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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,, 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.


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 ( 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


An Unusual Rock Garden on the Forbes Library Garden Tour

A rock garden

The Forbes Library Garden Tour descripton of this garden included a ‘rock garden’. This is not the kind of rock garden I expected, but it made a great edge between the road and the ‘real’ rock garden that is comprised of native plants, and larger stones. I thought it resembled a dry river bed. Though not intended to support flowers, it is possible to see some tiny wild flowers making themselves at home in this unusual rock garden.

The full rock garden

The dry river bed, and the real rock garden surrounding a large tree make up most of the front yard in this suburban street. The owner of this garden said she had been devoted to reducing lawn for 40 years! There is a bit of lawn. The property backs up onto a woodland where deer wander and the lawn helps reduce ticks. An important consideration.

Rocky dripline

The same type of rocks are used for the roof driplines . A nice touch. And only one of the nice touches in this beautiful garden.

Do you have a rock garden? Of any kind?


Forbes Library Leads Off Garden Tour Season

Julie Abramson’s Garden

Julie Abramson’ s garden  is just one of six garden that will enchant garden lovers on the Forbes Library Garden Tour on Saturday, June 8, from 10 am til 3 pm. Julie’s is a collector’s garden that features some notable trees, clematis, and a colorful array of perennials and a rock garden. I was intrigued by the description of a rustic arbor covered with climbinbing hydrangea, PLUS two other arbors covered with roses, honeysuckle and clematis. Pure romance!

One garden combines formal and informal elements with wonderful and whimsical sculptures, and a tree house. Another garden is organically maintained with a focus on native plants. The terraced backyard features many beautiful trees and shrubs. One garden consists of six colorful garden rooms and a formal French vegetable garden. I cannot miss that. There is a lawn free garden! Perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and a grid of groundcovers, but no turf. The sixth garden surrounds a four unit condominium with a woodland in the front yard, and invidual private gardens. Clearly, there is  something for everyone. Gardens to inspire and teach.

The tickets are $15.00 ($20.00 on the day of the tour) and can be bought at Forbes Library, State St. Fruit in Northampton, Cooper’s Corner in Florence, Hadley Garden Center and Bay State Perennial Farm in Whately.  There are also tickets for wonderful raffle items for gardens on sale at the library; they include 2 yards of Bill Obear’s compost; gift items from Women’s Work; a garden consultation from Jim McSweeney, a planted container and gift certificate from Annie’s and gift certificates of $50.00 from Bay State Perennial Farm and $100.00 from Hadley Garden Center as well as other fun items.

What a wonderful way to start the garden tour season – and help the Forbes Library which is such an important library, serving many readers beyond the Northampton borders. Proceeds will benefit the Forbes Library

Houston Gardens in March 2011

Cindy Tournier and me in Katy, Texas

Two years ago this week we left the cold and muddy landscape of Heath to visit Houston and our daughter Kate and  her family. Because the landscape of Heath is currently cold and snowy I needed to revisit those sunny Houston days. One day we drove out to Cindy’s Corner of Katy to visit her beautiful garden. Flowers everywhere.

A corner of Cindy’s garden

Cindy’s corner  garden is not large, but it is colorful and filled with every kind of flowers. Roses too. So much color. Sun and warmth. And of course, Cindy’s warmth and welcome was the best kind of warmth of all.

Houston rhodies

We got to see many Houston garden because we arrived just in time for the  Houston Opens Gardens Day. This house and garden was also on a corner, and was part of the Open Days tour. My husband chatted with the owner of this garden that was packed with blooming plants, vines climbing up the house walls, and a lovely terrace with a fountain. He asked how long it took to create such a marvel. “Oh, two years,” was the casual reply. What a growing climate Houston has. It also helps if you put in lots of large plants, I think.

A Houston bosque

Nor all Houston gardens are about flowers as much as much as they are about greenery and form. This bosky dell was modelled after one in Paris where the garden owners had spent happy days. There were also LOTS and LOTS of magnificent clipped hedges.

A gardener’s work yard

Of course, Houston gardens, like all gardens need work space. “Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade and saying how beautiful” you know. Kipling knew whereof he spoke. So do all we gardeners. We also know we have to be patient and wait for spring – and summer. I am trying.

Hawley’s Artisan and Garden Tour 7-14

Area replanted last fall after damage by Irene

When news of the impending arrival of Tropical Storm Irene hit the airwaves last August, West Hawley residents Lorraine and Jerry McCarthy quickly packed up their car and dashed to their house on Long Island to batten down the hatches. However, the storm bypassed Long Island and hit Hawley with ferocious energy, destroying roads, flooding the Chickley River, and leaving the McCarthy’s land with up to three feet of silt and sand in two large areas of the gardens. This garden is one of the beautiful gardens on the Annual Hawley Artisan and Garden Tour scheduled for Saturday, July 14.

The gardens did not always exist. When the McCarthys visited Shelburne Falls in 1976, they sought out the Bridge of Flowers and were so delighted and impressed they decided they wanted to live nearby. They immediately walked into Massamont Realty across the street and were sent to a ‘camp’ in West Hawley. The ‘camp’ was actually an old farmhouse surrounded by wild overgrown weeds and brush. It did not take long to close the deal. “We just wanted a rural home,” Lorraine said.

Then Lorraine, who was a teacher and could spend her summers in Hawley, and her husband set to work clearing and planning planting. The garden grew bit by bit, and concentrated on summer bloomers like daylilies, that need little care and put on a magnificent display when they are in residence. “Our philosophy is about the survival of the fittest. What comes back stays and we don’t worry about the plants that die.”

Jerry was just as enthusiastic a planner and planter. As manager of a cemetery, with a part-time landscape business, Jerry’s expertise was in trees. When I visited I was immediately struck by the collection of beautiful evergreens and areas of dappled shade.

Daylilies are a major feature of the sun garden

The McCarthy’s garden is a strolling garden, with wide paths that lead from one large bed and planting to another. In addition to the daylilies, there are irises and other perennials, as well as annuals in beautiful containers. A collection of ornamental grasses barely escaped the flooding waters that came down the road and divided into two rivers that left the house and most of the garden untouched.

Jerry said they had to get in a backhoe to remove the silt and sand so they could replant damaged areas last fall.

This is the only kind of rabbit I like these days

In addition to the plantings in sun and shade, the garden has delightful accents of sculptures and other ornaments.

On the other side of town, in East Hawley, Earl Pope and Mary Kay Hoffman have also been gardening for decades. Earl is the vegetable gardener who delights in growing artichokes, heritage tomatoes, and cucumbers for Mary Kay’s famous pickles.. Having recently retired from his architecture firm, Juster, Pope, Frazier, he has even more time to cultivate this amazingly productive small vegetable garden. Berries, too.

Evergreens are a formal element in Mary Kay's garden

Mary Kay’s garden is on a slightly different scale with perennial borders hundreds of feet long, punctuated by formal plantings of evergreens. Shade and sun play their part in this garden as well, beginning with a shady border that stars a variety of hostas and taller Aruncus, or goatsbeard, whose feathery white spires glow in the shade.

Hostas and Aruncus

Of course, I love the array of roses beginning with an energetic William Baffin climber that clambers over an arch, one of the few structures to suffer from Irene’s onslaught. There is The Fairy, tough, dependable and so pretty in pink, and its white counterpart Sea Foam, both of which will bloom most of the summer. Other roses remain unnamed, but are no less lovely.

Daylilies play their part in the sunny borders. I think there is no more carefree plant in New England, hardy, disease free, and encompassing many forms and a fabulous array of colors.

One of the simple elements in Mary Kay’s garden that inspired me during another garden tour some years ago was a small purple leaved shrub. Mary Kay was surprised that I did not recognize the Cotinus, or smokebush. “But it is so small,” I cried.

“I cut it back hard every spring,” she said. This was not only inspiration because I do love that dark foliage, but education, because I had no idea it could be kept small with hard pruning. I like the foliage, but I do not like the ‘smokes.’ I now have a small smokeless (mostly) Cotinus in my own garden, but I realize I have to work harder to be more ruthless with my spring pruning.

Inspiration and education are what I am looking for when I go on a garden tour. Gardeners have so many unique passions and skills. Of course, I am full of appreciation for the generosity of gardeners who are so willing to share their creativity and labors with others, often for a good cause. This tour will benefit the Sons and Daughters of Hawley Building Fund.

The theme of this year’s Hawley tour on Saturday, July 14 is A Stroll Through Our Past and Our Present.. In addition to the tour of gardens, there will be tours of the town cemeteries, and an exhibit of photographs documenting damage done by storms in 1938, 1987 and 2011. A ticket and map will be available for a $10 donation . A special lunch will be served overlooking the Ray and Melanaie Poudrier’s garden for a donation of $10. For more information about tickets and the tour call Rainey McCarthy 339-5347, Melanie Poudrier 337-4903 or Pam Shrimpton 339-4091

Between the Rows  July 7, 2012

Athol Bird and Nature Club Garden Tour July 15

Athold Bird & Nature Club Tour - photo by Joseph Superchi

As Athol celebrates its 250th anniversary, the Athol Bird and Nature Club celebrates the gardens of Athol, 12 in ’12 – a self-guided tour of 12 outstanding gardens on Sunday, July 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Four themes dominate this tour: the drama of glorious gardening and natural rock, the surprise of secret treasures, the bounty of home vegetable gardens and locally grown food, and the ecology of gardens that appeal to birds, butterflies and other pollinators – a value of especial note to the ABNC.

Of course, all these gardens add aesthetic value, too – colorful annuals and perennials, cozy nooks and sweeping beds, bold and whimsical garden ornaments, still or flowing water features, and a good deal more.

Day-of tickets will be available at the Millers River Environmental Center, 100 Main St., Athol (which itself offers a bonus, a habitat garden being created by the North Quabbin Garden Club). Plants will also be available for purchase at one garden and at a nursery associated with another.

Advance tickets are available at Agway and Bruce’s Browser in Athol, at Noel’s Nursery and North Quabbin Woods in Orange, and at the New Salem General Store.

The tour is sponsored by the Athol Bird and Nature Club in support of the Millers River Environmental Center. Assistance with the tour is provided by the North Quabbin Garden Club.

More information about the tour is available from Susan Heinricher, 978-544-6372; more information about the Center, the ABNC and the NQGC can be found at


Greenfield Garden Club Farm and Garden Tour

Denise Leonard

Denise Leonard, current chair of the Greenfield Agricultural Commission, past president of the New England Border Collies Association, and chief farmer at TANSTAAFL Farm is one of the featured farmers on the Greenfield Garden Club’ annual garden tour which is including farms for the first time this year. THIS VERY DAY! July 7!

Denise explained that her husband David came up with the name of their farm when they were still living in Leverett more than 25 years ago. He is a science fiction fan and was inspired by Robert Heinlien’s novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress where the phrase “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” and the acronym TANSTAAFL is used frequently. “It seemed appropriate then – and now because there is no free lunch for any of us,” she said. In these hard economic times none of us could argue with that.



pendale and Scottish Blackface sheep

On their 30 acres in Greenfield Leonard raises ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigs and sheep. Most of these are sold long before she has to plan a trip to the slaughter house. She also trains sheep dogs, mostly border collies, but sometimes other breeds as well. She will be giving sheep dog demonstrations during the tour.

Ever since she was young and began helping a friend in a 4-H club who needed help showing her sheep Leonard has had sheep. It was the sheep that led her to border collies. Now training sheep dogs is a apart of her farm chores and income. She said many people who come to her with their border collie are interested in agility training. “They come here to the farm and they see my sheep, and our dog working with the sheep, and soon some of them want sheep too,” she said.

While the number of dairy farms has declined in our area, there is an increasing number of farms raising vegetables, fruit and meat. “People are more concerned about where there food comes from than they used to be. It is also easier for them to know about local farms and buy produce directly from the farmer. CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) has had a big impact with its Local Hero program, as has the growth of farmer’s markets,” she said.

In addition to tending to the animals and holding dog training classes, Leonard has a part time job at the University of Massachusetts which would keep most people pretty busy, but the farm also boasts long flower borders that were in beautiful bloom when I visited. I asked her how she managed to do all that. Her reply was, “With great difficulty.” Still she loves daylilies and has about 500 varieties. “They are a low-care plant.” She says that if a plant dies she doesn’t replace it, and it has to survive the weeds. “It is easy to weed around daylilies, and they protect enough of the soil to keep down many weeds,” she said.

View across flower border to barn

“I keep trying to cut down the size of the garden, but . . .” she said with a shrug, uttering a complaint that many of us gardeners can identify with. We can’t get rid of our favorite plants, and when a special new plant comes in view we can’t resist that either.

TANTAASFL Farm is just one of five farms included in this year’s tour, ranging from those selling compost, meat, flowers and herbs. Leonard, and Carol Doerpholz, her Ag Commission colleague and sister Garden Club member, suggested that since the Franklin Land Trust was not having a tour this year, it was an opportunity for the Garden Club to support local farms.

Of course there will be gardens on the tour illustrating the full range of garden types, as well as the personality of the gardeners. All gardeners have to work with their particular site, so there will be a shady woodland garden, a garden that integrates vegetables and flowers in the same bed, an English flower garden that is being transformed incorporating permaculture techniques and plants, as well as a garden with a magnificent built stream, pond and stone patio. There will be inspiration for gardeners, and summer pleasure for those who do not garden.

All proceeds from the Greenfield Garden Club’s tour, and other fundraising events like the annual plant sale, go to funding community projects. Each year grants are given out to the schools for garden related projects. In addition, community groups can apply to the Club for help with a garden related project. Recently the Club bought a tree for the Second Congregational Youth Group to plant on Arbor Day. In addition, the Club has bought plants for the new plant containers, bought by the Beautification Committee, that the town is  planting and setting out to give downtown a fresh new look. Education and beautification are two of the goals of the Club.

Tickets for the self guided Farm and Garden Tour are available the day of the tour, Saturday, July 7 between 9 am and 1 pm at the Trap Plain garden at the intersection of Federal and Silver Streets. Tickets are $12 for each person. For more information about the tour and the Garden Club’s activities logon to their website,

Between The Rows  June 30, 2012

It’s Summer – Viewing, Touring and Paddling

Irises at Fox Brook Iris Farm

It’s summer and I’ve been out viewing plants and gardens and then relaxing at a local pond. Summer doesn’t get any more perfect than this.

Japanese Iris

I went to the Annual Japanese Iris Show in Shelburne Falls and got to see the best and most beautiful examples of Japanese Iris grown in the area. Japanese iris are the last iris to bloom in our area. After seeing this display of irises, I had to run over to Fox Brook Iris Farm and, of course, I came home with two generous clumps of a gorgeous white iris named Hakuroku-Ten. Right now it is planted in front of the house where I can keep it well watered. That’s what Japanese iris demand – good watering.

Hawley Garden Tour feature

Then, I visited two of the gardens that are on the Sons and Daughters of Hawley Annual Artisans and Garden Tour scheduled for July 14. The McCarthy garden has sun, shade, water, grasses, and delightful art objects like this beautiful birdhouse. This is a garden that has recovered amazingly from the disastrous storm Irene last August. Summer time in Hawley is full of delights.

Sea Foam roses

The Hoffman/Pope gardens have sun and shade, too. More roses than I remembered.  Formal evergreen structures.

Heirloom tomato collection

And a beautiful vegetable garden. Where the hoe and the hose are in frequent use. This incredible plantation of heirloom tomatoes has inspired me to stop by their house often in August. They can’t possibly use all those tomatoes!

For more information about tickets and the tour call Rainey McCarthy 339-5347, Melanie Poudrier 337-4903, or Pam Shrimpton 339-4091. .


Henry paddling

We also spent Sunday afternoon with friends at a local pond, noshing, talking, paddling, talking, swimming, talking and more noshing. Shade and a breeze. Summer perfection.


After a weekend  like that we are glad to see the  sunset, close up the chickens, and settle down with the Sunday New York Times before trickling off to bed.