Tag Archives: flowers


frosty window

Happy New Year!

“January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow.”

Coldest days of the winter so far are upon us.  I received a gift of an indoor-outdoor thermometer which records minimum/maximum temperatures. Now when I get up 5:30 I know it really IS cold, instead of guessing! I am hoping to skate on the pond by this weekend, something that doesn’t happen every winter here in southern Rhode Island.

frost on glass in conservatory

frost on glass in conservatory

frost5 F this morning up here at the greenhouse, (0 F down at my house) but bright and sunny.  I love the magical, feathery frost patterns that form on the glass inside the conservatory! It’s warm and lovely in the greenhouse, especially when the sun comes out. The grafted citrus tree is blooming, and the scent of orange blossoms is in the air, mixed with the fragrance of the flowering gardenias…heavenly! Since I can only show you the flowers, you’ll have to come in and experience the sweet smells for yourself.

citrus blossoms

Citrus (Citrus limon) blossoms

citrus blossoms

citrus blossoms

Is January cold where you are?

Calliandra californica, Baja Fairy Duster

Calliandra californica, Baja Fairy Duster

Gasteria verrucosa

Wart Plant, Gasteria verrucosa.

bird of paradise

The Flock (Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae)





Edible Garden

dahliaHard frost came to my home garden in the wee hours of Monday morning. Here at the top of Kingston Hill, the Botanical Garden had none to speak of, but the plants are looking pretty tired. Lack of rain, deer, woodchucks, and rabbits took their toll this year! Wide swaths of Phlox and Chelone were eaten to little nubs, then eaten again. Hostas disappeared early on. Echinacea has become a wildlife delicacy. Annuals were lunch as soon as they were set out. There are a few bright spots:  Japanese Anemones (eaten and recovered), Dahlias  (near the road= not eaten), Toad Lilies (also eaten and recovered), Ornamental Peppers (untouched!), Callicarpa, and of course, beautiful fall foliage.

Toad Lily/Tricyrtisanemonedisanthus leavesstewartia

Callicarpa/Purple Beautyberry

Oh, and last but not least: Gaillardia, in the All-America Selections Display Garden. These little plants fly under the radar at the annual Plant Sale, but they can’t be beat. They are perennials blooming first year from seed (started April 1st), withstand heat, drought, animals, and insects. October 21 –still blooming! Save a garden spot for them in the spring.



Real Rain

That’s what everybody here is walking around saying, with a smile and a grateful look at the gray skies. Yes, it’s been quite a while. I like having a rain day to focus on the greenhouse, dividing and potting up plants, rearranging, cleaning up, and taking cuttings. Here are some greenhouse plants which caught my eye today.


Tibouchina/ Princess Flower


Mimosa / Sensitive Plant








Justicia carnea / Plume Flower


Polypodium Fern

Count Down: Plant Sale 2014

plant sale

The countdown is on to Saturday, May 10th!

Come see us at the East Farm Spring Festival! The URI Botanical Gardens will be selling Annuals, Garden-dug Perennials, and vegetable seedlings. All-America selections, heirloom varieties, and more. All proceeds benefit the Botanical Gardens!

Free parking, gardening demonstrations, vendors, food, children’s activities.

Saturday May 10th, 9 am to 2 pm

East Farm Spring Festival

plant sale

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?


Featured Plant: Mountain Laurel

Yesterday, I was doing my best to have a real day off.  Most of the family (missing the one off at college!) was home so we cranked up the woodstove against the damp chill and sat around. I did some knitting but then true to form got restless and had to head outside. Bundled up, I walked through the back and out around the edge of the turf fields. Then up along the side of one pond and away from the road to head to the edge of another pond deep in the woods. Most of this area between the ponds is filled with Mountain Laurel. What a beautiful plant! With so many trees bare of leaves, this lovely evergreen shrub with twisting branches really stood out in yesterday’s dull overcast light.

kalmia latifoliaKalmia latifolia is an Ericaceous plant native to the eastern United States, from Maine to Florida. In my mind it is associated with Rhododendrons (and they are closely related), but Mountain Laurel generally grows at higher elevations and tolerates drier soil.  It is a slow-growing understory shrub here, although farther south it does reach tree size. Kalmia flowers in late May/early June, often heavily. The flowers  of the native species range from white to pink, with variable red markings.

kalmia latifolia

photo courtesy of Connecticut Botanical Society

kalmia latifolia

photo courtesy Janet Novak

Spring time and flowers are far off, but even in winter, I find Kalmia beautiful. As the PlantFinder says, it’s a

…”Superior flowering native shrub for groups or massing in shrub borders, cottage gardens, woodland areas or wild/naturalized areas. Compliments rhododendrons and azaleas.”

In any area with acidic soil, some moisture, and a bit of shade, it will do well. In the swampy woods of southern Rhode Island, it’s a treat to see even on the greyest day.

mountain laurel

Desert in Bloom

cactus in bloom

Mammillaria species (Cactus family) in the Conservatory.

The Cactus and Succulent collection at the Horridge Conservatory contains a wide variety of beautiful plants. You may or may not know that a Cactus is a certain family of plants –the Cactaceae. All Cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are Cacti! A succulent is a broad category of plants which have thickened and fleshy leaves and stems, usually to retain water in  arid climates and soils. Most succulents come from dry regions of the tropics and sub tropics such as steppes, semi-desert, and desert. High temperatures and low rainfall force plants to collect and store water to survive long dry periods. Many succulents (including Cacti) are grown as ornamentals or houseplants because of their unusual and interesting appearance. Familiar succulents include  Jade plants (Crassula ), Aloe plants (Aloe ), or Mother-of-Millions (Kalanchoe).

gasteria flower

Gasteria armstrongii in bloom.

Cacti are for the most part native to the Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the South to parts of western Canada in the north. Most cacti live in very dry habitats subject to at least some drought. Cacti show many adaptations to conserve water. Most species of cacti have lost true leaves, retaining only spines, which are highly modified leaves. As well as defending against herbivores, spines help prevent water loss by reducing evaporation.  Cactus spines are produced from specialized structures called areoles, which are an identifying feature of cacti. Other types of succulents, such as Euphorbias, have spines but do not have areoles.


Golden Barrel Cactus, Echinocactus grusonii, with Paddle Plant, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora.

kalanchoe flowers

Trailing Kalanchoe

The lengthening days of late winter and early spring is when many of our cactus and succulents bloom, just as in the desert. I love to see them at this grey time of year. Some, such as the Gasteria and Aloe, come in a range of sunset colors (like the Echeveria from this post.) Some are bright pink or purple and others are pure white. If a trip to the Arizona or New Mexico isn’t possible, come visit our little desert at the Horridge Conservatory.


Another Kalanchoe –Kalanchoe gastonis-bonieri


Mammillaria species in bloom.

May 22-27 2011 002


Two Aloe plants in bloom.

Jan 30 2013 013

Beautiful Strangers

large orange dahlia

The Dahlias are at their peak and I still don’t have my camera back!  I can try to describe them but really, a picture is worth everything here….Giant clear raspberry pink, pastel orange — 10 inches across! A huge deep red, a pink waterlily type with an orangey blush, a yellow cactus-flowered…And they grew! On September 6th I wrote that none of them were over 30 inches tall. I guess I have to take that back because some of the plants are now towering over my (5 ft) head. One of the reasons I love Dahlias is because they are so vibrant at a time of year when a lot of the garden is ending it’s display.   If you walk by the west end of the greenhouse building, take a minute to enjoy them.

shadow on light pink dahlia

The other part of the Dahlia saga this year is that I don’t know the cultivar names, since the tubers were unlabeled (tho that’s part of the fun!) Searching the internet in an attempt to figure them out,  I did find some beautiful pictures, but it’s still hard to say who ‘s  who.  I’m including a few pictures here and if anyone knows the names of these beautiful strangers, I’d love to hear from you.

large dark red dahlia