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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

View from the Bedroom Window – October 2014

First hard frost - October 6, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window – First hard frost – October 6, 2014

The view from the bedroom window shows that I have been working out in the Lawn Beds, and not picking up after myself, and the arrival of the first hard frost.

View from the Bedroom Window 10-13, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window 10-13, 2014

The weather warmed up but there was another lighter frost on October 13. The gingko trees are slowly turning gold, color has nearly all left the rest of the distant landscape.

View from the Bedroom Window October 28, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window October 28, 2014

Since the 13th we have had about 7 inches of rain in three rainfalls. There has been time in between to cut back and divide perennials and and put the garden to bed. It has been wet and cold, but the gingkos are golden.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont

Fletcher Free Library

Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, Vermont

While visiting cousins in Vermont I made a stop at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont. As a retired librarian  I always stop in to visit libraries along the way. The Fletcher Free Library was founded in 1873 by Mrs. Mary L. Fletcher and her daughter, beginning with $20,000. Half was to be spent on books and half for an endowment. What a wise woman Mrs. Fletcher was to know that a library would need that ongoing support. Originally the library was housed in the City Hall. By 1901 it was outgrowing it space, but that year Andrew Carnegie gave $50,000 and a new library was built and opened in 1904.

Fletcher Free Library

Fletcher Free Library

Of course time does not stand still for any building. The Carnegie building needed work – and saving by the community. In 1974 it was added to the register of Historic Places, and necessary restoration work was made to the foundation and building. But time continues to march on. A new addition was dedicated in 1981.

Fletcher Free Library

Fletcher Free Library

The new addition is very beautiful with three stories full of books, CDs DVDs, magazines, audio books, museum passes, and garden tools! All can be checked out. Or you can work on the computers in  this serene space.

Fletcher Free Library, Children's Room

Fletcher Free Library, Children’s Room

The original Carnegie building now houses the Children’s Room. In addition there is a Local History room and collection. I like the mermaid flying over the circulation desk. I think it is an apt symbol for the invitation to come and swim in the worlds of story, history, philosophy and with instruction how to do almost anything.

Fletcher Free Library book van

Fletcher Free Library book van

The library even has a cool van to bring books and programs to children where they are.

I enjoyed visiting the Fletcher Free Library very much, and could have settled down with a good book for the afternoon, but time marches on. Cousins were waiting.  Besides, I knew I could visit my own Heath Free Public Library when I got home. In fact, I knew Interlibrary Loan books were waiting for me.

Honey Badger Garden Gloves – with Claws?

Honey Badger Garden Gloves

Honey Badger Garden Gloves

Recently I was sent a pair of Honey Badger Garden Gloves to try out. These gloves are made by a small company in Atlanta, Georgia. Before they sent them they asked if I preferred to have the ‘claws’ on the right hand or the left hand. I chose to have them on the right hand, my dominant hand.

This offer came fairly late in the season but I still had a whole long peony bed to clean out. I had cut back most of the peonies and had launched myself into getting out all the weeds hidden by the peony foliage.

Honey Badger Garden Glove

Honey Badger Garden Glove

Before I got my hands into the soil, I did scratch around with my Korean hand hoe to loosen up the soil – and the weeds. Then I began digging around the weeds with my claws so that I could  pull them out with the roots intact.

Honey Badger Garden Glove

Honey Badger Garden Glove

Once I get my claws  around the root I  can pull up the whole weed  clump. I am a gardener who spends a lot of time on her knees, and I use my hands a lot. It was a big day for me when I finally realized I really could use gloves efficiently and stop walking around with dirty, broken nails. The construction of the glove protects the fingertips and nails inside the claw tip. You get some leverage, and a lot of protection. Even without the claw, the gloves are made of slightly heavier material  than I am used to, but they are flexible and rated for 200 hours of wear.  I have not used them for that long yet. I do know that the first place my gloves ware out is at the finger tip. The claws are made of ABS plastic – just like LEGOs.

These gloves  are available online and cost $24.95 for claws on one hand, but you can request claws on both hands for $29.95. Plus shipping. The claws also come in different colors, gray like mine, gray & blue, green, or green &  blue.

 

UMass Extension Garden Calendar for 2015 Available

UMass Garden Calendar 2015

UMass Garden Calendar 2015

The UMass Extension Garden Calendar for 2015 is now available. This excellent, and beautiful, calendar contains excellent information about garden chores throughout the year. Reminders of when to plant, when to mulch, when to prune, when to fertilize and much more. On some days you will get information about which plants attract pollinators, definitions of words like ‘layering,” and transplanting advice.

I appreciate the fact that the low gloss paper takes my own notes very easily.

The opening pages this year give full information about how and when to fertilize  flowering plants, what kinds of fertilizers are available – and how you should get a soil test to properly determine what fertilizers your plants really need.

UMass Extension Garden calendar

UMass Extension Garden calendar for 2015.

In addition to all this good advice, there is a gorgeous photograph of a seasonal plant for every month. I was particularly taken with the Gold Heart Bleeding Heart, which I happen to know lights up a shady garden spot with its bright golden foliage and pink blossoms.

To order send $12 payable to UMass, to Garden Calendar, c/o Five Maples, 78 River Road South, Putney, VT 05346. If you order before November 1 Shipping is Free.  After November 1 add $3.50 for the first calendar and $2.00 for each additional calendar. Think of all the gardeners in your life you could make happy with this beautiful and useful calendar.

View From the Bedroom Window – September 2014

View from the bedroom window September 2, 2014

View from the bedroom window September 2, 2014

August was relatively cool this year, so it should have been no surprise that on September 2 it was 80 degrees and humid. The roofers came to put on a new roof – and were slowed down by a shower in the middle of the afternoon.

September 21, 2014

September 21, 201As

As the month progressed it became cool again. There was two inches of torrential rain on September 6 – and the new roof is not leaking! Our granddaughter Tricia’s wedding was held at Look Park in Northampton on Friday, September 12. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm. Then cooler weather again with a light frost on September 18. Some plants were nipped, but no serious damage. There does not appear to be much change, but the phlox is nearly gone by and you can see the green seeping out of the foliage in  the woodlands.

September 29, 2014

September 29, 2014

Fewer flowers are blooming in the Lawn Beds, but color is rising all around us in the woods.

Berries for the Birds

High Bush Cranberries

Berries for the Birds – High Bush cranberries

Many of us plant berry bushes, but do you specifically plant berries for the birds? Feeding the birds is a enjoyable activity, but because I have always had cats I have planted high bush cranberries, holly, and cotoneaster instead of putting up bird feeders. However, my first reason for planting these shrubs that produce autumnal berries is because they are beautiful. In addition to the plants I have deliberately put in my landscape I am lucky to have elderberries and grapes already in place.

In the fall many birds are migrating. When we had Stu Watson from the Audubon Society visit our woods and fields to help us make them more bird friendly, he told us that 70 to 90 bird species breed and nest in our area. Many other bird species pass through in the spring and in the fall. Audubon wants to keep common birds common, and providing, food, shelter and water will help do that. I realized there was a very good reason to plant berries for the birds.

I like thinking that our land provides safe and supportive space for birds, even if their needs were not uppermost in my mind when I did my first plantings.

One of the first ornamental shrubs I planted was the highbush cranberry, Viburnam trilobum. I was not thinking of the pretty berries it produces in particular, but only of the flat lacey spring flowers made up of fertile and sterile flowerets. That shrub has now reached a height of about 12 feet or more, and a pretty considerable spread.  Right now it is laden with clusters of beautiful red berries. They are not cranberries at all, but they are edible though my husband might ask me if they are palatable. We don’t actually have any interest in eating them ourselves. They are very sour, but the birds like them especially in the spring when protein rich tree pollen is available as a side dish to help metabolize the berries.

My highbush cranberry also supports a wild Concord grapevine. This vine was here when we bought our house and we hack it back when we have time, but we will never conquer it. Still, these grapes are another source of food. People who are growing grapes for their own consumption have to find ways to protect them from the birds.

The mountain ash, Sorbus americana is native to the United States and is a popular landscape tree. It can reach a height of 30 feet. It produces white flowers in the spring and bears brilliant red-orange berries in the fall. It also has good fall color with foliage turning shades of gold, orange, and even a dark red/maroon. The berries attract thrushes and waxwings.

Another tree that is said to attract cardinals, finches, robins, blue jays, and waxwings in particular is the mulberry. Mulberries are also edible and many people eat them out of hand or make jam. The birds just gobble them up. The one downside to mulberries is that the juice can really stain, which means that they should not be planted near walkways or anywhere people might congregate. No tea parties under the mulberry.

Mulberries have also been called ‘protector trees’ because birds like the berries so much that they gorge themselves on the mulberries and leave cherries and other crops alone. The native red mulberries, Morus rubra, are hardier than the black variety.

Callicarpa berries

Callicarpa dichotomy or Beautyberry

One of the most showstopping shrubs is Callicarpa dichotoma, or beautyberry. This is a small shrub that will grow between two and four feet with about an equal spread. There are small pink flowers in the summer, but in the fall it produces clusters of berries in the most amazing shade of purple. When I first saw this shrub growing on the Bridge of Flowers I thought they must be artificial. The birds have no such thoughts and find them delicious.

Beautyberry is deciduous and hardy to zone 5. It likes full sun but can tolerate part shade. I cannot grow this in Heath, and I think even if I lived in Greenfield I might find a fairly sheltered spot for it. It is a carefree plant with no serious diseases.

I don’t know if I was the last person to know how to pronounce cotoneaster (co-toe-knee-aster NOT cotton-easter) but even before I could pronounce it I knew it was a good groundcover. While I was learning how to pronounce it I also learned that I had one variety (name lost) that produced coral-red flowers in the spring looking very much like ornamental quince flowers. I also learned that birds love the red berries that appear in the fall.

Cotoneaster berries

Cotoneaster

I planted two different cotoneasters too near each other. That is what happens when you are too eager to cover ground. They now grow into each other which fortunately is not unattractive. One hugs the ground and one is a bit more mounding. Both have tiny lustrous dark green leaves. They are undemanding, but in my garden they did take a couple of years to really start spreading. I may be showing my impatience again.

Cotoneasters can grow in full sun or part shade. It is important that the soil be well drained. Established plants can tolerate drought. Happily for me, neither deer nor rabbits show any interest, allowing the birds to make full use of the little red autumn berries.

I also planted Blue Prince and Blue Princess holly bushes. Hollies need male and female plants to fruit. It is not yet Christmas but my Blue Princess is having a productive year. Lots of beautiful berries. The birds like them, but they will leave some for my holiday decorations.

Blue Princess Holly berries

BluePrincess Holly

Between the Rows  October 4, 2014

Two Parks – Many Adventures

Tricia and Brian's wedding ceremony

Tricia and Brian’s wedding ceremony

Two parks played an important part in our life recently. Last week our granddaughter Tricia married her high school sweetheart, Brian. The ceremony was held in the beautiful and pastoral Look Park in Northampton at the Theater of Pines. It was a happy moment for all the extended family and there are lots of us on both sides.

9-12-14 Tricia, Brian and familyThe bride and groom posed with Granny and the Major,  and Aunts Kate and Betsy, her mother our daughter Diane, and Uncles Chris and Philip. Pride and joy all around.

Moon Jellyfish

Moon Jellyfish

After the wedding we were off to Norwalk to visit with friends who took us to the Maritime Aquarium where there was this eerie column of Moon jellyfish. Going through the aquarium was very like wandering through a mysterious garden  - there were all manner of silent creatures swimming through amazing landscapes. It was amazing to think that all the marine life in the aquarium was local; all the creatures were found in Long Island Sound.

Bryant Park, NYC

Bryant Park, NYC

We also made a trip to New York City and strolled through Bryant Park. This park, renovated in the 1980s has a very different vibe from the violent reputation it had in the 1970s when we lived in NY, and from the pastoral Look Park. The renovation of this urban park, and several other NY parks has changed the tone of their neighborhoods, and even the economics. Buildings that look down on this lovely park with its little eateries, a carousel AND a Reading Room (the park is built over the stacks of the main NY Library) now command higher rents.

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station

But finally it was time to leave New York, and Norwalk and return home. I love Grand Central Station. Such a beautiful building, and so much energy. And as the old radio show used to say “Grand Central Station! Crossroads of a million lives.” Still true.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

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