With a garden full of North American plants, I often dig up the ones that reproduce enthusiastically, and donate them to Fort Williams Park Foundation. A very appropriate species is Seaside Goldenrod, a well-behaved version that, as its name implies, does well near salt water. I first saw Seaside Goldenrod as a tiny little plant clinging to Dyer Point rocks, but it grows larger in regular soil.

When gardening with native plants, surprises happen almost daily. One recent discovery, which I hope will repeat itself at the Park, came when an odd little flower sprang up from the roots of Seaside Goldenrod.

During early June, I noticed several clumps of Orobanche uniflora (aka one-flowered broom-rape) in a group of Seaside Goldenrod near my front gate. According to, this plant derives all of its nutrients by invading the root system of its host—making it a parasite! Its hosts include sedums, goldenrods and others.

Orobanche occurs throughout New England, and its five flower petals may be blue, purple, or white.  Parasites don’t need green leaves, so the flowers perch on top of fuzzy brownish stems. Following flowering, the small (6-12 mm) fruit dries and splits open when ripe.

Mary Hodgkin
Board Member, Fort Williams Park Foundation











You can “bring nature home” and provide a link in the chain of  habitat and migration corridors throughout our community by incorporating some of the following suggestions into your own landscape:

  • Reduce lawn & increase biodiversity. Plant a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns, groundcovers and grasses to enhance the structure, beauty and sustainability of your garden.
  • Plant more natives. Native plants have been shown to be far more effective at increasing bird and wildlife populations than non-native plants.
  • Avoid planting invasive plants and work to control or eradicate those already established on your property. Don’t leave disturbed ground bare for long since it provides an avenue for invasion.
  • Eliminate or greatly reduce your use of pesticides. Very few insects are actually pests; learn to embrace beneficial insects, and tolerate a few pests.
  • Provide sources of water with birdbaths, saucers, ponds and rain gardens.
  • Provide nesting and perching sites for birds by incorporating evergreens, hedgerows, climbing vines and small trees.
  • Provide food by planting fruiting shrubs and trees, and plants that provide buds, catkins, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that mature in different seasons.
  • Provide protective shelter by planting evergreens, and dense shrubs and groundcovers for small mammals and ground or shrub-nesting birds.
  • Minimize your fall cleanup/wait until spring (when possible) to cut back perennials and grasses. Spent flower stalks and grass plumes provide seeds for birds, and standing dead organic matter provides overwintering habitat for several species of moths and butterfly caterpillars and pupa.
  • Leave standing dead trees when they don’t pose a threat to people or buildings. Also known as “snags,” these provide habitat for birds and wood-nesting bees and beetles (that provide food for birds!).


Volunteer Blog










Consider Fort Williams Park for an altruistic boost! The Fort Williams Park Foundation is an organization that relies heavily on individuals and groups in the community, and our volunteer programs have been an amazing success. It’s because of our volunteers that we’ve made such impressive progress toward the suppression of invasive plants in the Park. As a foundation, we want to promote volunteerism for all of our local non-profits and for the health of our public lands and the community.

The Fort Williams Park Foundation is always looking for individuals, families and small groups to join our Adopt-a-Plot program to help maintain Arboretum plantings in the Park. Work involves weeding, mulching and edging. Gardening experience is helpful, but not necessary! Plots are generally small, but vary in size, and guidance for caring for your specific plot will be provided by the Foundation’s landscape gardener. Adopters can work when it’s convenient for their schedules.

To sign up, contact Calie Ramisch at and schedule a time to tour available plots at Cliffside and Lighthouse View, the two completed Arboretum sites along the Cliff Walk. Or reserve a spot to begin maintaining the new Children’s Garden this summer! For information about other volunteer opportunities at Fort Williams Park, please visit .


Pond Updated










If you’re a frequent visitor to Fort Williams Park, you’ve probably noticed the white diamond-shaped signs designating present and future landscape restoration sites. Bringing alive long-range plans for the Park, each sign provides you with a link and QR code to view the history of the location and identify invasive or native plants.

Restoration of many of these sites is years away. Linked web pages from each sign provide thoughts about problems and promises of each site as well as Fort Williams history.

Check it out! If you have a smartphone with you at the Park, scan the QR code or enter the web link. Right on the spot you’ll view images and read about the site and its flora. A downloadable site map displays all current and future sites for you to explore.

Fort Williams Park Foundation

Ferns & Fiddleheads







Hay-scented Fern can
be found in abundance
at Fort Williams Park.


In the Arboretum at Fort Williams Park, two of our most abundant native plants are the hay-scented fern, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, and sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina, which is classified as a shrub. Both of these plants are able to tolerate full sun and hot, dry conditions. The addition of native ferns and low-growing shrubs are a great way to create a space more in tune with the natural world.

One of my personal favorites is the ostrich fern, Mattuccia struthiopteris, which prefers part sun to full shade, average moisture, and grows to a height of 36”. What I like most about the ostrich fern is that the fiddleheads on this particular fern are edible. Fiddleheads are the youngest part of the fern, the curled frond as the fern is emerging from the earth. Not all fiddleheads are edible but those of the ostrich, cinnamon and bracken fern have a wide array of health benefits as well as adding in beautiful greenery to empty spaces in your garden. Be careful not to eat just any fiddlehead in the wild and please do not pick them in the park as it is a protected area. However, if you feel comfortable with identification and have a wild source, they can make for a great casserole!

To purchase ferns, visit your local nursery and discuss your garden conditions with a specialist to decide on the appropriate type of fern. Also, some ferns such as the hay-scented fern have shallow grass-like root systems and can easily be divided and transplanted from a friend or neighbors garden.

Happy Spring and Happy Planting!

Calie Ramisch, Landscape Gardener and Volunteer Coordinator
Fort Williams Park Foundation


Mulch Options Photos










Adding mulch too early in the spring will delay plant growth, as mulch will keep the soil cool. On the other side of our growing season, adding mulch too soon in the fall will keep the soil warm (and moist) for a longer period of time, which can increase the incidence of disease.

Winters can be very tough on plants—and on gardeners. It’s difficult to anticipate your plants’ needs during cycles of freezing and thawing conditions. Straw, hay, pine needles, bark or woodchips make great winter mulch and provide insulation for times of periodic warm spells. Late in the fall, after the first freeze, mulch should be applied 2-4 inches thick. Take care not to pile mulch too close to perennial plant stems or tree trunks. This can be harmful and attract pests, disease and excessive moisture.

If by chance you missed the window to mulch in the late fall or early winter, you may now be staring at bare ground and wondering what to do. The best plan of action is to check for bulbs or entire root systems that may have been heaved to the surface from greatly fluctuating temperatures. Allowing exposed bulbs or root systems to freeze and thaw will most likely result in the death of the plant. Take action by either re-burying the exposed plant parts or adding a nice thick blanket of mulch to protect the plant until the threat of frost is gone.

Once winter is over and the ground has had a chance to warm, it’s time for spring bark mulch or compost. The key throughout your growing season is to build micronutrients in the soil. I highly recommend focusing on at least 2 inches of well-rotted and aged compost when adding anything to your garden beds. If it’s weed suppression and looks you’re after, you can top dress with a light layer of wood chips or bark.


Calie Ramisch, Landscape Gardener and Volunteer Coordinator
Fort Williams Park Foundation












Vermicomposting is a fantastic way to turn your kitchen scraps into incredibly nutrient rich soil for your houseplants and your garden. I recommend starting this process now, indoors, while we have a slight lull in our seasons and spring fever has yet to fully set in. A properly created worm bin will not emit unsavory odors nor will these creatures escape during the night to find their way into your slippers (two common myths).

The first step is to purchase your hungry friends or glean a handful of them from someone who already has their vermicompost going. You might be surprised to find out which people amongst your community are avid worm lovers. Red Wigglers or Eisenia fetida (their scientific name) are a very common worm to use for this process and good news, they are not invasive.

There are a number of different worm bin designs and you can get as creative as you like. Or you can go with the very practical design of drilling holes into the sides and bottom of an old Rubbermaid bin. The keys to remember when creating the home for your new friends are that they like air but not light, they like moisture but not standing water (hence the holes in the bottom of the bin), and they like the same temperatures that you do; between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. As for food, consider feeding your worms what you would normally put in your compost bin. It’s a good idea to stay away from meats, dairy, and cooked foods as well as salts, oils, citrus and onions. Those last few items are particularly harmful to worms and beneficial bacteria.

Here are a few links for purchasing quality worms and how to set up your bin!

Good luck and have fun!

Calie Ramisch
Landscape Gardener and Volunteer Coordinator
Fort Williams Park Foundation












One of the benefits of a mild start to our winter is the extended opportunity to bundle up and go to work outside. You may be noticing the messy, jumbled, twisted shapes of shrubs and vines you want to get rid of. I say go for it!

One vine that can be particularly pesky and hard to identify is poison ivy, which is still active with the irritating oil called urushiol (pronounced ur-u-shee-ol), present in the stems and roots in the winter.

This time of year, poison ivy vines will often appear hairy and have rigid branching. Other prominent characteristics include the white berries which appear like small white grape clusters. Birds consume poison ivy berries as a food source throughout the winter so you may see berries slowly disappearing, but in early winter they are still quite noticeable.

If you want to clear poison ivy, wear proper clothing, dispose of the plant materials safely (do not burn!), and wash all clothing, equipment and yourself when finished. When it comes to disposal, there are two methods which I prefer: either carefully fill garbage bags and send them off to the dump, or if the plant material is too large or cumbersome to consider bagging, pile it in a clearly marked area and let it rot. Some websites and forums discuss composting techniques but if not done correctly, this can result in further spread of the oils. You should not mingle poison ivy with municipal leaf and yard waste composting piles.

Poison ivy has been on the rise along with the carbon in our atmosphere. It is a vine that responds quite happily to higher CO2 levels. This might be a real problem for you, especially if you have children and pets playing outdoors. The internet will give you a dozen ways to ‘treat’ this poisonous plant and a dozen more reasons to fear it. I encourage you to do plenty of research, always with a grain of salt, and please be wise about chemical usage if that is the method you chose.

I hope you all have enjoyed our first snow! Happy New Year!

Calie Ramisch, Landscape Gardener and Volunteer Coordinator
Fort Williams Park Foundation












Aren’t bittersweet berries beautiful this time of year? It’s almost like nature is providing you with all the makings for a gorgeous fall or holiday wreath for your door.

But wait—IT’S A TRICK! The berries of the bittersweet are deliciously colored in bright reds, oranges and yellows to attract birds to eat and spread the seeds of this invasive plant.

When you’re walking through an area that is infested with bittersweet berries, PLEASE, leave them where they are. Taking cuttings for wreaths and then later disposing of them will create the potential for seeds to spread and further our problem with bittersweet in Maine.

If you’d like to know more about Oriental Bittersweet and the damaging effects of this plant, please visit our resource library:

Wonderful local native wreath ingredients are maple leaves, oak leaves, winterberry, pine cones, ivy, balsam fir, along with many others (please do not gather these in the Park, though!).

I hope that I’ve been able to convince you that bittersweet isn’t the lovely door hanger that it appears to be. On a final note, for the health of your own land, please think about discarding any wreaths in the trash instead of your compost to avoid the unintended spread of invasive plant seeds.

If you’d like to learn more about invasive plants in general, please contact me. I’m always happy to give tours of the Park and coordinate volunteer opportunities.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Calie Ramisch, Landscape Gardener and Volunteer Coordinator
Fort Williams Park Foundation












Fort Williams Park provides us with endless opportunities to learn about our world. Both Cliffside and Lighthouse View are examples of environmental reclamation, with native plants flourishing and wildlife habitat being re-established.

Alterations in habitat, however well-intentioned, result in changes in wildlife populations. Disruption and widespread loss of milkweed is one example. Milkweed is critical to survival of monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay eggs in milkweed plants and their caterpillars eat only milkweed.

Lighthouse View has been designated a Monarch Waystation by  In partnership with Maine Audubon, the Foundation helped local school children spread pollinator seeds and plant milkweed seedlings this spring, creating an inviting monarch habitat in the summer.

You can learn more about obtaining and planting milkweed seeds for your home gardens by visiting:

Initiating thoughtful dialogue and discussion around questions like invasive plant management and habitat restoration benefits us all. Engage your senses and learn from this small piece of the Park!

Janet Villiotte, Education Coordinator
Fort Williams Park Foundation












If you’ve been to Cliffside recently, you’ve undoubtedly noticed an abundance of apples blanketing the ground. It’s a beautiful sight and a cue to the arrival of fall. All across Maine, apple growers are reporting an overabundant crop. A plethora of fruit is typically nature’s signal of a harsher season ahead (the rose hips are going gangbusters as well). So be prepared for a heavy winter!

Feel free to scoop up a freshly dropped apple or two when you’re at the Park. You won’t be robbing any animal of their food source, and the apples are perfectly safe to eat since the trees and ground are not sprayed. However, please refrain from pulling the apples off of the trees. This often injures limbs and fruit still in the trees usually aren’t ripe enough for immediate consumption.

On October 24th we’ll be hosting a Free Apple Tree Pruning Workshop and Potluck Lunch. The workshop will kick off at 10 a.m. at Cliffside. The Potluck begins at noon at the covered picnic shelter. Bring a lunch dish and celebrate fall foods! You do not have to attend the Workshop to enjoy the Potluck Lunch, but to register for either, or for more information, call Calie Ramisch at 536-8467 or email

Calie Ramisch
Landscape Gardener
Fort Williams Park Foundation

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