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Daylilies – Beautiful and Trouble Free


The name of these daylilies is gone, but not its appeal

Daylilies seem like a quintessential American flower, its orange blossoms blazing as they do along the edges of summer byways. And yet daylilies have an ancient history beginning in China about 5000 year ago. Chi Pai wrote a materia medica for Emperor Huang Ti dating back to 2697 B.C. when the flowers were more used medically than for ornament.

By 1500 C.E. the daylily had travelled to Europe. In 1793 Linneaus, who introduced the binomial system of nomenclature, placed daylilies in the genus Hemerocallis in the Liliaceae family. Perhaps it was as this flower passed through Greece that it was given the name Hemerocallis. The Greek word hemera means a day and kallos means beauty, hence beautiful for a day. It was a sad day for me when I learned about beautiful for a day. I picked a bouquet of daylilies for a dinner party (many many years ago) and found the blossoms all closed and wilting by the time my guests arrived.

Siloam Double Classic daylily

I think this daylily is Siloam Double Classic

Their history clearly shows that daylilies are tough plants that do not need a lot of fussing. They like a sunny spot and a fertile well-drained soil, but it is interesting to note that they are listed among the plants suitable for a rain garden. Still, while rain gardens are designed to collect a lot of rain water, they are also designed to allow that water to sink deep into the ground within a day or two.

Lemon Madeleine daylily

Lemon Madeleine daylily has a different form

Whether your daylilies are in a rain garden or not keep them well watered in the spring when they are setting buds.

Fertilizing in the spring is a good idea. My friend and sister garden blogger Dee Nash grows lots of daylilies. She suggests using fertilizers high in nitrogen. This will help with bloom, but also encourage an increase in the size of the clump. I noticed that the Farmer’s Cooperative Exchange sells organic Espoma Urea fertilizer which would fill the bill. Actually, if you have good soil you might only need to fertilize every two years. It is also a good idea to have your soil tested periodically to make sure it is not getting out of balance.



Ann Varner daylily

Mulching after planting, or doing any necessary weeding or fertilizing, is a good idea. You can mulch with compost, or with commercial mulch. I am so glad we live in Greenfield where it is easy to get excellent compost and mulch from Martin’s Compost Farm. Our garden would not be thriving if it were not for Martin’s compost and compo-mulch.

Dee Nash suggests deadheading the spent blossoms, and cutting down the scapes (stems) when the plant is done blooming. I was given a small Corona Mini Snips this spring and I find it perfect for deadheading and any other fine snipping required in the garden.

Daylilies are best planted in spring or the fall. Autumn is a perfect time to divide your daylilies if the clump has increased well.

To divide your daylilies begin by cutting down the foliage to five or six inches. When you do this it is easy to see how daylilies grow in ‘fans.’ Dig up the whole clump, shake off as much soil as possible, and then gently wash off the rest of the soil. Instead of using a hose, you could simply soak them for an hour or so in a pail of water. You will be able to pull the clump apart once it is cleaned.

Dig a generous hole a foot deep and at least 18 inches wide. Mound a pile of soil in the middle and arrange the roots of two or three daylily fans over that mound, Gauge this so that the crown of your plant will be no more than an inch below the soil. Half bury your roots, water thoroughly; finish adding soil, until the roots are covered by no more than an inch of soil. Water again.

I have been out checking the daylilies I planted in 2015. In the fall I will divide some of the larger clumps. They have increased in size and I don’t want them to get overcrowded. I also want to make a fuller daylily border along the pebble path at the back of the garden.

Of course you will also want to buy daylilies from time to time. Today, July 14,  is the Daylily and Arts Festival at Silver Gardens at 23 Pickett Lane in Greenfield from 9 to 4 p.m. There will be hundreds of daylilies to choose from.

Olallie Lass daylily

Olallie Lass daylily

If a ride to Vermont appeals, you might stop at the Olallie Daylily Farm in South Newfane which is open Thursday through Sunday from 10-5 pm. I first went to Olallie with a friend over 30 years ago. She told me this place was unusual because it was so hard to get the gardener there to sell you anything, We met young Christopher Darrow who was taking over the farm that had begun with hybrids created by his grandfather Dr. George Darrow. I did find a daylily I liked, but Chris said, not for sale. I chose another and another, but no go. Finally I asked Chris what I could buy and he allowed the purchase of Olallie Lass which is a Darrow hybrid in a sunny yellow. It blooms still.  Nowadays, Chris will sell you any plant of your choice – and nowadays you can even buy blueberries at the farm.

I just learned that there is a wonderful daylily farm in Ashfield, not far from me. Stone Meadow Gardens grows 500 beautiful daylilies. You can visit the farm on open days in July, or you can order from their online catalog. I’m planning a trip there myself.

Between the Rows  July 14, 2018

Daylilies on Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – July 15, 2018

Bloom Day on the hellstrip

Bloom Day on the hellstrip

The hellstrip has been ready for Bloom Day for a while. Astilbe is ready to finish, but the Achillea, yarrow, coneflowers and daylilies have just begun their bloom days. Daylilies are the major stars right now.

double daylily

Double daylily

The week of days in the high 90s have not  bothered the daylilies one bit. Daylilies are used to heat, and dryness. I do have a list of my daylilies but I never seem to get the name and the flower attached to each other. Here are a few of my daylilies.

Lavender daylily

Lavender daylily

pale yellow day lily

Pale yellow daylily


Bee Balm

Bee Balm

In addition to all the daylilies, bee balm, a wonderful pollinator plant is in full bloom.

Button Bush

Button Bush

You wouldn’t think bees and other pollinators  would find the button bush of interest, but this is one of their favorite eating places.

To see what else is in bloom all across our great land visit Carol over at May Dreams Gardens.  Thank you, Carol!

Perennials Proliferate in Three Year Old Garden

yellow twig dogwood and other proliferating perennials

Proliferating perennials here include yellow twig dogwood, aronia, culvers root and bee balm

You never expect your perennials to proliferate when you are a young gardener You carefully plant your first perennial bee balm or Siberian iris or coral bells.  You set out your plants neatly and sigh with accomplishment and pleasure expecting that these perennials will look just as they do that day forever.

After caring for flower gardens for the past 40 years you would think I had outgrown this daydream. But, alas, as I evaluate my Greenfield garden, I realize unchecked proliferation has occurred and I have to deal with it. I should remember the old saying. The first year newly planted plants sleep. The second year they creep. The third year they leap! And the gardener might weep. (I added that last part myself.)

Since I intended that my new Greenfield garden should be a low maintenance garden it includes many shrubs. My definition of perennials is a plant that comes back next year and is bigger. I have many shrubs, and many perennial flowers intended to fill the spaces between the shrubs. All of these plants were chosen because I find them beautiful, but also because they are tolerant of wet soil. In addition to having heavy clay soil, a river runs beneath my garden. I have learned that there are many streams hiding under Greenfield streets and neighborhoods, seemingly filled in, but rivers and streams have their own energy and they do not completely disappear.

It is not too hard to find beautiful water-loving shrubs. I have planted three dogwood shrubs: red twig, yellow twig, and osier. They are all thriving, but the yellow twig is the most vexatious. It does not grow much more than six feet tall, but it grows out in every direction. I have been pruning it to shorten many of its branches, especially those near the ground where I have planted perennial flowers. Even so, right now the branches are tangling with six foot tall culver’s root, a native perennial that produces spikes of white flowers, as well as a six foot chokeberry that then leans into very tall bee balm. All these plants are thriving in this wet site.

I have decided that the chokeberry, which is barely visible at this point, will be removed entirely. Maybe I can donate it to the Energy Park garden. The culver’s root and bee balm will need to be dug up and reduced in size, probably in half. After visiting some wonderful gardens on the Hawley Tour yesterday I realized that another aspect of my problem is the similarity of foliage color and size. I need to consider how to have more variety in groupings. You can see that in late September I’ll be busy.

Happily, I have a Rhus aromatica, a wonderful low sumac which makes a great spready ground cover in front of the culver’s root and bee balm. On either side of the sumac I’ll have to consider perennials that might provide more color.

Japanese anemone, Calycanthus and rudbeckia

Proliferating perennials including Japanese anemone, Calycanthus and rudbeckia, daylilies in front border

Another overcrowded site includes three pink Japanese anemones which bloom long and joyfully in late summer into the fall, a young calycanthus shrub that produces amazing deep wine red blossoms in spring, and a border of rudbeckia given to me by a friend last year. All three are in the leaping stage.

What I know so far, is that the Calycanthus, also known as Carolina allspice or sweetshrub is a native plant, tolerant of clay soils will remain in  this spot. Now that it has bloomed, I am told it is a good time to prune to keep it a manageable size. It can grow to eight or nine feet with an equal spread. I am counting on its willingness to be controlled.

The Japanese anemones are favorites of mine and I find a big clump really beautiful, but they will have to be moved. But where? Hmmmmm.

The rudbeckias will mostly disappear. Last year they made a nice border and didn’t grow more than maybe 15 inches high. This year the border has doubled in width and height. I look at this arrangement from my kitchen window dozens of times a day. It irritates me to see such a crowded clump of plants. Again, foliage color and texture are similar. A problem all by itself.

I wish I could tell you that these are the only two areas that need redoing because of overcrowding, but there are others. Blue and white Siberian rises increase altogether too fast. They are beautiful and early bloomers, but two clumps kept under control may be my limit. Bee balms and Joe Pye weeds also need to be reduced. These are important plants for pollinators, but they need to be kept under control.

One section of the garden looks handsome as it has increased in a very wet spot. The golden leafed buttonbush now kisses the dark green foliage of the winterberry with its autumnal golden berries, and it snuggles up against the airy foliage of the dappled willow. All three are amenable to pruning.

Buttonbush, winterberry and dappled willow

Buttonbush, winterberry and dappled willow

Summer is generally not considered a time to work on garden planning, but it is in summer that many of the problems of our plant arrangements reveal themselves with painful clarity.

Between the Rows   July 7, 2018

Life is a Fiesta with Lucinda Hutson in Austin, Texas

Lucinda Hutson's door

Lucinda Hutson’s front door

The garden bloggers Austin Garden Tour took us to a variety of gardens but when you pull up to a purple and pink house, you know you have come to a remarkable and outrageous garden. Lucinda Hutson named her house La Casita Moradita, or the little purple house, and it is filled with many references to lands south of the border.

The Casita sits on a small urban lot that is probably a little smaller than my own lot in Greenfield. It is not only filled with herbs, roses, marigolds, ferns, passion vines, jasmine, a tiny greenhouse, and more, it is stuffed with mermaids, seashells, angels, images of the Madonna and other saints. Walls and furnishings are brilliant sunflower gold and vibrant blue.

There was no grass in front this house, only the stone Salad Bar filled with – salad makings –  and pots of brilliant yellow daisies, purple Amistad (friendship) salvia, and vivid coral geraniums as well as benches where guests can catch their breath and enjoy this front garden in the shade of a kumquat tree.

Lucinda Hutson's Mermaid garden

Lucinda Hutson’s Mermaid garden

Like many houses on small lots, this one is set to the side so that a generous garden space is left on the other. The first garden here is sheltered by a stone privacy wall and the entry brings you to the Mermaid’s Lounge. Mermaids are everywhere. Mermaid figures sit beneath an airy pergola of seashells, and painted on a large plaque at the edge of a fountain and pond where another mermaid can splash with the (toy) fish. Mermaid images are everywhere. It can become a game to discover them all. Terra cotta fish also swim along at the edges of this enclosed space.

Lucinda Hutson's Mermaid grotto

Lucinda Hutson’s mermaid grotto

Further along the path of stone and ceramic tiles decorated with morning glories and other flowers is a bright and sunny area filled with pots of flowers like big brilliant gold marigolds, and more edibles. This garden contains the entrance to the greenhouse while the protectoress of the garden, Our Lady of La Tina, sparkles in her bathtub shrine. Hutson is having a little fun here. “Tina” is the Spanish word for bathtub. Neighborhood children come and visit here as are there are plenty of small brightly painted chairs to accommodate them.

Lucinda Hutson's patio

Lucinda Hutson’s patio

By now we were at the back of the house with a patio deck, more brilliant colors, and a table and chairs for visiting and eating. This is El Jardin Encantador which kind of means charming, welcome, glad to meet you here. I should tell you that Lucinda Hutson is not only an amazing gardener, she is a public speaker and a cookbook author with a particular interest and knowledge of tequila.  ¡Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures, is the title of her latest book, but it includes food recipes as well. She has wrote the Herb Garden Cookbook.  Either way, her motto is Life is a Fiesta! Her house and garden certainly are set up for fiesta living.

Lucinda Hutson

Tequila Bottle Trees in Lucinda’s shady garden

The final very shady garden is La Lucinda Cantina, a social space that features bottle trees planted in a cork mulch. But these bottle trees are not created with familiar blue bottles. Hutson is a tequila expert. Here all the bottles are various  tequila bottles complete with labels. Metal mariachi sculptures with their musical instruments provide a lively ambiance for those who want to sing and imbibe.  In case the imbibing gets too wild there is a small outdoor shower if cooling down is needed. Or, of course, if anyone prefers outdoor showers.

On your way out of the garden you might notice that there is a tiny secret garden behind the greenhouse . Another mermaid lives there and you can leave your wishes with her before you leave this whimsy and reenter a less colorful world. I wondered what my sister garden bloggers wished for as they left that secret garden. Did they wish for more visitors to their blogs, for summer nights that regularly deposited the perfect amount of rain, for a plague that eliminated all Japanese beetles, for an extra hour in the day to finish weeding? We gardeners have found joy in our gardens, but we still have so many wishes. What do you wish for your garden?

I think La Casita Moradata was the most extravagant and wild garden on our tour, but every garden has its own theme or style. Life can be a fiesta in many moods.

B. Jane is a garden designer and her urban garden is a welcoming but quiet oasis complete with swimming pool. This is a serene garden. There are no trees to provide shade but two dining areas are arranged with shade provided by an umbrella, or a portico roof. A generous hospitality is signaled by the grill set in its own nook.

B. Jane's nook

B. Jane’s bamboo conversation nook

Though there are no trees, one long wall of this enclosed garden features a ribbon of tall bamboo that throws ample shade, and a cool area for conversation. Overlooking the swimming pool is a platform with three lounge chairs set against a cut stone backdrop.

The simplicity of this garden is its charm. It is a garden that welcomes friends, and play, as well as soothing the brain and spirit after a day out in the world.

B. Jane’s poolside lounging area

What is the mood of your garden?

Between the Rows  June 30, 2018

Bee Spaces: Plants in Award Winning Pollinator Garden

Me and Bee Spaces Award

Me, Rep Kulik and my Bee Spaces Pollinator Award and Representative Stephen Kulik

I was so happy when my garden won a Bee Spaces Pollinator Award given by the Franklin County Beekeepers Association and the Second Congregational Church, and presented by Representative Stephen Kulik. The awards are intended to promote gardens  that will feed  and support many of our important pollinators. I thought I would make a list of the most important pollinator plants in my award winning garden. It might help you get more pollinators in your garden

Tiarella or foam flower

Tiarella or foam flower

Foam flower bloom early in the spring, spreads at a moderate rate, and makes a great groundcover.

Echinacea or coneflower

Echinacea or coneflower

Coneflowers have become very popular. They come in many colors, but the bees are happy with the white ones, and these Echinacea purpurea.

Aesclepias tuberosa

Aesclepias tuberosa – milkweed

Monarch butterflies need milkweed foliage for their larvae to eat, but bees loves these more manageable milkweed flowers for the garden.

Bee Balm

Bees love bee balm which comes in many shades of red, pink, white and purple.



Zinnias are such cheerful pollinator flowers that I must have them every year. I think they keep the bees cheerful too.

clethra alnifolia

Clethra Alnifolia or Sweet pepperbush

Clethra alnifolia blooms in the spring to feed all those hungry bees. Shrubs are important as pollinator plants, just as well as flowers.


Buttonbush or Cephalanthus occidentalis

Buttonbush has such interesting flowers that appear in  the summer. They love growing in wet spots. I love this unusual pollinator shrub which thrives in my wet garden.


Turtlehead or Chelone

You can kind of see the ‘turtlehead’ in the Chelone blossoms. Chelone serve many functions from pollen and nectar for the bees, to cover for birds, food birds, and for caterpillars.


Liatris or Blazing Star

Liatris is an important plant for Monarch nectar, as well as for bees of every variety.

Other good pollinator plants in my garden: Columbine,   Lobelia or cardinal flower,   winterberry,   Solomon’s Sealbloodroot,   Joe Pye Weed,   elderberry.  Many more plants, not in my garden, offer pollen and nectar, shelter for birds, food for caterpillars and birds, and nest sites for birds. How many pollinator plants do you have in your garden?

Hawley Garden Tour Takes you East and West.

Kim Fitzroy’s garden features hostas and trees

It’s June and I am looking forward to the Hawley Garden Tour on June 30. Kim Fitzroy will host just one of the gardens on this special tour. She set her garden at the base of a sunny hill but she created “her own bit of heaven” in the shade.

Kim Fitzroy

Fitzroy began planting her garden about 15 years ago. Except for two old birches there were no trees, but now a thornless honey locust, four sumacs, a magnolia, and two Japanese maples preside over several graceful curving beds. “It took two years and I had achieved my vision,” she said. This does not mean she has finished planting!

She pointed out the differences in the foliage of the trees. “I’m all about texture, she said. I then realized that she made use of the different textures not only in the trees, but in the low junipers, the perennial flowers and hostas. “I love hostas and I have about a hundred.” Her hosta collection does present a wide range of color and form.

I admired the unique rotted log container planted with a hosta. She showed me the small dry stream bed and gardens that made use of rocks from the Chickley River. She shook her head and told me she regretted filling in the old stone cellar hole that was there when she bought the house 35 years ago. “It would have made a really good feature,” she said with a sigh.

We wandered around the beds and Fitzroy reminisced about the people who have left their mark on the garden. She thought of the birches of her childhood, and her grandfather who loved them, of Dick Demaris who dragged a handsome stone from the river for her, of Marlin Newlan who rototilled the garden named after him, and others who presented her with old tools that have been transformed into garden art. They all tell the tale of her life in that spot.


Hostas in rotting log

We sat for a while in the shade of the trees and talked about the garden, about the annoyance of powdery mildew on the garden phlox, about plants that have not survived the winters, and plans for new plantings. She looked around and said, “Every day I am thankful for where I live.”

Hawley has an interesting geography in that the East and West do not meet each other. With that in mind the Sons and Daughters of Hawley have arranged the tour so that the five West Hawley gardens will be open from 10 am until noon on Saturday, June 30. A delicious but optional Lunch will be served for $12 in East Hawley at the Poudrier garden. The two East Hawley gardens will be open from 1:30 until 4 pm. Tickets for the Tour, East and West is $10. Please contact Melanie Poudrier at 339-5347, Rainey McCarthy at 339-4903 or Pamela Shrimpton at 339-4091 for tickets, maps and further information.

In addition to visiting the gardens there are two exhibits. Paintings of Hawley over the years will be on display at the West Hawley Church, while a quilt display will be held at the East Hawley church. Tinky Weisblat will be on hand in West Hawley to talk about rhubarb – and her new rhubarb cookbook.


Celandine poppy

Wood poppy

There is nothing like a garden tour, or garden visitors to make one reevaluate one’s own garden. I recently had a friend visit and he looked at my pretty yellow wood poppies as they were going to seed and he asked why on earth I had that plant in my garden. The fact that I like wood poppies did not hold much importance for him. “But they just spread everywhere,” he said.

And he was right. The original plant had increased in size, and this spring it sent out another clump to bloom. That seemed manageable, but when I looked a little more closely I could see that there were now hundreds of babies around both wood poppy clumps. I did a major weeding of babies, and took out at least half of the mature plants. This explosion of plants was not what I expected.

I went to the online native plant database provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for more info. Stylophorum diphyllum, wood poppy or celandine poppy is native to the US, but there is a European species that is more aggressive. Did I end up with the European species?

NOT Zizia aurea seeds

My visiting friend shook his head even more vigorously as he looked at the plants I had been calling golden alexanders, Zizia aurea. They are not Zizia. The leaves and flowers are not those of the golden alexanders. This clump of plants had grown and grown. What a great groundcover I thought. But it was not only spreading by roots, it was sending puffy seeds everywhere. Last week I pulled them out and stuffed them into garbage bags. I do not want these in my compost pile because it may not get hot enough to kill all those seeds.

We make mistakes in our gardens. Sometimes the mistake is not entirely our fault, as when plants we buy are mislabeled, or because generous friends don’t know how dangerous their passalongs are. When the truth is revealed we just have to concentrate on the possibility of planting something new that is safe and really beautiful. I think I will move my Japanese primroses to the hugel where we can admire them. Their flat foliage will make a good groundcover after bloom season has ended.

Between the Rows   June 23, 2018

Importance of Seed Savers Exchange- in Decorah, Iowa and Everywhere

Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah Iowa

Evaluation garden beds at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa

In 1975 Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy accepted seeds of her grandfather’s morning glory, appropriately named “Grandpa Ott’s” morning glory, and “German Pink” tomato seeds. Thus the Seed Savers Exchange was begun. It was Diane and Kent’s intention to form a network of gardeners who would take these seeds, and thousands of others, sharing them and keeping them growing. The Seed Savers Exchange began in Missouri, but the Heritage Farm and Orchard now exists on 890 acres in Decorah, Iowa. There they have room for acres of seed gardens heritage orchards, and a Visitors Center.

I remember those early days of the Seed Saver’s Exchange and the newsprint catalogs that went out annually, where gardeners could offer their heirloom seeds to other gardeners for a modest cost. The gardeners weren’t trying to make money. They just wanted to share the seeds their families had been growing for generations.

Lee Buttala

Lee Buttala, President of Seed Savers Exchange

It was at the Visitors Center with its arrays of heritage seeds, garden gifts, and ranks of seedling plants that I met with Lee Buttala, the current President and Executive Director. He greeted us and took my husband and me through the work of the Seed Saver’s Exchange.

“Back before the Whealey’s our farms were not very diverse here in the Midwest. The Whealeys really brought about a big change,” Buttala said. There were also changes in agricultural practice and farm size. “These heirloom plants connect us to our history. We gather the stories of our families and it is important to have and keep those stories.”

There are other reasons to keep these heritage crops growing. While some enjoy the hobby of saving and sharing seed the truth is that we need to maintain a strong biodiversity of seeds.  Over the past century we have lost 75 percent of the world’s edible plant varieties. It is important that we maintain a large pool of diverse seeds because our world is always changing. The changing climate affects which crops will grow where.

The concern is global. The USDA Agriculture Research department has a seed bank that collects food seeds from companies and countries around the world. The governments of the dry areas of Africa and Southeast Asia created the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) seed bank. The Norwegians built the Svalbard seed bank in 2008 that is used by countries around the world including the US. The Seed Savers Exchange has its own seed bank, but also has put seeds in the USDA seed bank and Svalbard. Seed saving is now recognized as a vital need.

Buttala went on to explain that while there is the exsitu way of preserving seeds into vaults, “We want people to grow seeds and share them. We also want to see how seeds adapt to different environments to see how stable the genetics are. We are among the people around the world who are working for food/seed diversity.

“We do our work, collecting seed, preserving seed, sending seed out into the world, and protecting it in case of disaster.  Our focus is collecting and preserving open pollinated seed grown in the US and we are still taking new accessions. We want to make sure that seeds will be on hand if there is disaster.”

Before Buttala sent us out to meet with Steffan Mirsky he left me with a thought to ponder. “It is significant that we don’t know who owns these heirloom seeds. But in fact, seeds belong to no one – and they belong to everyone .  Seeds are unique, but replicable.” As I think about how many plant varieties are now patented, this seemed an important reminder about access to seeds.

Steffan Mirsky at Seed Savers Exchange

Steffan Mirsky at Seed Savers Exchange

Steffan Mirsky, the assistant curator, was finishing up his work for the day in the Evaluation Garden. He majored in cell and molecular biology at the University of Washington and spent the next two years as a WWOOFer (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in Australia and New Zealand, working on 36 different farms. “That experience made me want to be working in agriculture. I love the work that I do here,” he said.

Mirsky was documenting his evaluation of celery. “There are about 15 categories that I look at beginning with color, which varieties are self blanching, leaf shape, stalk shape and more. This all gets entered in a data base. Other plants like beans have to have many more aspects evaluated because there are so many types of beans,” he said.

Mirsky is responsible for collection management.  He decides which varieties of the celery, or any other plant, to grow-out. He needs to eliminate varieties that are doubles, and identify those that are off-types.  The plants chosen for grow-out are checked the following year to make sure. “It is not about better or worse plants, it is about finding plants that are off type to keep the variety pure,” he said.

The gardening day was drawing to a close, but we left with seeds for the “German Pink” tomato, “Sensation” cosmos mixture, and “Sultan’s Green Crescent” pole beans which will be tested in my strawbale garden. I’ll keep you posted.

Beet evaluation test

Between the Rows  June 16, 2018

Tovah Martin and John Bagnasco on Garden Pleasures

The Garden in Every Sense and Season

The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin

When we returned from our trip to Texas we found that all of a sudden the garden had bloomed. The shy primroses were glowing, there were elegant white bloodroots, dainty yellow Fairy Bells, and sunny wood poppies lighting up the shade. The winter had been long and now the beginning of a season filled with blooms and fragrance had arrived.

In The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin sings about the perfumes in a spring flower garden, and the sensory joys that exist throughout the year. This book reminds us that we need to stop weeding and racing through long to-do lists and take the time to engage all our senses.

Martin begins her book with the spring season, which she admits is “a relay race, and we act like sprinters.” Springtime excites all our senses.” I can attest to excitement in our neighborhood as we marveled at the radiant gold of a mysterious shrub and finally identified it as witch hazel. Martin reminds us of all the very early spring bloomers that cheer us, with and without fragrance.

She takes us on a cruise through the seasons that inspire us to extend our plant choices, and our gardening year. I think my garden year begin with walks through the garden when I am searching for tiny shoots, and the thawing soil gives its own subtle fragrance. It does not end until only the winterberries red and gold provide color.

And so it goes through the seasons. The changes in the palette of the flower garden, the arrival and departure of birds and butterflies, the pungency of autumnal aromas, the brightness of the flavor of freshly picked vegetables – and the aches that we might face after an afternoon of planting bulbs.

Tovah Martin does not tell us about the work to do in the garden, or the plants that we must have. She walks us through her garden, as she would a visitor. While we might learn about new plants, and arrangements with vegetables along the way, her goal is to show us a way of being mindful in the garden and focus on the beauties and sensations that our gardens give us in every season.

Martin relates her visit to a Japanese garden where she first “saw how syncopation could alter the pursuit of happiness.” Syncopation is not a usual word to describe a garden walk but she goes on to say that she had been tearing through “when I noticed the raised stepping stones rather than one continuous paved progression. Had I been more keyed in, I would have sensed that the path was asking me to slow down.”

I enjoyed slowing to down to drink in her rich prose and her view of the garden. The Garden in Every Sense and Season ($24.95) by Tovah Martin has beautiful photographs by Kindra Clineff and is published Timber Press books.

Success with Succulents

Success with Succulents by John Bagnasco and Robert Reidmuller

I am not really a houseplant person, but almost all the houseplants I do have are succulents. Outside I have sedum groundcovers, but my view of succulents has been limited. John Bagnasco   and Bob Reidmuller have written Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing and Caring for Cactuses and Other Succulents (Cool Springs Press $24.99) that opens up an extensive world of indoor and outdoor plants.

Bagnasco and Reidmuller begin by differentiating between succulents and cactuses. They say “All cactuses are succulents, but not all succulents are cactuses.” Cactuses have a special organ called an areole that allows for the creation of branches, flowers, fruits, spines, and even leaves, but areoles do not have the sap that flows throughout the cactus. Unlike the cactus, succulents might have spines, or thorns, but these are a part of the plant and do have juice or sap inside which you can see if you snip that thorn in half. And to make life even a little more complicated, for those who note that a rose thorn is not juicy, the proper name of a rose thorn is a ‘prickle.’ Having gotten all this straight in my mind, I feel quite erudite.

There is a brief chapter about the four Cactaceae families, and the uses of certain cactus. For example, “The stems of Stenocereus gummosus, were crushed and thrown in lakes and ponds by natives. Substances in the cactus would paralyze the fish and once they floated to the top, they would be gathered up by the locals.” Wow!

The list and descriptions of non-cactus succulents is much longer and includes the more familiar agave, aloe, crassula, dracaena, echeveria, sedum and yucca.

Part 2 is devoted to the ways and climates that cactuses and succulents can be used outdoors. Attention is paid to the ways to caring for these plants in colder climates. Directions are given for watering (perhaps the trickiest issue) light, temperature, fertilizer pest problems and propagation techniques.

Part 3 takes us to the world of indoor cactus and succulents which also need light, special potting soil, proper watering and a proper container that will allow for good drainage.

The final section is a useful catalog of 100 top choices of succulents and cactus, their needs and care. Readers will be tempted  and inspired to enjoy more of these plants indoors and out.

Between the Rows  June 1, 2018

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – June 15-2018 – Roses !

Thomas Affleck rose

Bloom Day and the Thomas Affleck Rose is in  full flower

I nearly forgot Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, so I raced out in the dawn to take photos (not very good ones) of what is blooming in the drizzle.  Thomas Affleck is a rose we grew for many years in Heath, and one of the first we planted in Greenfield. It is doing very well indeed.  No real fragrance though.

Polar Express rose

Kordes Polar Express

At least I think this is Polar Express. I’ll have to wait till  the other roses are blooming to make sure.

Kordes Purple rain rose

Kordes Purple Rain rose

This is a low growing rose and very sturdy. I have no idea why  they named it Purple Rain.

Mountain laurel

Mountain Laurel blooming beautifully on the hugel


Honeysuckle blooming vigorously


Lounging delphinium after rain. Stakes needed

Elderberry blossoms

Elderberry blossoms

The elderberries are for the bees and other pollinators. I never even noticed they were budded, much less beginning to bloom. My eyes have been on the weeds on the ground as I prepare for garden club guests next week. Yikes!

Lilac tree blossoms

Lilac Tree Blossoms

The most unusual flowering plant in my new garden is this lilac tree (a true  syringa) that blooms at  this time of the year.  The blooms last a long time and are strongly fragrant, perfuming half the neighborhood.  The tree is good size, a little taller than my neighbor’s house and it is full of blossoms.  They do not smell like lilacs, but they are wonderfully sweet.

I thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens who hosts Bloom Day and gives us all the chance to see what is blooming all over this great land.

Greenfield Bee Fest with Bee Spaces Awards

Greenfield Bee Fest

Greenfield Bee Fest at Second Congregational Church

This past Saturday Greenfield celebrated the 10th Annual Bee Fest at the 250 year old Second Congregational Church. The seventh minister of the church in the mid-19800s was Lorenzo Langstroth who, in his spare time, invented the modern moveable frame bee hive. The Bee Fest provides the occasion to remember and celebrate Langstroth and the way he changed bee keeping.

Bee Fest poetry

Bee Fest poetry presentation

There were lots of outdoor activities for the children who were learning about bees, most especially not to be afraid of  them, and not to bother them. They have important work to do. The indoor lecture portion of the even began with Bee Poems read by four young poets. They was enthusiastic applause.  The man in back of the young poet on her pedestal is Dan Conlon, beekeeper extraordinaire.

Pat Leuchtman and State Representative Steve Kulik

Then my big moment came when our State Representative Steve Kulik presented me with a Bee Spaces Award for my residential pollinator garden.

Bee Spaces Winners L+R Wisty Rorabacher, me, and Peg Bridges

Wisty Rorabacher accepted  the award on behalf of the Energy Park Volunteer gardeners, and Peg Bridges accepted her garden award. We got to compare notes. We know  a lot of pollinator flowers!

Bee Spaces award on our front porch

Henry wasted no time putting the Bee Spaces plaque, created by potter Molly Cantor, where it can be seen by all passers-by.

Bee Spaces Award Plaque

Bee Spaces Award Plaque closeup

This award is named for the precise 1/4 inch space that Langstroth discovered allows the bees to store honey and work without sticking all the honey comb together. Before he discover ‘bee space’ people had to destroy their bee skeps to get the honey out – and the bees had to do all that work all over again.  And of course, the other ‘bee spaces’ are the gardens that welcome and feed all bees. In Massachusetts there are over 300 types of bees.

Lilac Tree blossom

Fragrant blossom on our Lilac Tree

Summer is slowly arriving says our Lilac tree which has just begun to bloom and perfumes the air throughout the Bee Spaces in our garden.