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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Bridge of Flowers Opens – Flower Brigade in Action

Bridge of Flowers Flower Brigade

The Bridge of Flowers opened today. There was a delay while  the new irrigation system was installed. Now the beds on both sides of the path can be watered, without a water brigade. The volunteer Flower Brigade was on duty, raking and bringing the debris to the Franklin County Waste Management Dumpster. The debris will eventually come back to the Bridge as beautiful  nourishing compost from Martin’s Farm in Greenfield.

Bridge of Flowers crocus

There aren’t many flowers yet, but more will be in bloom every day. By mid to late May no one will wonder why 35,000 visitors from all over the world signed  the Guest book last year. In May perennials, trees, shrubs, and annuals will be in bloom joining the hundreds of bulbs of every type. The Bridge of Flowers has a website,  and a Facebook page.

Stone Fountain

The Bridge of Flowers also has Friends who make it possible to add beautiful elements like the Stone Fountain. In a couple of weeks the new Bench will be installed. Wait til you see it! You can read all about the Bridge on the 2013 Annual Report here.

Bridge of Flowers in June 2013

I am so proud to be a member of the Bridge of Flowers Committee. I hope you can all vist the Bridge this season. It is  going to be more beautiful than ever!

Five Plant Gardens by Nancy J. Ondra

Five plant Gardens by Nancy J. Ondra

I’m just starting to read Five Plant Gardens by Nancy J. Ondra and I find it such an encouraging book.  The book is divided into two sections, one section for sunny gardens and one section for shady gardens. She begins with one color gardens like the Bright White Garden for a sunny location. She suggests ‘David’ phlox, ‘White Swan’ coneflower, ‘Snow Fairy’ caryopteris, lambs ears, and candytuft, but gives alternatives and a planting plan.  It is her planting plans that make Five Plant Gardens a really useful book. It is all very well to know tall plants in back, and short plants in front, but that doesn’t take into account plant spread or the differences of foliage.

White gardens are beautiful in the moonlight, blue gardens are peaceful, but should be closer to the house, and yellow garden are pure gold!  Nancy beautifully illustrates the many ways of looking at color in the garden and the myriad ways of arranging or expanding a flower bed.  I’ve just started, but you will be hearing more about this book soon.  I’m ready to think about flowers! And Nancy is the person to give me some new things to think about.  Nancy also has an excellent and very informative blog at hayefield.com

In the Pink at Smith College Lyman Plant House

In the Pink

In the Pink is the theme of the annual Smith College Bulb Show. Every day from March 1 – 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. visitors can bask in the fragrance of pink hyacinths and spring  as they wander through the greenhouse stuffed with thousands of bulbs: daffodils, tulips, scillas, and hyacinths as well as blushing azaleas, cyclamen and camellias.  For me pink is the color of spring.

Pink is also an important fashion color. Currently the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is hosting a fabulous exhibit Think Pink! which features a number of gorgeous pink gowns and accessories from the personal collection of the late Evelyn H. Lauder who originated the Pink Ribbon campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer. Before that, however there was Think Pink, a musical production number in the Funny Face musical, sung by Kay Thompson as fashion editor Meggie Prescott and her assistants. “Banish black . . . Brown’s taboo . . .  Think Pink!  Others my remember Kay Thompson as the creator of the irrepressible Eloise at the Plaza.

I know this is all a complete digression from flowers and bulb shows, but in  the mode of all things are interconnected, once I have mentioned fashion editors in movies, I must mention Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Her rant about the fashion business made an indelible impression on my husband who is now reconciled to the importance of fashion. Miranda’s speech ends  with  “However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.” 

In the Pink – Smith College Bulb Show

But, back to flowers. The Smith College Bulb show begins tonight  (Friday) with a lecture by Holly Shimizu titled The Best of Flavor and Fragrance at 7:30 in the Carroll Room at the Campus Center, followed by a preview of the Bulb Show.

In addition, the Mount Holyoke Bulb Show at the Talcott Greenhouse will also open and run from March 1-16, every day from 10 am – 4 pm.

Sastrugi – from the Russian

Sastrugi

Sastrugi is the word for the snow waves and caves. It comes from the Russian. Sometimes it makes very large, much larger than here, waves. I think it has been too cold and the snow has been too dry for that to happen with our latest snow fall.

Sastrugi ripples

Sometimes the sastrugi takes the form of gentle ripples.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here

The New Year Arrives – 2014

 

The Heath Mowing

The noted essayist and poet Charles Lamb (1775-1834) said “New Year’s Day is everyman’s birthday.”

As I look at the snow covered mowing near the center of Heath, I cannot help thinking that the mowing is like the first day of the year. It is perfect and flawless as the new year begins. It seems filled with opportunity and the promise of a good harvest. There may be only sunny days and gentle rains. And yet we all know that wind and weather will also act on it over the year. Drought may dry the hay too soon, and rainstorms may turn it into swamp and rot the hay. Wind may blow down the circling trees. Pests and weeds may cause their own damage. But come the end of December, it is likely that the mowing will once again be perfectly and flawlessly covered with snow as a fresh year begins.

For many of us there are two New Year’s a year. The school schedule dies hard, and long after we have to go to school, or have children to send off to school there is something about the existence of the first day of school that allows us all a new beginning. We’ll do better, study more, be more disciplined, do our chores without complaining, and smile and look people in the eye when we meet. All behaviors we’ll be attempting most of our lives.

But on January 1 the whole world pauses and takes a step into a new year, with new hopes, new possibilities, new ideas, and renewed energy. I look at that field and I am looking into the future. I hope I have learned a few things as I have gone through life, but the view ahead always seems full of promise to me.

I have never been one for making great New Year’s Resolutions, except possibly swearing I really will get the garden under control this year. However, everyone will tell you I am a great believer in visualization. Simply by keeping the vision of some desired end in mind, I think you will go a long way to reaching that desired end. I don’t know how it works, but I think it does.

So, as I look ahead I see a garden that is different from this year’s garden. That is partly by plan, and partly caused by unforeseen opportunities, or the unpredictable vagaries of the weather. More unpredictable weather each year it seems. I don’t know that the garden will be any more under control, but I have a list of projects,: plants to be removed, plants to be added, trellises to be built, favorite vegetables to include, and new varieties to try. Those are not resolutions; those are plans capable of change at any moment.

The British author Neil Gaiman has written many award winning books for adults and teens. For Christmas I gave The Graveyard Book to a grandson, and I recently came across a new year’s wish of Gaiman’s, intended for us all. “My wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

I think this is good advice for all of who will be called up to do new things in the new year. Of course, I have to remind myself to be patient with all those New Mistakes – mistakes that I make, and mistakes that those around me make.

I know I will mistakes in 2014, because I made mistakes in 2013. Most of them were not glorious, amazing mistakes. You can make mistakes in actions taken, but also in actions not taken.

So as I take a last fleeting look at 2013, I am grateful for the love of my family, for laughter shared with old friends. I am grateful that my back and knees are still willing to bend for digging and weeding. I am grateful to be a part of groups like the Friends of the Heath Library, the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club and the Bridge of Flowers committee because they give me the chance to make new friends, to learn, and to serve my community.

So now I will turn face forward and march confidently into 2014, into the new year, into new garden plans, and into preparations for unexpected pleasures and opportunities. I embrace the thought of the noted 20th century Broadway critic Brooks Atkinson who said “Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.”

What do you look forward to, and visualize for 2014?

Merry Christmas to All at Christmas-time

 

Lola, The Major and Bella

Merry Christmas! This is the gift giving season. The season inevitably leads to lots of shopping. This past Monday I had a morning appointment in Northampton and I thought I would take the opportunity to shop along the way home. I didn’t have much shopping left because, of course, I had already done most of my shopping in Shelburne Falls and Greenfield. Still a few things were needed.         

            I like lively Christmas music, Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, Let It Snow, Winter Wonderland and all the rest, but as I drove through the snow-laden woods, past the icy river, and into the valley’s frosted fields, Chanticleer’s renditions of sacred Christmas songs concentrated my mind on the gift of a beautiful day in a beautiful part of the world.

Since almost all the gifts we give are books I had to hit a couple of bookstores. I stopped at J.C. Penney for scarves for those on my list who really really don’t like to read. I stopped at Whole Foods for lunch and a panettonne. I keep promising myself I will bake my own panettone, a lovely Italian Christmas bread, but alas I have yet to pull it off. It was a lovely day. The traffic wasn’t bad, the stores were pleasantly populated with cheerful shoppers and the sales help was universally sweet tempered and helpful. I was not rushed. The day itself was a gift.

            If we watch the nightly news with its daily financial reports from the malls and local stores, we might think that the whole purpose of Christmas was to buy gifts in order to keep our national economy from plunging into disaster. What a joyless view of the season. Gifts should be born out of loving generosity, not out of feelings of burdensome obligation.

            I give gift books because I enjoy all kinds of books myself. I want to pass that pleasure along and share it. There are all kinds of books, for all kinds of interests and needs. My love of books joins the passions and interests of the recipients. I am so pleased when I hear that my three daughters share their Christmas books and send them around to each other because it unites us all in a story and in certain sentiments and attitudes. I like knowing gift books allow me to share a mutual interest with my children. I love to hear that the grandchildren have been touched by a gift book.

            Of course, in many ways the gift book is just a token of my affection. There are other tokens. Christmas cookies! Cake! When I give my granddaugters baking lessons I always tell them love is an important part of baking. They must think about the person who will eat the cookies, or cake, and stir love into the batter.

            Still, books and cookies are Things. One gift I give that comes back to me ten fold is generous time spent with my family, with my friends, and volunteering for the Bridge of Flowers. The gifts of time, interest and patience are the gifts that are given and received all at the same time.

Rory at Mass MoCA – Sol Lewitt painting

            Once when I was overwhelmed by all the gifts that young grandchildren were getting, toys and clothes galore, I complained that I could not compete with all that stuff.  A wise friend told me that as the granny I could give time. And patience and understanding. Actually I have learned that patience and understanding are always a gift, given and taken, with all loved ones, with friends, with seeds, with pets, and with everyone else.     

            The past years with grandchildren, and now great-granddaughters, have taken us beyond the pleasures of End of the Road Farm to an annual trip to Mass MoCA to find the weird and wonderful, history museums, hiking in local state parks, on adventure quests for hidden waterfalls, bowling, explorations at the Art Garden where we have found the materials and encouragement for all manner of art projects. We are always searching for the weird and wonderful. Laughter, surprise and some good snacks are always found along the way.

Tynan at Tannery Falls

            Time is precious. We feel this more as we get older. We often talk about how we can or should spend our time. I am now thinking about how I can give away my time generously. Many of us give away our time, to family, friends in need and the community in a multitude of ways from bringing soup to a recuperating neighbor, serving on town boards, the food pantry or other civic committees. We are not thinking about the generosity it takes to give our time and talent. We are only thinking about the pleasure and satisfaction we get along the way.

            So as I wrap the Christmas books, bake the Christmas cookies, and bread for the food pantry, I am looking for the time that I will be sharing with friends and family this season. We’ll be visiting together and eating together. Our spirits are nourished by those meals. The holy days give us a reason to be together to give and receive the gift of time. I pray you will all enjoy the generous gifts of time this season. ###

 Between the Rows    December 21, 1013

Good Reading Roundup for 2013 – Part Two

My Reading Roundup Continues. Books make up a good part of my pleasure in gardening. I get information during the growing season and varied pleasures in growing season – and all the rest of the year. Clink on the link for full information about each book.

Speedy Vegetable Garden

The Speedy Vegetable Garden by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz (Timber Press) is not necessarily for impatient gardeners, but gardeners who want to extend the growing season into the depths of winter.   Soaks (I never heard of those before), sprouts and microgreens. A micro-green is really just the baby stage of the shoot and this is a time when nutrients are at a high level. You wouldn’t make a whole salad out of micro-greens, but they add vibrant taste to your regular salad.. . .A micro-green is really just the baby stage of the shoot and this is a time when nutrients are at a high level. You wouldn’t make a whole salad out of micro-greens, but they add vibrant taste to your regular salad.

 

 

Kiss My Aster

Kiss My Aster by Amanda Thomsen is informative, encouraging and great fun, complete with cartoon-like illustrations. The wild and witty Amanda Thomsen of the famous Kiss My Aster blog has just given us Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You. This book for the beginning gardener with it jolly cartoon-ish illustrations will help you sort out what kind of gardener you might be to elements of garden design. Thomsen is full of fun – and good advice. Kiss My Aster is helpful to the gardener when she is planning to make her yard more beautiful and/or needs more information about starting a vegetable garden. In either case Thomsen gives brief information about individual plants, trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals for sun or shade. Herbs, too.

 

Garden Projects for Kids: 101 ways to get kids outside, dirty, and having fun by Whitney Cohen and John Fisher of LIfe Lab in Santa Cruz, California will help you as you bring your children into the garden. What with people talking about a ‘nature deficit’ among our children, and the presence of so many screens in our life, parents and friends sometimes wonder who we are going to get kids back into the outdoors. Garden Projects for Kids will inspire and support the parents of young children about all the ways the garden leads to healthy playtimes. Of course, there is just plain playing in the dirt, which can lead to planting in the dirt, which can lead to harvesting and eating good treats, but it can also lead to looking at bugs, looking at all the life to be found in a square foot of ground, how to make birdhouses out of plants you have grown, and how to pound flowers into art. Lots more too.

Gardening with Free Range Chickens for Dummies is for gardeners who have taken on a backyard flock of chickens.  Bonnie Jo Mannion, who has a degree in Avian Science, and Rob Ludlow, the owner of www.backyardchickens.com, have put together Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies which answers every question you ever thought of about caring for chickens, while also caring for your garden. They even have answers to important issues you never thought about. is an excellent book for people who are planning to raise a small backyard flock. It is unique in that it addresses your dual goal of raising a healthy flock of chickens and a beautiful garden.

 

 

Vegetable Literacy

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison (Ten Speed Press) is a beautiful book, almost as much garden book as cookbook. Madison tells us about her understanding of plant families she explains that if we look as vegetables in a single plant family we can see how they can be substituted for each other. She also shows us that parts of a vegetable we don’t ordinarily eat, are edible and can be used as part of a dish. Her book is organized around twelve families beginning with the Carrot family which is huge. It is comprised of a host of Umbelliferae like angelica, anise, asafetida, caraway, carrots, celery, celery root, chervil, cilantro and coriander, cumin, dill, hennel, hemlock, lovage, osha, parsley, parsley root, parsnips, Queen Anne’s Lace. For each plant family, Deborah Madison gives advice about using the whole plant, good companions, and some kitchen wisdom. And great recipes, of course.

 

More to come tomorrow.

10 More Hours to Seeing Flowers Giveaway

Seeing Flowers

It’s almost 2 pm EST which means only 10 more hours to leave a comment here. You might win this beautiful book, Seeing Flowers, from Timber Press PLUS my own charming book of essays about life among the roses, Roses at the End of the Road.  I’ll announce the winner tomorrow morning.

 

Faces I Might Wear – Tanka by Carol Purington

After heavy rain  
   enough puddles on my path     
       to flash back at me       
            all the faces      
                I might choose to wear.
 

Faces I Might Wear

In her newest book of Tanka, Faces I Might Wear, Carol Purington opens with a poem that most of us can identify with. How often do we arrange our face based on the action or emotion of the moment?  How often d o  we imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes? When I read these short and powerful poems I imagine a story behind a poem that seems balanced on the cusp of a significant event.
 
A line of geese  
       winging in the wrong direction
                  why
       I didn’t ask more questions
you didn’t give more reasons
 
A whole novel is implied in those few lines.  In her books of haiku and tanka there is often a narrative thread, even if it is the unfolding of the seasons on the family farm, as in Family Farm, but in this book each poem suggests a narrative. I came away from the book imagining the lives of the women of Woodslawn Farm.  Not that these stories are necessarily taken from specific lives, but capturing moments that many of us have experienced.  I thought this poem might refer to a broken love affair, but Carol said she was  thinking of those times, possibly a death, when someone is now beyond our reach. It is amazing to me that so few lines can carry such impact.
 
Tanka is an ancient five line Japanese poem form that is newly popular in the U.S. Unlike the more familiar three line haiku which concentrates on the natural world, Carol explains that the 20th century tanka is “expanding its range to include every aspect of human experience and all facets of life.
 
The lightness      
Of wings carved by faraway fingers
    flying to me
          on the lilt of a Russian folksong,
                this bird of happiness
 

Trees Bleed Sweetness

Carol Purington has written  other books with a strong narrative thread. The Trees Bleed Sweetness captures the voice of a native American woman from her childhood to grandmotherhood. Several of those poems were set to music by Alice Parker and performed at a Mohawk Trail Concerts performance in 2012.
 
Gathering Peace is Carol’s memoir of her inner life, mostly lived in the room that was once a parlor. Those walls have not contained her mind or spirit or talents. The world comes to her through her friends and family and her work.  Her poems have flown out into the world, winning awards, and  winning her friends like tanka poet Margaret Chula.
 
Carol has also collaborated with Susan Todd to put together Morning Song a wonderful anthology of poems for new parents.  When I bought a copy the saleswoman looked at the cover graphic of a baby’s foot print and said her children were too old so the book wasn’t for her. How old, I asked. Two and four she replied. I said that there was plenty of time for her to realize she needed the chapters on Wisdom and Courage.
 
 Carol Purington’s new book Faces I Might Wear is now available at Boswell’s Books and The World Eye, along with her earlier works. Every book is beautifully produced and a work of art in its own right.
 
 

Another Look Back at Thanksgivings Past

            This year 2004, just after Thanksgiving, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary of living at End of the Road Farm. 

            Twenty-five years ago we emptied our apartment over a greengrocer and two doors down from a supermarket into a U-Haul truck; then my husband Henry took off in the truck and I took off in the car with our three teenage girls for an old farmhouse in Heath where the nearest groceries, at Peter’s General Store, were three miles away.

            It had been sunny shirtsleeve weather in New York City, but by the time we got to Greenfield it was dark, the temperature had plummeted, and the wind had picked up.  We were later than we had planned so we grabbed a bit of supper and then climbed the hill to Heath.

            The plumber we had arranged to meet us had given up so we entered a house with no central heat and no water. The temperature was 10 degrees. The wind was blowing from the north.  Henry amused us by showing how he could slip a pencil through the barn siding that covered the walls, through the broken plaster, through the lath and finally through the siding into the great outdoors. We shivered.

            But there was a truck to unload. Fortunately we were able to call upon two of the Lively boys who were neighbors to help. When the last box was stacked inside we sat by a roaring fire in the stone fireplace and drank cocoa with the boys. That night we began our life in Heath sleeping in front of the fire.

            We had certainly celebrated Thanksgiving before we left New York, especially thankful for the impending move from The Noisiest Apartment in the City, to a quiet hill in the country.  Two weeks after the move we gave thanks once again. We had collected stored possessions from my mother’s house in New Hampshire, running water was restored, we were sleeping in bedrooms and we had met our nearest neighbor, Mabel Vreeland, who was 85 and had been living on our road for the past 20 years with no near full-time neighbors.

            Knowing that we were as yet unemployed, Mabel gave us a couple of bushels of carrots and turnips from her organic garden. Her brother Victor brought us a load of firewood. They had a clear understanding of essential needs and without hesitation they gave what it was in their power to give.

            Over our quarter century in Heath we have had nearly daily opportunities to be thankful for such friends and neighbors as Mabel and Victor.

            Over the years most memories of Thanksgiving feasts have melted into each other, the meal staying essentially the same, but the color of the walls and the size of the makeshift tables, a kaleidoscope of color and form. The crowd changes, with spouses and children being added on a fairly regular basis for several years, and the loss of parents a noticeable void in the crowd.

            Still, I have to say our first Thanksgiving in Greenfield in 1971 was memorable for an ice storm that prevented me, a newly divorced woman, from taking my five children to Grandmother’s House where we could enjoy a familiar loved routine in a familiar place. Warned of the severity of the storm that was already approaching with sleet, I bought the last chicken at the supermarket to serve as our holiday bird. The children still speak of that Thanksgiving fondly. A reminder that it is not really abundance that we require. Just enough is plenty when shared with love and confidence.

            The two years we spent in Beijing, in 1989 and 1995, also provided memorable Thanksgivings. Living amid an international community at the Friendship Hotel it took the help of the chef at the Foreign Experts Dining Hall to produce a roast turkey, and negotiation and tight scheduling to arrange to use the little portable oven that circled among friends at the Hotel. At that long table that held Chinese specialties as well as the turkey the toasts came in a multiplicity of languages. We celebrated on the day of the American holiday and the reference to our history of Pilgrims and Wampanoags was obvious, but there is no culture, society or nationality that doesn’t have its own traditions of hardships survived and celebrations of gratitude.

            This year the family feast will take place at son Chris’ house. He and Michelle have finally completed the renovation on their house, the finishing touch a beautiful and efficient kitchen. This will be the first time they have fed such a crowd. Eighteen are expected, and Chris is busy devising a table made of two sheets of plywood. Many Thanksgiving hosts have given thanks for tablecloths!

            I think back to my younger self, the excitement and enthusiasm with which we took up our life in Heath, undaunted by those first days of cold and waterlessness. We laughed and told ourselves we were made of rugged stuff, strong peasant stock and up to all challenges of winter and rough weather.

            This year I think back over that quarter century and give thanks for the changing seasons, a progression that is ever new. I give thanks for the beauty and abundance of our plot of land, the pleasures of the Frog Pond and a house that has become ever more snug.

            But most of all I give thanks for the happy growth of our family, and the friends who have blessedly found their way into our lives          

This was originally published in The Recorder in 2004 – BTB – Before The Blog.

 Between the Rows     November 2004