Archive for June, 2013

Fairy House Fiesta!

Friday, June 28th, 2013
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The fairy house building crew
starting the day!
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Fellow intern Montana starting the
backbone of his fairy house.
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Montana’s finished product.
Isn’t it gorgeous?

When I first came to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and was looking at the map, I was very confused as to what one area was: the Fairy House Village. What in the world could that be, and why does it take up such a huge part of the garden? It was only when I saw the Village that I truly understood why it was such a big deal: Everyone can get involved! If you’ve ever been down by the shoreline, I’m sure you’ve seen dozens of little houses covering the ground, left by past guests. I find this area to be a wonderful way to add your own personal touch to the garden, for both children and adults. After seeing all of the fun houses in the Fairy House Village, I’ve been itching to build my very own, and today I finally got the chance.

This morning, fellow intern Montana and I were in for a treat; we would be spending the day building fairy houses with some other staff members and a volunteer. Many of the houses built in the Fairy House Village are made from whatever can be found lying around: twigs, shells, bark or stumps. We do, however, always ask that no live material is used in the house making so that we can let our plants live a long and healthy life.

In our case, we needed to make our fairy homes a little more stable than usual, so we used hot-glue guns and nails to hold everything in place. This was my first time making a fairy house and to be honest, it was a little overwhelming! There are just SO many things one can do with a fairy house that you need to just have fun with it and add your own creative touch. In the end, we ended up with some absolutely beautiful fairy houses!

This year, we will be celebrating fairies all summer long! We’re calling the celebration “Fairy Fridays…And One Weekend.” The fairy houses we built today will be part of a scavenger hunt on the grounds and will be spread throughout the gardens for Fairy Fridays. Next Friday (July 5) is the first Fairy Friday of the year, and they will continue through August. Be sure to join us on any Friday, and don’t forget your fairy wings!

-Carrington Flatness, Horticulture Intern

Marginal Misfits

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Fellow intern Kristin watering in
the new plants
Misfits, like this variety of Mouse Ear
Hosta, can be stunning too,
Don’t miss it!
The new completed display

Sometimes life doesn’t give you lemons, it gives you a mismatched assortment of leftover nursery plants and it’s still up to you to turn the menagerie into lemonade. My task for the week was to help staff horticulturist Justin Nichols transform these otherwise unusable extra plants into a beautiful display in the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden to disguise the restroom.

While our choices were limited enough in terms of color, texture, height, and cultural needs, we were also required to experiment with many plants marginal to coastal Maine. These plants (including Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Gulftide’, Mahonia japonica, Ilex opaca ‘Weston’, and Lagerstroemia ‘Hopi’) are suited to a specific hardiness zone and will thrive in certain aspects of our climate but may have decreased vigor or be unable to survive our winters.

Thanks to a little creativity and resourcefulness, what was once an eyesore in the Children’s Garden has been transformed in to a lovely hodge-podge of “Marginal Misfits.”

- Montana Williams, Pearson Horticulture Intern 

 

A Bright New Entrance!

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
All the bunchberry sod is down,
and it looks great!
Just a couple of the huge
ostrich ferns we transplanted.
The completed front entrance
this past week.
 
 The new rhododendron bed
 Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Autumn Fern’

The main entrance on Barters Island Road is one of the first impressions you get of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Sadly, it is also the most overlooked and is generally left alone. Not this week, though! Sharmon, the Gardens’ plant records coordinator and plant propagator, and I worked extremely hard  adding and rearranging to make the entrance more inviting. Next time you come to the gardens, be sure to check out all that we’ve done.

To start, we added a couple of Ilex verticillata ‘Southern Gentleman’ to fill in the gaps and help cover the weeds that are growing in the woods behind the entry.  Then we started on our main project: We transplanted a couple of Christmas ferns to the bed to make a smooth palette for the bunchberry sod. Unlike my colleagues, I did not mind working with the sod at all. The bunchberry sod was very thin and easily cut into the correct shapes needed for the bed. The only problem we had with it was that we didn’t have enough to fill the bed. To make the space look more filled out, we spread the sod out a little and filled in the gaps with sensitive ferns.

When the first side was finished, we moved to the side with the sign. This bed was filled with an assortment of ferns, assorted rhododendrons, Pulmonaria ‘Cotton Cool’, and Pulmonaria ‘Diane Clare’. We took the rhododendrons and the pulmonaria completely out of the bed. The rhododendrons were moved in the another bed that was empty and had only a telephone pole in it. We gave the pulmonaria to another horticulturalist for use in a bed elsewhere in the garden. This is just one example of how plants are used and reused from one side of the grounds to another.

After things were taken out, we started to rearrange the ferns. Our goal was not to create a completely organized bed with straight lines, but to have a more natural setting and, as Sharmon put it, “a bed of organized chaos” was the goal. We rearranged the ferns so that for the most part like ferns were near each other. Some very neat autumn ferns were added to the mix to give it a splash of color. I fell in love with autumn ferns, or Dryopteris erythrosora, after planting them. Their colors are incredibly vivid, and they will really add a pop of color to catch the eye when they grow in a little.

We decided to add a little height, and a slightly different texture, to the bed behind the autumn ferns. We had much fun digging up huge ostrich ferns, or Matteuccia struthiopteris, from the hillside behind the Cleaver Event Lawn & Garden. We transplanted quite  a few to different places all around the front entrance. By adding a few to the other side of the driveway, we could keep the theme going throughout the whole area. Keeping the theme means having the same plant or very similar plants carry over into another bed. To finish it off we added three different types of clematis to the base of the sign, then tied them to get them started on their climb. We added, Clematis ‘Matka Urszula Ledochowska’, Clematis ‘I Am Red Robin’, and Clematis ‘General Skikorski’. Two of the three have already bloomed or are just finishing now; the third, the General Skikorski, is just about to bloom. The blooms will be the classic purple and will hopefully brighten up the sign a little  bit.

While we were redoing the front, Diane Walden, a staff horticulturalist, and Director of Horticulture Rodney Eason were busy planting the Zen pots that line the two stone walls at the entrance. These pots are full of color and really do brighten up the entrance and lessen the sharpness of the straight stone walls.

 Although it may not seem like much, we put a lot of hard work into making the front entrance more cared for and inviting. The new beds are starting to fill out and will look wonderful for years to come, and the pots bring some color to the area. Surprisingly, there is still more to be done! Keep an eye out for more exciting changes at the entrance!

- Kristin Neill, Horticulture Intern

A Journey Through the Forest

Friday, June 21st, 2013
Early-morning hikes can be beautiful!
Looks can be deceiving. Here’s one of the swampy areas we trekked through.
Montana posing with one of the
fallen trees we climbed over.

This past week, fellow intern Montana and I were assigned to a task that we had heard nothing about yet. Our fellow horticulture staff members called this job “walking the deer fence.” For anyone who has been on our grounds before, you may have noticed a tall, black, mesh fence surrounding the entire property. No this is not to keep anyone inside; it is mainly meant to keep deer (and other animals) out. The first part of the fence was installed in 2005, while additional pieces were added in the following years.

Almost all of our grounds are completely surrounded by this fence now, but that doesn’t mean it’s always foolproof. Animals sometimes manage to create large holes in the fence, or a big storm may knock trees down on it and cause major damage. That’s where we come in. Our duty of “walking the deer fence” is to make sure there are no holes or damage to the fence and, if there are, to fix it.

While getting ready to head into the forest, staff horticulturist Justin Nichols asked if we had boots to wear. Unfortunately, we did not. He assured us that we would be fine, though, because it would just be a “little” swamp that we would have to walk through. After using half of a can of bug spray, we were finally ready to brave the forest and make sure all was well with the deer fence.

Our walk around the forest started off perfectly fine. It was early morning and the sunlight was shining the most beautiful light on the scenery (see picture to the right). However, we soon realized that this would be no walk through the forest, but instead a hike of epic proportions. We had to hop over creeks using slippery stones, hike up very steep inclines, and shimmy our bodies over large logs. While the terrain in Maine is truly breathtaking, it can physically can take your breath away if you hike the trails like we did!

The trek around the deer fence took about an hour and a half to walk entirely. We had been walking for just about an hour and thought the worst was behind us. That was until Montana took a step and sank knee deep into swampy waters. How could we forget the swamp! The next half hour consisted of hopping from dry spot to dry spot, praying we didn’t sink into the muck again. Unfortunately, we sank many more times before making it out of the swamp, which left us with some very wet and smelly shoes. My staff name tag is also lost somewhere in that part of the forest and, trust me, I’m in no rush to go back to find it.

While very challenging, this journey through the woods was helpful on all accounts. We fixed the minor problems with the deer fence, we both got a great workout from the hike, and we got to see a whole new side to the garden. It may not be the most glamorous job, but it’s the least we can do to keep our garden safe from those pesky deer!

- Carrington Flatness, Horticulture Intern

What’s gardening without a little mud?

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Rhizomes
Megan and I got absolutely filthy!
But mission accomplished, the Iris is out!

When I first started working at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, I decided early on that I would need a good pair of waterproof boots to work in. So I went out and purchased a pair of Muck boots, so far they have been wonderful, one of the best purchases ever. I never thought that I would curse the day I decided to wear these boots, but it did come.

Justin, one of the horticulturalists, asked the collective group who had waterproof shoes. Of course I had chosen to wear my waterproof boots and pants that day, so I spoke up and said I did. Megan, one of the gardeners, was the only other one with waterproof pants and boots, so we were chosen for Justin’s mission. The mission was as follows: Go to the Giles Rhododendron Garden and pull out the invasive Iris. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

Here’s just a quick summary of the plant itself and the reasons we are evicting it from the pond. Iris pseudacorus, commonly known as yellow flag, is a fast-growing and fast-spreading invasive plant that can out-compete other wetland plants and form almost impenetrable thickets. Yellow flag spreads very quickly through both water-dispersed seeds and broken rhizomes. Rhizomes are a modified stem of a plant that is usually found underground and sends off roots from the nodes. Although the Iris is very attractive and can live in extremely wet conditions, its ability to spread its seeds so easily and quickly make it undesirable at the gardens.

The yellow flag iris does have some beneficial qualities, though. The plant is sometimes used as a form of water treatment due to its ability to take up heavy metals through the roots.

So, Megan and I went off towards the Rhody Garden thinking this task would be a breeze. All started off well. We brought our shovels down to the shore and did a little investigating to find that there were two bad clumps near us and then a couple of smaller ones on the other side of the pond. We started by attacking one of the largest clumps. Thinking it would be like taking any other plant out , we used our shovels to try and release it from the muddy foot of water it was living in. That didn’t work. We kept trying to move it and then dig some more because we thought the roots were still stuck, but it would not budge. Finally we realized that the plant was in fact not attached to the ground at all and was literally sitting on top of the mud.

We tried to pull it out and could only move it a couple inches at a time due to its unbelievable weight. Eventually we developed a system of counting to three and pulling with all our strength at the same time. We managed to get it up the hill and near the Kubota, one of the orange vehicles we use to get around and transport things. Getting this 70 lb clump of stinky, dripping, gross, muddy plant into the Kubota was the hardest part. We used every last bit of our strength to get it just to the edge. It was barely on there though and both of us had to get behind the plant and push the muddy bottom to get the plant all the way into the bed. Needless to say, that after two more experiences just like this one and pulling out what felt like several miles of rhizomes we were covered in swamp water and smelly mud. I can honestly say that I smelled like a swamp monster for two more days after this incident. Megan and I were exhausted, but very proud of our dead Iris.

- Kristin Neill, Horticulture Intern

 

 

 

Renovation and Conservation

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Fellow intern Carrington strikes a pose
next to a stack of blueberry sod

Next to a Lunaform pot, is one of our
many Polygonatum sp.

In our rose garden the other day, I
stumbled upon this beauty, Dahlia hybrid
‘Knockout’. Be sure to check it out!

If you’ve visited Coastal Maine Botanical gardens this week, you may have noticed that we’re renovating the wild blueberry beds in the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, and let me tell you it is quite the project! The weeds have become too dense to manage so we must resort to removing the infested plantings. We’ll be laying new sod this week to restore the beds to their original beauty – and hopefully it will be weed free. CMBG values stimulating the local economy, so we’ve purchased our sod from Fred’s Wild Sod, Inc., a resident provider of high-quality native sod.

Mainers know that the lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, is not only an important native species, but also a staple agricultural crop of this region. This low-input crop has adapted to the northern coast’s naturally acidic and poorly fertile soils and is able to withstand the harsh winters. Because of its importance to the economy and to the wildlife of Maine, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has planted it throughout the gardens to demonstrate how it can be incorporated into many different sites in the landscape. For additional information on wild blueberries, please consult this resource.

This week, staff horticulturist Justin Nichols recruited me to help him compile a list of all the Solomon’s seal varieties we have on the grounds. King Solomon’s seal, or Polygonatum sp., is a genus of herbaceous perennial plants with unique architectural arching stems adorned with attractive bell-like flowers. Our goal is to become a repository for the genus and therefore become officially recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC). This organization is working with many botanical gardens across the country to promote plant germplasm preservation, an important task that will help maintain a high level of biodiversity. Collections and Grounds Manager Tom Clark from Polly Hill Arboretum in Martha’s Vineyard is also helping us in this endeavor.

- Montana Williams, Pearson Horticulture Intern

Welcoming Lunaform to the Gardens!

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Hello readers!

Staff horticulturalist Justin Nichols, carefully helping to unload the new Lunaform pots.
Some of the pots were too big to carry in our arms!
This planter’s name is Siena, my personal favorite!
Each pot has a sign like this one beside it, for any and all information you might need.

As Kristin & Montana have introduced themselves in previous blog posts, allow me to do the same. My name is Carrington Flatness and I am one of the three horticulture interns for this summer. After figuring out my uncontrollable love for plants, I decided to attend Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, where I received my associate’s degree in horticulture in 2011. One month ago, I finally received my bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State University (Go Cyclones!).

As for horticulture experience, I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different areas of the field, such as my favorite nursery/garden center near my hometown in Illinois and a marvelous public garden in Ames, Iowa.

Despite my love for the Midwest, I knew I needed to broaden my knowledge of horticulture in different areas of the country to become the best professional I can be. It seems apparent already that Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will be a huge part of helping me achieve my goals!

Today I got the chance to work with some wonderful professionals from the Lunaform studio. Lunaform, for those of you who don’t know, is a company in Sullivan, Maine, that specializes in making beautiful concrete structures: planters, urns, fountains, etc. Our director of horticulture, Rodney Eason, decided to put me, along with Justin Nichols, a horticulture staff member, in charge of the project of unloading and placing these beautiful containers within the gardens. We were greeted at 10 a.m. by Dan Farrenkopf and Phid Lawless, the two Lunaform founders and owners who would be helping us for the day.

Justin and I quickly realized that these were no ordinary pots; they were colossal! The largest pots weighed in somewhere around 600 pounds! We couldn’t unload from the truck by hand, so we needed some extra tools on our side. We used a ball cart (typically used for big trees in the horticulture department) and the Dingo skid steer machine to carefully haul these pots to their new homes.

In honor of their 20th anniversary in business, Lunaform agreed to house these beautiful containers at the gardens all summer long and have them available to the public for purchase! Each planter has a sign next to it (shown on the last picture at right). The sign will outline the basic details of the planter and will  indicate the price of each item.

My favorite part about these signs is the Quick Response (QR) codes located at the bottom. Anyone with a smart phone can easily scan these QR codes, whcih will provide additional information about that specific planter straight to the phone. In this day and age, I think it is easily overlooked how innovative companies are being to get us the information we want. Just another reason why I have come to love Lunaform!

These pieces, with dramatic plantings by Diane Walden of the horticulture staff, will be in our garden until the Labor Day weekend. You can see the containers displayed on the Gardens’ main campus – by the Visitor Center, the Burpee Kitchen Garden, and Bosarge Family Education Center. You’ll also see planters on the wall by the main entrance. Stop by soon to check out all of them!

For additional information about Lunaform, please click here.

- Carrington Flatness, Horticulture Intern

Success and Peace of Mind

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Paeonia ‘Singing in the Rain’  (above) and
Paeonia ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (below), both intersectional (Itoh) peonies,
are currently blooming. Check them out!

Me, evaluating bareroot stock.
The view from Huckleberry Cove Trail

I’m sure you’ve read about our little misadventure with our first B&B (ball and burlap) tree? Well aside from that disastrous (but educational) experience, our group of interns has enjoyed a few successes this week. Fellow intern Carrington and I planted a row of maple trees in the front entrance, hoping to form a hedge that would complement the current display of Hemerocallis sp., or daylilies. Our goal is to create a wave-like barrier of green foliage to help accent the adjacent path. In addition to this, Will Bridges, a staff horticulturist, educated me on how to properly plant bareroot viburnum. Both projects were executed smoothly, so let’s see if the plants establish well! If you are curious about planting bareroot stock, please follow this link.

According to the “TripAdvisor” literature I poured over before arriving, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is the number one garden to visit, a claim whose accuracy is made obvious the moment you set foot on the grounds. Perhaps what makes this garden stand out against its competitors is the 3,600 feet of tidal shore frontage guests have the opportunity to explore when they arrive. In addition to the beautiful river vista, our garden sets itself apart by providing hiking trails and native plant displays to complement our traditional ornamental garden collections.

At the risk of sharing a secret that may not be mine to tell, our Director of Horticulture, Rodney Eason, confided in me the location of a place along the garden’s shore where he spent many days reflecting, hoping to justify his decision to move his family to this beautiful peninsula.  After walking Huckleberry Cove Trail, I completely understand the calming effect he spoke of. I implore you to explore our many trails, experience the unparalleled tranquility, and maybe even discover Rodney’s secret sanctuary for yourself.

- Montana Williams, Pearson Horticulture Intern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members-Only Native Tree Tour with Andy Abello

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
June 19, 2013
3:00 pmto4:15 pm

Andy AbelloAndy Abello, trained  Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Docent and owner of Wind Ridge Farm in Edgecomb, was awarded Outstanding Tree Farmer for the State of Maine in 2010 and was a finalist for Outstanding Tree Farmer for the Northeast Region of the U.S. in 2012. On Wednesday, June 19, he will lead a walk for members who’d like to learn more about the native trees at the Gardens.

This walk, from 3:00-4:15 p.m., is limited to 10 members of the Gardens. The fee is $10. To sign up, call 207-633-4333, ext. 101.

Purchase Tickets

 

 

 

 


You learn as you go

Monday, June 10th, 2013

This sling would go under the
root ball to lift the tree.
Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’
(Eastern redbud)
The variegated pine needles
All done! I think it looks
pretty good, don’t you?

The day started off as a day like any other; it was clear and nice as we began our horticultural duties. Carrington Flatness, another intern on the horticulture staff, took a turn at the Toro Dingo, a walk-behind skid-steer machine, and carried an Eastern redbud up to the great lawn. Once there, Rodney came out and showed Montana Williams (another intern), Carrington, and me how to measure and plant a ball-and-burlap tree. In the process of digging out the grasses to make room for the redbud, one of us cut the irrigation line! This was just the start of our misfortunes during this day. I’m about to tell you all about how not to plant a large ball-and-burlap pine. For those of you who don’t know, a ball-and-burlap tree is a tree that has been grown in a field nursery row, dug up with the soil intact, and then wrapped with burlap and tied with twine.

Pine trees are unique because they typically have about four good roots, and then the rest of the root ball will be loose soil. This makes them especially hard to transplant because they will fall apart if the job is not done properly. In our case, it was not done properly. There are many different ways to plant a tree. Sometimes it all depends on how you transport the tree. For instance, earlier in the day we helped plant a redbud (Cercis canadensis)  that was transported by using a sling on the dingo. With the sling, we cut off the metal cage and twine; then it was a very simple process to pick up the tree and slowly lower it into the hole. If you are not using a sling, then getting the tree into the hole is a whole different story.
 
Now I begin my tale of how not to plant a variegated pine ball-and-burlap tree. The tree of interest is the Burke’s red variegated pine. To start off, horticulturist Will Bridges, Director of Horticulture Rodney Easom, and Montana took a little bit of time to get the heavy variegated pine onto the Dingo. It eventually was put on at an angle and strapped into place to ensure that it wouldn’t come sliding off on its road trip up to the entrance of the Haney Hillside Garden. As we found out later, you never cut off the twine or metal basket of a tree until it is in the hole. That was our first mistake; the second was trying to slide the tree off the Dingo into the hole. Although we thought our plan would work, we were sadly mistaken. In our attempt to slide the pine, it came off the Dingo with a thud, sideways. We now had a horizontal pine tree!
 
Montana, Carrington, and I tried for 30 minutes to get this tree to stand up straight. But it was like trying to pick up an elephant, darned near impossible! Finally we had to ask humbly for help in fixing our little mistake. It took another 30 minutes, but Will and horticulturist Dick Zieg were innovative in their methods to coax the tree upright. It was a victory, but not for long. The tree, in all our struggles, had ended up about a foot too high in the ground, but the day was over and we went home feeling satisfied that we had at least made some progress.

The next day, with Rodney’s help, we were able to get the sling around the variegated pine’s root ball and attach it to the Dingo, where we could then lift it and excavate underneath to lower the hole in which the roots would be buried. It was now a simple process to lower the pine back into the hole and then pack in the soil around it. The pine was in and straight! We stood back and looked at our accomplishment. Although the tree was in, we had managed to destroy some of the patch of evening primrose sundrops (Oenothera). We evened out what was left of the patch and mulched around our pine. Although it took much more effort than it should have, I think it turned out okay and the variegated pine will look lovely in its chosen spot. Although the mistake made for a difficult and interesting day, I learned a lot about planting ball-and-burlap trees and will not make those mistakes again. So, when planting a very heavy ball-and-burlap pine tree, never cut anything until your tree is in the hole, never drop the tree, use a sling if possible, and always have someone there who will be able to creatively help if you make a mistake.

Kristin Neill