Don’t miss the different varieties of milkweed blooming out front of the Bosarge Family Education Center – it’s crawling with happy pollinators, like these honey bees! – Erin, CFO (and Master Beekeeper)
This Dryopteris crassirhizoma (Thick-stemmed Wood Fern) is very cool and ancient looking in the Lerner Garden. It’s interesting to think that some form of fern existed in the Cretaceous Period some 360 million years ago, even if it wasn’t this variety. – Tina, IT coordinator
I’m so excited about this little gem of a plant, Cistus ‘Bicolor Pink!’ It is in full bloom, tucked carefully away in the Overlook section of the Rose and Perennial Garden. I added these Mediterranean natives to our collection in 2014 and am enamored with the fact that they over wintered! Check them out because they may not be here forever. – Jen, horticulturist
This beautiful bee balm (Monarda bradburiana) is low maintenance and uniquely beautiful, making it my personal favorite. Its leaves can be made into tea, and it also attracts many pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Found around the Burpee Kitchen Garden Terrace. – Sarah, social media marketing intern
It is incredibly important to grow enough milkweed to support and grow monarch populations. Milkweed comes in many varieties, and is the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Not only are the leaves essential for monarch caterpillar growth, but the flowers help nourish the adult butterflies as well. The amount of wild milkweed has declined in past years, and horticulturists and home gardeners alike have been working to restore it. This past year, there were less than 275,000 monarchs overwintering in Mexico, and that number was even further reduced by a late winter storm. By comparison, the most recent peak year of 1997 had over 1.2 million monarchs overwintering in the Mexican forest. Increasingly, researchers are finding: no milkweed, no monarchs.
The native species of milkweed in the Northeast that we are propagating here at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), orange milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), and common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Horticulturist and propagator Dan Robarts is growing large amounts of these three varieties, in addition to experimenting with some small numbers of other beautiful – if not native – varieties.
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is a sensation in the Kitchen Garden! – Diane, horticulturist
The Rheum ‘Ace of Hearts’ (ornamental rhubarb) is looking quite fine in the Lerner Garden. There are several other species and cultivars throughout the gardens that will be in bloom as well. – Will, horticulturist
These small trees (Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud) are at their peak right now! We’re at the very top of their range, meaning they are marginally hardy, but with this past year’s mild winter they are doing great. The leaves don’t start to emerge until the flowers are going, so their beauty is not obscured! They can be found in many parts of our gardens, but these shown are in the Children’s Garden. – Syretha, horticulturist
There are two great perennial bulbs blooming on the back side of the Event Lawn this week: a sweet mix of Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanoles) and ‘Coerulea’ Large Camas (Camassia leichtinii). Check them out! – Anna, horticulturist
The Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. insulare (Padre’s Shootingstar) is looking spectacular next to the bridge in the Lerner Garden. Will, horticulturist
This Narcissus ‘Manly’ is outstanding. A creamy yellow double daffodil that stays in bloom for a long time. Perfect in the Norweb Entrance Garden! – Sharmon, horticulturist
The Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells) is a large swath of blue under the birches in the Lerner Garden. – Will, horticulturist
Don’t miss the Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) popping all over the gardens this week. They look especially nice heading towards the Rainbow Terrace in the Children’s Garden with the stunning purple, pink and yellow tulips behind them. – Anna, horticulturist
Don’t miss the Lysichiton camtschatcencis (Asian skunk cabbage) in the Lerner Garden this week. The white blossoms are stunning. – Will, horticulturist
These Narcissus ‘Kokopelli’ Jonquilla Daffodils along the Event Lawn have the cutest little flowers and they smell amazing! – Anna, horticulturist
They’ve been rocking for a bit, so be sure not to miss the stunning and fragrant sweep of Crave The Wave Hyacinth Mix in the Perennial and Rose Garden! – Syretha, horticulturist
Over the past few years there has been a dramatic decline in the monarch butterfly population. This has been caused by a variety of things, including loss of milkweed, drought conditions, pesticide, and habitat loss. Although some of these dangers are natural and can’t be avoided, there are ways to help out from home. So, how can you help the monarchs?
A crucial part of the monarch’s survival is their access to milkweed, so planting a form of native milkweed would be a great help. Monarchs start their life on a single leaf of milkweed, relying on it to develop and grow. Milkweed also serves as protection: the toxins monarchs receive from eating the milkweed make the butterflies poisonous to many predators such as birds. To help fight the loss of milkweed, you can plant milkweed native to your area.
Here at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens there are two main types: first, swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), which prefers watery places such as areas around swamps and lakes; and second, butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) which prefers drier areas.
A sweet, earthy wind blows over the green and soggy Great Lawn. It settles at times, letting the sun take a turn at warming your cheeks, but it remains persistent, bending grasses and branches. The wind bears on it warmth, and rain, and the promise of thousands of tiny wing beats making their way slowly and steadily from Mexico to Maine.
Like so many of Maine’s residents, Monarch butterflies spend the winter in the relative warmth in the south, though unlike our human snowbirds, they cluster together high in the trees in central Mexico, turning the forests of Michoacán a brilliant orange. They begin their return to the north just after mating and for many of the butterflies migrating, their first trip to Maine happens just a few weeks into their adulthood.
When spring finally comes to the gardens, 35,000 tulips will pop through the soil of beds all over Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, giving us an incredible display of color as the world comes out of its winter sleep. But before we see our incredible rainbow of flowers, these plants need to have things just right…
The sun’s rays act as a messaging system for plants. All summer long, the sun’s light tells tiny structures inside of green plant cells to create sugars that the plant will use as food. Those sugars are stored in a root or bulb under the soil, where it can be used even when the plant is done making food just as animals fatten up before hibernation. As the days get shorter, the sun’s message to make food is cut off, and the plant begins to rest, pulling its food from roots beneath the soil.
During the fall, some plants are getting their buds ready to burst the next spring. Cells whose only job is to help the plant to grow line up at the tips of the branches and bulbs of plants like tulips and peonies, where they wait for springtime to pop into action. Without these cells, these plants’ growth may be stunted, making short, misshapen plants, or worse—no plants at all.
If the soil is stepped on or crushed too tight around the bulbs, they won’t be able to get the water they need to make new cells, or the space to grow new roots to hold them in place in spring rainstorms.
These big patches of soil in the gardens aren’t places where we’ve forgotten to plant. They are the place where all the action is happening! The tiny buds of peonies and food-filled bulbs of tulips are working hard to get ready to put on their spring show.
Keep your eyes out for places where the soil is bare, and help these plants survive the winter by staying on pathways or grassy areas. We can’t wait to see you—and our 35000 tulips!—this spring!
– Jo Gammans, volunteer and guest services coordinator