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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Encino Lettuce – Tender Oakleaf

Encino lettuce

Encino lettuce

Encino lettuce is a tender green oakleaf. I always pay attention when a vendor like Rich Pascale of Shoestring Farm urges me to try something. I am really glad I took home a huge head of Encino.  The end of August is getting to be the end of the season for Encino, but now only the beginning of my desire to grow it, or at least eat it. I found seed at Seedway and as far as I can tell I can buy  1000 seeds for $6.92. That is a few too many seeds for me, but Rich will grow it again next year, and I will  be sure to visit  the Farmers Market in Greenfield frequently. This is a beautiful and flavorful lettuce. Big heads. It makes really good salads.

Salad made with Encino lettuce.

Salad made with Encino lettuce.

There is nothing like a salad fresh out of the garden. And if not my own garden, it is perfect from a market farmer’s garden. Thanks Rich.

August on Lake Champlain, Vermont

View from Mt. Philo Road

View from Mt. Philo Road

Late last week we drove up to Charlotte on Lake Champlain in Vermont. In 1939 my grandfather and Uncle Wally bought a 300 acre farm. Since then four generations have been attached to this piece of land, even though The Farm itself no longer exists. This is the view from Aunt Doris and Uncle Mike’s house. It was a rainy and foggy day when we arrived so you can’t quite see Lake Champlain, but you are looking down on land that Uncle Mike and his family farmed.

Charlotte Vermont public beach

Charlotte Vermont public beach

I took my husband on a little stroll down  Memory Lane. My father farmed with Uncle Wally for a couple of years so I have my own history with The Farm which is a little longer than that of other  cousins. This is the public beach where I finally earned my ‘Swimmer’ designation. I did not like diving then and I still don’t. I always get water up my nose.

The North End

The North End

The beach at the North End of The Farm remains a family gathering place. There is room for tenting, a pavillion for cooking and eating, and a dock.  Thank you cousins for making all these comforts for other cousins. You’ll notice the stony beach, rounded lake washed stone. I always bring a few of these stones home with me.

North End dock

North End dock

Cousins and friends make good use of the amenities.  And there are still tales of skinny dipping. Oh, how wicked we were at 12!

Walt's grapes

Walt’s grapes

There isn’t much farming going on here anymore, but Cousin Walt who worked for a local winery, and the vineyards of Shelburne Farms in his retirement,  planted a few vines of his own down at the North End. When we drove up the air was fragrant with the scent of ripening grapes.

Chicory blossoms

Chicory blossoms

I enjoyed all the chicory in bloom along the roadsides. I don’t know why there is so little here in Heath.

Esther and Algot

Esther and Algot

During an afternoon visit with cousins Jennie, Bernie and Peggy, we went through a family album that included photos of my grandparents who started everything rolling.

My own childhood memories are sometimes hazy but it is fun to compare stories with Walt who is my age, and who protected me on my first trips in the ‘doodle bug.’ The doodle bug was a the little van  that served as temporary school bus that took us to a two room school house. No safety regs in those days. There were two little benches in the van and by the time we picked up all the kids and got to school we were sitting on each other’s laps.  I attended that school in 1948-49, the last half of second grade and third grade. I’ve written about earlier visits here.  Living on The Farm, visiting The Farm over the years have left their mark on all of us, giving us an appreciation of the work that farmers do, and of the beauty of fields, woods and water that we all treasure.

Beans and Squash – Two of the Sisters

 

'Jade' bush beans

‘Jade’ bush beans

Beans are among the most common vegetable crops. Because they are so common, perhaps we don’t think about the great variety of beans that we can grow and enjoy. Beyond string beans we have shelly beans, long beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, soy beans, butter beans, and tepary beans. Within each of those bean families are dozens of varieties. There are green beans, yellow wax beans, purple podded beans and splotch podded beans with names like ‘Tongues of Fire.’ There are old heritage varieties like ‘Beurre de Rocquencourt,’ and new disease resistant beans like ‘Jade.’

My neighbors Lynn Perry and Rol Hesselbart have a beautiful garden that includes productive ‘Jade’ bush beans. They have been growing ‘Jade’ for several years. “When they were new Johnny’s Selected Seeds described them as a gourmet bean that was slender and tender. I’ve always found that to be true” Perry said.

The reason beans are so popular is because they are easy to grow and nearly everyone likes to eat beans – of one sort or another. Beans like a moderately rich soil with lots of organic matter and a pH between 6 and 7, slightly acidic to neutral. They need sun. If you are growing pole beans make sure they are sited so they do not shade other crops, although lettuces will welcome some summer shade.

'Jade' bush beans

‘Jade’ bush beans

Beans are a warm weather plant and are seeded directly in the soil which means the soil needs to be warm enough. Gardeners often worry about frost dates to determine when it is warm enough to plant tomatoes or other warm weather crops, but soil temperature plays a large part in germination. Beans germinate best in a soil temperature of 60 degrees or more. Soil thermometers are available from seed catalogs, and in many garden centers for less than about $15.

When I was looking through seed catalogs this spring I came across tepary beans for the first time. This is an ancient bean native to the American southwest and there is evidence that it was cultivated as long as 5,000 years ago. The beans are small, but they are extremely heat and drought tolerant.

Tepary beans do need water to germinate so in those days they were planted after a rain. Once they were established they did not need regular watering. The Native Seeds/SEARCH website offers 30 varieties of tepary beans in assorted colors from white to black, yellow to red, and speckled. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds also sells tepary seeds.

I am always saying that a walk down the garden path has many side paths into myth, literature, science and history. Tepary beans lead us into some of the ancient history of our own country.

If we are talking about beans of the southwest, we are led to a consideration of squash. The teaching of the Native American’s system of the Three Sisters is quite common in elementary schools – or maybe I am leaping to that conclusion because I live in western Massachusetts where many schools have gardens, and where the Hawlemont school has launched a whole new agricultural curriculum.

The Three Sisters is a system where corn is planted first and when the corn has begun to grow, pole beans are planted around the corn so that they can climb the stalk as it grows. At the same time squash seeds are also planted. The squash foliage provides a weed surpressing living mulch that also helps to conserve moisture.

Recently I have been having trouble with rabbits again. It just occurred to me – a little late for this season – that I could institute a Two Sisters program. The rabbits have been eating my beans when they are just beginning to grow. They don’t actually kill the plants, but they put them behind. Rabbits are not supposed to like rough hairy foliage, like that of squash.  I am wondering if I could plant squash around my pole beans and discourage some of those wicked bunnies.  I can see that it would depend on how quickly the squash get going, and how hairy the young foliage is. Still, it is an experiment for next year.

I planted summer Yellow Crookneck squash, Black Raven zucchini and Lakota winter squash in their own beds. Like beans, squash likes rich soil with a pH of about 6. Some say it takes a bushel of manure for each squash hill.  I am lucky that I have lots of compost made with chicken manure.

Still, I have to say that neither my beans nor my squash are rampantly growing this year. I do not think the problem is the quality of my soil. I think the problem is the very cool summer we are having up here in at the end of the road. Beans and squash like hot summers.

When I visited the Perry/Hesselbart garden I had to take off my sweat shirt. The sun came out and it was suddenly warm. I couldn’t believe how luxuriant their bean plants were. I complained to them about the rabbits in our garden and the chilly days and nights. They reminded me that they live in South Heath and I live in North Heath. I am about 300 feet higher than they are. Microclimates do make a difference!

Perry and Hesselbart do have a garden with supersoil, but my soil is good (I had it tested) so I will accept their excuse – I mean, their explanation for the slow growth of my squash and beans. Besides, they have an energetic Labradoodle.  That means no rabbits.

Between the Rows   August 2, 2014

Henryi and Henry

Lilium henryi

Lilium henryi

I haven’t made too much progress with my Henry garden, but Lilium henryi blooms in the Herb Bed in front of the house where I can see it morning, noon and night. I love the recurved petals, the golden hue and the extravagant filaments and anthers.

White Henryi lily

White Henryi lily

So elegant. Both these lilies came from Old House Gardens and have done beautifully for several years now.  Only the lilies in the Herb Bed bloom because the deer get to the lilies in the Lawn Beds just before they bloom. One mother deer brought her twin fawns and showed them just how delicious a Casa Blanca bud could be. Very nutritious I am  sure.

Other lilies from Old House Gardens that get to bloom are  the L. martagon ‘Album’ with dainty white flowers, and Black Beauty which go so beautifully with my bee balm.

Mary Lyon Church Garden Tour – July 19, 2014

Waterlily Pond and Bog Garden

Waterlily Pond and Bog Garden

Garden tour season continues! The MaryLyonChurch garden tour is scheduled for Saturday, July 19 from 10 am to 4 pm and includes seven gardens in Buckland and two gardens in West Hawley.

Shirley Scott and Joe Giard

Shirley Scott and Joe Giard

I had the good fortune to visit Shirley Scott and Joe Giard’s garden ahead of time. This has one of the most challenging sites I have ever seen for a garden. The main challenge of her site has been the very steep slope to the left of the house. This grassy slope with its interruptions of ledge has become the SlopeGarden with a series of beds of strong growing plants like daylilies, tall New England asters and miscanthus grasses. Stairs have been cut into the hill, but visitors will probably prefer to begin by strolling through the gardens on the shady side of the house.

Scott says the garden has fulfilled her childhood dream of having waterlilies, and her vision of a garden filled with wildlife.

That wildlife needed a very close look when she was giving me a tour of the Welcoming Bed at the entry to the property. This bed is filled with chrysanthemums, tiger lilies, foxglove, yellow loosestrife (not the invasive purple variety) iris, black eyed susans, peonies and sedums. There is also milkweed, blooming at this time of the year and providing nectar for many butterflies that were dancing through the garden.

At one point we stopped because we saw some filmy fibers on one of the tall sedum plants. A very close look showed that this film enclosed hundreds of very tiny baby spiders. A closer look showed us that a large spider was on a nearby leaf. Could it have been the mama?  We’ll never know, but it was a very exciting moment when we could watch a certain kind of wild life being lived in the garden.

Of course, Scott explained they have larger wild life enjoying the garden, all manner of birds, bears, bobcats, coyotes and turtles.

If you walk first through the shade gardens you’ll come to the newest of Scott’s three water gardens, a kind of shallow stepped fountain on a gentle slope. This area is where Scott places her bird feeders. The large trees provide shelter for the birds, and the sound of water attracts them. She explained the water feature is still being refined, and she reminded me that the garden is all a work in progress. This is a concept that she does not need to explain to any experienced gardener.

In back of the house and outbuildings is Giard’s fenced vegetable garden where he has made unique use of a TV antenna and automobile tires. It always pays to look around the house and garage before you go out and buy new garden equipment.

Waterlily pond closeup

Waterlily pond closeup

The water gardens are one of the most inspiring aspects of this garden, each one different. Soon you come to the first one she designed and made by herself. This small pool is surrounded by stones that can accommodate a small metal table and chairs.  Here she can enjoy the sound of the water, and a view of her waterlilies. “When it was first installed I sat there and thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.

It is also from this spot at the bottom of the SlopeGarden that you can look into the faces of all those blooming sun lovers.

The second water garden is much larger and more ambitious with beautiful stone work. Giard brought all the Goshen stone down the slope to a sunny flat site. ChapleyGardens in Deerfield installed this garden with a recirculation pump and filtration system. In addition to the musical waterfall, and more waterlilies, there is an adjoining bog garden, and a collection of daylilies which will be in full bloom at the time of the tour.

This large garden is artfully arranged so that different views can be admired from various vantage points. Perhaps the most delightful view is from the small shaded gazebo at the top of the slope which gives a panoramic view of the Welcoming Garden, the Slope Garden beds and the large Water Garden.

I love visiting other gardens because I love seeing the ways a gardener’s dreams take form. Scott is an “Ashfield girl” and she has brought favorite plants from her mother, grandmother and friends into the garden where her childhood dream of a waterlily pond has become a reality. This is a garden of memory and dreams.

Scott’s garden is just one of the beautiful gardens on the tour which include a secret garden, a labyrinth, a farm, and gardens around historic buildings in Buckland. A farm, and a multi-faceted array of perennial gardens are located in West Hawley. The tour begins at 10 am and ends at 4 pm. Tickets are available by calling Cyndie Stetson at 339-4231 or Lisa Turner at 339-4319. Tickets will also be on sale at the MaryLyonChurch on the morning of July 19. Tickets are $10 and there will be a luncheon served at the MaryLyonChurch for an additional $10. Reservations should be made ahead of time for the lunch. All profits benefit the Church.

Between the Rows   July 12, 2014

 

We Have a Winner for Hellstrip Gardening

We have a winner!  A copy of Hellstrip Gardening: Create a paradise between the sidewalk and the curb by Evelyn J. Hadden will be sent to Rose of Rose’s Prairie Garden. Congratulations, Rose!

Hellstrip Gardening by Evelyn Hadden – Giveaway

Evelyn J. Hadden helped us get rid of  our lawns with her inspiring book Beautiful No Mow Yards, and now she has found a new place for us to plant a garden – the hellstrip – that area between the street and the sidewalk.

Hellstrip Gardening

Hellstrip Gardening

I have just started reading Hellstrip Gardening: Create a paradise between the sidewalk  and the  curb. I found the title slightly misleading in that I found  that Hadden’s topic opened up  considerably when she talked about ‘curbside planting’ which includes the other side of  the sidewalk as well, where your lawn, I mean your garden, begins in your front yard.

When I joined a group of garden bloggers in Buffalo, NY, in 2010 our tour took us through a beautiful neighborhood in which a number of people had planted their hellstrip with bright flowers and interesting grasses. This was a whole new concept to me.

Since then I have noticed other hellstrip gardens locally in Greenfield in Turner’s FAlls. Tom Sullivan’s hellstrip garden is devoted to luring pollinators to his gardens, but others are just turning that usually ratty grass strip into something to be enjoyed and admired. Talk about curb appeal.

Hadden gives you ideas for planting this very special kind of garden so it will need no watering and very little maintenance. And lest you think she has not considered the challenges of gardening on the hellstrip she has devoted a whole chapter to SITUATIONS which include covenants, vehicles, wildlife, and all things to consider about safety as well as beauty.

I haven’t finished reading the book but you can have it in your hands to start on if you leave a comment by July 6. On July 7 I will announce the winner of this great book. Makes me wish I had a hellstrip.  See what the Garden Ranters had to say. They were in Buffalo for the tour too.  But come back here and leave a comment.

 

Mother Nature Whispered New Life Into Our Wisteria

 

Wisteria June 25, 2014

Wisteria June 25, 2014

Mother Nature whispered new life into our wisteria.

wisteria

Wisteria May 21, 2014

By May 21, when the wisteria should have been in bloom, I gave up and took this photo, a closeup, hoping I could see some sign of life. My conclusion? No life. I mourned the shade I had been looking forward  to. Still, I kept watering it. Wisteria is a very thirsty plant. No other incentives. In just over a month life has been restored. The piazza and the living room have  shade which is still  increasing. I will continue to water.

I’m almost wordless this Wednesday, but for more Wordlessness click here.

Dear Friend and Gardener – June 8, 2014

First view of the Potager

First view of the Potager

Dear Friend and Gardener – I am going to have to go back a bit  to give you  the history of the  60 x 40 fenced Potager to explain why my main crop appears to be woodchips. Originally this garden began as a 12 x 12 foot veggie garden tilled and planted before I had my hip operation in 2003 and had to limit (try to limit) my garden activities. After my successful hip replacement I added a red raspberry patch right next to the veggies. Then when there was so much excitement about lasagna gardening and sheet composting I added another ten foot of vegetables at the end of  the raspberry patch.

My raspberry patch

My three row raspberry patch

This garden was essentially in the middle of a field and deer did come and take lunches here. A fence was needed. Potagers were all the rage with their combination of veggies, flowers and herbs. Well, I decided the time had come to fence an area that would protect all those things. We made a substantial investment in poles and wire, not to mention labor by my husband who insisted he was building nothing less than a stalag. A very different view of  the space than mine.  In this new space I added new veggie beds, scarlet bee balm, agastache, zinnias and a couple of flowers  that couldn’t find a place in the ornamental beds. I also added two blueberry bushes and a row of ten black raspberry plants, a cold frame made from a damaged pyramidal skylight and compost bins and pile.  You must admit I really really needed a lot of  room. I also needed room simple to maneuver because even after my hip replacement I am not as agile as I was. And that brings us to the  woodchips on top of lots and lots of cardboard to make paths. The cardboard comes from our Transfer Station and the woodchips from roadside clearing operations by the town. Rough chips, but functional and free.

This spring I confessed that the blueberries were not doing well, and that the black raspberries had to come out – and that was a job. Black raspberries are incredibly thorny and need more pruning than red raspberries, but most importantly they needed 2 inches of rain a week to produce an edible crop. Neither the clouds nor our well gave us this generous amount of water, so after a three year trial we ripped them out. No point in maintaining a space eating  crop when there was no harvest. Next year this space may be a winter squash patch but that project will have to wait until I finish digging up the roots. In the meantime I have planted two hills of Botanical Interests “Lakota”, a heritage winter squash in the space where I used to have a compost pile. The squash should cover an extensive area of chips.

The original garden space

The original garden space

I am beginning to think the paths are encroaching on the veggie beds, but I can pull them back. The cardboard and chips (which do need renewing every spring) make a very comfortable habitat for the worms. At this season the veggies are not easy to see, but there are bean poles, newly planted, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, as well as 50 red onions, summer squash and 2 tomatoes; The foliage in  the left corner is a bed of garlic with lettuces and beets on the other side of the bed. Cilantro volunteers coming up here and there.

Cippolinis and me

Cippolinis and me

There I am weeding a bed of cippolini onions, all the rage in our region. This is at the foot of the raspberry patch. On the other side of this path is a bed of peas and carrots. Too small to be photo worthy yet.

I may have confused you with all  the quadrants of the garden, but it lets you see the scope of my ambitions and foolishness. This is a one-woman garden.

I thank Dee Nash of  Red Dirt Ramblings  for hosting Dear Friend and Gardener, a virtual garden club where we can share news of our edible gardens. I hope it is mostly good news.

Talking About Plants – On the road

Therese Bugnet

Therese Bugnet – Rugosa

I’m a person who enjoys talking about plants anytime, but sometimes I do it officially. Last weekend I spoke about Sustainable Roses at the little e. I was able to explain that you could grow roses without poisons and fungicides. Hybridizers have created many rugosas that are just naturally sustainable. Texas A&M declared a whole group of roses to be sustainable and calls them Earth Kind. Look for that label when you go rose shopping. I’ll be writing more about sustainable roses as the season progresses. If you can’t wait check out the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. This is possibly the largest nearly organic rose garden in the country.

Carefree Beauty is not only a hardy Griffith Buck hybrid, it is Earth Kind

Carefree Beauty is not only a hardy Griffith Buck hybrid, it is Earth Kind

This Sunday, May 4th I will be attending the Art in Bloom exhibit at the Fitchburg Art Museum to talk about our famous Bridge of Flowers. I am looking forward to showing off the Bridge plantings through the season and inviting everyone to visit – maybe even come on the morning of Saturday, May 17 to buy a plant, a souvenir of their visit, at The Bridge of Flowers Annual Plant Sale. There will be literally thousands of plants – perennials and annuals and wildflowers – as well as a delightful array of tools, and garden related art and books. Sale opens promptly at 9 am.  I hope to see you there.

Tulips

Tulips

These unusual tulips are blooming right now on the Bridge of Flowers. I love talking about plants, here, there, and anywhere.