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Deep in the Heart of Texas Garden Tour

Echeveria

Echeverias were in almost all the gardens on our Austin garden tour

I am returned from Austin, Texas Garden Tour where we saw succulents small –

Agave

Agave

and LARGE. This agave was at the Nature’s Garden organic nursery. We didn’t even mind that it was still raining (pouring)  as we wandered among the gardens – and the plants for sale.

mother and child

Mother and child

We saw Art in the garden – LARGE

Froggies

Froggies playing on the stone wall

and small.

I am just teasing now but  soon I’ll show you wonderful public gardens like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Zilker Botanical Garden, as well as private gardens, large and small. This garden tour will live in my memory for a long time.

Northampton Garden Tour – June 10, 2017

rhododendrons

Rhododendrons and azaleas provide bloom in this spring garden

It is Garden Tour season! So many gardens to see, to enjoy and to learn from. It could be said that every garden is designed around the flaws – I mean challenges – of the site. E. Bruce Brooks and his wife Taeko stood with me in front of his Northampton house and garden and we looked up at the tall brick building. “Our design aims to minimize the too tall house that sits on a too small lot,” Bruce said. “One purpose of our garden is to provide height to match the house, and also an integrated design to make it look more at home. The swirl of the alternating beds of myrtle and grass is meant to direct the eye away from the house, and lure it in another direction.”

Those curves include a handsomely paved path that leads first to the front door but also swoops to the side of the house where the most used door is located.

A "concealed terrace"

A “concealed terrace”

It has been noted by others that there is a calligraphic sweep to the design, a nod to the work of these two classical Chinese scholars.

Another challenge of the site is that it is on a hill. The land is an uninterrupted slope from the sidewalk to the boundary of an evergreen hedge. Bruce has created a series of ‘concealed terraces’ to diminish the rapid flow of rainwater down the slope. A shrub and flower bed parallel to the sidewalk looks like a raised bed but it is actually a sunken bed in the front and a raised bed on the opposite side. This bed neatly contains ajuga, three gas plants, Dictamus albus, and a Sky Pencil Japanese holly, one of several in the garden, pulling the eye upward. I had never seen a gas plant although I had heard that the flowers or seeds emitted a flammable oil that could be ignited by a match when the summer air was very still. I asked if he had ever experimented with such fire, but he shook his head and said he had never been that adventurous.

This garden has undergone substantial changes over the decades they have lived there. A yew hedge outgrew itself, and heavy machinery was called in to remove it. That heavy machinery pretty much did away with what garden was there and they began anew. In addition to that change, surrounding trees have made the site shadier and shadier. Taeko reminisced, “We tried to grow herbs for a while, including lavender and Biblical plants like hyssop, but the increasing shade got the better of them. We used to grow what we like; now we try to like what will grow.” One fairly sunny bed now includes Andromeda, white azalea and a ground cover of intermixed black mondo grass, dwarf iris, and sweet woodruff planted around another tall Sky Pencil.

Color and texture are important elements

Color and texture are important elements

Brooks refers to the garden as Taeko’s garden, but it is clear that it is very much a shared project. Brooks is the design man, and Taeko, a second generation Hawaiian, she happily informed me, is the gardener on the ground. There is a shrub size Japanese red maple next to the stairs going into the back garden. Brooks raised it from seed, but Taeko said it was getting too big. Brooks disagreed and Taeko took to pruning it every spring to keep it a proper size. Brooks shook his head. “We are always arguing,” he said. Taeko laughed and said, ”Oh, yes, we are always arguing.”

 ryongi temple

Ryoanji Temple memory – nearly done

The narrow rear garden is very shady. Once again myrtle is massed along a narrow bed on one side of a wide gravel path, with massed painted fern against the house on the other side. In the middle of this pebble garden, a reminder of the famous gardens in the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, is an austere arrangement of stone and two shrubs. They spent two years of their early life together in Kyoto, and carried some of those stones home with them when they left, a tender souvenir of those years together.

The serenity of this garden created by the massing of myrtle, painted ferns and blu e fescue ornamental grass is a lesson to us all about the power of massing.

Taeko and E.  Bruce Brooks

Taeko and E. Bruce Brooks

Bruce and Taeko have shared their professional lives as well as their garden planning. Their department, The Warring States Project of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts is a research center for classical China, and recently also for Early Christianity and the Hebrew Bible. The Project itself has branches: offsite laboratories in the Midwest and in Canada where stylistic analysis of ancient texts in four languages is carried out by teams of computer specialists.

Their home offices allow them to see each other while they slave over Chinese texts and computers, but they said they never confer while they are working. They meet only when they are finished with a section or topic. They do not always agree (always arguing again) but were very clear that their work proceeds because they have absolute trust in each other’s thinking and work. They have written several books together, including The Original Analects and The Emergence of China. New books will be arriving soon.

I have just given a taste of the peaceful Brooks garden which is one of the six gardens on the 24th annual Northampton Garden Tour, providing visitors with the differing styles and approaches to making a beautiful and unique garden. The tour is scheduled for Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. rain or shine. Proceeds from this tour go to the Friends of the Forbes Library to buy books, materials and programs at the Library. Tickets are $15 at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennial Farm, Cooper’s Corner, Hadley Garden Center, North Country Landscapes and Garden Center, and State Street Fruit Store. On June 10th, the day of the tour, tickets are $20 and available only at the library. There will also be a raffle.

Between the Rows   June 3, 2017

 

Franklin Land Trust Garden Tour – June 27

Ruah Donnelly

Ruah Donnelly

Ruah Donnelly’s house overlooks a wooded ravine, a tapestry of shades of green and shifting light. There is not a flower in sight. Donnelly says that over her years as a gardener she has experienced a growing struggle between wanting art in the garden and wanting to conserve the landscape. While she thinks conservation is winning the battle, any visitor to this garden and landscape will see no struggle, only beauty.

Donnelly’s garden is only one of the unique private gardens, and farms, on the Franklin Land Trust Garden Tour that is open to visitors on Saturday, June 27 from 10 am – 4 pm.

For the past 15 years Donnelly has been gardening on what is considered the site of the oldest farm in Conway. She loves the New England landscape where she has spent most of her life, and has dedicated great energy to its beauty by serving on the boards of TowerHillBotanical Garden, the New England Wildflower Society and the Franklin Land Trust. When she began planning the Conway landscape she said, “I wanted to figure this out. I didn’t want it to look like New Jersey. I wanted to let nature have something to say, without too much pruning, or too many flowers.” She also said that at this time of her life she needed to make it sustainable. She cannot be out in the garden doing everything all the time.

Calycanthus floridus

Calycanthus floridus

Donnelly’s garden is essentially a woodland garden. There is the Grove, a stand of trees that has grown up around the cellar hole of the original house. It has been ‘edited’ so that you can see the form of the trees and stroll through the grove which is underplanted thousands of daffodils that have naturalized and bloom in the spring, as well as native groundcovers like epimediums, and ferns. One of the striking shrubs growing beneath the trees is a large Calycanthus floridus which has graceful lax limbs and fragrant, wine red fragrant flowers that are responsible for its common name sweetshrub.

There is art in the grove as well a very large black and yellow container holding shining yellow begonias. “Yellow is an accent in the grove, and points up the beauty of all the green.”’

Ornamental yellow begonias

Ornamental yellow begonias in The Grove

Even so, beyond the desire for some ornamental plantings, “What makes me happy is the deeper question, of finding ways to make the landscape more beautiful in ways that are good for the land. I want to bring out the best in the woodland; that is something beyond my own pleasure,” she said.

Donnelly took me on a long walk across a lawn that edges an unmowed field that hides the road, through the Grove on paths that allow you to see the plants, across more lawn to an old barn surrounded by lilacs and peonies and other old fashioned plants, past ancient apple trees, to a planting of new apple trees. We walked towards another woodland at the edge of the ravine. Some of the trees had been pruned recently and the branches and limbs were chipped to make a mulch. That wood chip mulch will eventually rot and provide nourishment for the soil. This sounds a lot like “let the carbon stay where it falls”, which I have mentioned before.

We sat beneath the trees on one of the well placed benches, and watched the large swath of hay scented ferns, bowing in the breeze like waves on the sea. But still more sections of the garden were urging us onward. We wandered back towards the house, under the silverbell tree where we were surrounded by fragrance, admired the espaliered star magnolia behind an herb garden, and on toward more magnolias.

I did not realize that so many magnolias were hardy in our area but Donnelly explained that many native species are hardier than the more ornamental hybrids that have been developed.

Donnelly has written two books, The Adventurous Gardener: Where to find the best plants in New England and The Adventurous Gardener: Where to find the best plants in New York and New Jersey, about interesting nurseries that sell natives and other interesting, less common plants. The books are somewhat outdated, as nurseries have gone out of business, but you can find the books online and many nurseries, like Andrews Greenhouse in Amherst are still going strong. One nursery she recommended is the Broken Arrow nursery in Hamden, Connecticut which specializes in mountain laurels, and other unusual plants like the sweetshrub. Also she reminded me that Nasami Farm in Whately, the propagating wing of the New England Wildflower Society, is now open every weekend, all season long, and offers many native flowers, shrubs and trees

There are other treats in Donnelly’s garden: a vegetable, herb, and flower potager surrounded by a wattle fence, and a hedge made of living basket willows woven together. There is also a Witches’ Walk, a woodland allee of witch hazels, something you will not see anywhere else. I love the way gardeners find a way to share their sense of humor as well as their gardens.

This year the Franklin County Land Trust Garden Tour is featuring gardens and farms in Ashfield and Conway. Tickets, $15 for members, and $20 for non-members, may be purchased any weekday at the FLT office at 5 Mechanic Street, ShelburneFalls or on the morning of the event at the Ashfield Farmer’s Market, Ashfield Town Common. Lunch tickets for an additional $15 are available with a reservation. The FLT website, www.franklinlandtrust.org has more information about the Land Trust mission, and about the tour. For still more information  e-mail or call Mary with questions: mlsabourin@franklinlandtrust.org or 413.625.9151

Between the Rows  June 13, 2015

Forbes Library Garden Tour – June 13, 2015

Virginia and Rob Rechtschaffen

Virginia and Rob Rechtschaffen

Virginia Rechtschaffen has always loved trees. She and her husband Rob even once owned a house in Belchertown that came complete with an orchard. Lots of trees. For the past 20 years she and Rob have lived in Northampton and accomplished something I would have thought impossible. Their in-town garden is embraced by a ring of large trees with a heart of sunshine at its center. How did they do it?

Virginia said when they moved into the house she felt she needed some help with a Plan. They hired a designer, but in the end they only used the design for the front of the house which is lovely in its simplicity. A boxwood hedge borders the sidewalk marking off the private space around the house. A trident maple which will grow to about 35 feet is surrounded by groundcovers like epimediums and pulmonaria, and geranium macrorrhizum. All of these bloom in early spring. Virginia said she loved the delicate flowers of each, and the spotted foliage of the pulmoniaria.

Entry garden in Northampton

Entry garden in Northampton

A lamp post is surrounded by white Siberian irises, just beginning to bloom when I visited. The lush foliage of the groundcovers and the elegance of the irises point out that even familiar plants can make a beautiful statement when planted en masse.

There was also a large old sugar maple in front of the house which had to be removed, but it was replaced last week with a young Katsura tree, just in time for the Forbes Library Garden Tour on Saturday, June 13.

Another striking element of the front garden is the placement of several large stones, nestled among the plantings. There is a subtle art in knowing how to arrange stones in a garden so that they look like they belong, and give a sense of timelessness to the garden.

Blooming shrubs including rhododendrons and azaleas hug the house. A grassy walk between the house and a shrub border lead to the back garden. When I visited the garden was filled with birds that came to the birdbath and to peck away at bugs in areas of soil, left uncovered and unplanted just for them.

The garden is all curves, beds holding trees like the Acer triflorium which produces small spring flowers in clusters of three, accounting for its name as three flowered maple. It also has handsome exfoliating bark and good autumn color. The golden rain tree showers its flower petals to the ground accounting for its common name. Both these trees grow to between 20 and 30 feet tall, which some count as small trees, but which are large in a small garden.

Still, around the very edges of the property are shrubs and really large trees like a Katsura they planted in 1996 and a tall weeping conifer.

Full Moon Japanese maple

Full Moon Japanese maple at entry to firepit area

The Rechtschaffens have several different Japanese maples. Full Moon, which indeed has the shape of a full moon, stands opposite the golden rain tree at the entry of the social area, a firepit and chairs where the Rechtschaffens frequently enjoy solitude or friends around the fire.

They chose the plants and designed arrangement of these garden beds themselves because the plans created by the designers were too formal and symmetrical. That formality did not reflect the way they live or the way they look at the natural world.

As we looked at the clusters of winged maple seeds, properly called samaras, but often called helicopters or whirlybirds, Virginia said, “Even the smallest things in the garden are beautiful.

Those of us who attend garden tours are always looking to spend a day in beautiful spaces and to learn about techniques and plants we might use in our own gardens. Host gardeners also have their own desires. “What I would like is that when people leave our garden they will want to go a plant a tree in their garden,” Virginia said. I think she will very well get her desire.

The Rechtschaffen’s garden is just one of six beautiful and unique gardens on the Friends of the Forbes Library Annual Garden Tour on Saturday, June 13 from 10 am – 3 pm, rain or shine. Advance tickets are available for $15 at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennial Farm, Cooper’s Corner, HadleyGardenCenter, North Country Landscapes and State Street Fruit Store. Tickets on Saturday will be $20. Tickets come with a map for this self guided tour. There will be descriptions and guides at each garden to answer questions

Mary Lyon Church Garden Tour – July 19, 2014

Waterlily Pond and Bog Garden

Waterlily Pond and Bog Garden

Garden tour season continues! The MaryLyonChurch garden tour is scheduled for Saturday, July 19 from 10 am to 4 pm and includes seven gardens in Buckland and two gardens in West Hawley.

Shirley Scott and Joe Giard

Shirley Scott and Joe Giard

I had the good fortune to visit Shirley Scott and Joe Giard’s garden ahead of time. This has one of the most challenging sites I have ever seen for a garden. The main challenge of her site has been the very steep slope to the left of the house. This grassy slope with its interruptions of ledge has become the SlopeGarden with a series of beds of strong growing plants like daylilies, tall New England asters and miscanthus grasses. Stairs have been cut into the hill, but visitors will probably prefer to begin by strolling through the gardens on the shady side of the house.

Scott says the garden has fulfilled her childhood dream of having waterlilies, and her vision of a garden filled with wildlife.

That wildlife needed a very close look when she was giving me a tour of the Welcoming Bed at the entry to the property. This bed is filled with chrysanthemums, tiger lilies, foxglove, yellow loosestrife (not the invasive purple variety) iris, black eyed susans, peonies and sedums. There is also milkweed, blooming at this time of the year and providing nectar for many butterflies that were dancing through the garden.

At one point we stopped because we saw some filmy fibers on one of the tall sedum plants. A very close look showed that this film enclosed hundreds of very tiny baby spiders. A closer look showed us that a large spider was on a nearby leaf. Could it have been the mama?  We’ll never know, but it was a very exciting moment when we could watch a certain kind of wild life being lived in the garden.

Of course, Scott explained they have larger wild life enjoying the garden, all manner of birds, bears, bobcats, coyotes and turtles.

If you walk first through the shade gardens you’ll come to the newest of Scott’s three water gardens, a kind of shallow stepped fountain on a gentle slope. This area is where Scott places her bird feeders. The large trees provide shelter for the birds, and the sound of water attracts them. She explained the water feature is still being refined, and she reminded me that the garden is all a work in progress. This is a concept that she does not need to explain to any experienced gardener.

In back of the house and outbuildings is Giard’s fenced vegetable garden where he has made unique use of a TV antenna and automobile tires. It always pays to look around the house and garage before you go out and buy new garden equipment.

Waterlily pond closeup

Waterlily pond closeup

The water gardens are one of the most inspiring aspects of this garden, each one different. Soon you come to the first one she designed and made by herself. This small pool is surrounded by stones that can accommodate a small metal table and chairs.  Here she can enjoy the sound of the water, and a view of her waterlilies. “When it was first installed I sat there and thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.

It is also from this spot at the bottom of the SlopeGarden that you can look into the faces of all those blooming sun lovers.

The second water garden is much larger and more ambitious with beautiful stone work. Giard brought all the Goshen stone down the slope to a sunny flat site. ChapleyGardens in Deerfield installed this garden with a recirculation pump and filtration system. In addition to the musical waterfall, and more waterlilies, there is an adjoining bog garden, and a collection of daylilies which will be in full bloom at the time of the tour.

This large garden is artfully arranged so that different views can be admired from various vantage points. Perhaps the most delightful view is from the small shaded gazebo at the top of the slope which gives a panoramic view of the Welcoming Garden, the Slope Garden beds and the large Water Garden.

I love visiting other gardens because I love seeing the ways a gardener’s dreams take form. Scott is an “Ashfield girl” and she has brought favorite plants from her mother, grandmother and friends into the garden where her childhood dream of a waterlily pond has become a reality. This is a garden of memory and dreams.

Scott’s garden is just one of the beautiful gardens on the tour which include a secret garden, a labyrinth, a farm, and gardens around historic buildings in Buckland. A farm, and a multi-faceted array of perennial gardens are located in West Hawley. The tour begins at 10 am and ends at 4 pm. Tickets are available by calling Cyndie Stetson at 339-4231 or Lisa Turner at 339-4319. Tickets will also be on sale at the MaryLyonChurch on the morning of July 19. Tickets are $10 and there will be a luncheon served at the MaryLyonChurch for an additional $10. Reservations should be made ahead of time for the lunch. All profits benefit the Church.

Between the Rows   July 12, 2014

 

Greenfield and Hawley Garden Tours – Saturday. June 28

Tomorrow, Saturday June 28 is Tour Day!

Greenfield Garden Tour

Greenfield Garden Tour

Next weekend will be filled with an embarrassment of garden riches. On Saturday, June 28 the Greenfield Garden Club and the Sons and Daughters of Hawley will be hosting unique garden tours.

The Greenfield Garden Club Tour includes gardens where lawns have been removed, pollinators have been welcomed, fruit trees have been planted, perennials bloom lushly, and water and sculpture create a beautiful space. There is also a special opportunity, for those who have lots of ideas about how to use space. Becky George has moved into a new house that needs to have the landscape redesigned. She’ll be handing out site plans with requests for suggestions. If you hand in a site plan your name will be entered in a drawing. The winner will receive two tickets to the Balloon Festival.

The tour will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Tickets will be on sale at the Trap Plain Garden at the junction of Federal and Silver Streets on Saturday morning. Tickets are $12 and come with a map and description of the nine gardens. Refreshments and surprises along the way. If it is pouring the raindate is Sunday, June 29.

I visited one of the gardens on the tour last week and suddenly had an epiphany. This garden, on a small lot, revealed to me the way a spacious garden could be created in a limited space. This magic has been described in endless design instructions, but never really told me how to do it myself in a way that I understood.

For me the revelation was not about planning the layout of sinuous paths, but first laying out full, lush layered beds that the paths would trace. You may think this is six of one, half dozen of the other, but for the first time I came to a real understanding of how this can be done.

The gazebo

The gazebo

The garden is predominantly a shade garden, perfect for a hosta lover. I did note a Beware of Hostas sign on a little shed in the back corner of the garden. There are also nine beautiful Japanese maples. For sociability there is a gazebo and dining space.

There is very little lawn in this garden, only grass paths, some wide and some narrow that reach around and beyond beds that are filled with trees, then shrubs and finally groundcovers including hostas. The garden is small, but the gardener has chosen interesting trees including many conifers, tall and gracefully vertical, as well as low and mounding. There is so much variety of foliage form and color that my eyes lingered on each tableau before I was teased to walk around the next curve.

The garden is also a Certified Wildlife Habitat which means that it supports birds and pollinators by supplying water, shelter and food in the form of nectar, pollen and berries. As our landscapes are more and more filled by roads, businesses and dense housing, these supportive landscapes become ever more necessary.

There is a sub-theme to the Hawley tour – stones.  At 9 a.m.Bud Wobus professor of Geology at WilliamsCollege will be at the field next to the ChickleyRiver  at the junction of Pudding Hollow Road and Middle Road, to talk about the river rocks and Hawley’s long geological history. Wobus will visit other tour sites to talk about rock formations in those other locales. The garden part of the tour includes perennial gardens, fruit gardens and vegetable gardens, many making use of local stone. A lunch will also be served at one of the gardens from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Suggested donation for the tour is $10 and $12 for the lunch. For tickets, please contact: Pamela Shrimpton: 339-4091, Melanie Poudrier: 339-5347 or Lorraine McCarthy: 339-4903.

I visited Jane O’Connor’s large vegetable garden surrounded by a deep perennial garden with an assortment of herbs. Most of the vegetables are planted in raised beds that were installed two years ago.  They were filled with compost from her own huge pile and have been very successful. Once the beds were set up maintenance was easier, as predicted and planned.

Phil Keenan, O’Connor’s husband, is a cook, but O’Connor said the garden is hers. “This is my deal,” she said. “We eat organically out of the garden and are really conscious of what we eat. I cook from scratch and I can and freeze produce, as well as make preserves and pickles. I do it a little at a time.”

The garden includes ten kinds of tomatoes, four kinds of onion, three types of potato including sweet potato, squash, pumpkins, sugar snap and snow peas. Scarlet runner beans and Kentucky wonder beans clamber up trellises. There’s celery, garlic, strawberries and sunflowers. The variety is quite stunning.

O’Connor works at home so when she needs a break she goes out and works in the garden. Even if she wants to sit and admire the garden, one little sitting area is surrounded by squash plants.

Because raised beds dry out more quickly, O’Connor has installed a good watering system. Fortunately, she has an excellent well. There is a touch of whimsy in this well organized and productive vegetable garden. Solar lights abound, on stakes or wound around plant supports. Birds and fairies glow. “I’ll be out here at night and it is just beautiful.

After touring these beautiful gardens on Saturday, take a leisurely drive up to Heath and enjoy a stroll down the Rose Walk on Sunday afternoon.  The Annual Rose Viewing is from 1-4 p.m at the end of Knott Rd.  Lemonade and cookies in the Cottage Ornee. Hope you can join us.

Between the Rows  June 21, 2014

Forbes Library Garden Tour June 14 in Northampton

Forbes Library Garden Tour

Forbes Library Garden Tour

Time for the Forbes Library Garden Tour June 14 10 am – 3 pm.

The time comes for many of us gardeners when we think we cannot carry on with our gardens, or houses, as they are. We are older, the children have gone, and we are not quite so energetic or willing to toil for hours in the summer sun over our weeds and slugs. The time comes to think about a smaller house and a smaller garden.

Something more than five years ago, Maureen McKenna had huge gardens in Leeds, children that needed to be chauffeured here and everywhere and a big house. She was getting weary. She and her husband sat down and realized they had to do something to make a change.

The change is the departure of older children, a smaller house, with a smaller garden on a much smaller lot in Northampton. It is one of the seven gardens on the tour to benefit the Forbes Library on Saturday, June 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Most of the gardens are small urban gardens so this is a perfect opportunity for those of us who are not in our first youth to experience the varied delights of a small garden. In addition there is one expansive garden in a country hideaway on this tour.

I asked Mckenna if it was hard to leave a house and garden where her children had grown up. Her response? “Not really.”

“The gardens in my old house had been left by the former owner and were huge,” she said. “I had to do a lot of hard work to make it my own – and even then . . ..” So, with only one child claiming a broken heart, they moved to where they could do more walking and less driving.

In her new smaller garden she has managed to have a little bit of everything, a sunny garden, a large shade garden, vegetables and berries.  It is all very pretty and very manageable. Her house divides the property from the street to the back property line and separates the sun and shade.

Shade Garden

Shade Garden

The front door is on the shady side. McKenna says guests never go to the front door even though she wishes they would. I think the shady woodland garden seems quietly formal so I can understand the appeal of the sunny backdoor for neighbors and casual company. She said they splurged on this garden. When they were arranging with the landscaper for compost and mulch, he said they could do a plan, as well. The plan involved giving some dimensionality to the long flat space by creating a gentle slope to the front section of the garden and curves in the back section.

The shade is created by an enormous maple tree, a smaller Japanese maple, and a large conifer in the back corner. Underplantings include tiarella and ajuga, both in flower in early spring, as well as iris cristata, sedums, a variety of hostas, large and small, and golden hakone grass. The pale leaves of a variegated five leaf aralia light up a dim corner near the rear wall.

Between the back door and the street is a raised sunny garden where a small tree is underplanted with astilbe, hellebores, iris, marguerite daisies, tiarella, bleeding heart, lady’s mantle, creeping phlox, a hydrangea and some sage and thyme. This is a garden that says welcome to all.

On the other side of the back door is a small sheltered patio between the wall of the house and the side wall of the garage which is softened by a narrow garden of roses and other perennials and a burbling fountain.

Forbes Library Garden Tour - Raised vegetable beds

Forbes Library Garden Tour – Raised vegetable beds

The other side of the driveway includes raised vegetable beds and gravel paths. “We had the soil tested at UMass and there was a measure of lead so we thought raised beds would be a wise decision.” The McKennas also have a community garden plot where they have grow more vegetables, and raspberry and blueberry bushes, but these raised beds allow them to pick a fresh salad, or strawberries or raspberries for breakfast. I was surprised to see some raspberry canes growing so happily in a large container.

Forbes Library Garden Tour - strawberry bed

Forbes Library Garden Tour – strawberry bed

A final shady section of the garden next to the garage is being redesigned and replanted to eliminate even this tiny bit of lawn.

In this one garden are many examples of the way a small space can be arranged to accommodate our desire for beauty and sociability as well as fresh veggies, fruit and less maintenance.

For me visiting other gardens gives me a chance to imagine myself in very different spaces. Garden tour season is beginning, giving all of us the chance to see new and interesting ways of using space, new techniques, new plants and the way passions and unique personalities are expressed in our gardens. I expect to get a lot of new ideas over the next month.

Tickets for the this tour are $15 in advance sold at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennials, Cooper’s Corner, Hadley Garden Center and State Street Fruit Store.  And $20 on the day of the tour, sold only at Forbes Library and garden #1. There is also a raffle and a chance to win organic compost, gift certificates, garden supplies or a landscape consultation. Raffle tickets are 2/$5 or 5/$10 and are available at Forbes Library through the day before the tour as well as garden #2 the day of the tour. For more information contact Jody Rosenbloom at jody.kabloom@gmail.com or 413-586-0021.

Between the Rows   June 7, 2014

Beaver Lodge on NESEA Green Buildings Open House Tour

Marie Stella

“I’m a designer. I’ve always been absorbed by fashion, interior and landscape design,” Marie Stella said when she began my tour of Beaver Lodge in Ashfield. Her current and ongoing design project is the landscape surrounding her beautiful house which has been give a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. This is very unusual for a residence.

LEED designations require that materials be as local as possible, that recycled materials be used when possible. For example, at Beaver Lodge floors are made with wood from trees removed from the site. Stella touched on many other examples as we walked.

Since her house has been designed with energy efficiency and environmental concerns in mind, it is no surprise that the limited domestic landscape shares these design constraints. The garden is designed on permaculture principles with a large emphasis on edibles.

Front view of Beaver Lodge

The first notable aspect of the garden that stretches to the south, in front of the house is the absence of lawn. In the center are large raised vegetable beds, with perennial crops like asparagus, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries and dwarf fruit trees along the eastern border. A small new collection of shitake mushroom logs rests in the shade of the woods.

The western border includes a grapevine covered arbor furnished with a rustic table and benches to provide a shady resting space,. Closer to the house a wild garden filled with native pollinator plants nestles against the broad Ashfield stone terrace that is the transition between the garden and the house. Instead of grass, woodchips carpet the ground. This relatively small cultivated space is held in the embrace of a mixed woodland.

To the north of the house is an old beaver pond which gives its name to Stella’s model house and landscape. In addition to being a designer, Stella is a teacher, and she has designed Beaver Lodge as a teaching tool,. She gives classes at the Landscape Institute at Boston Architecture College, and online.

She did not begin her career as a teacher, and gardening was only an avocation.  However, 25 years or so ago, when her children were young, she took a couple of Elsa Bakalar’s garden classes at her house here in Heath. She found those so inspiring she was led to a course in plant materials at the Radcliff Institute in Boston. That was so engaging that she went on to complete the certification program, and then another one.

During those Radcliff classes she realized a new future was waiting for her. She could combine her earlier background as a historian with her interest in the landscape. She liked writing. Soon she was writing and lecturing about landscape history. She organized and led garden tours to Japan and Italy.

As fascinated as she has been with the history of the landscape, she began to look towards the future, and so came about the construction of Beaver Lodge which will be part of the free NESEA Green Buildings Open House Tour.

Water retention pond

Of course, Stella realizes that if you have a vegetable garden it must be watered. I was very impressed with the systems she has in place to supply adequate water to the edible gardens. At one end of the house the rain gutters bring water to a large stone retention pond that serves an important function, but is also beautiful since it is constructed of stone blasted from construction of the house. A pump brings water up to the vegetable garden when it is needed. She has added a bit of whimsy as well. She has created a small fountain that uses water from the retention pond, and then brings it back to the pond down a created stream bed.

Bubbling fountain

Marie Stella’s greenhouse

Since I visited last in 2009, Stella has added a small greenhouse that incorporates a cold frame and makes use of recycled windows. The greenhouse will give her a chance to get seedlings started early. Inside the greenhouse is a 550 gallon food grade plastic cistern that collects rain from the gutters at the end of then, and then pipes it into the garden.

She also has a root cellar where she can overwinter bulbs and tubers. The constraint for other uses is that snow build up in often prevents access during the winter.

Shakespeare once penned the line “Sermons in stones and good in everything . . .” Those who study and visit Beaver Lodge will find encyclopedias of  good knowledge in this living lesson book.

For information on visiting Beaver Lodge and all the sites on the Green Buildings Open House Tour on Saturday, October 5 you can go to the NESEA (Northeast Sustainable Energy Association) website, www.NESEA.org, and click on the Green Buildings Open House button. There you will be able to put in your own zip code and the distance you are willing to drive. Over 200 houses are on the tour in the whole northeast from Maine to Pennsylvania, but 37 house are within 30 miles of Greenfield. Several are in Greenfield itself with others in Montague, Colrain, Northfield, and South Deerfield, in addition to Beaver Lodge. The website will give you information about each house and it’s green elements, along with cost, benefits, and suppliers. The tour is free, but you should sign up.

Just browsing the Open House website will give you a lot of information and ideas. The owner of an historic house in Montague will be giving a talk from 10am-noon “about how we successfully survived a Deep Energy Retrofit with our marriage AND our historic windows intact!”

Between the Rows   September 28k 2013

Welcome to the Greenfield Garden Club Tour on Saturday, July 6

Welcome to the Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour.

Welcome seems to be the theme on the Greenfield Garden Club Tour which will be held on Saturday, July 6 from 9 am to 4 pm. This beautiful garden on a challenging slope in Gill has several garden rooms, from the small sunny garden with its fountain and pool surrounded by astilbes, ornamental grasses and bright coreopsis to the woodland garden with its gravel paths and colorful mushroom ornaments. Each garden has its own welcome sign, and its own seating. This gardener knows it’s all very well to invite a person into the garden, but there must be a place to sit and visit, or to meditate, depending on one’s mood.

This garden with such a variety of moods and welcomes is only one of the nine gardens, mostly in Greenfield, that will be welcoming visitors on the Tour. I have visited a couple of the gardens on previous tours and I am interested to see how they have changed over the years. If a garden is anything, it is change.

One garden has had to change because storms have decreed the removal of two large trees. Where there was shade there is now sun. The garden has also changed because of changes in the gardener’s energies and interests. More native plants, and less lawn.

One Greenfield garden is a veritable Eden of fruit trees including figs! Another garden illustrates how much can be done in a short (in gardener’s terms) period of time. In just three years this garden has turned a tangle of invasives into productive fruit and vegetable gardens, as well as a small pond to provide wildlife habitat, and hardy native woodland plants.

A Gill Garden

It is interesting to me to see how many of these gardeners are interested in sustainability. They are looking to sustain their own health by producing their own food, while they are also sustaining the health of our environment by eliminating lawns that can use so many resources.

One garden is planned as a pollinator’s paradise. In addition to planting a few vegetables as well as apples, rhubarb and an assortment of berries, the garden is filled with Echinacea, sundrops, New England asters, sunflowers, red clover and many other flowers that attract those important pollinators, native bees and beautiful butterflies.

In addition to these nine idea filled gardens, the Greenfield Club Garden Tour will also offer complimentary refreshments and a lottery where you might win a moss garden, a hypertufa trough or other prize. Tickets are $12 and are available at the Trap Plain Garden at the corner of Federal and Silver Streets. Tickets will be available from 9 am til 1 pm on the day of the tour, Saturday, July 6. The rain date is July 7, but only in the event of a washout.

Proceeds from the garden tour go to fund the Club’s civic projects, including and especially grants for school gardens.

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Peony in bloom, without ants

While I was preparing for my own garden party, the work crew, daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters spent considerable time weeding the Peony Bed. Reactions to the ants crawling on the fat peony buds ranged from “Eeeeeuw!” to “What are the ants doing, (great) Granny?”

This is a common question. Ants do not seem to be anyone’s favorites insect. In fact, when faced with most insects, many non-gardeners, and some inexperienced gardeners tend to react with a yell for the bug killer. This is often unnecessary, especially when it comes to ants on peony buds. As it happens, peony buds have an exterior scale that exudes a sweet nutritious nectar and the ants are just chowing down. They are neither hurting, nor helping the peonies in any way. However, the ants are so fond of this nectar that they can ward off other insects that might cause damage to the bud.

When the peonies open there is no more nectar and the ants abandon the plant. Don’t worry about the ants, and definitely, don’t run for some poison.

We are organic gardeners and do not use any poisons in the garden. We don’t use weed killers or bug killers  – well, except for wasps nests right next to the door. That means our lawn is a flowery mead and not fine turf. I was horrified to read that after applying some lawn fertilizer/herbicide, or walking on that treated lawn,  you should remove your shoes before coming into the house. All summer. I prefer the flowery mead and see no need for the extra work that fine turf requires.

As for bugs, we don’t seem to have serious problems with bugs here at the End of the Road. Once, long ago, while chatting with my next door neighbor, we watched my 5 very young children climb out of their low, ground floor bedroom window to play in the yard when they were supposed to be taking naps. She just sighed and said that God protected drunks and fools. I don’t drink so you can see where that left me.

I put down milky spore disease nearly 30 years ago and now have only a handful of Japanese beetles every year. Maybe it is because our garden is so isolated. Maybe I am just lucky. Maybe I am still under the Almighty’s protection.

Many mysteries in the garden. I have always said so.

Between the Rows  June 29, 2013

 

Two Gardens on the Whately Garden Tour – June 15

 

Patio pond at Nicole & Joe Pietraszkiewicz’s garden

The Garden Tour Season is well begun. Next Saturday, June 15, the Whately Garden Tour sponsored by the Historical Society includes 5 five diverse Whately gardens that will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. rain or shine. There are woodland gardens, gardens that reflect other cultures, cottage gardens and gardens that welcome all kinds of wildlife.

A Garden for Family and Friends

Joe and Nicole Pietraszkiewicz

Last week I visited Nicole and Joe Pietraszkiewicz  who bought a newly built house set in the woods 35 years ago.  Nowadays, that house sits amid lawns and bowers, with a sunny deck, and a stone patio that includes a tiny pond edged with plants. Nicole said “ We didn’t know what we were doing when we moved here. We had no grand plan for the garden; it just developed.”

For many years the couple was busy with their three daughters and all their activities and did not spend too much time thinking about gardens. However, almost immediately after moving, there was a storm that brought a tree down on their boat, and grazed the house. It was clear that trees needed to be removed.

Trees were cleared slowly and shade gave way to sun for lawns and flowers. The deck and large stone patio are surrounded by flower beds. This is the summer garden, planted with all manner of sun loving perennials, garden phlox, liatris, campanulas, columbine, bleeding heart, cranesbills, bee balm and more. There are interesting grasses, and shrubs that enclose the patio.

I was particularly taken by the fragrant Olympia lilac, that blooms later than other lilacs in a shade of deep purple. Other flowering shrubs include a magnificent Rose of Sharon, and butterfly bushes.

“It all developed slowly,” Nicole said. “All trial and error.” She never thought it would be fun, but as we left the summer garden through one of the two arches twined with clematis that Joe built, and into the autumn garden, it was clear that she has indeed had fun. She smiled and said, “I have ideas and then Joe makes them come true.” A small hesitation before she added, “Of course, he has some ideas of his own, too.” She also made sure to give him credit for all the stone work, and the pond that includes a pump, exactly like the one at her grandparents’ house when she was a girl.

This is a wonderful garden, clearly built for sociability, for enjoying friends, and family, most especially including six grandchildren.

 A Garden for Butterflies

Bill and Joe’s planting in a stone outcropping

Another garden on the Whately Garden Tour has a different terrain and a different approach.  Bill Brenner and Joe Wysinski are both veterinarians and both are fascinated by the natural world. Their garden moves down a rocky slope to a stream and pergola.

Brenner is a past president and current editor of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club (www.massbutterflies.org) and their garden is planted with flowers that attract and support butterflies. He explained that they even allow the ‘weed’ lamb’s quarters in the garden because it is a host plant for the sooty wing black skipper.

In addition to the lamb’s quarters they grow columbine, bee balm, trumpet honeysuckle, agastache, 25 species of salvia, turtlehead, Echinacea, coreopsis, liatris, queen of the prairie, ox eye daisies and zinnias. Violets are grown because they are a host plant for the endangered silver-bordered fritillary. It would be impossible to name all the useful plants in this very floriferous garden. Even the stone outcroppings provide a place for low plantings.

The garden also includes trees and shrubs left by the previous owners. Blueberry bushes and apple trees feed them as well as all the pollinators.

Butterflies are not the only pollinators that make use of this rich garden. Brenner and Wysinski have identified at least a half dozen species of bumblee bee that visit the garden, including mason bees and cuckoo bees. “We try to identify them, just because it’s fun,” Brenner said.

Their passion for butterflies has led them to caring for all pollinators, those that are beautiful, and those that are barely visible.  They use no sprays or chemicals in their garden. For them the garden is all about sustaining life.

For me garden tours are all about the pleasure of seeing how many ways people approach their landscapes, and the many kinds of plants that can be used to create different effects and moods. Garden tours provide two of my favorite things, new information and inspiration. Both will be on offer in Whately June 15th.

Tickets for the Whately Garden Tour can be reserved by calling Barbara Drollette at 413-665-4818. They are also available at Lasalle Florists and Bay State Perennial Farm, Whately( $12 in advance, $15 day-of-tour). Ticket holders will receive a 10% discount on plant purchases at Lasalle’s and Bay State on the day-of-tour. The Whately Historical Society Museum at the Milk Bottle, 218 Chestnut Plain, will be open on June 15, 10-3pm for ticket sales and viewing of exhibits.

A Warning About Impatiens

I also want to pass on a warning. All spring I have been hearing about a disease that is killing impatiens. These plants are still available in garden centers and they may be fine, but gardeners should know there is a risk. I was in touch with Tina Smith, UMass Extension Floriculture Specialist, and this is what she told me. “Impatiens Downy Mildew is a new disease in home gardens that kills garden impatiens. Although impatiens may be free from disease when you plant them, the plants can become infected by disease spores that spread on wind currents or from overwintering spores in the ground from infected plants last year. There is no control for this disease once plants are infected. No other plants are susceptible, however all impatiens walleriana are susceptible, which includes double impatiens, seed, vegetative, hanging baskets and hybrids with I. walleriana such as  ‘Fusion’ series. It will also infect wild impatiens (Jewel weed). Gardeners are encouraged to plant alternative shade plants such as New Guinea impatiens, begonias, lobelia, torenia and coleus. New Guinea impatiens (Impatienshawkeri) and SunPatiens® are not affected.” For a fact sheet with pictures see “Impatiens Downy Mildew in Home Gardens” at http://extension.umass.edu/floriculture/