Come down to the new Landing at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this summer for a 3-hour sea kayak excursion along the coastline of the Sheepscot River guided by local, independent outfitter Tidal Transit Kayak Company. The waters bordering the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens contain a rich marine ecosystem with seals, osprey and other wildlife thriving in the salty rivers. Each morning they’ll head into the Sheepscot River to explore this amazing ecosystem and surrounding islands. Single and tandem kayaks are available. Book Online.
by Jen Dunlap
As I write this, the rain pours down outside. It is a warm, slightly scented, spring rain that gleans the faintest hint of Magnolia x loebneri. There are a few not far from here and I am grateful. For this smell, this rain, and for this day, I am grateful. Our connection to nature sustains us. Just before the rain began we finished a planting of Hosta, Pulmonaria, and Astillbe around the Horse Chestnut in our yard. I can’t stop gardening! The sticky buds of the Aesculus plump and ripe, hang in a protective embrace around the new transplants. The heroic Anne Frank wrote about the Horse Chestnut in her diary from February 23, 1944, the following:
Greetings all! As we spring forward into this season of new beginnings, change is certainly afoot at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The snow cannot melt fast enough as we all, here at CMBG, patiently await the first signs of plant life to emerge from the thawing tundra below. Anticipation over the forthcoming bulb display is thick and we remember well those grueling planting days of fall with our calloused hands and sore knees. We planted more than 23,000 bulbs last fall, and this spring looks to provide another jaw-dropping color extravaganza.
Help! My desk is covered with catalogues from every seed and plant company that I ever bought anything from!!! New tools, new vegetables, new flowers, new ideas to take the cold out of winter and get me thinking about the “way life ought to be”…the reasons why I came to Maine in the first place. Winter is planning time here in the Horticulture Department at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens…planning to make our dreams and your expectations come true. We all need to create a vision for what we see as the perfect garden.the one that will inspire and energize those who see it to want to do something similar. My vision, my dream for our visitors and especially for those who have homes or properties nearby is that they are inspired to plant more flowers and vegetables.
Are we having fun yet? This season is shaping up to be a “good old-fashioned Maine winter.” We’ve been spoiled the past several years with relatively mild conditions. I was born and raised in Aroostook County; so I’ve felt like the stereotypical old-timer with my “back when I was a boy” stories about “real Maine winters”. (You know the ones: 25 below zero, three feet of snow, and walked four miles to school-uphill–both ways.)
Please channel your best Ethel Merman and help me sing out the old year….
There’s no business like grow business,
Like no business I know.
Everything about it is appealing,
Everything the good earth will allow.
Nowhere could you have that happy feeling
When you’re not wielding that muddy trowel.
It is here, with frost glistening on the autumn grasses, that I still find peace in the early mornings at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The air is chilled and the squirrels have just begun to stir. I stand in the Meditation Garden, looking down over the stones, cold and bare, reflecting on the season that has come to an end.
We had our first taste of winter at the Gardens yesterday. The forecast of a few snow flurries in the early morning turned into over an inch of the cold white stuff. Mother Nature gave us a little preview of things to come and a reminder that she is still in charge of the ultimate gardening schedule.
Let me catch y’all up on what we’ve been doing since mid-October. We gave away or composted all of the pumpkins we had on display. Just by doing a visual estimate, we’re guessing that more than half the pumpkins we had on display went to new homes for Halloween. If you came out and took a pumpkin, or two, or three, Thank You! If you enjoyed the pumpkins and gourds and would like to see us do more next year, please let us know, as we have even more ideas in the works.
|Photos by Dick Zieg|
This has been a banner year at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in many ways. With the number of guests approaching 96,000 for the year so far, there have been days where staff has had to help visitors find available parking places … not a bad problem to have! An exceptionally rainy and long spring has made our plants very happy to provide an incredible flower and fruit display. Therein lies the catalyst for a population explosion of another sort that the Horticulture Department has also had to deal with this summer and fall. The red squirrels are multiplying like rabbits and so are the rabbits!
Early in the summer, the rabbits (really snowshoe hares) found that grazing on lilies, hollyhocks, and newly planted annuals provided quite a varied and yummy menu and much frustration for us as we tried our best to keep our gardens in top shape for our guests. In the last couple of weeks my nemesis in the Cleaver Event Lawn Garden has been the red squirrels doing their best to ruin the Benthamidia japonica (Japanese dogwood) trees. For several mornings in a row I have found two or three branches dangling from the tree that had given way to the combined weight of the fruit and squirrels, leaving long scars on the tree where the branch was ripped off (see photo #1).
Having experienced this sort of damage caused in past years by raccoons looking for a meal, I had propped up the branches of the Benthamidia japonica ‘Big Apple’ as one would on an apple tree, hoping to prevent a reccurrence. (photo #2). So far, this tactic has worked on ‘Big Apple’ because it has a more horizontal branching structure. However, Benthamidia japonica ‘Autumn Rose’ and my favorite B. japonica ‘Moonbeam’ haven’t fared as well. Tying branches together with twine was my only option with the more upright form of these trees (photo #3).
Preventive measures having failed meant I had to go on the offensive and set some traps (photo #4) to catch the offending culprits (photo #5). In the last two days I have caught and “relocated” seven red squirrels. The squirrels seem to be fond of the peanut butter-coated fruit from the tree that I used as bait to lure them into the traps.
Crowds of guests we love and appreciate, but hungry herds of hares and squirrels? … not so much!
- Dick Zieg, Horticulturist (October 16, 2013)