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Dig It! Garden Blog

Indoor Seed Starting 101

Monday, March 30th, 2020

Winters in Maine are long, cold, and mostly gray. If you’re a gardener like me, sustained by beauty and color in the natural world, winter can feel like an endless starvation diet. By the end of February, I am desperate for a taste of spring and flowering plants. Two of my favorite strategies for keeping winter’s gray-scale at bay are growing orchids (more in another post) and starting seedlings indoors—the germination and growth of leafy seedlings is a huge spirit-lifter.

Starting your own seeds is an easy, enjoyable, and exceedingly economical endeavor—you can easily grow hundreds of plants for the price of one gallon-sized potted perennial. The keywords here are EASY and FUN. Read More

Art of the Garden

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

There are so many reasons I love my job as Interpretation and Exhibits Coordinator at the Gardens. For one, I get to learn about nature and then communicate that knowledge to volunteers and staff so they, in turn, can pass it along to our visitors. Each year, I focus on creating educational opportunities around our annual theme, adding new signs at spots of interest in the Gardens, developing our Discovery Carts, and brainstorming new tours. All of this research about the natural world informs not only my work, but also what I do when I am not at the Gardens.

At home, I am usually gardening or painting. As an artist, my art is directly linked to what I learn at the Gardens. Recently, I have completed two works that are part of a new series, Restoring the Wild, about native plants and the ecosystems they engender. After working in our butterfly house these past three years, I know that native insects need native plants. I also know that we need native insects—the foundational support for our whole ecosystem. In this time of steep insect decline, it’s important to realize that native insects have co-evolved with the plants around them—many can only eat a specific plant or family of plants, which is why growing a wide array of local species is so important. Read More

Wetland Edibles

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Early spring (aka “mud season”) is the perfect time to take a walk around your property to discover any low-lying areas where water collects or where drainage might be a tad slow. Since wetlands are our theme this season at CMBG, while we’re out there, let’s take another look at those low-lying areas. While there are plenty of planting options for boggy soils, what about dedicating that marshy area to a series of edibles all too happy to dance with damp feet?

The following four edible plants will thrive happily, bringing both use and beauty to swampy grounds.

  1. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tasty herb that can grow up to four feet high and just as wide. You might be familiar with the harvested leaves and bulb-like clumps commonly used in Asian cuisine. All sorts of soups and chicken and shrimp dishes pair well with lemongrass. Not much of a cook? You could also try growing the East Indian species of lemongrass (Cymbopogon nardus), commonly known as the source of citronella oil—definitely a useful plant in Maine!
  2. Read More

A Purpose for Pine

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

“No one can look at a pine tree in winter without knowing that spring will come again in due time.” ~Frank Bolles

When food, warmth, and home are secure, we can enter deep rest and deep tranquility. We can root down, dig in, open space, and breathe. But when life is uncertain, we can still find comfort in the continuing, evergreen life represented by pines. Warming and drying like the best fire, what better time to welcome pine to back hearth than in this particular season?

Pine needles by Marta Jastrzebska on Unsplash
Photo by Marta Jastrzebska on Unsplash

Pine has been linked with survival for generations. Besides the obvious optimism inspired by its scent and color, traditionally all parts of pine have been used—from sap to bark to needles—as a pain reliever, disinfectant, antiseptic, immune tonic, nutritive, and surprising source of vitamin C. Of course, here in The Pine Tree State, conifers are not hard to find, but since pine species grow all over the country, almost anyone is within walking, hiking, or reasonable driving distance of a pine forest. Read More

No Winter Lasts Forever

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” ~ Hal Borland

It can be difficult to remain positive in this time of social distancing and isolation, especially as the natural world comes to life around us. But this is exactly when immersing ourselves in nature, in routine, and in seasonality can be of the most value. Participating in that renewal is one of the healthiest, life-affirming options we have—we are garden lovers, after all!
When we have little choice but to stay at home, we can turn whole-heartedly to our gardens, whether we’re old hands working with established beds or new gardeners experimenting with a few containers on a balcony or windowsill. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, stay with us in the coming days for inspiration, tips, and opportunities from our garden to yours.

To that end, here are five tasks to get you started: Read More

What’s in Bloom September 9, 2019

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Lovers of black-eyed-Susan and panicle hydrangeas will not be disappointed this week. Be sure to check out the incredible blue flowers on the various types of gentains. And the very unusual flowers of Tricyrtis or toad lilies are sure to impress. Even as the season begins to wind down, there is still plenty of color!

Entrance Walk:
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ – giant hyssop
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ – panicle hydrangea
Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ – sweet coneflower

Founders’ Grove and Café:
Clethra alnifolia ‘Sixteen Candles’ – summersweet
Hylotelephium ‘Autumn Joy’ – sedum

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses:
Anemonopsis macrophylla – false anemone
Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’ – summersweet
Gentiana ‘True Blue’ – gentian
Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Blue River II’ – rose mallow
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bulk’ – panicle hydrangea
Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’ – bigleaf ligularia
Lobelia siphilitica – great lobelia Read More

Backstage at the Butterfly House

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

If you’ve spent time in our Native Butterfly and Moth House this summer, you’ve probably noticed some changes there. Built vestibules now flank the entrance and exit of the House, and if you’ve wondered why, it’s because we’ve brought in butterfly and moth species from other parts of New England.

The vestibules are a necessary, added protection against winged-creature escapes and escapades. Another necessary component of “importing” our New England neighbors is a USDA-certified rearing room. Sound a bit intense and sci-fi-esque? Well, it is, in a way—especially when the rearing room is guarded by a large “Access is to Authorized Personnel Only” sign.

Inside, it only gets more fascinating. On tabletops around the room sit cages from which the only sound, if the room is quiet, is caterpillars noisily munching on leaves. Read More

The Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy

Monday, August 26th, 2019

Irene Barber, registered Horticultural Therapist (HTR) and coordinator of the Horticultural Therapy Program here at CMBG, knows a thing or two about the intimate relationship between people and plants—sun to soil, seed to root to plant to harvest, harvest to human, human to human. It’s that connection that drew her to the practice of horticultural therapy (HT), defined by Barber as, “the transformation that happens when we work with the earth, how being around plants can improve well-being, and how plant-based exercises can enhance, stimulate, rehabilitate, support, and overcome people’s emotional, cognitive, physical and/or social challenges.”

It’s thanks to this thriving program that the Horticultural Therapy Institute (HTI), through which Irene received her certificate, has chosen to present their four-day course, the Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy, at CMBG this year. As the first of a series four satellite courses, this class will introduce students to the profession and practice of HT, a treatment modality applicable to everything from community and children’s gardens to healthcare and human services. Read More

What’s in Bloom – August 12, 2019

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Coneflowers and August go hand in hand. The Echinacea and Rudbeckia are amazing this week. Be sure to look for the stunning scarlet Lobelia cardinalis or cardinal flower. Hummingbirds love them. Lilium selections look and smell amazing! The bottlebrush buckeye, a butterfly magnet, is in full flower. Hydrangea paniculata or peegee (panicle) hydrangea are in full bloom, showcasing huge white inflorescences.

Entrance Walk:
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ – giant hyssop
Aesculus parviflora – bottlebrush buckeye
Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’ – swamp milkweed
Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’ – sweetshrub
Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ – sweetshrub
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ – panicle hydrangea
Ligularia japonica – Japanese ligularia

Founders’ Grove and Café:
Hosta ‘Allan P. McConnel’ – hosta
Hydrangea arborescens ‘A. G. Anabelle’ – smooth hydrangea
Ligularia japonica – Japanese ligularia Read More

Deb Soule & Healing Root Remedies

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

If you’ve been to CMBG lately, then you know that this season we’re focusing our attention on the unseen with our theme, Roots: The Other Half of the Story.

Focusing on roots gives us lots of material to play with, and as a gardener and an herbalist, roots comprise both one of my favorite subjects and some of my favorite remedies. Why? Look at it this way—if roots serve as both larder for and custodian of their plants, imagine what they could do for our own network of systems.

In this opinion I’m certainly not alone—herbalists have long valued roots as both food and medicine. Herbalist Deb Soule, author, owner of Avena Botanicals, and a favorite teacher here at CMBG, talks beautifully about the subject in her latest book, How to Move Like a Gardener, a love note to the garden, the soil, and the magic and medicine that grows within it. Read More