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Dear Friend and Gardener

After Pollinators and Wildflowers Comes a Cocktail Hour

Pollinator Friendly Gardening by Rhonda Fleming Hayes

Pollinator Friendly Gardening by Rhonda Fleming Hayes

It doesn’t seem so very long ago that no one gave a thought to pollinators. People were afraid of bees and stings, but they never thought about the hundreds of bee species that kept vegetable and fruit farms producing. Perhaps that was because so much of our food came from far off places like California where we were never aware of what farms, farmers and crops needed.

Nowadays, with people we are more sensible of the benefits of local farms and local food. We realize that at least 30% of the world’s food crops need to be pollinated. Happily there are many more bees and insects that do this important job than we ever imagined. Unhappily human civilization continues to encroach on the habitat that pollinators need. Developments of all sorts, housing, business and even agriculture are taking land that was wild, land that provided the plants and living spaces that bees and other pollinators need to thrive.

Pollinator Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and other Pollinators by Rhonda Fleming Hayes (Voyageur Press $21.99) notes that our awareness of the needs of pollinators has been raised. Hayes has set about showing us how we homeowners can take responsibility for improving pollinator habitat right in our own backyards.

Hayes interviews pollinator experts to talk about the value of native plants versus ‘nativars,’ native plants that have been hybridized; the problems created by GMOs; the need for shelter for pollinators; and the necessity of many other beneficial insects.

She provides plant lists to help us include useful plants for pollinators, plants that bloom throughout the season providing nectar, and food for caterpillars. Once I realized how important dill and parsley were to the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, I never again bemoaned loosing my crop to those caterpillars.

Pollinator Friendly Gardening includes occasional Fun Facts, as well. Did you know that the bees in White House kitchen garden produce enough honey to give as gifts at state dinners and to visiting diplomats? That a single little mason bee does as much pollinating as 100 honeybees? That milkweed seed capsules were collected during WWII so that the fluffy seed material could be used to fill servicemen’s lifejackets?

Hayes, a Master Gardener, has gardened, photographed, and written in various locations and in Minneapolis for the last few years.

Wildflowers of New England by Ted Elliman

Wildflowers of New England by Ted Elliman

Ted Elliman and the New England Wild Flower Society have put together a comprehensive new wildflower guide that has images and information of over 1000 native plants. This book not only has beautiful and helpful images, the introductory section is a veritable course in botany that will help you to identify the plants you find on your nature walks. Since 90% of the wild plants around the world need pollination I can’t help thinking how wildflowers would suffer without pollinators.

Wildflowers of New England (Timber Press $27.95) is very easy to use because it provides a clear road to identitification. You begin with color, but within the color sections plants are organized by petal design and number. For example red Kalmia angustifolia with 5 radial petals is listed after dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) which has 4 radial petals.

With this guide I have hopes of finally differentiating between 11 varieties of aster from 4 different genus: Doellingeria; Oligoneurn; and Symphyotrichum. Of course, the fleabanes (Erigeron) are similar (to my uneducated eye) but I think I stand a fighting chance of knowing one from the other because of the clear photographs and text.

Wildflowers of New England is a substantial little book, in many ways, but the heavy, shiny cover, complete with ruler marking, is tough enough to take on hikes for frequent, on- site referrals.

After all the joyous work of studying pollinators and wildflowers, you might be ready for The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining by C.L. Fornari (St. Lynn’s Press $19.95) who lives out on Cape Cod.

The Cocktail Hour Garden by C. L. Fornari

The Cocktail Hour Garden by C. L. Fornari

Fornari suggests we consider our domestic landscape as a party venue, beginning with a quiet cup of coffee in the morning and all kinds of family celebrations that might take place in the garden, to a companionable cocktail hour with a spouse or friends in the evening.

What plants should be included in this garden? Some plants can provide tactile experiences like the soft blades of Mexican feather grass or velvety silver lamb’s ears. Fragrance on the evening air can be supplied by perennials honeysuckle, lavender, oriental lilies. Don’t forget fragrant annuals like Virginia stocks or nicotiana.

Fornari also makes suggestions about lighting, water in many forms, and sound in the garden that can be enjoyed by the gardener, but she also writes about keeping butterflies and birds happy too.

Since this is a cocktail hour garden she is talking about, she also includes cocktail recipes, including non-alcoholic drinks, and the herbs and  flowers that can dress up and spike those drinks. Her tone is conversational, a charming invitation to join her for a cocktail and conversation at the end of the day.

Between the Rows   April 9, 2016



N is for Nasami Farm on the A to Z Challenge

N is for Nasami Farm, the propagating arm of the New England Wildflower Society which was founded in 1900 and is oldest plant conservation society in the U.S.

Nasami Farm

Nasami Farm

I have shopped for many plants at Nasami Farm, last year purchasing several water tolerant if not water loving plants. I planted Buttonbush in the wettest part of our new garden because it  can often be growing in a river, not just on its bank. I also bought winterberries, viburnams, culver root, black chokeberry, and Joe Pye Weed. What a selection! All doing well this spring.

The New England Wildflower Society knew the importance of preserving the wild plants of our region. An importance that we are all more aware of as we learn that pollinators need native plants, and do the birds, and insects. All of these plants, birds and insects evolved together over the millenia, dependent on each other to survive. Insects, eat the native plants, leaving damage, but not enough to harm the plant. Birds eat the insects, especially during brooding season when baby birds need the high nutritional value of insects, even if  they will grow up to eat mostly seeds.

Nasami Farm will open on the weekends beginning Saturday, April 30 from 10 am – 5 pm through the summer until October 18.  You can find a list of usually available plants here.


2014 Nasami Farm Plant Swap

2014 Nasami Farm Plant Swap

M is for Mirrors in the Garden in the A to Z Challenge

M is for Mirrors in the garden. A tour of Buffalo gardens a few years ago were filled with ideas that were new to me.

Mirrors in the Garden

Mirrors in the Garden

This mirror was one of several mirrors in the garden with lush plantings that were carefully pruned to keep the mirror mysteriously visible.

7-11-10 mirror and tiki

I was particularly taken with the function of this mirror in the garden, set as it was in back of a tiki lamp, acting to reflect firelight at an evening gathering.

Mirrors in the Garden

Mirrors in the Garden

It may have been the misting rain and the romance of this lush garden urban garden complete with pond and waterfall, but when I looked at this planting I was completely confused and disoriented about what I was looking at. I did not recognize the presence of a mirror that was throwing me off balance. It seems so much clearer to me in the photo than it did that rainy day in Buffalo.

I have two walls in my new garden. Will I find a place for mirrors?

To see who else is posting every day in April for the A to Z challenge click here.


L is for Literature – Literature about Gardening

L is for Literature.  In the A to Z Challenge I am referring specifically to Garden Literature which covers a lot of ground. I cannot garden or do much of anything without books. There are general garden books and specific garden books. I’ll mention just a few of my favorites with links to earlier columns that will have more information about each of them.
Kiss my Aster

Kiss My Aster by Amanda Thomsen

            One of my oldest and most useful vegetable garden books is How to Grow More Vegetables Eighth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine… (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains) by John Jeavons. I have the 1979 edition and it is well worn. There is all the basic information you need to grow vegetables from tools, fertilizing, composting, efficient planting, and companion planting.
The 20-30 Something Garden Guide

The 20-30 Something Garden Guide by Dee Nash

    If you are a new gardener you will find The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A no fuss, down and dirty Gardening 101 for anyone who wants to grow stuff by Dee Nash, professional writer, gardeners and speaker. The 20-30 Something Garden Guide is divided into three main sections that first take the gardener into a container garden, and all the basic information about potting soil, garden soil, fertilizers, watering, and bugs. Let it be known that Nash’s own garden is organic. In addition to providing herself with healthy food and beautiful flowers, she is determined to do her part in supporting the natural world with its pollinators and other bugs, good and bad.
            For a humorous and sassy introduction to gardening try Kiss My Aster by Amanda Thomsen. This is a ‘graphic guide to creating a fantastic yard totally tailored to you, Thomsen has real insight into the mind and psyche of the new gardener. You can tell because on Page 14 she asks, “Overwhelmed? Don’t be. You’re just reading a book. Wait until you’re knee deep in quick set concrete before you freak out.” Does that tell you what kind of gardener she is?
            For all her smart aleck frivolity and word play, Thomsen walks you through figuring out what can grow in your area, including taking a camera tour through your neighborhood to see what other people are growing This tour will give you inspiration and information Then you can show the photos of the plants you like to the people at the garden center, get them identified and buy them. She is full of slick tips like this.
Roses Without Chemicals

Roses Without Chemicals by Peter Kukielski

  I am passionate about non- fussy roses. A book with the most information about these roses is in Peter Kukielski’s book Roses Without Chemicals: 150 disease free varieties that will change the way you grow roses. He is the former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden and is now Executive Director of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability. He is also working with Earth Kind Roses.
            In my new house I am trying to eliminate lawn. A book I have found extremely useful and inspiring is Lawn Gone! Low Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for your Yard by Pam Penick. Whatever your reason, Penick has practical advice and instructions about ways to create beautiful spaces without a lawn. Groundcovers are an easy answer. In fact, many perennials and small shrubs cover the ground and add great interest when planted over a generous area. Some of Penick’s chapter titles will tempt you to imagine a new yard of your own. For example: Ponds, pavilions, play spaces and other fun features. The designing and installing your hardscape chapter will immediately set your mind buzzing.
The Indestructible Houseplant

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

     For those who love houseplants, or wish they had houseplants there is Tovah Martin. The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow by Tovah Martin ($23 Timber Press) As far as I am concerned Tovah Martin is certainly the Queen of Houseplants. Readers who drooled over her earlier book The Unexpected Houseplant with special attention to gorgeous or surprising containers will be happy to see The Indestructible Houseplant.
            One of my favorite books focuses on bugs and birds. Douglas Tallamy, in his book Bringing Nature Home explains why bugs are good, and why having bugs in your garden will attract the birds. Many bugs are beneficial. This is a call to avoiding broad spectrum pesticides. And a delightful read! Talk about Literature! This is the real thing.


Lawn Gone!

Lawn Gone! by Pam Penick

            To see who else is writing a post every day in April lick here.

K is for Kalmia latifolia


Kalmia, mountain laurel

K is for Kalmia latifolia, the beautiful mountain laurel, is a hardy broadleaf evergreen that blooms in May. It should be deadheaded after it blooms. Kalmia prefers acid, moist but well drained humusy soil, and some shade. In nature it is an understory shrub in the woodlands. It tolerates deer and rabbits.

The native Kalmia used to bear white flowers tinged with pink, but now hybrids bring an array of colors to the garden from a pure  white ‘Pristine’ to a pink and white ‘Peppermint’ and a brilliant red ‘Olympic Fire.’ Wayside Gardens and Dayton Nursery each offer a selection of varieties.

The kalmias pictured here bloom on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. I bought a native kalmia for my new garden and managed to plant it in a raised bed that is sufficiently dry (I hope) to  thrive. Linnaeus named the genus Kalmia after Swedish botanist Peter Kalm (1716-1779) who explored plant life in parts of eastern North America from 1747 to 1751.

Kalmia latifolia

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pristine’

I am participating in the A to Z Challenge – posting every day in April. So far so good.

J is for Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium purpureum

Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye Weed

J is for Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium purpureum. Joe Pye Weed is one of the plants I have chosen for my new garden because it  tolerates wet clay sites so well that it can be used as part of a rain garden. But that is not the only reason.

Many people considered Joe Pye Weed as nothing more than a road side weed. However, nowadays we realize that this native plant with its showy tall flower inflorescences in shades of purple is an important nectar plant for butterflies. This spring I planted a Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) because it is an important plant for the spicebush swallowtail.  Spicebush swallowtails will also enjoy Joe Pye Weed, as will other swallowtail butterfly varieties

Joe Pye will form a large clump and it cannot do this fast enough to suit me.

I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. We are on to the  second full week of posting every single day. Visit some of the other Challenge blogs.

I is for Irises in the A to Z Challenge

I is for Irises.  I fell in love with Siberian irises. A white one and a blue one were growing at our house in Heath when we  bought it. They had not had any care for a couple of years and yet they bloomed looking like clouds in the sky – effortless.

Siberian irises

Siberian irises in the field

Siberian irises are not particular about soil or watering so I never realized how much they liked wet sites. One year I noticed a big clump of deep blue Siberian irises growing in a wet swale in the field next to the house. I have no idea how they got there. Maybe I threw an extra division out there one year when I had more divisions than I knew what to do with?

Siberian irises are beardless irises. I never thought this was a whole class of irises, but in Beardless Irises – A Plant for Every Garden Situation by Kevin C. Vaughn (Schiffer $29.99) I learned that Japanese irises (which also like a damp spot or lots of watering) are in  the beardless family, along with Louisiana irises, Pacific Coast Native Irises and Spuria irises. I had never heard of Spuria irises but these irises need a wet spot so badly that Vaughn suggests that one way to handle them is to bury a kiddie paddling pool slightly underground, fill it with soil and then plant the Spurias there after heavily watering the area, keeping it wet.

The array of color and bi-color in the beardless iris category is staggering. The illustrations in Vaugh’s book are gorgeous and may lead to a springtime splurge on more irises. I wrote about my Heath irises earlier this year here.


Martin’s Compost Farm


Adam Martin and his screener

Adam Martin and his screener

Why do we need compost farms? On October 1, 2014 the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection made a requirement that all businesses or institutions that created more than one ton of organic waste a week find a source to accept and recycle that waste. This rule affected schools, colleges, hospitals, prisons, restaurants and more. Although compost farms already existed the rule created a need for even more places that would accept and use these organics. Massachusetts has been at the forefront of this environmental policy for years.

Robert Martin was ahead of the curve. In 1981 he bought 90 acres of farmland from the Meyer family and raised beef, pigs and vegetables. He sold his products locally and in Boston. Like all such farms he generated wastes, and green debris. He was aware of the stresses and needs of the environment, and he thought his waste could be turned into a benefit; he began making compost. In 1987 the Mass DEP permitted him as an on-farm composting operation. It was the first one in the state.

Adam Martin

Adam Martin

I met with Adam Martin who bought the farm from his father, who retired with his mother to Kentucky, in 2014.

Adam worked on the farm during his growing up years, but his father hadn’t wanted his son to go into farming. He wanted his son to have an easier life and a more dependable job.  The plan was for Adam to attend a diesel school in Wyoming for a year, which he did, but he continued working on the farm after finishing the program.

It wasn’t until he went to Africa for two weeks in 2006 with a church youth group that his eyes were opened to the work that was to be done in the world to help others. He looked at the world differently and he looked at the farm differently. In 2008 he led another church group to India and his determination to do something meaningful increased. Upon his return Adam told his father he had no desire to leave the farm. He loved the farm and he saw how the farm could provide benefits to the community and the environment while it gave him and a staff a reasonable livelihood.

Today Martin’s Compost Farm removes tons of organic waste from the waste stream. In the United States food waste is the second highest component of landfills which are the largest source of methane emissions. Locally our garbage is taken and burned emitting carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas that is causing climate disruption.

Martin's Farm compost steaming as it cooks

Martin’s Farm compost steaming as it cooks

The farm now handles up to 15 tons of organic waste a week. Martin hauls much of this himself, collecting dumpsters from various sites. The Bridge of Flowers participates in a compost collective in ShelburneFalls organized by Franklin County Solid Waste Management. Bridge staff and volunteers throw weeds and spent plants into a dumpster that also holds waste from the different town restaurants. The dumpster is emptied every week or two depending on the season.

In addition to food waste Martin’s Farm compost includes newspaper and cardboard, manure, and leaves from the town. Martin spoke enthusiastically and energetically about his goal “to generate the best compost. Customers use it to amend their soil and their success is my success.”

I never dreamed of all the work it takes to make compost commercially. Martin’s farm begins with not accepting any material that has used herbicides. The compost is certified organic which makes his compost acceptable by organic farms. The process on the farm begins with hand sorting, pulling out large pieces of trash. Then large machinery is called into action.

First, there is the machine that turns the windrows of waste. There are usually 12 or 13 windrows in various states of decomposition at any one time. The windrows are carefully monitored for temperatures, oxygen and moisture, maintaining a temperature no higher than 133 degrees, just hot enough to kill weeds and pathogens.

When the compost is ready it goes into the enormous screener with a fine mesh that screens out wood chips and other non-compostable materials. The wood ultimately makes its way into wood chip mulch pile. “It is so important to me to have as pure a product as possible” Martin said.

Finally, there is a super vacuum that removes any further non-compostables. The finished compost is tested by the University of Massachusetts three times a year so Martin can be certain that he is maintaining his own standards of quality.

Gardeners and landscapers need more than compost and Martin’s Compost Farm also offers a 50-50 compost and loam mix, compo-mulch and wood chip mulches.

I will always use compost to enrich my soil and improve it structure. I will always make my own compost because it is the small way I can keep organic waste out of the waste stream. However there are times when a garden needs more than what my little compost bin can supply. I am thrilled that Martin’s Farm and other compost farms exist locally taking compostable materials and turning them into a benefit instead of an environmental problem.

For full information about Martin’s Compost Farm log on to their website

Martin's compost  -  in the rain

Martin’s compost – in the rain

Between the Rows   April 3, 2016


H is for Hemerocallis

Hemerocallis "Ann Varner"

Hemerocallis “Ann Varner” on the Daylily Bank

H is for Hemerocallis – otherwise known as daylily.  This is my day for  resting my typing fingers and showing you some pretty pictures.  Ann Varner was one of many hemerocallis growing on The Daylily Bank. I have moved from this garden, but I did take a few divisions with me to Greenfield.

Pink Daylily

Pink Daylily

Henerocallis 'Pink Fancy"

Hemerocallis “Pink Fancy”

Hemerocallis "Crimson Pirate.

Hemerocallis “Crimson Pirate”

Hemerocallis "Ann Varner"

Hemerocallis “Ann Varner”

  1. "Hemerocallis 'Lemon Madeleine'

    Hemerocallis Lemon Madeleine’


  2. Hemerocallis

    Herocallis “Fiery Gold”


    Hemerocallis "Barbara Mitchell"

    Hemerocallis “Barbara Mitchell

    And that’s it for today’s A to Z Challenge.  Hemerocallis which mean beautiful for a day – and very little work for the gardener.

G is for Groundcover – Gill-over-the-ground



G is for Groundcover like ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) otherwise known as gill-over-the-ground, seen here creeping from my lawn into the new Lawn Beds.

There is a lot of cross-over, if not confusion, about what is a wildflower, weed, or ‘real plant.’  A friend was trying to figure out how to rid of the gill-over-the-ground that had suffocated the strawberries growing under her grapevines. We discussed carboard and solarizing, but another friend asked why she didn’t just leave the gill-over-the-ground. It was a  wildflower with pretty blue flowers, made a nice ground covering mat and kept out other ‘weeds.’  Sounded like a good idea. That is what she is doing. Maybe I will too.

When this ground ivy, gill-over-the ground isn’t keeping out weeds it can be used as a spring tonic, an appetite stimulant and has other more serious medicinal uses.

I might let my own gill-over-the-ground have its way more often, but others feel very differently

I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. One week down – a post every day.