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Greenfield Winter Fare 2014

Winter Fare veggies

If I am counting correctly this is the 7th Greenfield Annual Winter Fare which will bring truckloads of fresh local vegetables to Greenfield High School on Saturday, February 1.  Enter from Kent Street off Silver Street. Beyond  vegetables there will be preserved products like pickles and syrup, honey and jams. Frozen meat!  And to keep you shopping from 10 am til 1 pm music will be provided by Last Night’s Fun, and soup provided by The Brass Buckle, Hope and Olive, Wagon Wheel and The Cookie Factory will help you keep up your strength.

At 1 pm there will be a Barter Swap. Anyone with extra home made or home grown food can gather for an informal  trading space where you can make your own swapping deals.

There is more to the Winter Fare than the Farmer’s Market. Open Hearth Cooking Classes on Saturdays, Feb. 1 and 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm at Historic Deerfield.  Contact Claire Carlson  $55 per person.

Screening of Food For Change and discussion with film maker, Wednesday, Feb 5, 6:30 pm at the Sunderland Public Library. Call 43-665-2642 for more info.

Annual Franklin County Cabin Fever Seed Swap Sunday Feb. 9, 1-4 pm Upstairs at Green Fields Market, for more info.

Seed Starting Workshop Sunday, Feb 9, 1 pm at the Ashfield Congregational Church. Sponsored by Share the Warmth. More info: Holly Westcott

Winter Fare is obvioulsy about more  than Fare, this is a Fair atmosphere that brings a community together.

Lyman Plant House for Summer in January

Lyman Plant House at Smith College

The Lyman Plant House at Smith College looked as frosty as anyplace during the recent Polar Vortex. Outside.

Lyman Plant House interior pond and plants

Inside the Lyman Plant House there is humid warmth and lush growth.

Lyman Plant House Palm Room

Once past the brilliant greenery I passed into the Palm House where I might have been in the jungle. The brilliant January sun shone through the dense palm foliage, but all below was in shadow.

Lyman Plant House Palm Room

I sat on a bench and rested, and debated whether I should follow the narrow path deeper into the dark, unknown jungle.  Wait, I know that is just a fancy. Almost real, though, on this January day.

Lyman Plant House Orchids

Beautiful orchids are blooming, back in the sun.

Crazy Leaf Begonia

Begonia lovers will love the begonia collection. Gorgeous, interesting  foliage.

Lyman Plant House Succulent Room

But if dense jungle, and steamy blooming plants aren’t enough to warm you, continue on to the Succulent Rooms and enjoy the dry heat, arid landscape – and a  different fancy.

The Lyman Plant House is open every day from 8:30 to 4 pm. The famous Bulb Show opens on the first weekend in March which this year is March 1.  Bulb Show doors open at 10 am. Closing is 4 pm. There is a lot to learn here, and a great deal to enjoy in every season of the year.


“Let’s Pick a Fight With Kale”

Kale in the garden

“Let’s pick a fight with kale,” Chris Cima, creative director at Victors & Spoils advertising agency said. The upshot, reported in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine yesterday is a PR campaign to get people to CHOOSE to eat broccoli – and lots of  other vegetables.

This a a great article with lots of depressing 2010 statistics:  “diet surpassed smoking as the no.1 risk factor for disease and death in America  . . . One is three children is on track to develop diabetes, joining one  in three adults who are already clinically obese” and etc.  etc. etc. But why?  Lots of reasons including that vegetables have a bad rep, while processed and junk foods gets a lot of really good advertising.


At the NYTimes’ behest Victors & Spoils put together an ad campaign (pro bono)  that would make people WANT to eat vegetables.

“What Came First: Kale or the Bandwagon   Eat fad-free.  Broccoli vs kale.  Google it.

“Since When Do Super Foods Have To Be Super Trendy?   Broccoli vs kale.  Google it.”

When the ad campaign that had Pepsi and Coke in a battle, both drinks got more customers.  Can a campaign like this bring more mothers and children to the produce counter? Will the vegetable farmers of America be able to launch it?

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables will lower disease risks. We used to know this. An apple a day keeps the doctor away and all that. Eaten any broccoli lately?  I have a granddaughter who subsisted on broccoli and rice for years. Really!  She is very healthy, but now she eats a few other vegetables as well. No meat though!

Bringing Nature Home at the Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium

Dr. Douglas Tallamy

Dr. Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, was the keynote speaker at the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners Spring Symposium last week. His talk focused on the need for more insects to make our gardens – and the world – healthier and more ecologically balanced. “A mere 1 % [of all insects] interact with humans in negative ways. The other 99 % pollinate plants, return the nutrients tied up in dead plants and animals to the soil, keep populations of insect herbivores in check, aerate and enrich the soil, and as I keep stressing, provide food either directly or indirectly for most other animals,” Tallamy writes in his book and illustrated in his talk.

Bringing Nature Home


His enlightening talk covered a lot of ground, but two ideas made a particular impression on me. The first was the idea of the environmental carrying capacity of our local landscape, and ultimately of the whole earth. The term carrying capacity refers to the amount of resources needed to sustain a certain population. It is easy to understand that a given population of insects, or birds or whatever, will decline when the food they require decreases.

So, what happens when, for example, the emerald ash borer, which is a threat inMassachusettsright now, were to kill all the ash trees? Forty-four insect species rely on the ash tree to survive. No ash trees; no more 44 insect species. And that means reduced food for the creatures who depend on those insects so their populations will decline as well. Insects are the very bottom of the food chain and we usually do not consider how important they are to the wildlife that we enjoy. At least, that is true for me.

Tallamy said many people ask him why insects can’t eat some other tree or plant? He explains that over thousands of years plants and insects have evolved together. The insects’ digestive systems have adapted/evolved to digest the particular chemicals in a plant’s foliage. They cannot immediately adapt to a new plant. That is one of the reasons that invasive plants can take over. The food web of insects, birds and wildlife cannot keep the invading plants in check.

The second idea Tallamy put forth is that not all native plants are equal. Some plants support many more species of wildlife than others. This was an eye opener for me. I have been talking about the benefits of native plants for a long time, but this idea never occurred to me. As you might expect, trees are the most productive in having what it takes to support many insects and birds. Trees are big. But even here, some trees are more productive than others. In his book, and on his website,, Tallamy lists the 22 of the best woody plants beginning with oaks that support 534 species, down to the chestnut which supports 125 species. Black cherries, maples and willows are also highly productive.

If we don’t have the room to plant an oak or two, we might be able to fit in a crabapple or some blueberries. We can plant asters, morning glories and lupines in our ornamental gardens. We can not only marvel at and admire the lupine meadows that some people in our area have cultivated, we can thank them for supporting 33 species of wildlife.

Those lupine meadows also remind up that birds and other pollinators need clumps of productive native plants. Their eyesight is not always good so they need big clumps of a useful plant to catch their attention. Tallamy pointed out that 80% of our food crops are pollinated by animals. It is clear that supporting that wildlife is very important in our area where there is a growing number of farms.

Lately I have been talking about the benefits of reducing the size of our lawns. Tallamy said that 92% of landscape-able land is lawn, lawn which is a monoculture that does not support wildlife. He suggested that if we reduced the amount of lawn in theUnited Statesby half we would have 20 million acres that could be put to native trees and other native plants. This would certainly increase the carrying capacity of our neighborhoods and our nation.

Suburban yards can play an enormous part in restoring the health of our ecosystem. A whole neighborhood that includes a substantial number of native trees, shrubs and other plants can make a significant impact.

I am so grateful to the Western Massachusetts Gardeners for bringing us this excellent program that included Ellen Sousa of Spencer and the author of The Green Garden, as well as workshops on making compost, hypertufa containers and bentwood trellises that not only make our gardens healthful and productive, but beautiful as well.

Their Spring Symposium is their big educational effort of the year, and there are two more Symposia coming up on April 6 in Holyokeand April 13 in Lenox. Check their website for complete details. However, they hold soil testing events, phone and email hotlines where you can get your questions answered, and lots of question answers right on the website. They even have a speakers bureau that can send a speaker to your club, or class, or other organization. If this is of interest to you send an email to for more information.

Now I am wondering how many of us will find a place to plant an oak. Or a crabapple.

Between  the Rows –  March 23, 2013

Ready, Set, Grow! Timber Press Giveaway

With Ready, Set, Grow! Timber Press is giving away books, lots of books, and a Moleskine journal to record your success as you put all the inspiration and advice  to work in your garden for the next three months. Each month, March, April and May they will be giving a library of books away in a lottery. All you have to do is click here and enter.  Whether you win the library or not, by checking this website you’ll get weekly tips on seed starting, cool weather crops and more as the season progress.

The Speedy Vegetable Garden

The Speedy Vegetable Garden which I wrote about here is just one of  the March books you could win, PLUS other bo00ks like Sugar Snaps and Strawberries, The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 Ways to Get Kids Ouside, Dirty and Having Fun,  The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Questions, and How to Buy the Right Plants, Tools and Garden Supplies. And even more books than that. No more troubling questions. Only anwers right at your fingertips. Or bedside. Or potting bench.

Don’t forget, there is a different lottery with different books every month.  April and May are coming up. And lots of free advice along the way. Check it out.

Tulips Are Blooming – Indoors

Tulips at Smith College

Yesterday I drove into the valley to see tulips, and many other  bulbs and flowers, blooming at the Mt. Holyoke College Talcott Greenhouse and the Smith College Lyman Plant House. Both institutions are preparing for their annual Spring Bulb shows which require attentive and scientific handling of the potted plants, cool and then slowly warming so that they are at the perfect moment for spring-hungry flower lovers to visit them when the shows open on Saturday, March 2.  Both shows run for two weeks and the greenhouses are open from 10 am to 4 pm.

When I visited yesterday both greenhouses were in the process of being set up. Potted plants have been living in the working sections while they are not blooming, and are just now being arranged in a beautifully designed array. Tulips are always an important part of the display and it is easy to understand. Tulips are so tall and stately and come in so many glowing colors. I love seeing tulips in the greenhouse because rodents inevitably eat them when I plant them in the garden. I love tulips, but I grow daffodils in my own garden. And some of the little bulbs like grape hyacinths.

My tulips

Don’t laugh! I don’t know why my forced tulips are so short. Maybe I should just be glad that mice didn’t eat them before the bulbs even had a chance to sprout.

Speedy Vegetable Garden Giveway

Speedy Vegetable Garden by Diacono and Leendertz

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how fast does your garden grow? The 208 page Speedy Vegetable Garden by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz (Timber Press) will give you a whole new view of how fast you can grow something to eat. This means we can keep some food growing all year long, if only on our windowsill. Impatient children will find that they can harvest some greens in less than two weeks.

I have grown sprouts in my kitchen for years using jars or a sprout bag, but this book opened up whole  new world of quick harvests. Diacono and Leendertz take the reader and gardener all the way from ‘soaks’ to quick harvest vegetables like zucchini and cherry tomatoes. I had never heard of a soak. Did you know  that  soaking pumpkin seeds for only 1-4 hours will wake up the germination instinct and even before the nascent sprout is visible you will have  buttery crop to sprinkle on your salad or sandwich adding potassium, and vitamins A, B, C, and D? Peanuts can be soaked for 12 hours, until the root just breaks through. Lots of vitamins and minerals. Almonds can also be soaked for 12 hours and eaten with gusto.

Moving on from soaks and sprouts, micro-greens come next. Full directions are given for seeding and watering. Little plastic seed flats can be used, but metal guttering cut to an appropriate size can also make a good planter for intensely flavore crops like cilantro, fenn, radishes and oriental greens. A micro-green is really just the baby stage of the shoot and this is a time when nutrients are at a high level. You wouldn’t make a whole salad out of micro-greens, but they add vibrant taste to your regular salad. Harvest in about two weeks. If you grow microgreens you’ll want to keep successively planted containers going all the time.

Other chapters detail cut and come again salads and quick harvest vegetables, again with good directions for keeping the harvest coming. The illustrations are beautiful, as are these young healthy plants, but the chapter on edible flowers makes you understand how easily you can make a salad suitable for the cover of any food magazine. And if you don’t quite know what to do with any of these crops, Diacono and Leendertz provide you with 20 quick and easy recipes. The Spring Garden Tart with spring onions, spinach, peas, beans, herbs and cheese would give my family a very happy lunchtime.

I always say you can’t hurry in the garden, and that is very true. However, there is no harm in letting vegetables ready themselves for the table as quickly as they like.  In the Speedy Vegetable Garden Diacono and Leenderts show us how these speedy vegetables can lead us to a longer growing season, and extremely nutritious vegetables without the usual back-straining labor.  If you would like to win a copy of this book and start your own speedy garden just leave a comment below by midnight on Wednesday February 13. If you want to tell me about the quickest – or longest crop – you ever grew so much the better I am all ears. I will randomly choose a winner and announce it on Thursday, February 14. Because Timber Press and I love my readers.

C is for Cacao, Cocoa and Cadbury

Illustration of Cacao bean from Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

The Cacao bean is native to South America, but it became the cocoa we are familiar with when the Dutch van Houten found a new processing method, and it was  British George Cadbury in 1878 who created a model garden city of Bourneville for his chocolate workers.

On this cold and snowy day I have been reading a beautiful and fascinating book, Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History by Bill Laws. Cocoa is popular drink around our house in the winter, especially when the grandchildren are visiting and if there are a few marshmallows in the cupboard. Cocoa did not immediately come to mind as a history changing plant when compared to rice, opium poppies, wheat, coca, or tobacco, but it is certainly one of the most important drinks and sweets comperable to coffee, tea, and beer. The beer requires barley and hops, two other history changing plants.

The chapter on Cocao has fascinating stories about cocao’s journey from  the Aztecs to the royal court of Spain and then to the court of Louis the XIV in France, as  well as the men who ultimately created the chocolate bar including Milton Snavely Hershey. But what particularly intrigued me was the story about the founding of Bournville near Birmingham. At a time when most industrial workers lived in terrible conditions, George Cadbury decreed that there should be no more than seven houses per acre. Generous garden space and fruit trees were provided each house. The houses themselves  each had  three bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen and a scullery. There was also a bath in the scullery (which was the site of running water) that folded away.  “Baths are provided in the back kitchens so tht it may be possible to have a warm bath at least once a week. And you have the advantage of drying by the fire.”  There is a man who was thinking of comfort as well as health.

Cadbury was a very successful businessman but he disinherited his children and turned Bournville into a trust so that “the speculator will not find a footing.”   As for his poor children he said that great wealth was more of a curse than a blessing.

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History is beautifully illustrated with old photographs, paintings, and botanical drawings. It was two years ago that I visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History and saw the famous Glass Flowers – and fruits of economically important plants like the cocao bean – created by the Blaschka family. For more about my visit click here.

Dormancy – A False Death


Winter trees at the End of the Road

The leafless landscape seems dead, but dormancy is only a false death.  In the 1/24 issue of the New York Times Michael Tortorello takes us on a wintry horticultural tour of gardens in New York City and learns that death is not what winter brings. I grant you, the activity he sees in Central Park and other places is rather different from the dormancy I can see in my frozen snowy landscape, but still, his guides make a point.

An important lesson is that it is not really the cold that makes trees and shrubs lose their leaves,  it is drought. Plant respire through their foliage and lose  a great percentage of their moisture through their leaves. If the ground is frozen there is no more water being taken in, so the leaves have to go.

Rhododendron Foliage 1-25-13

Rhododendrons,  broad leaved evergreens, do not lose their foliage, but you can see how the leaves curl to minimize moisture loss. These leaves are still performing some photosynthesis. It is the look of these droopy cigar-like leaves that made me dislike rhodies for a very long time. I don’t know why the wonderful spring flowers did not make as big an impression on me when I was a young non-gardener as the winter foliage.

While there is no chickweed or knotweed or mugwort sprouting in my neighborhood as there is in Central Park, a close look will show tiny green buds on the lilacs, and the buds on the rhododendrons are not hard to see at all.

Dormancy is not death. We are all just waiting. I am more impatient than the plants.


Latin for Gardeners by Lorraine Harrison

View from the bedroom

This gray Sunday I am alternating between a view of the swirling snow and my Christmas book Latin for Gardeners: Over 3000 Plant Names Explained and Explored. by Lorraine Harrison.  I never took Latin in school but over the years, almost in spite of myself, I have picked up a fair amount of horticultureal Latin. I don’t always remember the Latin names of the plants in my garden, but knowing some Latin has given me information about plants that I find in the catalogs.

Looking at all the white snow on my hill I checked out the words for white in Latin for Gardeners. ‘Leuc- is used in compound words to denote white.’ I thought there would just be a word, leucanthus, for  white flowers, but there is a whole list of words for specific plant parts. Leuchephalus means with a white head as in Leucaena leucocephela; leuchochilus for with white lips as in Oncidium leucochilia; leucodermis for with a white skin as in Pinus leucodermis; leucophaeus which means dusky white as in Dianthus leucophaeus; leucophyllus for white leaves as in Sarracenia leuchophylla; leucorhizus for white roots as in Curcuma leucorhiza; leucoxanthus for whitish yellow as in Sobralia leucoxantha; and leucoxylon for white wood as in Eucalyptus leucoxylon.  I don’t know the rules for gender or what else comes into play for word endings in Latin, but the leuc alone takes me a long way.

Nivalis is related to white in that it specifically means as white as snow. According to Latin for Gardeners Galanthus nivalis, the snow drop, was created when an angel turned falling snowflakes into the flowers to comfort Adam and Eve when they were sent out of Eden.

Other Latin words denote color.  The familiar word livid comes from lividus (livida, lividum) and as you might imagine means blue-gray or the color of lead. Not quite the color of a livid bruise, but I get the idea.

Loving shades of pink and red as I do, rubri is a familiar word root. Besides plant names with rubrum and rubriflorus, there is rubricaulis denoting red stems. Rufus also means red, and rutilans means reddish.  Just to throw in a curve ball rutifolius mean with leave like rue – Ruta – as in Corydalis rutifolia.

Luteus, lutea, leuteum are all about yellow, luteolus is yellow-ish and luridus, lurida and luridum are pale yellow, wan as in Moraea lurida.

Niger is black and nigrican is black-ish as in Salix nigricans,; nigrescens is turning black as in Silene nigrescens.

What botanical color names can you add to my list?