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Renovating and Planting Continue

Lawn Bed Renovation

Renovating and planting the lawn bed continues. I had to wait until after the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale before I made my final ‘design’ decisions.  This is the end of the Lawn Bed, all cleaned out of a nearly dead potentilla and lots of weeds. I also removed two clumps of ornamental grass that had been grown in pots last summer and just stuck in this bed in the fall. “Just sticking” a plant somewhere is always a bad idea.

Lawn Bed Renovated and Replanted

The new plants are small enough and the picture takes the long view so it is hard to see exactly what I have planted. It turned out that I had chosen a number of yellow and orange plants at the sale, and from Bluestone Perennials. Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’  and a golden chrysanthemum ‘Starlet’, came from Bluestone.  Yellow Carolina lupine, ‘Orange Perfection’ garden phlox, and a deep blue phlox stolonifera are all from the plant sale. I think most of them will fill out fairly well once they settle in.  This bed is opposite the blue and white bed on the other lawn bed.

Renovating this bed meant digging up and weeding the purple leaved heuchera as well, but they are tough plants and will survive their planting very eaily.

Pots on the Piazza

I also bought an array of annuals from LaSalle’s at the plant sale and they needed planting. I chose mostly while and pale yellow plants with some blue accents. Osteospernum, petunias, lobelia and Million Bells.  Some of the newly potted plants went on the front steps – in front of a door we never use.

There is a new arrangement on the side side of the piazza. I moved the shelf for the potted plants away from the roof overhang which dumped heavy water on the plants when it rained, and moved the shelf to the opposite side of the piazza. Now two Adirondack chairs are under the roof overhang and it is a really attractive arrangement. A happy project all around.

Planting continues in the vegetable garden, too, but that is not very photogenic yet. I was glad for today’s rain, and more promised rain to settle all these new plantings in.

Don’t ForgetLeave a comment here by midnight on Wednesday, May 23and you will have a chance to  win Lorene Edwards Forkner wonderful new book, Handmade Garden Projects published by Timber Press. I will pick a winner at random and announce that on Thursday morning.


Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May 2012

My flowery mead

Spring has come in starts and stops here in Heath, Massachusetts and so has the blooming season. The lawn, otherwise known as the flowery mead, is in full bloom. Here I show dandelions (of course,) white violets, and ajuga that has migrated into the lawn in a number of places. There are blue violets, too, and creeping ivy with its violet flowers.

Robin plantain

Colonies of this plant have come up in various sections of the lawn. I think I have an ID.  I believe this is robin plaintain, Erigeron pulchellus. At least that is as close as I get using my wildflower guide. The flowers are actually a little more of a gentle plummy lavender with a yellow center. My camera has not captured the color well at all.


I don’t know what variety of lamium this is, or how it came into the garden, but there is a large spreading patch in the shady area at the wild edge of the peony bed, and going down towards the road. A very nice gift from Mother Nature. Or someone.

Barren strawberry

The barren strawberry, Waldsteinia fragarionides, was planted behind the peony bed, where there is (was) lawn. It has spread nicely, but there is still lots of lawn.  The yellow blossoms are just coming into bloom.This year I am planting three more big pots. This is a native groundcover that I bought at Nasami Farm where the New England Wildflower Society does its propagating. I am so lucky to live nearby.

Miss Willmott lilac

I thought the lilacs were a little slow this year, but since the Arnold Arboretum in Boston just celebrated Lilac Sunday yesterday, and their bloom season begins earlier than hours, I guess we are about on time. The other lilacs are also just starting, and will be gone by June’s Bloom Day.

Daffs, forget-me-nots and grape hyacinths

This little group blooms under a weeping birch. The daffodils are nearly done, and the forget-me-nots, blue and white varieties, have come up hither and thither in the Lawn Beds.

I have a long bloom season of daffodils, encompassing many varieties, but this is one of my favorites, poeticus, or the pheasant eye daff which is among the last to come into bloom.

Bud of Guan Yin Mian tree peonyWhen I first began posting for Bloom Day I was assured that buds count. This is the first fat bud on Guan Yin Mian, a beautiful pink tree peony, but all the tree peonies will have come and gone by June 15.


A couple of years ago I was stunned to find out that one of my two cotoneasters had come into bloom. Unfortunately, I do not know the variety.


I love this sunny flower, Trollius, which blooms on the Bridge of Flowers as well as in my garden. A couple of these will be for sale on Saturday, at the Bridge of Flowers Plant sale in Shelburne Falls.

Sargent crabapple

The Sargent crab is the piece de resistence of this Bloom Day. The old apple trees in the field are almost done blooming, but the Sargent crab in the Sunken Garden is a glory.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Bloom Day, and I am so grateful for this nudge to keep a useful bloom record, and the opportunity to see what else is in bloom on the 15th of every month, all over the country.

And since I am almost Wordless today, do checkout real Wordless Wednesday photos.

Benefit Plant Sales Galore

Solomon's Seal and azalea

Benefit plant sales are a traditional spring event. Gardeners can spruce up their gardens and benefit various community organizations. Which will you choose? Or will you choose them all? Have you thought about giving your mother a gift certificate (one way or another) so she can pick out  some flowers herself?

This Saturday, May5 the Greenfield Library will open its plant sale at 9:30 am on the front lawn. It will close by 12:30, unless everything is gone earlier, of course. The book sale will also be going on so you might find some helpful garden books as well.

St. James Church will hold its ‘Come Grow With Us’ plant sale from 9am – 2pm on  the church. There will be many perennials for sale as well as heirloom tomato plants. Two trellises, one bamboo and one hickory, will be raffled off the day of the sale. There will also be children’s activities.

The Bridge of Flowers will hold its Annual Plant Sale on Saturday, May 19 at the Trinity Church’s Baptist Lot on Main Street in Shelburne Falls from 9 to noon. There will be nearly 1000 perennials for sale, from the Bridge and area gardeners, specialty plants from Hillside Nursery (a rare opportunity to buy these) and scores of annuals from LaSalles. Many vendors will be selling garden related items from note cards, tools, glass beads, books, sculptures, and more!

Bleeding heart

Nasami Farm in Whately, the New England Wildflower Society‘s nursery, is open on weekends now. Buying their beautiful plants will benefit the New England Wildflower Society, one of the oldest conservation organizations in the country, your own landscape and the environment.  Three for one!


The Flower Brigade

L to R Tish Murphy, Judy Harlow, Penny Spearance, Joanie Greenfield

The Bridge of Flowers is a blooming wonder. Starting in April and through October it is in flower from the bright crocus and daffodils of early spring, through rose season and then dahlia season. I could not possibly give you a list of all the flowers that take their turn on the Bridge, bulbs, annuals, perennials, blooming shrubs and trees, all making life in Shelburne Falls a delight and attracting over 35,000 visitors from across the country and all over the world.

The Bridge of Flowers email often brings the question, when is the best time to visit the Bridge? The answer to that is easy – there is no best time. Through the skill of the Head Gardener, Carol Delorenzo, and her assistant, Tish Murphy, the Bridge is designed to be in full flower in every season.

Last summer my garden friend and sister blogger, Layanee DeMerchant, visited me and I brought her to the Bridge of Flowers as a last minute surprise. She was stunned. She later confessed that when I mentioned the Bridge of Flowers she imagined some little bridge hung with window box type planters. She asked how such a magnificent public planting came to be.

I explained that the bridge was originally a trolley bridge, built in 1908 to carry loads too heavy for the Iron Bridge to the railway yards. Time and the motor car brought the railway company to bankruptcy in 1927, leaving the bridge to become a weed choked eyesore.

Women cannot stand an eyesore. In 1928 Antoinette Burnham wrote a letter to the newspaper and suggested that it become a bridge of flowers. The Shelburne Falls Women’s Club sponsored the project and the Shelburne Falls Fire District purchased the bridge. Even with the trolley gone, the bridge is important because it contains the water main which brings water to Buckland.

In 1929 eighty loads of loam  and fertilizer were put on the bridge. All the work was donated.

To this very day the Bridge of Flowers depends on donated labor. Those laborers call themselves The Flower Brigade. Twice a week throughout the season they put on their old clothes and garden gloves and set to work. Some are members of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club, but many are local gardeners who enjoy taking part in making the bridge beautiful all season.

Some volunteers are not so local. Karen Winkler comes up from Connecticut to plant and weed every week. She regularly visited friends in Easthampton and heard about the Bridge of Flowers but said she always avoided it, thinking, like my friend Layanee, that it was just a bridge with a few planters. “Then I read the Recorder article about vandalism on the Bridge a couple of years ago. I went to the website and learned what the Bridge was and that anyone could volunteer. I think this is a true community garden – where everyone takes care of everything, not just their own plot.”

Maureen Flaherty of Charlemont has been volunteering for the past four years or so. “I love it. There is such a great group of people who are all interested in flowers. The head gardener Carol Delorenzo is so knowledgeable.  It is a great community effort. This is a wonderful place to work aesthetically: it almost becomes a Zen experience,” she said.

Maureen Moore said she admired the Bridge when she moved here six years ago, but never thought about how it was maintained. “I just took it for granted. Then three years ago I realized it was a volunteer effort.  I decided to volunteer so I could have some bragging rights. It is good to know you are contributing to something so special. Besides it is fun to see all the visitors from so far away,” she said.

Penny Spearance is a new member of the Women’s Club and said she “would like to be a gardener.”  There are enough skilled gardeners working on the Bridge that this is certainly a good place to share information and learn.  “I don’t like to belong to an organization without participating,” she said.

The Bridge of Flowers gives a large community of women the opportunity to bring beauty to the wider community.  Volunteers don’t need to sign up or commit to any regular schedule. All they have to do is show up on Wednesday evening from 5 to 7 pm or Friday morning from 9 to 11 am. Directions and tools will be waiting for them.

The Bridge of Flowers May 6, 2011

The members of the Bridge of Flowers committee will be very busy volunteering next week as they prepare for the big Annual Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale. This famous sale will beheld on Saturday, May 14 at the Trinity Church’s Baptist Lot on Main Street in Shelburne Falls from 9 am til noon.  I remember the first time I attended this sale and was told that I must not touch a plant until the opening bell!  Now I am early to set up the sale, and make sure no one touches.

In addition to plants off the Bridge or from local gardens, tools from OESCO, nursery propagated wildflowers from Hillside Nursery, Nancy Dole’s books, Steve Earp’s pottery and John Sendlebach’s garden art will also be on sale.  A new booth will hold cards by Michael Naldrett, Polly French, Jane Wegscheider, and Wild Art, prints by Nina Coler, Mojo beads, Don Wheeler’s birdhouses, and lavender products from Johnson Hill Farm. Something for everyone. Don’t Be Late!

Between the Rows   May 7, 2011

Spring Promises

More spring promises every day. The rugosas are the first roses to leaf out. This is Dart’s Dash.

The Thomas Affleck rose in front of the house is leafing out, too. But look what is budding up  . . .

alliums – I don’t remember which one.

Lilacs. These are the old white variety here when we bought our house.

Troillus.  I know there will be troillus at the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale on Saturday.

Soon the Sargent crabapple will be a cloud of bloom. Spring always keeps her promises.


Herbaceous peony

There was a time when peony roots for planting were only available in the fall, the best time for planting.  Today I saw several pink peony plants that are going to be put in the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale on Saturday.  I know I will also see peony plants in local garden centers. No one can resist the thought of having a peony bloom almost as soon as you plant it. June is peony season in my garden.

One advantage to planting a peony plant is that there might not be so much of a problem planting it at the correct level. Herbaceous peonies need to be planted so the top of the root where the new little shoots will emerge and only be about an inch or so below the surface of the soil.  When people complain that their peonies never bloom, it is usually because they are planted too deeply.  Replanting them usually solves the problem.

Guan Yin Mian - tree peony

There is another type of peony, the tree peony which does not die down to the ground in the fall.  It is almost like a small shrub.  Although it looks delicate and fragile it is actually a very hardy plant, blooming much earlier in the season. This is a Chinese variety, but there are Japanese varieties as well.

Tree peonies should be planted  so that the root is three or four inches below the surface of the soil.  The deeper planting helps prevent winterkill. Late May is tree peony season in my garden.

What both types of peony have in common is their longevity. They need little care, are not prone to disease and will endure decade after decade.

The First Mowing

Grass loves cool weather and rain. We have had both in abundance which means it was time for the first lawn mowing. The strip of lawn in front of the house looks neat, and so does the main lawn. Henry even managed to get into the Sunken Garden. I thought it was still pretty wet.  The late Elsa Bakalar, friend and mentor, said one of the tricks to preparing a garden for a Garden Tour is to keep the lawn regularly mowed – at least until the day of the tour.  She also said another important trick is to have sharp clean edges on the garden beds. I will have to work on that.

Bridge of Flowers May 6, 2011


In addition to working on my own garden, I brought plants down to the Bridge of Flowers to be potted up for the big Plant Sale on May 14.  The explosion of spring bloom is truly magnificent.

Earlier in the week I joined two other member of the Bridge committee to buy annuals for the sale, and I also got a delivery from Bluestone Perennials.  I put three yellow Digitalis grandiflora ‘Ambigua’ and three little red Achillea ‘Paprika’ in the new bed by Miss Willmott lilac as well as a yellow strawflower from LaSalles. I will get more annuals at the Plant Sale to fill in!

The Front Garden is starting to settle in.  The spinach isn’t doing too well yet, but the tiny lettuce seedlings I put in a week ago are growing, as are the very tiny broccoli seedlings. On the other side of the path I also planted French Breakfast radishes, a mustard salad mix and beets.  That bed had beautiful broccoli last year and I think the soil will be really good for root crops. The photo does not do the growth justice, but I am very happy.

Of course, it was Mother’s Day weekend. We drove out to Tyngsboro for a barbecue with daughters Diane and Betsy and their kids. Son Chris also showed up. We had a wonderful visit!  Here is a rare photo of Diane with 16 year old Colleen, the youngest of Diane’s three daughters.

Spring at Last?

Easter Sunday

In spite of Saturday’s snow and sleet which continued most of the day, after a warm night with temperatures constantly increasing, Easter Sunday dawned warm and sunny and blissful. This is all that was left of the snow. The breeze was gentle and it was a perfect Easter Sunday.

One of the first fences we removed over the past months was the wire fence that formed the ‘fourth wall’ of the Sunken Garden. These dayliles grew along the northern section of fence but they are going to be removed.  A few will be moved to the Daylily Bank in front of the house, some will go to the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale on May 14, and some will go to whoever will take them. These were bought from White Flower Farm in shades of yellow and gold more than 25 years ago. The names are gone, but it is a wonderful selection. I will have to wait for this swampy site to dry out before I start digging, although I doubt that the daylilies would care very much. The intent is to have a smooth green swath from the main lawn into the Sunken Garden. I do use the word ‘lawn’ loosely. No fine turf at the End of the Road.

After we enjoyed the sunny morning the clouds moved in, but our guests began to arrive and we just concentrated on the sun in their smiles.  We had a wonderful day of visiting with young friends and our son Chris and his lady.  This morning before Chris and Michelle departed for home, Chris helped me move the lid to the cold frame and I moved in the seedlings that have been growing on the guest room windowsill. Here you can see Tango lettuce from High Mowing Seeds, Amadeus broccoli and Tower Mix China Asters from Johnny’s Another tray held  Gigante parlsey, Bling Bling and Green Envy zinnias from Renee’s Garden.

Today it is cloudy again which makes it perfect for a first day in  the cold frame. The prediction is for more showery weather which is not a bad thing. I think I might be able to put these seedlings in the ground early next week. It feels like spring. I hope it is here to stay.

Greenfield Garden Club Plant Sale

When I went to Greenfield yesterday to help set up the Greenfield Garden Club Annual Plant Sale and Extravaganza, I got to see some of the damage wrought by the terrible storm the other night. So many trees were taken down that clean up is not yet completed. Branches and whole trees are stacked by the roadsides waiting for removal.  I was stunned to see this tree on Wildwood still leaning against the house.

In spite of damage at their own houses and lack of power, Greenfield Garden Club members found their way around closed streets to set up an varied array of plants that will be on sale tomorrow from 8 am til 1 pm at Trap Plain on the corner of Silver and Federal Streets. This is an opportunity for new gardeners to get some good plants and for experienced gardeners to get some excellent plants at extremely good prices. There was a beautiful array of hostas as well as shrubs and named and described daylilies.  There will also be a tag sale of garden related items.  Happy Shopping!

Gardening There – and Here

Betsy and me in The Secret Garden

If there is anything more enjoyable than an afternoon working in one’s own garden, it is spending an afternoon working with a daughter in her garden.  Yesterday we visited Betsy for a garden consultation, nursery shopping and planting day. Betsy has done some landscaping around her house which is built on sand that hides many many stones. In fact the house is directly across the road from a granite quarry whose boulders form a major element of the landscaping. However,  she has not really been a gardener. That is changing. We went to Mahoney’s huge nursery, which is overwhelming, but between us we picked out an array of plants that she likes – and that are suitable for different areas of the property.

Betsy - finished with planting

This little sunny garden is not visible from the house and Betsy calls it her Secret Garden. It is filled with spring bloomers, Siberian and bearded iris, creeping phlox and ajuga. Quoting The Nonstop Garden: A Step-by-step Guide to Smart Plant Choices and Four Season Designs by Stephanie Cohen and Jennifer Benner, I helped Betsy choose plants that would extend her bloom season. I was so happy when I saw her light up at the sight of a pot of daisies. “I love daisies!” she said.  We bought daisies and pink echinacea, and a bargain pot of coreopsis, and a red bee balm I brought from my own garden.

Roadside garden

One of the appeals and challenges of Betsy’s property is the little woodland. It provides privacy for the house – and is home to a number of pink lady slippers!  Betsy is planting the western edge of the woods with shade lovers, like hostas and now a new bleeding heart with golden foliage, but the area between the woods and the busy road has been a bit of a desert wasteland. The soil is sand and stone in equal measure. The area gets shade from the quarry on the other side of the road and the woods. It only gets sun until about 1 in the afternoon at this time of the year.  With Henry hard at work digging $50 holes, we planted a pink mountain laurel, a big pink astilbe and Walker’s Low nepeta. The lesson for Betsy was stressing the importance of $50 holes for planting, loosening the tight roots of the potted plants, and  using a mixture of  two parts composted cow manure, 1 part peat moss and 1 part of the removed sandy soil around the plants. Unfortunately, Betsy couldn’t find any commercial compost makers in her area and has to make do with bags of composted cow manure – and we used a lot!  The final part of the lesson was deep watering and an admonition to keep watering these plants while they settle in and get established. This is especially important considering her sandy soil.

Rory, waterer and mouse hunter

Our grandson Rory, 13, was the major waterer. He doesn’t like spiders, but he was fascinated by the mouse that he found living in the hose reel. He also helped moving loads with the lawn tractor. There was work for us all.

We left Betsy to plant her new herbs. She was delighted and amazed to learn that some herbs are perennials. She bought peppermint, sage, marjoram and thyme. And a pot of Italian parsley. I left her with two big clumps of forget me nots from my garden. It was a memorable day.

Naturally I could not go to Mahoney’s without buying something for myself. Today I plant a healthy looking Pinky Winky hydrangea from Proven Winners. This will finish my hydrangea hedge. It will take a while to fill out, of course, but the oakleaf hydrangea, Limelight and Pinky Winky will make a 25 foot long hedge, underplanted with barren strawberry and daffodils. The daffodils are already there and the barren strawberry is slowly moving across the area.

So it’s been a busy week with the purchase of astrantia, echinacea, heucharella, baptisia and astilbe for my own garden as well as the gift of Pocahontas, Excel and Maiden’s Blush lilacs from my friend Jerry. I am planting and weeding and fertilizing. It’s spring!  More plant shopping at the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale on Saturday, May 22 in Shelburne Falls!  And more shopping at the Greenfield Garden Club Extravaganza on May 29.  There is always room for more plants.