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Dig It! Garden Blog

Tulip Maine-ia

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

It’s been a long time coming, but despite a long, cool, and damp spring, tulip season has officially arrived at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. While the gray skies might make for vibrant tulip photo opportunities, unfortunately this weather also means conditions are perfect for uninvited fungal issues, leading to spotting and lesions on flowers and foliage alike. Long, rainy days notwithstanding, our tulips have persevered and their joyful, colorful blooms abound throughout the Gardens.

Last fall we planted over 40,000 tulip bulbs consisting of 73 cultivars and species, resulting in a kaleidoscope of colors and forms. Each of the different classes of tulips is represented, from simple Darwin hybrids to more elaborate parrot flowers. I am often asked what my favorite tulips are, and I’m pretty sure my answer changes each time. While every cultivar will be considered beautiful to someone, I have found a few that stand out above the others, at least until I take another stroll through the Gardens. Read More

For the Bees

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Most of us are probably aware of the importance of bees, from pollinating almost everything we eat to the production of honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly, and propolis. Bees are so vital and so fascinating, that they’ve been studied and connected to human society for thousands of years.

“All the great thinkers have become beekeepers,” says Erin MacGregor-Forbes, CMBG’s Chief Operating Officer, co-owner of Overland Apiaries, Chairman of the Eastern Apicultural Society (the largest noncommercial beekeeping society in the country), and guru of the Gardens’ apiary. Read More

What’s in Bloom – May 14, 2019

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

A note from Andy Brand, curator of living collections: Tulips are starting to open and should be looking good if we get some warm weather this week. Narcissus (daffodils) are adding their bright, colorful blooms throughout the Gardens. Hellebores are still putting on a show. Additional bulbs such as Hyacinthus, Muscari, and Chionodoxa are also painting the ground with shades of pink, blue, yellow, and white. Be sure to check out the soft yellow flowers of Corylopsis glabrescens ‘Longwood Chimes’ in the Alfond Children’s Garden; they smell really yummy! And many small leaved rhododendrons are in bloom in the Giles Rhododendron and Perennial Garden.

Entrance Walk:
Epimedium x rubrum – barrenwort
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Gypsy Queen’ – hyacinth
Narcissus ‘Sunny Girlfriend’ – daffodil
Saruma henryi – upright wild ginger

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses:
Caltha palustris – marsh marigold
Chionodoxa luciliae – glory-of-the-snow
Dicentra cucullaria (pink form) – dutchman’s breeches
Epimedium grandiflorum var. higoense ‘Bandit’ – barrenwort
Glaucidium palmatum – Japanese wood poppy
Helleborus multifidus ssp. hercegovinus – hellebore
Jeffersonia dubia – twin-leaf
Mertensia virginica – Virginia bluebells
Narcissus ‘Double Smiles’ – daffodil
Pieris floribunda – mountain fetterbush
Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ – lungwort Read More

The Many Wonders of the Elder Plant (Sambucus nigra and Canadensis)

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Let me introduce you to elder, one of my favorite herbs of all time. Not only is this herb incredibly diverse, it’s also just plain beautiful (by the by, elderberries, if you didn’t know, make the most fabulous blue-purple dye).

Sambucus canadensis ‘Aurea’ Golden American Elderberry

Most people think elder plants are trees, but technically they’re shrubs. They tend to grow wild all along the East Coast, and even as far inland as the Central Plains. Here in Maine, you can probably just scavenge the surrounding woodlands for elder—if you know what you’re doing, you’ll find elder everywhere. In June and July, look for fragrant white flowers growing in flat, star-like clusters. The deep purple-black, blue, or dark red berries arrive in late summer. The stems are greenish brown and, when broken, reveal a white pith. Leaves grow opposite one another and have an uneven number of leaflets (usually 5 to 11). I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you to be sure you’re confident identifying elder before you go picking berries, or that you need permission if you’re not on your own land. Read More

What’s in Bloom – May 6, 2019

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Hellebores look amazing! Narcissus or daffodils are adding their bright, colorful blooms throughout the Gardens. Additional bulbs such as Hyacinthus, Muscari, and Chionodoxa are also painting the ground with shades of pink, blue, yellow, and white as we all eagerly await the tulip bonanza. And the early blooming magnolias are peaking!

Entrance Walk:
Cornus mas – cornelian cherry
Epimedium x rubrum – barrenwort
Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Gypsy Queen’ – hyacinth

Founders’ Grove:
Muscari latifolium – two-toned grape hyacinth

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses:
Caltha palustris – marsh marigold
Chionodoxa luciliae – glory-of-the-snow
Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’ – cornelian cherry
Dicentra cucullaria – dutchman’s breeches
Eranthis hymenalis – winter aconite
Hamamelis vernalis ‘Amethyst’ – vernal witch hazel Read More

Creating Bird-Friendly Habitats

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Creating a bird-friendly backyard habitat can be as low-maintenance as installing nesting boxes, bird feeders and a simple birdbath, or as involved as an entire backyard overhaul, complete with reducing the area of lawn, installing native plants and removing invasive plants from your property.

One of the more quickly rewarding options—for you and for the birds—is to plant a bird-friendly garden. First, though, it’s important (but fun!) to learn different birds’ preferences so you can figure out which plants you’d like to grow. Obviously, different plants provide for birds differently, depending on whether they’re grown for their seeds, fruit, nuts, nectar or as a hosting station for hungry insects (i.e. bird food). Read More

What’s in Bloom – April 23, 2019

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Early spring bulbs are showing nice color and hellebores are beginning to put on a show. Be sure to look for the bright yellow flowers of the cornelian cherry and the tiny, unusual flowers of Dirca palustris or leatherwood. This will also be the week to see the beautiful white flowers of the woodland native, Sanguinaria canadensis or bloodroot.

Entrance Walk:
Cornus mas – cornelian cherry
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ – witch hazel

Founder’s Grove:
Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ – reticulated iris
Hamamelis vernalis – vernal witch hazel

Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’

Lerner garden of the Five Senses:
Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’ – cornelian cherry
Eranthis hymenalis – winter aconite
Hamamelis vernalis and H. v. ‘Amethyst’ – vernal witch hazel
Read More

For the Love of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Perhaps we might be inclined to think of dandelions as weeds first and (maybe) as herbs second. But since, by definition, all herbs are weeds. But dandelions are more than just weeds (or herbs). More often than not, they’re the first flower of spring, and so hold a special place, both for the eye and for our body’s “spring cleaning” process.

Spring cleaning is an unwavering urge that comes over us as soon as the days start to lengthen—it’s definitely time to dust away the darkness of winter. The same applies to our bodies. During the cold months we conserve energy and naturally slow down; evolutionarily speaking, we just don’t get inspired to really move during the winter. Our metabolism slows down to conserve energy, food and warmth, so the detoxing organs (the liver and kidneys) get a little sluggish, too.

We can think of the urge to clean house as a manifestation of what’s going on inside our bodies—our winter-logged systems want that same kind of airing out. Enter dandelion, which helps support the body as it rids itself of stored metabolic wastes. Read More

Beautiful and Resilient Native Plants

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

In preparation for designing our parking lot gardens, CMBG horticulturist and landscape designer Jen Dunlap researched forest restoration and studied the process of naturalizing areas. She researched the species growing in Maine’s native forests, then branched out to add diversity to her design plans. The common denominator in all of her research was native plants.

As natural spaces dwindle, native insects, birds, amphibians and mammals lose their habitats. Here at the Gardens, we’re committed to using native plants in our landscaping in order to conserve biodiversity, contribute to a living landscape and to create pollination and migration corridors for animals and insects. Native species, already adapted to our particular growing conditions, work immediately toward restoring habitats for all creatures, regardless of where they fall on the food chain. Read More

Signs of the Seasons – Citizen-Science in Action

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is once again teaming up with the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant to participate in Signs of the Seasons, a citizen-science program that engages volunteers in observing plant and animal phenology (the study of seasonal cycles and the timing of life events, such as when birds make their nests in the spring, when berries ripen in the summer, when leaves change color in the autumn, etc.). All kinds of creatures (humans included) depend on the predictability of these seasonal cycles.

But as we’re all aware, seasonal cycles seem to be shifting. That’s where we come in—using our backyards as laboratories, participants in the Signs of the Seasons program, by becoming trained to observe and record plants and animals living in our own communities, help scientists document the local effects of global climate change. Through their observations, volunteers create a detailed record of the region’s seasonal turns, a record that’s then made available to collaborating scientists.

As you probably know, farmers, gardeners, fishermen and naturalists have long recorded seasonal observations in their notebooks, logs and ledgers. When combined, those historical records plus modern observations tell scientists that shifts in long-term phenology trends closely match records of the earth’s warming temperature. Read More