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Sunny Saturday – On the Road in Heath

Abandoned beaver dam

After more t han three inches of rain came sunny Saturday and the pleasure of Saturday morning rounds. Past the abandoned beaver dam and off to the Heath Free Public Library. This is the prettiest abandoned beaver dam in Heath. We are not totally sure whether beavers have left our beaver pond or not.

Golden tree

After the library onto the paved road and the Town Transfer Station.

Stream on Route 8A

After the Transfer Station it was down 8A and off to Avery’s General Store.

Holland Dam in the Dell

The newly repaired dam gate has made the dam look like its old self.


Days of Gold, Days of Lead

Golden Days of Fall

Yesterday was gold. Warm. Breezy.

Rainy fall day

Today the skies are lead, and the cold rain is falling.

My Moss Garden

Moss on the Piazza

For more Wordlessness click here.

Scaling Up Local Food

The Solar Dancer

The Solar Dancer greeted all those who gathered at Greenfield Community College last Saturday to hear about and discuss our current local food production and food security and the ways that it might be stepped up.

It was an exciting day because we live in a fortunate area that has lots of good farmland, with old (in the sense of established) and new farmers. These farmers operate farmstands and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and participate in area Farmers Markets. We have the Community Development Corporation‘s certified kitchen which farmers can rent by the hour to process their crops.

We have restaurants and families who appreciate good fresh food that not only sustains them, but sustains our environment – and our economy!

The day was filled with excellent  presentations and workshops, from Jim Barry from the Mass Department of Energy Resources, Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved and many local experts. You will be hearing more about this exciting day.


Shelly Beck of Enterprise Farm in Whately, MA

There were so many thought provoking ideas presented, including one by Shelly Beck of Enterprise Farm which has a bold vision of their place in the community. One of the Farm’s concerns is the Food Deserts that exist in the state, areas where (usually) low income communities have no access to affordable healthy food. Enterprise Farm decided to bring their produce to one such community near Boston where they already delivered CSA farm shares weekly. Their answer to the food desert was a bus and a celebration. They bought and retrofitted a bus which brought food to this community for a long season – bringing along a growing festive spirit and activity. This was one of the most inspiring moments of the day for me.


A Marital Discussion

American beech

This fall I mentioned to my husband that I was amazed at how many beeches there seemed to be in the woods all of a sudden. How had I not noticed all these beeches before when so many of them grew right along the roadside and still retained their leaves when most of the other deciduous trees were bare. I knew that beeches kept many of their leaves until the old leaves were pushed off by new leaves in the spring. I wrote about beeches here last year.

My husband felt the trees I thought were beeches had simply not lost their leaves yet. Other trees that still had foliage, like the young oak trees along the roadside. He said I needed to pay attention to bark and leaf shape.

Young oak

It is true that there are young oaks along the road, but I KNEW all those other trees were beeches.  What do do? I had to prove my point. I remembered a very nice man I had met at the Conway School of Landscape Design last year, John O’Keefe, newly retired from the Harvard Forest in the eastern part of the state and a part of Harvard University. Just the expert to teach me about beeches. He said I was correct and that the beeches I saw growing in grove-like groups were probably caused by root suckers. A few years ago many beeches were afflicted by beech bark disease. The damage done to the tree caused it to produce these root suckers. He said the only tree that looked anything like the American beech (Fagus grandifolia) was the chestnut and we do not have any of those in our area.

American beech leaf and bud

John O’Keefe also said that the pointed bud is distinctive and an easy and positive identifier. The reason the trees don’t lose their leaves in fall is because they are immature, and it takes the action of a special hormone that tells a tree it is time to let the leaves go.  He said the young oaks are holding on to their leaves for the same reason. They are not mature enough to have the necessary hormones.

In my husband’s defense I have to say that halfway through our discussion I began to realize that he was thinking of the European beech (Fagus sylvatica), a magnificent tree that is the tree used for landscape purposes. We used to dine at the Copper Beech Inn and always admired the glorious tree in front of the restaurant.

I’m glad we straightened that issue out to everyone’s satisfaction.

Smith College Chrysanthemums

Sometimes a chrysanthemum is just a mum, but sometimes a chrysanthemum is Art. Artistically grown chrysanthemums will be on display during Smith College’s annual Fall Chrysanthemum Show which will run November 5-20 in the Lyman Plant House. A $2 donation is suggested. On display will be the stunning chrysanthemum cascades and other skillfully pruned and supported chrysanthemums, some in pillars, and some trained to a single stem with a giant bloom.

Like the spring Bulb Show the Chrysanthemum Show depends on the knowledge of greenhouse staff and students to bring the plants into bloom just in time for opening day by carefully controlling light and temperature. The Japanese style cascades, rarely seen in the U.S., require the patient pinching and arranging of plant shoots through a chicken wire frame to create this stunning effect. The Chrysanthemum Show is a glorious last hurrah to the end of the blooming season.

This year the show will actually begin on Friday, November 4 with A Garden Writer’s Journey, a talk by Paula Dietz, Smith alum, co-founder of the Friends of the Smith Botanic Garden, and author of “On Gardens: Selected Essays.” The talk will be held in the Campus Center Carroll Room at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a reception where Dietz will sign her book. The Lyman Plant House will also be illuminated for a preview of the show for attendees.

In “On Gardens” Paula Dietz writes of her experiences over decades in all manner of gardens around the world from the U.S. to the serene gardens of Japan, evoking the sense of the culture and personalities that create gardens, and the way they are used. She uses her knowledge of history, art and literature to bring those gardens and gardeners to life for the reader. I was particularly delighted by the section on parks and public spaces, seeing some of the landscapes that are familiar to me through her eyes and sensibility.

Dietz also reminded me of how important chrysanthemums are to Asians. A couple of years ago I attended a rare exhibit of Kiku, Japanese style arrangements of potted chrysanthemums at the New York Botanic Garden. I saw how the artistry of Japanese gardeners reflects ideals of perfect form and mindfulness.

I also thought of the way the Chinese consider chrysanthemums the iconic symbol of autumn and imagined holding a moon viewing party in September on the night of the full moon, when the chrysanthemums are in bloom. We could search for Chang’e, the beautiful lady in the moon with her companion the jade rabbit, and eat sweet mooncakes.

The organizers of the chrysanthemum show must also be thinking about the place mums have in Asian culture. On Saturday, November 12  at 2 p.m. students in the Culture of the Lyric in Traditional China: Plants and Poetry class will read selected poems in the Church Exhibition Gallery. Chrysanthemum tea will be served. I should say this delicate tea is made with the blossoms of a particular chrysanthemum, not any old hardy mum.

Dan Ladd gourd sculpture

The Church Gallery is also hosting a new exhibit Shaping Plants: Fruits, Shoots and Roots. The artist, Dan Ladd, is exhibiting examples of his collaborations with nature, gourds grown inside molds to become sculptures, and photographs of pruning and grafting trees and plants into unique and whimsical structures. His art has grown out of his fascination with the adaptability of plants. Ladd will be on hand Friday, November 18 at 6:30 p.m. for an informal talk in the gallery.

While working with different plants in a totally different way, Ladd has similar patience and skill in his handling of plants as the Lyman House staff takes in preparing for this show which is such a treat for the broader community beyond Smith College.

Smith College is known for the excellent education if offers its enrolled students, but it is also an educational resource for nearby communities. The perennial and rock gardens that surround the Lyman Plant House contain hundred of plants, all carefully labeled. These labels educate local gardeners about what blooms when, and how late into the season they will bloom, and the exact names of the plants so they can be brought into their own personal gardens.

I have always been impressed by the way the campus acts as an arboretum, with each tree tagged and labeled. When it is time for any of us to add a tree to our own domestic landscape we are often handicapped by our limited knowledge of trees in general, and the trees that will thrive in our climate in particular. A stroll around the Smith campus is all it takes to be inspired, and given the information to choose a beautiful and interesting tree for our own gardens. A guide to the trees is on sale.

This is not the place to describe all the gardens at Smith, but many readers may have ambled along the paths by Paradise Pond and found the Wildflower and Woodland Garden or the Japanese Garden for Reflection and Contemplation. The Capen Garden includes a rustic rose arbor and a gazebo. There is a garden for every mood and season, or search for learning.

The Lyman Plant House is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is wheelchair accessible. A special handicapped parking space is just outside the Plant House entry. Full information about the gardens and planning a visit is at


Autumnal Surprise!


This fall we have truly been having a ‘golden season.’ The weather has been relatively mild, if rainy, and the usual flame of the maples was muted.

But a golden glow shone on every sunny day. But today we got rain – and a surprise.


This photo was taken around 4 p.m on Thursday.

October 27 9 p.m.

October 27 10 p.m.

October 28 7:15 a.m.

October 28 7:30 am


Bridge of Flowers – End of Season

Buckland side entry to Bridge of Flowers

Chrysanthemums were planted in September. We want the Bridge to be full of bloom all season.

I am so happy to see roses still in bloom.

I am also happy to see a quiet river behind these dahlias.

The dahlias are important at this season.

But the weather has been so relatively mild that even the begonias are still blooming.

The gardens will be put to bed and the official garden season ends on Sunday, October 30.  Have a good winter. See you on April 1.


Country Roads – and Home

And home again.

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Vines For Shade

Over the Columbus Day weekend we sat out on our friends’ patio in the golden sunset before going indoors for a wonderful supper. As we admired the fields and the pond our friends told us they had decided to build a pergola over the patio, much as we had, to provide cooling shade on hot summer afternoons. The question was, what should they plant to provide that shade?

We have a wisteria growing on our pergola (which some call an arbor). It got off to a very slow start, but now grows vigorously and it sometimes produces those beautiful and graceful wisteria blooms. While Chinese and Japanese wisteria like mine are not really invasive in our climate, they are strong growers and do send runners out which I cut back when they appear. That is not a difficult chore.

There is a native American variety, Wisteria frutescens, which grows less aggressively, and produces small flowers, however, many find its fragrance objectionable. This is only sometimes mentioned in nursery catalogs.


Hardy kiwi foliage

Our friends have already decided they are not interested in any type of wisteria. We do have another vine that might suit, Actinidia arguta or hardy kiwi. I planted this vine against our tractor shed after seeing its unusual pink, white and green foliage on a trellis in the  serene Lakewold garden in Washington state many years ago. Hardy kiwi is a plant that is dioecious, which is to say you need male and female plants to produce fruit. Since I was not interested in the fruit, only the beautiful foliage, I did not have to worry about getting a pair. One vine has covered the shed wall.

If our friends want to add another fruit crop to their garden they could plant grapevines on their pergola. Miller Nursery in Canandaigua, New York offers a wide array of grapes that are hardy in our climate. When I checked their catalog recently they are still promoting Canadice grapes as among the best reds. Canadice is hardy, seedless with a tender skins that begins ripening in mid-August and can be harvested well into September. A sweet grape-y flavor is promised.

Canadice is as hardy as Concord grapes, and I can tell you we have Concord grapes that were here when we bought our house and they are still growing and producing without care. I am sure all grapes produce more heavily if they are properly pruned and trellised, but I know that even grapes grown on a pergola will produce. Miller offers a large selection.

Virginia creeper or Parthenocissus quinquefolia is a familiar native vine with palmate compound leaves consisting of five toothed leaflets. Clusters of small greenish flowers appear in the spring, and are not notable, however the result is a crop of berries in the fall that while not edible for us, attract hungry birds.

The vine has tendrils tipped with an adhesive pad which makes it an excellent climber, but it is best to keep it from latching on to house walls. In the fall the foliage takes on a brilliant red hue which is one reason so many people like it.

My husband recommended Dutchman’s Pipe vine, or Aristolochia tomentosa. This native vine with its large flat leaves can  quickly create a very shady wall. It got its name from the flower’s resemblance to the meerschaum pipes smoked by early Dutch settlers in New York. However, the flowers are not very noticeable, hidden as they are among the large leaves, nor is there attractive autumn color.

In New York City Dutchman’s Pipe climbed high up our fire escape, and I have seen it providing a privacy screen on front porches in Greenfield.

One of the special benefits of this vine is that it provides larval food for the beautiful swallowtail butterflies.

If our friends decide they do want colorful flowers they might think about Lonicera sempervirens or trumpet honeysuckle. This is one of the smaller native vines, reaching only a height of about 15 feet. It produces clusters of tubular pink to red blossoms that are not fragrant, but they are particularly attractive to hummingbirds. The berries that appear in the fall will attract other birds as well.

The trumpet honeysuckle begins to bloom in July. Since it blooms on last year’s stems (old wood) it should be pruned right after blooming.

Finally there is Celastrus scandens, the American bittersweet and it must not to be confused with the oriental bittersweet which is such a scourge along our local highways. However, it does produce ornamental berries that are useful in flower arrangements and useful in attracting those hungry birds.

Like the hardy kiwi, American bittersweet is dioecious. It needs male and female plants to fruit. Unlike the hardy kiwi or holly, not all nurseries include the sex of the plant. Gurney’s is one catalog that does promise to send two plants, male and female, to insure good fruiting. Pruning should be done in the fall, although a well established plant will rarely need anything more than cutting out dead or damaged branches.

All of the vines I have mentioned are strong growers. They do not need anything more than ordinary garden soil. A lean soil will help to control growth. They all do need a sunny location, where they can provide you with that desired shade.

Between the Rows  October 15, 2011