Yes, the Trailing Arbutus was in bloom!
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by Dianne L. Izzo, RIWPS member and URI Master Gardener, who volunteers at the Beechwood Garden.
The North Kingstown Town Council granted the petition of the North Kingstown Senior Association (NKSA) to rename the Beechwood Gardens The Jules A. Cohen Gardens at the regular Council meeting on April 4, 2022. Mr. Cohen is Past President of the Master Gardeners and the Wild Plant Society, as well as Past President of the NKSA.
The Garden concept was originally proposed by Mr. Cohen in 2010, and as soon as the NKSA approved the proposal, he led the effort to make the gardens a reality by taking the following actions:
• Organized the approval, design, implementation, installation, maintenance and funding of the gardens
• Solicited licensed landscape architects, volunteers from the community, the URI Master Gardener program and the RI Wild Plant Society, and,
• Through a formal Memorandum of Agreement with the Master Gardeners and Wild Plant Society, obtained a commitment to maintain the gardens with regularly scheduled work sessions.
In addition, Mr. Cohen has —
• Established guidelines for the planting of native trees and shrubs with advice from experts• Obtained donations and acquired appropriate plants
• Together with the volunteers, planted all the materials within the Town guidelines and with the approval and assistance of the North Kingstown Department of Public Works
• Installed an automated watering system and takes care of annual maintenance of the irrigation hoses
• Provided for ongoing care of the garden environment by engaging professional arborists and contractors to preserve the integrity of the walkways and the size and health of the trees
• Provided a funding mechanism via appeals for donations to make garden purchases and pay for maintenance, including the sale of Memorials (trees, garden objects) and to ensure the longevity of maintenance funds, he formalized an endowment that has been placed in restricted accounts as shown in the NKSA financial statements
• Established a Garden Program at Beechwood for speaking presentations made to the larger community. Speakers are experts in subjects ranging from Favorite Native Plants to Worm Composting to Drawing from Nature and include URI faculty and environmental professionals. Generally five or six lectures are scheduled per year and these programs are widely advertised and attended. Cohen and volunteer Landscape Architect Kevin Alverson arrange all the programming and introduce each speaker. As part of the Education Mission of the Beechwood Garden Project, native plants are labeled, and a self-guided tour brochure is available to all visitors.
• The Gardens are now a source of beauty, inspiration, peace and pride for citizens of North Kingstown and the wider community, and we owe their existence to the work of many but most certainly to the inspiration and perseverance of Jules A. Cohen.
Congratulations to Jules for this well deserved honor!
RIWPS March 5 Annual Meeting featured Sefra Alexandra’s talk on Ecotypes, Ecoregions & Ecological Restoration. She underscored the pressing need to preserve the genetic diversity of native seed populations whether through seeds banks, which can supply seeds to recreate or amplify these populations in case of need, or other efforts to increase the availability of locally sourced seeds such as the Ecotype Project of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFAR) which she leads.
Under this project, organic farmers establish founders plots large enough to maintain the genetic diversity of plants grown directly from seeds of wild plants native to their ecoregion (Northeast Coastal Zone). Seeds from these founder plot plants are harvested and become the basis for future generations of plants.
As you know from the meeting, we are very excited about our new multi-year initiative, Reseeding Rhode Island. Our goal is to increase the availability of seeds and plants from our local wild plant populations. This initiative builds on the incredible work of the Rhody Native Initiative started by the Rhode Island Native Plant Survey in 2010. We have already started to work with a botanist to collect seeds. Our next phases will be to grow these seeds to plugs for founders plots and then to work with our founder plot partners to make the seeds and plants grown from these seeds available in the course of the next few years.
While we were not able to record the talk itself, we encourage you to explore the list of resources connected to the talk that Sefra Alexandra has sent us.
• In response to the question about genetic diversity in founder plots, see current research: “Seeding the Future: Evolutionary Perspective on Seed-Based Restoration” Data on genetic diversity of founder plots compared with wild populations. Unpublished: Please do not distribute widely. https://northwestern.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=29c885fb-88ce-4e9b-
• Links related to topics in the talk
- National Seed Strategy (BLM)
- Ecoregions (EPA) New England (Level III/IV)
- Native Plant Materials Use in Eastern US (MARSB)
- Special Issue: Standards for Native Seeds in Ecological Restoration
- International Network for Seed-based Restoration
For questions/staying involved with the formation of this network
Learn about our award recipients. Marty Fisher and Garry Plunkett are receiving Lifetime Service Awards and Liz Bardo is our Volunteer of the Year.
In a recent article in EcoRI that championed the merits of planting meadows vs lawns in the home landscape, Sally Johnson noted the increasing tendency by the public to consider the ecological value of the plants in their gardens. Read Transforming Lawn into Meadow Benefits Everyone: ‘Your Garden Comes to Life by Cynthia Drummond, EcoRI news, February 21, 2022
While not a current RIWPS member, Gil joined RIWPS in 1988 and served as a Vice President in 1993-94. Along with Irene Beauregard, Joan Pilson, Hope Leeson and Judy Ireland, Gil was one of the “Original 5” that created our native plant exhibit at the Rhode Island Flower Show, an award winning tradition that continued for 22 years. We also have Gil to thank for two WildfloraRI “Cultivation Notes” Aronia arbutifolia (Red Chokecherry) (2001 Vol. 32, No. 2) and Propagating Woody Plants by Cuttings: Confessions of a Fraud (2004 Vol. 39)
Thank you, Gil, for all your efforts to educate folks about plants, especially Rhode Island’s flora.
As a retired engineer and Captain in the US Coast Guard, George’s organizational skill and gracious diplomacy were much appreciated. In addition to serving as Vice President of Administration in 2010 and 2011, George guided RIWPS through a major website revision. George performed myriads of tasks supporting his wife Judy, who designed and helped bring to life our award winning native plant exhibits at the Rhode Island Spring Garden & Flower Show. While team members in this endeavor valued their achievements, they also treasured the delight they had creating these exhibits and the friendships that developed. Previous president, Jules Cohen who was a part of this group recalls his regular lunches with George at Greggs restaurant, their attendance at talks at the Naval Base and just the spontaneous projects that happened like “the day George and I decided that RIWPS needed a trophy cabinet to house all the awards received at the Flower Show. George had some walnut – I think it was walnut – stashed away in his garage so this became our prime material. We worked on the trophy cabinet. Then George’s son John, whose carpentry skills outshone ours, took over and completed the task. George is remembered by so many as a wonderful man who as Jules notes was “Always encouraging folks to perform; always congratulating them for a job well done.”
Walter Thayer, a 25 year member of RIWPS, was a one of this nations leading experts on Crohn’s and other gastrointestinal diseases and a man who harbored a life-long passion for nature. Later in life plants became the focus of this passion. He received a degree in Biology from the University of Rhode Island. He became an ardent supporter of the Plant Conservation Program in Rhode Island, conducting botanical forays that have led to discoveries of many plant populations. The Native Plant Trust (formerly the New England Wild Flower Society) that run this program, honored him with their Rhode Island State Award in 2014. Walter also served on the Editorial Advisory Committee of our WildfloraRI helping to shepherd this newsletter. Always the teacher, Walter welcomed RIWPS members and friends to consider the state of nature and plants whether in his own garden, at programs or in the wild.
Tom brought his passion for history and landscape to RIWPS when he joined in 1991. Eager to volunteer, in 1992 he became a RIWPS board member where he served for three years. Tom generously opened his family farm, the birthplace property of Nathanael Greene in Warwick for RIWPS walks and as a source of plants for our Seed Starters East. Some of our members continue to be owners of umbrella trees (Magnolia tripetala) from seeds of this tree growing on his property. While the species is native further south, it grows well in Southern New England and is noted for its large leaves. Tom thought that his tree probably traced back to one on the private Goddard Park property, notable for its tree collection. Garden in the Woods, headquarters of the Native Plant Trust, is also very proud of a large specimen of Magnolia tripetala.
In his younger days, Tom planted a wide variety of species on his property, growing many from seed. In particular he grew and loved witch hazel long before it became popular. In his later years, Tom enjoyed watching the evolution of the landscape, what grew and thrived from the existing garden plants and wild growth. These plants included a number of cardinal flowers from RIWPS that were placed around the front well. Tom was a wonderful story teller, and as apt at engaging others with the history of different plants as he was with the history of his family.
Cheryl was a very active member of RIWPS before moving out of state. In 2008-2009 she became the president of RIWPS after serving as a vice president the year before. She was known for her passion for all things gardening and in particular for her advocacy of the use of native plants. She generously shared her energy, determination and extensive knowledge of plants and cultivation. In addition to writing some of RIWPS Cultivation Notes, she contributed articles about gardening to a variety of local newspapers. She was active in a number of projects and walks. Always reading, traveling, full of ideas and new gardening undertakings, she was as one of our members said fondly “dedicated top to bottom” to being a good a steward of the landscape.