Subscribe via Email

If you're not receiving email notifications of new posts, subscribe by entering your email...

Lily Season

Daylily Bank

I have not done with posts about my great trip to Seattle to tour amazing gardens with 70+ garden writers  and bloggers, but I am so happy to be home and to see the glories of lily season.  Our Daylily Bank is now in full bloom and it got a lot of attention when the Heath Gourmet Club was here on Saturday night to enjoy a delicieux dinner a la Francais.

Black Beauty lilies

The Black Beauty lilies have been blooming in the Herb Bed right in front of the house for several years, along with a crimson bee balm. A great, but unintentional combo.

Last year I got a little bloom from Lilium henryi (gold) and the White Henry lilies, but this year they are putting on quite a show. There is another white lily with a deep red throat in this group. I don’t know what it is, but I think it was a bonus that came along with a big order I sent Old House Gardens that does have wonderful bulbs.

Seattle skyline

If you do want to see some of  the wonderful sights of Seattle log on to my friend Layanee de Merchant’s post.

Japanese Garden at the Bloedel Reserve

Or see what Francis at Fairegarden had to say about other damp scenes at the Bloedel Reserve.

Massachusetts Farmers Market Week

Greenfield Farmers Market

I’m so happy to participate in the Loving Local Farmers Market Blogathon hosted by In Our Grandmother’s Kitchens for several reasons. First, Farmers Markets are beautiful and celebratory places to be. Everywhere are gorgous healthy fruits and vegetables, fragrant herbs and brilliant flowers. Everyone is cheerful when they are surrounded by this beautiful bounty. Who wouldn’t like to spend an hour at the Farmers Market?

Second, is the energy savings of locally grown produce. I know all about the current re-calculating of energy costs of California produce versus more local produce that required heated greenhouses but the farmers I know are using solar greenhouses and limited or no other energy for heating.

Tom Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farm

Third, is the crisp freshness of the produce. It has been picked  ripe and at its peak. That’s for me! And the nutritional value hasn’t had time to evaporate away.

Fourth, is the variety of veggies, fruits, herbs and unique varieties that promise great flavor and texture. I am a gardener and I grow a lot of my own veggies and herbs, but for a family of two I can’t grow all the variety that I hunger for.

Fifth is my concern for my own food supply. I firmly believe that less centralized, more diversified food sources are safer from violent weather and insect damage or blights and disease. This means the food system for the whole nation is more secure.

Sixth, I think smaller food producers are less likely to spread diseases like salmonella.  It seems that all the  outbreaks of infected foods that have necessitated recalls are from large farms, feedlots and processing plants.

Seventh is my desire to support the farmers who will grow this safe, healthy and delicious food. I love farmers! Some of them are cute and are willing to flirt at the farmers market. I wonder if I can count flirting as another reason for supporting farmers and farmers markets.  What do you think?

Eighth is my concern for the local economy. Buying food, or anything locally, will keep my dollars circulating in my community, so shopping at the farmers market is supporting the whole local economy.

Nine. I can meet various friends and acquaintances at the Farmers Market. I always allow time to stop and gossip.  Here I am blogging and Facebooking, but really, there is  nothing like a face to face confab with people you enjoy, maybe while eating a juicy peach or apple, or a fruit turnover. Have you noticed how many farmers are good cooks?

Ten. Even if you are not a passionate cook farmers markets are a good place to shop because you don’t really need to do anything to make fresh veggies taste wonderful. The flavor is already there. Who needs to do anything fancy to corn on the cob? Or a passel of peas? Or beets?  Steaming, roasting – or just plain raw.

I just came up with a new slogan – Eat Local – Eat Well.   It works for me.

January Winterfare in Northampton

Check out the Mass Farmers Market Association, a non-profit organization and donate to help support farmers markets throughout the Commonwealth.

My Friend Elsa

Elsa Bakalar was my friend. This morning I got the call that I had been dreading. Elsa passed away peacefully on January 29.

We moved to Heath in December of 1979, but I did not meet Elsa, who also lived in Heath until I began writing a weekly garden column, Between the Rows, for The Recorder. I had heard about Elsa and her garden and finally got up my courage to ask her for an interview. It must be admitted that I was not an expert gardener, but got the job because I wrote a compelling letter saying I would interview all the expert gardeners in our region.

I  had seen Elsa’s initialed articles in Mike’s West County News launched not too long before we moved to Heath and I imagined a young couple sharing a romantic journalistic enterprise. When we met I was somewhat shocked to find that it was more in the nature of a romantic post retirement project. They taught me that it is never too late for new beginnings.

Elsa not only gave me an interview, about starting flower seeds in the dead of winter, she began my education. I had been concentrating on vegetables and had hardly planted a marigold. She also hired me to work alongside her at Greenfield Community College where she was the Director of Community Service.

All too soon I was trying to tend a 90 foot long perennial border, filled with divisions from Elsa’s garden. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is not what Elsa expected from her students. Although she had very definite opinions of her own, she always insisted that gardeners please themselves, and plant what they liked, in the way they liked.

Elsa became known for her garden designs, how she combined color and form, but in the end she said, all the colors of nature go together, and there was no point worrying excessively. .

I was fortunate enough to participate in one of the Study and Travel courses Elsa taught at GCC. After familiarizing ourselves with England and its gardens in class for a few weeks, 35 or so of us set off to tour the great and intimate gardens of England with Elsa, entertained by her wit and knowledge. It was  well known that where Elsa was, there was a party.

Right up to the end when she was frail Elsa made a party happen. My husband and I visited her for the last time in mid-January. As it happened, two other friends arrived as well. There was chocolate cake and candies. Laughter and talk. Another of Elsa’s parties.

If there is any word that defines Elsa it is teacher. She had taught elementary children in a village school in England, the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in NYC,  and more locally, the Academy at Charlemont. She taught garden workshops in her own garden, and she went on the road lecturing, teaching, amusing, and delighting audiences all across the country. Sometimes she lectured to local garden clubs, and sometimes she gave workshops or lectures for august organizations like Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, the New York Botanical Garden, and even the Whitney Museum of Art.

Together we wrote an article for Horticulture Magazine. I loved interviewing Elsa for that piece about Color in the Garden because we talked about so much more than the task at hand. I learned about her job teaching in the Penshurst Village school in England during WWII where her young students brought her jam jars filled with flowers. She lived in a cottage where she gave the goats free range, and entertained a number of servicemen who seemed to find their way to her door.

She told me about her days working for British Information Services in Rockefeller Center in NYC, and meeting Mike. When we heard that Benny Goodman had died she reminisced about the apartment she and Mike shared on West 13th Street, and how they wore out three Benny Goodman records – and the linoleum dancing in the kitchen.

Elsa edited and revised the article with me numerous times, and then the editor at Horticulture had a few things to suggest. It finally appeared in January 1987 with gorgeous photographs by Garry Mottau. Elsa, Gary and I all met in Elsa’s July garden at dawn to get the best light. I ran around holding a shiny sheet of thermax insulation to help gently direct sun onto Elsa’s face or particular flower. It was an amazing photography lesson for me, and lots of fun.

When she retired from GCC, she wrote a book, A Garden of One’s Own: Making and Keeping Your Flower Garden that was published in 1994. Mottau again did the photos. I remember the discussions about a title.  She would have no designing or creating. “Make and keep were good anglo-saxon words,” she said. That is what she chose.

Elsa was just a little older than my mother, but I never thought of her in those terms. Still I loved hearing about the girls, students from Fieldston where she taught, who spent summers with her in Heath for several years. Elsa once told me that they had all gone on an outing to Tanglewood and some music lover looked at this bevy of girls and asked what camp they belonged to. One girl drew herself up, . “We are not a camp. We are Mrs. Bakalar’s girls,” she said with great dignity.

I like to think maybe I became one of Mrs. Bakalar’s girls, too. ###

BETWEEN THE ROWS  February 6, 2010

Muse Day February 2010

The pair of quilts

we pieced together, laughing

at the future’s far design

my handiwork now covers a husband, babies –

hers, a corpse.

Carol Purington

Thank you Carolyn gail for giving me the chance to be twice inspired on this Muse Day. My friend Carol Purington wrote the poem, published in her book A Pattern For This Place, and my friend Lois Holm made this quilt for me when I retired from the Buckland Library.

I knew of Carol, before I met her, as the “poet who has been in an iron lung since childhood” but over the past few months I have come to know her as a working poet with a quick intelligence, a critical eye, and a loving heart. She has been generous to me with her attention and advice as we have worked together on my new writing project. And I have been able to watch the progress on her new project, a poetry anthology for parents.

Lois was my devoted library volunteer, trustee and dependable prop when I worked at the Library. She came to the library as a volunteer after a full professional life as nurse, working in the schools, and deep involvement in her community. I was incredibly lucky about the timing of that retirement which brought her to the library not only as a reader and patron, but as my major support and exemplar.

In this quilt she drew not only nf my love of gardens, but of my time in China. It is a work of art with the careful combining of color and pattern, flowers and ripples. Chinese art often includes an element of time, as do haiku, Carol’s chosen poetic form. The band of fabric with golden ‘ripples’ suggest to me the time that is always flowing past us. The quilt itself, and the poem reach back into memory, and into the present with continuing affection.