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Brilliant Autumn Color is Flooding Heath’s Hills

Maple autumn color

All of sudden the autumn color we hope for and wait for has appeared. Every hour it seems more brilliant.


Brilliant autumn color


Golden birches

Blushing blueberry bushes

Down with invasive Burning Bush. Up with blueberries. Delicious berries and delightful autumn  color.

Oakleaf hydrangea

Deep autumn color on the oakleaf hydrangea is stunning and unusual.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

September 1 Record Fruiting and Tangles

Thomas Affleck rose

This post is part of my twice a month record of bloom and doings in the garden, on the 1st of the month, and then on Bloom Day, the 15th. As we begin September it is clear that in spite of the hot and dry weather Thomas Affleck continues to thrive. One a very few other rose blossoms are to be seen.

Hips on Dart’s Dash rugosa

What the roses are doing instead of blooming is producing hips. The Rugosas have the biggest fattest hips, that are now red and ripe. A neighbor came over to harvest what she needed to make rose hip jelly.

Rosa glauca rose hips

I bought rosa glauca about 30 years ago because of the description of the rose hips. They are red at the moment but will ripen to nearly black. Very sophisticated.

Liberty apple

This is a good year for apples. Liberty apple, planted about 25 years ago is a disease resistant apple. I never noticed before that this apple requires two other types of apple for cross-pollination. There are other apples in our field, and a neighbor less than two miles away has a whole orchard. There are enough other apples to keep this one pollinated and fruitful.  Needless to say, we use no insecticides or herbicides that would hurt honey bees or any other pollinators.

Highbush cranberry

The blueberries and raspberries are  finished. This highbush cranberry (viburnam) is the only berry bush we have at this season. The birds will make quick work of the pretty red berries.

Wild hops and grapes

We are not the ones who planted these hops or grapes. We make noble annual efforts but we have not been able to keep them in control.  These tough vines crawl over  a section of roadside saplings and into  the cultivated area and onto the viburnam.  The hop vine produces these papery little lantern-like flowers. Brewers need hops. The only use I might have for hop flowers is to harvest and dry them and stuff a little pillow with them to encourage sleep. Hops are considered soporific.  We eat a few of the Concord grapes, but the birds get most of those too. You have to look close to see them in this tangle of green.

Zinnias, squash and Grandpa Ott

As a last minute planting I used a few leftover seeds to plant acorn squash and zinnias where I had put a more informal than usual compost pile. This little tangle was more complicated than expected because of some Grandpa Ott purple morning  glories that came from I know not where.


Acorn squash

There are a few squash in that tangle. The tomatoes are beginning to ripen and we are eating a second or third planting of lettuce and salad turnips.  The broccoli harvest is over, and the green bean harvest has yet to begin because it got off to such a slow start – partly the weather and partly the rabbits. Happily no more trouble  with rabbits after that bean shoot feast.



The tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Nothing like a luscious tomato fresh from the garden.


Acidanthra plus

I almost forgot that I planted acidanthra (summer gladiola) bulbs because it doesn’t begin to bloom until so late in the season.  It is a beautiful, graceful and fragrant plant. It gets lots of attention from visitors to the Bridge of Flowers. Here it is squeezed in between pink phlox, northern sea oats, delicate artemesia lactiflora on the right with Echinacea on the other side of this border peeking through. Pink cosmos are  also in bloom behind the artemesia.

Yarrow, lobelia, cotinus

At this time of the year there are tangles everywhere. I like this silvery leaved yarrow with its sulphur yellow blossoms and the blue lobelia with the wine red cotinus. There are a couple of white snapdragons in the mix as well.

Aconite and hydrangea

I love blue and white and I got it in this tangle of hydrangea and aconite stretching to reach the sun.

We got  a happy bit of rain last night, although only about a half inch, added to the half inch the day before that. Wishing for more.

Dig Up, Dig Down, Cut Back and Rake

North Lawn Bed

Mild weather this long holiday weekend has  given us time to work together to dig up, dig down, cut back and rake, all parts of putting the garden to bed. Henry helped me slightly enlarge the end of the bed around the fountain juniper, cleaning out weeds, and making room for small bulbs, miniature golden daffs, ‘Diamond Ring,’ Pink Sunrise’ and macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’ muscari. We will be able to see  these from the dining table in the spring. All these bulbs came from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs along with an extra bag of beautiful big paperwhite bulbs – a gift to cheer gardeners after Superstorm Sandy. I have a lot of daffodils, but none of them can be seen from the house, but it is smart to think about what you see from your windows and plan a ‘windowscape’ that will bring you pleasure, in whatever season.

The Lawn Beds are pretty well cleaned up. The Daylily Bank has also been cut back and some weeding was possible because the ground is not yet frozen. The Herb Bed is nearly cleaned out. I just have to dig out the horseradish. I thought I got rid of all the horseradish last fall, but I was wrong. When shoots came up in the spring I left them, but I am going to make another attempt at removing the horseradish. I was warned it would be a tough job.

‘Blue Princess’ holly

I cut back the epimediums, cranesbill, acidanthera, and yarrow growing in front of the holly. This holly bush was filled with brilliant berries last year, but not this year.

Chamaecyparis ‘Gold Thread’ False Cypress

On this beautiful sunny Monday morning the ‘Gold Thread’ Chamaecyparis is just glowing in the garden reminding us that we may still have a few golden days before winter sets in.


John Bunker and His Wanted Posters


‘WANTED’ poster for Pickman apple

John Bunker, heritage apple expert, and author, distributes WANTED posters for the old apples he is searching for. He gives a pretty full description of the apple’s appearance from size, shape, color of skin, color of flesh, stem size, and seeds. I’ve learned some new words like Acuminate which refers to the tapering shape of the seed cavity. I don’t know what the ‘eye’ of the apple is. I know the opposite of the stem end is called the ‘basin,’ and has its own characteristic: shallow, deep, wide, wrinkled. So many things to  consider.

John Bunker writes the FEDCO TREES catalog and the 2013 edition is ready. It is full of information and ordering directions for hardy fruit trees, small fruits and berries, other tress, shrubs, roots(like asparagus) and vines. There is even a small selection of tender bulbs and perennials and heraceous medicinals.  Needless to say I was happy to see the availability of hardy roses like Morden Fireglow that blooms into October and is hardy to Zone 2. “Information suitable for browsing and entertainment.” I can attest to that.

Apple seed cavities

In his book, Not Far From the Tree, John Bunker has drawings that illustrate the different formations of the seed cavity. I cut three of my apples in half to see what differences the Hudson Gem Russet, Northern Spy and Macoun had. Not much. The Tolman Sweet has a very tiny seed cavity. These differences can also be used to help identify and apple variety. When I was a young child my father would cut apples in half around the ‘equator’ so that we could see that all the stars were not in the sky.


John Bunker and David Buchanan on Cider Day

John Bunker and David Buchanan at Apex Orchard

John Bunker and David Buchanan gave a couple of talks on Cider Day all  about their experiences with finding and planting heritage apples. They also got to sell their books. I knew about David’s book, Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter,  but I didn’t know that John had also written, and illustrated, a book about the apples and orchards of Palermo where he lives in Maine.

Not Far From the Tree: The apples of Palermo 1804-2004

Not Far From the Tree: A Bried History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo Maine 1804-2004. After his wonderful and engaging talk I was delighted to find that he had written this book (he hadn’t mentioned it during his talk) and it was being sold at the Buckland-Shelburne Community Hall Cider Day site. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really read the book but I did get past the Acknowdedgements page, where among other things, he siad that he had finally and with  the help of “the Apple Professor Tom Burford, idenitfied the ‘Blake’ apple as a Grimes Golden. This will be a good update to David’s book in which he describes some outings searching for the Blake apple.  As John said in his talk ‘exploring for apples is a project in process. It is something you are Doing all the time.” He said those who are exploring have to act like Sherlock Holmes, and that there are two different sorts of exploring. “Sometimes you are poking around to find a particular apples, and sometimes you are trying to find a name for an apple. Related, but two different processes.”

He also  talked about the Preservation Orchard that MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners) is planting, concentrating on apples that originated in Maine. Like David, John is interested in finding locally adapted crops. One of my neighbors also attended the talk and by the time we left the Apex Orchard Farm Store where the talk was held, we had determined to talk to our own Heath Historical Society about exploring our own apple history (Heath used to have a  number of orchards) and planting a selection of those apples on the Common or on Historical Society land.

You can learn more about John Bunker and his apple CSA by clicking here.

More about John Bunker and David Buchanan to come this week.  I have to read a little more of Not Far From the Tree.

The Bridge of Flowers is Closed

Bridge of Flowers

The Bridge of Flowers was prepared for closing, just before Superstorm Sandy – that did no damage this year. Unlike Irene last year.

For more Wordlessness  this Wednesday click here.

Priorities and Preparations for Hurricane Sandy

Garlic Planted October 26, 2012

While Hurricane Sandy was making its slow and warning filled way to Heath we had to set priorities and make preparations to weather the storm. With so much notice, and stories about a possible Sandy snow  storm (like last year) I realized it was time to plant the garlic. Fortunately I had already prepared the bed so it didn’t take much to pull apart my choice garlic bulbs and plant each clove about eight inches apart in four rows. Then I mulched the wide row with slightly rotted straw from the not-very-successful tomatoes-in-a-strawbale experiment. That story in a post soon.

Beaver damage

With up to 8 inches of rain predicted we set off for the Frog Pond to see if the beavers really were back and what they had been up to. The walk down to the pond showed definite signs of their presence.

Frog Pond October 28, 2012

The level of the pond was very high and the beavers had clearly been working on the old lodge that was abandoned during the summer. There is an overflow pipe that keeps the pond at a reasonable level, but the beavers always block it. Instant beaver dam. Those lazy creatures.

Beaver lodge closeup

We did not try to get close to the beaver lodge and just set to work clearing out the overflow.

Frog Pond Overflow Pipe Flowing

Fortunately it did not take Henry long to unclog the pipe and send water gushing through into the wetland area below the pond.  We’ll have to check the pond again right after the storm passes because it does not take those beavers long to plug up the overflow.

Bridge of Flowers – Closed for the Season

This morning I was up at dawn to get down to Shelburne Falls to help close the Bridge of Flowers before Hurricane Sandy arrived in full force. Officially closed for the season! Let the storm begin!  Not too hard.

ADDENDUM – Although it didn’t seem like much of a storm we lost power around 2 pm Monday afternoon, and just got power and the phone back around 2 pm today, Tuesday. We did not suffer at all except for worrying about our full freezer. We are so fortunate, and know others really are suffering and our hearts go out to them.


The ABCs of Heritage Apples, and Others

Apex Farm Store

A is for Apple, but if we look at heritage apples we can march right through the alphabet. Baldwin, Cox’s Orange Pippin, (Old) Delicious, Esopus Spitzenberg, Golden Russet, and on through to Northern Spy, Roxbury Russet, Stayman Winesap and Westfield Seek-No-Farther.

The Roxbury Russet and Westfield Seek-No-Farther remind us that some apples had a very local fame and audience before they spread to wider fields. In fact, Roxbury Russet was the first named apple in Massachusetts.

Even though we think of apples as a quintessential American fruit, apples originated in southeastern Asia, Kazakhstan and Turkey thousands of years ago. There are over 7000 cultivars, but you don’t usually get any sense of how many apples are grown, even now, if your only experience with apples is from the supermarket.

Fortunately we live in an area where apples thrive, and where we have a number of small orchards selling a much wider variety of apples – and cider. Last week I visited Apex in Shelburne, Barkley’s in Heath and Clarkdale in Deerfield and my husband is looking forward to apples cooked sweet and savory as well as the healthful apple a day eaten out of hand. I never get tired of apples and my father said no meal was complete without his apple for dessert.

Fuji apples

Tom Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farm said there are still Baldwin and Northern Spy trees on his farm that his grandfather planted. He said that Baldwins were an important New England apple. At the turn of the 20th century Colrain had more Baldwin apple trees than any other town in the state. The apples came out of Colrain on the trolley, then to the train in Shelburne Falls, and then to Boston where they were shipped to England. It was the Baldwin’s keeping qualities that made this possible. “Of course, this might just be a local legend,” Clark said. But it does seem possible.

In the 1930s there were winters so severe that most of the Baldwin trees were killed. It was the new Macintosh apple that took its place. This apple has a tender skin and doesn’t keep as well, but refrigerated transportation was becoming available so keeping quality wasn’t as important.

Clark grows a range of heritage apples along with the newer varieties like Honey Crisp, but he said that he liked Baldwins, and that a “ripe russet is nice.” He did say that Americans in general liked pretty red apples but that the Jonagold apple, a cross between the Jonathan and Golden Delicious is the most planted apple in Germany and France. He has heard “that Americans buy with their eyes, and Europeans buy with their mouths.”

There is a new interest among foodies for cider, soft and hard, but Clarkdale Fruit Farm has been making cider for 50 years. Many of these old apple varieties make especially good cider. My friend Alan Nichols planted a cider orchard quite a number of years ago and those apples are in demand again as the new owner of the orchard is making his own cider,

Alan Nichols’ brother Lew wrote a book, Cider: Making, Using and Enjoying Sweet and Hard Cider, with Annie Proulx back in 1980 which is still available. Nichols and Proulx suggest a long list of cider apples for New England that includes Baldwin, Cortland, Esopus Spitzenberg (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple), Gravenstein, Jonathan, Fameuse, Roxbury Russet and Stayman Winesap among others.

Cider is such a fashionable drink right now that we celebrate locally with Cider Days, scheduled this year for November 3 and 4. This event will take place at a number of locations in Greenfield, Deerfield, and Shelburne. You can find a full schedule of tastings, apple butter making, a locavore harvest supper and more on the website

Apex Orchard in Shelburne also grows a wide range from Baldwins, Spitzenbergs, Macouns and Fuji as well as Reine de Pomme and Ashmead Kernel that they grow for West County Cider.

I cannot say I was surprised to see that West County Cider’s Redfield was a featured recommendation in the November issue of Martha Stewart’s Living. West County Cider makes several varietal hard ciders, which only use a single apple variety, like Redfield as well as a Heritage Blend Cider. Many chefs are now thinking about pairing a cider with a particular dish, the way wines have been paired in the past.

Apex Orchard cooler

I was talking to Sarah Davenport at Apex Orchard and she said she liked Macoun and Fuji apples, but it was hard to choose a favorite.

Tim Smith of Apex refused to limit himself to one favorite apple. He said he liked them all, but he said his grandfather, Lyndon Peck had a favorite – the large Pound Sweet. “He had a baked Pound Sweet with his breakfast every morning from late September until March,” Smith said.

I am so happy to have all these apply choices. Sue Chadwick, who had a huge collection of heritage apples in Buckland when I was librarian there, told me the secret to her famous apple pies was using several apple varieties. I start with Northern Spy because there is an old saying “For the best pie, use Northern Spy.” Other good pie apples are Roxbury Russet, Baldwin, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Golden Delicious and the new Honeycrisp.

I also just learned that Cornell University sells apples from their experimental orchards in vending machines on campus. Those smart university people appreciate the importance of an apple a day!

Between the Rows   October 20, 2012

Surprising Blooms on a Gray Day


These surprising blooms are from Bluestone Perennials, one of a mum collection I bought a couple of years ago. The rabbits got to the planting of that collection and I rescued what was left and just stuck them anywhere in the garden and forgot about them. I hope I am not the only gardener in the world who sticks in anywhere and then forgets.

This spring I saw what looked like chrysanthemum foliage in an odd place, and with no recollection of what it might be I left it. The foliage got tangled in all the other surrounding plants and it did not begin to bloom until very recently when I began to cut down the surrounding plants. This is a pretty plant, and obviously hardy. I promise to find a better spot for it before I put the garden to bed.

Chrysanthemum koreanum ‘Sheffield’

I first saw this wonderful flower at the Smith College Botanic Garden. There was no label, but readers who saw the photo I took identified it as a ‘Sheffie.’  That fall I bought an unnamed mum at the Wilder Hill Garden and realized I now had my own ‘Sheffie.’ I had stuck it in a bare spot in the autumnal garden, but thought I put it in a better spot this spring. I was wrong. I am going to give a really good site some real thought. It is a good muliplier so I will think of two good spots.

Both mums are doing beautifully in my soil which I enrich with compost every time I plant. That is not too much of a surprise.

Year of the Rose Draws to a Close


Thomas Affleck rose 10-22-12

The Year of the Rose for 2012 as designated by the International Herb Society is drawing to a close. Thomas Affleck is the only rose in my garden that is still waving the banner.

It has been a difficult year for the garden. Because of a mild relatively snowless winter, we came into spring with a drought situation. That drought hit in full force during the summer and since I get my water from a well I had to be very cautious about watering. Vegetables were the priority. I knew the roses would survive a dry year, but vegetables would never make it to the table if they were not watered. Fortunately, the roses bloom and we have our Annual Rose Viewing before the drought became too bad. If you would like to stroll through a Virtual Rose View click here.

This spring a reader asked me whether Knock Out Roses killed bees. The answer is NO!  I gave a full explanation here.

This year I realized that I have aquired quite a number of rugosa varieties and I explained why here. I can tell you that the Kordes Goldbusch, and Rugosa Agnes are doing well.


Purington Rambler rose

As I look back over this year and see how lush the growth was on some of  the roses after the mild winter, and that the Rose Bank is filling out beautifully with a lot of help from the Purington Rambler, I realize how little of this I ever imagined when I planted the first rose, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, next to the front door 32 years ago. And yet I still have plans, still have a list of must have roses, and stil expect a friendly crowd at the Annual Rose Viewing for a few more years.


Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose

For more information about the Year of the Rose, and a preview of the Year of the Elderberry visit the International Herb Society.