomato and pepper seeds, I aim for April Fool’s Day (April1st), so that they don’t get too big before it’s warm enough to set them out. Starting seeds brings back the optimist in me, daydreaming about the wonderful garden I will have. Just a few weeks to go…what will YOU do to get yourself to Spring?

Iris, winter aconite

The view from March!

Tiny Predators

praying mantis egg case

Praying Mantis egg case with newly hatched mantid.

Jamie’s Praying Mantids hatched ahead of schedule and she released some from their rearing container into the Horridge Conservatory.

newly hatched mantis

Beginning to leave the container.

newly hatched mantids

The mantids are very small but will grow quickly.

The mantids love to eat aphids, which are not in abundance here. They don’t go for scales or mealybugs, because they hunt insects which are moving. So we put them on a plant where I had seen some thrips — thrips are really fast.

newly hatched mantids

Off to look for food.

Check out this post from the Archives,  “Insect Dreams” , for pictures and some fun facts about the Praying Mantis.

newly hatched mantids

Blizzard of 2013

The Ericaceous Garden Monday morning after the blizzard. URI Botanical Gardens

The Ericaceous Garden, Monday morning after the blizzard. URI Botanical Gardens

Lots of snow, many sadly broken trees on campus as well as all over South County. White pines and arborvitae seems to have taken the worst hit.

broken trees


broken arborvitae


And around town:

tree down

White pine across road, in wires, West Kingston. (2/9/13)

tree down

And yet another… (2/9/13)

utility pole

Unstable utility pole, Dale Carlia corner, Wakefield. photo courtesy of South County Independent

The greenhouses did not lose heat or electricity! (Electricity was turned off for a few hours in order to make repairs to other lines.) At one point, it became really warm in the greenhouses when the vents couldn’t open and the heat was still going but overall we came out of the blizzard unharmed.

greenhouse in snow

Horridge Conservatory, Monday 2/11. URI Botanical Gardens

Anxiously awaiting the return of electricity (and running water) at home!

snow on branches

Keeping Busy

cordyline in greenhouse

It has been a very busy beginning of the year for this gardener. ( I have to laugh when people ask “What do you do in the winter?”) Well, in addition to caring for the plants in the Conservatory range, scouting the greenhouses, carrying out our IPM program, writing and taking pictures for the blog, keeping the website updated,  getting a required certification, engraving new labels to replace lost or broken ones, and supervising student employees and volunteers, I have a great new opportunity:  to take over responsibility for the “Botany Collection”, a wonderful and fascinating group of plants.

greenhouse 105

The plants are used in the labs for students in BIO 104 (Principles of Biology-Plants), BIO 311 (Plant Structure and Development), and BIO 321 (Plant Diversity). (There are 375 students in BIO 104 alone this semester…wow!) Plants in the collection have been gathered to represent different features like a certain type of flower or a certain type of root. Cactus and succulents, orchids, conifers, aquatic plants, ferns, plants with brightly pigmented leaves, mosses, fruiting plants, vines, many, many flowering plants, and some plants that are just plain curious, are all representatives of groups of plants being studied in Biology and Botany.

all grhs 2 015



plumbago auriculata


FEB 1 2012 039

Each week, plants are brought in to demonstrate the objective of the lab, whether it is simply “Primary Growth” or something a bit more advanced such as sporophyte development. Occasionally, germinating seeds and seedlings are requested for dissection and study under the microscope (what fun!) I start those here and then bring them over to the lab. It all looks so interesting that I wish I were in class!

germinating bean

drawing of beans Tomorrow I am off to New England Grows  — taking the 6 AM train to Boston. N.E.Grows bills itself as “the Ultimate Horticulture and Green Industry Education and Trade Show” and it is truly gigantic. Immense tree digging machinery and backhoes look like Matchbox cars on the floor of the trade show. My job tomorrow will be to give a very quick slideshow tour of the garden, condensing my usual one hour tour into 5 minutes! Then I am free to attend any educational session, so even though it’s not Biology Lab, I really do get to go to class.

students potting up plants

University Archives, URI