Monthly Archives: November 2013

Nine Kinds of Pie

Thanksgiving, as I mentioned in last year’s end-of-November post, is my favorite holiday. What is could be better than a holiday especially for getting together with family and friends, just to be thankful for, and to celebrate, all the wonderful things in your life?  Nothing better! Therefore, I’m not at the greenhouse today, I am home baking pies. Although our Thursday tradition is just the five of us and Grandpa, we go all-out on the pies. As one of my favorite little kid’s storybooks says, “There was nothing but pie, but there was all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best”.

On a more thoughtful note, Friday is International Buy Nothing Day,  and as in years past, Rhode Islanders observe this day of protest with a free winter coat exchange. (Here’s a link to the list of exchange sites:  .)  In addition to highlighting consumerism/overconsumption, this year’s activities also protest the move of retailers beginning their “holiday season” ON Thanksgiving.  The “War on Thanksgiving”, as Scott McKay says, means there are     “…empty seats at the table as workers run off to low-paying jobs at the mall to serve people who just got done saying thanks for what they have but vault from their dinner table to buy things they don’t need.”

I hope that love, family, friends, and neighbors, continue to be the focus of our celebrations…Happy Thanksgiving, from the URI Botanical Gardens and your grateful gardener.


Good Help Is….

I was thumbing through a copy of “The New Organic Grower” by Eliot Coleman the other day. (This little book, which was published in 1989, is worth a read, just for attitude!) What caught my eye was: “A good employee who is familiar with your operation is worth three who are not.” Obviously this is true, and it is one of the  challenges of working in an educational setting. Students come and go! I have often wished I could just hire a particular student to work with me as a regular employee, but that’s not how it is. They work part time, in between classes. They take time off during exams (first week of May–how inconvenient!). They find jobs “at home” and move away. They graduate!

This year, I have been really fortunate to have great students working with me, and plenty of help. I have three volunteers, and three student employees. A few of them worked with me last year and that is where the work that goes into training a new employee really pays off –when they stay and become the one who is “familiar with your operation”. So, let me introduce them and their answers to the question “What do you like about working in the Gardens/Greenhouse?”

laurenLauren is a senior from South Kingstown, RI, studying Studio Art with a double minor in Horticulture and Italian (!). She was an intern at the Phipps Conservatory last summer, came back to URI in September offering to volunteer at the Gardens, and was quickly offered a student employee position. Lauren said, “I like working at the greenhouse because it is very rewarding and I learn things every time I’m here.” She is a fearless slayer of insects.

AdamAdam is a junior from Cumberland, RI, studying Horticulture. He came to the Greenhouse looking for a job, any job, decided he liked it, and stayed. Adam said, “I like working at the Garden, because, along with providing work that is rewarding, it gives me a place to “escape” to. Devoid of the typical hustle and bustle sensibilities, it lets me be myself and work with very interesting people who I thoroughly enjoy and respect.” If you see Adam, ask him what’s on the ipod.

denniseDennise is a senior from Pawtucket, RI, studying Animal Science, pre-Vet. She is a dedicated volunteer who also volunteers with the Biocontrol program here at the greenhouse. Dennise said, “For all the years I’ve spent at URI, the Garden has served as an escape from the madness that surrounds college life. It reminds me to sit still and be patient because, not unlike the foliage surrounding those weathered but sturdy benches, growth takes time. Every seed planted holds a promise of a new beginning, if given the proper care. This is why it is an honor for me to be a part of a process that reminds me to continue to grow despite rough weather. In the classroom, we are constantly urged to “wake up and smell the coffee”, but I’ve found it far more rewarding to “stop and smell the flowers”.”  In addition to animals and plants, Dennise loves music and plays the piano.

benBen is a sophomore from South Kingstown, RI, studying Landscape Architecture. He spent last summer working 60-70 hours a week for a high end landscaping company near Albany, NY. Ben said, “I like learning about the care and maintenance of plants in the greenhouse setting. It gives me a lot of real world experience that I don’t find in the classroom.” He is planning to start his own landscape construction business.

samanthaSamantha is a junior from Washington, DC, studying Environmental Science. She began volunteering last year and came back again in September to continue. Samantha said, “Volunteering at the Greenhouse is a great way to learn more about plants and how to complete tasks like propagating and pruning. It is also a way for me to decompress and take a break from my stressful week.” Samantha came to Rhode Island hoping for more snowy, wintery winters than in Washington.

As I was beginning this post, another volunteer, Emily, told me that she wouldn’t be able to come in any more until next semester. I know, school comes first, that’s why you are here! So a special thanks to all of you who help us keep the Gardens and Greenhouses looking good and running smoothly.

A few chores left

snow on epimediumBecause I often work outside, I devotedly check the weather every morning, and evening, and sometimes in between…OK, I am an obsessive weather checker.  It’s either NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at, or Accuweather at  I usually check both, because sometimes the forecasts are different enough that I am left scratching  my head and wondering how they make their predictions. Suffice to say that while we did get our first snow flurries of the season this morning, it was not the 1-2 inches predicted by… one of the above.

There are still outdoor chores left to do, mostly the last bit of cutting back perennials for the winter. Raking is mostly done, and we won’t begin pruning trees and shrubs until after the new year. The most pressing chore right now is to dig the dahlia tubers, because tonight’s temperature is supposed to be 18 F (or is that 23 F?). Either way, too cold for a plant native to Mexico!

Although it will warm up by the end of the week, we are done planting for the season. By now there is not enough time for perennials to establish new roots before the ground is too cold. It’s a good time to dig new garden beds though, (as long as the ground is not frozen!) and a great time to spread compost on the existing beds. Any time I can switch a chore from spring to fall I do, since spring is filled with it’s own welcome insanity. Where do you garden, and what garden chores do you have left?