View from the Bedroom Window in June
As I begin planting new gardens in Greenfield, I have been reminiscing about the adventures we’ve had with gardens at the End of the Road. When we moved here in November of 1979 I must confess to having very little garden experience. In 1972-3 I had a very tiny vegetable garden at my Grinnell Street House. Then we moved to North Berwick, Maine and in the spring of 1975 I planted a large vegetable garden there.
I was in a manic mood in 1975. I was unhappily teaching 6th grade and found great pleasure in the garden, the chicks we bought and the two piglets named Supper and Dinner. The garden was too big and my skills were minimal. Our old neighbor, Mr. Leslie, once chatted with my husband while I planted carrots. “I never saw anyone broadcast carrot seed,” he said with amazement. Henry just shook his head.
A change in plans put an end to that garden before the harvest and we moved to New York City, where Henry’s ancestral apartment did have a shady backyard garden. No vegetables, and I paid very little attention to it
The move to Heath filled me with big plans and dreams for a vegetable garden, a root cellar, and canning marathons. In the spring of 1980 we hired Louis Pazmino to come over with his tractor to come and plow up a very big vegetable garden. It only took that one year of picking potato bugs and watching half the garden become enveloped in weeds for me to be ready to rethink the plan. Henry shook his head, and I agreed a smaller garden would be wise.
I also began working at GreenfieldCommunity College where I met our famous neighbor Elsa Bakalar, perennial gardener extraordinaire. I, who had never thought about flowers beyond marigolds, zinnias, and The Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose, suddenly started planning and planting a perennial border at the edge of the big front lawn. I filled it with strong growers like plume poppy and feverfew from Elsa’s garden and local plant swaps. Henry shook his head while he watched me try to keep up with weeding the perennial border, the vegetable garden and the beginnings of the Rose Walk.
By the time we left for our year in Beijing in 1989 the border had grown to 90 x 8 feet. When we returned to Heath the spring of 1990 the perennial border was officially lost. As gardeners we learn that a garden is a delicate ephemeral thing. It is always changing, and cannot survive a year of neglect. We worked to revive the vegetable garden, and plant more rose bushes and then took a break to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends and barbecue. The day was enervating, very hot, still and humid. We were happy to fall into our bed that night.
At 2 in the morning a violent thunderstorm woke us and the smell of smoke moved us into action. Lightning had struck the big old barn across from the house and was burning. Lightning had also struck the telephone pole and knocked out the phone. Henry drove down to our neighbor, leaning on the horn all the way, to call the fire department.
The volunteer firemen immediately sprayed the house which was already beginning to smoke. It took the rest of the night to put the fire out, but the house was saved. Nearby trees, and roses were singed but they survived. We were left with three stone barn foundation walls.
The perennial border was gone, but now we had the beginnings of a SunkenGarden which was never a part of any plan. With the help of tons of autumn leaves we turned that space into a vegetable garden filled with cold compost leaf beds according to the Larry Leitner method. In 1994 our daughter was married in front of the by-then more familiar raised beds for vegetables.
I planted David Austin Roses along the north wall of the Sunken Garden, forgetting that the plow dumped a lot of snow over the edge of the Garden. The roses were too tender and did not survive two Heath winters, or the plowed snow. The rest of the garden, even with raised beds proved to be too wet for vegetables. Only the Sargent crab, planted in the middle of the space survives.
In 1991, while the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings provided conversation over the hammers and beams, our family gathering spent the Columbus Day weekend working on a new shed. That shed provided space for a rose filled Shed Bed.
Shed and Rose Bed
It was also at that year (I think) that I went on a Franklin Land Trust garden tour and visited Walt Cudnohufsky’s garden where I was taken with is use of native plants, but especially by a little grove of trees that casually divided a lawn. While our Lawn Beds do not resemble Cudnohufsky’s grove, it was the inspiration for the Lawn Beds which define spaces in our lawn, and they remain successful elements in our landscape.
There have been other changes. Troubles with my hip led to a very tiny vegetable garden, the building of the Cottage Ornee and friendship with Jerry Sternstein, rhododendron expert, led to rhododendron plantings. The building of the arbor in front of the house led to an extended Herb Bed.
Cottage Ornee and rhodies
In our 35 years here at the End of the Road, one thing has followed another. There was never a master plan. My husband has often watched me, and shaken his head, but he is always willing to fall in with the latest plan.
Now we are in the process of planting a new garden, one that is more limited in scope. And we are older, no longer looking ahead at what seems like endless years ahead of us. This time we thought we should have a master plan. Our good fortune is that, by chance, I was given the opportunity to ‘test’ noted landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy’s new Home Outside Palette App for IOS and Android phones and tablets. In addition, they asked me to use and review their other services which included two custom designs. The timing was perfect and I agreed.
Next week I will start talking about our experiences with the Home Outside Palette.
Between the Rows July 4, 2015
View from the Bedroom Window March 4, 2015
There are many shades of white in this world. Snow white is what I have been looking at for three frigid months now, but I dream of shades of white for spring and summer.
First come the snowdrops – as white as snow. A very welcome white.
Rhodendron ‘Boule de Neige’
Rhododendrons bloom towards the end of May, but ‘Boule de Neige’ (Snowball) has a memory of the white winter. Somehow this pristine white seems prettier than the snow.
Casa Blanca lilies
High summer and the lilies are blooming. Blanca, blanca, blanca. White, white, white.
Mme Plantier rose
But perhaps my favorite whites are rose whites – Madame Plantier, rosa semi-plena, and Mount Blanc,
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On this Valentine’s Day I’d like to share the story of daughter bonnie Kate’s wedding, a chapter from my book The Roses at the End of the Road.
Illustration by Henry Leuchtman
Bonnie Kate’s Wedding
Our daughter Kate was never much interested in the garden, but when I planted the first roses in 1981 and laid out the plan for the Rose Walk, she did express a romantic desire to be married amid the roses. On a June Sunday in 1994 it came to pass.
Like Adam and Eve who began their life in a garden, Kate and her beloved Greg stood with family and friends behind them, with roses and broccoli in front of them, and promised to be loving and faithful, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health and in joy and in sorrow.
The minister, who is a friend and neighbor, asked the assembled guests if we would do what was necessary to support this new marriage.
Certainly many people had already done what they could to make the wedding beautiful. Neighbors had mowed the lawn, cleaned the house, brought barbecue grills and flowers and salmon mousse. Kate’s siblings had built flower boxes, laid the stone terrace, trimmed and weeded and bought new clothes. So many people had promised aid and comfort – and they all delivered. No one forgot or failed. It was a miracle of love and generosity.
So having put hearts and hands to work for the wedding, we willingly pledged to support the marriage.
At least a few of the guests were experienced gardeners as well as experienced husbands and wives, and I expect they were already thinking of the supports that might be needed. Certainly newlyweds, like new gardeners, need encouragement along with a calming hand on the shoulder as the mysteries of growth unfold.
Gardens don’t always turn out as expected. There are inexplicable failures. Seeds don’t germinate, blight attacks the tomatoes, and delphiniums wither and die when you absolutely know you fertilized and staked just the way the book said.
Fortunately there are also those unexpected joys and bonuses. Cauliflower succeeds even though you heard it was really hard to grow, or an interesting sedum comes in on the root of the bee balm. Who knew it was there? Who knew such a pretty thing existed? Who knew it would love your soil?
Of course, each failure, each success, each surprise means the garden changes. Gardeners change. We lose interest in the cabbages, and develop a passion for squash.
We love fancy jam and decide to grow fancy berries. We decide dahlias are vulgar and devote ourselves to dwarf conifers.
Perhaps most amazing of all, we realize that there is always something new to marvel at and enjoy. Suddenly we see that the garden is not only color and fragrance, we become aware of the garden sounds: the wind rattling the bamboo, the deep thrum of the August cicada. It may have been there all the time, but we never noticed, or gave thanks.
Happy the spouse who can watch with delight as new passions, new skills and talents emerge, even as some loved habits and thoughts fall away.
Kate and Greg and Reverend Comstock
It rained all week before the wedding. Saturday the skies were dark, but dry. At the appointed hour and preceded by her sisters, Kate entered the wedding tent. Just as her train cleared the tent the skies opened. Torrents fell and the assemblage laughed. When it was time for the bride and groom to take their vows the rain stopped – just as suddenly as it began. Greg and Kate stepped out into the dazzling sunlight promising to love and honor each other forever..
A few minutes later, while the photographer was busily snapping away, heavy mists blew across the hillside. The view disappeared. We couldn’t see across the pasture any more than we could see into the future. There was only romance and the scent of rain-splashed roses.
At such a moment it’s easy to imagine plenty and health and joy. After all who sets out the tomato plants without picturing the abundant harvest of red fruit that delights the eye, pleases the palate and satisfies the belly? But as Adam and Eve found in that first garden there can be trouble as well.
Gardeners spend a lot of time on their knees, in careful observation, in grubby and tedious weeding, in setting out slug traps, in admiration, in supplication, in gratitude. As a wife I’ve spent a few hours on my knees, weeping, praying, cursing – and giving thanks for my great good fortune.
In the garden there are beautiful roses, fragrant herbs, tender lettuces, nourishing beans – but lurking in the soil and air are slugs and bugs, beetles, wilt and blight. The garden is not carefree. And yet, the slimy slug is just as inevitable in the healthy garden as the singing bird. Sun and rain. Brilliant day and darkest night. All inevitable. All necessary.
And so as Henry and I watched our bonnie Kate and beloved Greg step into a new space to make a garden of their own, we tucked our prayerful wishes into their tool basket. Wishes for strength and patience and joy.
May your Valentine’s Day be filled with romance and joy – and maybe some patience.
PS – Copies of the whole book are available in local book stores, on Amazon and right here.
Sastrugi February 1, 2015
It hasn’t been a great winter for the formation of sastrugi. The snow has been heavy and wet, not much given to drifting. But this last snow storm brought frigid temperatures and high gusting winds. The result is the first sastrugi of the year forming at the western lip of the Sunken Garden. The word sastrugi is from a Russian word which means snow wave or caves. We have all noticed them.
Same sastrugi February 2, 2015
More now. The sastrugi shifts and the Sunken Garden is filling up with drifts.
Sastrugi February 3, 2015
I couldn’t resist adding this photo showing the final sastrugi sculpture now that the snow and wind have stopped.
Gentle sastrugi waves February 17, 2014
Some times the sastrugi waves are very gentle
Sastrugi cave along the road January 24, 2009
A windy winter brings many sculptural shows like this sastrugi along the road. The wind is a powerful and artistic worker.
Sastrugi collapse February 3, 2010
Sometimes the sastrugi is so extreme that it collapses under its own weight. You may also notice the depth of the drift in the Sunken Garden. That stone wall is over 6 feet high. The Heath winds come blowing from the northwest across the open field and dump tons of snow into the Sunken Garden. I often have to shovel the last icy bits of the drift out onto the lawn to help get all the snow out of the garden.
January 12, 2014 32 degrees at 7 am Windy day
A year ago I determined that I would keep a Weather Review for the year. The purpose of the Weather Review was an aide memoire because I can never remember whether last summer was droughty – or was it the year before. I wasn’t able to stick to a strict schedule of photography, but here we go for a quick run through the year. January 2014 was a month of extremes with early morning temperatures that ranged from -10 on January 4, to 38 on January 14.
February 2, 2014 34 degrees at 7 am
February was cold with lots of snow. Snow on February 5, 8, 13, 14, 15, snow showers until February 20 when we got a wet snow fall. Just cold!
March 9, 2014 20 degrees at 8 am and sunny
March was cold, single digit temperatures until March 8 dawned sunny and warm 40 degrees! Perfect for Heath’s first Cellar and Cave Tour. March 12 temperatures rose to 50 degrees with rain! But then plunged to single digits again. We finished the month with warmer temperatures and RAIN.
April 6, 2014 32 degrees and sunny at 7 am
April brought freezing temperatures, and rain, but also warmth and sun. Temperatures up from 38 to 52 and 70 degrees. However Easter dawned cloudy and 32 degrees, but got as high as 56. Planted pansies.
April 16, 2014 20 degrees at 7 am Two inches of snow
At least April snow doesn’t last long.
May 12, 2014 Mid day temperatures in the 90s
You can’t see the bloom from this distance, but bloom there is. Forsythia, daffodils, epimediums. And after a heavy rain, 2 inches, the night before the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale on May 16 went off without a hitch in the sun. Many days with temperatures in the 50s. Frost occasionally threatened but the lowest recorded temperature was 40 degrees on May 29.
June 6, 2014 58 degrees at 7 am
Almost time for the Annual Rose Viewing. There is color in the garden, but no roses yet. The month began hot with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Mostly moderate temperatures in the 70s during the rest of the month. Perfect weather for the Annual Rose Viewing on June 29
July 16, 2014 75 degrees at 7 am showery day three inches of rain at night
July begins with a heat wave. Temperatures in the 80s. Torrential rains on the Fourth of July. All festivities cancelled. The last three days of the month were the coolest with temperature at 58 degrees each morning at 7. The highest temperature in the 90s on July 23. Thunderstorms. Look here and see how happy the flowers were.
August 19, 2014 54 degrees at 7 am
After a hot July, August was comparatively cool. Many temperatures below 60 early in the morning. The first day of the Heath Fair temperatures barely got over 60. I recorded 80 degrees on August 26, the hottest for the month, but we did spend 4 days in Vermont. Maybe we missed the hot weather. Lots of flowers in August, as you can see.
September 21, 2014
No recorded temperature for September 21, but it was cold and I was sick and spent the day by the woodstove. As in June many early morning temperatures were around 60 degrees. Torrents of rain on September 6, over 2 inches. September was a month of pleasures, visits to friends, a granddaughter’s wedding and the beginning of autumn color.
October 6, 2014 36 degrees at 7 am
Our first hard frost! Moderate morning temperatures mostly in the 60s until October 20 gave us 30 degrees. The coldest morning of the month. It is time to start thinking about the end of the garden but in mid-month there is still a lot to enjoy.
October 14, 2014
The First Snow. At least a snow like this, a couple of inches in October, doesn’t last too long.
November 28, 2014
On November 28th, the day after Thanksgiving, we left the family throng to race home because our neighbor’s Facebook page announced 17 inches of snow and 31 powerless hours. Fortunately, the long power outage was oddly scattered and did not hit our house. Our pipes were not frozen. Beautiful, isn’t it?
December 9, 2014 30 degrees at 7 am
Snow is pretty, but sleet, freezing rain and ice are not. Still morning temperatures are often around 30 degrees. The coldest day recorded was 15 degrees on December 30.
December 25, 2014
Christmas Day in the morning! And so ends my Weather Review for 2014. When I think back to our second December in Heath when the temperatures dipped below -25 every night for a month, I have no complaints.
Birch Tree before the “Blizzard for the Ages”
All was quiet and beautiful after a slight snowfall, but the “Blizzard for the Ages” was predicted. Everyone prepared to hunker down. Supermarkets and libraries were unusually busy as hunkering has many aspects. Pots of water set aside along with firewood and flashlight batteries. A state of emergency was declared for Massachusetts and all non-emergency workers told to stay home.
The snow, a fine dry snow, did not begin in Heath until 10 pm on Monday, January 26.
“Blizzard for the Ages” 10 am January 27, 2015
This morning I woke to 12 degree temperatures and stiff breezes blowing the fine dry snow off the roof, and across the fields. The “Blizzard for the Ages” seems to be a bust in Heath – for which we are very grateful. The town plow arrived, and we could leave our hill and explore, but I think we will just stay by the fireside.
boxed amaryllis bulbs
I suppose my amaryllis mystery began on December 11, 2014 when I rather belatedly bought boxed amaryllis bulbs ready for planting and blooming. I knew they would not bloom in time for Christmas, but glamorous amaryllis flowers are welcome in January and February as well.
I potted all three bulbs up as directed. I did notice that the Athene white amaryllis seemed to have been pruned back more severely or more recently than the other two. I kept all three bulbs together in our living space which is the warmest part of the house.
Amaryllis on January 19
As time passed the three bulbs showed various rates of growth, most especially Athene. If you look closely you can see that I marked her pot with a little W in expectation of a white flower. That bulb never produced any foliage but did send up two bud shoots, one of which began to open a couple of days ago. We will let the mis-labelling pass. That has happened often enough in the garden, indoors and out. It is the rates of growth that amaze me. One bulb has produced two bud shoots with one blooming; one has produced foliage and two bud shoots, one of which is beginning to open; and the third produced foliage and two bud shoots of very different heights.
Is there a solution to my amaryllis mystery? Is it just c’est la vie? or is there a reason? All three bulbs had exactly the same care and conditions, although we have to assume kind of difference in the striped bulb now blooming. Any ideas?
View from the bedroom window
The view from the bedroom window on January 1, 2015 is sunny and frigid. 16 degrees this morning. What view from the window will I be enjoying on January 1, 2016? Only time will tell
Sunset October 29
A different kind of Dinner Theater. At this time of the year we are sitting down at our dining table in front of big windows that look out across the lawn, to the hills beyond, and into the sky for supper right at sunset. The show is brief and doesn’t take us all the way to dessert, but it is spectacular.
A little later October 29
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View from the Bedroom Window April 6, 2014
March’s snow and frigid temperatures (the coldest March in year) are ALMOST gone. The view from the bedroom window has really changed. April 6 was the first day we were able to go out in the garden – for a while. 30 degrees at 7 am with a high of 50 degrees.
April 16, 2014
Oh no! After days of frosty temperatures, and some rain – Snow! Two inches. But it warmed up and was mostly gone by evening.
April 21, 2014
And this is where April stayed and stayed. Morning temperatures barely over freezing every day. Will spring ever come? Now you know why we were willing to trek to New Jersey to see if spring still existed.