Monthly Archives: October 2013

We’d Rather be Outside

Yesterday, Dr. Brian Maynard’s Landscape Management and Arboriculture class had a great day of hands-on experience.  The students planted six very large flowering shrubs in the Botanical Gardens. The area had been shady before removing some trees to let more sunlight into the greenhouses (“Here Comes Sunshine“). We dug out the shade-loving plants to go elsewhere and were left with an open, mostly sunny space.

empty garden bed

Empty (weedy) garden bed along fire lane looking west toward Pharmacy building.

large shrubs dug and burlapped

Looking east with holes dug and plants waiting.

Seven really large shrubs — a few Viburnums, an Ilex verticillata, and an unusual plant called Cyrilla racemiflora were brought up to the Botanical Gardens from East Farm.  URI’s L&G helped with a bit of prep and then the fun began.

PLS 306 class

“On your mark”…Dr. Maynard explaining the logistics of moving plants weighing hundreds of pounds.


“Get set”…




After the class had planted and watered in the shrubs, they continued: half the students raked up the area, and half helped me dig peonies out of another garden. Then the peonies were planted near the outer (sunnier) edges of the bed along with Siberian irises.  When everything was watered in and cleaned up, they were kind enough to pose for a group picture.


PLS 306, October 2013

I was impressed by their hard work and how everyone pitched in — no standing around! I am really looking forward to seeing this beautiful new area bloom in the spring. Thanks, everyone.

Fall Is the Best Time To Plant

digging spade

“Fall is the best time to plant”  That’s what I tell my students (and anyone who asks). The shorter days and cooler temperatures make it easier for transplants to spread their roots without us hovering nearby with the sprinkler. Usually there’s some rain too, though not this fall, not much. But the dry weather is not nearly the problem it would be in the spring and so we are madly digging and dividing perennials all over the garden.

Why divide? After a few years — as few as 3 or as many as 10 — perennial plants begin to lose vigor. Often they grow toward the outside, leaving an empty space in the middle like a bird’s nest. They may flower less, have smaller leaves, or flop over more. They may also have gotten too big for their space in the garden. Dividing re-invigorates the plants, and as Tracy Aust says, “It can be very satisfying, having a rejuvenating effect on perennial and gardener alike.”

Of course, after digging and dividing and transplanting, you may have more plants than you can use.  I overwinter many garden-dug perennials for our spring plant sale, but space is at a premium this year. A truckload of perennials has been donated to two local schools, saving me from having to compost them. Thanks Jayne and Hilary, for gardening with the kids!

One last thought about digging and dividing: the plants may not look great at first but in the spring they’ll look better than ever.

hosta bed The Hosta bed under the Metasequoia was dug up and replanted.

pink chrysanthemumsOver near the Co-operative Extension parking lot we  put in new plants to go with these great Chrysanthemums that look like pink daisies.

bee balm/monardaLauren and I dug, divided, and replanted Bee Balm in the ericacious garden and the sunny border. We also took some Siberian Iris out of a bed that was too shady and put in Ligularia, which I think will do well in this moist, shady spot.

digging Joe-PyeAdam and Ben got started digging up the monster Joe-Pyes in the back of the sunny border. Topping out at 10-12 feet this year, their root balls are two feet across. They are going to be moved back so the rest of the plants can breathe.

dahliasStill no frost here, so flowers continue to bloom, especially dahlias, which seem to get bigger and more colorful every day.