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Seen in Seattle

As we 74 garden bloggers have toured Seattle we have visited private gardens, public gardens, and semi-public gardens to admire and learn about plants and Seattle’s history. Here is a mock orange at the Dunn Gardens.

All kinds of lavender everywhere.

Bicyclists on their own path.

Fabulous fruits at the Farmer’s Market. Cherries, peaches, all kinds of berries – vegetables, too.

Magnificent trees, towering.

Potted plants everywhere, in the gardens and on the street.

Fountains in the Mall where kids can play.

AND roses, and more roses. This in one variety growing in the enormous beds arranged around a beautiful big fountain at the University of Washington.

You will see lots more about Seattle’s gardens, and the clever ideas people have to add interest and convenience to their gardens. Stay tuned.

Franklin Land Trust Tour – Here


Culinary Sage blooming in the Herb Bed

What is a garden for?

It depends on the garden, of course.Vegetable gardens are for feeding us. Herb gardens are for bringing us extra savor and health. Meditation gardens are to give us moments of serenity. Ornamental gardens are to give us pleasure. But all gardens can be shared — doubling their pleasure and utility, of whatever sort.

Sometimes sharing our gardens can also support a noble project.  That is what will be happening in Heath and Charlemont on June 25 and 26 when the Franklin Land Trust holds its Annual Farm and Garden Tour.

The Franklin Land Trust is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help landowners and communities protect the farms, forests and other natural resources significant to the environmental quality, economy and rural character of our region. They do not own land, but work with farmers and residents to help them put their property into conservation or agricultural protection.

Woodslawn Pink Rose

This year End of the Road Farm is being included on the tour, along with other beautiful, historic and productive properties in Heath and Charlemont. Fortunately for us the tour is being held on the last weekend in June which is when we would ordinarily hold our Annual Rose Viewing. This is the brief time of year our roses are in bloom and when our country garden is at its best.

We have been busy as can be weeding the flower and vegetable beds and mowing the lawns. I am a big supporter of less lawn, but unless you measure the amount of lawn against our 60 acres of field and woodland, we still have too much lawn to mow. We have been using various strategies to eliminate lawn beginning with planting groundcovers on unusable sections of lawn. We have also planted common thyme on the dryer, poorer sections of lawn where it thrives. A thyme lawn is a very British conceit that does not need frequent mowing. It’s very pretty when it’s blooming, but it doesn’t mind being mowed down whenever that is necessary or desired.

Rugosa 'Therese Bugnet'

We are using daylilies on the steep bank in front of the house to eliminate mowing, but our newest project is the Rose Bank, adjacent to the Daylily Bank. The Rose Bank was begun in the spring of 2009 after a major rebuilding of our foundation. It is not totally covered with roses yet, but I have been amazed by the growth of “Pink Grootendorst,” “Therese Bugnet” and “Dart’s Dash”, three vigorous rugosas. Rugosas are tough disease-resistant roses with a variety of flower forms. The fragrant single blossoms of the familiar beach rose are just the beginning.

A delicate pink rose that was growing, but hidden in undergrowth, at the corner of the house when we arrived in 1979 continues to thrive, as do the double red Knockout roses, two old roses given to me by the Purington family at Woodslawn Farm in Colrain, “Hawkeye Belle,” a hardy pink Buck hybrid, and “Goldbusch” a spreading disease resistant yellow that promises repeat bloom.

Rugosas tend to spread, not always in predictable ways. When they spread it is possible to dig up some of the shoots as I have “Scabrosa” and “Linda Campbell” who also live on the Rose Bank now.

I’m honored to share my garden with visitors, and the Franklin Land Trust this year. It feels wonderful to be in the company of other skilled and enthusiastic gardeners. The witty Elsa Bakalar, our most famous gardener, is no longer with us, but the noted artist Scott Prior and his wife Nanny Vonnegut have maintained her gardens so that they remain lovely and welcoming. Prior will be at the garden on Sunday to take questions about gardens and art. His “Heath inspired” prints will be on sale with a portion of sales going to the FLT. The video Elsa Bakalar: Portrait of a Gardener, made by Ginny Sullivan some years ago, has been converted to a limited edition DVD, with all proceeds going to FLT.

Prior’s session is just one of several special events that have been added to this year’s tour schedule. Glass blowing demonstrations (with a portion of sales supporting FLT), walking tours of a blueberry farm with its own artistic connections, a talk by the distinguished Dr. Michael Coe about the history of Heath’s Fort Shirley and talks describing new approaches to maple farming are scheduled. The two Historical Society Museums in Heath Center will also be open.

A lunch buffet will be served in a beautiful barn in the midst of vegetable and flower gardens both days. Lunch must be reserved ahead of time, and will benefit the Friends of the Heath Free Public Library.

The Franklin Land Trust tour is always a special event with a chance to visit private gardens, each expressing the individuality and interests of the gardeners, and to gain new insights into the productivity of our land and the richness of our local history.  For full information about the tour and how to buy tickets logon to or call 413-625-9151.

Between the Rows   June 11, 2011


Martagon Lily

For the past couple of weeks I have been looking at a budded plant in the Lawn Grove. It seemed to have lily foliage, but  I couldn’t remember planting lilies in that spot. And I never found time to go back and check my records for last fall.

Lilium martagon "Album"

The other day the buds opened into these beautiful martagon lily blossoms.  But the plant was not quite three feet tall. Is there such a thing as a miniature martagon?

Not exactly. I don’t remember ordering or planting this lovely thing but I can imagine myself falling for a description like this from the Old House Gardens catalog: “As if made by fairies, the tiny, luminous blossoms of this mountain wildflower are, well, bewitching. A cold-loving perennial, it’s slightly bigger, stronger, and some say even lovelier than the purple martagon.”

This  petite white martagon blossom with its recurved petals and golden stamens is fairy-like and I am thrilled to have it. I doubted its name because it is not quite three feet tall. This likely says something about my soil, but maybe it needs another year to mature into that space.  The catalog description does go on to say that this 1601 heirloom “isn’t for beginners.” Obviously that didn’t stop me. However, Heath is a ‘cool spot’ (although we have been promised unseasonal 90 degree temperatures this week) and I have provided filtered sun for part of the day. I can also practice my patience – providing all that OHG says is required.

Record Keeping

This is a close up of the old white lilacs that were on our property when we moved here in 1979. They are the earliest of all the lilacs we have and I can usually count on having them in full bloom by the 15th of May.  Not this year. You can see not all the buds are open. But I only know that because keep this blog means I have pretty good records for the past three years, thanks in large part to Carol of May Dreams Gardens whose meme of Bloom Day has encouraged me to keep a full bloom record at least once a month.

Our weather just seems so unpredictable with blooms varying by as much as two weeks, a week on either side of a standard date. For the past two weeks we’ve had cool temperatures and rain. All bloom slowed down.

This is what my wisteria flowers looked like last year on May 23.

See what the buds look  like this year on May 24.  Calculating bloom times for tours and such is getting very difficult.   Grrrrrr.

Is your garden ‘off schedule’ this year?

Flashing Flowers

During our visit to Missouri City Anthony, my 14 year old grandson, volunteered to do a Flash project for my blog. He took four of the flower photos I took during the Garden Conservancy‘s Open Days Tour and at Cindy’s garden in Katy and turned them into a twirling delight. You can see each photo ‘full size’ by clicking on the thumbnails at the bottom.  If only he lived closer we could collaborate more often.

Houston Flowers

My Logo

Commonweeder logo

When I began my blog, slightly more than three years ago, I had just finished reading The Uncommon Reader, a delightful short comic novel by Alan Bennett.  I am a reader and understood the reference to Virginia Woolf’s Common Reader essays so the phrase ‘common reader’ was whirling around in my brain  when I thought of that most common of weeds – the dandelion.  I thought the dandelion was a perfect flower to refer to me; I am a Leo and those distinctive leaves are the dent de lion, the teeth of the lion, and I am a cheerful person, and though no one has ever used the term sunny to describe me, I love the sunny shaggy dandelion flowers.  What else could I name my blog but The Commonweeder.

Yesterday I spent an hour with my friend Cara Hochhalter, and she helped me make a block print of a dandelion that I will use as a logo.  I am not an artist, but I am very happy with the way this turned out, needing only a bit more tweaking of the block, and figuring out how to make the blossom a tiny bit bolder.  What do you think?

I used a Safety-Kut soft printing block from Daniel Smith which made the task much easier and faster.

Scrappy Art

My father was a machinist. For many years he worked for my grandfather, Algot Larson who invented the Unique window balance, a device that replaced the ropes and pulleys that were used at the time to open and shut windows.

My father’s avocation was astronomy. He was a member of the Amateur Astronomer’s Association. He often attended meetings at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City where he learned to make his own telescope grinding the lens himself.  I remember him melting lead on the kitchen stove to make the counter weight for the telescope which he named Cyclops after the one eyed monster that Odysseus outsmarted.

You may ask what my father’s telescope has to do with these flowers. They were made by one of his friends on the factory floor who took the metal scraps from his work to make this fanciful sheaf of grass and flowers.  The connection between my father and his friend is the creative impulse that we all share. They did not tamp down that impulse but gave it room to grow and share.

My father told all of us stories of the creatures that populated the sky, the Big Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and he held star gazing parties for my classmates.  My father’s friend gave away his charming creations.

In this detail you can see more clearly the origin of his scrappy materials.

These flowers do not resemble the real flowers in my garden, but we gardeners also share a creative impulse to cultivate beauty and utility in our flower and edible gardens, an impulse we share with those who want to learn how we do it, and with those who appreciate their beauty and flavor.

I Am Fascinated

After Bloom Day, wanting to preserve the tulip blossoms as much as possible in order to use them Sunday at church, I moved the pot of Pieter de Leur into the sitting room which is very cool. This is where my few houseplants live all winter. The jasmine dries up slowly over the season, but when I cut it back it always revives with the arrival of warm weather.

I have been fascinated watching these forced bulbs as they open and closed, affected in some ways by the time of day, and somewhat more predicably by temperature and amount of sun. I don’t know exactly what I have learned, but I feel I have been able to observe the mystery of growth in a whole new way.

I Should Have Added Patience

This tulip has changed even since I took the photo on Friday but Frank and the tulip look so pretty in the sun I had to include it here. The grassy shoots have no buds that I can see but that pan of Baby Moon daffodils should bloom soon. I hope.

When I complained last week about the bulbs I was forcing not responding to the force I kept sending their way I did not menton this Apricot Beauty  which had produced a single bud. You can’t really tell from the photo but the other Apricot Beauties in this pot are also sending out buds. I hope they will be blooming next Sunday when I am supposed to bring them to church.

The pot of tulips next to Apricot Beauty that is not doing much is Yellow Baby, a ‘short, compact and fully double’ tulip which I am looking forward to.

Pieter de Leur is just the kind of bright red tulip that children cut out of construction paper in the spring. Mine are leaning a bit. I guess I haven’t managed to rotate them sufficiently in the window. One of the things that has amazed me is the way the flowers open and close slightly during the day.  I understand that many flowers may close at the end of the day and open again in the morning, but I really hadn’t appreciated the amount of fluctuation during the day. That appreciation has been an un-anticipated benefit of the bulb forcing project.

This Minnow daffodil is so pretty and fragrant. I put my pencil holder in the photo just for scale. The plant itself is about eight inches tall so you can see the little bouquet of flowers is tiny.  When I ordered these miniature bulbs I didn’t understand quite how tiny the flowers would be. Another learning lesson. You can see there will be other flowers soon.  I found this odd little terra cotta pot at the transfer station and I thought it would be good for forcing bulbs that could then be given away as gifts, but while the bulbs are good size, the flowers are tiny, so I am enjoying them all myself.

More daffodils and tulips to come. Without knowing it I arranged a long bloom season for myself. I just need to remember adding patience to all my plantings.

Warm Memories

Buffa10 Bloggers Meetup

With the snow so deep, the temperatures so low, and the winds so brisk I had to take a day to revisit summer in Buffalo and some of the beautiful gardens we toured.  I have a similar arrangement of lilies and beebalm in my garden.  It will be such a joy to see those shoots in the spring.

Rainsplashed daylilies Buffa10

These daylilies enjoyed a deep drink one night in Buffalo.  My Daylily Bank should look pretty good this year, and I am hoping that the 2011 growing season will be furnished with sufficient splashing  rain over all my garden.