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Dear Friend and Gardener

Backyard Berries for Delight


Raspberries beginning to ripen

If you have berries in your backyard you can have fresh blueberries on your cereal in the morning and raspberries on your shortcake or ice cream for your dinner dessert. As far as I am concerned these are the easiest backyard berries to plant and harvest, but I am considering adding thornless blackberries.

No matter what kind of berries you want, the first thing to do is choose your site and prepare your soil. All berries need at least 6 hours of full sun a day, and regular watering in well draining soil. Check your soil pH. Raspberries prefer soil 5.5 to 6.5 and blueberries need more acid soil, below 6.0.

I grew different varieties of red raspberries in Heath, and I have two rows of red raspberries and one row of golden raspberries in Greenfield. I think these are easy to grow and handle, and I confess that the older I get the easier I want my gardening tasks to be.

Preparing the soil means digging out all the weeds and testing the soil. Then you can incorporate compost and a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Those numbers refer to the ratios of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, the three major nutrients needed for good plant growth, in the fertilizer. All this should be done at least a week or two before planting.

I chose bare root Prelude raspberries which are supposed to begin bearing at the end of June, and Nova which begins fruiting a bit later and bears into early August. My neighbor gave me five gold raspberry roots which will bear even later. These berries do not have large roots, and should be planted only deeply enough to cover the root, and spaced at least 18 inches apart. They should be watered in thoroughly after planting and watered well, an inch a week over the first season.

My three rows of five raspberry plants each are arranged with a bit more than two feet between the rows which are mulched to keep down the weeds. Those rows will fill out with extra canes over time. Next year I plan to install T-trellises that will define and hold in the three rows, making harvesting easier. Canes should be cut out after bearing at the end of the season.

raspberry trellis

Raspberry trellis of a different sort to keep cane contained and controlled

Earlier this week I visited a friend’s garden, and took came away with a box of ripe red raspberries. Already a few berries have formed on my new bushes , but I do not expect any real harvest until next year. Fifteen bushes is not a lot of berries, and I don’t see myself boiling up jars of jam, but there will be enough berries to eat fresh, and enough to freeze for future treats.


Blueberries under netting

The blueberries we planted in Heath over 35 years ago are still bearing generously. I assumed the soil there was sufficiently acid and so it proved. The one mistake we made was not to consider how to protect the berries from the birds. Amazingly  birds are not very interested in raspberries. We did ultimately put up a kind of netted tunnel arrangement, but it was after years of makesift netting schemes. Here in Greenfield we have arranged four bushes in a square with a planned net tent to cover them.

In 2015 we planted our potted blueberry bushes, even easier than planting bare root plants, at the end of the South Border which we hoped was sufficiently dry. We were wrong. This year we moved the four bushes which seemed healthy but had not gained much growth. We put them into the North Border which is a higher raised bed. They have gained in growth, but still no berries. I am going to spread a little Espoma Holly-tone (4-3-1) fertilizer in that bed. Earlier I spread some around my new acid-loving rhododendrons because it includes a measure of sulfur which will lower the pH of my soil. It will do the same for the blueberries. We will think positively about blueberries in 2018.

Our new town garden only has room for two edible berries, but I want to add that we planted two elderberry bushes which delight the bees when they are in bloom, and the birds when they bear their berries in late summer. That is all we require of them. However, the small berries these easy care shrubs produce can be eaten by humans as well especially if you are interested in making elderberry syrup to stave off winter colds and the flu, or elderberry jam, or elderberry wine.

My neighbor's thornless blackberries

My neighbor’s thornless blackberries

When we were in Heath, the house came with a wickedly thorny blackberry patch, but a Greenfield neighbor has thornless blackberries supported by her back fence. They are delicious out of hand, but can be turned into wonderful jam or jelly. Nourse Farms offers five varieties that will bear fruit at the end of July and into September. These berries need a lot more room than other bramble fruits. They should be planted three to four feet apart, with three yards between the rows. They would benefit by being given the support of a larger T-trellis than is needed for regular raspberries. Or you can provide stabilizing wires to hold them against a sturdy fence as my neighbor has done. They need soil with a pH of 6.5-6.8.

We are fortunate to live where we have access to a wonderful berry farm like Nourse Farms in Whately where we can get a large selection of berry plants and a large selection of cultivars with good advice about planting and harvesting.

Between the Rows   July 15, 2017

Tranquility in the Shade

The Cathedral Walk

Cathedral Walk at Mt. Cuba Center

The Master Gardeners organized a wonderful garden tour to Philadelphia and environs.  Both Chanticleer and the Mt.CubaCenter gave us the shade of a woodland and I am so glad both were included.

The first garden we went to was Chanticleer. Once the Rosengarten estate, it opened as a public garden in 1993. I had expected lush, but neat beds of exotic flowers, but what I found at Chanticleer was a peaceful garden with large potted plants in the terraces around the house, a vegetable garden that donated its produce to the local food bank, and sunny “wildflower” hills with paths that led down to shady woodlands,. That shade was especially welcome on what was the hottest day of our tour.

Drinking fountain

Artistic drinking fountain

One of the design and functional elements in the garden that provided sustainability for visitors was the presence of drinking fountains! It has been a long time since I have seen drinking fountains in public spaces and to find drinking water on a blistering hot day was a blessing.

In addition we found beautiful handmade bridge railings and benches for moments to rest and enjoy the tranquility of the shade. Every sense was engaged, the whisper of the breezes in the trees, the play of light and shadow over the green plantings, and the quieting of busy thoughts.

Though the woodlands provided green shade there was color like the Indian pinks which were actually red with a touch of yellow, and buttery yellow corydalis.

On our second day we traveled to the Mt.Cuba Center where our group spent most of our time in a shady woodland. When the Copeland family bought this land it was always their intent “to be a place where people will learn to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats.” It was just a joy to wander through the woodland filled with rhododendrons beneath tall tulip poplars that had been limbed up so high that the effect was of strolling past pillars and down a cathedral aisle.

One of the trees had been trimmed with a “coronet cut” which means that instead of just slicing off the top of a damaged tree, the cut imitated the irregular way a tree might have been naturally damaged and broken. That natural cut causes a faster rotting process that attracts birds and insects, a kind of conservation that goes beyond just caring for plants on the ground.

As we walked along the light and shade would alter and shift providing enough sunlight to allow plants to thrive and bloom.

Oakleaf hydrangea blossom close up

Oakleaf hydrangea blossom close up

There were many native oakleaf hydrangeas in the woodland. Our guide pointed out that the ray flowers, what we think of as real flowers, are only intended to attract insects to the tiny ‘true’ flowers which is where the nectar and pollen are located. I am going to examine the hydrangeas I planted to see if these hybrids provide the same temptations to pollinators. I had wanted to buy at least one oakleaf hydrangea for our South Border, but I could not find one locally in 2015 – and I was too impatient to wait another season to plant.

Pondside primroses and ferns

Pondside primroses and ferns

One path led to a series of ponds that reflected the dappled sunlight and the surrounding trees. I was fascinated and inspired to see primroses, irises and ferns living on the banks of the ponds, as well as other unidentified water-loving plants. I began to think this was the answer to our question of how to handle the edges of the “dry stream bed” we are creating as part of our flood management plan.

Pitcher plants

Pitcher Plants

One pond included a boggy section that was planted with pitcher plants. Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants that lure insects that drown in its fluids. The insects decay  and the enzymes produced by the plant allow the plant to absorb all the nutrients. These are fascinating plants and always exciting to young children who visit the garden.

I was paying particular attention to low growing plants because our low maintenance garden strategy is to have large shrubs, low ground covers and a few flowering perennials and annuals to provide color. We saw large areas of pachysandra procumbens, a native plant also known as Allegheny spurge. It looks a lot like the pachysandra we see in so many gardens, and it produces small fragrant blossoms in the spring, but the leaves are not as shiny.

Green and gold, Chrysogonum virginiana, is only six inches tall but the small yellow flowers bloom in spring and fall. It likes moist shade, and is hardy in Greenfield. I have not seen this used locally, but I will be on the watch, and will be checking the offerings at Nasami Farm, the native plant nursery in Whately.

There was so much to see at these two gardens that included sunny and formal areas as well as the woodlands, but it was thought-provoking to consider that these two families were thinking of the importance of native plants and conservation, long before popular garden books, magazines, and even botanical gardens stressed the importance of these issues. Visiting these gardens give us examples of beauty that can inspire us as we consider changes in our own gardens. And there are always changes in our gardens.

Between the Rows   July 8, 2017

Bloom Day – July 15, 2017

South Hellstrip

South hellstrip

On this July Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day in Massachusettss my blooms are quite spread out, although I am looking forward to clusters of blooming daylilies very soon. On our divided hellstrip we have several daylilies. I  got lucky in this section with congenial wine-y colors on the bee balm, daylily and echinacea. There are daylilies in several places in  the garden, but I can guarantee I don’t remember many of their names.

North hellstrip

North hellstrip

In between the South and North Hellstrips is a strip of grass – designed to allow people onto the walkway to the house  without trampling the flowers. A very wise and useful design element. Both flowery sides include some of the same plants, and all have survived winter snows, plows, salt, and dogs quite well.



The crocosmia was the big surprise. I planted the bulbs last spring and it didn’t seem as though much had happened which I blamed on my own poor planting. I was in a hurry. I was sure, even if there was some life in the bulbs, it would have been done in by the winter – and yet here it is. I will take better care of it this winter with good mulching to protect it.


Firelight hydrangea

This Firelight hydrangea doesn’t look very fiery, but it is the first of my three hydrangeas to start blooming. Limelight and Angel Blush aren’t too far behind.



This honeysuckle, planted last year, is doing so well that I have been willing to prune it in the front, and I am a very nervous pruner.

Obedient plant  physostegia

Physostegia, obedient plant

Physostegia or obedient plant didn’t do much last year, but she has made a substantial clump this year.

The Fairy rose

The Fairy rose

The Fairy is the main rose at the moment although the red Knock Out has a few blooms. I do expect a second flush – or hope for that second flush – in August



My strategy for my new low maintenance, water tolerant, pollinator friendly garden has focused on large shrubs. This Buttonbush has more than tripled in size since it was planted in the summer of 2015. It is in  one of the wettest spots of the garden and is blissfully happy. Pollinators love the funny little flowers.

Other large shrubs include the three dogwoods, but they are no longer in bloom, but the two elderberry bushes are blooming. These blooms are not very exciting but the result will be berries for the birds, after the pollinators have done their work.

Other plants in bloom right now are: Veronica      Mountain mint    Blanket flower    Marguerite daisies    Blue Paradise phlox     Coreopsis.

Carol of May Dreams Gardens is the host of this wonderful – and useful meme. Click here and go see what else is blooming over our great land.

A.R.T.S. and Earth-Kind Rose Trials

Michael Schwartz photo 2Recently I met with Michael Schwartz at the Naugatuck Valley Community College in  Connecticut to visit the rose trial gardens of both Earth-Kind roses and the newer organization A.R.T.S. trials. The American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S.) was founded in 2012 when the All America Rose Selections (AARS) closed its doors. Schwartz is the trial director of both gardens, as well as the current president of the A.R.T.S. organization.

Earth-Kind roses have been around for a number of years under a program run by Texas A&M AgriLife and Extension. There are now Earth-Kind trial gardens in several locations in Texas and in several states as different as Maine, Mississippi and California. Canada, New Zealand and India also have Earth-Kind rose trials. The goal of all these sites is to identify the roses that thrive with low-input conditions which means pest and disease resistance and needing less irrigation and fertilizer.

Chamblee’s Rose Nursery has a number of Earth-Kind roses that are familiar to gardeners including The Fairy, Belinda’s Dream and Carefree Beauty.


American Rose Trials for Sustainability or A.R.T.S.

The  11 A.R.T.S. trial gardens across the country are working to provide objective, accurate and reliable information about the cultivars that are tested to identify the most disease and pest resistant, and the most garden worthy cultivars. No fungicides, insecticides or miticides are used in the trial gardens. Each garden also includes Carefree Beauty and the Original Knockout rose, to use as reference points for the growth and condition of the trial roses.

Schwartz gave me a tour of both test gardens. In the A.R.T.S. test garden I admired the roses planted this year, and roses planted last year. They showed a lot of growth in only two years. I also got to see Peachy Knock Out; Ice Cap, a double white shrub rose; and Double 10, a riotous orange tea rose, all of which won four regional awards, and earned the name Master Rose. These roses are the first A.R.T.S. winners and will come on the market in 2018. Watch for them.

Peachy Knock Out Rose

Peachy Knock Out Rose A.R.T.S. Master Rose for 2018

Those three roses are not the only A.R.T.S. roses that will be available next spring. Also watch for Farruca Courtyard, a compact climber with double red blossoms; BougainFeelYa, a compact spreading shrub with single red blossoms, and Apple Dapple a blush pink shrub rose, both from the Look Alikes series; and Petaluma a semi-double orange-pink shrub rose. These colors are all luscious!

The system for evaluating the test results has been a lot of work, but now that the results can be handled electronically the process is more thorough and much easier. In addition to quantifying disease resistance and such, rose marketers know that fragrance, mature growth habit, and length of season bloom are important. These qualities are taken into consideration as well. The final question Schwartz said “tries to account for the X-factor which is – do you like the rose? That takes a subjective evaluation, but it’s important. It’s hard to quantify beauty, but we tried.”

Earth Kind Trial roses

Earth Kind roses in NVCC Trial Gardens. I’d love either one, preferably both, of these roses

After visiting the A.R.T.S. trials Schwartz walked me across the campus, past the Biblical Garden, the Teaching Garden and a collection of some of  the maple tree varieties that are part of the college’s Tamarack Arboretum to view the Earth-Kind rose trials. This large trial garden is located on a steep terraced hillside, with each terrace devoted to one year’s roses. There is no way I was going to slide down the narrow hillside path to wander through this lush rose garden, but it was an amazing site in its entirety, even if it didn’t make for a great photo. It is clear that the Earth-Kind list of low maintenance roses will include new cultivars in the near future.

Schwartz and I spent some time in the Zinser Rose Garden talking about the college, its roses and the two year horticulture, and horticulture and landscape design programs. The rose garden is named after the beloved Professor Zinser who taught mathematics. Here we were surrounded by a number of hardy, easy care roses like the romantic Blushing Knock Out, Teasing Georgia, a striking yellow rose, and Nearly Wild, with pink/white single blossoms.

Schwartz told me that there have been a number of companies and rose gardens that have disappeared over the past few years. In this modern world too many gardeners were finding too many roses too much trouble to grow and fuss over. Roses had such a reputation for requiring a lot of work and chemicals that many gardeners never even tried to grow roses in their garden.

The Earth Kind and A.R.T.S. trials will be giving gardeners the information to choose beautiful and low maintenance roses to make up a successful rose garden.

Double 10 rose, available in 2018

Double 10, Master Rose, in A.R.T.S trial for 2018

Several years ago I met Peter Kukielski, then curator 0f the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden and he told me that he often had to assure gardeners whose roses died. He’d tell them “you are not the problem. It is the roses that are the problem.” He went on to write Roses Without Chemicals: 150 disease free varieties that will change the way you grow roses. Kukielski was the first president of the A.R.T.S trials and worked to identify more strong and beautiful roses for gardeners.

I wonder which one of the A.R.T.S. roses I will plant next year?

Between the Rows    July 1, 2017

Daylily Festival on Pickett Lane, Greenfield

Daylily Festival on Pickett Lane

Daylily Festival on Pickett Lane

It’s time for the Annual Daylily Festival at 23 Picket Lane in Greenfield. There will be vendors selling their arts and crafts as well. The garden opens at 9 am and the Festival will close at 4 pm.

Visitors can walk through the woods that Richard Willard has been clearing and weeding for several years, or you an take a buggy ride out to the daylily fields. Daylilies are marvelous plants, beautiful in many shades and colors and they not only tolerate drought, they are very happy in the wet. If you are building a rain garden daylilies will make it bloom. I know they will thrive in our flood plain. I’m including a very few of the daylilies I saw  today. Come on Saturday and decide which ones will brighten up your garden, and never cause you any trouble at all.


Daylily – blooms in July


Lavender daylily

Lavender daylily

Ruffled daylily

Ruffled daylily

Brilliant colors as well as pastels

Brilliant colors as well as pastels

Red and gold daylily

Red and gold daylily

Not all daylilies have the same petals.

Not all daylilies have the same petals.

Don’t forget! Saturday, July 8, 9-4 pm on Pickett Lane in Greenfield! Get an early bloomer, a mid-season bloomer and a late bloomer and have glory all summer long.

Wedding Disaster

During the Master Gardeners tour of beautiful gardens, we came upon a young couple  with their photographer taking historic photographs under the tranquil shade of old trees. The groom was handsome and  the  bridge was beautiful and wearing  a gorgeous wedding dress with delicate lace and a train. The photographer had endless directions for the happy couple – please kiss – now, bride, look demure – now look adoringly at each other. All was going swimmingly, although I was worried about the train being trailed along the rough path.

rosy wedding arch

Rosy wedding arch

While romantic photographs were being taken down the path, florists were putting  the finishing touches on a romantic rose bedecked arch, the perfect place for wedding vows to be taken.

Bridesmaids in waiting

Bored bridesmaids in waiting

The florists had work to do, but the bridesmaids could only wait to take  their part in the celebration.



The cooling zephyrs that had been so pleasant gave a whoosh – and disaster! Catastrophe! The startled bridesmaids fled, the florist got on the emergency phone and the rosy arch lay in pieces on the ground.

Disaster continues

Disaster continues

The pieces had to be picked up. Consultations with headquarters.

More photos - with the Bridal Party

More photos – with the Bridal Party

But in the face of disaster, what can the celebrants do?  Carry on, of course. The photographer has more orders to give, and the bride and groom more memories to make.  I can’t help thinking of the stories they will have on their anniversaries – and wonder whether they will have all florist charges forgiven.

Annuals for Bloom all Season

Blue Eyed osteospurmum
Blue-eyed osteospurmum on the Bridge of Flowers

Until I began working on the Bridge of Flowers committee some years ago, I never realized how important annuals are to having a really flowery garden all season. Those of us who have perennial gardens accept that most perennials are in bloom for only three weeks or so. With deadheading and pruning we might be able to get a second flush of bloom. With careful planning, we can create a design that will always have something in bloom, but there may not be a lot in bloom at any one moment.

I was talking to a friend recently and she said she had been planting lots of potted baby annuals and was off to see what else might still be available at the Farmer’s Coop. She felt she needed all the annuals she could get because she likes constant bloom in her garden, but she also likes to pick lots of colorful flowers for bouquets in her house and to give to her friends.

Annuals are in evidence everywhere in the spring as local merchants put out big pots of bright geraniums, or the greatly improved petunias that now come in wild colors and no longer need deadheading. My neighbors have been known to hang pots of graceful annuals. In my youth I admired hanging pots of begonias which I thought were beautiful and exotic. I never dared to think of trying to plant such a pot myself. Nowadays frames for hanging pots and fibrous mats for holding soil in the pot are abundant in every garden center. There are also new varieties like Proven Winner Nonstop Mocca begonias with lovely double blossoms that look so much like roses in an array of colors. You can plant them in hanging baskets or in pots for the patio.



In my own garden I often plant petunias in containers. Today’s petunias are not the petunias I picked in my grandmother’s garden. Modern petunias going by the name Wave Petunias and Supertunias can provide a full season of lush bloom in many colors. The difference between these two varieties is that the Wave type will spread and cover an area of soil densely and cut down on weeds. Supertunias work better in a hanging basket because they produce long vines.

Both Wave and Supertunias need to be fertilized every week or two. This is vital to keep them both blooming, and all potted plants need to be watered every day, and perhaps more often if there is a heat wave.

Who doesn’t love a daisy?  There are many daisy-like flowers. One of the most popular right now is the family of osteospurmums. A lot of name for a simple flower in some outrageous colors. They can be grown in the soil or in pots. Regular watering is essential for annuals even if they are planted in the ground.

Love lies bleeding

Love lies bleeding

Once I was visiting the stunning Wave Hill gardens overlooking the Hudson River in the Bronx, New York. Many flowers were familiar and beautiful, and suddenly I came upon this astonishing plant with deep red dripping blooms. I had never seen anything like it. It was a surprise, but when I located its name tag I was further astounded – love lies bleeding. It was so shockingly apt – and there in an elegant and romantic flower bed. It took me some years before I could think about including it in my own garden, but I do now appreciate its unusual beauty. Love lies bleeding is an amaranth and it has larger cousins that are edible grains.

Sweet peas

Sweet Peas

Sweet peas are not edible, but this is a lovely annual vine that climbs with many forms and colors. Renee’s Garden offers 27 sweet pea varieties that include windowbox sweet peas that are happy in a container.

Since the point of annuals is that they bloom into the fall I must mention dahlias. The Bridge of Flowers includes many dahlias in its plantings that bloom from summer until frost. There are any number of colors and flower forms but they are all gorgeous. Dahlias grow from a tuber that can be potted up and started in the spring, giving them a headstart for when they can be planted in the ground. For every tuber planted, the gardener will harvest four or five new tubers when frost has killed the plant for the year. They can be stored for planting the following spring.

A visit to the Bridge of Flowers will give you a sampling of the varieties available.



I love cosmos with its airy foliage and tender colors of pink and white. Even just a six pack of seedlings will ultimately take over a large space in the garden and make a substantial display, even when they are routinely snipped to make a dining table bouquet.

Another favorite of mine is the very familiar zinnia, brilliant and bold colors, or paler shades. Renee’s Garden even offers a bright white zinnia, and the Green Envy zinnia that is a stunning chartreuse color and a great addition to any bouquet. Florists are always looking for green flowers that can set off the bright colors in an arrangement.



Though annuals will only last for one season, to get the lush growth you are looking for they should be planted with as much care as any perennial. The planting bed should be prepared and enriched by adding compost. If you are just planting individual plants to fill a space it is good practice to add a scoop of compost to that planting hole. Regular watering is important when plants are getting started. All potted annuals will need daily watering, and periodic fertilizing to keep blooming well.

Between the Rows   June 24, 2017

Theme Gardens of All Kinds

Dumbarton Oaks Pebble Garden

Dumbarton Oaks Pebble Garden

In 1982 I bought Theme Gardens by Barbara Damrosch, a book that promised how to plan, plant, and grow 16 gloriously different gardens. My eye was immediately caught by the idea of a garden for old roses.

In the spring of 1982 we were embarking on only our third year in Heath where we had a big lawn in front of the house and planted a big vegetable garden. I had never given much thought to flowers except that I had been consumed by a desire for a few old fashioned roses.

During our first Heath spring I planted Passionate Nymph’s Thigh in front of the house. I was entranced by its name, but the French called it Cuisse de Nymphe and the more staid British called it Maiden’s Blush. The Passionate Nymph is a perfect Alba rose, blushing pink with a delicious perfume and blue grey foliage. She also has amazing vigor and stamina which kept her blooming after 35 harsh Heath winters.

Theme Gardens inspired me to think about a whole rose garden – an ambitious thought since I was working and my time and my rose budget were limited. A rose garden holding dozens of roses was not in the cards, but I began planting. The Rose Walk  did eventually have more than 60 roses. I was always an organic gardener and my choices were mostly old roses because they tended to be hardy and disease resistant. Unfortunately not Japanese beetle resistant, but I soon came close to conquering that problem with applications of milky spore disease.

Passionate Nymph's Thigh

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh

Damrosch designed many other gardens with different themes: a colonial garden, a secret garden, a Zen garden, and a butterfly garden which is currently enjoying a new vogue. She was not the first to think of theme gardens. Gardeners often talk about their herb gardens, or their white gardens or some other featured design element.

Gardeners come at these theme gardens from different angles. C.L. Fornari thinks gardens are for socializing as well as for private enjoyment. She wrote The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining.  The first necessity for such a garden is a place for a table and chairs. The evening entertainment may certainly include a stroll through the garden, drink in hand, but for myself, at the end of the day I am also looking forward to a comfortable chair and a view of the garden with no desire to jump up and pull a few more weeds.

Fornari talks about the elements of that enjoyment from fragrant plants like honeysuckle vines and daphne shrubs. She particularly likes Daphne x translantica ‘Summer Ice’ that has variegated foliage and blooms through the summer and into the fall.

As the shadows deepen the gardener will find delight with white plants that glow in the dark. We have a dappled willow in our new garden and it is always lovely, but especially in the evening when the light is low and the swath of pale foliage (this is a big shrub) lights up its corner. Smaller white flowers include white petunias, white David phlox, the stunning big hardy white hibiscus ‘Blue River II’ as well as the moonflower vine. Even the humble zinnia comes in shades of white.

Nowadays it is also easy to add real light to the evening garden through the magic of solar lamps and lanterns.

No one would talk about a cocktail garden without providing recipes for drinks, alcoholic or not, and Fornari does not fail us.

Mount Vernon Lower Garden

Mount Vernon Lower Garden

Another way of thinking of theme gardens is to think of “garden rooms.” Garden rooms usually have a theme but they are also usually separated from each other by real walls, hedges or shrubbery. Recently, during a trip to Washington, D.C., we visited George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, with its house and gardens overlooking the Potomac River. Martha Washington was in charge of the Lower Garden, a large garden that produced bountiful harvests for all who lived on the estate. The Upper Garden was a pleasure garden that included artistically trimmed boxwood hedges in a fleur de lis design, an homage to General Lafayette, who was such a help during the Revolution. Yet, even here there were fruit trees and vegetables planted behind the floriferous borders around each garden.

The Botanical Garden, a very small garden, is said to have been especially dear to Washington because here he could try out new seeds, bulbs and cuttings that governments and friends sent him and where he could perform  his own horticultural experiments.

We also visited a more modern garden made up of garden rooms. Robert Woods Bliss, a wealthy and important American diplomat, and his wife Mildred, bought Dumbarton  Oaks in 1920 and ultimately gave it to Harvard University. They created many rooms including a Rose Garden, a Kitchen Garden, a Forsythia Dell, the Lilac Circle and others. I was particularly taken by the Pebble Garden.

The term PebbleGarden describes very little about this garden which is more than a space holding plants. The so-called pebbles are the stones that turn the large courtyard into a mosaic, a work of art. The stone walls are covered with wisteria and provide shady spaces for sitting, admiring the garden and listening to the fountain at the northern end of the garden.

My theme is mostly water tolerant plants. Send me an email at commonweeder@gmail.com and tell me about your theme garden.

Between the Rows   June 17, 2017


Bee Fest Awards Excellent Pollinator Gardens

Bee Spaces plaque

Bee Spaces plaque

The world needs more pollinator gardens. The Bee Fest organized by the Second Congregational Church and the Franklin County Bee Keepers Association last week included talks by bee experts Lynn-Adler  and Susannah Lerman, researchers at the University of Massachusetts and Kim Flottum the editor of Bee Culture Magazine. All gave us information about problems facing pollinators and how we can help.

Susannah Lerman told us about her research which showed that mowing a non-herbicide/pesticide and un-fertilized lawn every two weeks generated 64 varieties of pollinator plants (that some would have called weeds) and 111 pollinators including honeybees and many native bees. Her research was unanimously acclaimed by all those who have lawns to mow!

Most of us have heard about Colony Collapse Disorder which causes a whole hive to die, but the cause has been unclear. Lynn Adler has been doing research on the bee’s digestive gut. It turns out that bees have some skill in diagnosing some of their ailments and know how to medicate themselves.

She knew that many plants have been used medicinally over the centuries. She thought that those biological compounds, called secondary metabolites, might be an important medicine for bees. Her research showed that sunflower pollen and sunflower honey can both help bees suffering from Nosema ceranae, a pathogen that can kill bees in little more than a week. It has been suggested that this pathogen has been responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder that mysteriously kills whole bee hives. Where bumblebees and honey bees have access to sunflowers they tend to be much healthier.

Honeybees have an advantage over bumblebees in fighting this disease. Honeybees live in community. Their hive can live through many generations of bees. They store a good stock of honey and pollen to keep everyone fed and well. Adler said honeybees are able to diagnose disease and seem to keep a pharmacy so whenever there is illness they have the wherewithal to treat it.

Bumblebees do not overwinter together. After mating in the fall the queen bumblebee bee eats as much as she can to build up fat that will carry her through her winter hibernation in the ground. When spring arrives she leaves her home every day to feed on nectar and gather strength. At first she does everything alone, gathering nectar and pollen, laying eggs and raising the first brood. After that she will have the support of those first bees while she devotes herself to egg laying.



I never considered sunflowers great pollinator plants. I usually think of the great Mammoth sunflowers making seeds for snacks, but a browse though any catalog will list any number of sunflowers. They have different sizes and different colors – and some of them do not make pollen. Hybridizers have created sunflowers that do not make pollen which looks messy when it falls on a tablecloth. If you want to plant sunflowers for bees be sure to buy pollen bearing varieties.

Kim Flottum spoke about the loss of pollinator habitat which has been decreasing over the years. He told us ways that habitat can be increased. One idea taking hold in the Midwest cornfields is planting a border of pollinator plants all around cornfields. Corn does not need pollinators, but if there are pollinator plant borders, bees will come and the ecosystems will be healthier.

He also reported that two million bee hives are needed to pollinate almond orchards in California but there is nothing else for the bees to eat. Almond farmers have learned the benefit of planting pollinator plants in and around their orchards. The trees are pollinated better when the bees have additional food sources.

The National Wildlife Federation created the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge to add plants that will support the decimated populations of Monarch butterflies. They plant milkweeds in public parks, civic gathering place and along the highways.

Flottum talked about how easy it is to plant pollinator plants along the highways, which then would not need to be mowed. A town could save money while being more beautiful, and a supporter of birds and bees.

Flottum left us with a few words “Plant a flower, feed a bee. Make the world a better place.”

Deval Patrick, our former governor, then told a few stories about his own beekeeping practice, but he was there to help honor those who are already feeding the bees and making the world a better place. The Franklin County Beekeeper’s Association instituted the Bee Spaces Award this year, to be given to excellent pollinator gardens.

The first Annual Bee Spaces awards were presented to ErvingElementary School for its pollinator garden, Laughing Dog Farm in Gill, the Bridge of Flowers in ShelburneFalls and the University of Massachusetts for its two pollinator gardens.

Deval Patrick presenting  and Carol DeLorenzo accepting the Award

Deval Patrick presenting and Carol DeLorenzo accepting the Award for the Bridge of Flowers

If you have a garden supportive of pollinators, or want to add pollinator plants to your garden, you might win one of next year’s Bee Spaces awards. There are many books available at the library with lists of good pollinator plants including 100 Plants to Feed the Bees published by the Xerces Society, or you can go online to many sites including the New England Wildflower Society, newenglandwild.org. You can start collecting photos so you can apply to be a winner next spring. More information will be available soon.

Between the Rows   June 10, 2017

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – June 15, 2017

OSO Easy Paprika rose

OSO Easy Paprika rose

On this June Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day the rose have burst into bloom. It has been a cold and wet spring, but  our last couple of days have been in the 90s. The weather gods show just how unpredictable they can be. For me, this spring is is the first really floriferous June we have had.  All the roses but one are new plants and they are really showing off.

Drift rose - Peach

Drift Rose – Peach

This peach Drift rose blooms right next to Paprika. Both of them are low growing landscape roses and require very little care.

Purple Rain - Kordes rose

Purple Rain – a Kordes rose

Kordes started hybridizing disease resistant roses over 30 years ago. No herbicides needed. This is another low growing rose.

Folksinger rose

Folksinger – Griffith Buck rose

I had a Folksinger rose up in  Heath, but it never looked this good.

Polar Express rose

Polar Express – another Kordes rose

This is an elegant icy  white rose. I love all the Kordes roses.

Knockout Red

Knockout Red rose

Knockout Red supplies  the red red rose, that’s newly sprung in June.

Alchemyst rose

Alchemyst Rose

By the time you are looking at all these roses I am sure that Fantin-Latour,and  Lion’s Fairy Tale will also be in full bloom.  I think I have to wait a little longer for The Fairy and Purington Pink to bloom. But of course, there are other bloomers in June.

Alchemyst  rose

Alchemyst rose

I’m adding this closeup because the rose is so lovely – and just now in full bloom.

White delphinium

White delphinium

This delphinium has already lost one blooming stem in a storm, but it looked very pretty on our dinner table.

Japanese primroses

Japanese primroses

It is amazing that the Japanese primroses are still showing bloom – but it has been very wet.

Siberian white iris

Siberian white iris

I have three lovely clumps of white Siberians. And friends waiting for a piece of this dependable beauty.

Blue siberian iris

Blue Siberian iris

I have three big clumps of blue Siberians, but these are coming up in a clump of weeds in the North Border. They will  not give up. Of course, this is another very wet spot.

Thank you Carol for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Visit May Dreams Gardens and see what else is blooming over our great land.