View from the Bedroom Window March 2, 2015
February ended cold, and March began cold. 10 degrees at 7 am on March 2. The fountain juniper is almost completely covered.
View from the Bedroom Window March 4, 2015
More snow yesterday, but warmer temperatures – over freezing.
View from the Bedroom Window March 16, 2015
Temperatures are staying at freezing or below – but the fountain juniper begins to reveal itself. The only place to find color is at the Smith College Spring Bulb show.
View from the Bedroom Window March 22, 2015
More sun, but still freezing temperatures. And yet melting – or subliming – continues. ”Sublime verb – to move from a solid (ice or snow) to vapor.”
View from the Bedroom Window March 26, 2015
I wouldn’t have taken a photo today but the early morning fog is so beautiful. Last night there was rain, then snow. By noon the sun was shining and the temperature had risen to 50 degrees! Not for long.
View from the Bedroom Window March 31, 2015
And so March finally ends. The snow is still deep and frozen over most of the landscape. Last year there were patches of bare ground. What will April bring?
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Homegrown Herb Garden
Herbs. Some people like herb gardens because they are so practical, others like the romance of herbs. All new herb gardeners will find that they are about the easiest gardens to tend. Herbs are not fussy plants.
Lisa Baker Morgan and Ann McCormick belong to the practical school. Their book Homegrown Herb Garden: A Guide to Growing and Culinary Uses (Quarry Books $24.99) gives information about growing 15 flavorful herbs, and then delicious recipes using each of the 15.
These 15 herbs range from the familiar basil and Italian parsley to the more exotic bay laurel and lemongrass. They include fashionable herbs like cilantro and chervil which were never in any cookbook I owned in1960.
Morgan and McCormick give basic growing information for all herbs which is basically a site in the sun, and soil with good drainage. Herbs will not need much in the way of fertilizer if you give them ordinarily fertile garden soil, but you will need to fertilize herbs planted in containers. You will also need to give potted plants sufficient water.
Growing culinary herbs is only half the job. Once you have these plants producing prolifically you will need to know how to harvest and preserve them. We are all familiar with jars of dried herbs in the store, or bunches tied prettily with ribbon hanging from the rafters in a colonial home. But how do you know which of the many varieties to grow, when to harvest, how best to dry, how best to store. The Homegrown Herb Garden has all the answers which vary with each herb.
Drying herbs is one way method of preservation. Freezing is another. Morgan and McCormick suggest one way of freezing basil or cilantro or other herbs that you plan to use in a sauce or soup is to puree the fresh leaves with a bit of water and then put the puree in ice cube trays and freeze. You can then put these frozen herb cubes in plastic freezer bags and pull out one or two when you need them.
I have my own method for preserving parsley which is often called for in soup or sauce recipes. I grow a lot of Italian, flat leaf, parsley. It makes a nice border for the herb garden in front of my house and saves me a lot of money when I consider how many $1.99 bunches of parsley I would buy over the season. With the arrival of September I start to harvest bunches of parsley and remove the heavier stems, then I lay a good amount on a piece of waxed paper and roll it up like a cigarette. I will put three or four parsley rolls in a freezer bag and freeze them When a recipe calls for parsley I just cut off as much of a parsley roll as needed.
A look at the recipes included will make this valuable as a cookbook as well. Kabocha and Coconut Soup with Thai basil, and Venetian Seafood en Papillote with garlic, shallots, basil, chives, bay leaves and dill sound particularly yummy.
Herb Lovers Spa Book
In The Herb Lover’s Spa Book: Create a Luxury Spa Experience at Home With Fragrant Herbs from Your Garden Sue Goetz comes at herbs from a different direction. She takes 19 common herbs from Aloe vera to witch hazel and with the help of beeswax, alcohol, salt and vinegar turns their sap, foliage, and flowers into facial steam, bathing potions, herbal teas, herbal scrubs, healing ointments and more. What do you need? Invigoration? Soothing? Healing? Your herb garden can provide all of these.
Goetz begins with the design of your garden which will very well include more than herbs. How do you want to arrange plants and spaces to give you a retreat where you can refresh yourself? We gardeners know that our time in the garden is about more than the plants. There is sun and shade, fragrance, birdsong, and maybe the sound of trickling water.
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, as well as mints, are not only culinary herbs (and a popular song) they are also the basis, singly and in combination, for tub teas, foot scrubs, aftershave, and other spa potions.
For Goetz the rose is an herb and it certainly is used in many lotions and balms. The rose water that is used in some recipes is not difficult to make. Count on me to make my own this summer. My rugosa roses are fragrant and perfect for this project.
I’ve sometimes looked longingly in stores at clear spray bottles with fancy labels for water to spray on linens when you iron them. To me they speak of an organized life with old fashioned amenities. I have never bought them of course, but with Goetz’s help I realized I can make these myself very easily. Sometimes I am amazed that I don’t instantly see the obvious.
I have had an herb garden for many years. I always laugh when I see photos of neat geometric herb gardens that look nothing like mine. My herbs have been more rowdy than neat and I love them for their energy and their willingness to be undemanding while giving me savor in my kitchen, fresh fragrance in my linen closet, and lots and lots of pollinators in the garden.
If you are a new gardener an herb garden will satisfy you with the success the common herbs will give you, and if you are an experienced gardener Goetz, Morgan and McCormick will show how to grow more exotics like lemongrass and new delicious and soothing ways to use them.
My herb garden in front of the house
Between the Rows March 21, 2015
Mirror Lake, Japanese Garden in Buffalo NY
Water is a precious resource. It is also a source of beauty in our gardens. We cannot all have water like this in our garden, but . . .
we can have a circular fountain, and
Grotto fountain and pool
and we can have fountain and grotto pool in our back yard jungle, and
and we can have a simple urn fountain, but
Frog Fountain, Seattle WA
we will probably never have a frogs with turtles fountain like this one in Seattle, Washington.
What kind of water do you have in your garden?
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Peter Kukielski, author of Roses Without Chemicals
Peter Kukielski knows how to grow roses without chemicals and I have learned a little about disease resistant roses over the past 30 years. One thing I love about our Annual Rose Viewing is the chance to tell visitors that you do not need an arsenal of chemicals to grow healthy, beautiful roses. I did not always know this. My rose education began when we moved to Heath in 1979. In my admiration for Katherine White, wife of the brilliant writer E.B. White, and her book Onward and Upward in the Garden, I determined that I too would grow romantic old-fashioned roses in my country garden from the Roses of Yesterday and Today nursery in California.
The very first rose I planted was Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, sometimes called Cuisse de Nymph, La Seduisante or Maiden’s Blush. This is an old alba rose, a fragrant blush pink rose with slightly blue green foliage and much hardier than you might expect from her name. I came to think that Passionate Nymphs must have a lot of stamina.
The Passionate Nymph is nearly buried right now, but I think she likes the snow and prefers to be blanketed and thus protected from the terrible frigid temperatures of February.
Other hardy alba roses line the Rose Walk, Celestial, Felicite Parmentier, Queen of Denmark, Madame Plantier, and Semi-plena, as well as damasks, rugosas, hardy Griffith Buck roses and nameless farm girl roses. Many of these are fragrant and all have healthy foliage without any help from me. Early hybridizers put fragrance and disease resistance high on their list of vital attributes. What those roses don’t have is a long bloom season. Thus the Annual Rose Viewing is scheduled for the last Sunday in June when, for a brief period, all the roses are in bloom.
Happily for rose lovers, and organic gardeners who never considered growing roses, dozens of new disease resistant roses have been hybridized that also have a long bloom period. It was Peter Kukielski, former Curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden, who first introduced me to the lush First Crush and Cinderella and other hybrids created by the German Kordes company. It was over 20 years ago that the German government outlawed the kinds of poisons that rose growers routinely used. This set the Kordes hybridizers to creating beautiful disease resistant roses with a long bloom season.
Now other hybridizers have hopped on the band wagon. I was a little dubious about roses groups with names like Oso Easy, but these are also roses bred with disease resistance. Drift roses are another family of small shrubby disease resistant rose in shades of peach, pink, coral and red.
Kukielski also introduced me to Earth Kind roses. Again I thought the name was a marketing gimmick, but no, these are old roses tested and classified by Texas A&M to be disease resistant. Red Knock Out, New Dawn and The Fairy are familiar roses that claim the Earth Kind label.
When I spoke to Kukielski recently I asked why the list of Earth Kind roses hadn’t grown any longer. He assured me I shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. In the meantime I can watch the rose trial gardens set up at NaugatuckValleyCommunity College in Connecticut, Cornell University, and at the Deering Oaks Park in Portland, Maine where Kukielski lives and is now leading the northeast rose trials as part of the Earth Kind Team. He is also Executive Director of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (ARTS) which will soon have a website up and running. He has his own new website the millennial rose garden.
Roses Without Chemicals
Right now you can get Kukielski’s new book, Roses Without Chemicals: 150 Disease Free Varieties That Will Change the Way You Grow Roses (Timber Press $19.95)
Kukielski wants unhappy or potential rose gardeners to know that failure in the rose garden is not their fault, it is (often) the fault of the rose’s genes. However, he does say that there are things you are responsible for.
Roses need a good site that has at least six hours of sun a day.
Roses need a good soil, with a pH between 5.5-7, enriched with compost and a layer of mulch.
Roses need consistent water especially for the first year or two after planting. However the soil must drain well or the roots will rot.
Roses need annual helpings of compost and an organic fertilizer like Rose-Tone, as well as a renewed layer of mulch.
Gardeners are familiar with hybrid vegetable seeds with disease resistance. New varieties are always being developed to resist various rots, mildews, fusarium and blights. This makes success more sure for the vegetable gardener. Now rose lovers can look for roses with genetic disease resistance and a long bloom period. Red Knock Out Roses have gotten a lot of publicity but some of Kukielski’s favorites are Drift landscape roses in Pink, Peach and Coral, Oso Easy Cherry Pie, Julia Child yellow rose and three Kordes hybrids: KOSMOS (pale creamy peach), Cinderella (pink) and Brothers Grimm (orange). That is just the beginning. More easy care, disease resistant roses are on their way.
I will be giving a talk about the sustainable rose at the Western Mass Master Gardener Spring Symposium on Saturday, March 21 at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield. I will also be selling my book The Roses at the End of the Road. For full information about the Symposium go to www.wmmga.org. Hope to see you there.
The Fairy, an Earth Kind rose
Between the Rows March 14, 2015
The day has been warmer, briefly, but windy and with an icy shower. I refused to think about it. I am thinking about Roses. I am thinking about Rachel’s Rose which I wrote about here. Rachel’s Rose is an old trouble-free farmhouse rose, name forever lost, but there are now new trouble-free roses available with a long season of bloom Peter Kukielski, former curator of the NYBG Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, is the man to tell you about them in his new book Roses Without Chemicals: 150 Varieties that will change the way you grow roses and on his new website.
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Master Gardener garden plot
Creating Your Own Eden is the name of this year’s fact and delight loaded Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Spring Symposium on Saturday, March 21 at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield. I can imagine a garden Eden where all the trees welcome insects to take a modest banquet from their leaves, where birds eat some of those insects, where weeds and flowers grow to provide food for caterpillars, some of which also get eaten, and where butterflies tour different flowers to gorge on nectar. Eden is a beautiful and sustainable garden.
Some of us already are sensitive to the dangers of pesticides and herbicides in our garden. Some of us are trying to do away with our lawns in order to add plants that support the insects, birds and butterflies that add so much beauty to the Eden that we all try to make of our garden. And yet, it can be so confusing. There is so much information. How will we take in all that information so we can use it?
The annual Master Gardener Spring Symposium is the perfect place to get information and have questions answered.
Keynote speaker Kim Eierman is not only a Master Gardener herself, she is a Master Naturalist, and operates EcoBeneficial, her consulting firm that supports the use of native plants and the creation of sustainable landscapes. I will be prepared to take notes when she speaks about EcoBeneficial Gardening: Going Beyond Sustainability, but I have already looked at her website,EcoBeneficial and found information that is clear and specific. For example, most of us do not have a large plot of land so while it is good to know that native oaks support over 500 types of insects and birds, we may not have the space for an oak tree.
The next best tree is the black cherry, Prunus serotina, which offers nectar and pollen to native pollinators and honey bees. The small red or black fruits are a favorite food of more than 40 species of birds and many mammals. It also serves as a host plant for over 450 species of moths and butterflies.
Master Gardeners growing food for the hungry
In addition to Eierman’s Keynote speech, an array of workshops is being offered. Morning sessions range from how to sharpen tools, to native shrubs for the garden, how to make a rustic twig trellis and more. In the afternoon Eierman will speak again, this time about Replacing the GreenDesert; – Native Turf Alternatives. Other afternoon sessions include how to make nutrient dense soil, attract pollinators and make lacto-fermented vegetables.
I will be giving an illustrated talk about sustainable roses in the afternoon. I have been growing pesticide and herbicide free roses on my Heath hill for over 30 years. When visitors come to the Annual Rose Viewing in June many of them ask how I grow roses with such clean foliage, and what they should do about the various problems their roses suffer. I am really no help at all in this area, because by chance, and sometimes by design, my roses don’t have disease problems. The fate of the sustainable rose is not in our hands, it is in the genes of the particular rose. I am happy to pass on the news that a new book, Roses Without Chemicals, by Peter Kukielski is now available. I met Kukielski when he was curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden, but he is now a part of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability. He is the king of sustainable roses.
A keynote speaker and workshops are not enough to prepare for spring. Vendors and book sellers will be on hand. My book, The Roses at the End of the Road, will be on sale for the event as well.
Registration forms are online and can be downloaded, then mailed in. The form lists all the workshop sessions so you can take your pick. The earlier you mail in your form, the better chance you have of getting your preferred programs. You can also order lunch if you wish. Questions? Email email@example.com and Lucy Alman will have the answers.
Between the Rows March 7, 2015
Smith College Bulb Show – Giverny Theme
The theme of the Smith College Bulb Show is Giverny, Monet’s famous French garden. Today I was satisfied to be in the Lyman Plant House in Northampton and dream of Giverny.
Smith College Bulb Show
A better close up of Giverny colors.
Smith College Bulb Show
A different view of Room One.
Smith College Bulb Show
An overview of Room Two. Note the water lily pillars and backdrops. The scent of spring in every room.
The Smith College Bulb Show at Lyman Plant House will continue daily, from 10- 4 pm through Sunday, March 22. The Spring Flower Show at Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College will also run through Sunday, March 22. Hours are 10 – 4 pm daily.
Bill Benner, veterinarian, birder, and butterfly gardener, is a man with many strings to his bow, but they all play tunes of the natural world and its fragility. He will be talking about the natural world, climate change and the impact it has on our own part of Massachusetts at GreenfieldCommunity College’s Senior Symposium on Tuesday, March 10 from 2-4 pm.
As a young man Benner attended CornellUniversity because of their ornithology lab. “I just wanted to study birds,” he said. As part of his research he was working with a captive flock of birds that required occasional help from a veterinarian. As he was drawing close to finishing his Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with the idea of going on to earn a PhD he realized that he was not looking forward to a purely academic career. His consulting veterinarian suggested that he could take his love of birds and turn it into a veterinary career.
And so he has become a vet with a practice in South Hadley, a practice that includes birds and other ‘exotics,’ like rabbits, snakes and rodents. However, his interest in the broader aspects of the natural world has not been diminished, but rather has grown. As well as meeting animals in his practice, he goes out into the local wildernesses. When he moved to our area in the mid-1990s he became interested in butterflies and served for a time as president of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club. He is the current editor of the journal Massachusetts Butterflies, and an active member of the Hampshire Bird Club.
Great Spangled Fritillary on black eyed susan
Benner was clearly the man to give me advice about making a butterfly garden. I have the same problem identifying butterflies as I do with identifying birds – my eyes are just not fast enough to discern detail of beak, or patterns on wings. However, I want butterflies in my garden so I am delighted to watch them visiting the herbs right in front of the house and think that I (probably) have some fritillaries or pearl crescents.
Benner explained that a butterfly garden needs more than nectar plants to attract butterflies. It is essential to supply host plants. Host plants are the plants where butterflies lay their eggs, and which will be eaten by the larvae, caterpillars, when they hatch. I have often sacrificed my dill plants in order to feed the caterpillars that will one day become black swallowtails. The much larger herb, fennel or sweet anise, will also attract swallowtails. The tiger swallowtail is partial to wild cherry, but lilacs, and ash and willow trees are also host plants.
Each kind of butterfly will require certain host plants, although there certainly is overlap. The same nectar plants will feed many more types of butterfly. Zinnias are an excellent nectar plant, but it is important to choose single or double varieties so the butterflies can see just where to land and dip in their proboscis or feeding tube.
Bill’s butterfly garden photo by Bill Benner
Other nectar plants that will feed a number of butterflies include lilacs, butterfly bush, milkweed, coneflowers, asters, Joe Pye Weed, phlox, goldenrod, and mint. In the days when huge clouds of monarchs used to visit us in late summer I didn’t know they were attracted by the huge stand of mint in our field. The mint, important nectar plant, is still there but the monarchs no longer come. The world has changed.
Like many others I have given up pulling out milkweed in my cultivated gardens, and help the seeds fly down into my field, hoping to supply hosts for the monarchs. Benner recommended I not do this anymore. He said the common milkweed is very invasive, and is not of great benefit. Instead he recommends butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberose, with its big orange flower heads, and swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnate with its lavender/purple flower heads. These are certainly additions to the garden, not weeds that we wish we didn’t have to ignore in order to support our local food web.
The Massachusetts Butterfly Club website has more information about gardening for butterflies including an article that Benner wrote for their newsletter. There he points out that there can be a danger in buying seedlings from the big box stores because they come from huge propagators who use systemic insecticides, neonicotinoids, that persist in the plant for weeks, or even the whole season. When the butterfly sips from these plants they will die. The big box store may never know about this and so can never guarantee that the plants are insecticide free.
And that brings us to the general advice not to use pesticides or herbicides in your garden if you want to attract wildlife. Let the edges go a little wild. Don’t mow the lawn too often. Violets are a host plant for fritillaries. It is hard to imagine that the small violets in my lawn could be hiding fritillary eggs or caterpillars.
Bill Benner will speak on Climate Change in our Own Backyards at the Greenfield Community College Downtown Campus on Tuesday, March 10 from 2-4 pm.
Swallowtail photo by Bill Benner
While Benner speaks about butterflies and summer days we can also visit the greenhouses at Smith College and Mount Holyoke College. It is time for their Spring Flower Shows both of which will be held from March 7-22 between 10am – 4 pm. Old Man Winter is keeping a firm grip on the landscape this year, but Lyman Plant House at Smith and Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke are calling his bluff.
Between the Rows
View from the Bedroom Window March 4, 2015
There are many shades of white in this world. Snow white is what I have been looking at for three frigid months now, but I dream of shades of white for spring and summer.
First come the snowdrops – as white as snow. A very welcome white.
Rhodendron ‘Boule de Neige’
Rhododendrons bloom towards the end of May, but ‘Boule de Neige’ (Snowball) has a memory of the white winter. Somehow this pristine white seems prettier than the snow.
Casa Blanca lilies
High summer and the lilies are blooming. Blanca, blanca, blanca. White, white, white.
Mme Plantier rose
But perhaps my favorite whites are rose whites – Madame Plantier, rosa semi-plena, and Mount Blanc,
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View from the Bedroom Window February 5, 2015
The view from the bedroom window by February 5 showed that another 25 inches of snow had fallen since February 1. Cold and often windy with just below zero temperatures on a few nights.
View from the Bedroom Window February 10, 2015
Another 18 inches of snow on February 9, but sun on the 10th.
View from the Bedroom Window February 27, 2015
Occasional snow showers over the rest of February and continuing frigid temperatures. Minus 12 on February 16 at 7 am. Often windy with wind chill advisories common. You can see the heavy snow is beginning to slip off the Cottage Ornee. Fortunately, it slipped off the house roof by itself, while others were having to shovel their roofs. Glad to see February go.