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Dear Friend and Gardener

All the Presidents’ Gardens

All the President's Gardens by Marta McDowell

All the President’s Gardens by Marta McDowell

I just finished reading All The Presidents’Gardens which gave me a whole new perspective on Fourth of July celebrations. Our views of our presidents sometimes take the form of some character defining story, like young George Washington and his cherry tree, or singular achievement like Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase or Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.  In All The President’s Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses – How the White House Grounds Have Grown With America Marta McDowell gives us an engaging history of changes in our nation through the history of the White House Gardens.

It all begins, of course, with George Washington who never planted a garden for the White House because it did not exist when he took office. However, it was President Washington who signed an agreement, after contentious discussions, brokered by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison that named a ten acre site on the Potomac as the new capital city. Washington also appointed the architect Pierre L’Enfant to design the new city, and he himself chose the site for the White House on a rise with expansive views. Unhappily, Washington died before the White House was built or gardens planted.

Washington and Jefferson had their country estates and a passion for plants. John Adams was a farmer and he was the first to occupy an unfinished White House, and that was near the end of his term of office. He was defeated in a bitter race by Jefferson who spent most of his two terms concentrating on new buildings for the capital, and larger landscapes than those surrounding the still unfinished White House.

When James Madison took office the White House grounds were described as muddy, “disgusting scenes.” Madison began planting and the oldest plant list for the executive mansion is dated March 31, 1809. Flowering shrubs and trees, pines, hollies, lilacs and roses were ordered and planted along with a substantial list of vegetables for the president’s table. Some of those vegetables might have been bought from the Shakers (United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming) who were making a good business of raising seed and marketing it in seed packets, a technique they invented. Things were beginning to shape up when the British burned the president’s house and destroyed the gardens in 1814.

John Quincy Adams found his single term as president so trying that he turned to the gardens for respite. He worked with John Ousley, the new head gardener, and found a place where he could please himself, not the demands of the political world.

Marta McDowell

Marta McDowell

McDowell gives full credit to the head gardeners with a special section titled First Gardeners from Thomas Magraw who served under James Madison, and John Ousley who served from 1825-1852. John Watt served under Lincoln and it was he who fudged his books to help Mrs. Lincoln who always spent way beyond her allowed dress budget. Henry Pfister was another head gardener who worked for a quarter century, caring for the great greenhouses that provided flowers for White House arrangements, for Grover Cleveland’s wedding to Frances Folsom, and provided a beautiful welcoming space for Ida McKinley who suffered from epilepsy.

So many stories. Teddy Roosevelt brought his rambunctious family and their pets including Peter Rabbit who earned a state funeral in the garden.

It was Helen Taft who supported the plantings of Japanese cherry trees along the tidal basin – a project that took time and great cooperation with Japan to bring the project to fruition.

President Wilson had sheep on the White House Lawn when there was a shortage of men to mow

President Wilson had sheep on the White House Lawn when there was a shortage of men to mow p photo courtesy of Library of Congress

The White House gardens did their bit during the World Wars. Gardener William Reeves was gardener-shepherd to Wilson’s flock of sheep on the White House Lawns. A victory garden took the place of sections of lawn during WWII.

Harry Truman watched while rolls and rolls of sod were laid out around a cherry tree in full bloom that was planted in preparation for the arrival of the Queen of the Netherlands. Eisenhower put in a putting green and arranged to have helicopters land on the South Lawn.

Many of us may have our own memories of The Rose Garden being installed by President Kennedy in 1962, or President Carter bringing trees from his Georgia farm. Michelle Obama put her stamp on the garden in 2009 by making a food garden that includes varieties from Jefferson’s garden at Monticello. This garden was intended as a demonstration garden that would help teach children about healthy eating. School children came to work in the garden to gain an understanding of the food they ate. Bees were added to the garden as well as a pollinator bed. All of it makes a great teaching garden.

In addition to the excellent section on First Gardeners, McDowell gives us an extensive list of plants grown in the gardens.

My own mantra about gardens (and life) is that Everything Changes. This engaging book gives us the history behind the changes in the White House gardens, and perhaps makes us wonder what changes will come in the future.

In this year with its own extraordinary presidential campaign, I want to stress that All The President’s Gardens is not about politics but a history of garden styles, trends, and needs of the White House, reflecting the styles and tenor of the times told in a charming conversational way.

At one time there were great greenhouse for food and  cut flower production, as well as a beautiful space to visit.  Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

At one time there were great greenhouse for food and cut flower production, as well as a beautiful space to visit.  1889 Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Between the Rows  July  2, 2016

Shadow Study

Shadow. My husband and I have not been in complete agreement about how shady our back garden is. The question is how will our shade loving plants fare if the garden is not as shady as I think it is. Hence, our Shadow Study.

Shadow at 8 am

Shadow at 8 am

Shadow is not only an afternoon phenomenon. Our house is sited directly facing east which means the house throws  a long shadow in the morning.

Shadow 9 am

Shadow 9 am

The shadow is moving, but the South Border and most of the North Border is still in full shadow.

Shadow at 10:15 am

Shadow at 10:15 am

At 10:15 most of the planting beds in the back garden are in the sun.  Half of the south border is also in the sun.

Shadow 11:30 am

Shadow 11:30 am

The back garden is essentially in full  sun, although a portion of the North Border is shaded by our neighbor’s maple tree, and a portion of the South Border is shaded by our lilac tree.

Shadow 12:30 pm

Shadow 12:30 pm

The Shadow at 12:30 pm. Full sun in the back garden.

Shadow at 1:20 pm

Shadow at 1:20 pm

The whole back garden  is in full sun. This photo show how the shadow is beginning to creep across the Hugel Project in the west.

Shadow 3:40 pm

Shadow 3:40 pm

The western edges of current beds are beginning to be touched by shade.

Shadow at 5:25 pm

Shadow at 5:25 pm

We have come full circle. The back garden is again in full shade.  My numbers are not precise but we can comfotrably say that from 10 am til 5 pm the back garden is in full sun except for the northwestern corner which gets shady earlier.  That is 7 hours of sun. The rule is  that 6 hours of sun counts for full sun on plant cultivation cards. My husband is right, BUT (a wifely but) I want to say that plants can be very adaptable.

The Shadow Study has been done when the days are the longest in the year. We didn’t get the Study done on the Solstice, but maybe we will do another study at the Fall Equinox and see what we learn then.

These photos also show  that work is moving apace on our kitchen/bath/laundry room renovation. Give us another month and the garden will be  glorious and so will the kitchen, etc.

Choose Plantings for Your Favorite View

Section of the view from my dining room, hydrangeas, roses and lilac

Section of the view from my dining room, hydrangeas, roses and lilac

Do you have a favorite chair? Is it near a window? Does your dining table sit near a window? Do you enjoy the view from your window?

Oddly, our new house in Greenfield does not have many windows that look out at the garden. Only one upstairs window (in my office) gives a view of the back yard. The kitchen window is too high to see much of anything except the most westerly area of the garden. Fortunately there is the dining room window which looks out onto a section of the South Border, which will ultimately be the most floriferous view.

Last week my husband and I were having dinner and admiring the view of newly blooming roses, I was so happy to have this joyful view. Then I realized that the view from a window is not usually a part of garden planning or design. Yet a view that will please, whether flowery or serene green, can give us hours of pleasure.

I am looking forward to enjoying a better view of my garden. We are about to embark on a kitchen renovation which will not only give me a kitchen where I can cook and bake more easily and efficiently, it will also give me new windows that will allow a fuller view of the garden. The windows will also help define and frame an area I might want to concentrate on as I plan new plantings. They will give me another chance to create a beautiful view from inside the house.

When planning a vignette, a limited view of a small space, you have the advantage that accrues to a small space. You can plant something special that might be quite expensive, but can also be the star of this relatively small space. I’m already thinking about an intersectional peony like Bartzella.  Intersectional or Itoh peonies are hybrids of herbaceous and tree peonies. An Itoh peony would be ideal because it would have strong stems that keep the flower heads high and don’t get beaten down in the rain like herbaceous peonies. In addition, because of because its primary and secondary buds, it has a long bloom season.

If flowers are what you long for, but no longer feel up to a whole garden full of demanding flowers, it is still possible to create a flowery view. You might consider an annual bed. Just a few flats of starts will give you a riot of color. I can imagine tall annuals with gentle colors like sweet peas, cleome or cosmos or the brilliant colors of zinnias. These can be fronted with low growing annuals in companionable colors like blue Felicia daisies, pale marguerite daisies, osteospurmums (another daisy-like plant) in shades of pink, purple, blue or white, and salvias.

An annual bed might also be an experimental bed, an opportunity to try out different flowers, colors and flower forms. Starting this kind of bed will not be costly, and will not chain you to a choice, because all the frost-bitten plants will end up in the compost pile at season’s end. Just remember this is an experiment so be sure to keep a few notes so you can repeat the flowers you like next year.

A different way to have flowers in your view is to plan a perennial selection that will give you one or two flowers for each season. For example you could begin with daffodils, then have astilbe, achillea and daylilies. Dahlias have a long season of bloom, especially if you keep cutting them for bouquets. The more you cut, the longer the season and the greater the bloom. Some smaller dahlias will begin blooming in midsummer but you can have dahlias with all their shades of color and form until the first heavy frost. One autumnal choice that surprised me was the Japanese anemone that blooms into the fall. And of course, there are asters and mums, which also have many colors and flower forms.

You could plant for the birds. Perhaps you could have a small tree like a dwarf crabapple near the window along with a bird feeder and a birdbath. An expert birdwatcher once told me that the sound of water is the best way of attracting birds. The tree branches and foliage would give the birds protection and shelter if they became alarmed. My eyesight is such that I really need to be able to get pretty close to birds if I am going to learn to identify them.

In my new garden I am concentrating on having more green than color. Green is not a single color and a green view could include bright shades like golden threadleaf chamaesyparis contrasting with dark green mugo pine. Perennials like hostas are available in dozens of shades of green from brilliant chartreuse to dark green, to blue-green. Variegated hostas will also provide a symphony of greens brightened with shades of white.

Garden art on Hawley Tour

Garden art on Hawley Tour

Another view could be a piece of art set against shrubs and flowers. I’ve never managed this, but I did get to the point in Heath where I demanded neatness of the view of the backyard. Wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, buckets of weeds, all were forbidden to mar the view of pink, white and green kiwi foliage rambling high on the shed wall above the roses. Serenity was what I wanted with my first cup of coffee in the morning.

So, what view do you have that pleases you? Flowers?  Greenery? Statuary?

What view would you like to have? When will you get it?  If not now, when?

Between the Rows  June 25, 2016


Vignettes of Greenfield Garden Tour Gardens

Front Garden

Front Garden

The Annual Greenfield Garden Club Tour gives us the opportunity to see many styles of garden to inspire us, and give our imaginations something new to consider. This serene front yard planting belongs to Andrea Hall.

Serene fountain

Serene fountain

Andrea also set up a handsome fountain in a backyard nook by the back door that follows through  on a circular/curving theme in other sections of the garden. Notice all the hostas which she loves.

Grove of containers

Grove of containers

Of course, some gardeners take a very different approach to the garden approach. Bill Benson has over 100 containers filled with annuals, herbs, vines, and vegetables.



And yet, Bill’s back garden is a veritable jungle with shrubs, perennials and serene ferns and hostas. Riotous and exuberant.

Drooling hippo fountain

Drooling hippo fountain

Set in the middle of a large shady but floriferous bed is the “world famous” Drooling Hippo Fountain. David Sund has refreshed the gardens at the McInernery’s new home, but the Drooling Hippo is a legacy from previous owners. Lucky they. They have joy, serenity AND vegetables in their gardens.

I’ll have more vignettes from the Greenfield Garden Club Tour soon.


Greenfield Garden Club Tour June 25


Elise Schlaijker

Elise Schlaijker

Elise Schlaijker’s extensive gardens will be a part of the Greenfield Garden Club’s annual garden tour which will be held on Saturday, June 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Schlaijker is one of those gardeners who loves food gardens and flower gardens equally, although she admits that the big 30 x 30 foot vegetable and fruit garden was her first priority when she moved to Greenfield eight years ago. I wrote about Schlaijker when her gardens were new in 2010. Now that she is 82 and has come through a back surgery, she has made some adjustments in her routines. The chicken house is empty. Handling water and feed during the winter became too difficult so the hens were given away.

While she showed me around the side garden which she can view from her large deck, two young men were buzzing around the lawns and the labyrinth. “I no longer mow the lawns myself,” she said with a smile.

The deck itself is decorated with houseplants brought out for the summer, and is ringed with Gold Heart bleeding heart and a variety of hostas. The side garden’s large lawn is ornamented with shrub and perennial beds. These contain familiar and beloved plants like rugosa roses in red and white, other shrub roses, lilacs, herbaceous peonies and an exuberant climbing hydrangea in one corner.

Bartzella, I toh peony

Bartzella, Itoh peony

However, a gardener is always finding new enthusiasms. In addition to the beautiful and familiar herbaceous peonies, Schlaijker has added Itoh, or intersectional, peonies, to her plantings. Itoh peonies are a hybrid created by crossing herbaceous peonies with tree peonies. Like herbaceous peonies Itoh’s are cut back in the fall, but the advantage is that they hold their blossoms high, even in the rain, and have a longer bloom period because they have primary and secondary buds. When Itoh peonies were first made available they were very expensive, but they are now more reasonable in price. In any event, Schlaikjer says, “I indulge myself in the plants I love.”

On the other side of the house is a wild looking bog garden, which includes a buttonbush, a dappled willow and a handsome crane. There is also a sweeping quarter moon bed that includes two dappled willows, a redbud and two more Itoh peonies. I was particularly looking at all the graceful curves in her garden which are so elegant and pleasing.

A gently curving path edged with wide flower borders leads to the stone labyrinth. When she built labyrinth I was one of the people who brought a stone to help build it. Schlaijker meditatively walks the labyrinth almost every day, but the building of the labyrinth included the connections to, and love of, a whole community. In the center of the labyrinth is a tiny gazebo. Inside the tiny gazebo is an extraordinary, throne-like chair. This was carved from a maple tree trunk by a friend in Michigan where she had lived for so many years. This throne, with its carvings of a bear, turtle, squirrel and other creatures, is comfortable and magical. If you hum or sing while sitting on the throne you can feel and hear the reverberations of sound.

Elise Schlaijkers gazebo

Elise Schlaijker’s gazebo in the center of her labyrinth

The flower borders leading to the labyrinth are filled with more Itoh and herbaceous peonies, nepeta, foxgloves, irises, and sedums. The borders include flowers as exotic as the Itoh peonies, but also as humble as the local native yellow foxgloves.

Of course, the fenced and netted vegetable garden is a very important part of Schlaijker’s garden. There are raised beds for vegetables, but it turns out that nets do not deter burrowing creatures like voles, moles – and rats. “Nowadays I can’t grow root crops, carrots, potatoes, beets . . . critters eat every one,” she said. Still she is able to grow lots of greens: collards, kale, broccoli, chard as well as garlic, tomatoes, lettuce, squash, and cucumbers as well as parsley and basil.

One section of the fenced vegetable garden is given over to highbush blueberries and a black currant bush. That section is netted over the top when the berries begin to ripen.

Beauty is to be found even when she walks towards the vegetable garden provided by a bed including  Japanese primroses, goatsbeard, clematis, and European ginger which she insists spreads itself generously. Here and there are bowls of water on the ground to satisfy the thirst of birds, or perhaps even a toad or two.

Elderberries and different raspberry varieties that give her a long season grow beyond the fenced garden. Schlaijker also has several apple trees, but her peach tree is no more.

Elise Schlaijker’s garden is just one of the nine unique gardens on the tour, each with its own special attractions.

Tickets to the Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour can be purchased ahead of time at the World Eye Bookstore for $15. Or call Jean Wall at 773-9069. On the day of the tour tickets will be $18 and can be purchased at 40 High Street. Those who have bought tickets at the World Eye must also go to 40 High Street to pick up a map for this self-guided tour. There will be curb-side service.

Between the Rows  June 18, 2016

Three Views of The Lion’s Fairy Tale Rose

Lion's Rose

Lion’s Fairy Tale rose, Kordes

I am so happy with my Lion’s Fairy Tale Rose, one of Kordes Fairy Tale Series. I planted it last summer and did not expect nor get any flowers. Still, it took hold and came through our odd winter weather, mild until it got bitter cold very late in the season. One of the things I like is the way it produces clusters of bloom.

Lion's Rose

Lion’s Fairy Tale Rose

I love the creaminess of this white rose as it begins to bloom. I am not the only one to consider this a magnificent rose. In 2002 it won the German ADR Rose Award and in 2006  it was given a Gold Medal in the Gold Standard Rose Trials. The foliage is almost as beautiful as the rose.

Lion's Fairy Tale

Full blown bloom of Lion’s Fairy Tale rose

The full blown blossom remains lovely. This rose will grow to be about four to five feet tall with a fairly upright growth habit. I realize now that I planted it too close to Thomas Affleck which is quite a large rose, and will have to move it in the fall when it goes dormant. It will move to the North Border (which gets plenty of sun) where Fantin Latour and the Alchymist climber have also taken up a new residence.


New Roses for a New Garden

Passionate Nymph's Thigh rose

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose

Thirty-five years have passed since I planted my first rose bush in Heath. In the months before our move from New York City I read and re-read Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katharine White. It was her experience and thoughts about roses that particularly touched my dreams of a romantic garden in the country. I had never grown roses, and never even really paid much attention to roses. My dreams and limited experiences had been with herbs and vegetables.

That book inspired me to plant my first rose, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, from Roses of Yesterday and Today. Who could resist that name? Over time I bought more roses from that nursery, focusing on roses of yesterday like the Queen of Denmark, Fantin-Latour, Celsiana and the Rose of Ispahan. These were hardy antique roses that were fragrant and disease free.

Applejack, Buck rose

Applejack, Buck rose

I did add modern roses over time, including Buck roses hybridized by Griffith Buck for cold hardiness. Applejack, one of my favorite roses, was a hardy Buck rose. These were not noted for their fragrance, however. I also added more and more rugosas that were hardy, disease free and fragrant. MountBlanc is my favorite white rugosa, and Dart’s Dash an energetic deep pink was also a favorite.

I also collected roses from friends like Rachel’s Rose, Purington Pink and the Buckland Rose. There is only one drawback to all these roses. Most of them are fragrant, but none of them bloom all summer.

Purington Pink rose

Purington Pink closeup

Of all those roses, it is only the hardy and energetic Purington Pink that I brought with me to the new Greenfield garden. But it is not the only rose I planted.

Over the years I learned more about efforts by hybridizers to create hardy roses that do bloom for a long season. These new hybridizing efforts were brought about by environmental concerns about poisons used on roses, and new attitudes toward proper garden management. Several years ago, after meeting Peter Kukielski who was then curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, a new world of long blooming, disease resistant, and often fragrant roses opened up for me.

Kukielski is currently working with the American Rose Trials for Sustainability which has been running rose trials in different locations for the past few years. In 2017 they will announce their first round of sustainable roses. The A.R.T.S. website (www.americanrosetrialsforsustainability.org) declares “ . . . strict trialing protocol ensures that every A.R.T.S.® trial garden is ‘no spray.’ Remember, the goal is to identify the rose varieties which need little to no input.  Ensuring that no pest control products or fertilizers are applied to the plants within the experiment ensures that we get accurate real world results which are both reliable and repeatable.”

Lion's Fairy Tale rose

Lion’s Fairy Tale – Kordes rose

I cannot wait for the first trial results, because I want more roses in my new garden which is much smaller and has particular problems. What does a rose bush need? Roses must have at least 6 hours of sun to thrive and produce good bloom. Roses need good air circulation. Roses need good soil that is rich in humus, has a pH between 6 and 6.5, and drains well.

Roses need water, but they do not like to have their feet wet. Sections of my new garden are very sunny, and I can build good soil, but most of my soil is heavy clay that does not drain well. I have to find areas that will not leave the roses in standing water during the spring thaw or after long, heavy rains.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose in Heath

Although I knew I was taking a gamble I could not let a whole garden year go by without planting some roses. The south side of our lot gets plenty of sun, and the soil is better there than in the backyard. Last spring and early summer we started planting our shrub border which includes hydrangeas, lilacs, and a viburnam.

When choosing roses for this garden I tried to use all I have learned over the years. I again planted the pink centifolia Fantin-Latour for its history and romance even though it will bloom for a short season. I also planted the low and dependable pink polyantha The Fairy and Knockout Red. Knockout Red is an EarthKind rose, and you can count on any EarthKind rose to be beautiful and dependable, even though it is not fragrant.

Some of the roses I chose are new varieties that are considered groundcover roses, not as tall as other rose bushes, very full and bushy with a long bloom season. These include Oso Easy Paprika, and Peach Drift.         Purple Rain, Polar Express, the pink Zaide and creamy Lion’s Fairy Tale are all hybrids from Kordes with good disease resistance. Kukielski told me I could count on all Kordes roses to be among the best long blooming, disease resistant roses I could have. Many are fragrant.  NewFlora (www.newflora.com) is the U.S. distributor for Kordes.

Oso Easy Paprika

Oso Easy Paprika

I also had to have two of the other roses I had in Heath. Folksinger is a peachy hardy Buck rose, and Thomas Affleck is the amazing deep pink rose I grew near my entry. It had big blossoms that began in mid June and continued into November.

With all these new sustainable coming on the market there will be no excuse for any gardener to avoid roses because they are too fussy.

Sources: Antique Rose Emporium www.antiqueroseemporium.com; Chamblee’s Roses www.chambleeroses.com;  Roses of Yesterday and Today www.rosesofyesterday.com

Between the Rows   June 11, 2016

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – June 15, 2016

Peach Drift Rose

Peach Drift rose

With my first Peach Drift roses I am celebrating my first real Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day in the Greenfield, Massachusetts garden. Peach Drift is a fairly low growing, long blooming, disease resistant rose.

Oso Easy Paprika

Oso Easy Paprika\

Oso Easy  Paprika shares a small bed with Peach Drift. Paprika is a little outside my usual color palette, but when I saw it blooming at the nursery I could not resist.

Zaide, Kordes rose

Zaide, Kordes rose

I am so excited to be able to add Kordes roses like Zaide to my garden.

White Kordes rose

White Kordes rose

This white Kordes rose is either Lion’s Fairy Tale or Polar Express.  I hope I can figure out which when the other white Kordes rose begins to bloom

Purple Rain Kordes rose

Purple Rain Kordes rose

Purple Rain has many small blossoms on a sprawly bush.

Folksinger rose

Folksinger, Buck rose

I love the apricot shade of Folksinger, a Griffith Buck rose. Thomas Affleck put out one flush of bloom but I expect more as the season progresses.

Stella d'Oro daylily

Stella d”Oro daylily

Stella d’Oro, a daylily left by the previous owners of our house is the only perennial on the Hellstrip.  But the Hellstrip will be blooming soon. Wait til July.

Mountain laurel

Mountain laurel

I’m so pleased with the way this mountain laurel has come through the year. It is such a modest and unassuming shade-loving shrub.

Irises are still bloom, as are the supermarket yellow primroses I planted. There are even a few blooms on the Japanese primroses, and the new elderberry shrubs.  I have a couple of  arrangements of annuals in large pots and bright red geraniums in pots on our front steps. Very welcoming, I hope. More plants will be bought this summer and I think we will have many more blooms.

Thank you Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day.  To see what else is in bloom across our great land click here.

The South Border One Year Later.

South Lawn May 22, 2015

South Lawn May 22, 2015

The South Border did not exist on the day we closed on the house. But we had ideas.

South Border on June 3, 2015

South Border on June 3, 2015

On June 3 we planted three hydrangeas, Limelight, Angel’s Blush and Firelight, as well as two lilacs, deep purple Yankee Doodle and double white Beauty of Moscow. Shrubs were planted in the ground with the the addition of Martin’s compost.

Lasagna planting

Lasagna planting

Once shrubs were in the ground we built the lasagna beds around them with cardboard and compost so  that we could plant perennials – and an annual or two.

Now, one year later,  with additional plantings of roses, virburnams and various groundcovers like lady’s mantle, and sedums the view from Office Window 2 is quite different.

Eastern end of the South Border

Eastern end of the South Border

The eastern end of the South Border includes the hydrangeas and lilac in the rear with roses in  the front. Low growing Purple Rain begins on  the left, then you can see the tiny white buds of a white rose (Lion’s Fairy Tale I thinks. Thomas Affleck pink follows then the apricot Folksinger and another white which is either Lion’s Fairy Tale or Polar Express, both of  which are Kordes roses.

South Border 2

South Border 2

You can see the white rose from the previous photo, then The Fairy which is not yet blooming but loaded with  buds and doing splendidly. To the far right is the wonderful Zaide,  a lush Kordes pink.

South Border 3

South Border 3

This photo gives you a better view of Zaide,  and Kockout Red ends this section of the South Border. There is only one other very small rose beyond the Knockout and we’ll have to wait for next year for her blooms. I hope you notice the tall mullein that Mother Nature planted for us at the very edge of the driveway. So far so good! The Main Garden behind the house is also doing well. Keep Watching.

Forbes Library Garden Tour in Northampton


Paul Redstone's water gardens

Paul Redstone’s water gardens

The Forbes Library Garden Tour is this Saturday, an opportunity to see unique private gardens.

If you are lucky retirement from the everyday world of work is an opportunity to make happy changes, and possibly even make a dream come true. This opportunity has been beautifully and artfully used by Paul Redstone, and Jesse and Jack Martin. They both gave up country homes and properties and moved to ‘the city,’ Northampton, where they now live next to each other. They all love to garden, treasure their friendship, and have very different approaches to making a garden.

Paul Redstone

I spoke to Redstone while sitting on his deck listening to the falling water in his water garden. I could see cattails and water lilies, but he said the water garden was really all about the music of the moving water falling over the stone. His wife passed away ten years ago and when he moved to town about six years ago he thought it was time to make his dream of a musical water feature come true. With the encouragement of a friend he did some renovations on his new house so he could have room for a printmaking studio, and finally built the water garden he had longed for.

Paul Redstone

Paul Redstone

I asked if this was a house where he could age in place. He laughed. “I didn’t think of it at the time, but I guess it is. The kitchen is now more efficient and I have a bedroom on the ground floor. The water garden is sited where I can see it from the bedroom.”

He designed the stone water garden on a rise, with various sections that provide music, a home for three koi and occasional frogs and bogs for breathtaking lotuses. It is surrounded by irises and a delightful carpet of ground covers. While he needed help to build the stone infrastructure, he is completely responsible for all the plantings.

His main goal in the garden is to eliminate lawn. The sunny front yard has a variety of groundcovers including bearberry and cotoneaster. Gorgeous irises were beginning to bloom the day I visited. One of the stunning shrubs is a calycanthus with its wine-red blossoms.

The garden around the water garden holds a broad range of plants, raspberries and  thornless blackberries from Nourse Farm, and plum trees, arborvitae, hollyhocks and wonderful native plants from Tripple Brook Nursery. He said he doesn’t make elaborate plans but “gardens according to my whims. If something doesn’t work out it is easy to send it off.”

Paul Redstone's Calycanthus, or Carolina allspice

Paul Redstone’s Calycanthus, or Carolina allspice

Jesse and Jack Martin

Jesse and Jack Martin live right next door. While they have very different styles, they spend a lot of time strolling through each others’ gardens and swapping notes.

Jack and Jesse Marti

Jack and Jesse Marti

Jesse and Jack left Beckett to look for a gentler climate that would make life a bit easier, but also provide more scope for their garden plans. In Northampton they have found a community rich in cultural opportunities, and a warmer climate.

Unlike Redstone, they like lawn and have a lush greensward in front of the house leading to a handsome shrub border that continues around the side of the house. Lilacs are pruned every three years or so, removing trunks that are more than a thumb width, keeping them vital and strongly blooming. A turn into the back garden is around a wisteria covered arbor they built themselves to provide a seating area in the shade.

A flowery border in front of the conifer privacy screen

A flowery border in front of the conifer privacy screen

They removed the 50 foot tall hemlocks that separated them from their backyard neighbor. “Those trees were so wide they took up half the yard,” Jesse said. Now there are slimmer Emerald Green and American arborvitae providing privacy and a background for the perennial border which also holds several birdhouses and a bird bath. The Martins welcome the birds and provide for their needs. “The cardinals and robins love the straw mulch. It is so much fun to watch them tossing the straw and searching for seeds.”

“We like the idea of textures – The upright blooms of the irises, and the fluffiness of the poppies.” Jesse said. The peonies were heavily budded. “We aim for a progression of bloom, but actually early summer has the most flowers.”

I was amazed by the large Harry Lauder Walking Stick. I have only seen this as a small shrub but it was beautiful as a small tree. Another particularly important small tree in the garden is the intensely fragrant witch hazel that blooms in February, right next to the hot tub. “

Redstone and the Martins make good use of a variety of irises.

Redstone and the Martins make good use of a variety of irises.

As we strolled through the garden Jack and Jesse couldn’t help pulling a weed or two. They said they wandered through the garden every day, admiring and weeding. After the tour we sat in the shade of the screened porch. “The whole purpose of the garden is to have something beautiful to look at during that first cup of coffee, or in the afternoon. We often invite Paul over,” Jack said.

The Redstone and Martin Gardens are two of the eight unique and inspiring gardens on this 23rd self guided Forbes Library Garden Tour, on Saturday, June 11 from 10 am to 3 pm, rain or shine. Advance $15 tickets are available at Forbes Library, Baystate Perennial Center, Cooper’s Corner, Hadley Garden Center, North Country Landscaping and Garden Center and State Street Market. On the day of the Tour tickets are only available at the Forbes Library for $20. There will also be a raffle that for compost, a landscape consultation and garden supplies. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Forbes Library, funding programs, events and projects.

Between the Rows   June 4, 2016