Gardener’s Corner

April & May, 2022

Blossoms & Sweets: What Could Be Better?

We are happy to announce that Blossom & Sweets is returning Saturday May 28th from 7:30 till 11 a.m. at Wilbur’s side lawn and parking lot.  A full plant, baked goods and green elephant sale will occur (there will not be a raffle). 

 

{Three members of the Website Committee met with Janet Jagger and Kate Kelley to learn more about our annual Blossoms and Sweets Sale.  The following summarizes some of what was learned}.

Q: Can you tell us about the history of Blossoms & Sweets (B&S) and its organization?

May 5, 1983 was the first Blossoms and Sweets sale. Every year after that it has been the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.  Initially it was just a table outside of Wilbur’s Store. Now B&S is very large – we take over the entire side yard and parking lot. Sid Wordell, former police chief in town, owns the property and allows us to use it for free.  Even during the peak of the pandemic, we held B&S sales at about five different stations around town where members could bring and sell their plants.  Despite the rain and COVID even this approach was successful.  People like plants!   

   

Q: What is the purpose and value of the SGC’s Blossoms and Sweets event?

In addition to a focus on gardening and plants it is the biggest fundraiser of our club and tends to be a good time of camaraderie for all.   We ask everybody to work/ to take a shift that day and most everyone participates.  We get lots of questions from our customers – it’s educational not only for the public, but for ourselves.  In conversation with Carolyn Montgomery, one of the founding members, it originally was meant to be a service for educating and providing low-cost plants to the community.  This is also a time where the community gets to know the garden club.  Many of our members joined after being attracted to the club through the sale. 

 

Q:  What support does the sale receive from the community? We get a lot of support from community members. In past years local businesses have contributed to our raffle and some will be donating this year.  We always list local businesses that support us.  The plant sale is frequented annually by David Cicciline (State Congressman).

Note: Look for more potting tips from Katie & Janet.

Q: Members donate the plants from their gardens and windowsills.  Can you provide any tips for dividing up and potting perennials for the sale?

The annual Triangle and Brownell House clean up on April 30th 9AM provides a natural demonstration opportunity.  The Civic Beautification Committee will be dividing up the perennials. Our committee members can also provide tips separately.  Also:

    • Any donated perennials should be examined for pests; this year Asian Jumping Worms should be ruled out. The SGC website has a brochure on how to handle Asian Jumping Worms.  Directions include that: pots should be cleaned with a 10% bleach solution; plant roots should be rinsed; and potting matter should be sterile.  
    • Starting any herb, flower or vegetable such as tomatoes from seeds in sterile soil will not be a problem regarding jumping worm.

 Q: How do you know that there will be enough plants for the sale? 

Over the years, Marty and Dick Fisher have been major suppliers of native plants – perennials and shrubs – and have been our single biggest contributors.  Because they are unable to do as much this year, we need more members to donate plants.  Mikel and John from Sakonnet Gardens have promised us some plants.  The Tree committee is setting up a table to sell their trees. The time is now to start seedlings.  Blossom & Sweets is less than two months out so please get tomatoes, herbs and perennial flowers going.    

Q: What does an ideal B&S day look like?  What is your hope for the day?

  • We hope for mild, sunny weather with very little wind!  We hope to have plenty of plants, many helping hands, good publicity, and lots of customers!
  • We ask every member to participate in some way – supplying plants, baking sweets, loading/unloading, taking a shift on the day of the sale.  Shifts for members start at 6:30 a.m.  We ask members to bring their plants early, before 7:30, when the sale starts.
  • Sweets could include cakes, pies, muffins, quick breads, cookies, etc., all individually wrapped. Baked goods sell really quickly.  Workers will wear masks and gloves to protect all.

Q:  Do you have a best Blossom and Sweet memory?

  • Janet J: I remember a Blossoms and Sweet Sale when a curious Sue Theriault approached me with questions about the club. She planned to retire soon and wanted to join; what a valuable member she has become!
  • Kate K: One year I was on the raffle committee – it was so much fun to work with the other members – just a great team experience. 

Interview and Writeup by SGC members: Ginger Ryan, Jeannie McAllister & Dominique Coulombe

 

STAMP OUT JUMPING EARTHWORMS

{Taken from the Patch’s public service write up}

RHODE ISLAND — Earthworms can be great to have in your garden because they usually improve the soil, but an invasive species of jumping earthworms is destroying it instead.

Rhode Island is one of at least 34 states that have reported an invasive, soil nutrient-gobbling jumping earthworm that can leap a foot into the air.

Native to East Asia, Amynthas worms go by a few names: Alabama jumpers, Jersey wrigglers, wood eel, jumping worms, crazy worms, snake worms and crazy snake worms.

Their common names are well earned. According to a page dedicated to the invasive worms on the state of Maine’s website, when handled, “they act crazy, jump and thrash about, behaving more like a threatened snake than a nightcrawler.”

Jumping-worm populations grow quickly through a couple of generations a season. Like other worms, they’re hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs, but with a distinction: Jumping worms reproduce on their own, according the extension service at Iowa State.

     No Friend To Forest. In New England, forests rely mainly on microorganisms such as fungi to break down organic material and keep the ecosystem running smoothly. When these invasive worms leap into the mix, “the entire ecosystem is affected,” Chris Clarke reported, writing for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Amynthas worms jump in and consume the ground layer before the fungi can get to it, interrupting an age-old relationship the trees have relied on for “thousands of years,” Clarke said. When that happens, the trees’ roots can dry out, making nutrients even harder for the trees to absorb.

The problems these invasive worms cause hit even closer to home, too. In gardens, beneficial earthworms aerate the soil and help prep it for growth. But once jumping worms have had their way in your dirt, it will have the consistency of coffee grounds — and be about as useful for growing things as the dredges from your morning pot of joe.

Jumping worms have a distinctive smooth, white band around their bodies and are generally more uniform in color than a typical earthworm.

Anyone that sees one of these jumping worms or any other invasive species is encouraged to report them to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management by filling out this 

form.

 

Sidney Tynan’s May Country Letter

It was such a long wet winter that the fields couldn’t be mowed until a few weeks ago. This did not please my beautiful pheasant and he fled next door where there was a nice grove of small pines and where he didn’t feel so exposed. There he was joined by both wives and although they may make nests, I don’t think the local red fox will let any hatchlings get very far. The Gold Finches were also offended by the change and immediately stopped going to the Niger seed feeder.

If you feed Hummingbirds you know how worrisomely  late they were this year. I see them now but mostly females. It must hard for them to fly in the boisterous wind which is blowing on top of my hill.

For a little while, after a night rain, there was a patch of lawn so wet that the worms couldn’t breathe and they were just below the surface to the delight of a Robin and two Starlings(clad in their yellow summer beaks)who pulled and pulled so quickly that they seemed like wound up toys.

Right now there are some frustrated Catbirds and Orioles as I am NOT going out in 51* and wind to refill the grape jelly holder. (I didn’t realize until I checked my battered old Peterson that female Orioles were just a drab brownish, not gloriously colorful like their mates.)

Pretty soon it will feel like May, the magic month, when there is something new popping into bloom every day. Patience!

 

April, 2022

On April 6, Dr. Rob Gegear of UMass Dartmouth shared his expertise on the interactions and relationships of plants, insects and animals, involving animal behavior, human psychology, molecular biology, ecology and biology. Dr. Gegear runs the Gegear Lab at UMASS Dartmouth, which researches  the understanding of plant-pollinator relationships.  To explore this fascinating topic further, visit Dr. Gegear’s lab which presents a native plant finder for pollinator species at risk. Dr. Gegear also invited us to participate in the beecology research project by  using a phone taking a video of a bee, IDing the bee, and logging in the data.  That link is this https://beecology.wpi.edu/website/home

Winter Moths Update

Heather Faubert, URI Cooperative Extension, has  prepared some information on this season’s winter moths’ situation.  Simply click on Winter moths to view her April update.

March, 2022

Rhode Island Wild Plant Society

Marty Fisher and Gary Plunkett received Lifelong Achievement awards at the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society Annual meeting on March 5th.

Sue Theriault acknowledged Marty’s many contributions to RIWPS which began when Marty and Dick moved to Little Compton from Colorado 14 years ago.   Marty began by offering tips to the Seed Starters East.  Over the years she has produced about 20 or 30 flats yearly for the RIWPS Plant sales and Dick has taken over a hundred shrubs.  Marty introduced many of us in the Sokognate Garden Club to the beauty and importance of native plants through her sale of native plants at our annual Blossoms and Sweets Sale.  Sue Theriault, who presented Marty with the award, began her journey as an ecological gardener and involvement with RIWPS after a plant sale conversation with Marty.   Think of all the landscapes across Rhode Island and Little Compton that are populated with Marty and Dick’s native plants!

Gary Plunkett has led many RIWPS walks through his two-acre re-wilding project at his home in Tiverton sharing his deep  knowledge of native plant communities.  Gary is no stranger to the SGC.  He spoke at our August meeting last year and gave some of us a tour of his woodland and meadow.

 

 

 

 

 

January, 2022

Latest “read” of the Sogkonate Garden Club’s Winter Book Group was Graceland, at Last by Margaret Renkl. 

This wonderful book includes essay

s on the American south organized under six themes: Flora and Fauna; Politics and Religion; Social Justice; Environment; Family & Community; and Arts and Culture.  

 

The writing is lovely, each topic is of contemporary relevance while being interconnected in obvious and or nuanced ways. The essays are short, one or two each day (preferably with coffee or tea) is a delightful contemplative experience.  You will not be disappointed.

Note: Up next for the group is   Finding the Mother Tree:  Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard and the final book of the winter season is the novel Overstory by Richard Powers.  

 

 

December 2021

The Mountain Gardener

 

Do you like to read?  Do you enjoy a great memoir written in poetic prose?  Or enjoy being taken to another place and culture far, far away?  Do you like to learn about plants, seeds, seasons and practical how to’s, while getting insight into multiple uses for plants, petals and herbs.  Then “The Mountain Gardener” may be a book for you.  It is written by Elisabeth Sparstad and translated from Norwegian by the SGC’s own Bente Hoegsberg.  It is “about a dream and the realization of a dream”. 

The SGC book group recently enjoyed discussing this book while hearing the broader history and backstory from Bente.  Many of us own the book and are willing to loan you a copy.  It also makes a wonderful gift. You can get it from the library or you can purchase your own copy from Bente online @  www.mountaingardenerbook.com.   Would make a great gift!

 

 

  

September 2021

Reasons to not clean up your garden this fall.

We have been learning from our fellow gardeners and Doug Tallamy, the important role our gardens can play in sustaining wildlife–in particular, our native insects.

Our native bees can find a hollow branch, an empty bee balm or other stem to spend the winter or a bare spot to bury eggs and larvae.

Many non-migrating butterflies hang in their chrysalises over the winter and some adults hunker down in leaf litter in our gardens.

Some of our native ladybugs and other predatory insects, our allies in controlling unwanted insects like aphids, hibernate under leaflitter in our gardens ready to assist us in the Spring.

Photo/still life courtesy of Bente Hoegsberssist us in the spring.

Insect eating birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, wrens and others will enjoy the overwintering insects.  They’ll find more food to sustain them in the seeds and berries left in your garden.

You also will enjoy watching the birds enjoy the seed pods you left behind.

More on Nesting and Overwintering habitats from the Xerces society. 

 

 

 

August 2021

Pollinator Pathway Project 

The RIFGC (Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs) summer newsletter featured the Pollinator Pathway Project A pollinator pathway is created with pesticide-free corridors of native plants that provide nutrition and habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, bats, and small mammals that pollinate plants. 

Doug Tallamy’s books, Bringing Nature Home and Nature’s Best Hope, have inspired interest in creating these pathways that contribute to plant reproduction. Replacing lawns and gardens with native plant species will provide a natural habitat for native insects that, in turn, will support native birds.  Many native bees only have a range of 750 feet and native birds often look for food for their young within 300 feet of their nests.  If enough people participated, the pollinator pathways would provide a link for properties. When combined, these would total more acreage than all the country’s national parks and increase the range of native species and sources of food available to them.

Rhode Island has little representation on the Pollinator Pathway Map even though many gardeners in the state are turning their lawns into meadows and growing native plants. To be part of the pathway, include native plants on your property and manage invasive species; don’t use pesticides; rethink your lawn—mow higher and less often; consider reducing lawn size by adding shrubs, trees, a mini meadow; leave some bare ground and dead wood for nesting native bees; leave some autumn leaves for overwintering eggs and pupae of pollinating insects.  To join, sign up here.

 

July 2021

The SGC’s own Sue Theriault published an article in the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society Newsletter entitled “Tips for Planting a Ground Cover Layer that Supports LifeThis is a terrific and educational piece and includes an easy to use chart outlining plants for sun and shade and three types of spreading methodology. 

You can access this article by opening this pdf or you can also go to https://riwps.org to access further related guidance under their cultivation note section. 

 

Thank you Sue!

 

 

June 2021

Allen’s Pond Wildlife Sanctuary (“Pop Up” Field Trip, Westport, Ma)

On June 23 another fun and educational pop up group joined Julia of the MA Audubon Society to tour Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. Spanning hundreds of acres of protected beach, fields, woodlands, pond, and marsh, Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary was created by generous families who opted to conserve their land.

 

 

Extensive trail systems offer ocean and pond views from many vantage points and afford visitors a full day of walking and birding.  We enjoyed a bit of rock stepping, beach walking and wildflower viewing.  Piping plover chicks, Willets, and other shorebirds entertained us.  Our tour was followed by lunch at the Bayside Restaurant.  So wonderful to be together!

 

Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens

 

                  On June 9, a group of Club members visited the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens located in New Bedford.

The six acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, historic buildings and colorful greenhouses represent the vision and work of horticulturist Allen Haskell. What a delight to walk on the cobblestone walkways, to discover unique plant specimens with subtle colors or textures and artistic features!

 

 Even the greenhouses display colorful windows and this  summer a newly created tunnel in the Common will gracefully support various vines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2021

Deer resistant plants

This article from Rutgers University includes a ranking of common trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals according to deer resistance: Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance.

Poison Ivy

Here is a link to a fascinating article about poison ivy recently published in the New York Times: What you May or May Not Know about Poison Ivy.

Sue Theriault’s Garden

Dominique and Ginger spent a recent morning touring with Sue Theriault her multi- faceted garden.  Sue describes herself as an Ecological Gardener who wants to work together with her landscape to create a habitat where native fauna and flora flourish.  Daune Peckham, Marty Fisher and Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home inspired her approach to gardening.

  1. Can you tell us a little history about your garden and how it evolved?

           I have lived with this garden for five years now since we moved from our house on South of Commons.  So I’m just getting started!

           On the one acre lot there is a wild wooded edge, a young mini-meadow, a grove of mostly chokecherries with grass underneath, gardens or empty beds that now extend around the perimeter of the house, and very young shrub beds that are within the stone walls that border South Shore and Milton Lane. 

 

      When I first moved to this house I did a lot of observing to learn what the former owner introduced to the property, but also, what grew here naturally.  The wild edge really taught me a lot.  It was overrun with the typical invasive plants:  bittersweet, honeysuckle and multiflora rose, but there were lots of productive native plants too:  Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood), serviceberry, blueberry, winterberry, elderberry, holly and red cedar saplings.  So over the course of the last three Springs I cleared away invasive plants to give the natives a chance.  I’ve also used what was growing naturally in the edge to inform my plant choices in other areas of the property.  My goal is to create a mostly native garden property that is ecologically productive but also has mass appeal so others will be inspired to do the same.  I’ve given myself a 10 year horizon on this, so let’s say by 2030.

           Over time I increased the amount of garden space to reduce lawn and make room for new native plantings.  I really try to take my cues from plants that seem to want to be here.  I have common milkweed that grows in a sunny spot where the grass was patchy at the end of my driveway, so that became the site for my mini-meadow and the milkweed has a place to roam.  (I know some people hate this plant, but its fragrance is amazing and it hosts so many other insects besides the monarch.).

Different types of native aster and goldenrod, the two most productive herbaceous plants per Doug Tallamy, are here so I let them be in the meadow and the wild edges. Wild strawberry, Virginia creeper, and wood violets make beautiful ground covers and are here naturally – I just weed around them to reduce competition so they can spread under my trees and shrubs.

I’m really trying to let nature do the work!  One lesson I have learned though is to keep some of the plants I just mentioned out of the “more formal” areas, like the foundation gardens. Instead, let them roam in the wilder areas where they will compete with invasive plants – like my new nemesis – garlic mustard!  I use the more formal areas now for a high diversity of less aggressive natives.  

Originally, I pulled up sod to make space for a growing band of native shrubs but found the best method was layering cardboard, leaves, and compost to expand my planting areas and then slowly and steadily introduce more native plants.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this way I have increased a band of native shrubs along the stone wall bordering South Shore Road and expanded the gardens circling the house. 

I really don’t grow any people food.  I let my local farmers do that.  I grow food for all of the other animals – insects, birds and mammals – and get so much joy out of watching them all!

 

  1. How have you personally developed and evolved as a gardener?

           Philosophically, I feel more like an ecologist than a gardener.  I love to understand the role a plant plays in an ecosystem and I understand now that not all plants play an equal role, even among native plants.  My younger gardening self was not concerned with function, where now I find beauty in function.  My younger self ignored the shrub/understory layer and was all about perennials – I had a vegetable garden for a while too.  While my present self is very focused on the shrub/understory layer which is the best way to help the birds, and as I get older, I hope will be easier to maintain.  Lastly, I think I am taking more of a long view and realizing that plants need time to get established and to spread.  I think it is ironic that it took being older to be able to take a long view!

 

  1. What is your involvement with the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society Plant Society ?

I knew when I retired 3 years ago that I wanted to join our garden club because I used to get so much joy from shopping at Blossoms and Sweets and talking about plants with the members.  Providing the public with inexpensive plants that proved themselves able to grow in this area is a service to the community and helped me personally develop as a gardener.  Thank you all!  A conversation with Marty Fisher at one of the sales led me to the RI Wild Plant Society. TheThe Society rents greenhouse space at a wholesale nursery in Portsmouth and that is where I volunteer each Thursday to care for and propagate the native plant stock.  I have learned so much from this group!  I am apprenticing to take over as Plant Sale Chair which will be a big job as the organization, in a normal year, has a spring, summer and fall sale.  I am currently working on plant inventory numbers so they can be uploaded into a Square program so we can have our second on-line sale for RIWPS members in June. 

I’ve also just written two articles for their upcoming publication, Wild Flora.  It’s an organization where I can use a variety of skill sets while doing something I feel very passionate about.  I’m also active here in town on the Tree and Wilbour Woods Committees.

 

Sue’s Three Gardening Tips    1) “Take your passion and make it happen”, Flashdance 1983, applies to the garden too!  Don’t be afraid to have your own tastes and vision.  Don’t worry about what others might think as they drive past your house!  Be you!   2)  Buy small.  Plants are expensive and they don’t always make it.  This frees the budget for more plants and experimentation as you find the right plant for the conditions.  3)  Gardening is a wonderful blend of science and art.  Keep learning about both, from friends, experts and books and try to enjoy the process as much as the result. 

Sue views her gardening as a “reward”—her garden is her place to relax and unwind. She hopes in 10 years that she will have won her battles with invasive plants in the wild edge of her garden so a healthy understory of native shrubs will thrive, that the meadow that borders her like-minded neighbor will expand along with her shrub plantings along her stone wall so that thousands of birds, insects and caterpillars will find a home.

 

At the end of our visit, Sue pointed out, Garlic Mustard, an invasive plant she has been battling.  It poisons the soil around it so native species can’t grow.  Garlic  Mustard is just beginning to bloom along our roadsides in Little Compton. 

 

Now is the best time to pull it out by the entire root.  Dispose of it in a garbage bag (it can still complete flowering and set seed once pulled!)

 

 

You can find out more about other invasive plants in a booklet Guide To Invasive Plants In Massachusetts that will be on sale at the Blossoms and Sweets sale in May.

 

 

Looking for good readings? In December 2011, Dominique Browning published a list of books about gardening in the New York Times book review section called: Reliable sources for Gardeners