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Dear Friend and Gardener

Shade in the Garden

Shade. Green shade. With the recent 90 degree days I have been thinking that every garden has to have shade. I thought I had a very shady garden, but my husband and I did a shade study. We took photos of the back garden every couple of hours to see how shade moved across the space. It turns out that most of the garden gets six to seven hours of sun which counts as the full sun required by most vegetables and many flowers.

River birch

On a cloudy day you can’t tell where the shadow of the River Birch falls

Trees Make Shade

Now I am thinking about ways to add more shade to the central portion of our garden. We have already planted one multi-stemmed river birch, and a weeping cherry. Before the summer is over we will plant another fairly large (at least six foot) river birch. We think another small tree would be desirable, but can’t quite make up our minds which one. Should it be a redbud, with its purple/pink flowers in the spring? Should it be a dwarf crabapple with its spring blossoms and fruit for the birds? One advantage of a dwarf crabapple is that its size can be easily controlled by pruning. Maybe we should plant a pagoda dogwood which has distinctive tiered and layered branches and foliage.

Then there is the decision where to place the tree. We know the river birch will be towards the south side of the garden. Where would another tree go? Perhaps the better question is where do we want the shade to go? To be decided.

Yellow twig dogwood

Yellow twig dogwood in a center bed

Shrubs Make Shade

We have already planted several shrubs including red twig and yellow twig dogwoods which will reach six to nine feet tall. They will also throw shade.

Clethra alnifolia, also called sweet pepperbush or summersweet because of its fragrant upright flower panicles, will easily be six feet tall, again throwing shade. Highbush cranberry, Viburnam trilobum, is not a cranberry but the red berries that appear in the fall will attract some birds. It will grow to between eight to 15 feet and can be controlled by pruning. Aronia, chokeberry, can be classed as a small tree or a large shrub. Ours has really settled in and will increasingly throw more shade. As you can see, there are different ways to create shade in the garden.

Barren Strawberry

Waldsteinia – barren strawberry

Perennials for shade

Shade trees, and shrubs that create shade also create a need for low growing plants that enjoy shade. Deciduous trees and shrubs like the ones I have, or am thinking about, allow the sun to penetrate to the ground in the spring, and allow spring blooming bulbs from the small crocuses and daffodils to bloom. Some slightly more unusual bulbs include snowflakes (Leucojum) which look very much like a large snowdrop, and bloom after the snow drops have gone by. Iris reticulatas are small irises, often no more than six inches tall.

In addition, there are other low growing spring bloomers that welcome the dappled sunlight. Tiarella, or foam flower, not only produces foamy pink or white racemes of blossoms in the spring, the low-growing heart shaped leaves spread rapidly covering the ground. A related, more lush plant is the heucherella, a heuchera (coral bells) and tiarella hybrid. The foliage is similar but the blossoms are more substantial.

One of my favorite spring blooming groundcovers is barren strawberry or Waldsteinia. Its name refers to the strawberry like foliage, and habit of sending out runners. It also has brilliant yellow flowers that look like cousins to white strawberry blossoms.

A groundcover that I appreciated first for it delicate heart shaped foliage is the epimedium. I think that is because I never saw the early spring bloom. Epimediums, sometimes called fairy hats, are a large family and the dainty flowers on firm slender stems come in a whole range of colors. We have a famous epimedium nursery right here in Massachusetts, Garden Vision Epimediums in Templeton. The flowers range from pale whites, yellows, and pinks to plumy and deep purples. There is also a range of foliage color and form. I have several epimediums and realize now that I have to move them into the back garden where I can see them better and enjoy them more. One special benefit of epimediums is that they will thrive even in dry shade.

There are many shades of green in the shady garden, but a patch of light can be a stunning accent. I recently bought a Goldheart columbine with its brilliant foliage for what will be a shady bed.

Vignette of mixed green at the Bridge of Flowers, hostas, lamium, hakone grass and bloodroot foliage

Vignette of mixed green at the Bridge of Flowers, hostas, lamium, hakone grass and bloodroot foliage

Hostas come in various shades of green from the blue-green Wishing Well hosta to the creamy white of Dancing Queen. Both of these produce tall flower stalks, but for me, the tall blooms are unimportant. Another family of familiar plants are the lowgrowing lamiums like White Nancy which produce insignificant blooms, and a variety of foliage variegations. Always dependable and very pretty.

Of course, not every plant in a garden needs to bloom. The golden Hakonechloa aurea Aureola, Hakone grass, will supply that bit of sun in a shady spot. I also have a small patch of shiny green European ginger. Both prove that flowers are not a necessity in a garden. Patches of green give the eye time to rest before moving to a more colorful vignette.

What patches of green do your eyes rest on as you survey your garden?

Between the Rows  July 30, 2016

View from the Window – July 2016

The garden in early April

The garden in early April

The view from the window in mid April doesn’t tell much about the plantings, but if you look closely you will see a few cut up log pieces along the back of the garden. Our neighbors had a tree come down and shared their logs with us. The Hugel has begun. The Hugel is our hugelkultur effort to control standing water in the garden.  We’ll see how it works.

May 4th View from  the window

May 4th View from the window

May arrives with the green of spring. It looks like plants have survived the winter, and the Hugel is taking shape with additional logs  collected from friends.

May 22, 2016

May 22, 2016

Towards the end of May you get a clear idea of the  construction of the Hugel.

June 22, 2016 View from the window

June 22, 2016 View from the window

A mere month later and the view from the window shows that  the Hugel logs are covered by 8 yards of a soil and compost mix, and Mr. Demers and his crew have put in a beautiful stone wall to turn the practical, functional Hugel into a beautiful space. Additional soil was spread in front of the stone wall to help correct the grade, and aid in drainage. Also, again, notice carefully the bed to the right where several heucheras have been planted. The bed and the curves have been enlarged, allowing for a few new plants.

July 25, 2016  View  from the window

July 25, 2016 View from the window

Another month has passed during which we did not do too much, because we were also busy all month with the kitchen/bath/laundry room renovation.  However, we could not let a month go by without a bit more progress. Hence  the enlargement  and curves of the river birch bed and the weeping cherry bed. As usual, we used the lasagna method. Curves will need  to be refined, and perhaps a little more widening of the beds.

What will have been accomplished by the end of August?  All interior work will have been done.  Maybe we will have figured out how to handle the area in front of the stone wall. We are not done yet. Well, a garden is never done, is it?

On the Road in Minneapolis and Environs

Amy Murphy, me and Rebecca Warner

Amy Murphy, me and Rebecca Warner

For the past three days I’ve been travelling around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with 60 other garden bloggers including my sister Massachusetts bloggers Amy Murphy (OF GARDENS) and Rebecca (THE SUSTAINABLE-ENOUGH GARDEN). We’ve seen beautiful plants, stunning design, and some real surprises.

Prairie Dock Leaves

Prairie Dock Leaves at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The enormous Prairie Dock leaves we saw in a field at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden were among the many amazing plants we saw on our tour.

Red Baneberry

Red Baneberry

We found red baneberry in the wetland area of the the Wildflower garden, but we saw it in other gardens, as well. It is very poisonous!

Vera's Garden

Vera’s Garden

Vera’s Garden on a steep, erosion prone back was turned into pollinator’s heaven by volunteers who worked at Vera’s Cafe. The cafe is gone, but the garden remains which keeps the bees, butterflies and other pollinators very happy.

Vera's Garden

Vera’s Garden

Some times wild looking and sometimes elegant, Vera’s Garden is right in the center of Minneapolis.

Scree Garden

Scree Garden

Lee and Jerry Shannon have many garden beds in their 2/3 acre including this unusual scree bed. Scree is a term for gravel, so this is not quite a rock garden, but it is not planted in a deep soil bed either.

Pollinators on dill

Pollinators on dill

The Shannon garden includes many pollinator plants like this dill. Buzzing away.

Ordway Japanese Garden

Ordway Japanese Garden

Too little time was available for the Ordway Japanese Garden. We were having fun but we were on a tight schedule. Even the koi seemed to feel the rush. They were leaping about.

formal vegetable garden

Squire House Gardens formal vegetable garden

I have never seen such a formal and productive vegetable garden as Martin Stern’s Squire House Garden. But still more delight is found along the curving paths.

Weeping asparagus

Weeping asparagus

Looks like asparagus, but how could this climbing, weeping thing be aparagus?  I don’t know, but it is! Weeping asparagus at the Squire House Gardens.

Woutrina DeRaad mosaic blackbird

Woutrina deRaad mosaic blackbird

This mosaic sculpture of a blackbird was only one of the many mosaic sculptures created by Woutrina DeRaad and arranged throughout her amazing gardens. This garden was the last of the 22 gardens/nurseries we visited during our three day tour and you will be hearing more about them over the next few months.

Garden tours, whether local or in more distant locales always provide food for thought, and new ways to handle old problems. I know that I was particularly inspired by two of the gardens and I’ll fill you in soon.

Shadow Study

Shadow. My husband and I have not been in complete agreement about how shady our back garden is. The question is how will our shade loving plants fare if the garden is not as shady as I think it is. Hence, our Shadow Study.

Shadow at 8 am

Shadow at 8 am

Shadow is not only an afternoon phenomenon. Our house is sited directly facing east which means the house throws  a long shadow in the morning.

Shadow 9 am

Shadow 9 am

The shadow is moving, but the South Border and most of the North Border is still in full shadow.

Shadow at 10:15 am

Shadow at 10:15 am

At 10:15 most of the planting beds in the back garden are in the sun.  Half of the south border is also in the sun.

Shadow 11:30 am

Shadow 11:30 am

The back garden is essentially in full  sun, although a portion of the North Border is shaded by our neighbor’s maple tree, and a portion of the South Border is shaded by our lilac tree.

Shadow 12:30 pm

Shadow 12:30 pm

The Shadow at 12:30 pm. Full sun in the back garden.

Shadow at 1:20 pm

Shadow at 1:20 pm

The whole back garden  is in full sun. This photo show how the shadow is beginning to creep across the Hugel Project in the west.

Shadow 3:40 pm

Shadow 3:40 pm

The western edges of current beds are beginning to be touched by shade.

Shadow at 5:25 pm

Shadow at 5:25 pm

We have come full circle. The back garden is again in full shade.  My numbers are not precise but we can comfotrably say that from 10 am til 5 pm the back garden is in full sun except for the northwestern corner which gets shady earlier.  That is 7 hours of sun. The rule is  that 6 hours of sun counts for full sun on plant cultivation cards. My husband is right, BUT (a wifely but) I want to say that plants can be very adaptable.

The Shadow Study has been done when the days are the longest in the year. We didn’t get the Study done on the Solstice, but maybe we will do another study at the Fall Equinox and see what we learn then.

These photos also show  that work is moving apace on our kitchen/bath/laundry room renovation. Give us another month and the garden will be  glorious and so will the kitchen, etc.

Vignettes of Greenfield Garden Tour Gardens

Front Garden

Front Garden

The Annual Greenfield Garden Club Tour gives us the opportunity to see many styles of garden to inspire us, and give our imaginations something new to consider. This serene front yard planting belongs to Andrea Hall.

Serene fountain

Serene fountain

Andrea also set up a handsome fountain in a backyard nook by the back door that follows through  on a circular/curving theme in other sections of the garden. Notice all the hostas which she loves.

Grove of containers

Grove of containers

Of course, some gardeners take a very different approach to the garden approach. Bill Benson has over 100 containers filled with annuals, herbs, vines, and vegetables.

ferns

Ferns

And yet, Bill’s back garden is a veritable jungle with shrubs, perennials and serene ferns and hostas. Riotous and exuberant.

Drooling hippo fountain

Drooling hippo fountain

Set in the middle of a large shady but floriferous bed is the “world famous” Drooling Hippo Fountain. David Sund has refreshed the gardens at the McInernery’s new home, but the Drooling Hippo is a legacy from previous owners. Lucky they. They have joy, serenity AND vegetables in their gardens.

I’ll have more vignettes from the Greenfield Garden Club Tour soon.

 

Greenfield Garden Club Tour June 25

 

Elise Schlaijker

Elise Schlaijker

Elise Schlaijker’s extensive gardens will be a part of the Greenfield Garden Club’s annual garden tour which will be held on Saturday, June 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Schlaijker is one of those gardeners who loves food gardens and flower gardens equally, although she admits that the big 30 x 30 foot vegetable and fruit garden was her first priority when she moved to Greenfield eight years ago. I wrote about Schlaijker when her gardens were new in 2010. Now that she is 82 and has come through a back surgery, she has made some adjustments in her routines. The chicken house is empty. Handling water and feed during the winter became too difficult so the hens were given away.

While she showed me around the side garden which she can view from her large deck, two young men were buzzing around the lawns and the labyrinth. “I no longer mow the lawns myself,” she said with a smile.

The deck itself is decorated with houseplants brought out for the summer, and is ringed with Gold Heart bleeding heart and a variety of hostas. The side garden’s large lawn is ornamented with shrub and perennial beds. These contain familiar and beloved plants like rugosa roses in red and white, other shrub roses, lilacs, herbaceous peonies and an exuberant climbing hydrangea in one corner.

Bartzella, I toh peony

Bartzella, Itoh peony

However, a gardener is always finding new enthusiasms. In addition to the beautiful and familiar herbaceous peonies, Schlaijker has added Itoh, or intersectional, peonies, to her plantings. Itoh peonies are a hybrid created by crossing herbaceous peonies with tree peonies. Like herbaceous peonies Itoh’s are cut back in the fall, but the advantage is that they hold their blossoms high, even in the rain, and have a longer bloom period because they have primary and secondary buds. When Itoh peonies were first made available they were very expensive, but they are now more reasonable in price. In any event, Schlaikjer says, “I indulge myself in the plants I love.”

On the other side of the house is a wild looking bog garden, which includes a buttonbush, a dappled willow and a handsome crane. There is also a sweeping quarter moon bed that includes two dappled willows, a redbud and two more Itoh peonies. I was particularly looking at all the graceful curves in her garden which are so elegant and pleasing.

A gently curving path edged with wide flower borders leads to the stone labyrinth. When she built labyrinth I was one of the people who brought a stone to help build it. Schlaijker meditatively walks the labyrinth almost every day, but the building of the labyrinth included the connections to, and love of, a whole community. In the center of the labyrinth is a tiny gazebo. Inside the tiny gazebo is an extraordinary, throne-like chair. This was carved from a maple tree trunk by a friend in Michigan where she had lived for so many years. This throne, with its carvings of a bear, turtle, squirrel and other creatures, is comfortable and magical. If you hum or sing while sitting on the throne you can feel and hear the reverberations of sound.

Elise Schlaijkers gazebo

Elise Schlaijker’s gazebo in the center of her labyrinth

The flower borders leading to the labyrinth are filled with more Itoh and herbaceous peonies, nepeta, foxgloves, irises, and sedums. The borders include flowers as exotic as the Itoh peonies, but also as humble as the local native yellow foxgloves.

Of course, the fenced and netted vegetable garden is a very important part of Schlaijker’s garden. There are raised beds for vegetables, but it turns out that nets do not deter burrowing creatures like voles, moles – and rats. “Nowadays I can’t grow root crops, carrots, potatoes, beets . . . critters eat every one,” she said. Still she is able to grow lots of greens: collards, kale, broccoli, chard as well as garlic, tomatoes, lettuce, squash, and cucumbers as well as parsley and basil.

One section of the fenced vegetable garden is given over to highbush blueberries and a black currant bush. That section is netted over the top when the berries begin to ripen.

Beauty is to be found even when she walks towards the vegetable garden provided by a bed including  Japanese primroses, goatsbeard, clematis, and European ginger which she insists spreads itself generously. Here and there are bowls of water on the ground to satisfy the thirst of birds, or perhaps even a toad or two.

Elderberries and different raspberry varieties that give her a long season grow beyond the fenced garden. Schlaijker also has several apple trees, but her peach tree is no more.

Elise Schlaijker’s garden is just one of the nine unique gardens on the tour, each with its own special attractions.

Tickets to the Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour can be purchased ahead of time at the World Eye Bookstore for $15. Or call Jean Wall at 773-9069. On the day of the tour tickets will be $18 and can be purchased at 40 High Street. Those who have bought tickets at the World Eye must also go to 40 High Street to pick up a map for this self-guided tour. There will be curb-side service.

Between the Rows  June 18, 2016

New Roses for a New Garden

Passionate Nymph's Thigh rose

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose

Thirty-five years have passed since I planted my first rose bush in Heath. In the months before our move from New York City I read and re-read Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katharine White. It was her experience and thoughts about roses that particularly touched my dreams of a romantic garden in the country. I had never grown roses, and never even really paid much attention to roses. My dreams and limited experiences had been with herbs and vegetables.

That book inspired me to plant my first rose, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, from Roses of Yesterday and Today. Who could resist that name? Over time I bought more roses from that nursery, focusing on roses of yesterday like the Queen of Denmark, Fantin-Latour, Celsiana and the Rose of Ispahan. These were hardy antique roses that were fragrant and disease free.

Applejack, Buck rose

Applejack, Buck rose

I did add modern roses over time, including Buck roses hybridized by Griffith Buck for cold hardiness. Applejack, one of my favorite roses, was a hardy Buck rose. These were not noted for their fragrance, however. I also added more and more rugosas that were hardy, disease free and fragrant. MountBlanc is my favorite white rugosa, and Dart’s Dash an energetic deep pink was also a favorite.

I also collected roses from friends like Rachel’s Rose, Purington Pink and the Buckland Rose. There is only one drawback to all these roses. Most of them are fragrant, but none of them bloom all summer.

Purington Pink rose

Purington Pink closeup

Of all those roses, it is only the hardy and energetic Purington Pink that I brought with me to the new Greenfield garden. But it is not the only rose I planted.

Over the years I learned more about efforts by hybridizers to create hardy roses that do bloom for a long season. These new hybridizing efforts were brought about by environmental concerns about poisons used on roses, and new attitudes toward proper garden management. Several years ago, after meeting Peter Kukielski who was then curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, a new world of long blooming, disease resistant, and often fragrant roses opened up for me.

Kukielski is currently working with the American Rose Trials for Sustainability which has been running rose trials in different locations for the past few years. In 2017 they will announce their first round of sustainable roses. The A.R.T.S. website (www.americanrosetrialsforsustainability.org) declares “ . . . strict trialing protocol ensures that every A.R.T.S.® trial garden is ‘no spray.’ Remember, the goal is to identify the rose varieties which need little to no input.  Ensuring that no pest control products or fertilizers are applied to the plants within the experiment ensures that we get accurate real world results which are both reliable and repeatable.”

Lion's Fairy Tale rose

Lion’s Fairy Tale – Kordes rose

I cannot wait for the first trial results, because I want more roses in my new garden which is much smaller and has particular problems. What does a rose bush need? Roses must have at least 6 hours of sun to thrive and produce good bloom. Roses need good air circulation. Roses need good soil that is rich in humus, has a pH between 6 and 6.5, and drains well.

Roses need water, but they do not like to have their feet wet. Sections of my new garden are very sunny, and I can build good soil, but most of my soil is heavy clay that does not drain well. I have to find areas that will not leave the roses in standing water during the spring thaw or after long, heavy rains.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose in Heath

Although I knew I was taking a gamble I could not let a whole garden year go by without planting some roses. The south side of our lot gets plenty of sun, and the soil is better there than in the backyard. Last spring and early summer we started planting our shrub border which includes hydrangeas, lilacs, and a viburnam.

When choosing roses for this garden I tried to use all I have learned over the years. I again planted the pink centifolia Fantin-Latour for its history and romance even though it will bloom for a short season. I also planted the low and dependable pink polyantha The Fairy and Knockout Red. Knockout Red is an EarthKind rose, and you can count on any EarthKind rose to be beautiful and dependable, even though it is not fragrant.

Some of the roses I chose are new varieties that are considered groundcover roses, not as tall as other rose bushes, very full and bushy with a long bloom season. These include Oso Easy Paprika, and Peach Drift.         Purple Rain, Polar Express, the pink Zaide and creamy Lion’s Fairy Tale are all hybrids from Kordes with good disease resistance. Kukielski told me I could count on all Kordes roses to be among the best long blooming, disease resistant roses I could have. Many are fragrant.  NewFlora (www.newflora.com) is the U.S. distributor for Kordes.

Oso Easy Paprika

Oso Easy Paprika

I also had to have two of the other roses I had in Heath. Folksinger is a peachy hardy Buck rose, and Thomas Affleck is the amazing deep pink rose I grew near my entry. It had big blossoms that began in mid June and continued into November.

With all these new sustainable coming on the market there will be no excuse for any gardener to avoid roses because they are too fussy.

Sources: Antique Rose Emporium www.antiqueroseemporium.com; Chamblee’s Roses www.chambleeroses.com;  Roses of Yesterday and Today www.rosesofyesterday.com

Between the Rows   June 11, 2016

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – June 15, 2016

Peach Drift Rose

Peach Drift rose

With my first Peach Drift roses I am celebrating my first real Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day in the Greenfield, Massachusetts garden. Peach Drift is a fairly low growing, long blooming, disease resistant rose.

Oso Easy Paprika

Oso Easy Paprika\

Oso Easy  Paprika shares a small bed with Peach Drift. Paprika is a little outside my usual color palette, but when I saw it blooming at the nursery I could not resist.

Zaide, Kordes rose

Zaide, Kordes rose

I am so excited to be able to add Kordes roses like Zaide to my garden.

White Kordes rose

White Kordes rose

This white Kordes rose is either Lion’s Fairy Tale or Polar Express.  I hope I can figure out which when the other white Kordes rose begins to bloom

Purple Rain Kordes rose

Purple Rain Kordes rose

Purple Rain has many small blossoms on a sprawly bush.

Folksinger rose

Folksinger, Buck rose

I love the apricot shade of Folksinger, a Griffith Buck rose. Thomas Affleck put out one flush of bloom but I expect more as the season progresses.

Stella d'Oro daylily

Stella d”Oro daylily

Stella d’Oro, a daylily left by the previous owners of our house is the only perennial on the Hellstrip.  But the Hellstrip will be blooming soon. Wait til July.

Mountain laurel

Mountain laurel

I’m so pleased with the way this mountain laurel has come through the year. It is such a modest and unassuming shade-loving shrub.

Irises are still bloom, as are the supermarket yellow primroses I planted. There are even a few blooms on the Japanese primroses, and the new elderberry shrubs.  I have a couple of  arrangements of annuals in large pots and bright red geraniums in pots on our front steps. Very welcoming, I hope. More plants will be bought this summer and I think we will have many more blooms.

Thank you Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day.  To see what else is in bloom across our great land click here.

The South Border One Year Later.

South Lawn May 22, 2015

South Lawn May 22, 2015

The South Border did not exist on the day we closed on the house. But we had ideas.

South Border on June 3, 2015

South Border on June 3, 2015

On June 3 we planted three hydrangeas, Limelight, Angel’s Blush and Firelight, as well as two lilacs, deep purple Yankee Doodle and double white Beauty of Moscow. Shrubs were planted in the ground with the the addition of Martin’s compost.

Lasagna planting

Lasagna planting

Once shrubs were in the ground we built the lasagna beds around them with cardboard and compost so  that we could plant perennials – and an annual or two.

Now, one year later,  with additional plantings of roses, virburnams and various groundcovers like lady’s mantle, and sedums the view from Office Window 2 is quite different.

Eastern end of the South Border

Eastern end of the South Border

The eastern end of the South Border includes the hydrangeas and lilac in the rear with roses in  the front. Low growing Purple Rain begins on  the left, then you can see the tiny white buds of a white rose (Lion’s Fairy Tale I thinks. Thomas Affleck pink follows then the apricot Folksinger and another white which is either Lion’s Fairy Tale or Polar Express, both of  which are Kordes roses.

South Border 2

South Border 2

You can see the white rose from the previous photo, then The Fairy which is not yet blooming but loaded with  buds and doing splendidly. To the far right is the wonderful Zaide,  a lush Kordes pink.

South Border 3

South Border 3

This photo gives you a better view of Zaide,  and Kockout Red ends this section of the South Border. There is only one other very small rose beyond the Knockout and we’ll have to wait for next year for her blooms. I hope you notice the tall mullein that Mother Nature planted for us at the very edge of the driveway. So far so good! The Main Garden behind the house is also doing well. Keep Watching.

Forbes Library Garden Tour in Northampton

 

Paul Redstone's water gardens

Paul Redstone’s water gardens

The Forbes Library Garden Tour is this Saturday, an opportunity to see unique private gardens.

If you are lucky retirement from the everyday world of work is an opportunity to make happy changes, and possibly even make a dream come true. This opportunity has been beautifully and artfully used by Paul Redstone, and Jesse and Jack Martin. They both gave up country homes and properties and moved to ‘the city,’ Northampton, where they now live next to each other. They all love to garden, treasure their friendship, and have very different approaches to making a garden.

Paul Redstone

I spoke to Redstone while sitting on his deck listening to the falling water in his water garden. I could see cattails and water lilies, but he said the water garden was really all about the music of the moving water falling over the stone. His wife passed away ten years ago and when he moved to town about six years ago he thought it was time to make his dream of a musical water feature come true. With the encouragement of a friend he did some renovations on his new house so he could have room for a printmaking studio, and finally built the water garden he had longed for.

Paul Redstone

Paul Redstone

I asked if this was a house where he could age in place. He laughed. “I didn’t think of it at the time, but I guess it is. The kitchen is now more efficient and I have a bedroom on the ground floor. The water garden is sited where I can see it from the bedroom.”

He designed the stone water garden on a rise, with various sections that provide music, a home for three koi and occasional frogs and bogs for breathtaking lotuses. It is surrounded by irises and a delightful carpet of ground covers. While he needed help to build the stone infrastructure, he is completely responsible for all the plantings.

His main goal in the garden is to eliminate lawn. The sunny front yard has a variety of groundcovers including bearberry and cotoneaster. Gorgeous irises were beginning to bloom the day I visited. One of the stunning shrubs is a calycanthus with its wine-red blossoms.

The garden around the water garden holds a broad range of plants, raspberries and  thornless blackberries from Nourse Farm, and plum trees, arborvitae, hollyhocks and wonderful native plants from Tripple Brook Nursery. He said he doesn’t make elaborate plans but “gardens according to my whims. If something doesn’t work out it is easy to send it off.”

Paul Redstone's Calycanthus, or Carolina allspice

Paul Redstone’s Calycanthus, or Carolina allspice

Jesse and Jack Martin

Jesse and Jack Martin live right next door. While they have very different styles, they spend a lot of time strolling through each others’ gardens and swapping notes.

Jack and Jesse Marti

Jack and Jesse Marti

Jesse and Jack left Beckett to look for a gentler climate that would make life a bit easier, but also provide more scope for their garden plans. In Northampton they have found a community rich in cultural opportunities, and a warmer climate.

Unlike Redstone, they like lawn and have a lush greensward in front of the house leading to a handsome shrub border that continues around the side of the house. Lilacs are pruned every three years or so, removing trunks that are more than a thumb width, keeping them vital and strongly blooming. A turn into the back garden is around a wisteria covered arbor they built themselves to provide a seating area in the shade.

A flowery border in front of the conifer privacy screen

A flowery border in front of the conifer privacy screen

They removed the 50 foot tall hemlocks that separated them from their backyard neighbor. “Those trees were so wide they took up half the yard,” Jesse said. Now there are slimmer Emerald Green and American arborvitae providing privacy and a background for the perennial border which also holds several birdhouses and a bird bath. The Martins welcome the birds and provide for their needs. “The cardinals and robins love the straw mulch. It is so much fun to watch them tossing the straw and searching for seeds.”

“We like the idea of textures – The upright blooms of the irises, and the fluffiness of the poppies.” Jesse said. The peonies were heavily budded. “We aim for a progression of bloom, but actually early summer has the most flowers.”

I was amazed by the large Harry Lauder Walking Stick. I have only seen this as a small shrub but it was beautiful as a small tree. Another particularly important small tree in the garden is the intensely fragrant witch hazel that blooms in February, right next to the hot tub. “

Redstone and the Martins make good use of a variety of irises.

Redstone and the Martins make good use of a variety of irises.

As we strolled through the garden Jack and Jesse couldn’t help pulling a weed or two. They said they wandered through the garden every day, admiring and weeding. After the tour we sat in the shade of the screened porch. “The whole purpose of the garden is to have something beautiful to look at during that first cup of coffee, or in the afternoon. We often invite Paul over,” Jack said.

The Redstone and Martin Gardens are two of the eight unique and inspiring gardens on this 23rd self guided Forbes Library Garden Tour, on Saturday, June 11 from 10 am to 3 pm, rain or shine. Advance $15 tickets are available at Forbes Library, Baystate Perennial Center, Cooper’s Corner, Hadley Garden Center, North Country Landscaping and Garden Center and State Street Market. On the day of the Tour tickets are only available at the Forbes Library for $20. There will also be a raffle that for compost, a landscape consultation and garden supplies. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Forbes Library, funding programs, events and projects.

Between the Rows   June 4, 2016