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.

Rodney post 1_1
Rodney Eason at TEDxDirigo
Rodney post 1_2
Rodney post 1
(Treehouse Institute photos)

With the mild fall, we felt guilty ripping out all the lovely annuals. By late October, we had a couple of mild frosts, but some of our annuals still looked rather good. Nonetheless, we went ahead and composted all the annuals because we had to get our nearly 23,000 spring-flowering bulbs in the ground. Our team worked diligently to get them all planted in nearly two and a half days. Hats off to the team plus our wonderful horticulture volunteers who came in to give us a boost!

Now, as the days are shrinking and the temperatures are getting colder, we are starting to put the garden to bed for its winter respite while at the same time dreaming of new ideas for 2014. In the search of new inspiration, I signed up for the TEDxDirigo conference, which was on Sunday, November 3, at the historic Cabot Mill in Brunswick, Maine. In case you’re not familiar with TED, it is a conference series started years ago in California. The genesis of the early talks sought to bring together the best and the brightest to share ideas to make our world a better place. As these talks became more and more popular, the idea spread and there are now TED-sanctioned talks all around the world. TEDxDirigo is Maine’s contribution to the movement.

What a wonderful day! The room was packed with nearly 300 Mainers searching for new ideas and ways to improve our state. I ended up sitting next to a friend who is helping lead the Truth and Reconciliation hearings for Maine’s Native American tribes. I also sat next to the executive director of Maine’s office of The Nature Conservancy. The room was packed with folks ready to keep changing for the better this state we love.

Being a newcomer to Maine, I love our motto: “Dirigo,” which is Latin for “I lead.” I grew up in North Carolina where our motto was “Esse quam videri.” That means, “to be rather than to seem.” North Carolina has a pretty cool motto but it just doesn’t have the action of “I lead.” After going through the day with so many new ideas, shared by Mainers both young and old, I now see the motto as “I LEAD!”

If you look at the population statistics of Maine, we seem like a small state with a projected static population. I see it differently. We have around 1.3 million residents in our state. I see us a big city spread out over a large area that happens to be a state. The reason I see it this way is because of the collaborative nature of folks I met in the room and the small-town, roll-up-your-sleeves feel of wherever you go in Maine. You get the feeling that we’re all in this together.

As we begin our 20-year master plan for Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, I am as pumped up about the prospects for our gardens as I am for our state after leaving TEDxDirigo. The key, I think, is to continually push the envelope on what can be done. There was one scientist who is researching genes that make our hearts heal themselves. There was an heirloom apple grower who is working to resurrect old apple varieties and the craft hard cider industry. A recent college graduate is spearheading a permanent home for the Brunswick Farmer’s Market in an abandoned barn. A high school student of African heritage gave a powerful talk on what it felt like to be an American but treated as a foreigner in your own class and what he and his friends are doing to change that.

Bringing it back to 2014 at CMBG, we have a lot of cool ideas that we cannot wait to flesh out and bring to the gardens. We’ll be spending the next couple of months refining these ideas so that, hopefully, when you return next spring, you’ll smile and continue to be proud of these gardens that you have helped build here in Maine.

– Rodney Eason, Director of Horticulture (November 13, 2013)