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




Ready for Spring!

Friday, 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.


Cleaver Event Lawn and Garden

Friday, December 21st, 2012

North Entry to the Cleaver Event Lawn and Garden

Our Senior Horticulturalist, Dick Zieg, has been feverishly looking through plant catalogs the past couple of weeks searching for new plants and ideas to enhance the gardens of the Cleaver Event Lawn and Garden. This is the area that surrounds the open panel of turf above the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. 

Dick explains some of the changes he plans to make in 2013

Dick is the primary gardener for this area and he wanted to provide some new horticultural displays for 2013. A month ago, I sent him some images of the mixed borders at Great Dixter in East Sussex, England; and this lit a fuse with Dick. He has picked out a nice array of new plants to mix into the existing plantings. Just a sampling of new plants he has picked out includes Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette,’ Hibiscus ‘Pink Elephant,’ and Clematis ‘Wildfire.’




Be sure to walk around the gardens surrounding the Cleaver Event Lawn  this summer and see all of Dick’s improvements. – Rodney

Images by: Dick Zieg, Rodney Eason, Sugarcreek Gardens, Sooner Plant Farm, and ornamental-trees.co.uk

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Winter Work

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Throughout the winter, we thought it would be great to share with all of our visitors what we do once the perennials are dormant and Jack Frost moves into his winter home on the Boothbay peninsula. This is the first of weekly updates showing you some of the improvements we have on the boards in the Gardens. Hopefully, when you and spring come back to the Gardens, you will be able to notice the fruits of our labors.

The first update is about Justin’s trail improvement work down along the Back River. Thanks to a grant from the Fields Pond Foundation, Justin is able to continue improving the trails on the Gardens’ property. He was also able to attend a workshop on best management practices for trail building this fall, which was coordinated and taught by the Maine Forest Service. He is using knowledge and techniques gained from this workshop directly on the trail improvement.

Justin is focusing our trail improvements on the Huckleberry Cove Trail. This trail runs south along the shoreline of the Back River from the Vayo Meditation Garden along the gorgeous ledge outcrop. If you have yet to walk down this trail, be sure to check it out this spring. When the trail was initially constructed, a layer of landscape fabric was used under the walkway mulch. Over time, we noticed that the fabric did not provide a rough enough surface for the mulch to “grab” onto. The walkway appeared that it was cracking in places, and in other locations you could even see the black landscape fabric.

Justin surveying his work

Justin surveying his work

What Justin did this past week was to initially scrape away the top layer of walkway mulch. Then he pulled away the landscape fabric, which we are hoping to reuse in other areas of the property. Justin is using smaller equipment and hand tools to create as little impact on the surrounding forest as possible. The mulch is scraped back by using a compact, track loader called a Toro Dingo (see above). By using a loader on tracks, the weight of the machine is spread out over a greater surface area, which causes less disturbance and compaction. Justin is hauling excess material out of the trail area with a small Kubota all-terrain vehicle. If you have been to the Gardens, you probably have noticed our staff moving about in these useful machines.

If Justin gets near a tree root, he parks the Dingo and finishes the excavation using a shovel and rake. It can be hard work, but Justin loves the fact that it keeps him warm on these colder days.

Area pulled away by Dingo

Area pulled away by Dingo

Next week, Justin will begin resurfacing the pathway with a walkway mulch we use called Superhumus. I will provide an update on the resurfacing next week. – Rodney