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Orra White Hitchcock

Photo courtesy of the Mead Art Museum

Orra White Hitchcock was a college president’s wife, a mother of eight, and an artist. The art she created, drawings and watercolor paintings of flowers, grasses and other plants, were scientifically accurate yet transformed by a lyrical delicacy and artistry.

An exhibit  of her work, Orra White Hitchcock (1796–1863): An Amherst Woman of Art and Science, co-curated by Daria D’Arienzo and Robert L. Herbert, will run through May 29 at the Mead Museum of Art at Amherst College. It documents the botanical and scientific art of an amazing local woman who has been all but forgotten.

Though not as well remembered as other now famous women of her time like Emily Dickinson and Mary Lyon who were connected with her family, there is a considerable record of Orra’s life because she was born in South Amherst and spent her whole life in our area. Her father educated her as he did his sons. Her intelligence and skill as both an artist and scientist were already recognized when she began teaching drawing, painting, the decorative arts and the natural sciences to girls at Deerfield Academy at the age of 17.

When she married the newly ordained Edward Hitchcock in 1821 the couple moved to Conway. According to D’Arienzo “Theirs was a union of love and mutual respect that lasted almost 42 years until Orra’s death in 1863. It was a scholarly, scientific and artistic collaboration . . . Edward and Orra were ‘the Connecticut River Valley’s first power couple.’”

Orra’s life as a pastor’s wife was busy, boarders sometimes lived with them adding to the family’s income, and the children began to arrive. Yet Orra worked with her husband drawing flowers, maps, fossil fish, plants and more for lithograph plates to illustrate the articles Edward wrote for the American Journal of Science and Arts. For most of her life she worked with her husband making the drawings for other lithographic plates for his geographical books, and painted the large classroom charts for his work as professor at the young Amherst College.

There is no question that Orra was an equal partner and professional collaborator with her husband. She was a brilliant woman, with scientific and artistic sensibilities that reinforced each other in her work. She was also essential in helping her husband, who suffered from hypochondria and melancholy, keep his physical and mental balance.

From 1845 to 1854 Edward served as President of Amherst College. Orra was busy with the duties required of the president’s wife, with her own domestic chores, but she also used her natural teaching skills by giving  painting lessons to girls who came to take classes with her.

The works on display at the Mead Art Museum show the variety of her work from the decorative rose she painted while young to the watercolor that she did of a ladyslipper to show the botanical details, the veining of the foliage and even the different tints of the underside of the leaf, through the large palentological charts that she did to aid her husband’s teaching. Edward Hitchock is often unknowingly referred to when people talk about Lake Hitchcock; it was he who first identified this prehistoric lake of the Connecticut River Basin.

Many of the drawings are small, because she drew and painted to life scale, as botanical artists do today. Her scientific observations and drawings were always made with a decorative impulse. In addition to drawings of individual plants she sometimes drew landscapes, of the Oxbow, of Sugar Loaf Mountain and long views of the Amherst landscape. They are all delightful and so accurate that we can recognize those spots today.

Daria D'Arienzo

D’Arienzo has been fascinated with Orra for more than 25 years. “I found her to be an inspiration. She represented and transcended her time.  She raised a family, was active in her church and was beloved across boundries,” she said.  “She was not a woman of wealth, she had to do her own housework. She was one of us.”

As we will recognize our modern local landscape in her paintings, the rest of us may also recognize ourselves in her active life.

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Daria D’Arienzo will give a talk at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg as part of their celebration of Women’s History Month on Tuesday March 22 at 7 pm. She will also speak at the Conway Historical Society on May 10 at 7:30 pm.  On March 27 Robert L. Herbert, Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Mount Holyoke College, and author of A Woman of Amherst: The Travel Diaries of Orra White Hitchcock, 1847 and 1850, will give a talk at 2 pm in the White Church in Deerfield.

The exhibit  is accompanied by a generously illustrated catalogue featuring a biographical and interpretive essay by Herbert and D’Arienzo, as well as  contributions by Elizabeth Farnsworth, senior research ecologist with the New England Wild Flower Society, and Tekla Harms, professor of geology at Amherst. The catalogue is available through the Mead’s bookshop or by contacting the University Press of New England.

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Don’t forget, next Saturday is the Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium at Frontier Regional High School from 9 am to 2 pm.  Lunch available. Full information at www.wmassmastergardeners.org. There will be a whole variety of practical workshops, Sue Reed will speak about Energy Wise Landscaping, and I’ll have slides of Elsa Bakalar’s garden. See you on March 19.

Between the Rows   March 12, 2011

Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium

Sue Reed, Keynote Speaker at her drawing table

The days are longer and the sun is brighter, so even though snow lies deep on the ground we know that spring is coming.  That means that the annual Master Gardeners Spring Symposium held on Saturday, March 19 at Frontier Regional High School is coming up, too..

This year I am presenting a slide show of Elsa Bakalar’s perennial gardens in all their glory. Elsa passed away last year, but her memory remains green for many of us. Her gardens remain an inspiration, especially knowing that she achieved those magnificent blooms and sturdy plants organically. Compost was her secret.

Elsa’s garden was certainly extraordinary, a perfect garden to be included in this year’s theme Gardening Beyond the Ordinary.

This year’s keynote speaker Sue Reed, landscape architect and author of “Energy Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden”,  will talk about the ways we can all design our domestic landscapes to be sustainable and beautiful.

Reed’s book covers some familiar ways that we are used to thinking about saving energy through our plantings. I have known that windbreaks can help cut down on heating bills in the winter and that deciduous trees can help keep a house cool in the summer, cutting down on cooling bills. The trick is knowing just how and where to arrange these plantings.

Sometimes the energy Reed talks about saving is human energy. Minimizing lawn areas that have to be mowed is an energy saving project that my husband heartily endorses. If not lawn, then what? Reed talks about trees and shrubs, and even vegetable gardens, that can be grown instead of lawn. Generously sized paths and patios can be attractive design elements as well as being welcoming spaces that can be used. Ground covers can be used in areas that are not hospitable to lawn grasses, or that are not needed for social activities.

Minimizing lawn areas not only save human energy, they benefit the environment. People tend to use unnecessary amounts of fertilizers and herbicides that take energy to manufacture, and then cause problems with toxic run-off into our sewers and waterways.

Reed’s book is a comprehensive guide to creating an energy saving landscape that protects the environment and is beautiful, giving us pleasure for many years.

All of the 14 workshop sessions, will give practical information. Ryan Voiland who is in the process of moving his amazingly productive Red Fire Farm from Granby back to his home town of Montague, will talk about using cover crops in the garden; Jonathan Bates of Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery will talk about creating edible landscapes for beauty and food in the morning, and mushrooms in the afternoon. Everyone attending the mushroom workshop will go home with a log inoculated with shitake mushrooms and the promise of homegrown mushrooms later in the season.

Ed Sourdiffe, Master Gardener will once again give his always popular workshop about Easy Gardening and Simple Organic Methods for Organic Gardeners, and Wes Autio, UMass professor of pomology will reveal the secrets of pruning.

A father and daughter team, Ron and Jennifer Kujawksi will also talk about getting more out of your vegetable garden including ways to prioritize your crop selection and ways to use your space more efficiently.

Master gardener John Barry will present his talk about the importance of growing native shrubs in the morning and the afternoon.  Nowadays even people who live on suburban lots are realizing the important part they can play in maintaining the local food web, supporting local birds, butterflies, and all the little creatures that may be less beautiful and less noticeable, but just as important to our environment.

Denise Lemay and Mary Ellen Warchol of Stockbridge Herbs will once again be on hand to prepare and hand out treats. In the morning they will discuss – and share – gluten free dishes; in the afternoon they’ll be whipping up all manner of classic and special salad dressings. Spring is salad season and these ladies will prepare us.

Allison Bell and Maida Goodwin, Plant Conservation volunteers will talk about Grace Greylock Niles who wrote Bog-Trotting for orchids in 1904, and was a part of the conservation movement in the early 20th century.

One kind of unusual garden that is becoming more and more popular is a “green roof”. Michael Keeney of Treefrog Landscapes will talk about the challenges and benefits of growing plants on your roof, and how to choose suitable plants.

Needless to say I am looking forward to Everything’s Coming Up Roses – tried and True Roses for Western Massachusetts presented by Tracey Putnam Culver who works at the Smith College Botanical Gardens.

The only problem with the Spring Symposium is knowing that you can only choose two of these great workshops. Very difficult.

The Master Gardeners Spring Symposium runs from 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday, March 19.  The cost for the whole program is $30, or $15 to attend only the keynote talk.  A delicious lunch for $7.50 is also available. It is advisable to sign up early.

For more information logon to www.wmassmastergardeners.org or contact Bridget Heller at banne53@aol.com or 665-8662.  ###

Today, March 5, the Spring Bulb Show opens and runs til March 20. Hours are 10 am – 4 pm. Click here for more information.

Between the Rows        February 26, 2011

Ohhhh – Look at that!

Ohhhhhh – Look at that! I cannot tell you how many times I uttered those words, and Le Flaneur listened patiently, turned and followed my pointing fingers at heucheras, sailboats, meat packing establishments, roof top restaurants and etc., etc., etc.

Battery Park NYC

We took the train into the city and set off to explore an array of Parks.  We began at Battery Park, South Ferry, where people can get ferries to Staten Island, or Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. This area has all been refurbished since we left New York in 1979.  The plantings were big and varied, with spring bloomers, foliage in every shade of green and red, ferns, grasses, and shrubs. The weather was mild, although rain threatened all day, and people were enjoying the promenades along the Hudson River.

Where to go? Castle Clinton? or off to the Islands?

Guide books are available with information about plantings. For the website click here.

Wagner Park

School children were enjoying Wagner Park, the first of the Parks for Battery Park City. Plantings for this Park were designed by Lynden B. Miller who I heard speak about her book, Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape. She was the inspiration for this tour. We saw our first roses in bloom here.

The Hudson as Water Feature

These gardens between the Hudson River and the building of Battery Park City look right down at the  tidal river. With its tides and moods the river becomes an amazing water feature.

A luncheon view

We had lunch at the South West Restaurant. We watched the boats on the river, the joggers, bicyclists, moms with strollers, and workers taking their lunch hour picnics.

The Wintergarden

I expected a lavish conservatory to be inside the Wintergarden, but the large skylit lobby had only eight very tall palm trees – and a wonderful photography exhibit of the faces of our Elders, Clint Eastwood, Bishop Tutu, Vanessa Redgrave, Madeline Albright and many others.

Wisteria

We set off  to find The Highline and saw that parks aren’t the only place to see magnificent plants. These wisteria are amazing.

The High Line

We walked uptown and over to 14th Street and ascended to the new High Line Gardens built on the old elevated freight train tracks.  We walked along up to West 23rd Street. The High Line is still being built and planted and will continue up to 34th Street.

Bryant Park

The beauty of the Battery Park City Gardens was an unexpected pleasure. They were so beautiful and were being enjoyed by so many people, even on this less than lovely day. But Bryant Park, the park behind the 42nd St. Public Library, was the highlight of the day. The park was restored and renovated in 1986 and it is a treasure. Seating, drinks, and so much more.

Children's Wing of the Bryant Park Reading Room

A section of the park was designated as The Reading Room with a number of bookshelves filled with books and audio books, to be read and returned right there. If you aren’t reading those books you can’t sit in this area of the park.

Book Club Meeting!

Actually, I guess you were allowed to sit here, if you had read the books. A lively book club meeting was being held here.  Nearby were people playing chess and one gentleman was offering chess lessons.  This park is named for one of our great American poets, William Cullen Bryant. A statue of this poet who was born in Cummington, Mass, not far from us, watches over the gatherings in the park. I am sure he will be happy to know that tomorrow we will be celebrating Emily Dickinson at the New York Botanical Garden.

Fashions for the Ladies Who Mulch

The Ladies Who Lunch need to refresh their wardrobes with a new little black dress from time to time. While I was in Boston for the Flower Show I stepped into Macy’s to get a new pair of little blue jeans.  I like the styling of these which have retained the integrity of the originals designed by Levi Strauss. Blue jeans are  a staple of the gardener’s wardrobe, so easy to dress down, and versatile when combined with shades of blue – delphinium, larkspur and iris. I like to emulate Barbara Damrosch, my fashion and gardening idol, when I go out for a session in the sun. Classic  navy blue jeans cry out for more blue, as Barbara knows. Note the blue and gray nitrile Atlas gloves.

The trug is a vintage piece that I acquired when my friend and mentor the late Elsa Bakalar moved from her house and garden to a retirement village.  It acts as a kind of amulet, providing the confidence to overcome the weeds and slugs.

A hat is essential for working in the sun. I carried this hat along with many memories back from our time in Beijing. This is a traditional hat still worn by Chinese farmers.  It is very light, with a shallow crown that keeps me cool. It still has the original shoelace chin ties which are especially useful in the Heath breezes. With a cool head I can ponder the chore list – off to the vegetables, or shall I gather rosebuds?

Of course, that special season of the year, Black Fly Season, requires a special hat – and long sleeves. I buy many of my accessories at Avery’s General Store and Fashion Emporium in the Village of Charlemont. They not only had the hat in my favorite shade of rose pink but the gauzy veil with functional elastic edging. When I return from a trip to Avery’s I know there will be no flies on me.

Ladies who lunch wear kid gloves, but for pruning the roses these are the gloves for me. A friend who understands the challenges of the rose gardener gave them to me last year. They are West County Gardener Rose Gloves and I was pleased that they were made in my west county neighborhood, but alas, they are made in some west county of California. I like them more than any gloves I wore at dancing class in 1954.

No ensemble is complete without the proper footwear. My Ladybug clogs are coordinated with the blue jeans and blue Atlas gloves. The versatility of the clogs cannot be overestimated. They  walk with ease and flair through dewy grass, the fine turf of a garden party, and even a stroll through a garden center or nursery.

To dress up the little blue jeans, all it takes is a softer hat. My style choice is to add a chiffon scarf for that uptown look, an overblouse in an abstract flower print and the effect  —   timeless style.

Truffle?!

Ted Watt has worked with the children of the Heath Elementary School for years, teaching them about the land and the world they live in. One of the blessings of the school landscape is a woodland where the childrren have studied the seasons and phases of life of many woodland creatures and plants.

On their most recent exploration of the woods they  found – drumroll please – a truffle. I know nothing about truffles, except that they are a kind of underground fungi, but I usually think of them being found by truffle digging pigs in the Perigord region of France.

Heath is no Perigord, and Ted is no pig, but somehow, he found a truffle, ‘the diamond of the kitchen’, so prized for haute cuisine.  I haven’t talked to him, but I wonder who takes possession of this rare culinary delight. Ted? The school cafeteria? Will the kids soon be lunching on risotto with leeks, shiitake mushrooms and truffles?

Read Until Your Heart Stops!

Buckland Public Library

Buckland Public Library

The sun shone, the crowd gathered and the celebration began. Ground was broken for the new Buckland Public Library addition. I was there for this joyous occasion.

For nine of the happiest years of my life I was the Buckland Librarian. The library is small, only about 900 square feet, but the Board of Directors was devoted to making it the best library possible, and the patrons were all devoted readers.  While libraries are full of information of many kinds, they are also full of pleasure. Buckland Library patrons read for pleasure of the plots, of the characters, of the setting and the pleasure of sharing these with others. “Have you read  . . .?  What did you think about . . . .?” are reliable conversation starters.

When I retired from the library 18 months ago and left it in the capable hands of Liz Jacobson-Carroll, the library was near the end of the process that would provide the funding for a 3000 square foot addition that had been in the planning, almost since I began in 1999. Along with many (many!) others I was part of that planning; Liz took the ball and kept running. Today we broke ground.

Buckland Public Library Groundbreaking

Buckland Public Library Groundbreaking

Library trustees, past and present, selectmen, the architect Chip Greenberg, the project manager, Denis Guyer our state rep, and Liz-Jacobson Carroll on one end, and me on the other, had an official photo taken.

Buckland Library Groundbreaking

Buckland Library Groundbreaking

But we had a job to do. This addition will be universally accessible. It will have bathrooms that don’t frighten people. It will have room for more books, more audio books, more DVDs. It will have room for browsing, but money is still being raised for chairs to make that comfortable browsing. It will have a comfortable room for children’s programs (with a washable floor) and that room will be available for community meetings. It will be perfect.  Thank you Chip Greenberg for taking all our dreams and hopes and putting it down on blueprint paper.

Buckland Library Groundbreaking

Buckland Library Groundbreaking

Neighborhood kids did their bit for the new addition. These are serious readers.

Ursula is the youngest regular patron. She has to use her parents’ library card until she can sign her own name, though.

Only those in the know would recognize the title of this post.  Read Until Your Heart Stops! is the Buckland Library motto, rendered in a beautiful mosaic that the notable mosaic artist Cindy Fisher (former Trustee and loyal library supporter) created with a crew of youngsters. It will be installed in the new library.

The motto makes adults nervous, but kids subconsciously know that reading can be a heart stopping thrill, as well as a joy and comfort until their last days on earth.  After all, it was a young Mikayla who put this sentiment into words.  Here is how it happened. After Reading Aloud to the Buckland Rec day campers a couple of times, I realized I needed a ritual closing.  My modest motto was “Whatever you do keep reading.” I taught the motto to the campers and each day, before I left the  group I would ask who remembered the library motto? And they would shout it out. That was sufficient for a couple of years.

Then one day when I was Reading Aloud in the elementary school I began to leave after my session. Eight year old Mikayla stopped me and said I hadn’t asked for the motto.

“Well, since you mention it, do you remember?” I asked.

Now she was on the spot, and looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “Ummm   Read . . .” she said and then hesitated looking up at the ceiling.  “Ummm Until . . .” Another hesitation.  “Your heart stops!” she finished, looking pleased.

The teacher and I burst out laughing, but agreed that I had a new motto.  And so it remains. Thank you, Mikayla.

I want you to know that you haven’t lived until you’ve heard 80 kids, 5-12, shout, and I mean SHOUT out, Read Until Your Heart Stops!  Three times. I told them I was hard of hearing.

Wedding and Work

Mr. and Mrs. Jay Larson and party

Mr. and Mrs. Jay Larson and party

First I have to say the very most important event of the past week was the wedding of my cousin Jay  and his beloved Juliet in a beautiful garden in Manchester by the Sea. It was a glorious day and celebration was in  the air. Our hotel was hosting three wedding receptions and packed to the rafters with SEVEN groups of wedding guests.

Juliet is a Nanny in the classic mode. The wedding guest list was filled with her charges and their families, past and present which made for an amazing extended family of not only blood relatives, but the families who have exchanged love and respect with Juliet over a period of years.

The beautiful white garden in which they exchanged their vows, and celebrated into the night was owned by the family of former charges, and designed by the mother, Robin Kramer, who is now a garden designer. Juliet and Jay could begin their married life in no more perfect setting than this welcoming garden.

While we were off celebrating, son Chris and son-in-law Gerry once again set to and spent the weekend continuing to paint our house.  The weather did not cooperate and they did not finish, but the potted plants already appreciate being set off by a fresh white wall, instead of one peeling and gray.

Most of my work in the garden centered around the work in progress – the daylily bank.  Diane and her son made a start on digging and desodding during the rafting weekend.  I continued digging and fertilizing, and began the fun part, planting daylilies. Several came from Lorraine Brennan’s daylily sale including: Crimson Pirate, Lemon Yellow, Barbara Mitchell, and Hall’s Pink. My husband gave me Ice Capades, Ann Warner, Happy Returns and Rosy Returns. I dug up Hyperion and a red daylily that Elsa Bakalar gave me many years ago from other spots my own garden. I don’t think I will fill the bank this fall, but it shouldn’t take much more work in the spring.

The purpose of the bank is to eliminate the need for grass mowing.  Somehow I had not expected the pleasure I would have in seeing the blooming bank from my place at the dinner table three times a day. A reminder to always consider what  garden views will please from the window.

Also notice the shining white of our house!

High bush blueberries

High bush blueberries

I guess I was busy enough, and the freezer was full enough of the low bush blueberries the grandsons picked, that I stopped noticing our own high bush blueberries.  The time has come to notice and to start picking. I had my own blueberries on my breakfast cereal.

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

Amazingly, the second planting of sugar snap peas is still bearing, and still sweet.  We had them in our salads all last week, and will again this week.

We have also been eating these pole beans, green and yellow, from Renee’s Garden for a week and the time has come to pick and get some in the freezer.

At Least It Didn’t Snow

The past week was  cold, wet and windy. Not much time out in the garden, although I did pick the last of the lettuce in the herb bed, and lots of sugar snap peas. We eat them raw.

On the cloudy, cold and windy Fourth of July we went to a neighbor’s BBQ where we huddled in the kitchen, only nipping out to the fire and hot dogs occasionally. We all know that kitchens are the best for catching up with rarely seen neighbors, relatives of neighbors, and relatives of old colleagues.  On our way home we stopped in our hostess’s newly wattle fenced garden to admire the sundial she won in the Commonweeder Giveaway.

Once home, where we had left an ailing son Chris and his partner Michelle, we built a fire in the stove and had a cup of hot tea!  It has been known to snow in Heath in July, and even August, but no snow on the Fourth.

On Sunday we had the unexpected arrival of a work crew – daughter Diane, her husband Gerry and son Ryan. Diane has amazing powers of motivation as well as organization. The men took down trees at the edge of the shed because they were destroying the metal roof. While they did that the women restacked the woodpile so that the oldest wood would finally be burned.  My husband, the Major, and I decided the next priority was a birch tree in the field that had been felled by the December ice storm.

Ryan and the Major

Ryan and the Major

Ryan and the Major got the tractor going. You can’t see the wagon in this photo.

Chris and Gerry were already hard at work.

Diane and Michelle had to move all the removed limbs out of the way. We were all celebrating the one year anniversary of Diane’s recovery from surgery. Last June she donated a kidney to her ailing step-mother, but is now back to her old energies and activities. Her stepmother has had a slow but good recovery.

The men brought the wood back to the house, and the women stacked it on the new pile.

A job well done. A day well spent.  Thank you!

Where was I you might ask?  Well, I took some photos and even stacked a few logs, but where do you think the Granny serves?  In the kitchen.  This was a hungry crew and deserved a hearty meal.

Art all Around

Beverly Duncan grew up amid the lush landscapes of Hawaii, and her art has always tended toward the natural world, but it was not until a dozen or so years ago, when paintings that she had done of autumn leaves for a Buffalo (NY) Science Museum, that she rejoiced “to have found a place in the art world”.

Those paintings caught the eye of someone at the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University and she was invited to show at their Ninth International Exhibit. “That was a big deal!” she said. She had done work that she enjoyed, those beautiful leaves, and been recognized for her talent and skill. A big deal indeed.

Botanical art comes in many flavors, but it must always be botanically correct, and when exhibited each item must be identified. The general ID here is black beans and an apple. Also notice the little butterfly. Many of Beverly’s paintings include an insect. She is so fond of these ‘little creatures’ that she collects dead bugs, and sometimes freezes them until she needs a model for a painting.
This is a more springlike painting with 2 different ferns, a snowdrop and a tulip. All are painted from life. She never works on one of her detailed and accurate paintings unless she has the plant right in front of her.
Those of us who don’t make it to art exhibits in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Denver and other such places, will be pleasantly surprised to come across her exquisite work in books like Bulbs in the Basement, Geraniums on the Windowsill by Brian and Alice McGowan for Storey Publishing.
Her art grows out of her love for plants. She has had a garden ever since she moved to this area in 1971. Nowadays, her garden is a reflection of her art – she plants what she wants to paint. Of course, she does get to eat those beans and squash and apples as well.
We are fortunate that the natural beauties of our corner of Massachusetts attract so many artists. Beverly’s work will be on display at Ashfield’s Elmer’s in May. You can also see more Pabout her work at the American Society of Botanical Artists website, and at her dealer’s website.

The View From Wilder Hill

Lilian Jackman, owner, grower and general factotum of Wilder Hill Gardens, invited me over to see the late summer garden. I found her at her shady potting bench, situated so that she could keep working in the heat of the day. I admired the thought that went into the design and siting of the potting bench, but did not feel up to the concept of working all morning, having a little lunch and digesting time and then setting out to work in the heat of the day. “When do you rest?” I asked, but she assured me she had all winter to rest. Knowing Lilian I doubt that this is the truth.

Lilian grows and sells plants at Wilder Hill Gardens. She has recently been adding shrubs and trees to the perennials she has been selling for a number of years. Before I left I had to buy a pot of northern sea oats, a fountain juniper, a pot of artemesia lactiflora and I even took a flyer on the beautiful blue caryopteris which might survive at least a winter or three now that the winters seem a bit milder. These will surround the sourwood tree I just planted.

A walk along the sunny to shady border shows what beauty and structure shrubs bring to a garden.
Most of the garden is sunny with lots of space given over to a cutting garden to provide the flowers that Lilian sells at the Ashfield Farmers Market and for the arrangements she makes for weddings and other events. Right now the State Fair zinnias are in full bloom – along with sunflowers, white David phlox, rudbekia and asters. Lilian’s advice about buying annual plants in the spring is to avoid anything in bloom. “By the time it blooms it is ready to die, which it will then do in my garden,” she said. She also pointed out that if you want to cut flowers for bouquets you want tall flowers. State Fair zinnias are one of her favorites.

Her customers love the red State Fair zinnias best of all. Not hard to understand. Red is my favorite color, too.
There are some real showstoppers in her garden. This castor bean plant, a tender perennial, grows next to her chicken house door.

The rest of the chicken house border continues in a riotous manner, zinnias, hollyhocks, sunflowers, asters and a tangle of morning glories that stayed awake, just for us I am sure.

Have I mentioned that Lilian has gorgeous soil, carefully built and cultivated, the secret of her success?

This is just a sampling of the 2 acres she has under cultivation. The newest project is a half acre of pick your own blueberries. “This is my retirement plan,” she said with a smile. “I’ll sit here when I’m old and greet people when they come to pick the berries. They’ll do the harvest, and bring me a few vegetables and all the town gossip while I sit in the shade”.