Sakonnet Garden – Open Days

Garden wall of stone and logs

On Saturday, May 27, some friends and I made a garden field trip to Sakonnet Garden, in Little Compton, RI. This private garden holds open days a few times each year. Most dates vary, depending on winter weather and expectations of peak bloom time. They have an annual event on Memorial Day weekend that includes a plant sale. Entrance fees for the open days support the gardens, their new meadow project and the Garden Conservancy Open Days program.


Moss garden

You’ll need to wait until next year for the Open Days & Sales events, but it is worth visiting this garden for any of their Open Days. The property has about an acre of garden rooms, divided by walls and hedges to create rooms with a variety of microclimates and growing conditions. There are dry gardens, wet gardens, sunny and shady gardens. The owners enjoy trying new plants and methods to stretch the limits of the local growing season.

Walking around the wall pictured (above left) leads to the entrance into the first of these rooms – a light-dappled moss garden. The branches of deciduous shrubs create a sculptural contrast to the carpet of moss. From there one travels through rooms that are an interesting contrast to our Garden Club visit to the Garden in the Woods a few weeks ago, where the New England Wildflower Society focusses on plants that are native to New England or nearby states.

Trillium luteum

The owners of Sakonnet can best be described as plant collectors. They do have a variety of natives, including large swathes of trilliums that they have carefully planted and propagated to create an impressive display. The garden’s website includes a brief explanation of how they achieved their goal to create dense patches of one of their favorite plants.



Meconopsis brevicifolia

They also have many imported plants, creating some unusual combinations and effects. One surprising plant was the blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia, also known as M. baileyi.) I’d never seen this flower outside of a catalog before, and was surprised by the size of the bloom, and that it is a true blue – a rare color among flowers. It is planted on the edge of a bog garden, and best viewed from the narrow plank bridge – meant for two-way traffic, but only wide enough for one person. While trying to get a better photo of this plant, I instead had to reverse directions to let some other garden visitors cross the bridge. That was a happy change, as I had noticed the poppies, and taken no notice of other garden features.


Mughal Pavilion


The acquisition and construction of this ‘Mughal Pavilion’ is described on the garden’s website, under Garden Images. It is elevated above a large patch of petasites and other bog plants. Our group had many ideas for using this space – reading on a hot day, enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail, an al fresco lunch, or even having a cup of coffee while planning the day ahead. This was one of many unexpected finds in this garden – some of the surprises were plant material, others were structures. This was my first visit to this garden – I hope to return on one of their other Open Days, to see how this garden changes throughout the growing season – I expect to find more surprises with each visit.

To find out more about this garden you can visit their website at and you can learn about the Garden Conservancy at




Garden in the Woods Field Trip

Phlox divaricata & Stylophoum diphyllum

More Phlox divaricata

Fourteen members of our club made a field tip to Garden in the Woods on May 15th. This was one of our best-attended field trips ever. We had a glorious day to enjoy that spring had finally arrived – warm enough to enjoy the outdoors, and not too hot for a long walk through the woodland paths.

We passed hillsides that were covered in Phlox divaricata with contrasting splashes of yellow Wood or Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum.) The Wood Poppy is not native to Massachusetts, but is native to much of the northern United States.


Anemonella thalictroides

Along the paths we saw many other wildflowers, some were large and showy, others were more subtle because of their size or color. The Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) was one of the delightfully subtle plants we saw. Tiny white flowers catch the sunlight as they are held above the small, lobed leaves. This spring ephemeral thrives in woodland shady spots with good drainage. It goes dormant in the summer, to reappear through fallen leaves in the following spring.


Pulsatilla vulgaris

The Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) may prove to be ephemeral in hot, dry summers. With a larger flower than the Rue Anemone, the pale purple flowers make a subtle showing in the woodland setting. Pasqueflower is not native, coming from Europe and Southwestern Asia. It is not known for aggressive spreading, and is more likely to die out whan a growing season doesn’t meet its needs. This plant wants that elusive combination of moist-well drained soil, and requires watering in hot summer weather. It will grow in sun to part shade.

Other spring ephemerals that we saw included Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and a few yellow ladyslippers. These were, unfortunately, not in sufficient light for clear photographs. We were too late in the season to see the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadense) in bloom. We did see some lush stands of the distinctive leaves – hinting that an earlier trip next year would be enjoyable.


One of the loveliest group of ephemerals are the Trilliums.  We were fortunate to be there when many of them were in bloom. We noticed lone specimens, and dense patches in other spots.

We saw Trillium grandiflorum, which may be the largest of these plants. Its blooms start out a crisp, snowy white, and after pollination gradually turn pink. There were also a double flowered white trillium, at least one species of red-flowered trillium (Trillium cuneatum or T. erectum) and some yellow-flowered Trillium luteum.

Trillium erectum



If we had been there a few weekends earlier, for the Garden’s ‘Trillium Days’ we could have selected specific plants to purchase from the propagation beds. NEWFS staff would then dig and pot these for later purchase. Perhaps next year?

Garden in the Woods has an extensive propagation program, so that visitors can support this non-profit while buying native plants for their gardens. Despite ‘Trillium Days’ being prior to our visit, there were a few trillium remaining for sale, along with many other native plants. Of course, many of us indulged in some shopping, and are adding native wildflowers to our own gardens. If these do well, you can expect to see some of our wonderful purchases show up at our plant sales in future years!

double-flowered Trillium








Daylilies at Harmon Hill Farm


‘Jungle Man’

‘Salem Witch’

‘Alone with Maud’


There are over 4,100 varieties of daylilies at Harmon Hill Farm, a tour garden in Hudson, New Hampshire. Carl and Marlene Harmon created the farm in 1998, and specialize in hybridizing lilies. They gave a talk to the Groton Garden Club on May 1, 2018. Carl is a past president of the New England Daylily Society. In 2011 Harmon Hill Farm was voted “Best Flower Farm in New Hampshire” by Yankee Magazine

They grow early-, mid-, and late-season bloomers. They also grow Oriental, Orienpet, and Asiatic lilies; and 75 varieties of irises. Their web site contains a database with photographs and descriptions of all their daylilies:

Carl found many lily varieties in Florida, and brought them up to hybridize on his farm. He explained how to hybridize and how to divide lilies. He said that high scape, or stem, density, and high bud density per scape, are both important–the higher these are, the more blooms will appear on the plant. Some plants have a high amount of buds on a small amount of scapes, which is ideal. The American Hemerocallis Society has only been recording bud count for the past few years, and Harmon Hill Farm is a knowledgeable source for this information.

Some interesting facts:

  • They use forest loam, compost, and manure in their beds;
  • They use Milorganite fertilizer, which deer avoid because of the smell;
  • Very few daylilies are actually fragrant: only Hyperion and the Lemon Lily;
  • The daylily ‘Sandra Elizabeth’ appears in the Hollis Street triangle. 


For more extensive information on daylilies, click on this link to find club member Donna N.’s study, her Daylily Primer


April Program: Water Water Everywhere!

For its April 2018 program, the Groton Garden Club presented  

                                                          “Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink!

Water is all around us: falling as rain or snow, flowing into rivers or lakes, streaming from household faucets or hoses. But what happens when there is little rain, or worse, a drought? The Groton Garden Club found out during a recent presentation by Andi Ross of It’s Nature’s Way. 

Left to right: club member Betty I., speaker Andi Ross, and club member Bev J.

Groton is part of the Nashua River Watershed. This is a basin area where water is absorbed into the land after a rainfall. The river flows north (which is unusual) for 37.5 miles, through 32 towns in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, eventually drains into the Merrimack River, and then into the Atlantic Ocean. Contaminants that are put into drains or from roadway run off enter the groundwater and then the rivers. The increase in development within the watershed area decreases the effectiveness of the watershed to do its job of filtering contaminants from storm runoff. With an average of 45 inches of rainfall per year, that is a lot of runoff!

Andi explained that the Watershed is a flood/drought area, with some years having too much water and other years not enough. During years without enough rain, groundwater levels are low, stream flows are reduced, and water reservoirs are taxed. The lack of rain can also lead to forest fire conditions.

Understanding this cycle will help gardeners optimize their plantings. To reduce impact on the watershed and increase conservation efforts, here are some things you can do to be more water wise:

–   plant in early spring or fall, when plants need less water to get established

      use compost, not mulch, for a number of reasons: using compost improves soil structure and holding power.Two inches of compost will double the holding capacity for water in the soil. Increasing the water-holding capacity of soil will reduce runoff, thus using less water for plantings. Also, by using compost, you are not adding dye and contaminants to runoff water, as you may be with mulch.

      plant native and drought-tolerant plants

      collect and store rain water for watering plants and gardens

      reduce your yard’s lawn footprint with lawn alternatives that require less water

      if planting grass, use drought-tolerant grass seed

      water grass 1 or 2 times per week for a longer period of time, instead of daily for a short time. This will promote stronger roots and reduce runoff.

      plant a rain garden to utilize runoff for plant watering

      follow local water bans

Overall this presentation provided members with a very good understanding of how the local watershed works. In addition, we learned about ways to conserve water, and ways to design our gardens to use less water, but still look great.

It’s important to remember that water is a precious resource, and we all should do what we can to keep it clean and abundant.

Submitted by Lisa M.