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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Drainage Problems and Happy Irises

The day after we planted all our water tolerant shrubs Greenfield was inundated by torrential rains. I was told over three inches of rain fell the afternoon and evening of July 7. We knew that our Greenfield house had a wet backyard and after planting nine shrubs we were fully aware of the heavy clay soil. However we did not expect several inches of standing water in the back half of the yard.

Fortunately, our excellent plumber, Scott Zilinski, helped us out by helping to design and dig a drainage trench near the old sheds. The yard looks flat, but in fact there are subtle dips and hollows which were identifiable by looking at the worst areas of wet. The drainage trench may be extended in the corner next to our neighbor’s driveway.

It was also clear to see that the area next to the northern fence was equally under water. We are now considering the possibility of a rain garden in that area to catch heavy rainfall, and rain runoff. We now realize that our lot is slightly lower than the two lots next to us, and that those two pieces of property have a lot of paving causing some runoff onto our lot.

It was while attending events and programs at the Conway School of Design that I first learned about the importance of permeable surfaces that would allow rain to be absorbed and kept on site. It was also about that time that our son in Cambridge, Massachusetts told us that the city had regulations about how much of a lot could be covered, and how much had to be given to permeable surfaces. Cambridge’s concern was the capacity of their storm sewers. I now have a whole new appreciation of that concern and the importance of permeable surfaces.

Carrying out our Home Outside design plan has come to a brief halt while we consider various options to improving our drainage.

One new drainage idea surfaced when I joined a Greenfield Garden Club tour of Jono Neiger’s forest garden. Neiger is one of the founders of the Regenerative Design Group in Greenfield. Their mission is not only to create sustainable landscapes, but to make them better, to regenerate them. One of the topics that came up as we walked through the different sections of Neiger’s garden was hugelkulture (hoo-gel culture) which makes use of logs and woodland debris to improve the soil. There are many aspects of hugelkuture but one in particular caught my attention.

When I explained our situation to Neiger he said one could dig a trench, two feet wide and three feet deep and then fill it with logs and other compostable debris, sod and leaves and such like and top it with a layer of soil. The wood will slowly compost, adding nutrients and soaking up water, improving the soil. Not a quick fix, but fascinating nonetheless. Our soil could use improvement.

Beardless Irises

Beardless Irises

While we think about next steps I have been reading Beardless Irises: A Plant for Every Garden Situation by Keven C. Vaughn and published by Schiffer. My own experience with beardless irises is with Siberian irises which are one of the most beautiful and easy care flowers in the world, and Japanese irises which often have a flatter flower and are truly spectacular. I never knew that beardless irises ranged from the sweet and petite, to the tall and stunning spurias.

I never knew anything about Pacific coast native irises which we cannot really grow in our area because of the winters, but amazingly Louisiana irises, and spuria irises are definite possibilities. I will never take the iris family for granted again.

We have purple and white Siberian irises in Heath and I always planned to bring some of them down to Greenfield. They are not only beautiful they don’t mind being wet. In fact, one gorgeous clump of deep purple/blue Siberians somehow jumped into a swale in our field where they have lived very happily for several years.

A few years ago I bought a beautiful white Japanese iris from Andrew Wheeler at Foxbrook Iris Farm in Colrain. He told me that Japanese iris didn’t need to be growing in a wet site, but they did need to be planted where they could be watered regularly. I planted it in front of the house where there is excellent drainage, and where I do keep it watered, but I am hoping that it will be even happier when it is moved to Greenfield.

Spurias love water so much that Vaughn suggests taking a plastic kiddie pool, with holes cut in the bottom, and sinking it into the ground, then filling it with good soil for a planting site. Then that area can be watered heavily without causing a problem for surrounding plants which might not need quite so much water. Spurias are tall ranging from three to five feet although we are warned that in our colder climate they may be slightly shorter. In any event they promise to be a dramatic planting, the clump growing larger every year, but not demanding to be divided.

Vaughn is a scholar, hybridizer and has a PhD in plant genetics. He gives us common gardeners the information about whether a particular type of iris will thrive in our climate, as well as the usual cultural info about soil, fertilizer and sun requirements, but the book is also rich in the stories of hybridizers and their work. If you like to know how a stunning plant came to be, or even how to create your own hybrids, this is the book for you. The many beautiful color photographs showing the full range of color have inspired me. Expect more beardless irises in my garden.

Between the Rows   July 25, 2015

If you want to play around with your own garden designs on the free Home Outside Palette app for smart phones and tablets click here.

Gilmour Hose Meets the Test

Gilmour Hose

Gray Gilmour hose – unkinked

I don’t usually get garden equipment to test, but I was happy that the Gilmour Hose Company thought of me as a tester. Gilmour sent me their gray Flexogen Premium Duty hose, guaranteed not to kink.

We have been using the hose all summer at the Greenfield house, dragging it around the garden, around the house out to  the hellstrip to water all the new plantings. While there have been a couple of heavy rains there have been long spells of hot, dry weather and the hose has gotten heavy use. I confess that when I have bought hoses in the past I have not  thought about construction statistics, just choosing by what looked sturdy, and sometimes just because it was very inexpensive . That last is nearly always a bad idea.  The Gilmour hose, made in the USA of recycled material, has eight layers of spiral-wrap and knit-wrap nylon that makes it strong but very flexible. There is also a layer of oxygen infused foam to increase this flexibility. The result of this construction is a hose that is flexible but not kinkable. My old orange hose above has been quite a good hose, but it definitely kinks up which means walking back along the hose to find the kink and untangle it – an irritation and time waster.

It never ceases to amaze me how wound up the hose gets when I am moving it around the garden – see unstaged photo above – but the Gilmour hose has lived up to its PR. The only thing I would say is that it isn’t as lightweight as I thought it would be. Still, I feel about this hose the way I did when we bought a cast iron Christmas tree stand,  ”the last Christmas tree stand you’ll ever need.” I don’t think I will ever need to replace the Gilmour hose. Indeed it is backed by a lifetime warantee. Durability is in the construction of the hose, and in the crush resistant brass couplings.

The hose came with a heavy duty spray nozzle that is controlled just by twisting its ‘nose’ changing the flow from a powerful stream to a gentle mist.   I don’t know the proper name for the final part of the nozzle. Gilmour makes a range of sturdy watering products including soaker hoses, timers, and sprinklers.

Home Outside Plan for Pat and Henry

My husband Henry and I stood outside the back of our new Greenfield house. We each clutched a different custom garden design prepared for us by Home Outside, Julie Moir Messervy’s newest service to help homeowners create the garden they had always dreamed of. We looked at each other, we looked at the designs, and we looked at the blank green space that was our back yard.

Palette Plan #1

Palette Plan #1

Both Home Outside plans used the information I had sent them. We answered questions, filling out a form with the attributes (driveway, sheds, wet spot in lawn, etc.) of the Greenfield lot, and all that we wanted to have. We also explained what projects we had already begun, the planting of the hellstrip and the south shrub and rose border. I mentioned wanting a very small vegetable garden, a blueberry patch, a raspberry patch and an umbrella clothesline that would be at the back of the lot near the current sheds. This may have been a mistake. I should have let the designers have free rein.

Palette Plan #2

Palette Plan #2

How were we going to translate the graphics on the page into plants in the ground? Where should we start? It seemed impossible. I started to get the giggles. Henry sighed and said we had to take some measurements. The idea of measurements always strikes terror in my heart, but we had had some trouble understanding the scale given on the designs so there was no help for it.

We had already planted a clump of river birch and a weeping cherry, so we used them as markers, measuring the space from the side boundries of the lot to each of them, the distance between them, and the distances to the back of the lot. That was information. Now what?

While we had waited for the custom design to arrive in my email, my husband revealed that in fact, he had an idea or two. This was a surprise to me. He usually is content to be the muscle. He thought the clotheseline should be closer to the house and that we shouldn’t build our plan around sheds that would ‘soon’ be replaced with a better shed.

When the first Home Outside plan arrived I just loved it, even though some of it would have to be changed because of our own new plan about the clothesline. Then the second plan arrived and I loved it even more because it had more curving paths than the first and I really wanted curving paths.

We pulled our socks up and decided to begin with the curving paths that were common to both plans. One would amble along the north side of the lot, and the another on the south side. Henry waved his hands to indicate where he saw the paths going. I asked for clarifications. He waved his hands some more. I said I needed concrete markers to understand what he had in mind.

We got out stakes and string and marked the north border path, but not before a discussion on how wide a path should be, three feet or four? I decreed four feet because a path is for wandering with a companion.

Then we marked the southern curving path using the river birch which would be at the path entry, and stakes, but I kept getting confused, partly because of the big pile of compost that was impinging on this space. “The new river birch will be on the left side, right?” I asked. “No, it will be on the right side,” Henry replied. I still didn’t understand and it took more stakes and string before I was clear.

I finally walked the marked path. “Are we both on the same page?” Henry asked. “Yes!”

“How did that happen?” Henry laughed. He is very patient with me and my difficulty dealing with spatial relationships.

With the outer paths generally established, we could think about other paths through the yard which would be filled with large native shrubs that loved water. We knew when we bought the house that the backyard was very wet, but felt this was no great impediment.

I had already bought a selection of water loving native plants. They had been patiently waiting for planting day. We planted a dappled willow on one side of the north path where it was especially wet. Fifteen feet further west we planted a button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) which is so wet tolerant it can be planted in swamps and river margins. Both grow tall and wide. As we were running out of time that day, we set other shrubs in possible places to give us an idea of space required for each. We set the two potted potted winterberries on the opposite side of the willow path., as well as an elderberry.

In the potential bed headed by the weeping cherry we placed the potted clethera (sweet pepperbush), Aronia (chokeberry), and a yellow twig dogwood. The final pottedplant, a fothergilla like the one on the Bridge of Flowers, was placed just beyond the river birch.

Newly planted river birch and fothergilla (L) then weeping cherry , aronia, clethera (center0, then winterberries and dappled willow and button bush

Newly planted river birch and fothergilla (L) then weeping cherry , aronia, clethera (center0, then winterberries and dappled willow and button bush

Then we ran upstairs to look out the back bedroom window to see how it looked.  If we used our imaginations, we could almost see the beds forming, not exactly as pictured on the plan, but close enough for our satisfaction.

The next day we put all those shrubs in the ground, and heaved a sigh of happy achievement.

The next day came the torrential rains and we got a not very welcome surprise. Keep reading next week.

Between the Rows   July 18, 2015

If you want to play around with garden design for your own garden on the free Home Outside Palette app click here.

 

The Shrub and Rose Border Begins in Greenfield

Shrub border begins

Shrub and rose border  begins

I first became acquainted with Julie Moir Messervy through her book The Inward Garden: Creating a space of beauty and meaning. This beautiful book approaches garden design through seven archetypes, the cave the prairie, the mountain, the sea etc., and the way that a garden makes you feel. It is this attention to the mood I might want in my garden that interested me.

That attention to mood might have begun when as a graduate student she spent a year and a half in Japan and fell in love with Japanese gardens while working with a master. She later wrote Tenshin-in about the renovation of the Japanese garden at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts that she worked on. The quiet mood of a Japanese garden is one that has always appealed to me and I felt that Messervy and I were of one mind.

I met her in the flesh in 2009 when she came to South Deerfield to speak at the Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium. She had finished her book Home Outside: Creating the landscape you love and came to encourage us as we worked to create a domestic landscape that worked functionally, and that made us happy in that space. I say all this so you will understand how pleased I was when her design business asked me if I would test her new free app, Home Outside Palette which allows you to play with design elements in your yard/garden on your phone or tablet. For $14.95 extra you can fill the app with extra design capabilities. But beyond that they asked if I would use their custom design service Home Outside and write about the experience.

When this offer came we had just closed on our house in Greenfield. The house has a hellstrip and a tiny front yard, a sunny southern side yard and a mostly blank rectangular back yard that was all grass. I had been looking at that blank slate of a yard and saw infinite possibilities and so many decisions waiting to be made. Needless to say I accepted the offer.

Home Outside design service begins with a questionnaire about your style preferences – modern, curvy, symmetrical; what you like to do in your garden; description of the space; and finally a Wish List, as long as you want, of everything you wish to have in your garden. That questionnaire gets e-mailed along with a Google Map image of your house and lot.

While we waited for the design to arrive my husband and I got to work on the parts of the garden that were already planned. I have written about our hellstrip which is now almost completed. Time to set to work on the southern shrub and rose border.

cardboard - first layer for lasagna

cardboard – first layer for lasagna

The south border of our lot abuts the driveway of my new neighbor. Our plan was to create a shrub border that would eventually provide a prettier view than a strip of blacktop, as well as plenty of bloom. In front of large shrubs like hydrangea I wanted roses, with particular attention to modern, disease free roses. It was great fun to go off and buy enough shrubs and roses to fill a 40 foot long border. I have hydrangeas in Heath and I now have Limelight, Firelight, and Angel’s Blush in Greenfield. I bought Yankee Doodle and Beauty of Moscow lilacs, Korean spice viburnam and viburnam trilobum or highbush cranberry. The lilacs are about the smallest bushes of this array.

In front of the shrubs I planted roses: Zaide, Polar Express, Thomas Affleck, Folksinger, Lion Fairy Tale, The Fairy, Purple Rain and Knock Out Red. In between are perennials and groundcovers from Heath.

On June 3 we started to work on the shrub and rose border. Instead of trying to dig up all that sod we once again used the lasagna method of planting. My husband weed-whacked the grass down to soil level and then we planted the shrubs, digging large holes and amending the removed soil with a good helping of compost before returning it to the hole. After each shrub was in the ground we watered them well.

Compost and loam on cardboard

Compost and loam on cardboard

We usually planted at least two shrubs at a time, because the next step was covering the soil with a good layer of cardboard, making sure to overlap pieces so that no soil was showing. Then I watered the cardboard, getting it as soaked as possible. On top of the cardboard we spread about three inches of compost, and then topped that with another three inches of compost-enriched loam.

All the shrubs, including the roses are planted in the ground, but most of the perennials, groundcovers and annuals are planted in the compost and loam on top of the cardboard. Over time the cardboard will rot away, becoming compost itself, and all plants will be growing in improved soil. We have been fortunate to have had so much rain which meant that we didn’t have to do a lot of watering.

As of July 6th the shrub border is essentially finished although we haven’t yet created a real edge. Right now we just have raggedy bits of cardboard sticking out. An edge will come soon, along with a layer of mulch. All that bare soil cannot be left to welcome the weed seeds in the air.

First shrubs and roses in south border

First Shrubs and Roses in South border  July 6, 2015

Just as we were finishing we received our Home Outside plans for the backyard! The powers that be decided to send us two different custom plans. We could choose one or the other or combine them to our hearts content.

Next week I’ll reveal the landscape designs – and what we have made of them.

Between the Rows   July 11, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 2015

Angel Blush Hydrangea

Angel Blush Hydrangea

On this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day I am celebrating blooms in two gardens, although I dearly hope it will not be too long before I am once again tending a single, small garden. In Greenfield the hydrangeas in the Shrub and Rose border are beginning to bloom even though they were planted only a month ago. Angel Blush is joined by Limelight and Firelight. These hydrangeas will form a beautiful privacy fence.

Button Bush

Buttonbush

Buttonbush was only planted two weeks ago, but once in the very wet ground it finally burst into bloom. It has been waiting in its pot for over a month.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

In Heath the Thomas Affleck rose continues to endure the rain, and all the other oddities of this year’s weather. Needless to say, another Thomas Affleck has been planted in Greenfield, but not permitted to bloom this year.

Purington rambler

Purington rambler

It has not been a great year for many of the rose bushes, but the Purington rambler hasn’t minded the bitter winter, or the undependable spring and summer. I wish someone could tell me how to properly weed such a vicious plant. I suppose putting it up on a fence might help instead of letting it tumble on the Rose bank.

The Fairy rose

The Fairy rose

Only a very few rose blossoms elsewhere in the garden, but I can always count on the Fairy even though she is a bit more petite this year.

Achillea Terra Cotta

Achillea Terra Cotta and yellow loossestrife

I am taking bits of the the various Achilleas and the old yellow loosestrife down to the new Greenfield garden.

Coneflowers

Coneflowers

The coneflowers are blooming in front of the pink cosmos which you can’t see, but they are very pretty together.

Daylily bank

Daylily Bank

Daylilies never mind any kind of difficult weather and this is their season.

Daylilies

Daylilies

Some of these daylilies are making their way down to the Greenfield garden.

Mothlight hydrangea

Mothlight hydrangea

The Mothlight hydrangea in Heath is about 12 years old and has never been so exuberant. Will the Greenfield hydrangeas look like this? Limelight and Pinky Winky are also just coming into bloom.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day which gives us all a chance to share our gardens, and see what is blooming all over this great land. Click here for more blooms.

Roadside attraction – chicory and daylilies

common daylily and chicory

Roadside attraction – daylilies and chicory

One traditional roadside attraction is summer is chicory (Cichorium intybus) with sky blue flowers, sharing space here with the  common orange daylily. Stunning combo.

roadside chicory

Roadside chicory

Of course, chicory is a pretty stunning roadside attraction all by itself. Mother Nature is no slouch when she plants a garden for the public.

Down Memory Lane at the End of the Road

View from the Bedroom Window

View from the Bedroom Window in June

As I begin planting new gardens in Greenfield, I have been reminiscing about the adventures we’ve had with gardens at the End of the Road. When we moved here in November of 1979 I must confess to having very little garden experience. In 1972-3 I had a very tiny vegetable garden at my Grinnell Street House. Then we moved to North Berwick, Maine and in the spring of 1975 I planted a large vegetable garden there.

            I was in a manic mood in 1975. I was unhappily teaching 6th grade and found great pleasure in the garden, the chicks we bought and the two piglets named Supper and Dinner. The garden was too big and my skills were minimal. Our old neighbor, Mr. Leslie, once chatted with my husband while I planted carrots. “I never saw anyone broadcast carrot seed,” he said with amazement. Henry just shook his head.

            A change in plans put an end to that garden before the harvest and we moved to New York City, where Henry’s ancestral apartment did have a shady backyard garden. No vegetables, and I paid very little attention to it

            The move to Heath filled me with big plans and dreams for a vegetable garden, a root cellar, and canning marathons. In the spring of 1980 we hired Louis Pazmino to come over with his tractor to come and plow up a very big vegetable garden. It only took that one year of picking potato bugs and watching half the garden become enveloped in weeds for me to be ready to rethink the plan.  Henry shook his head, and I agreed a smaller garden would be wise.

            I also began working at GreenfieldCommunity College where I met our famous neighbor Elsa Bakalar, perennial gardener extraordinaire. I, who had never thought about flowers beyond marigolds, zinnias, and The Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose, suddenly started planning and planting a perennial border at the edge of the big front lawn. I filled it with strong growers like plume poppy and feverfew from Elsa’s garden and local plant swaps. Henry shook his head while he watched me try to keep up with weeding the perennial border, the vegetable garden and the beginnings of the Rose Walk.

By the time we left for our year in Beijing in 1989 the border had grown to 90 x 8 feet.     When we returned to Heath the spring of 1990 the perennial border was officially lost. As gardeners we learn that a garden is a delicate ephemeral thing. It is always changing, and cannot survive a year of neglect. We worked to revive the vegetable garden, and plant more rose bushes and then took a break to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends and barbecue. The day was enervating, very hot, still and humid. We were happy to fall into our bed that night.

            At 2 in the morning a violent thunderstorm woke us and the smell of smoke moved us into action. Lightning had struck the big old barn across from the house and was burning. Lightning had also struck the telephone pole and knocked out the phone. Henry drove down to our neighbor, leaning on the horn all the way, to call the fire department.

            The volunteer firemen immediately sprayed the house which was already beginning to smoke. It took the rest of the night to put the fire out, but the house was saved. Nearby trees, and roses were singed but they survived. We were left with three stone barn foundation walls.

            The perennial border was gone, but now we had the beginnings of a SunkenGarden which was never a part of any plan. With the help of tons of autumn leaves we turned that space into a vegetable garden filled with cold compost leaf beds according to the Larry Leitner method. In 1994 our daughter was married in front of the by-then more familiar raised beds for vegetables.

            I planted David Austin Roses along the north wall of the Sunken Garden, forgetting that the plow dumped a lot of snow over the edge of the Garden. The roses were too tender and did not survive two Heath winters, or the plowed snow. The rest of the garden, even with raised beds proved to be too wet for vegetables. Only the Sargent crab, planted in the middle of the space survives.

            In 1991, while the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings provided conversation over the hammers and beams, our family gathering spent the Columbus Day weekend working on a new shed. That shed provided space for a rose filled Shed Bed.

Shed and Rose Bed

Shed and Rose Bed

 

            It was also at that year (I think) that I went on a Franklin Land Trust garden tour and visited Walt Cudnohufsky’s garden where I was taken with is use of native plants, but especially by a little grove of trees that casually divided a lawn. While our Lawn Beds do not resemble Cudnohufsky’s grove, it was the inspiration for the Lawn Beds which define spaces in our lawn, and they remain successful elements in our landscape.

            There have been other changes. Troubles with my hip led to a very tiny vegetable garden, the building of the Cottage Ornee and friendship with Jerry Sternstein, rhododendron expert, led to rhododendron plantings. The building of the arbor in front of the house led to an extended Herb Bed.

Cottage Ornee and Rhodies

Cottage Ornee and rhodies

            In our 35 years here at the End of the Road, one thing has followed another. There was never a master plan. My husband has often watched me, and shaken his head, but he is always willing to fall in with the latest plan.

            Now we are in the process of planting a new garden, one that is more limited in scope. And we are older, no longer looking ahead at what seems like endless years ahead of us. This time we thought we should have a master plan. Our good fortune is that, by chance, I was given the opportunity to ‘test’ noted landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy’s new Home Outside Palette App for IOS and Android phones and tablets. In addition, they asked me to use and review their other services which included two custom designs. The timing was perfect and I agreed.

            Next week I will start talking about our experiences with the Home Outside Palette.

Between the Rows   July 4, 2015

Daylilies on the Bank and on Pickett Lane

Daylily Bank in Heath

Daylily bank in Heath

The Daylily Bank in Heath is coming into bloom. This solution to eliminating lawn mowing on the  steep bank has been very successful. It was planted over the course of three years with daylilies mostly in shades of yellow and pink.

Yellow daylily

Yellow daylily

The proper name for daylilies is Hemerocallis or ‘Beautiful for a day.’  I think this sunny yellow daylily is as beautiful as the day.

Pink daylily

Pink daylily

I have taken a  couple of daylilies down to the new house in Greenfield, but I am planning to be at the Daylily and Arts Festival on Saturday, July 11 between 9 am – 4 pm at 23 Pickett Lane. Lots of daylilies in bloom, and lots of daylilies to buy! Other vendors will be on site, too. Richard Willard has moved his Silver Gardens business to Pickett lane. Can’t wait to see his new site, and decide which daylilies  are crying to be planted in my new garden.

Weeds – An Appreciation

Purple vetch

Purple vetch

I’ve learned a lot about weeds over the decades, but I was never given the ominous warning “one year of seed, seven years of weed” until last year. I think every novice gardener should be given a t-shirt with this bit of wisdom. On the other hand that bit of wisdom might be too discouraging for a beginner.

The truth is that if you are a gardener, you will have weeds. All kinds of weeds, and all are fascinating in their own right.

Bedstraw

Bedstraw, Galium

Today I was trying to weed around the Rose Walk. The weeds here are very familiar to me. First there is the prettiest weed, galium or bedstraw. When I first noticed this weed many years ago I thought it was so pretty coming up in the middle of a rose bush that I hardly bothered to pull it out. I thought it turned the whole rose bush into a bouquet, like adding a bit of baby’s breath, gypsophilia, to a handful of flowers. Unfortunately, the variety of galium growing in my garden, Galium mollugo, has invaded thousands of acres of pastures and hayfields and been an enormous problem for farmers.      In spite of the legend that Galium aparine was in the manger where the Christ Child was laid on Christmas, leading to the name Lady’s bedstraw, cows won’t eat this bedstraw. Do not be seduced by the delicacy of the foliage and flowers; galium is a bad weed.

Another pretty weed is purple vetch. Vetch in my garden is fighting with the bedstraw on the Daylily Bank, right next to the Rose Bank. Purple vetch, like the galium has long loose stems with tendrils and fine foliage that will climb up and through other plants. I have to find an end of a vetch vine, and plow my way down the stem, through the heavy daylily foliage until I can put it out by the root. If I don’t weed it out, the whole daylily bank will be covered with a purple haze of the flowers – and then the seed pods will drop hundreds more seeds into the soil.

Less pretty is the stinging nettle, Urtica dioica. Children who spend any time in a garden learn to identify stinging nettles pretty quick. Every part of the stinging nettle plant has tiny hairs that are like little hypodermic needles that release a venom into your skin. The sting will vary in intensity person to person.

Stinging nettles

Stinging Nettles, Urtica

Curly dock

Curly dock

A traditional soothing agent is the crushed leaves of curled (or curly) dock, Rumex crispus, which often grows near nettles. I can testify that curled dock does indeed grow near nettles in my garden. Dock is tall, about four or five feet, with narrow lanced shaped leaves, large at the base and smaller near the top. It took me a long time to recognize that the upright spike sections were made of scores of tiny flowers. There are many surprises when you really get to know your weeds.

Nettles are easy to pull out of the ground when wearing gloves, but dock is something else. The roots are tenacious and greenish-brown stems are very fibrous requiring a garden clippers to cut.

Nettles sting, but burdock grabs you and won’t let go. The burrs on burdock are one of the ways Mother Nature make sure seeds are carried hither and yon. You don’t have to be a gardener to recognize burdock. These weeds are everywhere.

Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is one of the commonest weeds in the vegetable garden. I can never rid my Herb Bed of purslane. When I read Charles Dudley Warner’s delightful and humorous book My Summer in a Garden about the trials and tribulations of a vegetable gardener, I echoed his complaints about “pussley” which was the scourge the garden. Purslane is a succulent weed that creeps along the ground that produces tiny white flowers that will quickly turn to seed. But I have found that if I leave the tiniest bit of root or a leaf of purslane in my soil it will never be eradicated.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “a weed is just a plant whose virtues have not been discovered.”  According to that definition most of these plants are  not weeds because generations of gardeners, herbalists and apothecaries have found them useful and full of virtue.

Galium aparine has been used in spring drinks to purify the blood for centuries, and treated skin complaints including psoriasis. Its been used as a diuretic and as a remedy for scalds and burns – as well as many other medical problems. Dock shares many medicinal properties with Galium aparine.

Nettles were once used to make linen even as late at World War I when many materials were in short supply. Dried nettles and nettle seed have been used as feed or cows, horses and birds. They have numerous medicinal properties, treating conditions as different as arthritis and migraines. Nettles have also been used for nutritious soup or in puddings. Purslane, too, is edible and nutritious, but has fewer medicinal uses.

Burdock is a big imposing plant each part has been used medicinally. Decoctions of the seeds are said to improve the skin, bruised leaves will soothe various bruises, swellings and even gout. In the Middle Ages burdock leaves macerated in wine were considered a cure for leprosy. The roots are still used as a vegetable, most frequently in Japan.

That leaves us with the pretty and useless vetch. Do not eat it. It is toxic.

Useful or not, all the weeds I have pulled or dug these past few days have been dumped in the weed pile.

Visitors to the Last Rose Viewing at the End of Knott Rd in Heath on Sunday, June 27 from 1-4 pm will surely find more weeds, but we can celebrate everything – summer, roses and weeds.

Between the Rows  June 28, 2015

 

Rose Viewing Memories

Mount Blanc rugosa

Mount Blanc rugosa

The Last Rose Viewing has come and gone, but it was an unforgettable day – Rain!  I always said ‘It never rains on the Rose Viewing’ but that record was broken on Sunday when there was mist – and then real rain. But hardy souls turned up anyway dressed in slickers and boots, umbrellas at the ready.

Rose Viewing attendees

Rose Viewing attendees

It was not only raining, it was cold. Those little girls were not happy. This was not their scene. However, before everyone left we enjoyed a tribute to the roses, sung by two very creative and musical friends, Dave Gott and Ted Watt,  to the tune of The Last Rose of Summer. Poet Thomas Moore wrote the original poem, but it was much too sad for even a day washed with rain.

“T’is the last Heath Rose Viewing/ In a wold drenched with rain/ But kind friends have here gathered/ To give tribute again.

To the love of pure beauty/ That this garden brings to all/ Thank you dear Pat and Henry/ for your gifts great and small.

We have swooned over Mabel/ Red Knockout and White Dawn/ Coveted Cuisse de Nymph/ Carefree Beauty and Champlain.

We have rambled this hill top/ Paradise so close to heaven/ May we all cherish memories/ Of these times we have been given.

Rose Viewing from the fireside

Rose Viewing from the fireside

Granddaughters Tricia and Caitlin kept the hot tea flowing by the fireside. The traditional menu of cookies and strawberries was at hand.

There will be roses at the Greenfield house, but it will be a while before they are ready for viewing.