Category Archives: Vegetable Gardens


By my way of looking at it, this is a pretty good growing year. After a long cold spring, most of the summer has brought great weather. Not too hot or humid, just warm, sunny, and pleasant, with cool nights —  a reminder of why in the days before air-conditioning, people would come north to New England for the summer. The soil is dry now, and a rainy day or two would be good, but still, I’ll take it! So many things have grown so well this season (and it’s not QUITE over!) that I wanted to share a few.

marigoldsOrange flowers and vegetables are everywhere this year!

AAS zinniaNumex peppersungoldMostly I like them, some, well, with so many great petunias to choose from, why would you plant this one:ugly petuniasBut on to other abundant things!

More raspberries (almost) than I could put up, in my home garden.

raspberriesA second cutting of hay in South County:

cutting hayHornet’s nests, big and beautiful in their own way:

hornets, larchhornet, rhodiesFlowers and fruit of all kinds.

bee balmblueberries

Did something grow really well for you this year? I’d love to hear about it!


Catalog Season

Earlier this week Andy handed me a new seed catalog. I hadn’t gotten any in the mail yet and so I hadn’t started that delicious daydreaming about springtime, gardening, warm weather, and especially, seeds. So let the daydreaming begin, that’s what January is for if you’re a gardener. I adore seed catalogs; there is something so old fashioned about them. Pictures of impossibly beautiful vegetables and flowers, with over-the top-descriptions of how tasty, productive and gorgeous they are! The earliest, sweetest peas,  the best tomatoes you ever had,  giant pumpkins. The biggest zinnias, the tallest sunflowers, and the most fragrant sweet basil! Not to mention that seeds are one of the best investments you can make. I’m a sucker for all of it, and being a little old-fashioned myself, I like the actual paper catalog in my hand, by the woodstove, with a cup of coffee.

seedcatalog_300Last fall I emptied my two giant cookie tins full of seeds and sorted them with a critical eye. I composted any which were more than three years old, and I was surprised at how many that was.  Time to buy some new seeds. I’m looking at old favorites like Benary Giant Zinnias and Northeaster Pole Beans. I’ve only gone through the Johnny’s and High Mowing catalogs…impatiently awaiting Fedco (top favorite), and Territorial (they are selling wasabi plants!) and Cook’s Garden, and Nichols….  I found many enticing new-to-me varieties: Esterina cherry tomato, (“sweeter than Sungold and resists cracking”!) Listada di Gandia Eggplant, Calypso Pickling Cucumber. Veronica Romanesco Cauliflower: stunning! Or how about Painted Lady Sweet Peas ( “This variety dates to 1737 and was planted by Jefferson at Monticello in the early 1800s.”). I have never had much luck with Sweet Peas –it gets too hot early on here –but I ‘m convinced I should try again…

As I said in this post, every year I plant seeds and every year I am thrilled and amazed when  the seedlings push up through the soil. What are you daydreaming about this January?


The Cukes

I went out in the garden Saturday and became intrigued with  everything  the cucumber tendrils wrapping themselves around the wire fence. The cucumber plants were slow to take off this year, but now they seem to be growing about a foot a day.

cucumber plant

cucumber tendrils

cucumber tendril

cucumber tendrils

cucumber tendril

The tendrils obviously curl, but when I looked closely they seemed to be curling in two different directions. To make a long story short, here is a link to a great little video about the movement of plants in general and the “curliness ” of the cucumber tendrils in particular:

Unwinding The Cucumber Tendril Mystery

Go ahead and call me a plant geek, but I love this stuff.

Very Big Vegetables

giant pumpkin

(An October post, belated)

Just how giant IS a giant pumpkin? Read on…

When talking giant pumpkins, I have to mention that we are really proud of our very own Justin Ouellmette. Justin is a senior in Environmental Horticulture and Turfgrass Management here at URI. This past summer he decided to grow a giant pumpkin at his home garden in Tiverton. We got pumpkin updates over vacation and when school resumed in the fall too. The giant pumpkin was entered  in the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Contest held Columbus Day weekend at Frerichs Farm in Warren, RI. Justin’s pumpkin weighed in (as a first- time grower) at a VERY respectable 817 pounds! Justin was kind enough to send me these pictures after I pestered him endlessly. Congratulations on your first giant pumpkin!

giant pumpkin

By the way, TWO world champion weight giant pumpkins have been grown right here  in the littlest state.

In 2007, the world champion giant pumpkin was grown by Joe Jutras, of North Scituate, RI and weighed 1689 pounds. Weigh-in was at the Topsfield Fair on September 29th, 2007.

champion pumpkin

2007 world record, 1689 pounds, grown by Joe Jutras

The world record pumpkin for 2012 was grown in Greene, Rhode Island by Ron and Dick Wallace and weighed 2009 lbs. The weigh-in was at the Topsfield Fair, on September 28, 2012. The first one-ton vegetable!

world champion pumpkin

2012 World record, 2009 pounds, grown by Ron Wallace

pumpkin weigh-in

The giants just keep getting bigger and bigger! If you are interested in growing giant vegetables, there is plenty of enthusiasm at Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers as well as Big Pumpkins and Topsfield Fair.

Have you ever grown a giant vegetable?? Let us know!

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.

Trees, Sun, and an Audrey Update

curly willow

I used to hesitate when trying to decide if a tree needed to be cut down. But not any more! Both the Botanical Gardens and my home garden have become significantly shadier in the past few years. It’s inevitable if there are trees around! And while trees are important, not to mention beautiful, if there’s anything else you would like to grow, the trees have to go. I love them for their sense of permanence, their cool shade in summer,  their habitat for birds and wildlife. For firewood, autumn leaves, and fruit.  I curse them when I want to grow tomatoes, sunflowers, strawberries or corn!

trees and shade gardenThis part of the garden was adapted long ago to the trees which tower over it. A thriving shady border, with plants that love the cool and moist soil.  It’s a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” for a dedicated gardener! But if you can “beat ’em”, if they are not your neighbor’s trees, not historically  or environmentally significant, beloved perhaps but not necessarily important, then she who hesitates is lost. Cut down the trees, make yourself a sunny spot, and let your garden grow.

stumpAUDREY UPDATE: August 31, 2012

spathe of titan arumOver the past two days Audrey’s growth has slowed. Instead of 3 inches a day, it has been just one. Now at 51 inches, actual bloom time is drawing near! The  bracts have fallen away, the spathe is coloring up around it’s frilled edge and all we have to do is wait. Check back with “Thoughts from the Garden” this weekend to get the latest photos of our tropical curiosity.

titan arum

Still July

turk's cap lily

Still July. Color and heat are the themes in the Garden. Lilies, inherited from the Biological Control Lab Lily Leaf Beetle program here at URI ( ),  hold up really well in the heat.

large white lilypink lilies

Watering is crucial in some spots, but most of the Garden survives, even thrives, without extra watering. The dahlias donated by the Rhode Island Dahlia Society are taking off. They may be small this year but next year they will be incredible, I promise!

hole in sunny borderA large hole in the sunny border (“Let’s call it an alteration rather than destruction”–thanks, Louis) is the result of a frantic search for a dropped engagement ring. All’s well that ends well, I guess! In the Conservatory, the temps are warm and tropical, amazing flowers are blooming and papayas are slowly ripening.

Aechmea 'Silver Vase'Lotus seed pod


The pumpkin vines in the All – America Selections Garden are growing about a foot a day. Even the melons, which were dreadful last year, are looking good. A woodchuck has tunneled into the lower AAS Garden and eaten the ornamental kale. I am plotting my revenge.

yellow melonwatermelon on vineBlack-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.) are everywhere, blooming almost a full month earlier than last year.

rudbeckia/black eyed susanblackeyed susans/rudbeckia