Lorraine Brennan is not a woman daunted by a challenge. When she and her husband bought a house by the side of the road in Northfield 20 years ago, it was surrounded by what seemed to be acres of blacktop parking lot. Now it is surrounded by what seems to be acres of garden – trees, shrubs, and perennials. Especially daylilies.
The house by the side of the road, Route 10, was perfect for Brennan’s antiques business. That location also makes it perfectly easy for garden and daylily lovers to find her Second Annual Garden Days and Daylily Sale on July 18 and 19, and July 25 and 26 from 9 am to 5 pm, each day.
Brennan said collections of antiques and daylilies eventually grow so big you just have to start selling some of them. She can name some of her daylilies, but “I just plant what I like. I don’t care about the name,” she said.
Visitors to the garden will be able to admire the gardens that are so welcoming to birds, butterflies and other wild life including foxes and raccoons. If a daylily takes their fancy they can choose one, named or not, that has already been potted up, or is growing in a nursery bed. Brennan will even dig up a clump from a garden bed, and divide it right before your eyes. “I just pop the mother plant back in the ground. It doesn’t seem to mind,” she said.
Needless to say, this is not a garden that was planned or planted all at once. After the blacktop was carted away, leaving only sand and rocks, truckloads of compost were brought in. Trees and shrubs like magnolias and viburnams were planted. Brennan’s daughter Jennifer said that when the cedar waxwings come in the fall, and light on the viburnam to eat the berries it is an amazing sight.
Jennifer is supplying a lot of the labor in the garden right now. “My mom has the big ideas, and I try to assist in managing them,” she said.
There are many shrubs including liliacs, spirea and hydrangeas. A huge climbing hydrangea nearly covers the wall of the old antique shop.
Although there is a bright and chaotic flower garden in front of the shop, it is just a taste of the perennials hidden behind the house. Here huge clumps of bright red bee balm attract the dancing hummingbirds, and the achilleas, veronicas, feverfew, artemesias and other perennials serve to frame the hundreds of daylilies.
Brennan said, “I like a garden that looks like it just dropped there. I like a natural look. That’s my own taste.”
Daylilies are the obvious favorite. Their hardiness is only one measure of their appeal. Brennan told me how she acquired one of her daylilies. “Once I saw a plastic pot with a dried out daylily in it at the dump. I asked if I could take it away, and did. When I got it home I had to break the pot with a hammer and then had to smash the soil, it was baked like cement. That daylily still blooms in the garden. I’ve labeled it Dump Daylily.”
Brennan can say that daylilies will adapt to any soil, and she is right that they will survive anywhere. It is also true that we have to remember all the compost that has been brought in, and the compost pile that they make themselves. Caring for our soil, feeding our soil, is the best way to insure success in the garden.
There is color and bloom in the garden all through the season, but in mid-July the garden is an explosion of daylily color. There are pale varieties, sunny yellow varieties and lots of pinks and reds, which happen to be my favorites. It is a sight to behold, and you are all invited.
Garden Open Today! That has to be one of the happiest notices a gardener can see.
There are other open gardens this weekend. On Sunday, July 19, from 10 am to 3 pm ten gardens in the New Salem area will be open to benefit the Millers River Environmental Center. There will be gardens of every sort, including shade gardens, water gardens, and butterfly gardens, just the kind of welcoming gardens I would expect from bird and nature lovers. Many will also offer spectacular views of the Quabbin. Tickets (suggested donation $5 each or $15 for a carload) are available at the New Salem General Store on Route 202 or Hamilton’s Orchard on West Street. For more information contact Susan Heinricher 978-544-6372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This tour is organized by the Athol Bird and Nature Club; members will be hand in the gardens to answers questions about birds, butterflies and more.
Those who want to make a comfortable day of touring can buy lunch at the New Salem General Store and Hamilton’s Orchard.
July 18, 2009 Between the Rows