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Jane Markoski’s Garden

“I guess you can see I like water,” Jane Markoski said as she gave me a tour through her gardens. There was a birdbath in the shady entry garden, a trickling fountain as you turned the corner of the house, a bubbling faux millstone fountain at the corner of the barn, a lotus tub in the middle of a mixed shrub and perennial border, a small fish pond with a waterfall, and a larger fish pond with a little waterfall.

The piece de resistance, however, is the 40 by 18 foot lotus pond where dozens of lotuses were about to start blooming.

The lotus pond was the attraction for me as it will be for many of those who attend the Greenfield Garden Club Tour today, July 11. Tickets ($12) will be on sale at the Garden Club’s Trap Plain garden at the corner of Federal and Silver Streets between 9 am and 1 pm. The tour will end at 4 pm.

Two years ago I first heard about Markoski’s lotus pond. I couldn’t believe that they would survive in our climate, but they continue to thrive and multiply right there in Greenfield.

We first saw lotus growing during our years in Beijing. Unlike waterlilies lotus plants send their huge leaves high above the water on strong stems. In Asia the lotus is an iconic plant, symbolizing the purity that can come from the mud. We enjoyed seeing lotuses blooming in many of the parks and museum gardens. Even when not in bloom the enormous leaves are a stunning sight, held so sturdily above the water as they are.

Markoski grew her first lotuses in large tubs that were about 44 inches across. She had such success and enjoyed them so much that she felt confident enough to try a large pond. They excavated to a depth of about two feet and lined the pond. Then they refilled that space with 18 inches of soil and good compost. The pond water is only about six inches deep. “It really is more of a bog,” Markoski said.

Most of the lotus plants we saw in China were pink, but there are several varieties, available at Chapley’s in Deerfield where Markoski gets hers. Pekinese Rubra is red, Angel Wings is smaller and white. Mrs. Perry D. Slocum is a double lotus with petals that are a different color over the three days of bloom, first pink, then peach, then yellow. Each flower lasts about three days, closing in the afternoon the first two days and then remaining open and finally falling apart.

Markoski said that it is vital not to damage the growing tip from the roots. It is that tip that will produce new plants. That is why a fairly large tub is required if a lotus is to grow in a container.

Of course there are many other treats in the Markoski garden where there is “a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I don’t have a formal garden,” she said.

There is a bench for resting in the shade of a weeping cherry. The view from there of the daylilies, Asiatic lilies, astilbe and a dozen other perennials is breathtaking.

In shady parts of the garden Markoski has a varied collection of hostas, big ones, little ones, green and variegated ones. The effect is very cool and soothing. A lesson for all of us.

I was particularly taken with the dry rocky stream bed that even has a little arching bridge. The stream bed does handle run-off, but Markoski likes it just for the effect. So do I.

The advice she has for new gardeners is to prepare the soil. “If your soil isn’t good, you are always going to have problems. Good soil equals a good garden. Even if you put six inches of good loam on three feet of sand you’ll never be able to keep the garden watered.

She said she rarely waters her own garden, and admits she started with that good valley soil, but ads compost annually.

The Markoski garden, where refreshments will be available, is just one of 8 gardens on the self-guided tour which will run from 9 am to 4 pm. There will also be a daylily sale at the Glenbrook Gardens site. All proceeds from the tour go to fund the Greenfield Garden Club’s civic and local school projects.

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For many of us the harvest is starting to come in. I’ve gone through one whole bed of lettuce, now replanted which some new basil seedlings I got at the Farmer’s Market. Most of my own basil died with all the cold and wet. I think I’ll be harvesting broccoli in the next few days and I’ll be donating a couple of heads to the Center for Self Reliance in Greenfield.

The Center is one of several food pantries that is participating in the Plant a Row program, accepting any extra produce that gardeners might have. We all know that sometimes the harvest comes in so thick and fast that we can’t process it all. It’s just too much all at the same time. I have been assured that no amount is too little for the pantries and food sites to accept.

If you have extra produce, or have planted a row specifically to donate, you can find a list of food pantries and their hours on the website, www.plantarowwmass.blogspot.com. This is a great opportunity to do our bit to ameliorate the effects of these difficult economic times.

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