Landscape Now: Landscaping Ideas From Rhode Island’s Best Gardens

Saturday, February 23, 2013


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The public gardens and arboretums of Rhode Island are great inspiration for your spring landscaping plans. And they're open in the winter!

We are very fortunate in Rhode Island to have several wonderful Botanical Gardens, Arboretums and Parks that feature seasonal and year round gardens, open space and an impressive collection of trees, shrubs and perennials for everyone to see and enjoy.

A visit to these gardens, even during the winter months, can provide you and your family with a relaxing and educational afternoon both outdoors and in the case of the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence, an indoor visit with over 12,000 square feet of covered display gardens. A trip to Ferry Road, Bristol, midway between Providence and Newport, will bring you to the 32-acre Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum with over 300 species of woody plants in its arboretum and gardens. At the University of Rhode Island in Kingston is the 4.5-acre URI Botanical Gardens featuring sustainable landscape plants and practices. Heading south to Westerly, you can visit Wilcox Park, a 14-acre park and arboretum located on High Street next to the Westerly Public Library. Let’s learn more about some of RI's botanical treasures!

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center, Providence

The Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park is the largest public indoor display gardens in New England. The Botanical Center includes two greenhouses, The Conservatory and The Mediterranean Room. There are over 150 plant species including 17 types of palms. The Cacti, Agave and Aloe were saved and replanted from the old greenhouse displays. The outdoor gardens include the Perennial Garden, Pine and Hosta Dell, the Winter Garden, Hillside Garden, Overlook Terrace and the Rose Maze.

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum, Bristol

Located 25 minutes east of Providence on the Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Blithewold was named in Yankee Magazine’s 2010 Best 5 Public Gardens in New England. The 33-acre summer estate contains a 10-acre lawn, gardens, specimen trees and historic stone structures. Walking the grounds you may be drawn to the Bosquet (enclosed woodland), enjoy the Water Garden, absorb the history of the Enclosed Garden and be amazed with the abundance of the seasonal Display Gardens. Additionally plan to visit the Rock Garden, the more formal North Garden, Rose Garden and the over 3,000 trees and shrubs planted on the grounds including one of the largest Giant Sequoias on the east coast!

The Gardens and Grounds are open year-round daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Visit their website for admission prices and tickets, or call 401-253-2707 for more information.

University of Rhode Island Botanical Gardens, Kingston

The gardens began as the Learning Landscape in 1992 with a donation of plants, materials and labor from the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association. In 2003 the gardens were renamed the URI Botanical Gardens. The gardens demonstrate sustainable plants and practices including low maintenance plants and disease and insect resistant varieties. The gardens act as a training laboratory for Green Industry professionals, scientists, students and the general public. The gardens feature a Memorial White Garden, the Ericaceous Garden, the Annual Garden, the Formal Gardens, the Shade Garden and the Chester Clayton Rose Garden.

The URI Outreach Center offers yearly educational events in the gardens. The grounds are open to the public free of charge. Visit their website here or call 401-874-2900 for information about upcoming programs.

Wilcox Park, Westerly

Harriet Wilcox in 1898 purchased and donated the park land in Westerly to establish Wilcox Park. Thanks to her foresight and generosity the park features a beautiful landscape defined by an open meadow area surrounded by specimen trees, a pond, monuments and perennial gardens. Wilcox Park was originally designed in 1898 by Warren H. Manning, an associate of famed architect, Fredrick Law Olmsted featuring native plants. In the 1960’s efforts began to establish the park as an arboretum which now includes a collection of specimen trees, a dwarf conifer collection and perennial and annual beds.

The park has been a commonly used site for local events including the annual Summer Pops Concert, Shakespeare in the Park and numerous markets and festivals. The park is privately operated by the Westerly Public Library’s Board of Trustees and is open to the public without fee. Visit the library’s website for more information and dates of upcoming events.

Although we are the smallest state we can boast some of the more outstanding gardens, arboretums and parks around New England and beyond. A visit to these local gardens will help show you examples of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals that you can use in your own landscapes, provide a wonderful way to spend a day and serve as a source of inspiration for your own gardening and landscaping!

My next article will detail ways you can begin to create more eco-friendly, organic gardens and landscapes!

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in” Greek proverb

Frank Crandall is a RI resident specializing in coastal landscaping, organic land care, small business consulting, writing, speaking and photography will be submitting biweekly articles about Landscape Solutions. With over 40 years in the horticultural field Frank will write about pertinent, seasonal landscape topics including effective solutions. Comments about Frank’s articles are welcome by contacting him at: [email protected] Frank Crandall, Horticultural Solutions.


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