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QuonQuont Farm in Whately – Fruit, Flowers and Fun

Leslie Harris and Maida Goodwin L-R in front of a QuonQuont Barn

Last September I visited Quonquont Farm in Whately with other members of the Greenfield Garden Club. I had no idea what to expect. The apple orchard and blueberry fields were unexpected delights, but I learned there was a lot more to Quonquont than apples and blueberries.

Quonquont Farm has been in  business, one way or another since 1759 when a roadside tavern was built. Later a tannery was set up. By 1860 it was a farm we would recognize today with milk cows, beef cattle and tobacco. Of course, dairy and tobacco farms have changed a lot since then.

Ann Barker and Allison Bell bought QuonQuont in 2000. The orchards and blueberries were their main concern. Then ten years ago they started arranging things to host special events. Eight years ago they renovated the big barn and were ready.

QuonQuont Farm

Quonquont Farm Wedding Pavillion

The Garden Club toured the apple orchard which includes 17 types of apples that ripen over a long season. There are familiar apples like Northern Spy and McIntosh, and the less familiar Mollie Delicious. There is also a peach orchard, and plums were recently added.  Remember that next fall when you visit to pick or buy fruit. Quonquont has its own Farmers Market on site.

I love berries and walking through the two acres of blueberries gave me a thrill. I also got some advice about pruning blueberries. I am the kind of person who worries about removing too much of a plant, but I can understand that a seven year old bush can welcome some revitalization. But not too much at one time.

It was cold the day I visited a couple of weeks ago and I was glad that pruning two acres of blueberries in this season was not my responsibility.

I met Maida Goodwin, Horticulture Manager, and Leslie Harris, Farm Manager, at the small barn with warm smiles. They ushered me into an office space, but we kept our jackets on.  Did I say it was a cold day?

We all sat down and Goodwin said that in her second work life she went to the University of Massachusetts and earned a degree in Plant and Soil Science. She then went on to work for ten years Blue Meadow Farm known for its beautiful and unusual flowers. There were other horticultural endeavors but in 2017 she arrived at QuonQuount to add flowers to the fruit menu. The flowers are now an important part of the business and the special events that are now held there.

Pick Your Own Flowers at QuonQuont Farm

Pick Your Own Flowers at QuonQuont

Goodwin created a flower garden of perennials and annuals where visitors can pick and buy their own flowers for bouquets. “I love working with the flowers. I feel rich when I put a bouquet together,” she said.

Goodwin said that over the growing season more than 200 different flowers come into bloom. There is everything from large brilliant Mexican sunflowers and funny ‘balloon plants’ to amaranth and dahlias. The cutting garden is arranged in narrow rows that make cutting easy.

Flower Night

Flower Night is fun for everyone. You don’t even need to be preparing for a wedding.

A once a month Flower Night was instigated, from June to September. Goodwin is there to help and give suggestions. “People don’t always think about all the different things that can go into a floral bouquet like vines and foliage to make it more interesting.”

“Sometimes, people will stop and buy some flowers after they have finished picking their fruit,” Goodwin said.     She also said that friends and wedding party participants often enjoy putting table bouquets together the day before a wedding. “It is a festive time to enjoy time together.”

Leslie Harris came to Quonquont five years ago. After spending 25 years working in non-profit animal shelters she made a big and happy change. She quickly learned to ride the tractor and use the other necessary equipment. “Everyone has been really helpful – from the Extension Service and other growers,” she said. “I even know how to fix the equipment these days, but there is always someone to advise me when I get stuck.”

Harris and Goodwin said that because there are so many special events on the grounds they are always thinking about the sightlines. Do all the grounds look beautiful and cared for? Is all equipment neatly tucked away at the end of day?

They told me that many kinds of events are held every year. Of course, there are weddings. A new pavilion has been erected to offer shade and shelter from the rain. Weddings can be small or large but the event team is ready to care for 200 attendees. They will also hold the Valley Wed event on May 17, 2020, from noon to 2 p.m. Wedding professionals will be on hand to provide information for those making their wedding plants.

Weddings are a very important life event, but we can’t forget birthdays, retirements and memorials. Goodwin and Harris also reeled off a list of fundraisers held at the Farm including CISA, Dakin Animal Shelter, the Food Bank and many others. “Once there was a day long retreat for high school staff,” Goodwin said. I can well understand that high school teachers would welcome a day in this serene spot.

More Quonquont Flowers

Quonquont has a great website, www.quonquont.com that provides information  about fruit and events. ###

Between the Rows   February 8, 2020

A is for An Alphabet for Pollinators – A List of Plants Attracting Creatures

Aquilegia canadensis

Native purple columbine, Aquilegia canadensis

I begin my Alphabet  for Pollinatores with A is for Aquilegia canadensis, or columbine as it is commonly known.

Hummingbirds are attracted to Aquilegia . They can hover while they sip nectar from the flowers. This columbine was in my Heath garden, but it is the native red columbine that really attracts hummingbirds and other birds including

Of course there are other A plants that attract pollinators:

Alyssum is a low-growing annual with flowers that can attract pollinators all summer.

Anise hyssop or Agastache foeniculum, is a tall late summer blooming plant attracting all manner of pollinators.

Alchemilla mollis or Lady’s Mantle is a beautiful ground cover that is known for the drops of rain that are captured on its scalloped leaves. Those drops provide water for butterflies.  We have to remember that pollinators need pollen, but they also need water..
Lady's Mantle

Lady’s Mantle, properly named Alchemilla mollis  Note the many captured raindrops.

Pollinator Friendly Gardening by Rhonda Fleming Hayes is just one book  that will help you know which plants will support pollinators in their every need.

Early Spring Bloomers Bring Promise of the Flowering Season

Snowdrops in mid-April

Snowdrops in Heath in mid-April

When do spring bloomers begin? Punxitawny Phil did not see his shadow this morning. Hooray! An early spring is on its way, and I am looking forward to more bright sun and the beginnings of spring blooming perennials.

I’ve enjoyed brilliant sunlight shining on my yellow twig dogwood, but I know there will be more snow, more cold and more days before I can think about getting down on my knees in the garden. Because I am always so eager for spring flowers I have managed to have a number of early bloomers to cheer and encourage me.

The earliest bloomer I had in Heath was the snowdrop. I had planted a few in what I called the Orchard, four apple trees set in the grass at the end of my Rose Walk.  Every year more and more snow drops spread in the grass. Snowdrops grow from small bulbs and should be planted in the fall. However, I have been known to dig up a clump of blooming snowdrops and move a clump “in the green” and plant them where I wanted them to continue spreading.

I think grape hyacinths, Muscari, are even more vigorous spreaders than snowdrops. In the fall of 2017 I planted a bunch of bulbs in the flower bed that is the view from my Greenfield kitchen window. I wanted to see flowers in the spring as early as possible. I had wonderful bloom in the spring of 2018. As expected the flowers died and so did the foliage. They bloomed again beautifully in 2019, and had spread quit a bit. Then in the fall when I was weeding, I noticed little green shoots.  What were they? They were quite scattered. I had no idea what they were, and wondered if it was some noxious weed I should be pulling. I did pull up a couple of shoots and realized I was pulling up little bulbs. As it turns out, grape hyacinths that have been in the ground for at least a year, will then and thereafter send up shoots every fall and last through the winter until the flowers come into bloom. I always say there are many mysteries in the garden.

Double bloodroot

Double Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is another very early spring bloomer. Visitors to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls will see double bloodroots blooming by the first of May. Bloodroot flowers are a brilliant white with large, deeply cleft leaves 12 inches high. The single variety has a golden center and the double variety has a full pompom of white petals.

These bright white flowers got the name bloodroot from the red sap of the rhizomes. That sap has some medicinal uses, but I  wouldn’t try any of them. It is also used as a natural red or orange dye.

Trillium

Trillium – three petals, three sepals and three leaves

Another bright white flower is the trillium. Trilliums are native plants that grow in the shade in wooded areas. It is an elegant flower with its three petals, three sepals and three leaves. If you are walking through the woods and come across a trillium, you should never pick it and never dig it up. They spread by rhizomes which will make a thick mat. Digging them up will cut that mat of rhizomes and kill the plant. Fortunately, there are now special nurseries which sell trilliums. Hillside Nursery in Shelburne specializes in growing and selling special native plants. They sell most of their plants, including trillium, in the fall when conditions are most amenable for survival. Check their website http://www.hillsidenursery.biz/ .

I first loved the epimedium’s heart-shaped foliage, which I noticed growing under trees and shrubs in friends’ gardens. Then I loved the delicate blooms in various shades of white, yellow, pink, and purple. I now have more than a dozen epimediums growing and spreading in my front garden. A large swathe of these plants is beautiful when they are in and out of bloom. I have dug up sections to let them spread in other spots, and I have shared divisions with other gardeners which is always a pleasure.

Garden Visions Epimediums in Templeton has the largest collection of epimediums in the U.S. I have gotten some of my plants from them. They have Open Nursery Days on May 1 to May 18, from 10 am to 4 pm. Rain or shine. Epimediums look very delicate but in fact they are sturdy and long-lived.

Fringed Bleeding Hearts

Fringed Bleeding Hearts

The cover of my new American Gardener magazine featured bleeding hearts. The article that accompanied photogphs of the bleeding hearts surprised me because I did not realize there were so many varieties. There are bleeding hearts with white flowers, bleeding hearts with pink flowers and golden foliage, pink flowers with familiar green foliage and small pink fringed bleeding hearts with a feathery foliage and 18 other varieties.

When we first saw soon-to-be-our house in Greenfield I was thrilled to see the fringed bleeding hearts (Dicentra exima) growing up against the house foundation. They are delicate and sweet and happy in the sun.

After we had been living in the house for a couple of years, adding more and more soil to make raised beds for my plantings, I planted the Goldheart bleeding heart with its gold foliage. This plant gets sun for part of the day, but it also gets a lot of shade and still thrives.

What early bloomers do you have? Crocus?  Or other perennials like mine?

Primroses

Primroses bloom early as well.  I thank Foster’s Maket for these.

Between the Rows  February 8, 2020

Best and New Plants for the Garden in 2020

Perennial Plant of 2020

Best Perennial  –  Aralia ‘Sun King’ PPA Perennial Plant Of The Year

The New Year is well begun. New plants will be available at every nursery this spring.  The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) chooses and honors one plant every year. This year they chose the ‘Sun King’ Aralia as its Plant of the Year. Another name for Aralia is spikenard, or nard suggesting a long and ancient history. When ground up its roots can produce a fragrant and beneficial oil.

Centuries ago the Egyptians stored the fragrant oil, the Hebrews used it as incense, and it appears in the Bible in the Song of Solomon, chapters 1:12 and 4:13. Sometimes it is referred to as frankincense, but the oil is still used today as a balm and in the perfume industry.

Today the golden foliage of ‘Sun King’ will brighten a shady garden location. It grows in a clump and in late summer into the fall it sends up two foot tall spikes with small white flowers. It can grow to between three to six feet tall in rich, moist soil that is well drained. That suggests necessary attention to the difference between moist and well-drained. It is a plant that can naturalize.

The PPA chooses a special plant every year. In 2019 they chose the Stachys ‘Hummelo.’ This a hardy plant that needs what we call full sun, which is at least six hours a day. Unlike the ‘Sun King’ it needs well drained soil that requires water when needed. Again, we need to pay attention, at least until we know how plants act in our own gardens.

Some of us may be familiar with the variety of Stachys like lamb’s ears with the gray wooly foliage. ‘Hummelo’ is very different with a clump of bright green foliage and spikes of magenta flowers that attract pollinators. When in full flower it can be two feet tall. This is a trouble free plant that will put on a great show when massed. Over time it will make a good ground cover.

TERRA NOVA

Heuchera

Heuchera

Terra Nova is a nursery that hybridizes plants with concentration on coral bells, Heuchera. They are available at most garden centers. I went to their online catalog and found their  new Plant of the Year is Heuchera Grande ‘Amethyst.’ This large leaf H. villarosa hybrid has large purple foliage which explains the name Amethyst. The summer blooming flowers on tall stems are pink. This lusty plant has a spread of 30 inches. It will grow in sun or shade.

This year Terra Nova has a substantial list of ten new plant offerings from heucheras, heucherellas which combine the attributes of heuchera and tiarella, plectranthus, sedum, and a veronica. A visit to the website will provide beautiful images of each plant, and growing information. Visit their website for full information about all their plants. http://www.terranovanurseries.com/product-category/active-plants/

 

 

PROVEN WINNERS

Hydrangea Ruby Slippers

Proven Winners hydrangea ‘Ruby Slippers

Proven Winners (PW) is a nursery whose plants are also found in just about every local garden center. Like Terra Nova, they have a number of new plants for 2020. PW is offering 21 new perennials from four yarrows in shades of amethyst, white, peach and bright golden sunshine. Yarrows (Achillea) are great plants for attracting pollinators.

They are offering two bright coneflowers (Echinacea) in shades of orange and yellow which will attract more bees and butterflies.  Other new arrivals are two heart-leafed brunneras, two beautiful pink rose mallows, two 16 inch phlox, three stonecrops, a white salvia, a frilly pink daylily with a wine-red heart, a rich purple speedwell “Purple Profusion.” They are also offering a delicate fern-leafed bleeding heart (Dicentra) only 16 inches tall and named “Pink Diamonds.”

The Proven Winners website provides information about plant care, pollinators, the mysteries of hydrangeas and many other useful topics. Check out https://www.provenwinners.com/plants/search/year/2020?duration=Perennial 

MONROVIA

Geum

Geum “Werner Arends’

Monrovia doesn’t name new plant offerings, but my own stroll through their online catalog https://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/ showed me some plants I would love to add to my garden.

I already have a geum that I bought at a plant sale. It is a low growing plant that sends up strong 10 inch stems holding up little orange flowers with gold centers and blooms over much of the summer and attracts butterflies. The new Monrovia catalog shows Geum coccineum ‘Werner Arends’ with its semi-double flowers above the familiar lobed foliage.

Another colorful perennial is a beardtongue, Penstemon barbatus ‘Rondo’ which grows floriferous stems one to two feet tall in shades of pink, red and purple. Bees and hummingbirds love this plant which has a long summer bloom season

Monrovia has a great website that lists more than 1800 perennials, 241 ground covers, and 100 shrubs. The page for each plant gives information about size, blooming time, needs for water and sun and more.

https://growbeautifully.monrovia.com/best-early-spring-flowering-plants-to-attract-pollinators/

My husband may think there is no room for more plants in our garden, but I know better. We have opened up more plant space, and there is a garden tour this summer. I want to be ready!  ###

Between the Rows  February 1, 2020

Applause for Annuals

Geraniums

Geraniums come in many colors. These were on display at the Lyman Greenhouse

Every year new flowers show up in the catalogs and garden centers. These new plants may get us thinking about ways we can design our plantings, help us find flowers that will thrive in challenging situations, or help support pollinators. I will list a few of these new annual flower varieties that I found particularly appealing.

The first place I check to see what is new is the All America Plant Selections website. Many of us have noticed the little red, white and blue logo on some seed packets denoting that they are AAS Selections, plant varieties that have been tested in gardens across the country to find flowers and vegetables that can be grown in home gardens successfully.

Geraniums are a common and beloved flower that blooms in pots and hanging baskets all summer long. A new geranium (or more properly pelargonium) varieties is Brocade Fire. The AAS has named this mounding plant with its splotched lime green foliage and unusual bright orange blossoms a national winner which means it will thrive anywhere in the US. Geraniums love the sun but Brocade Fire is tolerant of less than full sun and promises to take a fair amount of shade. Although I always think of geraniums as container plants, they can certainly be planted in the ground where you can worry less about watering. The secret to growing container plants successfully is a good schedule of generous watering and fertilizing. You will still need to remove spent blossoms of the geraniums.

The Salvia Summer Jewel Series has been winning the AAS award every time the series comes out with a new color, Summer Jewel Red in 2011, Summer Jewel Pink in 2012, Summer Jewel White in 2015 and now Summer Jewel Lavender. What all of these Summer Jewels have in common is their appeal to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. They are about 20 inches high and need full sun. Perfect for bedding borders, or containers.

Cosmos

Cosmos come in shades of pink as well as white

Cosmos are one of those wonderful annuals that will bloom all summer long and into the fall requiring no particular care. There are several varieties in shades of pink and white with various petal forms. This year a new cosmos is Casanova, a dwarf that blooms in white, red, pink and pale violet with very compact growth for a very long season from spring to frost. Another new dwarf cosmos is Xanthos which is unusual because of its creamy yellow color. Both of these varieties will not be more than about 20 inches tall, are happy in containers, and like all cosmos will attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Gardeners who have shade will be very familiar with wild impatiens with white blossoms or shades of pink and white. Now there is the Sunpatiens , a cross between the wild New Guinea impatiens and the wild variety. Sunpatiens do not need shade and thrive in full sun, even in hot and humid climates. They come in three growth habits: Compact which is 18-24 inches tall; Spreading with a mounding habit about 30 inches tall; and Vigorous which has a vase shape up to about 3 feet tall. The new Sunpatiens Spreading Clear Orange has striking color for three season bloom in all kinds of weather until frost. They have good resistance to downy mildew which has recently been a problem for the more familiar pastel impatiens.

I love morning glories like the classic Heavenly Blue. My old Grandpa Ott with its deep purple blossoms self seeded itself for years and gladdened my heart well into the fall. This year Ipomea Split Second has come on the scene with her “peony-like blooms” of a heavenly pink and I don’t think I can resist.  I never even knew there were double morning glories. I am planning to order my seeds right away because these luscious flowers are expected to be very popular.

Split Second has the vining habit you expect, climbing up to six feet and while it welcomes a good well drained soil, it can tolerate some drought and some damp.

Its name, Split Second, is a hint that this is a very early blooming variety. It can be planted in a container or hanging basket, as well as in the ground. Wherever you plant it be sure to give it sufficient support.

Begonias

Begonias growing is part shade.

Once I was at a garden writers conference at the end of the summer in California and we got to see some of the new plants that would be available in the spring. Everyone was asking “What is that flower cascading over the hanging pots?” It was Begonia boliviensis with graceful blossom-laden stems overflowing their pots. These bell-like begonia blossoms are quite simple, unlike lush tuberous begonias or even the delicate shade-loving wax begonias. Bees and hummingbirds love it. It will bloom all summer and into the fall, but a touch of frost means the end.

Although begonias generally prefer shade, B. boliviensis San Francisco is a great plant for hanging baskets because it is more tolerant of sunnier spots, although some shade would be ideal. Hanging on my front porch perhaps?

Annuals are an important element in almost every garden providing masses of color over a long season. Many of these no longer need constant deadheading to keep blooming.

 

Review of the First Month of the Year – January 2020

The snowy back yard on January 1, 2020

My New Year’s Resolution is to keep a better record of the weather, and the changes in the garden over 2020. We enter the year with a snow covered garden.

The front garden melting

By January 12, 2020 the back and front gardens are melting, melting, melting.

A typical flood scene

Of course, snow will melt, but we did not expect so much melting this quickly by January 17, 2020 Note the flooding on the north side of the garden.

Pruned sycamores on January 20, 2020

Although there had been more snow, the town workers went around pruning trees and protecting our power wires. Our 100 year old sycamore is on the left.

February 1, 2010

I forgot to take a picture on January 31, but there was little change on the first day of February. The weather has been mild with temperatures in the 30s and 40s. No flooding is visible. And as I write this I can announce that Punxatawny Phil has promised an early spring.  The temperature at this moment is 43 degrees.