Dear Friend and Gardener

Celebrations and Caladiums

An Eagle Scout family

An Eagle Scout Family, Kate, Greg, Anthony and Drew

My husband and I just returned from a celebratory trip to the southland. We visited an uncle in Gulfport, drove through very wet bayou country in Mississippi and Texas, and then on to beyond the big Houston metropolis where towers of the city are a showy exclamation point in the flat landscape. We were off to Sienna Plantation where daughter Kate and her family live. We had come to Texas to participate in a solemn ceremony as grandson Anthony received his Eagle Scout award.

Anthony is a third generation Eagle Scout, following in the steps of his father and grandfather. The ceremony was attended by family, brother Scouts, Scout leaders and mentors, friends and neighbors who have watched Anthony grow and helped him along the way. There was some mention of an occasional ‘kick in the pants.’ The ceremony was a moving and important moment in Anthony’s life, and in the life of our family.

The celebration included barbecue at famous Rudy’s. We could tell it was authentic BBQ because menu items, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage, coleslaw and beans, etcetera, were sold by the pound and served on waxed paper with plenty of paper towels. No dishes. This is real barbecue! The barbecue was so celebratory we didn’t even have room left to eat any of the leftover celebration cake.

Enchanted Forest nursery

The Enchanted Forest nursery

Of course, no celebratory trip is complete for me until I have visited a nursery. Fortunately Kate needed some new plants for her decorative pots, so we sailed down The Six (that’s the nearby highway) to the EnchantedForest. There, under the shade of enormous century old pecan trees, was a fabulous array of plants. Many of these are too tender for us in Massachusetts, but it is fun to see new, exotic plants that are native to an area where they are as common as sugar maples in our neighborhood.

I had to admire the rose selection that included the brilliant red Miracle on the Hudson named for Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s heroic landing of a passenger plane on the Hudson. I also got to see the array of Drift Roses that are low-growing landscape roses. These roses are not only perfect for mass plantings, low hedging, and at the front of the border, they are disease resistant and bloom for a long season. I was quite partial to the peach and apricot Drifts. I am hoping I can find them locally for my proposed new garden.

The one shade plant that made the biggest impression on me was the caladiums. Caladiums are a tender bulb that needs to be dug in the fall if you want to hold them over for the next year. Many cultivars are quite large and they make it possible to have brilliant or bright color in a shady garden.

I did grow caladiums a couple of summers ago and made a couple of mistakes. First, I chose a cultivar with red and green foliage. They did not show up as grandly on either side of the Cottage Ornee as I had imagined.

Second, I did not pay attention to the fact that the roof overhang kept the potted caladiums from getting rainfall, so I didn’t think to water them very often.

Third, I didn’t set the plants firmly enough so that a critter or two knocked the pots over, damaging the delicate roots. If these three errors can be avoided, caladiums can be a great addition to the shady garden.

Kate bought a few plants for pots in front of her house, torenia, shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana), a hybrid impatiens sold under the name Bounce, an unusual kalanchoe named Flap Jacks, creeping jenny and a white Shades of Innocence caladium. It was quite a task to remember the light requirements of each plant as we made our choices because we did have a particular site in mind. We spent Tuesday morning potting them all up for a shady  space in front of her house that gets some afternoon sun. Too much sun and heat is one of threats in Texas.



I think they will all make a delightful show, but we planted the caladium in a substantial tall blue pot, with a bit of golden creeping jenny to cascade over the side. We chose a spot where the pot would be surrounded by shrubbery. The caladium is relatively small at the moment, but it will grow to be about 18 inches tall, and the leaves will become larger than they are now. The surrounding shrub may need some pruning as the plant grows and this is easily done.

I do think the plant labels that come with most plants these days are helpful. They give requirements for sun or shade, dry or moist soil, drought tolerance, size of the mature plant, bloom season, fertilizing and pruning advice. It’s a good idea to keep these labels to refer to if there is a problem. They also help you keep a record of plants that do well.

The time we spent with Kate and her family was a reminder that everything changes. Anthony has achieved the rank of Eagle denoting his leadership skills, and soon he will graduate and his intellectual talents will be recognized. Then he will become a lowly freshman at the University of Texas at Dallas where his intellect and leadership will be tested anew. His parents and brother will create a whole new daily rhythm without Anthony. And Henry and I will be anticipating big changes in our life. Gardens grow and change, and so do we.

Between the Rows   May  2,2015



Bonnie Kate’s Wedding

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

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

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.

Waterways – Many Ways

White water rafting

White water rafting

Our family enjoys water many ways. Exciting ways on the Deerfield River and



paddling peacefully on Lake Champlain.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Cooking Lessons Over the Years

Rory in 2009 cooking lesson over the years

As a liberated  woman I have made sure that my grandsons have had a few cooking lessons over the years. Rory was 13 when this photo was taken, but it is not his first lesson. Perfect scrambled eggs was probably an early lesson, but by 2009 he had moved along to the perfect omlette.

Rory with Saumon en papillote 2010

Saumon en papillote, a Julia Child recipe, amazingly simple, but a dish with dash, has become Rory’s specialite.

Rory’s pickles for the Heath Fair 2010

I cannot begin to tell you how many blue ribbons this family has won at the Heath Fair in August.

Rory and more pickles for the 2011 Heath Fair

We made a lot more things for the Fair than pickles. Cookies are also always on the list.

Rory with cookies 2012

I told you he made cookies!

Rory making real caramel corn 2013

Making real caramel is quite an operation, but he is up to it.  When we are cooking for the Heath Fair, the rule is that  I can instruct and advise, but I cannot touch anything. That rule has carried over into all our lessons.

Tynan making cookies 2008

Rory’s younger brother followed in his brother’s footsteps.

Tynan kneading his bread 2009

I bake a lot of bread. It is fun to do. I tell all the children that they have to think about all the people who will enjoy their cooking while they work. That love gets cooked right into the dish.

Tynan with his raspberry jam. 2010

If you have a raspberry patch, you must make raspberry jam, and Tynan did.

Tynan at the Art Garden in 2011

I know Tynan did some baking every year, but there does not seem to be a photographic record. However, creativity comes in all forms – many of them are found at the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.

Drew and Anthony 2009

Because Anthony and his younger brother Drew live in Texas we got them both at the same time in the summer. Less cooking, more field work like picking raspberries.

Anthony and Drew at the Hawley kiln 2011

Of course, we take all the boys touring locally at historic sites like the Hawley kiln, and art sites like MassMoCa. There is lots to do at the End of the Road and all around western Massachusetts. I think these boys have gotten fewer cooking lessons, but they are Boy Scouts. They need to cook around the campfire.

Bella and French toast in 2013

The boys are getting ‘old.’ They’ve got jobs and less time for cooking lessons and frolicking. Fortunately, we have Bella, a great-granddaughter, who has moved close enough to start her cooking lessons.

Sometimes You Have to Show Off on Wordless Wednesday

Rory and The Major in 2008

Sometimes you have to show off your pleasure and delight. Wordless Wednesday is the perfect opportunity. Grandson Rory has been visiting. He may be taller and have new skills – driving!

Rory and The Major July 2013

But the general attitude doesn’t change at all. Pretty nice gate, don’t you think?

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Work Crew for The Annual Rose Viewing Arrives

Husband Henry, granddaughter Tracy and daughter Diane

A sizeable  work crew showed up to help prepare for the Annual Rose Viewing,  but it was impossible to get a photo of them all  working together. Diane directed the weeding of the Peony Bed that was in great need. Henry took direction as well as the girls. Eveyone felt the 90 degree heat.

Granddaughters and sister, Caitlin and Tricia

Granddaughters Caitlin and Tricia couldn’t even spare time to look up from their labors.

Great granddaughters Lola and Bella

I directed the shed clean up. Lola and Bella were ready to take up this job. Collecting all the nursery pots and categorizing them.

I’ve never seen pots so well categorized. By size.

Cake in the Cottage Ornee

Time to catch some breezes, and celebrate in the Cottage Ornee. Lola was 4 in May,  and Diane will be ? in two weeks. Cake and birthday books! The Little Yellow Trolley Car by Marie Bartlett and All Creatures Great and Small by Ashley Bryan for Lola. The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman for Diane. Diane’s book has three wonderful sisters in it, and Lola’s books include local history and the beauty of our world.

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh

And the roses continue to open. Peonies, too. All is nearly ready for the Annual Rose Viewing on Sunday, June 30, 1-4 pm.


W is for Water – and Dr. Betsy

Betsy on her 50th birthday

W 1s for Water, and for Dr. Betsy our fourth child, second daughter, and Queen of Water. That actually isn’t her title, which I don’t remember, but she has been working for the Mass Water Resources  Authority for a number of years, as the scientist on the staff, although she also has administrative duties.  Why is it we parents never understand our children’s jobs anymore?

Anyway just in time for her 50th birthday celebration, she has been given a promotion and will now not only be responsible for clean water quality in Boston and environs, she will be responsible for waste water. In and out, you might say. Congratulations, Betsy.

After reading Who Really Killed Cock Robin by Jean Craighead George when she was in 6th grade she decided she would be an environmentalist. Certainly there is nothing more basic to our environmental health than clean water.  I don’t know when she really became interested in water, but when she was in the Peace Corps in Kenya (1987-1989) she was given the job of helping a mountain village get water into the village. Up to that time women had to collect and carry water from a mile away. At her birthday party her sister asked how she knew how to do things like lay a gravity feed water line and build a huge water tank. She said, “I read a book.”  Music to a librarian mother’s ears.

When she returned to the United States, she went back to Clark University where she earned her PhD in Microbiology. Her dissertation was titled  Microbiological Pretreatment of Industrial Wastewater. One of the other mothers at the graduation ceremony said Betsy’s dissertation was the only one with a title that she could understand. I understood generally, not specifically. I kept asking what she had the microbes do? She said she trained the microbes to eat the hazardous waste in the water. Do I understand how you train a microbe? No. Surely there are no whips and chairs that small.

She then served as a Congressional Fellow for Representative Edward Markey (now trying for Senator) but eventually found her way to the MWRA and I think even Sheryl Sandberg would agree she is leaning in.

All the other women in the family

Of course, Betsy is not the only skilled, talented, energetic, forward thinking woman in the family. We all gathered to help celebrate Betsy’s birthday. We drank a lot of water. Other stuff, too.

To see what else begins w ith W click here.

K is for Kids on the A to Z Challenge

Rory with wormfood

K is for Kids at the End of  the Road Farm. There are always projects and chores. Rory is collecting food for the worms.  He and his cousins built our worm bin for vermicomposting, and have helped keep the worms fed when they are here. We’ve had the worms for five years now.

Ryan horseback riding lesson

Sometimes we have special events like riding lesssons at Birch Glen Stables. All the boys got lessons, and most of them were enjoyed.  I like getting their rotted manure for the vegetable garden. Horses have all kinds of value.

Tynan mowing. Chores can be fun.

There are chores, too, of  course. Fortunately, getting to run the equipment is fun. So far.

Rory and a loving goat

Our neighbor has goats and  sometimes the boys get to feed them at milking time. We love homemade goat cheese.


Anthony and Drew in the berry patch

Raspberries and Blueberries to pick.

Bella, Lola and The Major

Now we are looking forward to getting the GREAT Granddaughters into the garden and everywhere. They used to live in Florida, but now they live near!

I do have four  granddaughters including the mother of the two great-granddaughters, and the younger  girls now 26, 22 and 18, but their years at the End of the Road were pre-digital photos.

To see what else begins with K click here.


What is Winter For?

Grandson Rory sledding

Winter is for time with 16 year old grandson Rory. And sledding. And bowling. And movies. And philosophical, economic and history conversations. Whew!

Rory downhill

Time to come in

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Celebration Season – Eat Your Heart Out

Heath Gourmet Club

Celebration Season this year has been quite lengthy. We had one rowdy family Christmas on December 22, but then a quiet adult Christmas  on December 25 with only one child and his lady, and a dear friend who always joins us for Christmas dinner. On December 29 the Heath Gourmet Club celebrated Christmas with a theme of Looks Like a Wreath to Me! Nearly every course was wreath-like. My savarin pans came in handy for the main course which was grape leaf covered rice and beef, with roasted cauliflower in the center and braised kale with colorful dice peppers surrounding it. My Green celebration bread was a big hit. Gourmet Club has been serving ourselves for over 31 years! Wonderful food with never a single failure, and friendship.

Wreath de Noel

The finale was not a Buche de Noel but a Wreath de Noel with lots of fabulous chocolate ganache, pistachio marzipan (home made) and topped off with a fondant ribbon.

Grand and great-granchildren

Yesterday, we drove throught the nearly 20 inches of snow that the last two days have brought for a final family Christmas. The eating continued with some of the Butternut Squash soup I made for Gourmet Club, and delicious pumpkin pie. The children all agreed that pumpkin is a vegetable and they were very happy to eat their vegetables.  It is impossible to get all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren together anytime except in the summer, but we had a very nice showing. They even stopped moving long enough for a posed photo.

Son, grandson and great granddaughters

There were a few quiet moments. Reading Aloud. Lola, the youngest, got a new copy of Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. Happy reading. Happy day. Happy family. And a happy new year beginning tomorrow