Tag Archives: plants

The Light Coming into the Greenhouse

Here’s a treat: These beautiful photos were taken in the Conservatory range last week by Noah Le Claire-Conway, PhD student in Plant Sciences. (Equipment: Nikon D2X camera with an AF Micro Nikkor 60 mm lens.)

jewel orchid

Jewel Orchid, Ludisia discolor

Brazilian Orchid, Epidendrum sp.

Brazilian Orchid, Epidendrum sp.

Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum aquaticum

Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum aquaticum


Aristocrat Plant, Haworthia coarctata

ice plant

Yellow Ice Plant, Delosperma nubigenum


Spoon-leaved Sundew, Drosera spatulata


Echeveria sp.

Papaya, Carica papaya

Papaya, Carica papaya


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

Catching Up

plants in greenhouseWe started early Friday morning, loading plants into the stake body truck borrowed from Agronomy (as well as two pickups). Off to East Farm! (it’s only a mile.)

plants in greenhouseLauren on truckIt rained a little (of course). Two large loads in the stake body and two loads in each pick up, then we set it all up and went home. Saturday started bright and early again, with a hundred or more people lined up before the gate opened at 9 am! We talked plants nonstop all day and sold most of them. Brought the leftovers back in one pickup and now we are catching up in the Botanical Garden for Commencement this weekend!

virginia bluebellsazalea

Where We’ve Been

Where have we been? Mostly out in the garden….

Shortia galacifolia

Oconee Bells, Shortia galacifolia. A rare plant from the Appalachian Mountains.

Spring is upon us and we have been raking, weeding, admiring  the plants coming up through the slowly warming soil, moving stones, cutting down trees, and edging the beds.

Ligularia dentata

Ligularia dentata coming up among the Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum).

Edging is heavy work but I love the way it defines the gardens and makes them look cared for (as well as keeping the grass from creeping into the beds).

Newly edged garden bed

Freshly edged garden bed.

April 17 2013 010

Inside the greenhouse, there are flats upon flats of seedlings. Some are for the garden, some for the All-America Selections Display, and some for the plant sale.

seedlings in greenhouse

Seedlings in greenhouse.

We also made a few trips to the unheated overwintering house at URI’s East Farm, where perennials in pots stay for the winter. Now they are inside and coming up beautifully, ready for the garden and the plant sale.


Perennials in the greenhouse.

solomon's seal

Solomon’s Seal, a beautiful spring perennial.

SAVE THE DATE: Plant Sale Friday May 3rd, 8AM to 2 PM, at the greenhouse on campus, then on Saturday May 11th at the East Farm Festival, 9 AM to 2 PM at URI’s East Farm.

Vegetable seedlings, All-America Selections annuals, and Garden-dug perennials!

Keeping Busy

cordyline in greenhouse

It has been a very busy beginning of the year for this gardener. ( I have to laugh when people ask “What do you do in the winter?”) Well, in addition to caring for the plants in the Conservatory range, scouting the greenhouses, carrying out our IPM program, writing and taking pictures for the blog, keeping the website updated,  getting a required certification, engraving new labels to replace lost or broken ones, and supervising student employees and volunteers, I have a great new opportunity:  to take over responsibility for the “Botany Collection”, a wonderful and fascinating group of plants.

greenhouse 105

The plants are used in the labs for students in BIO 104 (Principles of Biology-Plants), BIO 311 (Plant Structure and Development), and BIO 321 (Plant Diversity). (There are 375 students in BIO 104 alone this semester…wow!) Plants in the collection have been gathered to represent different features like a certain type of flower or a certain type of root. Cactus and succulents, orchids, conifers, aquatic plants, ferns, plants with brightly pigmented leaves, mosses, fruiting plants, vines, many, many flowering plants, and some plants that are just plain curious, are all representatives of groups of plants being studied in Biology and Botany.

all grhs 2 015



plumbago auriculata


FEB 1 2012 039

Each week, plants are brought in to demonstrate the objective of the lab, whether it is simply “Primary Growth” or something a bit more advanced such as sporophyte development. Occasionally, germinating seeds and seedlings are requested for dissection and study under the microscope (what fun!) I start those here and then bring them over to the lab. It all looks so interesting that I wish I were in class!

germinating bean

drawing of beans Tomorrow I am off to New England Grows  — taking the 6 AM train to Boston. N.E.Grows bills itself as “the Ultimate Horticulture and Green Industry Education and Trade Show” and it is truly gigantic. Immense tree digging machinery and backhoes look like Matchbox cars on the floor of the trade show. My job tomorrow will be to give a very quick slideshow tour of the garden, condensing my usual one hour tour into 5 minutes! Then I am free to attend any educational session, so even though it’s not Biology Lab, I really do get to go to class.

students potting up plants

University Archives, URI


children diggingIt’s true that springtime is when most people get excited about gardening. I succumb to this as much as anyone –maybe even more so. Starting seeds and making big plans for the gardens is what spring is all about! But for digging and dividing and moving plants, there’s no time like the present. Yes, fall is THE best time to dig plants in my book. Because the weather is cooler and the days are shorter, there is rarely a danger of drought. (Cool weather is also pleasant for the gardener.) Here in coastal Rhode Island, mild fall weather allows transplants to establish good root systems before the ground freezes. The plants won’t need to be watered through the spring and summer when I am busy with a million other things. And speaking of a million other things, that’s another good reason to dig in the fall. Spring is just TOO BUSY. Seeds. Weeds. Plant Sale!

My tool of choice for this work is a solid steel spade. I used to think this spade was ridiculously heavy. But if it’s nice and sharp (I like to sharpen ALL my tools), then the weight of the spade does half the work for you.  Digging is not always easy but can be oh- so- satisfying!

steel spadeSo this week, with the help of Dr. Maynard’s PLS 350 class (Herbaceous Garden Plants),  I will be digging up much of the sunny border in the main garden. This renovation is sorely needed! It will invigorate the plants, loosen the soil, and reestablish the appearance of the garden. Plants do move themselves, into or out of the sun, over a few years, and the original design gets lost.  I’m looking forward to replanting the border so that it is accessible from the back — eliminating the need to (oh no!) step in the garden to tend the plants. Soil compaction makes it hard for water and air to reach plant roots, reducing growth and vigor, and favoring the growth of weeds.

Digging, dividing, and moving everything is a big job! The garden won’t necessarily look great this fall, but just give it a little time…by spring it will be beautiful!

new garden sign

These are a few of my favorite things…

Aster 'Alma Potschka'

Last night was the final “Tuesday Tour” for the 2012 season. Every Tuesday from May through September, I walk over to the Gazebo by the Outreach Center at 5 pm to offer a one hour garden tour for anyone who shows up. Sometimes it is as many as ten people. Other nights, one lucky person gets a personalized tour!

I always start with a quick history of the Garden — what I know of it, anyway. I know that the “Learning Landscape”, which became the Botanical Gardens, was created in the 1990s by URI Plant Science faculty and staff, RINLA members and their generous donations of time, money, and materials,  Plant Science students, and URI Master Gardeners.

Reaching back in time, I know that the west side of the Outreach Center building was the  headhouse of the original greenhouses on campus, built around 1905. The stone walls which enclose part of the main garden have a WPA plaque dated 1940. I have two aerial photos of the formal gardens from 1959 and 1966; you may have seen them on our website (cels.uri.edu/uribg ).  Other than that, it has been hard to dig up any other history of the Garden, even with the help of the patient folks at the University Archives. I would love to hear from anyone with historic information about (or pictures of)  the Garden!

WPA plaque garden wall

So, with the history of the Garden briefly covered, the rest of the Garden tour highlights a few of my favorite things! I love to point out native plants, and talk about the connection between native plants and the health of our local ecosystem/food chain. Any colorful flower is OK in my book, as well as tall perennials that make great focal points, backdrops, or screens. Of course, ground covers are nice, helping to reduce the ever present chore of weeding. And so are foliage plants, which patiently beautify the gardens with none of the admiring looks that their flowering relatives get! Trees make me happy — deciduous trees which leaf out in celebration every spring, and evergreens that keep the landscape from becoming entirely black and white in the winter. Flowering shrubs, from early Witch Hazel to late Rose of Sharon, create spaces of color and fragrance to enjoy.

iris and poppy

I’ve always enjoyed watching insects in the Garden. Honeybees are at the top of the list, being a former beekeeper, but also all sizes and shapes of wild bees. Butterflies never fail to delight, and moths as well. Dragonflies enjoy the Garden with it’s abundance of food for them and I love watching them bask in the sun like lizards.

monarch on echinacea

Whether I like it or not, animals live in and visit the Garden. Rabbits and deer, moles, voles, and mice can be destructive, and many times I wish I had a way to keep them out of the Garden. That said, seeing them quietly walk through the grass,  or hearing a beautiful bird song  in the trees, makes me grateful for the little bit of wildlife I encounter here.

deer in the garden

Really, all of the Garden is full of my favorite things.

honey bee

July in the Garden

bee balm, echinacea

The year has a rhythm of seasons and each season has it’s own beginning, middle, and end. Mid-July, high summer, hot and dry. Weeding in the garden has slowed down with the lack of rain. Daylilies, beebalm, echinacea, daisies, all out in full force! It’s beautiful and quiet, visitors relaxing in the shade and catching whatever breeze might come up over Kingston Hill. Evidence of four-legged visitors is clear in the neatly “pruned” hostas all over the Garden.


I haven’t seen them yet so they must be wandering in at night. Other, very small critters hop around with no fear, too young to realize I could be a predator. So far they prefer the clover in the grass to my perennials, so I can sit back and enjoy their wide-eyed little faces and big ears.

rabbit in grass

July is a great time to take notes on what will need to be dug, divided, or moved in the fall. It’s also a good time to take pictures, for fun as well as for creating a visual history of the garden.

honey bee on echinacea

bee on teasel

Finally, the little bit of a lull in July allows time for learning something new on a hot afternoon.

climbing ropes

climbing tree with ropes

Louis in tree

way up in tree

down from tree with ropes