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Wedding Voyeurs at Mendota Lake

After spending our first day  in Madison at the Olbrich Botanical Garden, we settled in at the Edgewater Hotel and planned the rest of our stay, but got something unexpected – not just one wedding, but three.

Concert at the Edgewater Hotel

Bluegrass concert at the Edgewater Hotel in Madison Wisconsin

The bluegrass concert began – loudly  – at 7 pm but fortunately ended at 9 pm promptly.

Bride

Bride of wedding number 1

On Saturday morning we looked out our window and saw a Bride in a beautiful lace wedding dress walking across the  dock.

Bride and Groom

Bride, Groom and Photographers

She met her groom, and the photographers further out on the dock.

Wedding attendants

Mother of the groom and Wedding attendants

Meanwhile the mother of the groom and the  other wedding attendants were having their photographs taken on solid ground. After many many photographs had been taken, this group left the hotel terrace. But . . .

Flower girl

Flower Girl

suddenly a flower girl arrived on the dock.  She stood very still looking out over the lake. What was she thinking? Of her own future as a bride when she would walk down an isle? Then . . .

The Bride

The Bride arrives

and they both stood still looking out over the lake. What was the bride thinking?  Oh, what a glorious day for the happiest day of my life?  Oh, no. What am I doing? How will I last the day?

wedding attendants

Wedding attendants

The Bridal attendants arrived, and watched the last of the Bride and Groom  photos being taken.

Bride and Groom arrive

The Bride and groom arrive and continue taking directions from the photographers – and the videographer. Now bop along the dock!  Now give a cheer! Now – now – now.  It was quite a production.

We left our window and saw that 250 chairs had been set up in the hotel plaza, for this wedding, but there was also a double decker bus waiting to take many of the guests on a tour of Madison.

Then, as the sun was hanging low over the water, we saw another bride and groom walk out on the dock, with only a single photographer. Their photos were taken without noticeable instruction or fanfare – and we got no photos of  the third bride.

At least there were no disasters. Last summer I was a voyeur of a wedding in Pennsylvania – and there was a disaster just before the wedding was to begin.  However, a happy wedding ceremony – and a happy life –  does not depend on the roses.

Farmers Coop Plant Nursery Ruled by the Queen of Cram

Deanne Andrews and Jeff Budine

Deanne Andrews , Queen of Cram, and Jeff Budine at the Greenfield Farmers Coop plant nursery

Jeff Budine, Manager of the Greenfield Farmers Cooperative Exchange, now
celebrating its Centennial Anniversary, told me that the plant nursery with its current
offerings of everything from trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs
began about 50 years ago in the open space where the warehouse now stands. In those
days there were fewer nursery plants, and they were all sold out by Memorial Day, he
said.

Nowadays, the plant nursery is a big operation and includes a greenhouse. Budine
took me outside to the arrays of flowers and brilliant hanging baskets to introduce me to
Deanne Andrews who has managed the nursery for the last 14 years. Andrews graduated from UMass Stockbridge in 2001 where she majored in commercial floriculture and fruit and vegetable crop production. She left the area, but after a sojourn in Virginia, she moved back to Greenfield, her home town, and began a career with plants, but with a different slant. “Retail is very different from farming. On a farm you always have a second chance to try a project that didn’t work as hoped. Here in retail you have one shot to make a sale. “It has definitely been a learning experience. Until you actually do something hands on you don’t have a clue about what to do, or how to do it,” she said.

She explained that there are many facets to her job from ordering, organizing and
caring for all these plants as well as helping customers and giving them advice. “I can
give advice but I don’t know everything – I am always learning.”

Delphiniums

Delphiniums, soon to bloom in the garden

Andrews recognizes that every year there are new trends and new plant
introductions. “This year Tabletop strawberries seem to be in favor. The idea is you place
a potted strawberry plant that is bearing on your table so you can snack on the
strawberries.” I examined the sizeable pot containing a blooming and fruiting strawberry
plant, and thought it wouldn’t take me long to finish off that helping, but it certainly was
pretty.

She said there seemed to be a new petunia every year, a new color or variety, but
she couldn’t illustrate her point because every petunia had been sold. She assured me that
more petunias would be arriving.

“New plants are coming in all the time. There are replacements, and the
perennials change as the season progresses. People can request certain plants and I do try
to get what they want,” she said.

“The challenge is keeping the plants looking fresh. We have very limited space.
Jeff calls me the Queen of Cram. There are days when there are a lot of people in here,
moving plants around as they make their choices. Busy days cause disarray but it is very
gratifying to be able to re-establish order for the next onslaught.”

Andrews orders all the plants and is happy that she can get most of them locally,
from Harvest Farm, Mill River Farm, Five Acre Farm, Kelley Farm and Shoestring Farm.
Some plants come from the Prides Corner nursery in Connecticut. The trees and shrubs
come from the Monrovia nursery in Connecticut which has a similar climate to ours.

While the flower, tree and shrub displays are very eye-catching, Andrews explained that more and more people are planting vegetables. There seem to be trends in vegetables as well. Last year she said ground cherry, okra and tomatillos were all the rage. “Once people try something new, they want to try out other new things. It’s satisfying to grow some of your own food. I love the herbs myself,” she said. “I don’t actually use all of them in cooking, but I like having them in my garden.
“I think this is the best job in town. I have my own little oasis, although it does get
pretty hot out here on the paving during the summer. The staff here is basically a family.
It is a wonderful place to work,” Andrews said, as she then excused herself to go and help
a customer.

Fortunately, the Greenfield Farmers Coop also sells just about everything else that
a gardener might need: tools, organic fertilizers, hose holders, decorative pots, seeds and
seed starting supplies, and everything else.
**********************
The Forbes Library Northampton Garden Tour will take place onSaturday June 9
from 10 AM to 3 PM. It is a self-guided tour; people can purchase a ticket in advance for$15.00 prior to the day of the tour at State St. Fruit in Northampton, Baystate Perennials
in Whately, Hadley Garden Center in Hadley and Cooper’s Corner in Florence, and, of
course, Forbes Library.

This celebratory 25 th Anniversary tour includes gardens large and small. Four of the
outstanding gardens from past tours are included, and three additional gardens, all
unique, with waterfalls and ponds, statuary, collections of wonderful trees and shrubs and
more. One garden is terraced into seven different but cohesive levels; a singular vision
sets the garden apart. The grand scale of this garden is seldom seen in New England gardens.

A Texas Garden with Rooms, Blooms – and Art

Stocker's Entry garden in Austin

Entry to this Texas Garden at the Stocker residence in Austin

A Texas garden may be different from New England gardens, but gardeners all share the desire to create beautiful spaces. I spent a week in Texas visiting my daughter and her family, and joining ninety-two other garden bloggers touring gardens in the Austin area. We visited big public gardens like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the Zilker Botanical Garden.  We also visited unique private gardens.

The garden created by David and Jenny Stocker appeared to be a regular Texas garden as we left our bus. The walkway approach to the house with its smooth pale walls is very Texan. The landscaping consists of gravel, rough stone walls, and a dry creek bed with smooth river stones. Agaves of different sizes are spread across the landscape along with other succulents. This work was designed by Sitio Design, but David and Jenny designed and did almost all the stone work themselves at this approach and throughout all the gardens. They built the dry creek, the dry stone walls, retaining walls and rock gardens. Jenny was as at the house site almost every day during construction to save out ledge stones that would be useful, and David searched out interesting stone to add to the mix.

Jenny had had to adjust to the hot and dry Austin climate which is nothing like her native British climate, but she has found ways to include both garden styles. The garden is distinctive because of its ‘garden rooms.’  I don’t know that Vita Sackville-West invented garden rooms when she created them at her famous Sissinghurst garden, but certainly that phrase has become popular. However, Sackville-West’s rooms were mostly separated from each other by large, tall, dense hedges. The Stockers, for the most part, have used real walls.

The house was built in 2001 with surrounding walls so Jenny could garden in a deer-free space. Jenny thinks of it as an Arts and Crafts Texas style house with distinct rooms. Those rooms are used at different seasons and times of the day depending on whether they need sun or shade, or protection from the famous Texas wind.

One corner in one of the Stocker garden's

A corner of one of the Stocker’s gardens with a door from the house

Our New England houses don’t offer much in the way of small sheltered exterior spaces, but because of the many angles in the Stocker house there are corners that provide wonderful spaces for plants. One corner has two airy and spindly trees in it, one has a leafy tree casually lounging against the wall, one has a well pruned shrub growing up the wall and one corner presents a whole tableau with a graceful tree, a bird bath and feeder, river stones to catch rain from the drain pipe and a varied collection of green plants.

Garden with pavers and flowers

One garden has pavers and flowers cohabitating happily

Stone is certainly a strong theme in the Stocker gardens. There is the ledge stone that was dug up when the house was built providing the material for stone walls, but finished stone is used as well. A whole variety of plants and flowers thrive in the space between square pavers set in gravel. A sheltered round table and chairs sit on a circular arrangement of rough and finished stones, surrounded by low growing plants.

Each of the different rooms has a different appeal, but I loved the English garden set beside the pool. The effect is very meadow-like with native and other low water plants. Many of the plants were familiar to me from my own garden. I was surprised to see columbine, poppies, foxgloves, roses, rudbeckias, nigella and other Massachusetts favorites.

English garden in Austin, Texas

This is the wild English garden

Jenny noted that the climate and thin soil are definite challenges so these are not low maintenance gardens. She does use plants that can adjust to the climate and welcomes self seeding plants, as well as passalongs from friends.

Of course, gardeners do not live by flowers alone. One room includes potted citrus trees and raised beds for vegetables. You will never be bored, or hungry in this garden!

Every Texas garden needs a bit of artful whimsy.

I found the stroll through all the garden rooms a bit dizzying. Each space provided a different delight, pieces of art, handmade hyper-tufa troughs and bowls filled with a varied assortment of succulents. This house with its gardens, its shady patios, and its cooling pool welcomed us all with good will and generosity.  I was surprised when I turned a final corner and found myself back at the front entryway. I wanted to start over and spend all day there. I wanted to fly home instantly and make a sheltered but flowery space where I could have my morning coffee and newspaper, just like the Stockers. I wonder what my husband will say when I tell him how much I loved this garden and ask where he thinks our table for morning coffee could be placed.

The Stocker garden is just one of the 14 gardens I saw. You will be seeing more of the inspired arrangement of plants and social garden spaces over the next few months. If you would like to know more about the Stocker’s garden you can visit Jenny’s Rock Rose blog http://wwwrockrose.blogspot.com/ which I have found entertaining, charming and useful.

Model of the Stocker's Austin house

The cardboard model of the Stocker’s  house explains how they achieved all their garden rooms, many of the interior rooms having a door into a garden.

Between the Rows   May 19, 2018

Bridge of Flowers Annual Plant Sale

'Goldheart' bleeding heart

Dicentra Bleeding Heart “Goldheart’

While on my recent weekend of touring amazing gardens in Texas, I found that three of my fellow tourists, from New York and Rhode Island, had visited the Bridge of Flowers. Not only did my new friends appreciate the beauty of the Bridge in joyous bloom, they admired the way the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club, and their Bridge of Flowers subcommittee, have cared for the Bridge, and enlisted the support of  a wide community to create a beautiful space that has brought visitors  from around the world. I remember one day I was on the Bridge and to my amusement and delight I don’t think I heard one word of English! The Bridge is famous!

Carol Delorenzo and Danny New

Carol Delorenzo and Danny New on the Bridge for TV interview this spring

Last June Carol Delorenzo, the Head Gardener, on behalf of the Bridge, received the Bee Spaces award, created by the Franklin County Beekeepers and the Second Congregational Church. Former governor Deval Patrick presented the beautiful plaque made by Molly Cantor, which now lives on the fence by the Garden House.

It was Lorenzo L. Langstroth, who served as minister of the Second Congregational Church in the 1840s, who was the man who ‘discovered’ bee space. We now often refer to the moveable frame wooden hives used by beekeepers as Langstroth hives. The secret Langstroth discovered was that bees can work in a space between 3/8 inch and 1/4 inch which is 5/16 of an inch. If there is more space than this between frames the bees will create extra comb that will make storing and using honey and pollen difficult. If there is less space the bees will fill it up with propolis.

Propolis is sometimes called bee glue. It is used to seal up drafty cracks in the hive, and even to enclose dead mice that have crept into the hive. The bees act to protect the hive from pathogens. For this reason it is sometimes called bee penicillin.

Bee balm and bee

Bee Balm and bee

Bees gather tree resins from sap and leaf buds. Back in the hive these resins are mixed with wax, honey, and enzymes from the bees’ stomachs creating an important anti-bacterial substance that can keep the bees safe and healthy.

A beehive is a busy place. Worker bees are busy gathering nectar and pollen, storing honey and pollen, feeding the brood, and themselves, and making royal jelly. Royal jelly is the single food of the queen bee and she needs to be royally fed as she lays approximately 1500 eggs a day and keeps the hive strong.

The Bridge of Flowers has its own optimal spaces to consider as do bees and beekeepers. Carol Delorenzo, our Head Gardener, tends to the health of the garden which means removing perennials that have frozen over the winter or lost their vigor. Sometimes she removes plants because newer varieties have caught her attention. She also chooses all the annuals that are so vital to keeping the Bridge in bloom all season. We gardeners know that there are always new, bright annuals to try out. Delorenzo has an eye and she always knows how to use all the new plants that go in every year. No gardener wants her garden to look exactly the same every year.

Some perennials have to be removed because they have increased and can no longer fit in their allotted space. Local gardeners usually have plants to divide and thin out, and are happy to give them to a new home, and in this case, happy that they help support the Bridge of Flowers. This will add up to over 1000 plants.

The Blossom Brigade is a hardy group of volunteers who meet twice a week all season long to keep the Bridge looking its best. Deadheading! But at this time of the year most of their energy is spent potting up plant divisions for the plant sale. This year they have been helped by a group of students from the Academy of Charlemont as part of their community service.

The Plant Sale will also include annuals from LaSalle Florist and Greenhouses, woodland plants from Hillside Nursery in Shelburne, special native plants from Polly French, and special perennials from Baystate Perennials. There will be coffee and treats to help customers keep up their strength while shopping.

Once again there will be an array of vendors offering books, glass flowers and bees, as well as bird baths and bee baths. I can’t wait to see the bee baths.

The Bridge Plant Sale is the single fund raising event of the year. Proceeds support the necessary buying of plants, the yards of compost and mulch, and less lovely necessities like repairs to the lights, and the irrigation system. Compost and mulch are vital to health of this organic garden, and every year there seems to be the need for some repair.

On Monday, May 14 the Bridge will be featured on Channel 22 around noon. We are not sure of the exact time.

Bridge of Flowers Plant Saale

2017 Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale – will be damper this year

But the big event for the week is the Plant Sale held on the Baptist Lot across from the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center on Saturday, May 19. The sale begins at 9 a.m. and ends at noon. RAIN OR SHINE! Gardeners often start assessing the plants ahead of time, deciding which they most desire.  It is all very well to make these assessments, but picking up a plant and holding it until the starting bell is rung is forbidden.

See you at the plant sale. Don’t be late.

Between the Rows    May 12, 2018

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – May 15, 2018

primrose

Primroses on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

The Texas sun seemed to be shining on these glowing golden primroses on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. The garden had hardly any blooms when we left for Texas on May  but our return on May 8 was astounding. I am going to  give a thorough pictorial record of our May 15 blooms.

creamy primroses

Creamy primroses

I’m behind on my spring clean up and weeding so you’ll likely see plenty of weeds. These primroses are increasing nicely. The tall Japanese primroses will be along soon.

Iris reticulata

Iris reticulata

These are the first irises to bloom in the garden.

Dicentra bleeding heart

Dicentra, bleeding heart

This white bleeding heart  was recently given to me in full bloom. Fortunately it adjusted to its new site comfortably.

Grape hyacinths

Grape hyacinths

I don’t remember planting these grape hyacinths last fall. I’m glad  I waited for a while before pulling up the first shoots.

Geum

Geum

This geum is a wonderful plant. I love the color of the blooms and it is in bloom for a very long season. It also increases at a slow rate and occasionally sends a baby plant off to the side.

Fairy bells, Disporum flavens

Fairy Bells, Disporum flavens

These Fairy Bells throw out shoots at  the same time as Solomon’s Seal, followed by the yellow bells. The bells will last for a couple of weeks, and the foliage will look handsome all season. These are native  to Korea, but they like damp woodlands – which describes their position in the garden.

Wood poppy Stylophorum diphyllum

Wood poppy Stylophorum diphyllum

Also called Celandine poppy. It looks very like, only larger, a weed that grows next to my house. More research needed.

Zizia? Golden Alexanders?

These plants are growing riotously next to the wood poppies. I thought I was planting Golden Alexanders, but one knowledgeable friend said  this was not accurate.  Does anyone have any ideas?

Waldsteinia or barren strawberry

Waldsteinia or barren strawberry

I planted barren strawberry plants along the top of the stone wall, and in front of the rhododendrons. They have done just what I hope for – covering the ground with a dense mat that does a great job of keeping down the weeds. It will only bloom for a while and the very low foliage looks great all season.

Jacob's ladder

Jacob’s ladder

 

I just moved two clumps of Jacob’s ladder out from under the yellow twig dogwood which has achieved an amazing spread. They have adjusted nicely to their place in  the sun. Well, a little more sun  than they had.

Fringed bleeding heart

Fringed bleeding heart

Bleeding heart

Gold Heart Dicentra

Now I have three different Dicentras: white, fringed and Gold Heart. I love them all.

Summer snowflake

Leucojum aestivum or Summer snowflake

Hard to know why these are called Summer Snowflakes when then bloom so early in the spring – but they are later than the snowdrops.

Fothergilla

Fothergilla

The Fothergilla looks great – just like  the one on the Bridge of Flowers.

Korean Spice Bush

Korean Spice Bush, Viburnum carlesii

Korean Spice bush is famous for its fragrance.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Go on over and see what is in bloom over our great land.

 

Greenfield’s Energy Park – For the Community and the Environment

Energy Park

Energy Park in Greenfield is the venue for summer concerts and other events

Greenfield’s Energy Park is a gem in the center of town. Main Street is all bustle and work, but a short stroll down Miles Street takes you to the peaceful gardens and shade of a town park created in 1999.

Sandy Thomas was the director of the Northeast Sustainability Energy Association (NESEA) housed in the former railroad switch house building in the blighted area left by the demolition of the railroad station. In 1999 the town had a Master Plan that called for a public park. “Overseeing the creation of the park fell to me, but it took hundreds of people of make it a reality,” Thomas said.

Thomas was fortunate in learning that Kim Erslev who was finishing up her master’s degree in Landscape Design at the University of Massachusetts had laid out a plan for a park for her studies. “We took her plan which laid out the park with pedestrian walkways. A park review committee was led by Bill Gran, the town planner. We also turned to the wider community, including children, for their ideas about what they wanted in a park.”

Thomas remembered all the committees that worked so long and thoughtfully. “We formed lots of committees. It took us a year and a half to choose the trees for shade. The trees we planted were very small, but they have matured and now they give the cooling shade we imagined. The architect Bruce Coldham, provided an essential service and worked with the town on laying out wires and pipes.”

Native Single bloodroot

Native Single Bloodroot, sign made by Wisty Rorabacher

Many volunteers worked to actually build and plant the Energy Park including Nancy Hazard. Hazard continues to volunteer in the park and remembers those early days. “It seemed like an incredible opportunity and I was really excited. There were only some trees and shrubs planted when I joined. I didn’t know anything about gardening but I like to do things I don’t know anything about.”

Volunteers have many ways of donating their labor. Hazard worked in the garden but she also wrote grants and can laugh when she says she was known for asking people for things. “And I get things,” she said. “Nasami farm was just starting up in Whately and they very generously donated plants. Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory also responded and gave us donations of plants, because it was our desire to welcome butterflies.”

Thomas said they operated with NESEA’s philosophy of using recycled materials. “We got a lot of old granite curbing that made the amphitheater seating for musical performances. Then we went to Ashfield Stone to make stone benches and found people who were willing to sponsor the benches. Arjen Vriends of Pioneer Gardens in Deerfield donated many plants. Hundreds of people gave their money, their energy, and their ideas. I wrote a lot of grants including infrastructure grants, and a Tree Trust Fund grant. Grants paid for the sculptures. The caboose came later. We opened the stairs down to Bank Row and decorated them with rainbow tiles.”

Construction moved apace but an essential element was missing – safety for children. “It was not a safe environment. There were no fences and you could walk right over to the train tracks on both sides.” Iron railings were built for safety and setting the park boundaries.”

I asked Thomas about The Station, which acts as a stage for Energy Park events. “It was built in 2003, the 250th anniversary of Greenfield’s founding. David Miller who played trumpet in the Greenfield Military Band that gave concerts there was an important part of that effort.”

Thomas gave me so many names of those who helped bring the Energy Park into being that it is impossible to list them all. She concluded by saying “The man I cannot leave out is Al Dray. I couldn’t have done it without Al. He kept things going and got the Kiwanis to help.”

The Energy Park, like any garden, is always changing. There are additions and subtractions. Volunteers are always changing as well. I am pleased to be a part of the current group of volunteers who are supported by The Greenfield Garden Club with funds for the park gardens. The town does not have the money for the plantings. Nowadays, our goal continues to be using native plants, but we have added the effort to support pollinators.

Nancy Hazard is still volunteering. Her love is the woodland. “I work a lot in the grove of River birches. It’s the wildness that I love, and the spring ephemerals,” she said.

Wisty Rorabacher and Judy Draper have been working on the big Welcome Garden, along with Linda Smith and Nancy Patteson who are members of the Garden Club.

Linda Smith and Nancy Patteson, Energy Park volunteers

Linda Smith and Nancy Patteson, Energy Park volunteers

Patteson was eloquent about what it means to be a volunteer in a project like the Energy Park. “As I quickly learned, gardening with people is very different than gardening alone. My way of doing things was not the only way! At the Energy Park I have had the good fortune to be mentored by amazing gardeners and I have learned so much. I have been embraced by a supportive environment and enriched by a wonderful sense of community. I continue to work at the Energy Park because of the friendships I have made with my fellow gardeners and because of the rewards of watching an urban garden space come to life under the watchful eyes of a handful of volunteers.

I credit Linda Smith with taking me under her wing, Nancy Hazard with being my role model for sustainable gardening, and Wisty Rorabacher and Judy Draper for sharing their love and appreciation of native plants.”

If you wish to donate to the plant fund you can make a donation to The Greenfield Garden Club, and please be sure to note that it is for The Energy Park.

And do visit the Park and enjoy its beauty and peace.

Between the Rows   May 5, 2018

Deep in the Heart of Texas Garden Tour

Echeveria

Echeverias were in almost all the gardens on our Austin garden tour

I am returned from Austin, Texas Garden Tour where we saw succulents small –

Agave

Agave

and LARGE. This agave was at the Nature’s Garden organic nursery. We didn’t even mind that it was still raining (pouring)  as we wandered among the gardens – and the plants for sale.

mother and child

Mother and child

We saw Art in the garden – LARGE

Froggies

Froggies playing on the stone wall

and small.

I am just teasing now but  soon I’ll show you wonderful public gardens like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Zilker Botanical Garden, as well as private gardens, large and small. This garden tour will live in my memory for a long time.

New and Interesting Perennials This Spring

Allium Millenium

Allium ‘Millenium’ or ‘Milenium’ one of the truly dependable perennials

What new perennials will you plant in your garden this year? I don’t mean brand new on the market, but new to you. Last fall I planted more than 100 crocus bulbs: white, yellow and purple. These are not new varieties, but I have never planted crocus before. In my new garden I can’t plant many bulbs because the garden is wet and bulbs would rot. But the bit of lawn in front of the house allows a small number of crocus to make an spritely spring show.

Now I am thinking of what new perennials I will put in one of the main garden beds. The clumping Allium ‘Millenium’ is my choice. ‘Millenium; is the Perennial Plant of the Year, awarded because it is beautiful with its many rosy-purple globe flowers on 12-18 inch stems. It also has the virtue of being a low maintenance plant that is pest and disease resistant. It needs good soil and at least 6 hours of sun. It is available online and at garden centers. I recently learned that many NEW! Introductions are in so little supply that they are very hard to get in spite of all their publicity.

The Perennial Plant of the Year website lists all the plants chosen since the organization was formed in 1990. You will probably recognize many of the award winning plants in your own garden like last year’s Aesclepius tuberosa. My own garden includes the delicate pink Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Joubert,’ the rich blue Salvia ‘May Night,’ the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ with it’s wine-red foliage, and Perovskia, also known as Russian sage, with its lavender flowers that vigorously attract honeybees.

Echinacea tenneesseensis

Echinacea tenneesseensis

There seem to be more echinaceas on the market every year. This family of dependable perennials shows off with more colors, more multicolors and more petaled with wild mop heads. One reason they have become so popular is because Echinacea, coneflower, is a wonderful pollinator plant attracting bees and butterflies. If your desire is to have a flower that is especially attractive the familiar pink variety, Echinacea purpurea, is an excellent choice. The petals act as a runway for the bee or butterfly to land on and get to the source of nectar and pollen. I found an unusual variety, Echinacea tennesseenis, with unique up-facing petals that give the flower a cup-like shape. I can’t wait to try this one. These are available at American Meadows.

Naturally I want to encourage people to plant roses, especially those who are still under the misconception that roses are really finicky and a lot of work. Many people who have tip-toed into the world of roses have discovered Knock Out roses. ‘Peachy’ Knock Out is a fairly new rose, but it has been in production long enough to have been tested in the several trial gardens of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S.) organization. Gardeners may remember the All America Rose Trials which gave their approval – or not – to new roses as they came on the market, but they are no longer in existence. Now we have A.R.T.S. and they are devoted to letting us know which roses are not only beautiful, but are disease resistant and must thrive in many areas of our country.

‘Peachy’ blooms over a long season and is highly resistant to black spot, powdery mildew, downy mildew and rust. It has been trialed and received awards in four regions of our country and has been named an A.R.T.S Master Rose.

Knock Out 'Peachy' rose

Knock Out ‘Peachy’ rose

Two summers ago I was on a garden tour in Minneapolis and environs. We went to wonderful public and private gardens. We also went to a display garden with a variety of fairly new cultivars. One was the ‘Delft Lace’ Astilbe which has tall, airy blossoms in shades of pink with red stems, which I just loved. It was this plant that made me pay attention to astilbes which come in a surprising number of forms. There is‘Purple Candles’ with its ‘statuesque’ plumes in a rich shade of purple, and ‘Red Charm’ which is the reddist  astilbe  and is equally statuesque but has arching plumes that make it unusual.

Sometimes we find a plant that just speaks to us, even if we have to splurge to have it. I have never been a devotee of hostas, but, expensive as it is, I was enchanted by Hosta ‘Floramora’ ($50) a 2018 Plant Delights Nursery introduction this year. Plant Delights is a wonderful nursery in North Carolina with excellent and unusual plants.  ‘Floramora’ is a cross involving the Japanese Hosta longipes and the Chinese Hosta plantaginea. The result is a 30 inch wide clump of glossy foliage and 20 inch spikes of deliciously fragrant wide white flowers that will bloom in September.

Hosta ‘Floramora’

Like all good hostas, this is a hardy plant and enjoys some sun and some light shade. Before planting the soil should be well prepared by digging at least 12 inches or more, and improving the soil with a generous helping of compost and some slow acting fertilizer.  Hostas originated where there was a lot of rain, and they have large leaves that transpire more moisture than other perennials so they need regular watering.

We all have favorites to grow every year, and we have limited space, but it is always fun, to grow new perennials that will return spring after spring.

Sources: www.americanmeadows.com; www.bluestoneperennials.com; www.plantdelights.com

Between the Rows  April 28, 2018

Groundcovers – Base for the Layered Garden

tiarella or foam flower

Tiarella, or foam flowers, spring blooms, and groundcovers all season

The layered garden is created by arranging plants from the ground up beginning with groundcovers ranging from delicate tiarella, epimediums, and lamium to taller plants like ferns, and even low growing shrubs like cotoneaster and very spready junipers.

            The layers continue upwards with an herbaceous layer of perennials and annuals, followed by a shrub layer and ending with trees. Layers will  spread out across the garden space. For example, I have planted two river birches in one of my lawn beds. That long narrow bed does contain groundcovers like tiarella and bistort, perennials like daylilies, bee balm and Japanese anemone, and not very tall shrubs, a winterberry and a fothergilla. By mid-June most of the ground is covered and I can enjoy its beauty and know that it supports the birds and pollinators in our neighborhood  – and helping keep down  the weeds.

            To my mind it is the groundcovers, covering the soil, that knit the rest of the plantings into a pleasing whole. The first groundcovers I used were foam flower, barren strawberry, and lamium.  ‘White Nancy’ Lamium maculatum,is less than a foot tall with variegated white leaves edged with dark green. It is a vigorous grower, but it can be kept under control. It can tolerate dry soil and full shade.

Waldsteinia

Waldsteinia, or barren strawberry is a very mat-like groundcover

            Barren strawberry, Waldsteinia, is a very low growing, dense mat of foliage that is similar to that of strawberries, and the yellow flowers resemble strawberry blossoms, but there are no fruits. It likes full sun but tolerates part shade. I have always grown it successfully where it got a fair amount of shade. Each plant will spread about two feet, and the rhizomes can be separated in the spring to propagate new plants.

            Foam flower or Tiarella cordifolia lives up to its name. It creeps along the ground and in the spring sends up foamy white spires of blossom that will not reach more than 12 inches. There is also a pale pink variety. It likes some shade, but tolerates a lot of sun. In the spring it will send out stolons with plantlets which can be cut off and propagated.

            Bistort, Persicaria, bistorta, is said to grow to two feet, but in my garden it has never grown that tall, even with the tall spikes of pinky bootlebrush type flowers. The foliage is quite large and it spreads by rhizomes. It likes sun and shade. I have it growing and spreading underneath a river birch that I limbed up early this spring, so the bistort will get a little more sun, I think.

Epimedium

Epimedium sulphureum

            I first admired epimediums for their foliage. I would occasionally see these beautiful heart shaped leaves in other gardens, but could never remember what they were called. And then I finally saw the plants in bloom and could never forget the name epimediums after that.  Sometimes they are called barrenwort or charmingly, bishop’s hat. They grow well in shade, but I have grown them in full sun without any difficulty.

            Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’ is a particularly sturdy cultivar that spreads easily. The delicate looking yellow blossoms are hardy to Zone 4 and are attractive all season, even after the blossoms wither. They are usually no more than a foot tall and need little care beyond cutting back last season’s foliage – which I should be doing right now.

            The world of epimediums is comprised of many flower forms and colors from pale to deep and rich. We are fortunate Garden Visions, a nursery that specializes in epimediums is located in Phillipston, not very far away. The Garden Visions nursery has a limited number Open Garden Days: April 27 and 29; May 4 through 13; and May 18 through 20.  Hours are 10 am – 4 pm rain or shine. Their catalog is online at www.epimediums.com, or you can download a printed order form or order a printed catalog by emailing  Karen@epimediums.com.

            Cotoneaster (pronounced co-tone-ee-aster) is fairly slow growing. I planted one and it came along  so slowly that I planted another one nearby to get that ground covering effect, and got quite a tangle but handsome anyway.  I first planted C. adpressus which only grows to less than 10 inches. Then, foolishly I planted C. apiculatus (I think) that grows to four to six food spread. I was happily shocked when it produced wonderful red flowers in early summer. I was only expecting red berries in the fall. I ought to read labels more carefully.

            There are a number of creeping junipers, J. horizontalis, that spread nicely and can give you a range of color. Blue-green ‘Bar Harbor’will not be more than a foot tall and will spread more than 5-10 feet. ‘Icee Blue’ is a silvery shade, less than a foot tall with a spread of 6-8 feet. Both like sun, but will tolerate some shade.

            An unusual low conifer is Picea Procumbens ‘Blue Spruce.’ It can reach a height of 2 feet and spreads slowly to cover 10 feet. Think of Blue Spruce foliage spreading along the ground. Much different from the finer foliage of the junipers. Very hardy.

           The world of groundcovers is very large. This is only a sampling of easily available plants that require very little care.

           Between The Rows   April 21, 2018

April National Poetry Month – The Bridge of Flowers

Bridge of Flowers poems

Bridge of Flowers poems by Carol Purington

April is National Poetry Month and Carol Purington, Colrain’s noted haiku poet has donated a matted set of poems describing the Bridge of Flowers through its seasons. It is available by writing to bridgeofflowersmass@gmail.com.

Carol has written several books  of haiku describing life on a family farm, the essence of the seasons, the love of family, joy and  sorrow. Carol, and her friend Susan Todd also put together an anthology of poems, Morning Song: Poems for New Parents.

The matted sheet is $15 including postage, and the plain cream heavy paper sheet is $10 including postage. All sales go to benefit the Bridge of Flowers. This is a lovely souvenir of a visit to the Bridge, or gift to someone who loves the Bridge.

Bridge of Flowers

Arching
the Indian-old river
bridge of blossoms

From  the concrete
of a decades-dead trolley way
fragrance of violets

Azure above
the flowers above
the river-reflected bridge

Arc of geese</em
under frosted flowers
the river runs south

Star-still flakes
fall from the flower-less bridge
to the ice-still river

Double lane of daffodils
crossing  the flower way
into spring

Summer-green
floats out from under the arches
flower-bridge blooms

I am adding information about Carol written by Susan Todd, co-editor of Morning Song.

Carol Purington and Susan Todd

Carol Purington and Susan Todd

Before taking her 6th grade students to visit Carol for some Christmas Carol sing  “I told my students Carol’s story, trying for simplicity and clarity. She contracted polio when she was six years old, as she was starting first grade. The illness began at school with a severe headache and high fever. Within days she was left needing help to breathe, and paralyzed except for limited movement in her left arm and hand. She spent a couple of years in Boston area hospitals where her most memorable accomplishment was learning to read. Eventually she moved back to the big farmhouse where she had been born, the third of eleven children. She lives there still, surrounded by a large and caring family.

When I asked Carol how I should relate her disability for this account, she said I should think about how I had prepared my students for our visit. And this exchange is perhaps the perfect window into the mind and influence of this woman – her ability to soar beyond limitations with wisdom and perspective. When I have taken older visitors to meet her, I also add that her body is small, but you will quickly get used to that. And what you’ll really notice is how sophisticated and brilliant and scholarly and witty she is.

That day in January, coming into Carol’s room from the storm outside, I had such a sense of peace. This front parlor, with views looking to the hills and garden and an oversized bird feeder up against the window, has been her world for over fifty years. A mirror which can be tilted to different angles lets Carol see the changing landscape and the family in the next room. Standing in the room’s center was a massive iron lung (now replaced with a smaller fiberglass lung), for sleeping at night, with “J. H. Emerson “printed on the side. “H. Emerson!” I said when I first saw it. “I knew him.” My best friend from childhood moved to Andover, Massachusetts in 1953 so her father could work with Haven Emerson on the distribution of iron lungs. We all had a crush on Haven Emerson Jr. I told Carol the story and she said, “All these years I have wondered what the H. stands for. Now I know.”