Gardener’s Corner

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 a

Photo/still life courtesy of Bente Hoegsberg

ssist 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. 


Country Letter by Sydney Tynan  

Even though we know the days are getting shorter we can imagine it is still summer when we see roses and our annuals and pretend not to see those poor clipped chrysanthemums. I had hoped to tell you that we had vanquished the raccoon but I don’t believe he has been around as I was lent a night camera which has not shown a sign of him. The big feeder has been filled and the finches and Blue Jays have found it but no Cardinals yet. Keep cleaning and filling the Humming bird feeders for at least another two weeks. And have you noticed that the ones who come are females? I haven’t seen a red throat for at least two weeks.

The “Back 40” once so vibrant with at least three different kinds of Goldenrod is now a little dingy but at least clumps of Michaelmas daisies are brightening unexpected spots where they weren’t before. A  Monarch butterfly delighted me by spreading its orange wings as it sat on the middle of a purple clump. No Monarchs tonight but a cluster of black and orange beetles on a milkweed pod made me wonder if something new and nasty had arrived. The last of the wild grapes have fallen and for a while there was a patch which smelled like red wine. I wonder if there were any drunken skunks wondering around?

Last spring I wrote and published a bird book for our county four to six year old children. There are photos and paintings by local friends of ten of our most common New England birds. Although there are a number of excellent books for slightly older children I wanted to get the attention of the little ones before they got too involved pushing buttons. This book is available free of charge at the Brownell Library in Little Compton in the children’s section. I am most grateful for this opportunity to distribute them . There will not be another printing.


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.


Country Letter by Sydney Tynan

I am sure you have noticed how an ordinary looking teen ager suddenly changes into someone you want to look at again and again.  I call it their time of beauty and that is what is happening in the Back 40.  Just after that heavy rain the field is polka dotted with lacy white flowers , clumps of bright yellow Tansy and lots of Joe Pye Weed in different shades of pink, many taller than I. So I don’t need beseeching looks from my little dog to get us out for our late afternoon stroll. ( I choose this time of day as the colors are stronger in the late afternoon sun.)

Our colorful orange and black Orioles and their numerous and clamorous young have gone and I have told the Catbirds that I am no longer feeding them grape jelly as they drop the remains on my deck and cushions. We haven’t filled the big feeder so no bright Cardinals or Blue Jays yet. First we have to foil the big fat Raccoon as a trap isn’t working. Tree Swallows are visiting for short, swirling insect hunts and I hope won’t be gathering on the telephone wires soon as that is a sure sign of  coming fall.

The last of our sweet scented vines and shrubs is blooming now so if you drive through a shady damp area and you smell something sweet that is Clethra, or sweet pepper bush. Enjoy it and all that goes with summer days. 




July 2021

Country Letter by Sydney Tynan

The big box meant to hold twenty pounds of black oil seed stands empty due to a ravaging raccoon who somehow climbs up and empties it. He must be big and fat as he was able to haul a large have a heart trap to a new location and escape. So my bird watching is reduced to seeing Red Winged Blackbirds trying to eat suet cakes while upside down in the company of English Sparrows. Colorful Baltimore and Orchard Orioles and their wives and young are feeding all day on the grape jelly holder and Catbirds sneak in so I have to fill it twice a day. Neighbors compare prices on grape jelly outlets and a friend buys me a week’s supply. We also need to know where suet cakes are the cheapest as they have to be replaced every day.

So here we are almost a month into summer with day lilies and flowers of all kinds blooming  and an occasional Monarch to delight us. I am hoping to find or be given a Monarch egg or tiny larvawhich I will feed with fresh leaves and watch it make a chrysalis which will become transparent with a view of a folded up butterfly inside Always a miracle!     




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 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.


April 2021

Country Letter by Sidney Tynan

So you know where your Hummingbird Feeder is and you have extra sugar to make your own nectar?? (1 cup sugar boiled with 4 cups water – no red coloring needed). Well, good for you.(Of course I can only write this as I already have my feeder out. ) There’s a small contest in my neighborhood as to who sees the first Hummer. I don’t even try as I am so high and windy.
Before my May letter is written Orioles and Catbirds also will have arrived so be ready the first week with cheap oranges sliced in half and a hanging container of grape jelly. How welcome they will be.
I keep a very spasmodic garden diary and was delighted to see that in 2017 April 10 the first Goldfinches came. I am still waiting. I have been told that my clean and empty Tree Swallow houses will also attract Blue Birds which have been seen in abundance in the area. So I keep looking and hoping
Also in the first week of May the lovely Shad bush opens in swampy areas.. If you are one of the lucky ones to see them enjoy during their fleeting blooming and tell a neighbor.

Winter Moths Update

To view URI’s latest update, click on Winter Moths April 22, 2021
Winter moth populations have been decreasing for several years, though they can still be a problem for  people growing apples, pears, and blueberries. Over the last decade, winter moth eggs started hatching  anywhere from mid-March to mid-April, depending primarily on temperature. Last year they started  hatching on March 20th. I don’t expect eggs to begin hatching until after red maples start blooming and  when McIntosh apple buds crack open, exposing a little bit of green tissue (called Green Tip). Hopefully, this is still a couple of weeks away, but warm weather this week is pushing things along.   

Winter moth eggs tend to hatch at McIntosh apple ‘green tip’ and red maple bloom. 

Tree wraps were set up in early November, 2020, to monitor eggs at 3 locations in RI – Charlestown,  Kingston, and Portsmouth. In November and December, as female winter moths climbed trees and  encountered tree wraps, female moths deposited eggs below the wraps, aggregating eggs, and making it easier to monitor eggs hatching. Winter moth eggs are orange now, but turn blue a couple of days  before hatching. This trait makes it very handy for monitoring egg hatch!

Eggs are nearly impossible to find without setting up tree wrap in the fall. Tree wrap and close up of small, orange winter moth eggs found below tree wrap.

Tree wraps were removed last week, and 2 of 3 locations have fewer eggs than in 2020. In Portsmouth I  found only 6 eggs compared to 80 found there last year. In Charlestown there are 373 eggs to monitor  and last year there were 500 eggs. In Kingston I found the same number of eggs both years, 136 eggs.  

Overall, it seems that winter moth populations continue to decline in southeastern New England. In  November and December several people contacted me about seeing clouds of male winter moths flying,  but I don’t think this will lead to any winter moth outbreaks. For the last few years, no insecticides have  been needed to control winter moth caterpillars in landscape trees. Winter moth caterpillars will always  be with us, but the population should stay under control and not require pesticide applications. 

Growers of fruit (apple, pear, and blueberry) may need to apply insecticides against winter moths.  Winter moth caterpillars hatch early in the spring and enter developing buds. The problem for apple,  pear, and blueberry plants is winter moth caterpillars enter flower buds. It doesn’t take a very large  population of winter moth caterpillars to cause significant damage to flowers and therefore to the crop. 

We don’t have a really good threshold to indicate whether or not to spray apples, pears, or blueberries  for winter moth caterpillars. Some Nova Scotia guides recommend spraying apple trees when 1-2  caterpillars are found in 20 buds (>5% infested buds). A good time to scout, and then spray if needed, is  at bud separation – when the flower buds start separating from the cluster, but before blossoms open. We are several weeks away from this bud stage. All common insecticides labeled for apples and  blueberries control winter moth caterpillars well. Bt insecticides (such as Dipel) are also effective. Bt  insecticides kill only caterpillars so don’t harm bees and other insects.

Apple tight cluster and apple bud separation are good times to look for caterpillars. Blueberry tight cluster is also a good time to  check, but it is more difficult to check blueberry flower buds than apple flower buds. 

The URI Plant Clinic has moved into the Skogley Turf Research Center, but you can still drop off or mail  samples to 3 East Alumni Ave., Kingston, RI 02881. There is a$10 charge for landscapers and plant  owners. 

Heather Faubert, 

URI Cooperative Extension


March 2021

Sogkonate Garden Club March Presentation:

Backyard Entomology:  Who’s Who in Your Garden’s Ecosystem?  By Pam Gilpin 

Pam Gilpin  has compiled an informative photo essay to accompany a discussion of insects that can be seen in our gardens and their importance to the ecosystem.  Her relationship with entomologists throughout the country, book learning and her work as an estate gardener over the past 29 years have provided her with a unique education in the science of entomology.    She’s a RI Certified Horticulturalist, has  served as a member of the Newport Tree and Open Space Commission, served on the board of the Newport Tree Conservancy and is currently a member of the Living Collection Committee for the Newport Tree Conservancy.   In 2013 she was the recipient of the Julie Morris Horticultural Award at Blithewold Gardens and Arboretum.  

Program Description: Insects play an essential role as pollinators, predators and recyclers of decomposing animal and plant material. They are of vital importance as a source of food for birds, mammals and other insects. Given the right habitat, you can help sustain the all-important ecosystem in your garden and have the insects working for you. 

Backyard Entomology:  Who’s Who in Your Garden’s Ecosystem?





We frequently receive questions about how we perform spring cut backs for the managed parts of our trial and demonstration gardens.
Great questions such as—what tools do you use? When do you perform these tasks? What about hibernating insects? How tall do you leave the cutback plant material? Do you rake up the herbaceous debris, mulch it in place, burn, or compost?
The one thing we have learned about spring cutbacks is that everyone does the process a little bit differently. People have different preferences for timing, tools, and cleanup depending on project goals and client preferences. Follow along as we break down each of these parts for you to choose which strategies align with your project needs.

How North Creek does it (tools, stubble height, clean up)
We use a tri-blade attachment to our string trimmer. We find this much more durable than higher gauge plastic string and it is especially effective on small weedy trees that may have opportunistically settled into our plantings. In our formal trial areas, we trim the plant material to about 8-12″ inches, rake up the material from our gardens and stack it in a loose heap in our compost area. These trial areas are high visibility, high traffic areas with visitors enjoying these spaces year-round.  In the more natural areas such as our bioswale, tall and mid-height meadows, and vegetation surrounding our constructed wetland—the material is trimmed and the largest brush is collected for the mulch pile while the rest is left to decompose in place

When we do it (timing)
The optimal time to perform cutbacks is in early spring, just as plants wake up. This gives maximum time for wildlife to use the area as shelter and as a food source but isn’t so late that you’re cutting the tips of warm season grasses as they’re actively growing.
Realistically, however, cut back timing depends on client preference, your available labor hours, and how many jobs you need to complete throughout the early spring window. Understanding the limitations that those who manage gardens face, late winter cutbacks are preferable to cutting back plant material before December from a wildlife habitat perspective but the balance between leaving winter cutbacks versus time available is part of the calculations that garden management companies make

As you can see, variability abounds and finding the right way to perform cut backs for your garden project needs will be based on factors like timing, customer preference, local laws, and your labor supply.
In wild or natural areas, no cutbacks are required except perhaps when a property performs a controlled burn to rejuvenate prairie species and to get rid of invasive plant material. Other properties may require a very high level of care and management and will need to do yearly cutbacks, early in the season, to meet customer taste or local municipality ordinance. Whatever the job, garden management styles can be tailored to meet the demand.
Do you have a different method that you employ for spring cut backs? Let us know! We’d love to hear your questions, comments, and feedback at

Country Letter by Sidney Tynan

Sometimes things work – and sometimes they don’t. The new feeder holding 20 pounds of black oil seed is a huge success and we have had to refill it. Of course there has been some help from a squirrel but my little hunter doesn’t let it linger. I had hoped for Goldfinches after I had filled the old feeder but that didn’t happen. Maybe later. I have envied two friends their resident Carolina Wrens so I put up two adorable little wren houses. No luck and I think they like broken down old baskets or old straw hats instead.

John Gwynne reminded me that Crocus tomasina was blooming so on that lovely warm Friday I took my stroller out of its winter stable and sallied forth. To my surprise and delight I found an area with SEVEN little clumps in the back 40.  The area had been mowed in January otherwise I would never have seen them in the dead meadow grass. (When I went to look up how to spell tomasina I was surprised to find a number of sweet scented early blooming other crocus. Are you tempted? Remember McLure Zimmerman if you are.) John also reminded me that Sakonnet Garden will be opening May 1st for small groups and by reservation only.

Between now and the next time I write – there will be a lot of changes. I think the virus has so occupied our minds and our lives that we forgot spring was coming. But it is and the birds and tiny flowers will tell us.   

February 2021

Country Letter by Sidney Tynan

Venturing out over crusty, slippery snow to fill the bird feeder was something I wasn’t willing to do so a kind friend has been filling it on Mondays and Fridays. Pretty soon it was emptied by Thursday morning so off to the bird house maker went my friend and ordered a feeder that would hold TWENTY POUNDS! The bird house maker said it couldn’t be done but three days later he called to say it was ready. A big success and I have two or three kinds of birds on it at one time and on a snowy day two red cardinals and one Blue Jay are a cheerful sight. Little sparrows and finches are on the deck below eating the spilled seeds but alas no “snow birds” or Juncos. Do you remember when we would see them all winter? On the advice of the Audubon sanctuary in Bristol I am going to fill the now empty feeder with Niger seeds to see if I can get Goldfinches to come as they don’t seem to like the black oil seed in the big feeder. Suet and small dogs are not a good combination but there wasn’t anything I could do when the ferocious wind on top of my hill opened the wire cage and dumped a suet cake on the ground. Of course all the sparrows and finches love it but so does my little spaniel. Thank goodness he can only lick it and not chew off
hunks but his appetite for dry food has fallen off.

Well, brace yourself for another month of winter and hope for a milder March.

November 2020

Designing a Stylish Pollinator Garden 

Presentation by LC’s own John Gwynne and based upon his article in Fine Gardening, August 2020.  John and Michael Folcarelli developed their garden at their home in Little Compton over the past few years.  John speaks about their process creating a space that is both beautiful and beneficial to important insects. [Note the link to this presentation will be available until Dec 4, 2020, so enjoy now!]

Take a look at the SGC Meadow as featured in the Sakonnet Times! 


What to Know About Bird Feeders – a wonderfully illustrated short piece


To rake or not to rake…

Scott Hoffman Black provides valuable insight into this question in a recent Xerces blog  

Leave the Leaves to benefit Wildlife

Photo by Jude Beck



October 2020

Impact of Environmental Changes on Migratory Birds

Since 1970 the bird population has dropped by 20%.  This means that there are 2.9 billion fewer birds on the wing than there were 50 years ago. Dr Clarkson, an ornithologist at URI, spoke about the impacts of environmental change on migratory bird population at our October program.  (Link is no longer active).


Marty and Dick Fisher’s Garden

Marty Fisher hosted three members of the SGC website committee for a socially distanced terrace discussion and tour of the Fisher yard and garden “operation”on August 19. Marty and her longtime husband and partner Dick shared their passion for native plants, hers are floral and his trees and shrubs.  Jeanne McAllister had some questions prepared, Dominique Coulombe was ready with pen and paper to capture the details, and new member Ginger Ryan observed and offered insights. 

 You are gardeners of 12 years in RI, but you began in Colorado 30 years ago. Anywhere before that?

Dick and I grew up in Pennsylvania where our first gardening project consisted of growing tomatoes in a pot.  In 1968 we moved to Colorado and slowly learned how to grow plants in the West. This became a business after we purchased a part of an old ranch. Our weekend hobby turned into a business in 1992.


What was your gardening operation like then/in Colorado? Did you/how did you transition that gardening effort over to new owners/caretakers?

In western Colorado where the altitude reaches 5,000 to 8,000 feet and the climate is very dry, we would get up to 35 feet of snow.  The soil is frost free for only six weeks during the summer and is very clay-based. We collected seeds during the fall and in the spring scarified some of the seeds before planting. The temperature could drop to 40 below in the winter.

How have you developed and evolved as a gardener?

When we lived first in Colorado I was observing and taken by the abundance and diversity of wildflowers in the area.  In the early 1980s the concept of native plants was already popular in that part of the country and my interest and “can do” attitude prompted me to start growing organic plants.  What began as a hobby evolved a few years later into a business which was so successful that I ended up retiring from my teaching job and devoting my time entirely to the gardening business.  After Dick retired, we moved to RI to be closer to our family and looked for a large open space to grow vegetables, fruits, shrubs and trees.


What is the scope of your efforts now? What are the major differences between growing and cultivating in CO and in RI?

When we started our current garden on Austin Lane, here in Little Compton, we needed to adapt our habits to a different climate, soil, and altitude.  We use the greenhouse which is unheated all year round as our workshop and are now planning to expand it.  Dick takes care of the trees, shrubs and vegetables and I take care of the flowers.  The watering, especially this summer, has been very time-consuming.  When we were in Colorado, we were managing a business and thus had a mission statement. You needed a Colorado organic certificate in order to be able to sell native plants at the farmers market. Since we moved to RI, we give away many of our plants, trees and shrubs in support of the Rhode Island Plant Society and the Sogkonate Garden Club.  The Department of Environmental Management checks the trees before we can give them away.   The Rhode Island Plant Society accepts Rhode Island natives only.  The concept of “cultivar” versus “native” is generating a lot of discussion. 

[Note: SGC members who are interested in learning more about this may want to watch the presentation How Native Plant Cultivars Affect Pollinators by the Grow Native Massachusetts organization.] To our delight we have identified some native plants which are growing right on our property such as syriaca milkweed and Joe Pye weed.  We have also gathered seeds from other native plants (bayberries, beach plums, and dune grasses for example) in places such as Horseneck Beach and along the roads of Little Compton.

[Note: The area all around Austin Lane used to be farmland. There is actually a Historical Cemetery at the end of this dead-end street where you can decipher some of the original family names].


You are a major contributor to the annual plant sale for SGC Blossoms and Sweets.

We grow a large number of plants for the sale of the RI Wild Plant Society.  We have some extras which we donate to the Sogkonate Garden Club for the annual sale.  Under normal circumstances when the plant sale is being held in the center of town, we load the plants onto our truck and bring them to the sale area.  We also help with the pricing and tagging of plants contributed by other members.


As a newer SGC member (JMcA) I have heard that you are a seed propagation expert?

We start everything from local seeds.  We keep them in jars.  The planting soil we use is a mix of 2/3 compost, potting soil and Alaska fertilizer. We include the fertilizer only after the plant has a minimum of four leaves.  Some seeds you can plant directly once they are dry and ready, others we save.  


We also have heard that you take “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” to new levels.

We save and reuse flower pots of various sizes but also use yogurt containers and spice/herb bottles.  Our friends leave available used pots at the end of our driveway, we are happy to take and reuse these.  We compost everything and Dick has fashioned a screen to run the fine compost through.  We collect the rainwater as much as possible and use all of it for watering.


What are you most proud of; what is most unique about what you do?

I am most proud of the way I introduce other Garden Club members and friends to natives.  Through my connection with the RI Wild Plant Society I am also able to connect with great speakers and invite them to participate in our programs. These are two important ways I feel that all Sogkonate Garden Club members benefit from my involvement and commitment to fine gardening and my love of plants.

A walking tour took us around and through shrubs, walkways with flowers, a greenhouse and planting area, a berry and grape area, meadows, an orchard and any number of native trees grown from seed.  As part of her “show and tell” Marty showed us how to pry open pods and collect seeds from lupine flowers.  We also went home with end cuts of cedar for our closets and a native plant or two.  Thank you, Marty and Dick, for your dedication, lessons, time and gifts!


August 2020

Country Letter by Sidney Tynan

I have been trying to ignore the yellowing fields, both the “south 40” and the one outside the house. But when tall sunflowers on slender stalks joined the goldenrod I have to admit that fall is on its way. As I think I tell you every fall there are so many different kinds of goldenrod that I don’t try to identify them but at last I know what the sunflowers are – Jerusalem Artichokes! I am indebted to  David Attenborough for explaining the derivation of the name. As the plant was discovered in South America by Europeans and the root tasted like the artichoke with which they were familiar, they translated the Spanish “el girasole” meaning turning with the sun, to “Jerusalem”. The roots really are sweet and crunchy and can be used in place of water chestnuts. BUT be careful where you plant them as they will take over as they have here, from a tiny patch to a whole beautiful field. The Goldfinches will like them to.

Hummingbirds will be around until October so keep those feeders going. I note that mine love the Cardinal flowers ( Lobelia cardinalis) which grew very tall due to the constant flow of water from my birdbath, but only early in the morning.

So far I have not heard a Blue Jay. I really regard them as the voice of doom as they herald frosts and leaves turning. So fill your eyes with green while it is still here.


July 2020

Ball Blue Book

Easy Guide to Tasty Canning and Preserving, by Mary Marra

In the 70’s I became interested in preserving food, especially pickles and jams, so for $1.00 I invested in the Ball Blue Book. Some of my efforts were met with disaster such as the time I tried to make brined pickles. They turned to slime. I put the sodden mess in our compost pile. Our young dog quickly found the pickles and ate everyone of them. He passed seeds for days.

I still use this book’s recipes to cook jam and preserves. I only use sugar and the natural juices , sometimes helped with a little lemon juice. I don’t use pectin. A water bath is safe for me. I can remember my mother’s pressure cooking spraying food all over the ceiling.




Only recently did I read the last page about preserving your husband. Hope you enjoy it.












Sidney Tynan’s country letter

I wish you could be with me to walk through the Back 40. The paths are rimmed with dainty Queen Anne’s Lace and the tall grasses that look like tiny bulrushes. Joe Pye has decided to bloom pale pink and very early. You may laugh at me but every time we have our stroll I look to see what has changed since the day before.. Yesterday had a wonderful surprise: a single stalk of Turk’s Head lily with two dangling buds. Tonight I’ll see if the deer found them before they could open. I also checked on my favorite milkweed plant as it had 4 pinky lavender mop heads of flowers. As expected no more flowers and on one two tiny milkweed pods, another had five. Next summer I will count the number of flowers – at least 20 per mop– so I guess the pollinators aren’t very attracted although we think the flowers smell so sweet.

I knew it was going to happen but I can’t help feeling a bit sad.  A page in the book called summer was turned and all of a sudden there was no more bird song – or very little – and all the summer birds left. Red Winged blackbirds have lost their red stripe, juvenile Cardinals have brown bodies and a crest but a telltale red tail. There was a surprise – a little group of Titmice! Their breasts were white with pink streaks and I had to look in my tattered old Peterson to see what other little birds might possibly have a crest. My bird guru thinks it was a family not a flock. So when you see them  this winter, all shrunken and gray , picture them in their warm weather clothes.

Cherish the days.  




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