Renovation and Conservation

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!

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

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










You learn as you go

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




A Great First Two Weeks!

June 8th, 2013

 The Beginning of My Summer at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens!

Carrington 1

First day!!
So excited to start my internship here!

Carrington 2
Polemonium ‘Heavens Scent’
Carrington 3
My “Garden in a Cube!”
Carrington 4

Hopefully this rush will liven
up the front entrance.

 Cercidiphyllum japonicum
 The complete Rose & Perennial Garden

 The Katsura tree
 Goodbye, tulips!!
 Peach cobbler Buddleia
 We have so much fun, rain or shine!

The Dingo was terrifying,
but I think I’ve got it down.

Finally in and all staked,
these Junipers look great

My name is Kristin Neill. I’m originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, and just completed my freshman year at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where I’m double majoring in plant biology and horticulture. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work at the Gardens this summer; it’s going to help me greatly in my continuing horticulture studies.

I’m an avid horse person, and until college was very competitive in the eventing discipline. I’ve ridden horses for 10 years and love it immensely. Now, in college, I have taken up a new sport: I’m on the sailing club at NC State and  am very involved with the team. Living in Maine this summer is going to be perfect, and I am super excited to be here.

Monday, May 20: My very first day started by going to Hammond Lumber and getting a rain suit, which came in handy, as I spent the rest of the day planting in the Rose & Perennial Garden. It took me a little while to become used to the bright yellow rain attire, but as with anything else I adapted: I tried to cover the suit in mud!

After getting my rain suit and gas with Justin Nichols [a staff horticulturist], I helped him lay out plants for the cottage garden, all while he was gushing information about the plants. He put in cardinal flowers and Meconopsis. After that we joined Rodney Eason [Director of Horticulture] in the Rose & Perennial Garden, where I planted a whole bed of lupin plugs using the “staggering” method. I was reminded to stagger the plants and meticulously spread out the root system of a poorly rooted plant. I was most proud of placing and planting Polemonium ‘heavens scent’, or Jacob’s ladder, by the post of the rose arbor. Being able to place and plant meant a lot to me. I can’t wait for the plants to grow and smell wonderful. Then I can tell everyone that I planted those! Overall, my first day was amazing, I have learned so much already in this internship.

Tuesday, May 21: Today started off with rain again! Instead of going out and planting in the rain, I helped horticulturist Dick Zieg plant his “lobster-trap” wire planters in the greenhouse. We worked on a 3-D version, which he had never done before. For the “Thyme Warp” box, we planted a dark thyme and a variegated thyme as well as begonia plugs on one side. I really enjoyed working on the wire planters because the combination of artistry and gardening really appeals to me. I love the ability to create art trhough not only planters, but also plants themselves. I did eventually buy my own “Garden in a Cube” planter, and I love how it turned out after I planted it! After that I worked with Justin and a volunteer on planting a rush in the ditch by the entrance to the gardens.

Wednesday, May 22: I worked with gardener Megan Deveau and planted a couple of trees in the Rose & Perennial Garden. One, a weeping Katsura, also called Cercidiphyllum,  was really quite interesting! This tree is unique because in the fall its leaves will turn a pinkish color and smell like cotton candy. That’s so neat – I can’t wait to see it happen! When we planted the Katsura, it was the first time I learned how to plant a tree. Since The lesson Rodney gave us was invaluable.  We also planted a bunch of tropical plants in the garden. I really like the idea of a classic, calm rose garden being transformed into a unique garden of misfit plants.

Tuesday, May 28: In the beginning of the day, I worked with Justin, planting and weeding in the Children’s Garden. We had to pull out tulips in the Rainbow Terrace to make room for new annuals. That was loads of fun! Normally tulips are simple to pull up, but these tulips had been planted six inches into the ground and would break anytime you tried to yank them up! All of the volunteers were a little agitated by Justin’s bulb planting techniques. Although it was annoying, I think that planting them that low served its purpose because the tulips were gorgeous and very few died or were eaten over the winter.

I was then asked to pull out seven peach cobbler Buddleia. Boy was that fun! These butterfly bushes had been in there for a while and had definitely established a good root system. It took me an hour to pull them out, and I was exhausted by the end of it.

Wednesday, May 29: The day was cloudy and raining again! I started by helping Rodney fill in a spreadsheet for the Bigelow Project. Apparently the spreadsheet was very helpful, so I was very happy to have helped out. After that, I got my first lesson on the Dingo. I was terrified! All went well, though. I tested it first around the hort. building, and then we put two junipers on it. I drove the junipers to the Rose & Perennial Garden and dropped them off so I could go get the third one. I spent some of the day in my awesome yellow rain pants planting veronica in the Children’s Garden. Its always fun to work with the hort crew; there’s always a stream of jokes that accompany our conversations!

Next we had to move junipers into the area where I had ripped out the Buddleia. Although it didn’t take long, it took a lot of muscle to get them into the correct area. Rodney and I then dug a hole that would be the same depth as the root ball and a little larger across. We moved the juniper into the hole and cut off the twine and the top part of the metal cage, and then cut back the burlap. Rodney showed me how to look for the girdling root and knock down the shoulders of the root ball to the first sign of roots. We planted one tree and staked it using three stakes. The other two were left out for me to complete in the morning.

Thursday, May 30: The day started off hot and ended just as hot. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but since the day before was cold and rainy the dramatic weather change shocked my system. I spent the day with Justin and Megan planting the entrance of the Children’s Garden with Lobularia and other annuals and then planted several beds inside. At the end of the day, I finished planting the junipers with Dick’s help.

Off to a Good Start

June 6th, 2013

In the Giles Rhododendron Garden
(above), the vibrant colors of the plants’
blooms contrast perfectly with the natural
Maine woodlands setting,
creating an almost mystical feeling.


My favorite variety on the grounds,
Rhododendron ‘Klondyke’


Above are two pictures of Pinus strobus.
This tree is hardiness zones 3-7
and prefers cool humid climates,
making Maine an ideal location.


Hello readers!

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Montana Williams, and I am the Pearson Horticulture Intern here at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. I recently received my bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Colorado State University in beautiful Fort Collins, Col., where I interned with several local public gardens. Hoping to expand my experience working with public gardens and desiring a new adventure, I packed up my things and moved more than 2,000 miles from my hometown, which is also in Fort Collins. Fortunately, the paralyzing fear of moving away from my extraordinary life in Colorado was calmed by the picturesque landscape of Boothbay and its incredible summer climate. 

During my orientation at the gardens I was blown away by its extensive collection of plants and themed displays, but above all I was love-struck by the endless variety of Rhododendron on the property. For those unfamiliar with the genus, Rhododendron is a genus characterized by shrubs and small trees that may be evergreen or deciduous. They prefer well-drained slightly acidic soil in a cool location with adequate water, but most importantly they are loved for their gorgeous flowers and dense rounded growth habit.

This week, the other interns and I were assigned ten conifers to learn by the end of the week in order to familiarize ourselves with some exceptional species found in the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden. The list included one of my favorite species of trees, Pinus strobus or Eastern white pine, a conifer native to Maine and a tree you almost never see in Colorado. This tree has unusually soft needles and is an excellent choice for connecting people with the “touch” aspect of the garden and creating an interactive and memorable experience.

We Are Busy Mulching!

April 11th, 2013

mulching blog post

Spring Mulching

It’s that time of year between when the ground thaws and the plants emerge. Our team has been busy the past couple of weeks mulching the gardens. We started by going around and taking soil tests from all of our areas. The two major things we saw were that the soils needed more nitrogen and that they had a high pH. Our soil needs a pH lower than 7 for most of the plants to adequately take up the nutrients. The Nutrimulch that we have used for the past several years was wonderful in supplying organic nutrients, but the compost was causing our soil to become more alkaline. We are working with the manufacturer of Nutrimulch, Casella Organics, to remedy the pH issue; but for now we have decided to use their regular, aged-hardwood mulch, sans compost. 

We did add organic nitrogen to all our plant beds before we did any mulching. If you were here after we applied the organic fertilizer, you definitely smelled it. Let’s just say that it has a very “earthy” aroma. After we applied the fertilizer, we started mulching all the plant beds. Thus far, we have spread approximately 230 yards of mulch. Our team applies it with big shovels, so spring is our big workout. We have a couple more garden areas to spread mulch on, and then we will move on to our other spring tasks.

On the horizon, we need to apply fresh stone to the pathways, renovate the Great Lawn and Rose & Perennial Garden, and go through all our gardens to make sure the signage is correct. We have a lot to do before summer, but we love working together as a team! Especially when we are mulching because we can see the results of our work immediately.

- Rodney Eason, Director of Horticulture

Awake My Soul

March 1st, 2013

Here in Boothbay, spring is definitely in the air! Snow is still on the ground, and what ground is visible is muddy, but the days are oh so much longer and the air is warmer. Everybody seems to be in an upbeat mood in town. You can just sense that spring is going to be here soon. The buds are swollen on the trees and more and more cars roll into town on the weekends with license plates “from away.” On top of this, our Boothbay Region High School boy’s basketball team is playing for the Maine state championship tomorrow night. Go Seahawks!

Here in the horticulture department, we just received our first truckloads of mulch and are ready to hit the ground running. We also thought it would be a good reminder that below the snow lie all of our quiescent spring bulbs, just waiting to wake up with a colorful shout. We do not know exactly when, but soon there will be about 15,000 annual and perennial bulbs in full flower for your enjoyment. Here is a peek at a spring of the past to get you ready. – Rodney


Ready for Spring!

February 15th, 2013

Our guests who live away from New England probably heard quite a bit about Winter Storm Nemo last weekend. Let me tell you, it was something else. Being from the South, I have lived through several tropical storms and a couple of hurricanes. Nemo was like a wicked tropical storm with snow. It just kept going and going, much like the fictional Nemo swam through the ocean.

For those of us who live here, we were delighted that this past week brought warmer temperatures and, more importantly, longer days. We are really seeing the effects of more daylight, as our early-spring flowering woody plants have swollen buds. In fact, if you follow our Facebook page, you might have seen the pictures of the witchhazels in flower.

Justin pruning

Horticulturist Justin Nichols pruning an apple tree

Justin took advantage of this warmer weather to get out and perform structural pruning on the apple trees between the Café Terrace and the Children’s Garden. This time of year allows him to see the structure of the trees and perform the vital cuts to promote good structure and redirect growth.


Does CMBG Have That Plant?

January 22nd, 2013

If you are like me, you might be reading a magazine or watching television this winter when you see a new and interesting plant. Then, of course, you’ll wonder if Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is growing that plant.


An example page from a FloraFind entry

Well, did you know that you can search all of the plants in our collection from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone? You and everyone with access to the internet around the world can search all 82,000 plants in our collection through the FloraFind site. These 82,000 plants are spread over 3,400 accessions and 2,500 taxa. Our Plant Records Coordinator, Sharmon Provan, is constantly updating our records and mapping our plants to give you the most accurate access to the plants in our gardens. In 2012, we had more than 99,000 searches done on FloraFind from more than 68 countries! The easiest way to get to FloraFind is by clicking on the button in the lower right-hand side of our home page.

What FloraFind does is gives you access to our plant records database. Our plant records are stored in a database system developed especially for gardens called BG-Base. Sharmon enters every permanent plant that comes onto the CMBG site. We currently do not accession annuals because they are only on display temporarily, but this is something we can consider doing in the future as an interactive tour with an iPad or smartphone. Once Sharmon enters these plants into BG-Base, she makes labels for our staff to place with each plant. Each plant gets two labels: an accession label and a display label. The accession label is the little metal tag you see hanging from the plant. The display label is the green, plastic sign you see in front of each plant, showing you the name of the plant.

Sharmon mapping

Sharmon mapping with the Total Station - photo B. Freeman

The next step is for Sharmon to go out and physically map each plant. For this task, she uses a Nikon Total Station. The Total Station can pinpoint the location of each plant with an accuracy of within a few inches. Once she has the plants mapped with the Total Station, she transfers these points into BG-Map. This program is the mapping partner to BG-Base. BG-Map is what allows you to see where the plants are located in the gardens on the map.

The third and final component of this equation that enables you to see our plants from the comfort of your own home is FloraFind. This web portal gives you a peek into our plant records without having BG-Base or BG-Map. Of the gardens in the United States that currently utilize BG-Base and BG-Map, only three have the web portal to their accessions. Longwood Gardens has access through their Plant Explorer, Denver Botanic Gardens with their gardens Navigator, and of course, our FloraFind.

As you can tell from this brief description of the process, making our plants available to you online takes a lot of time, effort, and accuracy. Sharmon does a lot of the work with help from our staff, seasonal employees, and volunteers. If you are interested in helping us keep these records up to date as a volunteer, please let us know. We are always looking for folks to help with mapping and taking top-quality photographs of the plants so we can add them to FloraFind.

Most importantly, use Flora Find when you are looking for that special plant. Or take one of our predefined tours. And, of course, let us know what you think, as our plant record system is constantly being updated with more plants, pictures, and information as we continue to grow. – Rodney