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Paradigm of Change

By Anne Raver

This article first appeared in our WildfloraRI Fall 2021

One hot, humid day in September 2020, the team of volunteers at the Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in South Kingstown were awaiting a backhoe to dig the swales for the demonstration gardens they were building around the rustic cabin that serves as the refuge’s contact center. The backhoe never showed up, so they took up their shovels and moved the dirt by hand.  “With masks on, it was brutal,” recalled Mark Cordle, a RIWPS member and URI Master Gardener, who co-leads the project with Nick Ernst, USFWS wildlife biologist. Nick manages Trustom as well as the four other refuges within the RI National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The volunteers laid down corrugated cardboard, soaked it, then shaped the mounds of soil — 15 cubic yards delivered from nearby Highland Farms. Janis Nepshinsky, who manages visitor services and outreach for the complex, purchased the weed-free soil and contributed earthmoving equipment. “Then we planted about 250 plants of 30 species in two days,” said Mark.

Group touring the restoration sites at Trustom Pond (photo ARaver)

A year later, a group of us from RIWPS were walking around the garden. Bumblebees nuzzled the yellow sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) and white boneset thoroughwort (Eupatorium perfoliatum) still blooming in the rain garden. The garden now features close to 40 native species, including the sassafras and witch hazel already there and a beautiful old shadbush transplanted from nearby. Most of the plants were grown from seed collected from Kettle Pond.

That September afternoon, Dave Vissoe, who helped create this garden, leaned over a wavy-leaved aster (Symphyotrichum undulatum) eaten down to a nub by deer and nodded toward the white wood asters (Eurybia divaricata) next to the shadbush (Amelanchier sp.). “We’re hoping the wood asters will spread into the woods,” he said, gesturing to the trees to the north. But deer love asters of all kinds, so the team sprays them regularly with nontoxic repellents. On the other hand, broadleaved mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) and the goldenrods are unpalatable to deer, so these were flourishing.

The plants are labeled, so as I watched a bumblebee on a goldenrod, I could identify the species — wreath goldenrod (Solidago caesia) — and remember how its tiny yellow flowers cluster in the leaf axils of the arching stems. I also studied how rocks were laid in a lined trench beneath the downspout that directs water off the cabin roof into the swales of the rain garden, where cardinal-flower (Lobelia cardinalis), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus), and other moisture-loving species were planted.

Dave had learned a bit about collecting seeds and propagating native plants from Hope Leeson, when she ran Rhody Native, an initiative of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. He picked up the art of winter sowing from Peggy Buttenbaum, who has taught us how to turn plastic containers into mini-greenhouses. By the fall of 2018 the gardens at Kettle Pond were producing a bonanza of seeds — so volunteers collected them for winter sowing.  “We laid out a tarp in one of the classrooms, so we didn’t get potting soil everywhere,” said Dave. The volunteers poked holes in the plastic containers, planted the seeds, and took them home to sprout outdoors.  They then re-potted the thousands of resulting seedlings in Dave’s backyard and set them in an old dog pen no longer used his Jack Russells.  “We grew 500 to 1,000 plants the first year,” said Dave. “This year, we had a bumper crop of 5,000 plants.”

As the Kettle Pond gardens flourished, Dave set his sights on Trustom Pond, submitting a proposal to the URI Master Gardener program, which funded the project in March 2020. “Trustom is a special place to me,” Dave said. “When I was a kid, my parents and I would go to Moonstone Beach to swim and crab in Trustom Pond.” His parents ashes are scattered here. After launching the project, Dave and other early leaders stepped aside.

Mark and Nick are expanding the project into the grasslands behind the contact station. “Our mission is really to create awareness of the benefits of planting native species for habitat restoration,” said Mark. “The demo garden is a classroom where you can see all the species with labels. But it’s unnatural.” It’s also a gateway for 60,000 annual visitors, half of them birders. “There needs to be a paradigm change in our yards and landscapes,” said Nick. “These manicured lawns and nonnative shrubs are ecological deserts. But a lot of people think native plants are messy. The goal of the demo garden is to show folks how great it looks.”

Visitors might remember a few labelled plants – then recognize that same native species in one of four restoration sites along the trails. “People can see these plants spreading out in the natural environment,” said Nick, who paused by the tall grasses turning shades of purple, mahogany and orange.  He showed us how to tell the difference between big bluestem, whose flowering stalk resembles a turkey foot, and Indian grass, which is more of a feather. “Indian grass is rare in Rhode Island,” he said. “But most of the seed came from the Midwest.”

He explained why a seed isn’t just a seed: “The plants in New England have evolved for thousands of years with local growing conditions,” said Nick. “So if you use seed from the Midwest, the plants might not grow as well here, they might have differences in bloom times that might affect their pollinators.”

Restoring native species (photo MCordle)

In 1995 USFWS seeded the 15-acre field we were standing in with warm-season grasses intended to provide habitat for ground-nesting birds. However, “there are no songbirds nesting here, because it’s so dense,” said Nick. “It’s not really meeting our objectives.” It’s also too small an area for many bird species to reproduce. So Nick is shifting the goal here to creating  a diversity of native plant species that are larval hosts and nectar sources for insects, including moths and more than 38 species of native bees.

But where to get enough local genotype plants is the challenge. “We were getting plants from Hope Lesson, but the Rhode Island Natural History Survey is no longer doing Rhody Native,” Nick said. “The Master Gardener partnership has really filled that hole, by collecting seed from local plants and putting them back on the refuges. Early last year, Mark and Nick chose four restoration sites with different topography and soil and light conditions. Then, the crew of volunteers and USFWS interns started clearing the invasives. A Bobcat Skid Steer grinding up a tangle of multiflora rose and bush honeysuckle hit a wall, literally.

The low stone wall was a remnant of the farm that once belonged to Ann Kenyon Morse, a sheep breeder and keen horsewoman who also flew fighter planes as a WASP during World War II. In 1974, she donated 365 acres of land to USFWS, which was the start of the 787-acre Trustom Pond Refuge.

As the team pulled out grapevine and honeysuckle, they found black cherry and shadbush. Clethra, spirea, and swamp azaleas were blooming in the wetlands. One morning, Nick spotted a hummingbird clearwing moth, Hemaris thysbe, sipping nectar from a swamp azalea flower. They were puzzled by a large treelike shrub with mottled bark on the edge of the swamp. “I thought it was a viburnum at first,” said Mark, who snapped a few pictures for PictureThis. “It was a poison sumac. With a trunk 18” in diameter.”Its old limbs were leaning out from the edge of the boggy woods toward the sun, its leaves turning apricot-red.

The crew started planting in mid-August and worked through September, putting in about 5,000 plants sourced from Kettle Pond. Nick contributed 2,000 more, from Planter’s Choice Nursery in Connecticut. “I tried to get a variety of species the MG’s didn’t have, so they could use them for future seeds,” said Nick. “But I also got some of the same species, to increase genetic diversity. We don’t want to collect seeds from the same garden over and over.”

Nick and Dave had recently toured one of the Connecticut farms that are growing native plants for the Ecotype Project. Botanists collect seed from wild plants in ecoregion 59; organic farmers then grow out the seeds in ‘Founder Plots’; tens of thousands of seeds are then harvested from the plots and sent to nurseries. That basic model is exciting to restoration ecologists. “Maybe East Farm or organic farmers in Rhode Island could grow Founder Plots,” said Nick. I would love to see infrastructure in the Northeast to produce seeds in volume like they do in the Midwest.”

At some point, “if we wanted to transform the field at Trustom, we could plow up strips, then do no-till or broadcast seeds.” And this time the seed would be from this ecoregion, not the middle of the country.In the meantime, he and Mark will be interested to see how well the native species in the restoration areas establish. “Considering the bluestem and the thatch, it’s unlikely that they would without any kind of disturbance,” he said. “Maybe a prescribed burn or light tilling of soil would open up an avenue for those plants to spread.” But just having them flower and set seed in the restoration sites will increase the seed bank of local genotypes.

Mark took a break near a site where yellow thistle (Cirsium horridulum), rare to Rhode Island, was flourishing.  “To me, it’s like restoring an old historic house,” he said. “Only we’re restoring the plants that have been here for thousands of years.”

 

A Sense of Place: Kettle Pond

by Marnie Lacouture

This article first appeared in our publication WildfloraRI, Fall 2021

Dave Vissoe sharing his knowledge (photo PLacouture)

The native plant garden at the Kettle Pond Visitor Center in Charlestown had a serendipitous beginning. In 2016, Janis Nepshinsky, Visitor Services Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, received a $5,000 grant to establish a native plant garden for pollinators.

The center, built in 2005, offers information on all five of the state’s National Wildlife Refuges — Trustom Pond, Sachuest Point, Ninigret, John H. Chafee, and Block Island – and also serves as a central office for the complex. It is located on the forested upland of the Ninigret refuge, north of Route 1. The Rhode Island glacier, which created the Charlestown terminal moraine approximately 20,000 years ago, left many kettle holes and ponds as the ice retreated. The name Kettle Pond refers to them.

For years, Janis had imagined creating a “sense of place,” by transforming the grassy area outside the center into a demonstration garden full of native plants and their pollinators, to show how biodiversity is necessary for the earth and its inhabitants. It would embody ‘mosoquotaash,’ a Narragansett word meaning ‘we are all connected.’

One slow day at the center, she noticed that Dave Vissoe, who was volunteering at the front desk, was poring over notes and books spread out on the table. “He said he was studying for a Master Gardener class,” recalled Janis. “I had just gotten this grant, and I thought, ‘Boy, have I got the garden for you!’” That is how Janis’s dream gained a project leader and became a reality.

Dave, who grew up in the south end of Hartford, CT, remembers his French grandfather as a gentle soul who was a serious gardener. As a young boy, Dave helped water in his grandfather’s greenhouse where the damp, earthy smell drew him to love gardening. He admits that he was not an earnest student and calls himself a “late, late, late bloomer.” Entering college right after high school, he soon dropped out to join the army, then returned after completing his service. It was at North Adams State College, now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, that he met Bev Mickey, his future wife. After graduating, Dave landed a job teaching high school biology and chemistry in Bennington, VT; Dave commuted to work while Bev finished her senior year. We can thank Bev for not liking the Vermont winters.

The couple moved to Rhode Island in 1970 where they both taught at Davisville Middle School in North Kingstown until 1977 when Dave was hired by Silver Burdett, a textbook publisher. There he used his science background and honed his management skills, living in Rhode Island as a national consultant until taking other positions that necessitated a move to New Jersey, where he and Bev raised their family. In 2013 Dave and a friend began to remodel the house that had belonged to his parents in Green Hill, a coastal community in South Kingstown. He and Bev moved back to the Ocean State and live there today.

Dave enjoys people and has a gift for bringing them together. He is quick to credit the accomplishments of others while modest about his own. Mary O’Connor, a Master Gardener as well as a Rhode Island Wild Plant Society board member, joined the Kettle Pond project shortly after it began and was instrumental in getting Dave to join the RIWPS board. She said his energy and passion are contagious, so he’s a pleasure to work with, a sentiment repeated by all the volunteers I spoke to. He is joyful and upbeat, and I always smile after a conversation with Dave, whether it is about his visiting grandson or a favorite plant.

In 2014 Dave’s appreciation of nature had drawn him to volunteer at both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Trustom Pond refuge and the Kettle Pond Visitor Center. He became a Master Gardener in 2017 and dove immediately into the native plant garden project at Kettle Pond with Sharon Bridge, a veteran Master Gardener, as his coleader. Melissa Hughes and Darlene Trott each served for a time as coleader until 2019 when Erin Beuka, a Master Gardener who had recently moved to Rhode Island from New Jersey, took over. Dave describes her as a “powerhouse”, and Erin calls Dave a “dynamo.’ Erin is now maintaining the data bases originally created by Melissa from plot maps drawn on graph paper to track plant inventories and information. According to Dave, having this data has taken the garden to a higher level.

Native species grace the parking lot (photo DVissoe)

Dave’s many accomplishments have earned him The 2021 Rosanne Sherry Distinguished Educator Award from Master Gardeners.

Graham Gardner, a landscape designer and longtime RIWPS member, created a master plan for the garden consisting of several plots in various shapes and sizes before moving to Colorado. The plan was ultimately implemented by landscape designer Tysh McGrail, who had worked on many projects with him, promoting the use of native plants.

Volunteers prepared the beds, first removing invasive plants as well as poison ivy and maple saplings, then suppressing weeds with six layers of newspaper. Since the gardens were being planted over a septic system, they brought in weed-free loam to build up the soil. They pruned several overgrown winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillata) that were growing along the building. They studied the prevailing wind, soil pH, and sun exposure to help match specific plants to the best spot. They laid out the curved plots with garden hoses and dug the edges deeply for neatness and to keep grass from growing into the paths. They layered the plants according to their height and bloom times.

Dave assembled an enthusiastic team for the first planting, which occurred over three days in mid-June of 2017. Nick Ernst, the FWS wildlife biologist for the refuge complex was there along with Janis, Tysh, several volunteers from Master Gardeners, April Alix and her summer intern Michael Bonilla from the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, and members of the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society — twenty or so volunteers in all. Lorén Spears, a citizen of the Narragansett nation and executive director of the Tomaquag Museum, who had shared her knowledge of native plants and their uses by indigenous people, was also there on planting day. Although she was dressed for a later engagement, she couldn’t resist getting her hands dirty. Most of the plants, grown from locally sourced seeds, were obtained from Rhody Native, a RINHS project begun by botanist Hope Leeson. The rest came from a wholesale native plant nursery on Long Island.

A second planting was installed in October of 2017. The garden grew and the plants filled in as work continued in 2018 and 2019. In March of 2020, however, Covid restrictions meant that the garden would be tending itself until well into June, when volunteers returned to work practicing social distancing and wearing face masks. Dave continued to educate the public with video and Zoom presentations. Because he realized that the garden would be a source of comfort for many, he created safe guidelines for volunteers to work in small groups to keep the gardens weeded. The volunteers also installed a rain garden to the left of the visitor center entrance with a $2000 grant from RIWPS, although $750 was unused and returned.

An “adopt a plot” idea has been implemented recently in the hopes that maintenance will be manageable. Volunteers also can “adopt a plant,” learning all they can about it while tracking its growth in the garden. This information has been used to create a treasure hunt for school groups and as resource material for teachers, the general public, master and advanced gardeners, and garden clubs.

Butterfly milkweed seed pods (photo DVissoe)

In September, on one of the last days of summer, I visited the garden and was greeted by a tall clump of Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), the seed heads glowing in the afternoon sun. Goldenrods and asters were in their glory, abuzz with pollinators, and the fuel needed by the monarch butterflies for their long migratory trip was plentiful. The goldenrods included seaside (Solidago sempervirens), gray (S. nemoralis), wreath (S. caesia) and licorice (S. odora). There was an array of asters: wavy-leaved aster (Symphyotrichum undulatum), calico (S. lateriflorum) heart-leaved (S. cordifolium), New England (S. novae-angliae), and white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata). The pods of the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) were beginning to open, showing the white fluff of seeds inside, and the seed heads of the towering ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) were ripening. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), a warm-season grass, was maturing to a lovely amber color. Several native vines, including trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), common ground nut (Apios americana), and summer grape (Vitis aestivalis) were climbing the posts of a handsome curved arbor built by Rudi’s Rangers, a local volunteer group. Nearby, tree stumps were positioned in a semi-circle, as seating for an outdoor classroom.

As I wandered the paths, the dedication and work of so many was evident. Although the garden is still evolving, it had grown into one that demonstrates the importance of native plants to pollinators and other wildlife, as well as their beauty.

Beechwood Garden renamed in honor of Jules Cohen

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

Volunteers working on April 21, 2022 (left to right) are Dona Giglio, Jules A. Cohen, Mary Lou Upham, Linda Solitto (in front), Allen Mongeau, Suzanne McDonald, and Marcia Herron. [Photo: Dianne L. Izzo]

• 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!

Book Review – Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

— This review by Anne Raver first appeared in WildfloraRI, Spring 2019

Robin Law Kimmerer begins Braiding Sweetgrass with the story of Skywoman, who falls from a hole in the Skyworld, clutching a bundle of branches with many fruits and seeds. She hurtles downward, in a shaft of light, where there was only darkness before, toward the murky water below. Many eyes in the sea are watching, and geese rise up to break her fall, holding her in their soft feathers. A great turtle offers his back for her to step upon, a muskrat dives deep into the water to bring a handful of mud from the depths below. Skywoman spreads the mud on the turtle’s shell, scatters the seeds in her hand, and dances the world from brown to green.

Kimmerer, a botanist and member of the Citizens Potawatomi Nation, combines science and the knowledge of her indigenous ancestors to contemplate the devastation that we humans, particularly descendants of the first white settlers, have wrought since first setting foot in the so-called New World (which, as Kimmerer points out, was only new to Europeans and other immigrants; to native inhabitants, it was as ancient as the creation story).

Kimmerer is a distinguished professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY, where she also founded and directs the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. The center works with tribal partners and students to integrate traditional ecological knowledge with scientific research for restoration and sustainability projects.

Kimmerer also is a poet and a storyteller, and Braiding Sweetgrass weaves together many threads– stories of her childhood, of her own children, of her graduate students, of desecrated lands and healed ones—with the page-turning power of a beautifully written novel. At the same time, her mind, sharpened by both science and the observational skills of her tribal elders, is constantly analyzing the particulars of any given situation, be it the near extinction of wild salmon in the Northwest, or the chemical toxins that Allied Chemical poured into Onondaga Lake, or the day her daughter refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school. (Kimmerer recalls her own childhood participation in the puzzling ritual, with its reference to God and the republic: “And you didn’t have to be an eight-year-old Indian to know that ‘liberty and justice for all’ was a questionable premise.”)

As a Potawatomi, Kimmerer considers plants and animals her teachers; she was listening to the trees long before scientists discovered how they communicate through pheromones in the air and mycorrhizae, a vast symbiosis of fungi and roots beneath the forest floor. Sweetgrass, or “wiingaashk, the sweet-smelling hair of Mother Earth,” was one of the plants that Skywoman clutched in her hand, the day she fell out of that hole in the sky. It was a gift, just like all the other plants, just like the land itself, to be passed from hand to hand shared but never sold. A metaphor for sharing and reciprocity, rather than taking from the earth and others, Sweetgrass calls for a radical shift in consciousness.

As a teacher and activist, Kimmerer offers many examples of people working together to restore balance to the earth—to bring back salmon to their spawning grounds, to restore polluted lakes and salt marshes, to simply learn to listen to the plants and animals.

Rhode Island Wild Plant Society sponsors pollinator garden at Kelly House Museum

LINCOLN – Walkers and cyclists will have something new to see as they pass by the Kelly House Museum in Lincoln after members of the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society planted more than 160 native plants in a new pollinator garden at the site last Friday morning.

Events

Beechwood Lecture: Ecosystem Gardening with RI Native Plants

Join Karen Asher to learn how to use native plants to create beautiful, well-balanced and thriving landscapes. Turn your backyard into a bio-diverse refuge for the plants, birds, pollinators and animals that share our planet. This talk will focus on wildflowers for a variety of conditions.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), photo credit Randi Eckel

Karen Asher is a native plant specialist and former president of the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society. She holds a certificate in native plant studies with a focus on field botany from the Native Plant Trust and she volunteers in its plant conservation program assessing the status of rare species in Rhode Island. She has published numerous articles on native plants.

Karen is also a Master Gardener and has presented this program and other programs on Gardening with RI Native Plants at garden clubs, land trusts and libraries across the state. She enjoys working in her own garden in West Kingston.

The Beechwood Lecture series is a joint effort of the URI Master Gardener Program and the RI Wild Plant Society. These series is  open to the public public and free of charge. Master Gardeners receive education credits for attending. 

If interested in attending, please contact the Volunteer/Program Coordinator’s Office at The Beechwood Center for Life Enrichment at 401-268-1594; or email  mdubois@northkingstown.org.  Space is limited.


We are also excited to announce our upcoming 2022 Lecture Series!  We have a great group of speakers who will surely prove to be dynamic and educational.

6/15/22    Detecting and Treating Plant Pathogens, Heather Faubert, URI Dept. of Plant Sciences and Entomology

8/17/22    Residential Landscape Design Basics, Kevin M. Alverson,

10/19/22   Chestnut Orchard Research Project, Rudi Hempe, URI Master Gardener Program

 

Book Discussion: Uprooted A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again (Member Event)

cover of the book UprootedCome join us for a discussion of the Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again by Page Dickey on Sunday, April 3 at 2:00 pm.

When Page Dickey moved away from her celebrated garden at Duck Hill in upper state New York, she left a landscape she had spent thirty-four years making, nurturing, and loving. She found her next chapter in northwestern Connecticut, on 17 acres of rolling fields and woodland around a former Methodist church. In Uprooted, Dickey reflects on this transition and on what it means for a gardener to start again.

In these pages, fol­low her journey: searching for a new home, discovering the ins and outs of the landscape surround­ing her new garden, establishing the garden, and learning how to be a different kind of gardener. The sur­prise at the heart of the book? Although Dickey was sad to leave her beloved garden, she found herself thrilled to begin a new garden in a wilder, larger landscape.

Written with humor and elegance, Uprooted is an endearing story about transitions—and the satisfaction and joy that new horizons can bring.

 A sampler of reviews:

“An unfeigned account of a gardener’s transition in life and place. Wonderfully written, richly illustrated, grounded in personal, horticultural, and cultural history.” DOUGLAS W. TALLAMY

“An intimate, lesson-filled story of what happens when one of America’s best-known garden writers transplants herself, rooting in to a deeper partnership with nature than ever before.” MARGARET ROACH

 “One of America’s most engaging garden writers discovers the role of the natural world in creating a garden that suits its place and befits our time.” RICHARD G. TURNER JR.

“Practical and poetic, this paean to nature is an epicurean adventure of a horticultural life well lived.” TANIA COMPTON

 

The book is available through local bookstores or online, and a number of copies are available through Rhode Island’s Ocean State Libraries.

This event is for members only.

– Not yet a member?  Join now

– Not sure your membership is current? Contact office@RIWPS.org

Registration required.  Enrollment is limited. Please if you register and then find you cannot attend, contact office@riwps.org as soon as possible. We always have a people on a waiting list.

How Native Plant Cultivars Affect Pollinators – Lisa Lofland Gould Lecture

How Native Plant Cultivars Affect Pollinators

This lecture was originally scheduled in November.  It has been rescheduled for Sunday, January 23, 2022 at 3:00pm. The webinar will now be via a Zoom Webinar platform. If you registered for the original session you need to reregister.  New registrations are also welcome.

Click here to REGISTER

Native plant species are often recommended to provide optimal foraging and nesting habitats for pollinators and other wildlife. The growing demand for native plants, coupled with the horticulture industry’s desire for plants with unique characteristics, has led to the increased breeding and availability of native cultivars or “nativars”. But do native cultivars provide the same valuable habitat as the straight native species? Annie White will share her field research on this topic and discuss the complex benefits and challenges of using both native species and native cultivars in landscape design.

Annie White is an Ecological Landscape Designer and the owner of Nectar Landscape Design Studio in Stowe, Vermont. She is also a full-time Lecturer of Sustainable Landscape Horticulture + Design at the University of Vermont.  Annie earned an MS in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 2005 and a PhD in Plant & Soil Science from The University of Vermont in 2016. She is passionate about designing cutting-edge and science-based ecological landscapes at all scales—from urban backyards to rural agricultural landscapes.

This lecture is underwritten by the Lisa Lofland Gould Native Plant Program Fund and sponsored Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, Rhode Island Natural History Survey and University of Rhode Island, Master Gardener Program. 

 

 

Workshop: Create a Terrarium with Native Plants

Have you ever seen a terrarium built from native evergreens?

Now’s your chance to make one for your own holiday table.

In this workshop learn how to make and cultivate a mini-ecosystem with native evergreen plants. Your terrarium will be an actual living mini-cultivating garden to be enjoyed throughout the winter and either planted outdoors in spring or kept to enjoy as a treasured indoor native plant terrarium. The native species being used in the project include ethically harvested native mosses, and partridgeberry plants cultivated from bare-root specifically for this workshop.

This workshop leaders, RIWPS members; Jennifer Fallon, Nathan Lamb, and Pat Cahalan, will cover the habitat, growing conditions and general characteristics that made some of our native plants, ferns and mosses, suitable for terrariums.  They will explain how to create a natural filtration system using charcoal as well as different materials and techniques. Additionally they will discuss container options including open vs. closed systems.

Location: University of Rhode Island Greenhouse

Limit 20 participants.  Registration required.  See below.

Fee: $50.00 members, $60.00 non-members

All materials will be provided.

  • 3 quart Apothecary glass container with lid
  • Pea gravel
  • Activated charcoal
  • Barrier filter mesh
  • Potting soil
  • Mitchella repens, partridgeberry plants – 1 per terrarium
  • Assorted native mosses

A reminder e mail including directions to the workshop will be sent to participants a few days before the workshop.

 

Workshop: Become a Citizen Scientist for the Bumblebees

Join Dr. Robert J. Gegear from UMASS Dartmouth for a workshop on what you can do to maximize biodiversity conservation in your own backyard by creating and sustaining pollination systems at risk of local extinction.

Dr. Gegear, who spoke at the Lisa Lofland Gould Lecture in the fall of 2019 about his research on the decline of bumblebees, and how citizen scientists can contribute to his Beecology Project, will lead this four-hour workshop on how to collect data on these species, take photos and/or videos of them, as they gather pollen from native plants, learn to identify them and note their behavior.

Participants will also learn how to assess the ecological value of pollinator and plant assemblages at different spatial scales, select native flowering plant species that maximize biodiversity, and hone their skills for contributing to the Beecology citizen science project.

The workshop will be in the meadow of long-time RIWPS member, Susan Marcus. Bring your lunch. We will provide iced tea, lemonade and water.

Rain Date. September 26, 2021 at the same time, 10 am to 2 pm.

Suggested resource: The Plight of the Bumblebee, article by Anne Raver about Dr. Gegear’s Lecture

Fee $25.00 RIWPS members, $33.00 for non members.  Not yet a member? JOIN NOW
Limit of 15 participants

Registration required.

 

 

Beechwood Lecture: Capturing the Native Garden in Art

Journal Sketch, Frances Topping

The Beechwood Lecture Series returns!  The first speaker in this 2021 series, offered jointly by the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society and University of Rhode Island Master Gardener Program is Frances Topping, naturalist, artist and educator. She will focus on why nature journaling and sketching are perfect for naturalists and gardeners to record finds and explore items and fix them in your memory. Observation is key to learning about a plant, animal or place, and sketching encourages us to really look and awaken an interest in the diverse areas of the natural world. We need to know our native plants and where they live in order to preserve their habitats and sketching can aid that exploration.

In this presentation Frances will examine some plant specimens together with the group, share some of her sketchbooks, discuss some easy equipment suggestions and sketching techniques, and lead a workshop in sketching for the group. Please bring along some paper and a pencil and a magnifying glass if you have one and join in the fun!

Frances Topping grew up in England and developed a love of nature and art early. She has studied, geography, botany and zoology, graphic design and illustration at the Natural Science Illustration continuing education class at Rhode Island School of Design. She is a member of the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, American and New England Society of Botanical Artists chapter and the National and New England chapter of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and several art organizations locally. Her website includes her botanical art, landscapes and sketches.

All talks in the Beechwood Lecture series are offered at no charge and are open to the public but registration is required.  Master Gardeners who attend can receive educational volunteer hours.

To register, contact Abigail Clark, Volunteer/Program Coordinator, at the Beechwood Center for Life Enrichment 401-268-1594 or AClark@northkingstown.org.

Beechwood Center is located at 44 Beach Street; North Kingstown, RI 02852  Google Driving Directions

 


Upcoming 2021 Lecture

 

10/20/21            Composting with Worms            Monique Bosch

Signs of Spring: iNaturalist

THIS PROGRAM WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4. 

Even in a normal year it feels like spring cannot come soon enough and in this year of COVID it is even more true.  So, let’s get outside and look for early signs of spring together.  Together?   Well yes, in a way.   You can use the iNaturalist app on your phones to identify plants.

We have created a project on the app RI Signs of Spring where we can share our photos.  It will be fun to see plants as they come into bloom/bud across the state.   The project begins on February 1.

Don’t know how to use iNaturalist?  We have you covered.  Check out the instructions on the iNaturalist site and/or join us for a zoom session on February 4 at 7 pm with Sally Johnson who has been using the app to become a better naturalist.

Register for zoom session

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

A CONVERSATION WITH DOUG TALLAMY (Program for RIWPS Members)

Watch on Recording of Previous Programs/Events

Join a conversation with ecologist Doug Tallamy, as he discusses his latest research and most recent book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard. RIWPS member Anne Raver will lead off with some key questions about Tallamy’s work over the past 20 years, including his vision for a Homegrown National Park, which could grow to millions of acres, if individuals exchanged at least part of their lawns and many of their nonnative ornamentals, for native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses and groundcovers. These native plantings provide crucial habitat for many endangered species, including pollinators and birds.

But that’s only part of Tallamy’s vision: imagine connecting your yard with your neighbor’s, and on down the street, planting natives in the green verges along the sidewalks, on the edges of public playgrounds, in parks and countless other spaces now occupied by privet, yews, Japanese maples and all the other nonnatives that native insects can’t eat.

RIWPS members will have a chance to submit their own questions to Tallamy, a tireless speaker and educator, and longtime professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware.

Anne has followed Tallamy’s work, since she interviewed him about his first book, Bringing Nature Home, in 2008, during a visit to his 10-acre property in Oxford, PA, where he and his wife, Cindy were then battling invasive species and planting their first natives. (see interview)

Tallamy’s new website, www.homegrownnationalpark.com, summarizes much of his research, lists the most important native species to plant for wildlife, offers a collection of essays and videos, and includes an interactive map, in which you can register your own native habitat.

Register below to join A Conversation with Doug Tallamy. We ask that participants prepare for this conversation by  familiarizing themselves with Doug Tallamy’s work, his books, especially Nature’s Best Hope, and watching one or several of his videos, available on Homegrown National Park ,which bring

to life the fascinating relationships between particular insects and the plants they evolved with through the millennia. (Tallamy loves photographing these weird and wonderful caterpillars, moths and butterflies, and his love for them is contagious.) He also recounts gardeners around the country, who report astounding rebounds in insect and bird life, as they transform their yards for native species. (One woman, observed 103 species of birds, including a woodcock, on her one-tenth acre, adjacent to O’Hare Airport, in Chicago.) A recent webinar for Penn State, not on the website.

Sumbit your questions in advance to communications@RIWPS.org

• Not a member?  Join now
• Not sure if your membership is current. Contact office@RIWPS.org

IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE TO REGISTER FOR THIS PROGRAM