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
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
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.
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.
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
This week, I asked Will Bridges, our horticulturalist for the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses to give you an update on all of the changes and upgrades he has for the garden in 2013. Our team walked through the garden back in the fall and gave Will an unabridged laundry list of recommendations. He has been working since the snow fell to edit this list and source these plants. From here, I am going to hand it over to Will and let him tell you about his changes in his own words. – Rodney
I am using several new annuals for 2013. Lobularia ‘Blushing Princess’ will be inter-planted with Heliotrope ‘Marine’ around the entrance arch. Salvia “Black and Blue’ is going in front of the birches on the west side of the garden. We’re adding Amaranthus tricolor to a couple of locations near the front of the garden for some colorful height in the plantings. Our coleus bed was well received last year, so this year we’re trying some different varieties: Keystone Kopper, Marooned, and Neptune’s Net. Across from the Sound Stone, a planting of Zinnia ‘Starlight Rose’ mixed with Cuphea ‘Flamenco Samba’ should be flashy. Ornamental millet ‘Red Baron’, at five feet tall, will stand out in the fern bed along the lower pond.
I am also adding some new perennials to replace some that didn’t perform as well as expected. Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue’ and Eryngium ‘Blue Hobbit’ will go in on either side of the weir for the upper pond. A new Coreopsis, ‘Mercury Rising’, will go behind the sound stone. This is a bright red tickseed that has been trialed for three years in Zone 5 so it ought to be a solid performer. Dwarf goatsbeard, Aruncus aethusifolius, will go around the deck on the lower pond. This has really nice fine-cut foliage that will work well with the other plants in that location.
I am in the process of tracking down a really nice small tree. Carpinus japonicum, Japanese hornbeam, which has hops-like fruit, glossy green foliage and a soft yellow fall color. This will go near the first deck at the back of the garden. In the same area, Cornus alba ‘Ivory Halo’ will replace the Sambucus that just did not pass muster. Another addition will be Parthenosisus cuspidata ‘Fenway’, a chartreuse Boston ivy that will climb a couple of the spruce trees along the north side of the garden. – Will Bridges
As the chill of winter and the blanket of snow have ascended upon the Gardens, the horticulture staff continue to plug away on tasks to ready the gardens for your return in 2013. From plant selection and seed propagation to pruning and equipment maintenance, there is no hibernation at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
Here’s to a fantastic 2013. – Rodney
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 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
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.
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.
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
On April 11th we enjoyed the fourth installment of our Kitchen Garden Dinner Series of 2012. This series brings top Maine chefs to our own Kitchen Garden Café for sumptuous multi-course meals. The guest chefs have the opportunity to showcase their favorite seasonal offerings in the intimate setting of the Cafe at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
The April dinner featured Wing’s Hill Inn & Restaurant owner/chef Christopher Anderson, who offered up an evening of culinary delights. The wonderful play between flavors and textures was consistent throughout the meal, and the plating was colorful and creative. Although all courses were delicious, my favorite was the foie gras starter because of the wonderful blending of flavors between the mushrooms, bread, foie gras, and the balsamic reduction sauce. The fish from the second course was flavorful; however the sauce was the star – it made me want to run off into the garden with a baguette and a bowl of it and sit like a happy chipmunk devouring every morsel.
Wing’s Hill Inn & Restaurant is located in Belgrade Lakes on Rt. 27. It’s a charming country inn, with an award-winning restaurant. They also have a bakery for specialty cakes to order. To book reservations, call (207) 495-2400 or toll free (866) 495-2400.
Our next dinner is on May 16th with Chef Rich Hanson from Cleonice in Ellsworth. The dinner is sold out, but we are taking names for the waiting list. Check out our Kitchen Garden Dinner Series page for the full 2012 schedule. Tickets are available to the public for all of our Kitchen Garden Series Dinners; call (207) 633-4333, ext.101 to reserve your seats. Be sure to book your reservations early this summer, as all of our chefs are sure to be a hit!
~ Frank Merrill, Rental Coordinator