Meet the newest member of the plant family at Captain;s Cottage. It’s a Montauk daisy, also known as a Nippon daisy due to its Japanese heritage, that we replanted at the foot of the stairs to the down yard this week.
The plant was a gift from a neighbor on the Greenhead peninsula. He was winnowing out his garden, which had gotten a bit overgrown, and this plant was among those to be removed. As we stopped for a chat, he asked if we’d like to have it for replanting. I had some trepidation about it, because I’ve never replanted a plant — but fortunately a horticulturist was visiting us and promised to guide me through every step.
It really wasn’t all that difficult. Our garden-savvy friend first decided which part of the yard would be receptive to the plant, which isn’t an easy task in the rocky Stonington soil. She identified a spot which gets a lot of sun then guided me through the steps, which included digging a hole about a foot deep and 18 inches wide, carefully placing the plant into the hole, filling the edges of the hole with soil and loosely packing it down, and finally watering the plant liberally, first at the time of replanting and then again the next morning. By the third day, when a big rainstorm rolled in to give it another dousing, we were hoping the plant had began to take root and will have a chance to do a little growing before the first hard frost of the winter.
We won’t know whether the transplant operation was a success until next spring, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Montauk daisies form a mound, grow to a height of about three feet, and produce lots of flowers. The plants are so hardy that you are even supposed to divide them after a few years to keep them vigorous, and thereby create two plants where there once was one — but I’m not worried about that now. I’m just hoping the plant survives, because a thriving Montauk daisy plant would be a great addition to the down yard.
The gardeners at Schiller Park always come up with interesting floral arrangements, but this year might just be the best yet. I love the enormous green-leafed plants that I walk past every morning at the Third Street entrance into the park. I look at them and inevitably think of elephant ears, and it makes me smile. Who doesn’t like thinking of an elephant first thing in the morning?
In the past, I’ve dabbled with gardening. I particularly enjoyed planting flowers at our old suburban home and watching them bloom and grow and flourish. I liked getting my hands dirty and seeing the product of my manual labor, and I even accepted weeding and watering our small flower beds as a useful weekend activity.
But all of my experience with flowers is Ohio-centric, from having a sense about the kind of flowers that seem to do well here, like the zinnias I planted at our old house, right down to following Mom’s admonition that you shouldn’t plant flowers until after Mothers’ Day. I’m guessing that a different rule of thumb would apply in a different climate, like Maine, where the weather might not really warm up until well into June. Drawing exclusively upon midwestern Ohio experiences and trying to apply them to a rocky northern coastal area that is constantly exposed to salty air and experiences periodic nor’easter storms seems ill-advised.
So, a question for the expert gardeners out there: if you want to learn about gardening practices in Maine, or any other new location, where should you go? Is there an authoritative guidebook or website that provides information by region and can get into detail about the basics, like the native plant life, the safe time to plant flowers and which ones are most likely to thrive given the climate and soil conditions, whether planting seeds or seedlings is the best course, and whether particular kinds of grasses or shrubs are more prone to succeed or fail than others? Can you trust the folks at the local hardware store or gardening shop to only offer plants that have reasonable prospects for success given the local conditions, or is that approach doomed to failure?
I feel like a newbie here, and I’m not sure that doing random internet searches and trusting to the Google Gods is the best way to go about gathering information.
Russell’s friend Emily Staugaitis is one of those people who seems to be a kind of natural difference-maker. Where other people see challenges she can identify opportunities, and she’s not afraid to tackle a big project — like trying to set up an urban apple orchard in a depressed part of the Detroit area.
One of Emily’s projects is Bandhu Gardens. It’s a collective effort that uses gardening to help Bangladeshi immigrants in the Detroit area use the green thumbs they developed while growing up in south Asia to connect with each other, and with local restaurants that are interested in fresh, locally grown foods. It’s also a way for Bangladeshi women to make some extra money, achieve more autonomy in their households, and get a taste of the business world in our capitalistic society.
Last year, the Bandhu Gardens group collectively sold 120 pounds of greens, beans and peppers and 25 pounds of squash to restaurant accounts. They’ve also hosted “pop-up” dinners, including some at local restaurants owned or operated by women, have begun to offer cooking classes, and this year will be selling their produce at a large public farmers market in Detroit.
It’s a classic American immigrant story, of how people come to our country and begin to make their way forward, drawing on their traditional experiences and know-how and applying them to realize opportunities in their new home. Sometimes, though, it helps to have someone who can help to point out the openings and make the potential opportunities into realities. Congratulations to Emily for helping to serving in that important role for some of the new arrivals to our land of immigrants!
What happens when you introduce a desert climate plant, like a cactus, to a climate like Columbus, where you are going to get cold, wet winters?
Apparently, this. It’s an ugly, withered, collapse of a once-proud plant.
All of which reminds me — I’m looking forward to doing some gardening this year, with a new yard, new flower beds, and new challenges.
This year I planted multiple varieties of zinnias in our back beds. One was called “State Fair Zinnias.” Who could resist “State Fair Zinnias”? But who would believe that State Fair Zinnias would turn out to be monstrously sized mutants that tower over our other flowers and sport enormous, block out the sun leaves and huge blooms? These awesome beasts of the flower bed can easily exceed two feet in height before I trim them back.
I expected decent growth when I used potting soil with Scott’s Miracle-Gro in planting these flowers, but I never expected this.
We used to have two pear trees in the middle of the arced flower beds around our patio. They were the same kind of trees, planted at the same time. Some years ago one of them was taken down by a storm. Two years ago the other one began to split in two and had to be chopped down, leaving us with no shade and two stumps in our flower bed where we now perch flower pots.
The first tree that fell just died. It left a stump and roots behind, but they promptly began to rot away and now break apart easily into spongy shards when nicked by a shovel. The other tree, however, refuses to give up the ghost. Two years later, it still clings to life as best it can, sending up dozens of leafy shoots from its rock hard roots. The shoots grow up among the flowers and through the shrubs framing the rear of the flower bed, and because they are harming the shrubs and interfering with the flowers, I snip them all off at ground level — and then, a month or two later, I do the same thing over again.
As this process has repeated itself I’ve developed a grudging respect for this feisty tree that refuses to accept its unfortunate fate. Now I feel somewhat guilty when I take out my clipper and cut down the shoots. I guess some trees, like some people, are just more stubborn than others.