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Faster and Faster

The Holiday Weekend started for me on Friday afternoon when I visited the Heath School’s Garden Day. The classes have been working before now, of course, but on Garden Day, the whole day is given over to planting, weeding, mulching – and learning.  I am impressed with their energy, which I expected, but also with the quality of the child-sized tools they are using.  Many hands make light work was certainly the motto on Friday.

You may wonder what is with all the stones and stone -like things in  the Shed Bed, but you have to remember that the Shed Bed is right next to the hen house and for the past couple of months the chickens have considered this their personal Lido for taking dust baths.  First I kept the chickens in the hen house today. Then I finished weeding and edging, dug in some nice rotted manure and lime, and planted the little annual salvias that edge this bed every year. This is the way I fudge not being able to grow a lavender hedge.

You can’t really tell, but I also put tiny annual dianthus along the west edge of the Lawn Grove, as well as nine cosmos seedlings.  The big task was planting the weeping cherry that I bought at Home Depot.  I hope that was a wise decision.  It’s been watered and mulched with wood chips. You can see a small hardy azalea blooming on the far side of the grove.  Lots of weeding.

Guan Yin Mian

The garden is progressing faster and faster.  Everytime I turn around something new has come into bloom.  This tree peony is so lovely. The translation of the name is Guan Yin’s Face.  Guan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion and surely hers is the most beautiful of faces.

Boule de Neige and Rangoon have been slowly opening, but with temperatures in the 80s for two days they came into full bloom in the shady bed next to the Cottage Ornee.

Last year I found this rhodie forgotten and languishing in the weeds at the edge of the ‘orchard.’  I dug it up and this time I transplanted it properly, “Keep it simple, just a dimple,” as my rhododendron expert says. I think it is Calsap. What a lovely surprise to have it survive and put out new growth and bloom!

The lilacs are blooming and perfuming the air.  We even spent some time enjoying the beauty and fragrance of the garden: we opened the Cottage officially and entertained two friends who we see all too infrequently.  A perfect weekend.

The Flower Brigade

L to R Tish Murphy, Judy Harlow, Penny Spearance, Joanie Greenfield

The Bridge of Flowers is a blooming wonder. Starting in April and through October it is in flower from the bright crocus and daffodils of early spring, through rose season and then dahlia season. I could not possibly give you a list of all the flowers that take their turn on the Bridge, bulbs, annuals, perennials, blooming shrubs and trees, all making life in Shelburne Falls a delight and attracting over 35,000 visitors from across the country and all over the world.

The Bridge of Flowers email often brings the question, when is the best time to visit the Bridge? The answer to that is easy – there is no best time. Through the skill of the Head Gardener, Carol Delorenzo, and her assistant, Tish Murphy, the Bridge is designed to be in full flower in every season.

Last summer my garden friend and sister blogger, Layanee DeMerchant, visited me and I brought her to the Bridge of Flowers as a last minute surprise. She was stunned. She later confessed that when I mentioned the Bridge of Flowers she imagined some little bridge hung with window box type planters. She asked how such a magnificent public planting came to be.

I explained that the bridge was originally a trolley bridge, built in 1908 to carry loads too heavy for the Iron Bridge to the railway yards. Time and the motor car brought the railway company to bankruptcy in 1927, leaving the bridge to become a weed choked eyesore.

Women cannot stand an eyesore. In 1928 Antoinette Burnham wrote a letter to the newspaper and suggested that it become a bridge of flowers. The Shelburne Falls Women’s Club sponsored the project and the Shelburne Falls Fire District purchased the bridge. Even with the trolley gone, the bridge is important because it contains the water main which brings water to Buckland.

In 1929 eighty loads of loam  and fertilizer were put on the bridge. All the work was donated.

To this very day the Bridge of Flowers depends on donated labor. Those laborers call themselves The Flower Brigade. Twice a week throughout the season they put on their old clothes and garden gloves and set to work. Some are members of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club, but many are local gardeners who enjoy taking part in making the bridge beautiful all season.

Some volunteers are not so local. Karen Winkler comes up from Connecticut to plant and weed every week. She regularly visited friends in Easthampton and heard about the Bridge of Flowers but said she always avoided it, thinking, like my friend Layanee, that it was just a bridge with a few planters. “Then I read the Recorder article about vandalism on the Bridge a couple of years ago. I went to the website and learned what the Bridge was and that anyone could volunteer. I think this is a true community garden – where everyone takes care of everything, not just their own plot.”

Maureen Flaherty of Charlemont has been volunteering for the past four years or so. “I love it. There is such a great group of people who are all interested in flowers. The head gardener Carol Delorenzo is so knowledgeable.  It is a great community effort. This is a wonderful place to work aesthetically: it almost becomes a Zen experience,” she said.

Maureen Moore said she admired the Bridge when she moved here six years ago, but never thought about how it was maintained. “I just took it for granted. Then three years ago I realized it was a volunteer effort.  I decided to volunteer so I could have some bragging rights. It is good to know you are contributing to something so special. Besides it is fun to see all the visitors from so far away,” she said.

Penny Spearance is a new member of the Women’s Club and said she “would like to be a gardener.”  There are enough skilled gardeners working on the Bridge that this is certainly a good place to share information and learn.  “I don’t like to belong to an organization without participating,” she said.

The Bridge of Flowers gives a large community of women the opportunity to bring beauty to the wider community.  Volunteers don’t need to sign up or commit to any regular schedule. All they have to do is show up on Wednesday evening from 5 to 7 pm or Friday morning from 9 to 11 am. Directions and tools will be waiting for them.

The Bridge of Flowers May 6, 2011

The members of the Bridge of Flowers committee will be very busy volunteering next week as they prepare for the big Annual Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale. This famous sale will beheld on Saturday, May 14 at the Trinity Church’s Baptist Lot on Main Street in Shelburne Falls from 9 am til noon.  I remember the first time I attended this sale and was told that I must not touch a plant until the opening bell!  Now I am early to set up the sale, and make sure no one touches.

In addition to plants off the Bridge or from local gardens, tools from OESCO, nursery propagated wildflowers from Hillside Nursery, Nancy Dole’s books, Steve Earp’s pottery and John Sendlebach’s garden art will also be on sale.  A new booth will hold cards by Michael Naldrett, Polly French, Jane Wegscheider, and Wild Art, prints by Nina Coler, Mojo beads, Don Wheeler’s birdhouses, and lavender products from Johnson Hill Farm. Something for everyone. Don’t Be Late!

Between the Rows   May 7, 2011

Celebratory Fiskars Giveaway

In December of 2007 (!) I began my career as a garden blogger.  I hardly knew what a blog was in those days. I had just discovered Garden Rant, and my friend BJ Roche at Fiftyshift said that as a writer I had to have  a blog. And so commonweeder was born.

What I knew about garden blogs – a blog was a place to share information and experiences and opinions through the Internet.

I did not imagine that a blog would make me think more about my garden, and the place of gardens in the world. I did not think it would bring me to a different understanding about food production, environmental dangers, or the rewards of travel. I did not think a blog would bring me wise and funny friends who loved being in the garden as much as I did. I leapt into the blogosphere and all this was unexpectedly mine.

With the help of Fiskars and Storey Publishing I am celebrating my Third Blogoversary with four Giveaways! If you leave a comment on this posting, possibly telling me about a favorite tool that you might put in this wonderful Fiskars tool tote that fits in a bucket you will have a chance to win this sturdy tool organizer.  Fiskars was founded in 1649 in Finland so they have had a lot of practice at making sturdy and efficient tools that will meet every need of the gardener. Including the need to give a useful gift at this season. If you already have a Fiskars organizer, you might know someone who would appreciate this organizer. It fits a 5 gallon bucket with straps that wrap snugly around the outside of your bucket which can either hold further supplies, or weeds as you work your way through the garden.

Leave a comment on this post, even as the week progresses. The Giveaway ends on Saturday night at midnight. A winner will be chosen at random on Sunday and I’ll ask for the winner’s mailing address. Next week I’ll start Giving Away three books from Storey Publishing.



I was at a dinner party recently and one of the guests confessed that she liked ‘toys.’  The toys we had been discussing were Kindles and iPads and who knows what all. They hold no fascination for me, but when I am at a nursery or garden center (or browsing a catalog) I confess I am tempted by all the tools and doodads that abound.

When I was at Nasami Farm this fall I saw this EcoSpout for only $2.50.  It is not often one sees a doodad for $2.50 so on that basis alone I had to have it.  In fact I have found it very useful.  There is a two sided  threaded doohickey that allows you to attach the spouts to a variety of containers. Gallon milk containers are my usual choice. Most watering cans for indoor plants are quite small and require several fillings, but my EcoSpout has turned my milk jug into a waterer that can handle all my  houseplants in one filling.

I have not been paid to say nice things about EcoSpout (nor anything else), and unfortunately I don’t even know where you can buy one, but keep your eyes open. It would make a nice stocking filler, too.

Shame and Glory

Regular visitors at May Dreams Gardens know that Carol is an afcianodo of hoes. Her October 7 post was her final Hoe-tober Fest for the year and she asked about the hoes other bloggers use.  I have two hoes that I use, very occasionally, and when I dug them out for this shameful photo it was clear that a trip to OESCO in Conway is in order. I need a sharpener. I can arrange a cleaning and oiling cloth right here at home.  I watched a tool sharpening demonstration at the Womens Club of Shelburne Falls Area annual spring plant sale and was inspired to think I could keep my tools in good condition. I thought about buying a sharpener then, but I bought more plants instead.  I think the time has come.

I must mention that, in light of the new FTC rules, I do not work for OESCO, and they did not pay me for these words. Indeed, I doubt they know about The Commonweeder, even though I have happily bought many excellent tools from them. And bird netting.  And gloves.

My glory is the golden spade that I used to break ground for the new Buckland Library addition recently. A child whispered to me that it was only painted gold.  I am dubious. The shovel was made in Ireland where they have all that leprechaun gold.

I Won!

CobraHead weeder

CobraHead weeder

Carol over at May Dreams Gardens held a lottery for this CobraHead weeder, but the Cobrahead company was so generous they felt everyone should be a winner. They promptly sent out our prizes and mine arrived just in time to start the major chore of fall weeding.  I am embarrassed to tell you how many weeds my new Cobrahead dug out of this small area – dandelions, grass,  and more. And it took only a few minutes. Of course, that is only the beginning of my fall weeding. I had never used a CobraHead before, but it really is efficient, getting under roots for a good pull when necessary, or cutting fine weeds off at soil surface. Multifunctiona!

Thank you Carol and thank you Cobrahead.