Well, a little bit ready for winter, as in: prepared. The gardens are mostly cut back, although the Dahlias still need to be dug up and packed away. There’s plenty of wood in the wood shed. Pulled out my winter coat, hat, and mittens. But ready for a couple more months of cold and dark? No.
It’s a January thaw and that means time to get outside and prune, or even cut down trees. Back in August I wrote about taking down trees along the shady firelane adjacent to the greenhouses. Now it’s time for the trees behind those to be removed — this will truly improve the amount of sunlight getting into the greenhouses. Our Tree Guy/Greenhouse Manager, Nick, was kind enough to wait until I had moved the more delicate shade plants and until the ground was frozen before he started trampling all over the garden!
Although there is a beautiful shade garden there, I am not sorry to see the trees go. The perennials will be moved to new homes in other parts of the Garden, and the more adaptable ones may be just fine with more sun. After all, it will still be on the north/shady side of some VERY impressive Rhododendrons. What I will miss is the tunnel effect of the trees over this little stone walkway between the firelane and the rose garden, which always looked to me like something from a fairy tale.
Looking out across the newly opened view of the garden from the greenhouses, I think the garden appears smaller now. Having a hidden area tucked away to discover, on the other side of the trees, made it seem like it might be much bigger. (It’s actually not very big — about 4 ½ acres.)
But in the spring…there will be the fun of putting in a new garden, or at least planting a few new things! Maybe a Viburnum carlesii, with delicious sweet flowers to brush by. Maybe a trellis to frame the walkway, or some sculptural Garden Art…maybe a garden designed by a student….stay tuned!
Last Friday, Mike and Ryan gave me a huge head start on getting the Horridge Conservatory put back together after our renovations. I came to work Monday morning and was delighted to see what they had done. The plants are pleasingly displayed in their pots around the greenhouse. The ground is raked out and debris was removed. A bit of cocoa hull mulch was put down (more would be good). Flat stepping stones were put to good use in two new paths as well as creating a stable base for the benches.
A word about the benches: These are three little cast iron benches, painted white, with Victorian-looking scroll-work. Each one is different. They were upstairs and must have been beastly to carry down! As a student, many years ago, I worked in the Plant Chemistry lab for Dr. Hull.* Every once in a while, I’d be invited to have a cup of coffee with Dr. Hull and Dr. Shaw. We’d troop upstairs and sit on the little white benches where a couple of graduate students would join us, and talk about plants, research, and URI basketball. It’s a fond memory and seeing those benches in the Conservatory makes me smile.
*Twist of Fate: I work out of the SAME room now…hmmm…
There’s more work to be done in the Conservatory, rearranging plants, replacing labels, bringing more plants back in from their scattered temporary homes. The Desert is being laid out, as well as the Food and Economic Crops display. CJ is redesigning the Carnivorous Plants/Bog Garden. The Conservatory is bright and beautiful, a welcome respite from the cold grey winter. Stop by and enjoy a little time with the plants. Thanks to the boys for their help!
It’s that time of year: Fall is a season of renewed energy in the garden with crisp clear weather and bright sunshine. It’s a great time to plant without fear of heat or drought killing off new transplants. Comfortable temperatures inspire us to tackle bigger projects than we would consider in the heat of summer or in the crazy-busy rush of spring.
So, down come two trees! The snow and ice storm on October 30th just barely grazed this part of Rhode Island, but did result in a little sprinkle of snow, a killing frost, and some broken branches. One of the two Styrax japonica in the main garden broke in half, giving us a great excuse to remove both. Don’t get me wrong, these are beautiful little trees, absolutely loaded with flowers in the spring. But they have been a maintenance nightmare, as every pretty white flower becomes a seed, and every seed sprouts into a little seedling with a big taproot! Removing these seedlings before they overran everything around them took hours of labor. They needed to come out and the storm made the final decision for us.
What will they be replaced with? Any suggestions?
On another note: The autumn color has been much less vibrant this year, warm wet weather and hurricane salt spray taking their toll. Many leaves are still a dull, tired green. I laughed out loud when Doug Norris of The South County Independent referred to the trees as zombies, “the deciduous undead”!
Sometimes a landscape feature seems to have such permanence, that in our minds we can’t visualize something else. Whatever tree, rock, garden is there has “always” been there and we don’t even see it any more. Or, in my case, I see it, but can’t begin to imagine changing it. Luckily for me, there are some folks here with more vivid imaginations than mine! The out-of-control hedge along the west side of the greenhouse and the junipers casting substantial shade over the same greenhouse have been in place at the Botanical Gardens for a long, long time. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be changed…
The picture above gives a sense of how big that hedge really was. The greenhouse next to it was losing out on sunlight. At the end of the alley between the greenhouse and the hedge were five junipers, also casting long dark shadows over the greenhouse.
First to go was the hedge:
And then the junipers, all except one:
Often there are features that should be preserved, such as our 1940 WPA-built walls. The beautiful stones create a framework for the Gardens and remind us of our history. Our large old trees can serve the same purpose, and I love them for that! But the Botanical Gardens are for the most part a “dynamic” garden, an ever-changing place, as opposed to a “static” garden which reflects a certain time period and is held there. Change can be a little jarring at first, but after a bit of adjustment it is like taking a deep breath and straightening up your shoulders after being hunched over a task. It feels good!