Subscribe via Email

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

Life is a Fiesta with Lucinda Hutson in Austin, Texas

Lucinda Hutson's door

Lucinda Hutson’s front door

The garden bloggers Austin Garden Tour took us to a variety of gardens but when you pull up to a purple and pink house, you know you have come to a remarkable and outrageous garden. Lucinda Hutson named her house La Casita Moradita, or the little purple house, and it is filled with many references to lands south of the border.

The Casita sits on a small urban lot that is probably a little smaller than my own lot in Greenfield. It is not only filled with herbs, roses, marigolds, ferns, passion vines, jasmine, a tiny greenhouse, and more, it is stuffed with mermaids, seashells, angels, images of the Madonna and other saints. Walls and furnishings are brilliant sunflower gold and vibrant blue.

There was no grass in front this house, only the stone Salad Bar filled with – salad makings –  and pots of brilliant yellow daisies, purple Amistad (friendship) salvia, and vivid coral geraniums as well as benches where guests can catch their breath and enjoy this front garden in the shade of a kumquat tree.

Lucinda Hutson's Mermaid garden

Lucinda Hutson’s Mermaid garden

Like many houses on small lots, this one is set to the side so that a generous garden space is left on the other. The first garden here is sheltered by a stone privacy wall and the entry brings you to the Mermaid’s Lounge. Mermaids are everywhere. Mermaid figures sit beneath an airy pergola of seashells, and painted on a large plaque at the edge of a fountain and pond where another mermaid can splash with the (toy) fish. Mermaid images are everywhere. It can become a game to discover them all. Terra cotta fish also swim along at the edges of this enclosed space.

Lucinda Hutson's Mermaid grotto

Lucinda Hutson’s mermaid grotto

Further along the path of stone and ceramic tiles decorated with morning glories and other flowers is a bright and sunny area filled with pots of flowers like big brilliant gold marigolds, and more edibles. This garden contains the entrance to the greenhouse while the protectoress of the garden, Our Lady of La Tina, sparkles in her bathtub shrine. Hutson is having a little fun here. “Tina” is the Spanish word for bathtub. Neighborhood children come and visit here as are there are plenty of small brightly painted chairs to accommodate them.

Lucinda Hutson's patio

Lucinda Hutson’s patio

By now we were at the back of the house with a patio deck, more brilliant colors, and a table and chairs for visiting and eating. This is El Jardin Encantador which kind of means charming, welcome, glad to meet you here. I should tell you that Lucinda Hutson is not only an amazing gardener, she is a public speaker and a cookbook author with a particular interest and knowledge of tequila.  ¡Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures, is the title of her latest book, but it includes food recipes as well. She has wrote the Herb Garden Cookbook.  Either way, her motto is Life is a Fiesta! Her house and garden certainly are set up for fiesta living.

Lucinda Hutson

Tequila Bottle Trees in Lucinda’s shady garden

The final very shady garden is La Lucinda Cantina, a social space that features bottle trees planted in a cork mulch. But these bottle trees are not created with familiar blue bottles. Hutson is a tequila expert. Here all the bottles are various  tequila bottles complete with labels. Metal mariachi sculptures with their musical instruments provide a lively ambiance for those who want to sing and imbibe.  In case the imbibing gets too wild there is a small outdoor shower if cooling down is needed. Or, of course, if anyone prefers outdoor showers.

On your way out of the garden you might notice that there is a tiny secret garden behind the greenhouse . Another mermaid lives there and you can leave your wishes with her before you leave this whimsy and reenter a less colorful world. I wondered what my sister garden bloggers wished for as they left that secret garden. Did they wish for more visitors to their blogs, for summer nights that regularly deposited the perfect amount of rain, for a plague that eliminated all Japanese beetles, for an extra hour in the day to finish weeding? We gardeners have found joy in our gardens, but we still have so many wishes. What do you wish for your garden?

I think La Casita Moradata was the most extravagant and wild garden on our tour, but every garden has its own theme or style. Life can be a fiesta in many moods.

B. Jane is a garden designer and her urban garden is a welcoming but quiet oasis complete with swimming pool. This is a serene garden. There are no trees to provide shade but two dining areas are arranged with shade provided by an umbrella, or a portico roof. A generous hospitality is signaled by the grill set in its own nook.

B. Jane's nook

B. Jane’s bamboo conversation nook

Though there are no trees, one long wall of this enclosed garden features a ribbon of tall bamboo that throws ample shade, and a cool area for conversation. Overlooking the swimming pool is a platform with three lounge chairs set against a cut stone backdrop.

The simplicity of this garden is its charm. It is a garden that welcomes friends, and play, as well as soothing the brain and spirit after a day out in the world.

B. Jane’s poolside lounging area

What is the mood of your garden?

Between the Rows  June 30, 2018

Hawley Garden Tour Takes you East and West.

Kim Fitzroy’s garden features hostas and trees

It’s June and I am looking forward to the Hawley Garden Tour on June 30. Kim Fitzroy will host just one of the gardens on this special tour. She set her garden at the base of a sunny hill but she created “her own bit of heaven” in the shade.

Kim Fitzroy

Fitzroy began planting her garden about 15 years ago. Except for two old birches there were no trees, but now a thornless honey locust, four sumacs, a magnolia, and two Japanese maples preside over several graceful curving beds. “It took two years and I had achieved my vision,” she said. This does not mean she has finished planting!

She pointed out the differences in the foliage of the trees. “I’m all about texture, she said. I then realized that she made use of the different textures not only in the trees, but in the low junipers, the perennial flowers and hostas. “I love hostas and I have about a hundred.” Her hosta collection does present a wide range of color and form.

I admired the unique rotted log container planted with a hosta. She showed me the small dry stream bed and gardens that made use of rocks from the Chickley River. She shook her head and told me she regretted filling in the old stone cellar hole that was there when she bought the house 35 years ago. “It would have made a really good feature,” she said with a sigh.

We wandered around the beds and Fitzroy reminisced about the people who have left their mark on the garden. She thought of the birches of her childhood, and her grandfather who loved them, of Dick Demaris who dragged a handsome stone from the river for her, of Marlin Newlan who rototilled the garden named after him, and others who presented her with old tools that have been transformed into garden art. They all tell the tale of her life in that spot.

Hostas

Hostas in rotting log

We sat for a while in the shade of the trees and talked about the garden, about the annoyance of powdery mildew on the garden phlox, about plants that have not survived the winters, and plans for new plantings. She looked around and said, “Every day I am thankful for where I live.”

Hawley has an interesting geography in that the East and West do not meet each other. With that in mind the Sons and Daughters of Hawley have arranged the tour so that the five West Hawley gardens will be open from 10 am until noon on Saturday, June 30. A delicious but optional Lunch will be served for $12 in East Hawley at the Poudrier garden. The two East Hawley gardens will be open from 1:30 until 4 pm. Tickets for the Tour, East and West is $10. Please contact Melanie Poudrier at 339-5347, Rainey McCarthy at 339-4903 or Pamela Shrimpton at 339-4091 for tickets, maps and further information.

In addition to visiting the gardens there are two exhibits. Paintings of Hawley over the years will be on display at the West Hawley Church, while a quilt display will be held at the East Hawley church. Tinky Weisblat will be on hand in West Hawley to talk about rhubarb – and her new rhubarb cookbook.

********************

Celandine poppy

Wood poppy

There is nothing like a garden tour, or garden visitors to make one reevaluate one’s own garden. I recently had a friend visit and he looked at my pretty yellow wood poppies as they were going to seed and he asked why on earth I had that plant in my garden. The fact that I like wood poppies did not hold much importance for him. “But they just spread everywhere,” he said.

And he was right. The original plant had increased in size, and this spring it sent out another clump to bloom. That seemed manageable, but when I looked a little more closely I could see that there were now hundreds of babies around both wood poppy clumps. I did a major weeding of babies, and took out at least half of the mature plants. This explosion of plants was not what I expected.

I went to the online native plant database provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for more info. Stylophorum diphyllum, wood poppy or celandine poppy is native to the US, but there is a European species that is more aggressive. Did I end up with the European species?

NOT Zizia aurea seeds

My visiting friend shook his head even more vigorously as he looked at the plants I had been calling golden alexanders, Zizia aurea. They are not Zizia. The leaves and flowers are not those of the golden alexanders. This clump of plants had grown and grown. What a great groundcover I thought. But it was not only spreading by roots, it was sending puffy seeds everywhere. Last week I pulled them out and stuffed them into garbage bags. I do not want these in my compost pile because it may not get hot enough to kill all those seeds.

We make mistakes in our gardens. Sometimes the mistake is not entirely our fault, as when plants we buy are mislabeled, or because generous friends don’t know how dangerous their passalongs are. When the truth is revealed we just have to concentrate on the possibility of planting something new that is safe and really beautiful. I think I will move my Japanese primroses to the hugel where we can admire them. Their flat foliage will make a good groundcover after bloom season has ended.

Between the Rows   June 23, 2018

A Texas Garden with Rooms, Blooms – and Art

Stocker's Entry garden in Austin

Entry to this Texas Garden at the Stocker residence in Austin

A Texas garden may be different from New England gardens, but gardeners all share the desire to create beautiful spaces. I spent a week in Texas visiting my daughter and her family, and joining ninety-two other garden bloggers touring gardens in the Austin area. We visited big public gardens like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the Zilker Botanical Garden.  We also visited unique private gardens.

The garden created by David and Jenny Stocker appeared to be a regular Texas garden as we left our bus. The walkway approach to the house with its smooth pale walls is very Texan. The landscaping consists of gravel, rough stone walls, and a dry creek bed with smooth river stones. Agaves of different sizes are spread across the landscape along with other succulents. This work was designed by Sitio Design, but David and Jenny designed and did almost all the stone work themselves at this approach and throughout all the gardens. They built the dry creek, the dry stone walls, retaining walls and rock gardens. Jenny was as at the house site almost every day during construction to save out ledge stones that would be useful, and David searched out interesting stone to add to the mix.

Jenny had had to adjust to the hot and dry Austin climate which is nothing like her native British climate, but she has found ways to include both garden styles. The garden is distinctive because of its ‘garden rooms.’  I don’t know that Vita Sackville-West invented garden rooms when she created them at her famous Sissinghurst garden, but certainly that phrase has become popular. However, Sackville-West’s rooms were mostly separated from each other by large, tall, dense hedges. The Stockers, for the most part, have used real walls.

The house was built in 2001 with surrounding walls so Jenny could garden in a deer-free space. Jenny thinks of it as an Arts and Crafts Texas style house with distinct rooms. Those rooms are used at different seasons and times of the day depending on whether they need sun or shade, or protection from the famous Texas wind.

One corner in one of the Stocker garden's

A corner of one of the Stocker’s gardens with a door from the house

Our New England houses don’t offer much in the way of small sheltered exterior spaces, but because of the many angles in the Stocker house there are corners that provide wonderful spaces for plants. One corner has two airy and spindly trees in it, one has a leafy tree casually lounging against the wall, one has a well pruned shrub growing up the wall and one corner presents a whole tableau with a graceful tree, a bird bath and feeder, river stones to catch rain from the drain pipe and a varied collection of green plants.

Garden with pavers and flowers

One garden has pavers and flowers cohabitating happily

Stone is certainly a strong theme in the Stocker gardens. There is the ledge stone that was dug up when the house was built providing the material for stone walls, but finished stone is used as well. A whole variety of plants and flowers thrive in the space between square pavers set in gravel. A sheltered round table and chairs sit on a circular arrangement of rough and finished stones, surrounded by low growing plants.

Each of the different rooms has a different appeal, but I loved the English garden set beside the pool. The effect is very meadow-like with native and other low water plants. Many of the plants were familiar to me from my own garden. I was surprised to see columbine, poppies, foxgloves, roses, rudbeckias, nigella and other Massachusetts favorites.

English garden in Austin, Texas

This is the wild English garden

Jenny noted that the climate and thin soil are definite challenges so these are not low maintenance gardens. She does use plants that can adjust to the climate and welcomes self seeding plants, as well as passalongs from friends.

Of course, gardeners do not live by flowers alone. One room includes potted citrus trees and raised beds for vegetables. You will never be bored, or hungry in this garden!

Every Texas garden needs a bit of artful whimsy.

I found the stroll through all the garden rooms a bit dizzying. Each space provided a different delight, pieces of art, handmade hyper-tufa troughs and bowls filled with a varied assortment of succulents. This house with its gardens, its shady patios, and its cooling pool welcomed us all with good will and generosity.  I was surprised when I turned a final corner and found myself back at the front entryway. I wanted to start over and spend all day there. I wanted to fly home instantly and make a sheltered but flowery space where I could have my morning coffee and newspaper, just like the Stockers. I wonder what my husband will say when I tell him how much I loved this garden and ask where he thinks our table for morning coffee could be placed.

The Stocker garden is just one of the 14 gardens I saw. You will be seeing more of the inspired arrangement of plants and social garden spaces over the next few months. If you would like to know more about the Stocker’s garden you can visit Jenny’s Rock Rose blog http://wwwrockrose.blogspot.com/ which I have found entertaining, charming and useful.

Model of the Stocker's Austin house

The cardboard model of the Stocker’s  house explains how they achieved all their garden rooms, many of the interior rooms having a door into a garden.

Between the Rows   May 19, 2018

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