From Mélie’s Garden
The other day I was fortunate to stop by Race Rock Garden Co. just as the six “Race Rocker” gardening ladies were unloading new plants to sell in the nursery. David Burnham started Race Rock in 1989 and the business has grown over the years to include a substantial nursery and a small gardening shop in addition to its landscaping business. The “Race Rocker” girls; Courtney Allan, Susie Allan, Ana Hidalgo, Nirapa Horning, Brenda Montgomery and Korrine Nye now maintain many gardens on the Island and have acquired a good deal of horticultural knowledge about Fishers Island. I asked them to share some of their insights with the rest of us, who also garden in this challenging environment.
All six agree that the weather conditions here can be challenging, especially the wind. Brenda Montgomery also includes, “Battling invasive such as Black Swallow Wort, Autumn Clematis, and Honeysuckle”. Nirapa Horning adds to the challenge list, “soil which is sandy.” All six primarily agree that Hydrangea and Rosa Rugosa grow the best here with little attention. They also like Astilbe for shade and Lilies and Nepeta for the sun. Peonies are favorites, but “do not last very long”. Susie, Nirapa, Ana and Korrine say they enjoy pruning and growing roses, and that a favorite tool is a pair of sharp pruning shears. Ana particularly “enjoys restoring and training climbing roses.” The ladies recommend a sharp knife for digging up weeds, especially ones with deep roots! And they all say you need to keep on top of your weeding, “so they don’t seed and multiply and spread all over your flowerbed.”
I also asked their advice on planting containers and I got the following suggestions: Korrine likes “Spillers like creeping Jenny, which looks so pretty when it spills over the container.” Nirapa suggests “Petunias, salvia, vinca, potato vine and calibrachoa.” Ana recommends “For sun, gazanias, petunias, scaevola, portulaca, and lobelia. For shade: begonias and fuchsia.” And Susie says, “Change is good! Staying with the same thing year after year gets old – be creative!” Not over watering is also recommended by “The Rockers” – “let the containers dry out a bit and be sure to deadhead for blooming to continue.”
A couple of other bits of advice… “Be sure your plant purchases are not invasive in your area.” And, Brenda suggests putting a water feature in your garden, “because water sounds bring life to a garden and attract beneficial insects and birds.” She also suggests having birdhouses and feeders.
Jennifer Sanger, who along with Kristen Peterson, manages the Race Rock office added, “Customers need to take account of the plants watering necessities as well as if the plant likes to grow in the sun or the shade. Think about bloom time and the height of the plant once it is fully grown – instant gratification is not always the best. Give your plants the space they need. Each winter there are plants that do not survive, do to all sorts of various reasons. Last year, we had a warm February and all the buds come out on many plants. Then there was a cold snap in March, which killed all the new growth. The result was that there was hardly a hydrangea bloom on the Island last summer. Some winters can be very dry with the lack of snow and plants do not get enough water – there really is no predicting the weather conditions and the gardener here needs to be very accepting. The most popular plants that Race Rock sells and seem to grow the best on the Island are Evergreens (Boxwood, Cedars, Inkberry and Rhododendrons) Hydrangeas and Viburnums. Daylilies and Nepeta do well and are also sought after by customers.”
A Sampling of Plants to be found at Race Rock this season.
Annuals: Cosmos, Geraniums, Gazanias, Impatiens, Million Bells (calibrachoa), Petunias, Scaevola, Snapdragon
Perennials: Astilbe, Butterfly Bush, Caryopsis, Coreopsis, Daylilies, Echinacea, Hosta, Ladies Mantle, Nepeta, Peonies, Phlox, Roses and Russian SageHerbs: Basil, Dill, Lemon Verbena, Oregano,
Herbs: Basil, Dill, Lemon Verbena, Oregano, Rosemary, and Thyme
Vegetables: Cucumbers, Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes and Squash
Trees and Shrubs: Arborvitae, Dogwood, Eastern Red Cedar, Linden, Magnolia, Redbud, and Shad