INFLUENCER: Meet Providence Master Gardener and Arborist Joe Afonso

With a little help from daughter Laura of Buns & Bites, this gardener with a growing TikTok following shares how to get a green thumb

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What made you want to start gardening?

My interest in gardening began as a way to improve the look of the small yard at my new house in Providence in 1986. The yard had no flowers or plants of interest. I had no gardening experience, but from reading gardening magazines and books, knew that plants can transform any space into something beautiful. I must have bought a hundred plants the first year; some survived a season or two, but most did not. But with each new season, my knowledge and hands-on experience grew, leading to my love of gardening.

 

If you had to choose your favorite plant, what would it be?

I love the cardinal flower, lobelia cardinalis. This two- to three-foot-high plant has brilliant sharp red flowers that are hummingbird and butterfly magnets. Plant several in a grouping and sit back and enjoy the show. Cardinal flowers like moist soil, so don’t let the soil dry out.

 

What are your favorite garden centers around the state for buying plants?

Central Nurseries in Johnston, The Farmer’s Daughter in South Kingstown, and Smith’s Nursery in Smithfield. All have great plant selections and helpful staff.

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