I lived in Rhode Island for seven years. During that time, I paid many visits to Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, RI. It is not like the nearby Newport mansions. For one thing, it has great gardens. Blithewold also has cared for its collection of magnificent trees.
Kristin Green works there as the Interpretive Horticulturist, and visits the radio show this week to tell us a bit about Blithewold, the trees, the grounds and especially the rose garden, which is the first thing visitors see when they come to tour the estate. All sorts of flowering plants bloom among the roses – quite a feat. In spring, one of Kristin’s favorites is a bit of an ugly duckling: Peony ‘Alley Cat’ (below).
Kristin has a few recommendations to keep the roses healthy and happy: Hygiene comes first — she and the volunteers keep all dead leaves cleaned up; a biannual dressing of compost; irrigation (but not on the leaves). And last – “threaten them.” If any of the roses are not doing well, they are told to shape up – or else.
One of the features that stands out for me is the 100-foot-tall Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). The species native to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, is largest and longest-lived of the North American trees (if not the tallest – a record held by its cousin, the coast redwood). Blithewold’s redwood was planted in 1911, so it is just a kid. But at 100 feet tall, it is a New England Champion Tree.
However grand the estate appears, the house feels very livable. Frankly, who wouldn’t want to live and garden at this spot with the gentle maritime climate of Narragansett Bay – especially if the place comes with a talented collaborator like Kristin Green. [Read Kristen's Blithewold blog.]
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