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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Hellstrip – or Curbside Garden

Carload of plants
Carload of plants including divisions from Heath Garden to Greenfield

Now that I have planted Greenfield hellstrip I can make the official announcement: we are the proud owners of a small house with a small yard in Greenfield. The house has garden space on the south side and a rectangular back yard, but there is only a small front yard plus a hellstrip, which a polite person might call a curbside garden. Once it is planted.

The house does come with a few small plantings of lovely perennials, but essentially we are being given a blank slate to design a whole new garden. Where to begin?

I don’t know about you, but when I am in a new space, even a temporary motel room on vacation, I have the need to mark my space. The result in a motel room can be pretty messy, but the result in a new house is achieved differently. For example, the living room and dining room in the new house were respectively bright yellow and sage-y green. Perfectly fine colors. Was I happy? No.

So to mark my space I enlisted a young friend to help me paint those two rooms. Eva painted the living room a slightly different shade of sage-y green, very similar to our Heath living room, while I painted the dining room a glowing peach color. When I look into that room I feel like the sun is shining even when it is not. I have marked my space and the house begins to feel like home.

The yard is small compared to the cultivated landscape around the Heath house, but it is still too large to handle without a lot of thought and lots of work. I needed a small space to help me mark this landscape as my own. The hellstrip was the answer.

Hellstrip begins
Hellstrip begins

Here in the countryside we don’t have hellstrips, but they are very common in urban areas. The area between the roadway and the sidewalk often officially belongs to the town. Trees on the hellstrip are usually the town responsibility. It is unrealistic to think that a town administration can care for all these spaces and most of them remain grass, mowed by the homeowner.

Over the past few years, however, I have noticed that some home owners have taken ownership of the hellstrips and turned them into curbside gardens. Some of them have tough low groundcovers with a few flowers, and some have riotous displays. Last summer Timber Press sent me a new book to review, Hellstrip Gardening: Create a paradise between the sidewalk and the curb. This is a comprehensive book that includes inspiring gardens in different climes, how to handle difficult situations from road maintenance to laws and covenants, how to choose plants and reduce your labor, as well as a list of “curbside worthy plants.”

I turned to this book for a refresher course and set to work. To say I started with a plan would be inaccurate, but I am happy with what I have done so far.

My hellstrip was all grass. I asked my husband to zip it down to the soil with a weed wacker. Then we took turns digging out the sod. We did this by stages, and of course, I neglected to take a before photo before we began. However, I am sure you all know what a grassy hellstrip looks like.

I dug up the first three foot section at both ends of the hellstrip, dug in some good compost and planted white astilbes and Stella d’Oro daylilies dug up from the front yard. Since these plants were dug, and replanted within minutes they suffered very little shock and I do not think I have lost any bloom.

Hellstrip
Hellstrip planting continues on both ends

My husband looked at these two plantings and reminded me that they shouldn’t be too symmetrical. He knows me so well. When I dug the next section I planted clumps of a chrysanthemum and bee balm from Heath as well as the annual Salvia Hot Lips when has already brought a little color to the strip.

More digging, removing sod and incorporating compost before more planting. This time I added daylilies, yarrow and cone flowers from Heath, more astilbe and an aster from the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale.

I am not quite done planting. I need to pick up some new daylilies from the local Silver Garden Daylilies, and see what else I can bring from my own garden to finish. Please notice that many of these plants will support the pollinator population with their nectar and pollen. All will be cut down in the fall. Any plowed snow that is pushed on them will do no harm.

Hellstrip
Hellstrip – almost done

My new curbside garden has two sections. The third section is an extension of the walkway from the side walk to the porch steps. That will provide a path for the passenger from a car parking right in front of the house. I will have to think of a way to keep it weed free. Peastone?  Wood chips? Big paving stone? That will require more thought.

So here we are, just a month into our new ownership and I feel I have marked our space. In the past when I have moved I have felt that if I had a few pots and pans and a box of books easily accessible I would feel comfortable and able to operate. This move has required more. Pots and pans, and boxes of books are already in place. Two rooms are painted with my own chosen colors.

Now the bit of (almost) finished garden in front of the house marks my outside space and makes me comfortable, but it also tells my neighbors, who we are slowly meeting, something about us and one of the ways we want to become a part of the neighborhood.

Keep watching for more developments as we slowly make a new garden.

Between the Rows   June 20, 2015

Annual Rose Viewing – June 2015

Rachel Rose

The Rachel Rose

This year the Annual Rose Viewing will be the Last Rose Viewing – at the End of Knott Road in Heath. The Rachel Rose, named for one of Heath’s grand dames, will be holding court with other notables like The Queen of Denmark and Madame Plantier.

Mount Blanc Rugosa
Mount Blanc rugosa

The rugosas are among the first roses to bloom in June. Fragrant Mount Blanc is one of my favorites.

Thomas Affleck Rose
Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck does not have the promised fragrance (at least not in my garden) but he does bloom energetically early and late in the season.

The Rose Viewing is always the last Sunday in June because these hardy and old fashioned roses bloom for such a short season, and the end of June is when I can count on most of them to be strutting their stuff.  This year that is June 28 from 1-4 pm. Cookies and lemonade will be served. The weatherman is predicting rain, but so far it has never rained on the Rose Viewing. We’ll see.

Garden Club of Amherst celebrates 100 years!

Garden Club of Amherst

Garden Club of Amherst Garden Tour

The Amherst Historical Society is helping the Garden Club of Amherst celebrate their 100th anniversary – in its own way. The Amherst Historical Society will hold its Annual Garden Tour June 27 from 10:00-4:00.  Tickets are available at A.J. Hastings, Andrews Greenhouse, Amherst Books and Hadley Garden Center.  For more information click here.

100 YEARS!  In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the Garden Club of Amherst is holding a lecture by Roger Swain, the former host of PBS Victory Garden, Sunday June 28, 2:00 p.m. at the Yiddish Book Center with a reception to follow.  Tickets are $5.00 and can be purchased at A.J. Hastings, Andrew’s Greenhouse, Bay State Perennial Farm, and Hadley Garden Center. Come hear “the man with the red suspenders”!

Franklin Land Trust Garden Tour – June 27

Ruah Donnelly

Ruah Donnelly

Ruah Donnelly’s house overlooks a wooded ravine, a tapestry of shades of green and shifting light. There is not a flower in sight. Donnelly says that over her years as a gardener she has experienced a growing struggle between wanting art in the garden and wanting to conserve the landscape. While she thinks conservation is winning the battle, any visitor to this garden and landscape will see no struggle, only beauty.

Donnelly’s garden is only one of the unique private gardens, and farms, on the Franklin Land Trust Garden Tour that is open to visitors on Saturday, June 27 from 10 am – 4 pm.

For the past 15 years Donnelly has been gardening on what is considered the site of the oldest farm in Conway. She loves the New England landscape where she has spent most of her life, and has dedicated great energy to its beauty by serving on the boards of TowerHillBotanical Garden, the New England Wildflower Society and the Franklin Land Trust. When she began planning the Conway landscape she said, “I wanted to figure this out. I didn’t want it to look like New Jersey. I wanted to let nature have something to say, without too much pruning, or too many flowers.” She also said that at this time of her life she needed to make it sustainable. She cannot be out in the garden doing everything all the time.

Calycanthus floridus

Calycanthus floridus

Donnelly’s garden is essentially a woodland garden. There is the Grove, a stand of trees that has grown up around the cellar hole of the original house. It has been ‘edited’ so that you can see the form of the trees and stroll through the grove which is underplanted thousands of daffodils that have naturalized and bloom in the spring, as well as native groundcovers like epimediums, and ferns. One of the striking shrubs growing beneath the trees is a large Calycanthus floridus which has graceful lax limbs and fragrant, wine red fragrant flowers that are responsible for its common name sweetshrub.

There is art in the grove as well a very large black and yellow container holding shining yellow begonias. “Yellow is an accent in the grove, and points up the beauty of all the green.”’

Ornamental yellow begonias

Ornamental yellow begonias in The Grove

Even so, beyond the desire for some ornamental plantings, “What makes me happy is the deeper question, of finding ways to make the landscape more beautiful in ways that are good for the land. I want to bring out the best in the woodland; that is something beyond my own pleasure,” she said.

Donnelly took me on a long walk across a lawn that edges an unmowed field that hides the road, through the Grove on paths that allow you to see the plants, across more lawn to an old barn surrounded by lilacs and peonies and other old fashioned plants, past ancient apple trees, to a planting of new apple trees. We walked towards another woodland at the edge of the ravine. Some of the trees had been pruned recently and the branches and limbs were chipped to make a mulch. That wood chip mulch will eventually rot and provide nourishment for the soil. This sounds a lot like “let the carbon stay where it falls”, which I have mentioned before.

We sat beneath the trees on one of the well placed benches, and watched the large swath of hay scented ferns, bowing in the breeze like waves on the sea. But still more sections of the garden were urging us onward. We wandered back towards the house, under the silverbell tree where we were surrounded by fragrance, admired the espaliered star magnolia behind an herb garden, and on toward more magnolias.

I did not realize that so many magnolias were hardy in our area but Donnelly explained that many native species are hardier than the more ornamental hybrids that have been developed.

Donnelly has written two books, The Adventurous Gardener: Where to find the best plants in New England and The Adventurous Gardener: Where to find the best plants in New York and New Jersey, about interesting nurseries that sell natives and other interesting, less common plants. The books are somewhat outdated, as nurseries have gone out of business, but you can find the books online and many nurseries, like Andrews Greenhouse in Amherst are still going strong. One nursery she recommended is the Broken Arrow nursery in Hamden, Connecticut which specializes in mountain laurels, and other unusual plants like the sweetshrub. Also she reminded me that Nasami Farm in Whately, the propagating wing of the New England Wildflower Society, is now open every weekend, all season long, and offers many native flowers, shrubs and trees

There are other treats in Donnelly’s garden: a vegetable, herb, and flower potager surrounded by a wattle fence, and a hedge made of living basket willows woven together. There is also a Witches’ Walk, a woodland allee of witch hazels, something you will not see anywhere else. I love the way gardeners find a way to share their sense of humor as well as their gardens.

This year the Franklin County Land Trust Garden Tour is featuring gardens and farms in Ashfield and Conway. Tickets, $15 for members, and $20 for non-members, may be purchased any weekday at the FLT office at 5 Mechanic Street, ShelburneFalls or on the morning of the event at the Ashfield Farmer’s Market, Ashfield Town Common. Lunch tickets for an additional $15 are available with a reservation. The FLT website, www.franklinlandtrust.org has more information about the Land Trust mission, and about the tour. For still more information  e-mail or call Mary with questions: mlsabourin@franklinlandtrust.org or 413.625.9151

Between the Rows  June 13, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – June 2015

Flowery Mead

Flowery Mead aka The Lawn

On this June Garden Bloggers Bloom Day we feel summer has finally come to our hill in western Massachusetts.  Consistent warm weather has been a long time coming and some plants show cold damage that arrived all too late in the season. This section of our lawn remains a flowery mead because I have planted daffodils here and we have to wait  this long before mowing down the spent daffodil foliage.

Rugosa Apart

Rugosa Apart

At this time of the garden season we are madly preparing for the Annual Rose Viewing on June 28. This year it is the Last Rose Viewing because we will be moving to Greenfield very soon. This rugosa rose, Apart, is as beautiful and fragrant as ever, but the  bush did take a winter beating and is rather smaller than usual.

Harrison's Yellow rose

Harrison’s Yellow rose

Harrison’s Yellow is one of the earliest bloomers. There won’t be much left by the Rose Viewing.

Therese Bugnet rugosa

Therese Bugnet rugosa

Therese Bugnet has the delightful energetic spread of the rugosas, but her foliage is a bit smaller and finer. She is wonderfully fragrant. Other roses aare blooming, Dart’s Dash rugosa, two unamed but vigorous roses, one low and one tall, Rosa Rubrifolia (or Glauca), yellow Alchymist,  Woodslawn Pink, and Purinton Pink.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck is an astonishing rose, blooming early and late. I planted him near the door because the catalog promised fragrance, but that has never appeared.  You can see there is a little cold damage from a night or two ago. More roses have yet to bloom.

Mount Blanc rugosa and iris

Mount Blanc rugosa and iris

This isn’t a great photo of my favorite white rugosa, tall and fragrant Mount Blanc, or the iris, but I wanted to give them both credit for helping with bloom day. There are white and blue Siberian irises blooming here and there. I’ll take some to Greenfield for the new garden.

Peony

Herbaceous peony

Years ago I moved all the peonies I had planted right in front of the house. Somehow I left a bit of peony root – which has grown into this beautiful clump, surrounded by weeds, right next to the vegetable garden – also in dire need of weeding. The very pretty white lady’s bedstraw is a curse. Many of the peonies in the ‘new’ Peony Bed are late varieties – so chosen to make sure there is another spectacular plant in bloom for the Rose Viewing.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

These foxgloves were given to me by a friend in the middle of last summer. They endured transplanting at an inauspicious season and are beautiful in this season.

daylily

Daylily

This is the first daylily to bloom on the Daylily Bank in front of the house. This will start to be a full Bank of Bloom once we get into July. I have brought a couple of these plants to the new garden in Greenfield.

Campanula 'Joan Elliott'

Campanula ‘Joan Elliott

As you can see, this clump of Joan Elliott has not been deterred by dividing and removing. Bits of root continue to grow and make flowers. I’m taking a bit of Joan from the lawn to Greenfield as well.

 

Columbine

Columbine

Several native columbines are blooming here and there. These are not the fancy columbines, but I treasure these – in white, pink and purple as well as this red and yellow. Garden Bloggers Bloom Day gives me a chance to praise these modest flowers.

Allium

Allium

I can’t find the name of this tall, large allium. I won’t plant it among the peonies ever again.

Salvia 'May Night'

Salvia “May Night’

The blue of ‘May Night’ seems blue-er this spring.

Trollius

Trollius

This clump of Trollius is paler than others, but lovely all the same.

Mock Orange

Mock Orange

The large mock orange is planted at the corner of the Cottage Ornee where its fragrance can waft inside.

Griffith Buck rose 'Applejack'

Griffith Buck rose ‘Applejack’

Every day we are closer to the Last Rose Viewing. Applejack will greet visitors as they arrive. This is one of the oldest roses at the End of the Road.

This is the last June Garden Bloggers Bloom Day at the End of the Road, but there will be many more to come in Greenfield. I thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens for giving us all the chance to show off  our bloomers all across this great land. To see more click here.

Forbes Library Garden Tour – June 13, 2015

Virginia and Rob Rechtschaffen

Virginia and Rob Rechtschaffen

Virginia Rechtschaffen has always loved trees. She and her husband Rob even once owned a house in Belchertown that came complete with an orchard. Lots of trees. For the past 20 years she and Rob have lived in Northampton and accomplished something I would have thought impossible. Their in-town garden is embraced by a ring of large trees with a heart of sunshine at its center. How did they do it?

Virginia said when they moved into the house she felt she needed some help with a Plan. They hired a designer, but in the end they only used the design for the front of the house which is lovely in its simplicity. A boxwood hedge borders the sidewalk marking off the private space around the house. A trident maple which will grow to about 35 feet is surrounded by groundcovers like epimediums and pulmonaria, and geranium macrorrhizum. All of these bloom in early spring. Virginia said she loved the delicate flowers of each, and the spotted foliage of the pulmoniaria.

Entry garden in Northampton

Entry garden in Northampton

A lamp post is surrounded by white Siberian irises, just beginning to bloom when I visited. The lush foliage of the groundcovers and the elegance of the irises point out that even familiar plants can make a beautiful statement when planted en masse.

There was also a large old sugar maple in front of the house which had to be removed, but it was replaced last week with a young Katsura tree, just in time for the Forbes Library Garden Tour on Saturday, June 13.

Another striking element of the front garden is the placement of several large stones, nestled among the plantings. There is a subtle art in knowing how to arrange stones in a garden so that they look like they belong, and give a sense of timelessness to the garden.

Blooming shrubs including rhododendrons and azaleas hug the house. A grassy walk between the house and a shrub border lead to the back garden. When I visited the garden was filled with birds that came to the birdbath and to peck away at bugs in areas of soil, left uncovered and unplanted just for them.

The garden is all curves, beds holding trees like the Acer triflorium which produces small spring flowers in clusters of three, accounting for its name as three flowered maple. It also has handsome exfoliating bark and good autumn color. The golden rain tree showers its flower petals to the ground accounting for its common name. Both these trees grow to between 20 and 30 feet tall, which some count as small trees, but which are large in a small garden.

Still, around the very edges of the property are shrubs and really large trees like a Katsura they planted in 1996 and a tall weeping conifer.

Full Moon Japanese maple

Full Moon Japanese maple at entry to firepit area

The Rechtschaffens have several different Japanese maples. Full Moon, which indeed has the shape of a full moon, stands opposite the golden rain tree at the entry of the social area, a firepit and chairs where the Rechtschaffens frequently enjoy solitude or friends around the fire.

They chose the plants and designed arrangement of these garden beds themselves because the plans created by the designers were too formal and symmetrical. That formality did not reflect the way they live or the way they look at the natural world.

As we looked at the clusters of winged maple seeds, properly called samaras, but often called helicopters or whirlybirds, Virginia said, “Even the smallest things in the garden are beautiful.

Those of us who attend garden tours are always looking to spend a day in beautiful spaces and to learn about techniques and plants we might use in our own gardens. Host gardeners also have their own desires. “What I would like is that when people leave our garden they will want to go a plant a tree in their garden,” Virginia said. I think she will very well get her desire.

The Rechtschaffen’s garden is just one of six beautiful and unique gardens on the Friends of the Forbes Library Annual Garden Tour on Saturday, June 13 from 10 am – 3 pm, rain or shine. Advance tickets are available for $15 at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennial Farm, Cooper’s Corner, HadleyGardenCenter, North Country Landscapes and State Street Fruit Store. Tickets on Saturday will be $20. Tickets come with a map for this self guided tour. There will be descriptions and guides at each garden to answer questions

Garden Tour Season – Northampton, Conway, Ashfield, and Greenfield

Garden entry

Garden entry in Northampton

The Garden Tour Season is upon us! The entry garden above is one of the gardens on the 22nd Forbes Library Garden Tour which will be held on Saturday, June 13 from 10 am to 3 pm. Your ticket is a map of the six varied gardens on this self guided tour. Tickets are $15, but $20 the day of the tour, and are available at Forbes  Library and businesses like Bay State Perennial Farm and State Street Fruit Market.  Rain or Shine. Proceeds benefit the Forbes Library.

Woven Willow Hedge

Woven Willow Hedge

Garden Tour Season continues through the end of June. The Franklin Land Trust Tour will be featuring gardens and farms in Conway and Ashfield. Have you ever seen a woven willow hedge? This is only one of the wonders on this tour Saturday, June 27 from 10 am – 4 pm. Tickets are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. There is also a lunch available by reservation for an additional $15. Proceeds from the tour support the conservaation mission of the Franklin Land Trust

Fabulous garden on the 2014 Greenfield Garden Club tour

Fabulous garden on the 2014 Greenfield Garden Club garden tour

Garden Tour Season is crowded on Saturday, June 27 when the Greenfield Garden Club holds their annual tour from 9 am – 4 pm.  Tickets are $12 and will be on sale at the Trap Plain  garden at the intersection of Federal and Silver Streets and will be on sale all morning. Please do not bring your pets. Proceeds from the tour help fund the Club’s grant program for local schools.

Garden tours give gardeners to share their gardens, and give other gardeners a chance to fine some inspiration and gain a little education. All tours are rain or shine and a good time is guaranteed.    MARK YOUR CALENDARS

The Dirt on Soil

 

compost

Compost for my new garden

Many of us take soil for granted. I just spoke to my daughter who said she broke sod for a tiny new vegetable garden. After taking away the sod she said she filled that space with good dirt. When I asked what good dirt was she said bags of organic dirt from Home Depot. We’re still talking dirt, even though she talked about good and bad dirt, soil.

I may get dirty while working in my garden, but I love my soil. The forester who made our forest management plan told us we were lucky because our area has good soil. And he had the soil map to prove it. And over the years I have improved the good soil.

Around 2000 we moved the vegetable garden and made it much smaller, 10×10 feet, because I was having so much trouble with my hip – all replaced in 2003. In that new space I started with my good soil and added my own compost to each planting bed.

Now you must have guessed I wouldn’t be happy with a 10×10 garden for long. We added another 10×10 space for a raspberry patch, and added more compost, plus some rock phosphate for phosphorous and greensand  for potassium, two of the three major nutrients needed for healthy plant growth. Nitrogen is the third nutrient in the NPK ratio you see when you buy fertilizer.

I also sprinkle lime from time to time to keep the soil from being too acid. I was not very scientific about any of these amounts, just sprinkling it on the soil when the mood came on me. You can imagine how happy I was when I sent my soil to the University of Massachusetts five years ago and found out that the vegetable garden had good soil with nine percent organic matter.

Any soil is made up of inorganic material like sand and silt, then organic matter. Think of the forest floor where leaves fall on the ground and rot, birds and animals die and they rot into the soil. There is water in the soil, and even, almost forgotten, air.  A good and productive soil is about 50% air.  But we are not done. The soil is also alive with fungi and bacteria that break down all that organic material and turn it into humus. The food web decrees that these fungi and bacteria will be eaten by tiny creatures like nematodes and springtails. In turn they will be eaten by beetles and ants and earthworms. All of them are adding to the richness of the soil, with their dead bodies, and their poop. They are also aerating the soil and making it possible for the water to penetrate.

How do we get good soil? We try to follow Mother Nature’s routine, by eliminating poisonous pesticides that will kill all those living creatures in the soil, and

adding more organic material, otherwise known as compost. We feed the soil, just like Mother Nature instead of later trying to feed our plants with chemical fertilizers.

I was talking to a friend who told me that she went to a permaculture workshop where one motto was “Let the carbon stay where it falls.” That means when you cut back plants in the fall you can leave the debris in the garden.  It is not neat and pretty, but you are following the natural routine. The debris will rot and enrich the soil. You and the debris are feeding the soil.

I am not a purist of any system, but I spent an afternoon pruning deadwood out of my roses and let some of the smaller twigs fall invisibly into the center of the rose bush to rot over time. I confess I did take many larger branches off to a brush pile to rot at a more leisurely pace.

I have made a fair amount of compost over the years. Some I make in a plastic bin I got from some organization. So long ago, I don’t remember who, possibly the Franklin County Waste Management? Compost adds nutrients and the organic matter improves the structure of the soil.

I also make compost piles contained within wire fencing or, in my circular black plastic potato bin with holes in the sides for the potato plants to reach through to the sun if they are so inclined.  I turned that potato bin into a compost bin. I can turn my compost pile by heaving it from one bin to the other.

I also have a plain old compost pile that I don’t turn regularly or fuss with. Eventually that pile turns into compost. I am never in a hurry.

I put all my kitchen peelings into my compost, autumn leaves, weeds, chicken manure when I have it, and debris from the garden in the fall when I am getting ready for winter. From now on I may leave some of that autumnal carbon where it falls.

I am getting ready to start a new garden in Greenfield. The first thing I will do is send a soil sample to UMass so they can tell me what my soil particularly needs.  I don’t know whether it is bad dirt or good soil, but I will find out. Currently I only know it grows a lot of grass, and I have a lot of space to fill with new plants.

I don’t have the necessary amounts of homemade compost for this new garden, so I have ordered a truck load, a major gift from my husband. I will use this compost when planting all the new trees and shrubs I am thinking of, as well as for top dressing on existing plantings.

We are fortunate to have two compost farms nearby, Martin’s Farm in Greenfield and Bear Path Farm in Whately. By feeding the soil with compost I’ll improve the structure and fertility of my soil. If it isn’t good soil to begin, it will be soon.

What next? I have to decide what to plant in this new garden. Do you think there will be roses? Keep watching.

Between the Rows   May 30, 2015

Greenfield Bee Fest #5

The Fifth Annual Bee Fest will be held at the Second Congregational Church on Bank Row in Greenfield on Saturday, June 6 at 10 am.  The event includes the Langstroth Lecture from 10-11 m – honoring the Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth who once served at the church and who discovered ‘bee space’ and created the modern bee hive with movable frames. There will also be activities for children including a Honey Bee Tea Party and  a Bee Parade through the Farmer’s Market. Bee sure to wear your very best bee outfit!  There will be workshops and face painting. Don’t miss a minute!  There will also be a workshop from 11-11:30 am for those considering a backyard bee hive. The Bee Fest is a great opportunity to learn about this valuable pollinator and have a good time. Be sure to buy a raffle ticket for one of the Bee Baskets with donated prizes worth $100-$200. All proceeds go to benefit SNAP or the Heifer Project.  Pollinators are vital to our nation’s health and  economy and President Obama has established a Pollinator Task Force to help us all help all the pollinators. We all need to protect our honey bees and all the other pollinators that turn flowers into food.

Raffle Bee Fest BAsket #2

RAffle Bee Fest Basket #2

Raffle Bee Fest Basket #1

Raffle Prize Bee fest Basket #1

Let’s Go: Into the Nest in the Right Size Flower Garden

 

Right Size Flower Garden

Right Size Flower Garden by Kerry Ann Mendez

There comes a time when a gardener just throws up her hands and says “I can’t do this anymore!”  She doesn’t really mean she can’t do it at all, she just can’t do it all the way she has been. That moment came for Kerry Ann Mendez when her husband was in a terrible accident, broke his neck and had to retire. Mendez then needed to work full time and could no longer spend long hours tending her extensive gardens.

There are other reasons for throwing up our hands, full time employment while taking care of young children, or waking up one morning and realizing you are no long 30 years old, or even 60 years old. The time has come, as Mendez says, to create The Right Size Flower Garden.

Mendez’s book, The Right Size Flower Garden  (St. Lynn’s Press$19.95) is chatty, a real gardener to gardener conversation about the ways that our outdoor spaces can be simplified. The book is filled with photographs, before and after right-sizing, of her own gardens.

Gardens change over the years. There is no way to stop them changing. All of us have stories about plants we used to have, and about how we have moved a plant all around the garden until we found the perfect spot. By the time Mendez gets to Chapter 3 she says, “We are approaching the elimination round . . . which gardens will remain as they are, which can be revamped, and which will be removed.” Then she steps forward to find ways to reduce work and expense 50% – while keeping the garden as beautiful as it ever was.

Mendez is the Queen of Lists. I find myself often turning to her earlier book The Ultimate Flower Gardener’s Top Ten Lists: 70 Garden-Transforming Lists, Money Saving Shortcuts, Design Tips & Smart Plant Picks for Zones 3 Through 7. That title says it all, and she includes many lists in The Right Size Garden. These lists separate plants by category, plants for sun or shade, lists of long lived perennials, long lived bulbs, tidy evergreens, flowering shrubs, plants for containers and many more. She knows that one of the easiest ways to cut down labor in the garden is to put the right plant and in the right spot and these wonderful lists with many enticing photographs will help you make good choices.

The sections that were of particular interest to me were those focusing on ground covers like sedums, creeping thyme and pink sundrops for sunny areas, and shade loving groundcovers like epimediums, ajuga, tiarella, and sweet woodruff, as well as shrubs that don’t require complicated pruning like fothergilla, viburnams, and daphnes. And trees, of  course, redbuds, fringe tree, and stewartia. Can you tell I like springtime bloom?

Annuals are not forgotten. If you want color and flowers all season you must have annuals. The RightSizeGarden is not a big book, but you will find yourself turning to it as long as you are searching for the right size for your garden.

Into the Nest by and Maria Read

Into the Nest by Laura Erickson and Maria Read

While I am not a bird watcher (I can barely tell big birds from little birds) I do love to have birds in the garden. I enjoy their mostly unidentified songs, and their occasional antics. Now that we no longer have cats there is a bird feeder or two in my future.

Still even with a bird feeder sited where I can watch activities unseen, I will never see the activity shown in the beautifully photographed book Into the Nest: Intimate views of the courting, parenting, and family lives of familiar birds by Laura Erickson and Marie Read. (Storey $16.95).

Erickson and Read have compiled an extraordinary array of photographs of the nests, courtship displays, eggs hatching, and the feeding of nestlings of 25 bird species from blue jays to yellow warblers. I will never see a group of naked baby flickers sleeping inside their log home and nest, or see a hummingbird gather up the necessary spider silk as she builds a nest that is stretchy and can expand as her nestlings grow.

And who knew that baby birds actually need lessons to get on in the world. I thought they were born knowing what to do, but they need to learn their distinctive songs, and young birds in some species like cranes remain with their parents through the first winter in order to absorb all the necessary life lessons.

Those raucous American crows are very devoted, mating for life and maintaining a relationship with their young, and their neighbors, throughout their lives. The brood of one year even help raise the brood of the next year. Blue jays also mate for life and kissing is a part of their courtship. Each chapter is short and information is arranged so that it is easy to compare the habits of one species with another.

Laura Erickson has written seven books about birds, won the American Birding Association’s Roger Tory Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award, and contributes to Cornell Ornithology Lab’s All About Birds website, www.allaboutbirds.org. Marie Read has written three books and her photographs and articles have appeared in many magazines including  Bird Watcher’s Digest, Birds and Blooms and National Geographic. Together they have created a book that is a delight for the novice and experienced bird watcher and bird lover.

Between the Rows   May 23, 2015