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Dear Friend and Gardener

World Water Day – March 22, 2017

Lake near Minneapolis

Lake near Minneapolis

On this World Water Day I want to share some of my water photos. This group of gardeners has been visiting Minneapolis area gardens on a hot summer day. It was bliss to sit in the shade and enjoy the lake breeze and serenity.

Beautiful Minneapolis fountain

Beautiful Minneapolis fountain

We can’t all have a lake in our garden, but we can arrange to have fountains like this patio fountain in Minneapolis.

Another Minneapolis area  water fountain

Another Minneapolis area water fountain

This might have been my favorite Minneapolis water fountain – located at the end of a very form vegetable garden and set on a slight rocky platform

Northfield constructed pond and waterfall

Northfield constructed pond and waterfall

This waterfall was carefully ‘tuned’ with each step of the fall placed at a particular height to make a certain burbling sound.

A Greenfield water fountain

A Greenfield water fountain

A Greenfield gardener knew just what to do with this old millstone – she made it a fountain.

Water in a Japanese garden

Water in a Japanese garden

An important element in the serenity of a Japanese garden is the water.

Japanese Garden in Buffalo

Japanese Garden in Buffalo

All of these pretty photos are of recreational or ornamental water in gardens, and yet the water we most value is the water that comes out of our kitchen taps. We are fortunate in the U.S. to have good clean drinking water, but even here we know there have been contaminated water supplies or pipes. We must be vigilant. How will you mark World Water Day?

World Water Day poster

World Water Day poster

Today is World Water Day which teaches us that 1.5 billion people around the world do not have clean uncontaminated water to drink.

World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action on water issues. In 2017, the theme is wastewater and the campaign, ‘Why waste water?’, is about reducing and reusing wastewater. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 6.3 requires us by 2030 to “improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.” Progress towards target 6.3 will also help achieve the SDGs on health and well-being (SDG 3), safe water and sanitation (SDG 6), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), life below water (SDG 14), and life on land among others.

TOP LINE MESSAGES • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.

1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces2 , putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.

663 million people still lack improved drinking water sources.

By 2050, close to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, compared to 50% today

Currently, most cities in developing countries do not have adequate infrastructure and resources to address wastewater management in an efficient and sustainable way

The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials.

The costs of wastewater management are greatly outweighed by the benefits to human health, economic development and environmental sustainability – providing new business opportunities and creating more ‘green’ jobs.

WASTEWATER AND THE WATER CYCLE

Water has to be carefully managed during every part of the water cycle: from fresh water abstraction, pre-treatment, distribution, use, collection and post-treatment, to the use of treated wastewater and its ultimate return to the environment, ready to be abstracted to start the cycle again.

Due to population growth, accelerated urbanisation and economic development, the quantity of wastewater generated and its overall pollution load are increasing globally. However, wastewater management is being seriously neglected, and wastewater is grossly undervalued as a potentially affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials. It therefore needs to be seen as a resource, rather than a burden to be disposed of. There are many treatment processes and operational systems that will allow us to use wastewater to meet the growing water demand in growing cities, support sustainable agriculture, and enhance energy production and industrial development.

For further reading logon to World Water Day and go to the Make Waves button on the home page.

Spring Has Sprung – Theoretically

March 20, 2017

March 20, 2017

Theoretically spring has sprung. The first day of spring dawned chilly, but temperatures got to 56 degrees before they began to fall again. I thought wistfully of this time of the year in 2016.

Golden Winterberry

Golden Winterberry

Last year I went shopping and bought potted shrubs which I planted on March 22, along with a Lindera benzoin, spicebush. Spicebush swallowtail butterflies like to eat the foliage of Lindera Benzoin. I had a wonderful day last year working in the garden, cleaning up and planting. And then . . . 3-21 snow at twilight

the sun set and snow fell.  Oh, well. Real spring will come.

Tommies - early crocus didn't mind the snow at all

Tommies – early crocus didn’t mind the snow at all

I guess Spring has to be sprung several times before it feels at home.

 

Toxics Action Conference in Boston – Water and More

Kandi Mossett

Kandi Mossett

Water is life! That is the cry that was repeated when Kandi Mossett finished her keynote address at the Local Environmental Action Conference last Sunday. Mossett, of Mandan, Hidsata and Arikara tribal heritage, is a leading voice in the fight to the impacts that environmental injustice are having on indigenous communities across our country.

We all know about the stand taken at Standing Rock in North Dakota to keep an oil pipeline from crossing sacred lands and under the lake that supplies water to the tribe, threatening the safety of that water supply. The protest has gotten a lot of press over the past months, but Mossett filled us in on the terrifying context and damage done to land and water over past years.

Oil wells and fracking have been going on for years. One result is that contaminated fracking water has been trucked to manmade ponds that are not reliable and have leaks. These spills kill plants and soil. One farmer’s whole field was destroyed. The river where people fished turned blue, signifying a deoxygenating algae bloom that killed the fish. Mossett showed us a photo of 18 inch ‘frack sox’ filter. These are radioactive and not disposed of properly, and sometimes are picked up by children. Babies are affected by the hydrogen sulphide poisonous gas.

The idea that the Standing Rock protest is just about the building of a pipeline does not begin to tell the story of lands taken, soil and water already contaminated, and health consequences of fracking. Mossett herself is a cancer survivor.

As we all know, the protest has not prevented the pipeline. Mossett tell all who have ever fought for justice, “You’re not guaranteed change when you make your voice heard against injustice; but you are guaranteed to fail if you choose to remain silent.”

Mossett continues to fight for justice for indigenous people and you can find more information at the Indigenous Environmental Network http://indigenousrising.org/KandiMossett.

In the afternoon Lois Gibbs was the keynote speaker. In 1978 she founded the Love Canal Homeowners Associate. Happily, more than half of the audience understood instantly what that meant.

When Gibbs, who had a toddler son, noticed that many children in the neighborhood were becoming ill, she investigated and found that the school and the neighborhood were built on a toxic landfill. She and other parents attended town committee meetings and asked them to do something, confident that this information would move them to action. But nothing happened she said. No action was taken.

She went to the town again, but their decision was based on a cost/benefit analysis of the neighborhood and the earnings of the 100 or so families living there. Earnings of men and their sons were calculated over the years, but women and daughters were not considered to have any earnings and were worth nothing. “Can you imagine? The women were worth nothing?” Gibbs said to her audience.

Gibbs’ group then turned to science and created a survey that showed that 56% of the children had birth defects, counted the number of illnesses and miscarriages. Their study was dismissed as ‘useless housewife data by people who have a vested interest.’ The town finally did their own study and got the same information but declared that this was simply a random cluster of genetically defective people.

Then Gibbs said they misbehaved. They got town officials to come to a meeting at her house for more discussion and served cookies and coffee. Then we told them they could not leave until they promised to do something to remove all the families and give them new homes. “We held them hostage.” The men made phone calls, one of which brought a sharp shooter to keep watch through the window. After 5 hours they said they would work something out. But Gibbs and her group told them they if they did not have a plan in place by Wednesday at noon, three days hence, they would be very sorry.

The media was told of the deadline and there was great tension, but exactly at noon on Wednesday it was agreed. By a month later many of the families had been evactuated and the rest followed soon after.

Gibbs’ toddler daughter who was conceived and born while they lived at LoveCanal had been extremely ill through all this, but she said her daughter and her son were fully recovered after two years living elsewhere. Her daughter has even given her three healthy grandchildren.

Gibbs’ advice was that people who want to bring about change need science and the law. She said to fight politically, never violently and always to stand together.

I did not to attend the workshop about Flint Water because we are fortunate in Greenfield to have good clean drinking water, and a town website with water and sewer divisions. Water testing results are posted there.

I did attend Dirty Water: Increasing Community Capacity in the Face of Drinking Water Contamination with Emerging Chemicals. The emerging chemicals we focused on were polyflourinated water contaminants like PFCs, PFAS, PFOA, etc. These are chemicals that can spread through the soil and get into water systems from factories. Testing is difficult and expensive, they cannot be boiled away from drinking water like bacteria, and they can be absorbed through your skin from upholstery or carpeting materials, and by bathing or taking a hot shower which will allow you to inhale the chemical. The workshop did not solve any problems, but pointed out the problems that need solving.

Water is Life! We must guard and protect our nation’s water supply. Toxic Actions and Massachusetts Climate Action Network hosted this excellent conference.

Between the Rows  March 11, 2017

Mount Holyoke College Flower Show

Mount Holyoke College Spring Flower Show

Mount Holyoke College Spring Flower Show

The Mount Holyoke College Spring Flower Show is blooming and continues through Sunday, March 19. The Greenhouse is open from 10 am – 4 pm.

Winter had come back to give us a ferocious bite on the day I met Tom Clark, the new Director of the Mount Holyoke Botanic Garden. We walked through the Talcott Greenhouse door into the fragrant woodland glade of this spring’s Flower Show. The title of the show, Spring Pools, refers to the three pools that lie beneath flowering trees (or at least their branches) surrounded by the little bulbs of early spring.

I am always fascinated by the work that goes into putting on an exhibit like this. Bulbs have to be ordered the summer before and then the imaginative greenhouse team chooses a theme and creates the design. After the bulbs are potted up in the fall the long schedule begins of bringing them into life and into a period of early bloom, but not too full bloom, begins. Once the shoots are up it takes careful monitoring of light and temperature in Talcott Greenhouse so that most of the bulbs will be at an early stage of bloom which will last for the two weeks of the Mount Holyoke College Flower Show.

Primroses at the Mount Holyoke College Spring Flower Show

Primroses at the Mount Holyoke College Spring Flower Show

At this point in the show the hyacinths were providing most of the fragrance, but many unusual varieties of small daffodils, glory of the snow, low-growing windflowers in white and blue, pansies, muscari, and tender primroses surrounded the placid pools while ranked plantings on the sides of the greenhouse included larger plants like the Vancouver Centennial geranium with its small red blossoms, and the fat spotted blossoms of calceolaria. Ends of the room were lavishly filled with camellias, blooming witch hazel, canary broom, freesias, orchids and annual schizianthus with its beautiful flowers in stunning and gentle colors.

The show was all ready for its opening on March 4 and Tom Clark had time to chat and show me around. Clark, a Hadley native, had worked for the MountHolyokeBotanic Garden for 12 years, developing and caring for various gardens across the campus as well as responsibilities in Talcott Greenhouse until 2006 when he left to become Curator of the Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha’s Vineyard.

Thomas Clark, Director of the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden

Thomas Clark, Director of the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden

Last fall Clark returned to Mount Holyoke as Director of the Mount Holyoke Botanic Garden, an area of three acres or so around the greenhouse. His return occurred at the time the Botanic Garden was leaving the purview of Facilities and Management and moving to the Academic side. “I thought this was a reaffirmation of the full value of the Botanic Garden,” Clark said.

Talcott Greenhouse and the Spring Flower Show are a small part of the purpose of the Botanic Garden. Clark explained that while the greenhouse staff does not teach horticulture classes the staff is a resource for students, mostly from biology and environmental studies. Some students may have their own research projects and there is room in the greenhouse for their use.

He explained that the gardens, indoors and out, are not just about providing pretty flowers and spoke passionately about the staff’s “obligation to preserve plants.”

As an example he told me about the Franklinia altamaha tree which is no longer to be found in the wild, only in cultivation. This tree was discovered along the banks of the Altamaha River in Georgia by William Bartram in 1765. Bartram was the son of John Bartram, a self taught botanist who collected seeds and plants, propagating them in his Philadelphia nursery, creating the most varied collection of North American plants in existence at that time. Many of these plants and seeds were sold to estate owners in England.  William Bartram named the tree for Ben Franklin who was a good family friend. All the Franklinia trees that grow today come from Bartram’s collection of trees and seed.

Mount Holyoke has a Franklinia tree. Because it is only hardy to zone 5 and Massachusetts is at the edge of its range a protected spot will be chosen for planting.  Clark explained that by telling the stories behind plants visitors to the Botanic Garden will better understand their history and their importance.

Because of his dedication to the need for conservation and preservation of endangered plants Clark acquired young plants of two of the rarest plants in North America. The Florida yew (Taxus floridiana) only grows in a small area of Florida. The Florida Torreya, (Torreya taxifolia), is also a yew which has been attacked by a Florida fungus. Both are listed as endangered species. Clark will grow his small plants in the greenhouse for some years before thinking about a place for them in the garden. The goal is to see if they can be preserved outside their natural range.

Beyond the flower show there is a room featuring succulents of all sizes, and the conservatory filled with familiar orchids and begonias as well as many large and small tropical plants. This is a world of plants, a world of history, a world of stories and conservation. Flowers are pretty, but they are not the reason for the Mount Holyoke Botanic Garden’s existence.

Calceolaria

Calceolaria or pocketbook plant – boun to cheer us

The Mount Holyoke Flower Show will continue through Sunday, March 19.  Talcott Greenhouse is open every day from 10 am – 4 pm. The show is free, but I am sure donations are always welcome.

The Bulb Show at Smith College also continues at the Lyman Plant House every day through March 19, from 10 am – 4 pm. Suggested donation is $5.

Between the Rows

Western Mass Master Gardeners Spring Symposium

Margaret Roach, keynote speaker at the Western Mass Master Gardeners Spring Symposium

Margaret Roach, keynote speaker at the Western Mass Master Gardeners Spring Symposium

Every March I celebrate the arrival of the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners Spring Symposium held at FrontierHigh School on Saturday, March 18. This gala event includes a broadening and informational key note talk by the noted gardener, writer and speaker Margaret Roach. There will also be a wide range of practical workshops. This year gardeners can choose from among 15 talks that include choosing “no fuss” shrubs for the small garden, underutilized trees and shrubs, basics of making hard cider, mushroom growing and garlic growing. You can go to the Western Mass Master Gardeners website, www.wmmga.org for the full program and registration form. It is wise to register early in order to get your preferred workshop. This year’s keynote speaker, Margaret Roach, has been gardening for 30 years, and has inspired other gardeners for nearly that long. Early on she worked as garden editor for Newsday, and then went on to be the first garden editor for Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. Her first book written in those years is A Way to Garden. Since ‘retiring’ ten years ago she has written two new books titled And I Shall Have Some Peace There, and The Backyard Parables. I’ve been familiar with Roach’s gardens and writing, almost from the start. Years of enjoyment for me, not to mention new ways of looking at my garden. I liked the subtlety of the title A Way to Garden. At first I kept reading it as Away to garden, suggesting a retreat, but really A Way to Garden suggests that this is her way to garden, and that we will all find our own way to garden. The title of Roach’s presentation is Unlocking Seed Secrets: From Politics to the Practical. There is more to understanding what kind of seeds are on the market than you might think. Roach will demystify the issues of regular seed versus organic seed, hybrid seeds, heirloom seeds, and GMO seeds.

Ricky Baruc of Seeds of Solidarity Farm

Ricky Baruc of Seeds of Solidarity Farm

I was happy to see that Ricky Baruc of Seeds of Solidarity Farm was on the workshop schedule. His talk is about planting, tending and storing garlic. I visited Baruc and his wife Deb Habib in 2009 and was amazed and encouraged to see their farming techniques, their energy efficient house, and solar panels. They grow garlic and other vegetables for sale using no-till methods without the use of machinery. Nowadays they sell their produce only at their own farmstand, and to their local coop. I was also impressed by their Plant Food Everywhere SOL program (Seeds of Leadership) for teens which “speaks to the body-mind-soul approach of our food justice program,” and their work helping start school gardens. Indeed, over the years they have helped various community groups throughout our area build raised bed gardens. Baruc is famous for his garlic and is a co-founder of the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, the Festival that Stinks. It celebrates its 19th anniversary this year. When I visited in 2009 I saw how he used what seemed like acres of cardboard, covered with compost to make new planting beds. I was fascinated by this technique but never had too much opportunity to try it out myself, but all the beds in our new Greenfield gardens began with cardboard (I‘ll never be able to thank Manny’s enough) and beautiful compost from Martin’s Compost Farm. I haven’t grown much in the way of edibles here, but this year I plan to put the Seeds of Solidarity motto back in action – Plant Food Everywhere. Dawn Davis of Tower Hill Botanical Garden, who has been using and creating all kinds of materials to make supports for vegetables and flowers for 17 years, will give an illustrated talk on Vertical Vegetable Gardening – The Art of Growing Up in the Garden.     Davis said she has used regular tomato cages and stakes in the garden, but she has also used PVC pipes to make arches. She also uses rebar to make arches, but sometimes combines the rebar with concrete reinforcement mesh to make supports for sweet peas, nasturtiums, cukes, tomatoes.

Creative plants supports at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Creative plant supports at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

She also mentioned using pocket melons which I had never heard of. She said they are very small, and have a bland taste, but they do have attractive stripes. I was so intrigued I had to look them us and while everyone agreed that the Queen Anne pocket melon doesn’t have strong flavor, it does have a wonderful fragrance. I love wonderful fragrances, but I also think this melon must be a terrible to tease to promise so much and deliver so little.

Plant support at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Plant support at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Then Davis told me she paints the supports different colors every year “to carry the design theme. The color also makes a big impact, especially early in the season.” It is time to register for this rich and varied program. And, in addition to noted speaker Margaret Roach, and 15 workshops, local vendors will be on hand, as well as books from Timber Press and Storey Publishers, and a good lunch. You can download the brochure and registration form by going to www.wmmga.org. Cost is $35 for the full day. Optional lunch and materials are extra. I also advise carpooling if possible. The parking lot is not large. Between the Rows  March 4, 2017

Local Environmental Action 2017 – Water

Indigenous Rising at the Indigenous Environmental Network

Indigenous Rising at the Indigenous Environmental Network

This past Sunday I attended the Local Environmental  Action conference 2017 in Boston. One of the two keynote speakers was Kandi Mossett, a leading voice in the fight against climate change and environmental justice.  Unlike my experiences at most conferences I did not come home with a load of paper. I came home with a list of links which I will share.

The Conference was organized by toxicsaction.org  Since 1987, Toxics Action Center organizers have worked side by side with more than 750 communities across New England to clean up hazardous waste sites, reduce industrial pollution, curb pesticide use, ensure healthy land use, replace dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives, and oppose dangerous waste, energy, and industrial facilities. We work on issues where environmental pollution threatens our health.

MCAN   Massachusetts Climate Action Network was the co-sponsor with  Toxics Action  www.massclimateaction.net  MCAN’s role as a facilitator of municipal-level action is unique among Massachusetts environmental groups. We empower our local chapters by enhancing communication, promoting town-level projects that improve communities, decreasing climate change-causing pollution, and reducing development time for those projects. MCAN speaks on behalf of all chapters to improve Massachusetts energy and climate policies and programs.

Kandi Mossett of Mandan, Hidsata and Arikara tribal heritage, is a leading voice in the fight to the impacts that environmental injustice are having on indigenous communities across our country. She works with the Indigenous Environmental Network. She gave a passionate speech about events leading up to the Standing Rock protest. “You’re not guaranteed change when you make your voice heard against injustice; but you are guaranteed to fail if you choose to remain silent.”

Lois Gibbs was the founder of the Love Canal Homeowners Association in 1978 which finally got the government to move the 100 plus families from their contaminated neighborhood. This housing development was built on a toxic landfill. In 1981 she went on to found the Center for Health, Environment and Justice which has assisted over 13,000 grassroots groups with organizing, technical and general information nationwide. She says we must fight politically, never violently, and always together.

Water is life for us, for our gardens, and for all living things. We need to protect and guard it.

There are many more links which I will share over time.

Spirit of Stone by Jan Johnsen

The Spirit of Stone by Jan Johnsen

The Spirit of Stone by Jan Johnsen

Stone came into my garden last year. And I have to say it lifted my spirits considerably. There is nothing like a stone wall that you didn’t have to build yourself.

In her new book The Spirit of Stone (St. Lynn’s Press $21.95)Jan Johnsen shows us the many ways that many types of stone can be used in the garden, from practical porous driveway paving to rustic or elegant stone walls, walkway paving, dry gardens, as sculpture and much more. The subtitle is 101 Practical & Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden, and she delivers a full measure.

Johnsen’s aesthetic early experiences with stone began during her college years in Kyoto, Japan. She became aware of the significance the Japanese placed on stone in the garden. Later, she studied landscape architecture in Hawaii where she saw stone being made as fiery lava from volcanoes cooled.

She had personal experience with stone when she became a rock climber in New York State. She also spent time living near Barre, Vermont, where there are famous granite quarries. Over the years she has use rough fieldstones, flat stones, smooth river stones and large sculptural stones, all bringing a beauty and stability to the gardens she designs. She has clearly taken her experiences with varied types of stone and turned them into ideas for utilitarian, decorative and accent elements in the garden with instructions for making dry stream beds, stone steps, walkways and rock gardens.

Dry Stream Bed

Dry Stream Bed with various sized stone

Most of us probably don’t think about all the types of stone that can be used in the garden or the various forms it comes in from gravels to large flat stones for patios, but the beautiful illustrations in Johnsen’s book show a full range of stones and their uses.

One of the concerns even non-gardeners have had recently is the implications of recent droughts. This has brought about acceptance of the idea that it is very important to create pervious surfaces on our grounds, and to avoid using impervious paving when possible. I know in Cambridge, where my son lives, there are city regulations about how much of a property can be covered with paving.

Johnsen describes a new system for porous gravel driveways that I saw on display at a conference in Boston last fall. There are now polypropylene grids with small cells that can be attached to each other to create the size needed. These grids are then topped with gravel. The advantage over using gravel alone is that it is easier for people with strollers, bicycles or wheelchairs. It also “prevents weed growth and provides structural support without sacrificing drainage.”

Silent Spring at Bridge of Flowers

Silent Spring at Bridge of Flowers, stone fountain, bench and paving, designed by Paul Forth and John Sendelbach

Some stone may have purely decorative characteristics created by the pressure of ancient glaciers, or the large odd looking ‘scholar stones’ that are so essential to Chinese gardens.

During our years in Beijing I came to a great appreciation for stone in the garden in ways that had never occurred to me before. In The Spirit of Stone Jan Johnsen may open up new worlds for you.

Johnsen has taught at ColumbiaUniversity and currently is an instructor at the New YorkBotanical Garden. She is the author of Heaven is a Garden and renowned for her landscape design. She has a blog titled Serenity in the Garden.

Stone Steps at Vera's Garden

Stone steps at Vera’s Garden in Minneapolis

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Icy snow is still deep on the ground but spring is in the air. Next Saturday, March 4, the Spring Flower Show opens at Talcott Greenhouse at Mt.HolyokeCollege. This year’s theme is Spring Pools and I have been told that the approach is much more naturalistic than in the past. Visitors will walk into a woodland tableau with a pool surrounded by those early spring flowers.  Hours are 10 am to 4 pm every day from March 4 to Sunday, March 29.

SmithCollege will also open its Spring Bulb Show at Lyman Conservatory on March 4 and will be open from 10 am to 4 pm until Sunday March 29. Fields of Flowers is the theme, inspired by the work by the Irish artist Mima Nixon who travelled to the Netherlands to paint the flowers in 1909. The bulbs in the show are from the very fields that she painted 100 years ago. Suggested donation is $5.

Finally, I want to remind area school teachers that there is still a week before the Greenfield Garden Club School Grant deadline. In the past grants have been given to classes or school for tools, raised bed materials, and many kinds of projects like pollinator gardens that will help children understand scientific processes and feel a kinship with the natural world. Full information about the grants is on the Greenfield Garden Club website  http://www.thegreenfieldgardenclub.org/grants.html. ###

Between the Rows  February 25, 2017 

Melting, Flooding and Maybe Spring

February 25, 2016

February 25, 2016

The melting season with its flooding  is upon us. A year ago, three months after we actually moved into our new house, the back yard looked like this after milder temperatures, snow melt and rain. We had known that the backyard had a big ‘wet spot’ but we didn’t expect this.

February 25, 2017

February 25, 2017

One year later and the flooding isn’t as bad. It is possible to see the progress made in the increasing size of the beds, and the creation of our Hugel at the rear of the lot that is a part of our flooding abatement/no-need-for- irrigation project.  The temperature  has been mild and was 60 degrees on the 25th so the snow that had piled up was decreasing rapidly, helped by a thunderstorm with heavy rain early in the morning.

View from the window on February 28, 2017

View from the window on February 28, 2017

Still more melting and on this last day of February when the temperature is again 60 degrees, it feels like spring. In these days of worry about global warning that seems a mixed blessing. On the other hand, this is New England where the weather is never dependable; winter may still give us a few bites.  And yet – there are tiny daylily shoots coming up in the hellstrip.

It’s the Berries – Blueberry and Raspberry

Blueberries in a bowl

Blueberries in a bowl

Time to think about berries. February is National Pie Month and I love fruit pies. Blueberry pie is a longtime favorite. The Benson Place in Heath was my source for low bush blueberries, but I grew a collection of high bush blueberries behind our house. Now in Greenfield I have planted four Nourse Farms high bush blueberries in a square that can be easily netted.

Highbush Blueberries

Blueberries are easy to grow and they are long lived. Our Heath high bush berries were still bearing generously after 35 years and demanded very little care.

Highbush blueberries

Highbush blueberries

High bush blueberries, which are the most usual blueberries for the home garden, have few requirements. They need sun, well drained acid soil, and most especially soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. New England is famous for having acid soil, but it is a good idea to have it tested. We can usually find Master Gardeners volunteering to run soil tests in the spring at Farmer’s Markets and other seasonal events. Or you can buy a soil testing kit that will give you a pH reading. If the pH is too high, over 6, you can dig in a measure of sulphur or fertilize with an acidic product like Holly-tone fertilizer.

The biggest problem with blueberries is the birds. I had not taken this into consideration when I first planted blueberries more than 35 years ago, but my four new blueberries are planted in a 10×10 foot grid, which will be a little tight as they grow, but it will be easy to build a simple frame and enclose the bushes with netting as the berries start to ripen. I also recommend giving the berry patch or row a woodchip mulch. I pruned out dead branches when necessary, but that is pretty much the extent of care needed.

Blueberries do best when they can cross pollinate, and there are enough cultivars that ripen at different tines giving you a longer season. Duke is an early season berry, as are Bluegold and Patriot, all ready for harvest mid-to late July. Chandler and Darrow can be harvested into mid- August and Elliot will be fruiting into September. Of course, harvest periods may vary with your site and the year’s weather.

Blueberries have the added advantages of having delicate little bell-shaped blossoms in the spring and vibrant color in the fall. No need for the illegal burning bush.

Raspberries

Raspberries

Raspberries

Raspberries are about as easy to grow as blueberries, but they require a higher pH, between 5.6 and 6.2. As with any planting, the soil should be improved with compost before planting. The recommendation is that raspberry rows should be spaced 8 feet apart, but I have to admit that I never gave myself that much room between the rows. Raspberries will ripen in July; each variety will have a harvest period of about three weeks so it is good to choose at least two varieties to give you a longer harvest.

Latham is a standard variety that has been around for a long time and is a good berry for eating fresh or made into jam. There are other new varieties like Encore, another red raspberry, as well as Royalty,  a purple variety, and Anne that produces pale yellow fruits with a good flavor. Royalty and Anne are ready for harvest late in the season.

Once they have fruited the raspberry canes should be cut back down to the ground. New shoots will come up in the spring. Eventually those increasing numbers of new shoots will wander into the paths and need to be cut down as well. When the rows simply become crowded or some canes look flimsy  they can be removed as well. I am only talking about regular summer bearing raspberries. I have never been organized enough to tackle the pruning schedule for everbearing berries which need to be pruned twice.

There is no need for netting. Apparently birds are not particularly interested in raspberries.

I have not talked at all about black raspberries which propagate by sending out long wicked spiny canes that root when they touch the ground. Obviously, with attention and some work they can be managed, but I was quickly overwhelmed by my black raspberries in Heath. The flexible thorny canes had a life of their own and grew exuberantly. I found it hard to prune and manage them; even getting rid of the prunings was a chore.

For all that I never even got much of a harvest. When I called the good people at Nourse Farm as to what might be causing the shrivelling of my berries before they finished ripening, they though the problem might be insufficient watering. In Heath our water came from a well and I did not have sufficient for watering more than I did. I mention all this because I do not want anyone to think that black raspberries require the same care as red and golden raspberries. The first clue to their difference is that Latham and the other raspberries I’ve mentioned should be spaced 18 inches apart, but black raspberries need to be spaced 3 feet apart.

There are many other berries that can thrive in a backyard garden, but blackberries, strawberries, pineberries which are actually a white strawberry that tastes a little like a pineapple, lingonberries, and currants will have to wait for another day.

Between the Rows   February 18, 207

Value of the Garden Tour

Japanese

A version of the Japanese tsukabai

The coming of spring has me looking at garden tour inspirations from the past. I love this shady Japanese scene in a garden in 2014.

Water bowl

Water bowl

This water bowl in another garden shows that even a small garden with less piping and infrastructure can have  this Japanese feature with it shade loving ferns and other plants. I have always felt the serenity of green Japanese gardens which are designed for looking at, and quiet meditation.

Dry stream bed

Dry stream bed

A garden tour in 2016 took me to Minneapolis where I saw this dry stream. I keep trying to figure out how I can use  this idea to provide more drainage in my very wet garden.

Stone and water

Stone and water

I can tell you I have many photos of water in gardens. This was one of my favorites in Minneapolis. I  don’t think I will get anything like  this in my garden.

Lilies in Minneapolis

Lilies in Minneapolis

As much as I love the serenity of  Japanese garden elements, I also love big lush plantings of flowers.

Vera's Steps in Minneapolis

Vera’s steps in Minneapolis

A garden tour can give inspiration for public spaces. This stairway is just a small part of a steep incline leading from a parking lot down to a busy road. A wasteland was turned into a beautiful public park. We need more green public spaces for our  souls, and for the benefit of the environment.

Mysterious curving path

Mysterious curving path

I have gotten lots of inspiration from Greenfield Garden Club tours. This garden tour gave me one of my favorite gardens. It is a lot similar to mine, but it has curving paths that don’t let you see what comes next.

Gazebo

Gazebo

And yet, this fully planted garden has a little gazebo for visiting.

Pergola for picknicing

Pergola for picnicing

And a pergola for shady picnics. As I design and plant my garden, this is a garden I look to for inspiration.