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Kristin

Unique Plants for Maine Gardens: Agave and Dinosaur Food

Greetings fellow plant enthusiasts, my name is Kristin Neill. For those of you that don’t remember me, I am originally from Greensboro, North Carolina. I’m a student at North Carolina State University studying Horticultural Science and Plant Biology. This is my second summer interning at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. I’m excited to have the chance to return to Maine and continue working and learning every day at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

One of my favorite parts about working for the Gardens has to be planting. We are constantly changing designs and adding and moving plants within the individual gardens and it’s phenomenal to get to participate in these changes. We were very busy in June completing some of our biggest projects, including a new design in the Great Lawn bed and many annual plants. We have some very beautiful displays this year, including some very exceptional plants.

So let me tell you about some of my favorite unique plants this summer. I’ve had the opportunity to do many of the annual plantings in the front entrance walk, the Great Lawn, and the Children’s Garden. One of the more interesting plants in the garden, that is definitely not native to Maine, is the Agave. Agave was interesting to handle in its entirety. Sharp needle-like ends at the tips of each leaf make handling this gorgeous plant deadly, and make planting even harder. Agave is known as the “century plant”, meaning that it takes a long time for it to flower, then after flowering the plant will die. Up here in Maine, though, this plant will not make it through the winter and will never get the chance to flower. Although it was a challenge to handle and plant, I enjoy having this plant in the gardens as well as seeing guest reactions to it. It has been used in a distinctive design on the front entrance walk. Where else will you see Agave growing in Maine?

Agave

Now think back to the times of dinosaurs; imagine the massive looming creatures and the massive plants growing that had to sustain such creatures. One of our newest additions to the Rhododendron Garden is a plant reminiscent of such plants. Called Gunnera manicata, this giant-leaved perennial definitely resembles “dinosaur food”, which also happens to be one of its common names. Gunnera manicata is one of the largest herbaceous perennials on earth. The huge, toothed, palmately-lobed, and prominently-veined leaves on Gunnera can get as big as 6 to 8 feet across. This unique plant is also commonly called “giant rhubarb” because of its similarities to rhubarb, although botanically, it is not related.

Big Plant

So come visit this summer and check out these unusual plants along with many more unique ones here at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens!

-Kristin Neill
Bridge Summer Intern 2014, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Horticultural Science and Plant Biology Major, North Carolina State University