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Dear Friend and Gardener

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – October 15, 2017

The Fairy Rose

The Fairy rose

This Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day arrives during a very mild October. We have had a very few fold nights with temperatures going below 40 degrees, but the daytime temperatures still reach well into the 70′s and even over 80 degrees. It has been fairly dry except for a couple of welcome rain we got as hurriane Nate touched us for a couple of days.  The Fairy rose will stand in the the sprinkling of other rose blossoms, Folksinger, Peach Coral Drift, Purple Rain and Red Knockout.

joe pye weed

Joe pye weed

We still have a few good pollinator plants blooming and filled with the buzzing of the bees – of all sorts. The bees have had to bend down a bit because when we have had rain it has come down hard and many of my plants are bent over – but it doesn’t seem to matter very much, except that you might notice my plants langour in my photos.

hydrangea

Limelight hydrangea

The hydrangeas are doing very well, and  showing their interest in providing a living fence between my garden and my neighbor’s driveway.

Firelight hydrangea

Firelight hydrangea

calamint

Calamint

We’ll run through the rest.

toad lilies

Toad lilies lying in the grass

Asters

Asters

Grandpa Ott

Grandpa Ott morning glory

Snake root

Snake root

http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/woodland/plants/wh_snakeroot.htm

Sheffield daisy

Sheffies – Sheffield daisy

The Sheffield daisy blooms very late in the fall.

nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

The nasturtiums show up all over the garden because I used them as a kind of temporary ground cover.  I love them because they are so cheerful.

red winterberry

Red winterberry

Though winterberries aren’t blooming at this time of the year, I had to show off my red winterberry and

Gold winterberry

Gold winterberry

my gold winterberry.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day and making it possible to see the gardens in bloom all across our great land.

Pumpkins for Eating and Decorating

Pumpkins

Pumpkins for sale at Butynski Farm

Pumpkin Season is here!  Jack o’ lanterns seem as American as apple pie, but pumpkins, squash and gourds, along with tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, and cocoa, are native to Central America and Mexico. Over time they migrated to North America and Europe. In fact, New World foods are essential to a large portion of the African population.

We don’t often think about the important nutritional value of pumpkins. Pumpkins are all about Cinderella’s coach, Jack ‘o lanterns and pumpkin pie. However, the many species of pumpkin are low in calories but are a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C. These all support vision, heart health, and reduce the risk of colon cancer. Even the seeds provide health benefits. When was the last time you added some nutritious pepitas to your salad? Happily pumpkins and squash are delicious so it is no hardship to fit pumpkins into your diet.

Pumpkin is the essential ingredient in pumpkin pie (of course) but the menu is much larger including pumpkin bread and pumpkin pastries, pumpkin ravioli, risotto and soup. We went to a party last year where they were serving pumpkin beer!

Pumpkin pie is a great dessert for the fall. It need not be kept just for Thanksgiving. I have bought canned pumpkin for my pies, but I have just been informed that most canned pumpkin is really squash. I guess I should read my labels better.

The best pumpkins for pie have familiar names like the New England Pie Pumpkin, but less familiar are Baby Pam, Long Island Cheese, Long Pie Pumpkin, Baby Bear, Ghost Rider and Spookie.

The first thing to remember about pumpkins and winter squash is that pumpkins, and winter squash are long season fruits and need a long warm season, Many gardeners use floating row covers or sturdier plastic over hoops early in the season to protect them from the weather as well as cucumber beetles or other pests. They also need a rich soil with lots of organic matter to help retain moisture, a pH of 6 to 6.8 as well as a lot of sun and a lot of room. Their vines can run amuck in the garden.

The All America Selections Cinderella pumpkin is also known as the Rouge Vif d’Etampes because of its color and shape resembling Cinderella’s coach. It will send out 10 foot vines and the fruits can weigh up to 20 pounds. Sorcerer pumpkin, another AAS winner, is similar in size with similar vines, but a deeper, dark orange color.

There are bush varieties like Gold Nugget Squash which looks exactly like a pumpkin. This All America Selections squash can produce up to ten fruits per plant weighing about one or one and a half pounds.

Over the past few years ghostly white pumpkins have come on the scene. There are a number of varieties. Baby Boo is a miniature white pumpkin that might especially appeal to children. Flat White Boer Ford is bone white and its flattened shape is similar to the Cinderella pumpkin. It will reach 30 pounds is a good pumpkin for cooking. Lumina will grow to 20 pounds and is a smooth round squash that is good for carving and also good to eat. It is notable that these white pumpkins often need some shade to keep them from turning yellow.

The white Pumpkin Super Moon is an AAS winner. It can reach up to 50 pounds and was chosen by AAS for its disease resistance, vigorous growth, early fruit development and flavor.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom seeds offer large selections of very unusual pumpkins like Galeux d’Eysines which is a pale pink and covered with rough ‘warts.’ It grows on a long vine and will weigh about 15 pounds. It can be a stunning decoration, or it can be eaten in stews and soups.

Giant Pumpkin

Giant Pumpkin – 1st prize winner grown by Sue Chadwick

Pumpkins provide a lot of fun in many ways including growing a giant pumpkin. I once attended a Giant Pumpkin club meeting and learned all about the trading in giant pumpkin seeds, and how to pamper plants over the spring and summer with shelters from the cold or wind, how to arrange proper watering and fertilizing. They also talked about various pumpkin events. I was enchanted by the idea of a pumpkin race. Contestants hollowed out pumpkins large enough to sit in, and then raced each other across a pond! I always think of that race when I admire the giant pumpkins at the Franklin County Fair.

I’m planning on some fun with a pumpkin too, but it doesn’t involve a pond. I bought a pie pumpkin at the Greenfield Farmers Market and I’m ready to make my first pumpkin pie from scratch – beginning with cooking the pumpkin. I’ve been told to cut the pumpkin in half, cut off the stem, scoop out all the seeds and scrape away any fibers. Then lay the pumpkin halves cut side down on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. It’s wise to test by inserting a paring knife here and there to make sure it is cooked through. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool for an hour. Scrape out the cooked pumpkin flesh, put it in the food processor and process for two or three minutes until there is a smooth puree. The puree can be refrigerated for five days or so, or kept in the freezer for three months. Bon appétit.

.Between the Rows   October 7, 2017

Dreaming of trees

American sycamores

American sycamores on both side of the street

Since moving to Greenfield we seem unable to get through a day, or night, without thinking and dreaming about trees. When we bought our house, which was surrounded by nothing more than lawn, our attention was taken by the giant American sycamore on the tree belt in front of our house. I called an acquaintance, Dennis Ryan, who is a retired arborist and professor at the University of Massachusetts. I described our tree which we believed was a sycamore, but were not sure. He asked if it shed lots of bark as well as leaves. I gritted my teeth and said yes, it was always shedding bark. American sycamore it is, not a London plane tree which has a similar and handsome mottled bark.

The only other tree in front of our house is a lilac tree. This Japanese lilac tree is a true syringa. When it bloomed after we took possession of our house in  June 2015 we were thrilled with the large white panicled blossoms that were so fragrant they perfumed our who yard. It took a little research to discover its name, but I soon began to notice that a number of Japanese lilac trees are being planted in town. It doesn’t seem to be on many lists of recommended town trees but I think it should be. It grows to about 25 feet tall, with a similar spread and blooms through June in our region.

Japanese syringa

Japanese lilac tree in mid June

roadside maple trees

Roadside maple trees

We got those beauties with the house, but we wanted trees for the back garden as well. The first concern is to plant the right tree in the right spot. Our choice was river birch because it loves wet soil. River birch has exfoliating bark, a clumping habit, and will grow to 40-70 feet. It has grown well and is now about 20 feet tall. We liked it so much we planted another in the same bed.

Trees are an important part of our domestic landscapes, providing shade and interesting form and color to delight our eyes as it dances in the wind or changes color from delicate greens in the spring and brilliant color in the fall. While there is no denying the aesthetic delight of trees, there are the services that trees provide. They clean our air, provide oxygen, cool our cities, create barriers for unattractive views, muffle the sound of busy streets, and provide food for insects and birds that eat the insects, as well as a dozen other benefits.

Trees are important to the streetscapes of our town. Greenfield has tree wardens who can work with residents who want trees on their street. In addition, Greening Greenfield is a community organization designed to increase the sustainability of our town. One element of their goal is to increase the number of trees lining our streets.

Like all of us, trees have a lifetime. Once there were giant elms marching up and down Main Street providing beauty, shade and a sense of stability. Then Dutch elm disease hit Greenfield’s Main Street, and elms all over the country. There are ongoing efforts to replace the street trees in Greenfield. I’m sure we have all seen young trees planted by the town on the tree strip or on the front lawns of residences with their watering bags.

My neighbor Wendy Sibbison and I are interested in getting more trees on our street. When Sibbison was on the town council 20 years ago she was instrumental in getting a number of trees planted on our street, but some of them have died. Other trees on the street are simply old and failing. We met with the town tree wardens, Paul Ratskevitz and Mike Duclos, and they gave us a list of the trees that the town usually plants. They explained that residents can request a tree, or trees for their street and their name will be put on a waiting list. There is not a lot of money for street trees in the town budget so it is hard to say how long residents will have to wait. It is also possible for a resident to buy a street tree themselves and the town will plant it, and maintain it for a year with a water bag. In that case it is possible that the tree will be planted much more quickly.

Sibbison pointed out that the trees on our street are planted on residents’ lawns where the tree roots are less constricted and there is less stress from road salt. Paul Raskevitz said they prefer planting trees on lawns for that very reason. In fact Massachusetts General Law (M.G.L.) Chapter 87, Section 7, specifically allows towns and cities to plant trees within 20 feet of the public right of way. These trees are considered to be ‘public shade trees’. Aside from the benefit to the tree, planting on a lawn lessens the problems of hitting public utility lines under the tree strip, or the power lines above it.

Between the Rows   September 30, 2017

The Art of Farming – A fundamental human endeavor

Nancy Hanson

Jason Dragon, Nancy Hanson and Pete Solis (L-R)

Where do people learn the art of farming? Farmers used to raise farmers as well as crops of hay, wheat, potatoes or other vegetables. Children learned the art of farming at their father’s – or mother’s knee.

Then came a time when the farms got bigger and bigger, and more expensive, as did farming equipment, but the farmers became fewer and fewer. And yet we all need to eat. Where do our farmers come from now?

Recently I met with Nancy Hanson, Director of Farm Programs at Hampshire College at the barn where students and staff come to pick up their CSA order for the week. We were surrounded by bins of beets, pepper, carrots and other vegetables waiting for the week’s allotments to be collected. Hanson is a woman who grew up on a farm started by her grandfather, then passed on to her father. In the mid 1980s the federal government created a program to control milk prices by offering money to dairy farmers if they would sell their herds. Hanson’s father accepted the offer.

Carrots

Carrots for CSA pickup at Hampshire college

Hanson hadn’t wanted to be a dairy farmer, but she did want to work with plants; After high school she took jobs working with ornamental plants. “After some years I learned what I didn’t know in those jobs and eventually was accepted into the University of Connecticut and earned a degree in ornamental horticulture,” she said.

She continued working with ornamentals in Boston and Maine. For a couple of years she was the estate horticulturist in Manchester by the Sea. “A couple bought an estate that was in disrepair. They renovated the buildings, pruned and replanted trees, and perennials.”

Hanson said that it was during those couple of years that she leaned to think about design and aesthetics in ways that were new to her. As part of her job she cared for a quarter acre vegetable garden. “That’s where I was the happiest, and that’s when vegetables became a passion.”

In the 90s Hanson learned more and more about organic growing. “This was interesting to me because it meant you had to understand the whole system,” she said. In 1999 she applied for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) position at Hampshire College, and she has been there ever since. Hanson works with two other professional farmers. Pete Solis mostly works with livestock like sheep, pigs, beef and hens, while Jason Dragon is mainly in charge of the vegetable fields. All three work with each other, and with the students.

Flock of sheep

Sheep flock at Hampshire College

Hanson explained that they have six students working full time in the summer with crops that are chosen to be ready for fall harvest. Work study students work on the farm in fall and spring. Some of those students do see farming as their life’s work, but others have different levels of interest in raising food.

“The goal is not to train farmers,” Hanson said. “Students work within academic programs like the introduction to food systems. We want them all to appreciate the goodness of fresh vegetables. This is the 26th year of our CSA. About one third of the harvest goes directly to the cafeterias serving the nearly 1500 students, and college faculty and staff.”

Hampshire’s program is not designed like a major in other colleges. Hanson explained that HampshireCollege was founded in 1965 by the other four valley colleges, the University of Massachusetts, Smith College, Amhers tCollege and Mt Holyoke College. Through the 60’s the administrations of these colleges felt the waves of new theories that were worthy of exploration and practice – but didn’t fit into their own academic visions. Thus was 800 acres of farmland bought and Hampshire College opened in 1970.

Section of Pick Your Own CSA at Hampshire College

Section of Pick Your Own CSA at Hampshire College

To this day HampshireCollege remains an experimenting institution with students creating their own self directed programs that usually include study related to societal or community problems. There are no exams or grades given. For example, the CSA program was designed and put in place by two students who made it their senior capstone project.

Hanson said that they try to bring the farm into other study fields. Art students come to the farm and one teacher brings students to look at water systems. They give tours, and this year they made bouquets with their own flowers to sell to parents bringing in the new freshmen. The bouquets sparked everyone’s interest in the gardens.”

Hanson said it is the combination of farming and teaching that makes her happy.

“I’m still here because as a teacher there is always some smart alec who asks me a question I can’t answer – and keeps me learning about something I’ve been involved with since I could walk. Some students are familiar with farms, but to some the farm is a totally new thing. I want them to realize that farming is a fundamental human endeavor. It is great to watch a student get it, when things start clicking.”

**************************************

Recently I talked to Ben Grosscup about a Pollinators and the Urban Homestead workshop where you can learn the key principles of gardening for pollinators on Ben’s urban homestead and emerging food forest. Sponsored by Western Mass Pollinator Networks, this free, in-depth workshop will be co-led by landscape designer Tom Sullivan (pollinatorswelcome.com)  Sunday, October 1, 9:30 a.m. to noon. 195 Chapman St., Greenfield.  PLEASE REGISTER by emailing your name to wmassbees@gmail.com. ###

Not All The Essentials for the Apocalypse

What are the essentials for an apocalypse?

The New York Times listed essentials for the apocalypse in the September 24, 2017 issue. I did note  that these are essentials as deemed so by a certain affluent group of Americans.

Author Alex Williams lists 13 things to have on hand in case worse comes to worst, what with daily threats from North Korea – and our own White House.

essentials for the apocalypse

Silver (mostly) essentials for the apocalypse

Is money one of  the essentials for the apocalypse? At first glance it seems reasonable that you might want to put in a stock of silver – and in nickels, dimes and quarters “because silver coins come in small enough denominations to barter for a loaf of bread or a socket wrench.” Of course, there is an assumption that someone will be around with extra loaves of bread or socket wrenches.

Stocking your own food seems sensible since you can also include your favorites libations. Are you a Scotch person or a bourbon afficianado? I thought a really great essential was rabbits, that are not fussy about what they eat, and will make up to 50 babies a year. Rabbits are very nutritious.

These affluent survivalists could also get numchucks or brass knuckles or the “100 Deadly Skills” book written by Clint Emerson, a former Navy SEAL. A folding kayak can fit in a closet, JetPacks that will carry you away may soon be commercially available.

With all these valuable resources, only one of  which mentions food – those rabbits – I can’t help thinking of a different apocalypse – climate warming which will change the foods that can be grown and where they can be grown. I also see an unmentioned danger to seeds.

The Svalbard ‘doomsday’ seed vault was built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. It contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide failsafe protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters.’

However, this past winter’s unparalleled warm temperatures caused melting of the permafrost which went into the seed vault. Fortunately, none of the seeds were affected. This time.

Clearly there are many events that can get survivalists scurrying for something that will save them, but I wonder how many unforeseen and unintended consequences are waiting for us.

Plant Now for Spring Bloom

Crocuses

Crocuses in early April on the Bridge of Flowers

scillas and crocus

Scillas and crocus on Bridge of Flowers

If you want to have  spring bloom in your garden you have to get to work right now. Crocus, scillas and snowdrops are three of the earliest spring bloomers in the garden – or lawn. You have to start thinking about planting them in the fall if you want them spring bloom.

I planted very few crocus while living in Heath, but now that I am living in town with a sidewalk next to the front lawn and conifer bed, I feel I must add color to this spot. I have been looking through the catalogs where I can find white crocus with golden hearts, crocus in all shades of yellow and gold and crocus in pale to deep purple.

There is also a category of small crocuses, properly named tommasinianus, and more lovingly called tommies. Some consider these the ideal crocus to plant in the lawn because their foliage is finer and less likely to offend people who like to keep their lawns very neat. The foliage of any bulb needs to ripen, which is to say it should be left to its own schedule gathering sunlight which will feed the bulb for good blooming the following year.

Crocus and all the little bulbs can be planted in beds which are cared for with fertilizers and watering, but these beds are a little more likely to attract hungry squirrels. The advantage to planting any crocus in the lawn is that squirrels tend not to search them out in the grass. However, if you are going to plant crocus in the lawn the lawn should not be fertilized or watered because this will likely make the grass too vigorous and overcome the little crocus bulbs.

The crocus in its many sizes and colors may be the first early bloomer we think of, but scillas, also known as Siberian squills, have dainty blue flowers that can live happily in a lawn and turn it into a reflection of the blue spring sky.

Snowdrops in the lawn

Snowdrops in the lawn

inches high and will naturalize and spread nicely. Because the blossoms are so small, it is best to plant them where you will be able to see and enjoy that early bloom.

Snowdrops in the garden next to the house

Snowdrops in the garden next to the house

Snowdrops are not to be confused with snowflakes which is a completely different family, Leucojum aestivum. The flower of the snowflakes, sometimes called a summer snowflake even though it usually blooms in late April and May, closely resembles the snowdrop flower, a drooping white blossom with a  touch of green. However the snowflake is at least a foot tall. It is more noticeable in the garden than the snowdrop but still I think it is good to plant these small bulbs in clumps.

Because these early blooming bulbs are so tiny it is suggested that they be planted as closely as 10 to 15 bulbs in a square foot. They only need to be planted about three inches deep in soil that drains well. Too wet a location can rot bulbs. I mostly planted daffodils in my Heath lawn and my technique was to dig up about a square foot of turf, dig in a little compost and phosphorous which could be bone meal or phosphate rock. Then arrange the bulbs as per directions in the soil. I replace the piece of turf and wait for spring blooms. This technique works as well for the small bulbs. These very early spring bulbs are tiny so you need to plant a fair number of them to make them noticeable.

Fortunately these little bulbs are not terribly expensive. I have just ordered four different sets of little bulbs that ranged between $13-18 for 50 bulbs. The bulbs are small so they won’t put on much of a show next spring – but they will increase.  If I get too impatient I can buy another 200 in 2018.

Fall is also the season for planting garlic bulbs. You can buy them online. I got my first bulbs from a friend, but Filaree Garlic Farm offers about 100 varieties of hard neck and soft neck garlic. There is not much to planting garlic in the fall. It is possible to break apart a supermarket garlic bulb and plant those, but it is really a better to plant what is intended as seed garlic. The bulb will be of good size and healthy.

Like all the bulbs garlic cloves should be planted in well drained soil. Plant each clove about 6-8 inches apart in a 3 inch deep furrow. Give it agood straw mulch about 6 inches deep. In our area garlic should be planted by the end of October. In the spring you can remove most of the mulch. In addition to foliage the plant produces scapes which should be cut off because they will sap energy needed for making a nice big bulb. Those scapes are useful and can be used in recipes that call for garlic. The new bulbs can be harvested in July.

I will only be planting little bulbs this fall, but of course, if you want daffodils, tulips, alliums, low growing anemones, and more this is the time to look for bulbs in garden centers, or online. There are many choices

Between the Rows   September 9, 2016

Bloom Day – September 2017

Coreopsis

Coreopsis

At the moment I am celebrating Garden Bloggers Bloom Day with a burst of heat – after rain storms and night temperatures that went down to 35 degrees. But many plants are hitting their stride, like this coreopsis – one of several.

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

It turns out the cardinal flowers I planted last year – are a different color than the cardinal flowers I planted this year. But no matter. My mentor, Elsa Bakalar, assured me all shades of red go together.

Perennial aageratum and veronica

Perennial ageratum and veronica

The perennial ageratum and veronica are carrying on an autumnal love affair with lots of hugs.

Firelight hydrangea

Firelight hydrangea

The Firelight hydrangea is also being embraced by a nameless white aster and the bright pink Alma Potchke aster who just started to bloom.

honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

The honeysuckle clasps the fence in a tight hold while its bloom are entwined with  a few Grandpa Ott morning glories.

Japanese anemone

Japanese anemone

The Japanese anemone is less robust, but next year I think she’ll be more enthusiastic.

Neon sedum

Neon sedum

This “Neon” sedum attracts bees by the dozen.

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia

These rudbeckias were given me by a neighbor in the spring. Next spring I am going to be looking for another neighbor who needs rudbeckia, loved by pollinators

Marigolds and nasturtiums

Marigolds and nasturtiums

This pot by my back door is a riot of color. Makes me so happy in my coming and going.

Click on over to May Dreams Gardens where Carol gives us a chance share our seasonal bloom. Thank you, Carol!

The Root of Laughter in the Garden

Anne Cleveland illustration

Anne Cleveland illustration in Weeds Are More Fun by Priscilla Hovey Wright

Laughing in the garden doesn’t always come easy. But what can you do after gnashing your teeth over the squash borers, weeping over the discovery of leaf miners in the beet bed, growling at the Japanese beetles in  the roses, or pulling up garlic mustard for the umpteenth time?  I imagine the gods laughing at me. But those who are wise will laugh and stiffen our backs for the next onslaught. I thought of this when my friend Karen brought me Weeds are More Fun by Priscilla Hovey Wright and published in 1941.

Wright has imagined every disaster from weeds, rashes, the Women’s Garden Club and proper garden attire, and of course, pests. Attacked as my squash were by borers, I was in complete sympathy with Wright who suggests filling a sprayer with “whatever there is in the house . . . leftover chicken broth, hair tonic bought in a rash moment, or bath salts received at Christmas. The bugs accustomed to the usual line of sprays and more or less immunized to them are totally unprepared . . . They either die of shock immediately or depart for the neighbor’s gardens as soon as possible.”

I may spend ample time gnashing teeth, etcetera, but laughter comes soon enough. Among the books on my shelves about organic control of pests, how to create shade gardens, or wildflower gardens or fruit gardens I have a number of books that take a lighter view of garden trials.

Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900) born in Plainfield, and resident of Charlemont during his childhood years wrote My Summer in a Garden in 1870 while he was working for the Hartford Courant in Connecticut. His was a vegetable garden and his were the eternal problems, weeds that cover the garden when you go away for a week, the incessant battle against “pussley,” or finding his mess of peas decimated by the birds. “The dear little birds, who are so fond of strawberries, had eaten the peas.. . . I made a rapid estimate of the cost of seed, the price of labor, the value of the bushes, the anxiety of weeks of watchfulness. I looked about me at the face of Nature. The wind blew from the south . . . a thrush sang so deceitfully. All nature seemed fair, but who was to give me back my peas?”

He was never at a loss for the appropriate word. “What a man needs in gardening is a cast iron back – with a hinge in it.” Or “Lettuce is like conversation. It must be fresh and crisp so sparkling you barely notice the bitter in it.” Or “No man but feels more of a man if he have a bit of ground to call his own. However small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep, and that is a very handsome property.”

Illustration by Josep Capek

Illustration by Josef Capek

You would not think that the Czech brothers, Karel and Josef Capek, who wrote together and who invented the word “robot” for a science fiction novel would also be avid gardeners. Karel did most of the writing and Josef who was an artist provided the cartoons for The Gardener’s Year printed in 1931.  The brothers take us through the year to describe how a man becomes a gardener, his lust for compost, and the agonies of searching for the first bulbs of spring. As Warner complains about his aches so do the Capeks. However, they allow “But there is one moment when the gardener rises and straightens him up to his full height and administers the sacrament of water to his little garden. Then he stands straight and almost noble, directing the jet of water . . . So, and now it is enough the gardener whispers happily; he does not mean by ‘it’ the little cherry tree covered with buds, . . . he is thinking of the brown soil.”

Beverley Nichols in England was caring for his first garden at about that same time as the Capeks. Down the Garden Path was published in 1932. Nichols was a prolific author, writing novels, plays, children’s books and non-fiction, but Down the Garden Path and its sequels were among his best sellers.

It was a time when Nichols felt that “everything was cracking up” and he wanted a place to hide. He set out to buy a piece of property and plant a woodland where he could do just that, but of course, he did not know how to plant a woodland. He took himself to a nearby nursery and met Mr. Honey who spoke exclusively in Latin.

“The first thing I said to him . . . was I like that big bush with red berries over there.”

‘Crataegus pyracantha credulata yunnanensis’ crooned Mr. Honey.

I took a deep breath and was about to reply when Mr. Honey waved his arm to the right and murmured: ‘Ribes sanguineum splendens.’

This I felt was enchanting. One had a sense of being a young disciple walking by the side of his master.”

Nichols could barely speak. The only Latin that came to his mind was “Et tu, Brute” which he knew was not appropriate, but so began the planting of his wood.

I always say there are many paths in the garden leading us to history, myth, science – and I think – laughter.

Between the Rows   September 2, 2017

Monarch butterfly

kylee 2Kylee Baumle can date the beginning of her passion  for monarch butterflies to September 17, 2006,  the day she  found a tattered Monarch butterfly with a tiny sticker on its wing in the field where the United Flight 93 Memorial stands. Most of us remember with horror, and pride, the passengers and crew of that flight that crashed on September 11, 2001. The sticker listed the monarchwatch.org website, a phone number and a set of three numbers.

Baumle went to Monarch Watch and reported finding the tagged monarch. The website also gave her information about the amazing monarch migration, something she knew nothing about. She then set out to learn all she could about the very familiar Monarch butterfly – and then wrote a comprehensive book simply named The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly. Knowing that the monarch population has declined by 90% in only 20 years Baumle encourages us to become citizen scientists and describes the many ways we can help save this beautiful butterfly.

The Monarch is not a big book, but it is comprehensive and beautifully and clearly illustrated with photographs, many of them taken by Baumle herself.  She gives a detailed description of a monarch’s life cycle beginning with the tiny, pin-head size- egg laid on the underside of a milkweed leaf. I had to learn some knew vocabulary to understand the monarch’s different life stages. The egg develops over 3-5 days and becomes a tiny caterpillar. This caterpillar has an exoskeleton which cannot stretch very much so it molts five times. Each stage between the molts is called an instar. Baumle describes this process and the caterpillar anatomy in fascinating detail.

Monarch by Kylee Baumle

Monarch by Kylee Baumle

Within two weeks the caterpillar is ready to pupate, forming the beautiful green chrysalis with its golden dots. The final molt reveals the chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis the caterpillar dissolves  and the butterfly parts which had been waiting, develop over about 2 weeks. The hatching process ends with the butterfly hanging on to the transparent chrysalis while it dries and is finally able to fly. This process can take about four hours. This amazing process is described in detail with clear photographs of the different stages.- MONARCH caterpillar 2

Most of us are not familiar with this part of a butterfly’s life. We just know that the caterpillars need to eat milkweed, and the adult butterfly  needs to eat and goes looking for nectar plants, including milkweed flowers and other plants like bee balm, coneflowers, goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, liatris, coreopsis, Mexican sunflower, yarrow and zinnias.

What I never gave any thought to is monarch sex. There are male and female monarchs and they mate quite soon after leaving the chrysalis. Males and females will both mate with several partners. Summer generations of monarch will only live between two and six weeks, so they need to get on with the process of procreation very fast. Besides finding nectar the female will be busy locating a place to lay her eggs. She prefers to lay one egg on each plant, ensuring that her progeny have plenty of food. Since she will lay about 400-500 eggs she will be busy.

There can be three summer generations of summer monarchs but the “Methusalah” generation, the migrating generation will live for about eight months. The great migration is from the eastern United States to Mexico, although there are monarchs who live and overwinter in California. It is hard to understand why the population has declined so rapidly, but habitat destruction in the U.S. and in Mexico plays some part, as does the use of pesticides. Mexico now has several protective monarch sanctuaries.

Tagged Monarch butterfly

Tagged Monarch butterfly

Baumle does more than describe the biology of monarchs, and the threats. She gives us ways to support the monarch by planting milkweed and other pollinator plants, and urging our mayors to take the Monarch Mayor’s Pledge, I can tell you that locally the EnergyPark in Greenfield is devoted to providing milkweeds and other pollinator plants for Monarchs as well as other pollinators. She also provides a list of informative websites, films and books. Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Flight Behavior is on her list, a “heady exploration of climate change” and the discovery of an Appalachian forest valley shimmering with monarchs. This is the suspenseful story of catastrophe and denial seen through the eyes of Kingsolver’s heroine, Dellarobia. I highly recommend it.

`           There were a very few years in the 80s when August brought great clouds of monarchs to our Heath field overrun with mint plants that the butterflies found delicious. Then one year they stopped coming. Nowadays we get all excited to see one or two of the easily identifiable monarchs in our garden. We are now aware of the monarch’s need for protection; Baumle’s book gives us multiple ways to provide that protection

Monarchs in Mexican sanctuary

Monarchs in Mexican sanctuary

Between the Rows  September 2,2017

 

End of August Views

View from the window

View from the window

The end of August view from the upstairs window shows not only a full garden, but my most recent project of a wine bottle hose guard on the left. Also in the center of that bed is a beautiful glass “flower” given to us by the sister of a dear friend. You can’t see it very well here, but as soon as I see the sun shining on it I’ll give a better photo.

A view slightly to the north

A view slightly to the north

I wanted to get a good view of the most norther island bed and you can see that more work needs to be done at the east end. The pagoda dogwood will get bigger so I am thinking about low growing plants.

The South Shrub Border

The South Shrub Border

I rarely show photos of the South Shrub Border, but it is the oldest planting in the garden and right now the important bloomers are three hydrangeas, Limelight, Angel Blush and Firelight, fronted by roses, some of which are still putting  out blooms. The two pink roses, one a low grower, and the other will be a large bush – Purple Rain and Thomas Affleck.

Firelight hydrangea

Firelight hydrangea

The Firelight  hydrangea (not Angel Blush as typed earlier)  is coming into full blushing color. Lovely. A lovely end to August.