Sarah Hollister’s potatoes
How can we celebrate Earth Day every day? We can grow a garden. Forget the lawn; grow veggies and herbs and berries, trees and flowers. Gardens, ornamental and edible can feed lots of pollinators and other bugs that need different kinds of foliage to nibble on, so that they can be eaten by birds and other wild creatures. Plants are pretty low on the food chain so that makes them especially important.
Edible plants feed us healthy veggies that didn’t put migrant workers at risk, and don’t cost gallons of gas to make their way to us.
You don’t even need a yard to grow plants. Container gardening is all the rage. Lots of vegetable varieties are now made especially for containers. Renee’s Garden is just one company that offers a long list of veggies and herbs that will thrive in containers.
Sarah Hollister’s cucumber trellis
Greenfield has its new Sustainable Master Plan and one of its goals is to encourage more home gardening. If you haven’t gardened before start small. What do you like to eat? Fresh mixed green salads, with vine ripened tomatoes? Plant a little salad garden.
Are you always buying bunches of parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme? Plant a small herb bed and save lots of money over the summer and fall. Add a few shallots and save even more money.
The library has a wide assortment of books for the novice garden for some armchair how-to instruction. Rodale has a great list of practical gardening books from Lasagna Gardening: A new layering system for bountiful gardens, no digging, no tilling, no weeding by Patricia Lanza; Michelle Owen’s Grow the Good Life: Why a vegetable garden will make you healthy, wealthy and wise; and Rodale’ Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening which will be useful as long as you live.
Get out and play in the dirt. The whole family can have a good time.
Sarah Hollister’s blueberries
These photos and many more were taken at the Hollister place last summer. My garden is not so neat, but it is still a lot of fun. I am going to have to make sure to get some photos of container gardens before next Earth Day.
Pansies in a bowl
Pansies are for those of us who are too impatient to wait for the flowers in our gardens to begin blooming. Of course, we need the help of flower growers and garden centers before we can pot up a few pansies to brighten our barren landscape. I became curious about the history of these early spring bloomers and was amazed to find out how ancient a flower they are.
An early forerunner of the pansy was the viola which was a common shade loving European flower in the fourth century B.C. Then someone noticed a very similar flower that was able to tolerate more sun. It has been suggested that it might have been a Frenchman who called it a ‘wild pansy’ because of the French word ‘pensee’ which means ‘ a thought’. Of course, I’m not sure what the Frenchman might of been thinking of when he looked at this bright and brave flower.
Shakespeare has the grieving Ophelia pass out flowers from a bouquet filled with metaphors – rosemary for remembrance, rue for adultery, sweet violet for innocence – and pansy for thoughts.
The wild pansy became known as Viola tricolor and both pansies and violas were grown for centuries before the British Lord Gambier and his gardener William Thompson began hybridizing violas in the early 1800s. It became one of the most popular flowers grown. Certainly we New Englanders love this early bloomer. Here in Heath pansies remain in bloom for most of the growing year if they are given a little shade.
Pansy hybrids continue to be made. The Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture website has wonderful information about the history of the pansy and a long list of hybrids.
Caladium ‘White Christmas’
When people think of the ornamental garden their first thought is of flowers, but it is foliage that holds a garden together. Flowers on naked stems would not be as lovely as they are when surrounded by foliage, leaves of various shapes and in various shades of green ranging from almost white, to almost blue, to almost red, as well as deep green. We take foliage for granted, but it can be used to increase the interest of the garden and sometimes be a real show stopper.
Hostas are one of the most familiar and popular foliage plants. When on a garden tour ofSeattleand environs in 2011 I visited the amazing gardens of Michael Shadrack, author and hosta expert. In his garden the full range of hosta possibilities was on display, from the plant stand on his deck that held potted miniature hostas, to the lush beds of hostas where variegated, blue, green and chartreuse hostas mingled beneath the dappled shade of tall trees.
Shadrack explained that there are several reasons for the hostas popularity. They are easy to grow in fertile, moist-but-well-drained soil, many are hardy in our climate, they thrive in shade or part-shade and are fairly tolerant of short periods of drought or flood. They do produce flower stalks, but people usually do not grow them for the flowers. One caveat. Deer love hostas!
To illustrate the range of color and form we saw ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ that have tiny blue-green leaves. They grow in neat mounds eight inches tall and bloom in mid-summer. They grow well in containers as well as the garden. Other ‘blue’ hostas include the gigantic ‘Blue Angel,’ three feet tall and wide; and the medium sized blue ‘First Frost’ with gold margins that age to cream
An interesting 20 inch tall variegated hosta is ‘Remember Me’ which has golden centers with a green edge in spring, but changes over the season until the center is white with a narrow margin of blue green.
They grow so vigorously that hosta growers often have divisions to give away. Shadrack calls it a friendship plant because it is so easy to share.
Caladiums are another shade loving foliage plant. No flowers. This is a summer bulb that can be carried over during the winter, or you can just treat it like an annual. Last year I grew two large pots of red and green caladiums on either side of the Cottage Ornee door. I find it so hard to resist shades of red, but this year I am ordering ‘White Queen’ from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. The large leaves are mostly white with red veins. I think the white foliage will be more attractive and more eye catching in the Cottage’s shade.
‘Moonlight’ is the whitest of the Brent and Becky caladiums, but there are others with white speckles and veins, and others in shades of green and red or pink. Caladiums are really dramatic plants that are not hard to grow. If you grow caladiums, or any plant, in a pot make sure you water the pot every day during the summer. Pots, especially terra cotta pots, dry out very quickly in summer heat and breezes.
Heucherella ‘Cracked Ice’ courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
Heucherellas are a fairly new plant on the foliage scene. Heucherellas are a cross between heucheras, coral bells, and tiarella, foam flower. I like heucherellas because they have a more substantial flower than regular coral bells. Even though they do bloom, it is the colors and markings of the foliage that attract most people. And variety there is.
Most heucherellas prefer well drained, humusy soil and some shade, but others are quite tolerant of full sun.
‘Cracked Ice is a new variety this year with blue and green toned foliage with dramatic veining. In spring and fall there is a silvery pink overlay making it very difficult to describe this dark foliaged plant.
‘Sweet Tea’ has large rich reddish foliage that darkens in the summer but then becomes paler in the fall. It is about 20 inches tall, with a spread of 28 inches, and white flowers that bloom above the foliage in June and July,.
Another new entry is ‘Fire Frost’ whose yellow foliage has a frosted red center. This is a smaller plant, only 10 inches tall and with a spread of 18 inches. It will bloom from July into September.
For a very different form of foliage there is Hakonechloa, an 18 inch ornamental grass that bends and sways gracefully. I think has a very oriental look about it. H. Aureola was the Perennial Plant Association Plant of the year in 2009. It has become very popular, and is a lovely edging in a shady bed.
Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ is this year’s Plant of the Year. This is another grass, but this switch grass variety is notable for its very upright five foot tall growth. It prefers sun, but can tolerate some light shade. The blue-green foliage turns golden in the fall.
Looking at the PPA Plant of the Year choice is always a good idea because they choose plants that are not only beautiful, but dependable in a wide variety of circumstances. Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ chosen in 2012 has pretty forget-me-not flowers in spring, but it is the season long frosted foliage that makes it desirable.
What plants have you chosen because of their foliage?
Between the Rows April 12, 2014
Onward and Upward in the Garden
I am often asked if I always loved roses. The answer is no. My desire for roses began when I was living and working in New York City. There amid Manhattan’s concrete towers I developed a hunger for roses.
What flower is more ancient and more romantic? When my husband and I, and our three daughters (the two boys were already out of the house) moved from the noisiest apartment in Manhattan on November 28, 1979 to the coldest and windiest hill in Massachusetts, I carried Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine White. The cover is a delicate painting of a simple old rose.
I spent that first winter in Heath dreaming of roses, romantic roses, hardy roses, fragrant roses, roses that spoke of history, elegant ladies, and tough women. Those dreams became flowers and parties that have been the highlight of our summer gardens.
On the last Sunday of June for more than 25 years we have held the Annual Rose Viewing, our Garden Open Today. Friends and strangers drive up the hill to stroll along the Rose Walk, admire the Rose Bank and enjoy lemonade and cookies in the shade of the Cottage Ornee. The sun shines, the zephyrs whisper and all is pure delight. And the sun does always shine on the Rose Viewing. Always.
Our youngest daughter Kate was so sure of this that she set her wedding day for the day before the Rose Viewing. It rained on and off all week before the wedding, and it rained early in morning of the wedding. It even began to pour again the moment after she walked into the wedding tent. And yet, the instant it was time to speak their vows the rain stopped and the sun shone brilliantly on the flowery arch dripping with diamond raindrops. She and her beloved Greg stepped out into the sunlight and the beginning of their happy life together.
The next day, the day that would have been the official Rose Viewing, was perfect.
The Rose Walk and the Annual Rose Viewing were not created by any well thought out master plan. That is not my way. Our very first spring at the end of the road I planted my first rose, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, delicately pink, romantic, tough and fragrant, by the door. Applejack, a hardy pink Griffith Buck hybrid was planted at the top of our ‘drive’, actually town road. Both continue today.
The Rose Walk was created because in 1981, distracted by my job at the local community college and spring chores in the vegetable garden. I planted four new roses, the Comtesse de Murinais, Celsiana, Rosa Rubrifolia and de la Grifferai, in the middle of the lawn in a line. Don’t ask why.
The following year I decided I needed a reason to have those roses in the middle of the lawn. I know! A rose path! I planted the next four roses opposite the first four with a very wide path between, broad enough to stroll with a friend.
The next year I planted another handful of roses along my walk, Crested Moss, Madame Hardy, Ispahan, Camaieux, and I invited several friends over on Sunday afternoon for a Rose Viewing with tea and cakes. One guest, digging into her second piece of cake with barely a glance at the very little few rose bushes, said, “You should do this every year.” On such slim threads as these are traditions born.
Passionate Nymph’s Thigh
More roses have been planted every single year. This is because about half the roses planted have not proved themselves hardy on our hill. Some have died because I did not plant them properly. Gone are the David Austin roses, Charles de Mills, Madame Isaac Pereiere, Marie de Blois and even Blaze. Remaining are rugosas like Pink Grootendorst, and the lush Belle Poitvine, damasks like Ispahan and Leda, and farmgirls like Rachel and Purinton Pink. It is always hard to count them, but more than 70 roses now bloom beneath the Heath sun.
In addition to the loveliness of the roses and the beauty of the day I think of the Annual Rose View as having an instructive element. Here you can see roses that are hardy and disease resistant
It is only April but we are already thinking of this year’s Annual Rose Viewing on Sunday, June 29. The winter was long and cold, but the snow was deep, and the roses are coming to life. Won’t you join us? If that is not possible take a Virtual Rose Viewing here.
Mrs. Anthony Waterer
This Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is rainy, but I finally have blooms. Not many. Snowdrops are blooming in front of the house, and in the erstwhile orchard. I had hoped that I might have a few daffodils, buds at least, but it is not to be.
Van Sion daffodils
I saw these Van Sion Daffodils blooming down in Charlemont – 1000 feet lower than Heath – and checked my Van Sions, an old and very early daff, but I don’t even have buds. In previous years at this time I’ve had daffs, scillas and glory of the snow all blooming. It has been a long cold winter. I am happy for today’s warm rain.
Can I count pussy willows on this Bloom Day?
Carol over at May Dreams Gardens is hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where you can see what else is blooming across the country. Join the fun.
Winterfare Market February, 2012
For some people the initials CSA are just another of those annoying acronyms that can make our conversations sound like an unintelligible inter-office memo. For some CSA means Community Supported Agriculture which encompasses delicious local food, help for the farmer, and a community of like-minded folk who enjoy fresh food, and enjoy knowing they are supporting farmers and farms, and the very land and environment that surrounds us.
Small farmers never think they are going to get rich doing what they love. They only hope they won’t go broke after a bad season. In the 1980s a new idea came on the scene when the first community supported agriculture farms were first organized. The idea is that people would buy shares in the farm and its harvest at the beginning of the growing year, essentially sharing the risks the farmer would face over the course of the season. Would there be flooding rains? Drought? Would blight kill all the tomatoes? Mother Nature can throw all kinds of disasters at a farmer. CSA members are essentially buying the harvest as crops are planted and becoming a part of a community – a “we’re all in this together” community sharing the risk, the worry and the joys of the farm.
When I first became aware of Community Supported Agriculture some years ago, there were not many CSA farms or people buying shares. The organizational elements were fairly standard. An individual or family would buy a share in the spring, and then as the May and June harvest started coming in they would pick up their weekly boxed or bagged share of greens, beans, radishes and vegetables of every type in season. Because man does not live by carrot alone, many CSAs also included a bouquet of summer flowers.
Now there are many more CSAs in our area. I spoke with Phil Korman, Executive Director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) who said that in the three counties, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden, in 2009 there were about 4550 farm shares sold, but in 2012 that number had increased to about 7300 farm shares sold. Some of those shares were to people outside the three counties. The expectation is that the number has continued to increase but statistics are only collected every five years. Korman pointed out that those farm shares did not include winter shares which are now available.
In fact, there are now many more kinds of CSA shares that people can buy. In addition to the regular vegetable garden shares, there are shares for meat, fish, eggs, flowers, and grain.
The last few years have seen other changes in CSA distributions. Originally, a shareholder paid up, and then picked up that share weekly at the farm. Nowadays CSA shares can be delivered to various sites including schools, retirement communities, and work sites.CooleyDickinsonHospitalallows staff to pay for their share with a payroll deduction, and the share is delivered to the hospital. Some people share a share with a neighbor
Hager’s Farm Market and Upinngill Farm sell vouchers. The Hager vouchers are dated for use throughout the season, but they can be used at the Market on Route 2 in Shelburne with the shareholder making his own choices, for produce or pies, eggs or yogurt. Upinngill’s vouchers are not dated. Several can be used at one time. In both cases, at the Hager Farm Market and the Upinngill farmstand, the vouchers provide for a discount, so you are saving money, as well as getting wonderful produce.
There are 15 CSA farms inFranklinCounty, inGreenfield, Montague, Gill, Leyden, Colrain,Sunderland, Ashfield, Whately, and Berndarston. Each CSA farm delivers its share one day a week. All of them are now signing up shareholders for the 2014 season.
Western Massachusettshas been “an incredibly receptive community” to desiring and buying local farm products Korman said. The first local, and now longest running CSA farm is Brookfield Farm inAmherst. The first Winterfare was created inGreenfieldby volunteers just a few years ago. Now farmers plant winter storage crops for the 30 winter farmers markets that are ongoing across the state. CISA was the first non-profit organization in the state and created the Local Hero marketing project.
Currently there are 55 Local Hero restaurants using local produce for a total of about $2 million a year. There are also 240 Local Hero farms. They sold between 2002 and 2007 $4.5 million worth of farm products, but that amount has now doubled to $9 million. Food coops account for $16 million in sales. Right now in the three counties between 10%-15% of our food is fresh local food, but CISA’s goal is to have 25% of our food grown and enjoyed locally.
I was shocked that we are eating so little local food, but Korman gently pointed out that the whole population ofFranklinCountyis only half the population of the city ofSpringfield. I can see that it will be a great day when everyone inSpringfieldgets 25% of their dinners from local farms. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone lives in our beautiful and fertile valley or near a hilltown farm where fresh food is available for a good part of the year.
It’s finally getting warmer. It’s time to think about fresh salads, grilled vegetables and corn on the cob. It’s time to think about the possibility of joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm.
You can find a full listing and information about local CSA farms on the CISA website. http://www.buylocalfood.org/buy-local/find-local/csa-farm-listing/
Between the Rows April 5, 2014
Applejack is a wonderful rose, growing on a graceful bush about 7 or 8 feet tall with single pink flowers. It doesn’t begin blooming until mid-June but I had to cheer myself up with a post and picture of a pretty pink country rose because winter is not relenting easily. The weatherman teases and promises 60 degree days and sun, but each afternoon I finally give up and build a fire in the wood stove.
Griffith Buckwas a great hybridizer of hardy roses who spent most of his working life at the Iowa State University College, later Iowa State University. He want cold hardy roses, but his choices also turned out to be disease resistant. He said, ”
”While I didn’t start to develop roses that were disease resistant, I had inherently selected for disease resistance by the manner in which I made the selections in the field. My normal procedure was to grow the seedlings in the greenhouse one year until they got big enough, and plant them out the second spring.The only attention they would get would be water and cultivation. I didn’t spray for disease. If they couldn’t hold on to their foliage, they wouldn’t properly mature, and therefore they wouldn’t overwinter well. In a sense I was selecting for those that could hold on to their foliage in spite of becoming infected with foliage diseases.”
Applejack is one of his earliest hybrids, and one of the first roses I planted here at the End of the Road. It has thrived, enduring bitter winters and winds. It requires no care except the cutting out of winter kill and spreading of compost every spring. It stands at the head of our ‘driveway’ and welcomes guests as they arrive. It is one of my very favorite roses. Unfortunately, I cannot find anyone currently selling this rose. You will find many Buck roses at Chamblee Roses – but not Applejack. If anyone knows where to buy it I would love to know as welll
Panicum virgata ‘Northwind’ courtesy Perennial Plant Association
For only the third time since the Perennial Plant Association‘s Plant of the Year program was instituted an ornamental grass, Panicum virgata ‘Northwind‘ has been given this designation. ’Northwind’, is a 5 foot tall blue green switchgrass that turns golden in the fall. The fine flower panicles rise another foot or so above the foliage. ‘Northwind’ has a very erect and upright growth which makes it ideal for narrow sites. It needs sun, but is tolerant of most soils. It spreads slowly and should be divided in the spring.
The PPA is an organization comprised of a range of professionals whose mission is to educate the public about outstanding, easy care perennials and promote them. The Plant of the Year program began in 1990 and the list of previous winners like (2009) Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ , (2008) Geranium ‘Rozanne,’ and (2002) Phlox ‘David,’ will be familiar to many gardeners.
Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ courtesy of Perennial Plant Association
Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ is a hardy perennial that is so easy to care for that the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) chose it as their Plant of the Year in 2012. ’Jack Frost’ is one of the earliest spring bloomers at the Shelburne side entry to the Bridge of Flowers. The forget-me-not-like flowers confuse a lot of people, but the frosted foliage is what makes this plant such a delight in the shady garden.
The Plant of the Year designation means that these dependable perennials are easy to find in nurseries and garden centers.
Succulents back outside
Finally, I have been able to start my spring garden chores. The temperature got up to 50 degrees yesterday and there was some sun. I raked the front lawn and beds, including the Daylily Bank. I can never decide whether it is good or bad to cut down daylily foliage in the fall, but whatever I thought, I didn’t do it last year. Fortunately, a steel rake is all it takes to pull out most of the dead foliage.
The succulents wintered inside in the unheated Great Room. I knew the succulents were hardy (mostly) but I wasn’t sure about the hypertufa troughs. You can see one hypertufa trough is already broken. I didn’t make the bottom thick enough. I’m ready to try again this year. The flower pot that looks empty holds a mass of black stemmed Ashfield mint that I pulled up by accident – with my steel rake – and decided to pot up. The mint runs all over the place, and I thought I’d worry less about pulling it up if I always had some in a pot.
Primroses have come through the winter
I have had a clump of lovely yellow primroses from the supermarket blooming here for years. Last year I added different primroses that I bought at the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale, scheduled for Saturday, May 17 this year, and they have all come through. You can bet I’ll be at the sale again this year to get more bargains. Annuals, too.
Dry shade is a challenge in the garden, but epimediums and hellebores, two very different plants, both turn dry shade into an opportunity. For years I admired epimediums in other gardens, always asking the name of the beautiful low plant with heart shaped leaves. Sometimes I got no answer, but even when I did I was incapable of remembering the word epimedium. I finally saw a pot of this plant at the Blue Meadow nursery in Montague and, out of the several varieties there, each with a nice little name tag, I bought Epimedium ‘Rubrum.’ I chose this because it was listed as the most hardy. Even then I was afraid Heath was too cold, but a friend who was working there that day just shrugged and told me to give it a try.
“Give it a try,” is always good advice. A plant in a pot is not much of a financial investment, and we all must learn to endure disappointments and failed experiments if we are to have a happy life.
Epimedium ‘Rubrum’ has thrived in my garden, planted beneath a ginkgo tree which provides shade for part of the day. I love the heart-shaped green leaves with their reddish border. The tiny pink flowers were a bit of a surprise. I had never actually seen an epimedium in early spring when it blooms. The delicate little flowers are best seen at eye level which means not only down on hands and knees, but maybe even down on your stomach, chin in hands, to admire them at leisure.
I have given away bits of E. ‘Rubrum’ to friends, assuring them that this easy care plant will increase at a stately rate. It is not invasive. It is a native ofAsia, but adapted to a well behaved life in Zones 3 to 9, depending on the variety. I later learned that there are some very hardy varieties.
And there is variety. I bought my second epimedium, E. x versicolor ‘Sulphureum,’ at the Bridge of Flowers plant sale a couple of years ago. The yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems are slightly larger so it is easier to see why epimediums are sometimes called bishop’s hats and fairy wings. It is less easy to see how anyone came to call it horny goat weed or rowdy lamb herb. Perhaps goats and lambs find it intoxicating, but I don’t know that for a fact.
Now I have two varieties of epimedium, but if you look at the Garden Vision or Plant Delights catalogs you will see dozens of epimediums in many shades of lavender, purple, red, pink, white, orange and yellow. The flowers take many forms, including some that almost look like spiders, and the foliage varies as well. Not all the varieties have heart-shaped leaves, some are spiky and some are mottled.
Epimediums require very little care. The dying foliage should be cut down in the fall to clear the way for early spring growth.
Garden Vision nursery is located in Phillipston, Massachusetts. They open their nursery to viewing and sales the first two weekends in May.
Hellebores are another early bloomer that doesn’t mind dry shade. Right here I should say that any new plant should be kept adequately watered while it is settling in the first year, giving it time to let its roots grow enough to support the plant even when it is dry.
The term shade has many shades. Pun intended. There is dense shade like that under evergreens, there is high shade, a much weaker shade created by trees whose foliage begins up high, and dappled shade that dances dark and light. There is summer shade that is created when trees are fully leafed out, and the early spring sun can no longer shine through bare branches in the same way. But remember, some sun is usually needed for any flowering plant to actually bloom.
The BridgeofFlowershas a few hellebores, otherwise known as Christmas or Lenten roses because they bloom early in the spring. I always think of them as having blossoms in shades of green, but some bloom in shades of white, pink and deep red. On the Bridge they get a lot of sun which shows you how tolerant they are of differing conditions. They can survive in the shade, but they need some sun to bloom well.
Hellebores have deep roots and they do not need dividing the way most perennials do. This means they should be planted in a soil deeply dug and well enriched with compost and aged manure.
They are quite trouble free, and have a long bloom period. The dead flower stems should be cut back after blooming, and the dying foliage can be cut down in the late fall.
Last year I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museumfor the opening of the newly designed and planted Monk’s Garden. This small area is now a serene woodland underplanted with many hellebores as well as other groundcovers. Michael Van Valkenburg, the designer, said the place would be ‘crazy with hellebores” in the spring. I am planning to make another trip this spring and admire the craziness.
In the meantime I’m waiting for the snow to leave so I can see my epimedium shoots, and wonder where I might plant a hellebore.
Between the Rows March 29, 2014