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A Rose is a Rose

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose blooms into October

Gertrude Stein said “A Rose is a rose is a rose,” suggesting that “it is what it is”, in modern parlance. However, there is evidence that the rose existed 32 million years ago. Clearly it has changed over those millions of years, first by Mother Nature, and later by explorers, horticulturists and gardeners who found new roses and the magic of hybridizing.

My own view of the rose has changed radically over the years. Early on I had very little experience with roses that were usually upright bushes that the owners were always pruning, and fussing with pesticides. I had no interest in fussing over an uptight bush with poisons in my hand.

When we were preparing to leave New York City for Heath in 1979 I read Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine S. White, the wife of E.B. White, one of my favorite authors. Katherine was a great gardener and a wonderful writer as well. Onward and Upward begins with a chapter about the Roses of Yesterday and Today nursery, as well as other garden catalogs.

Folksinger rose

Folksinger, a disease resistant rose by Griffith Buck

I immediately sent for my own Roses of Yesterday and Today catalog. Thus began my fantasies of a rose garden on my Heath hill. I wanted these antique roses for their beauty and romance, but they are also practical because they are hardy and resistant to disease. I had no desire to have demanding roses – or any other flower for that matter.

The first rose I planted was Cuisse de Nymph, translated as Nymph’s Thigh, later expanded to Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, although some gardeners were too modest and called her Maiden’s Blush. The Passionate Nymph survived 35 years by our front door, right under the roof where she suffered icy winters with icicles falling on her. I gave her a very fond farewell when we left for Greenfield.

Zaide - Kordes rose

Zaide – a Kordes Rose, disease resistant, long blooming

The Rose Walk began with roses like Rosa glauca, a truly ancient rose with reddish foliage and very small single pink flowers. Even though I eventually had many glamorous roses, most visitors to the Annual Rose Viewing were particularly struck by this tall and unusual rose.

From the Roses of Yesterday and Today I ordered roses that existed before 1799 including the candy striped Camaieux, Belle de Crecy which can take on a mauve tone,  pink Celsiana, and the tall indestructible pink Ispahan.

Later I planted more modern, but still old roses including some that came from China like Madame Isaac Perriere, a bourbon rose that did not bloom quite as extravagantly in Heath as it might have in a gentler climate. It is the China roses that gave hybridists longer blooming roses.

Roses are always being created by hybridization, to bend to fashion, but also to create hardiness. Griffith Buck, who became a professor at Iowa Sate University after WWII, created a family of hardy roses that were also disease resistant. Several of these roses are sold under the heading Earth Kind. One of my favorite Buck roses is Applejack. It bloomed and welcomed us all at the head of our driveway.

Lion's Fairy Tale - Kordes rose

Lion’s Fairy Tale – a Kordes rose

At least 30 years ago Germany forbid the use of poisons in the rose garden. Kordes began to hybridize disease resistant roses like the lush and creamy Polar Express, and pale apricot Lion’s Fairy Tale, which are thriving in my Greenfield garden.

Fashion continues to change what we want in a rose. Nowadays garden nurseries carry hardy Knockout shrub roses in many shades, as well as the new ‘landscape’ roses. These low growing roses have a long bloom season. Sometimes they are called groundcover roses, which gives a clearer idea of the intent of the hybridizer.

Lush David Austin roses are understandably in favor. I enjoyed my years in Heath with the sturdy pink Mary Rose.

Coral Drift rose

Drift Coral rose, a low growing ‘landscape rose.’

In my new garden I have a tough red Knockout, and two low landscape roses, Oso Easy Paprika and a Peach Drift rose.

I only took one rose with me from Heath to Greenfield. This rose was a gift from the Purington family in Colrain. They had given me other roses from their old farm, but the rose I called Purington Pink was always sending out babies. It was easy to dig up and transplant some of those babies in Greenfield, and leave the mother bush to the new owners of our house. Purington Pink is a rose of friendship and could not be left behind.

I did not bring The Fairy with me to Greenfield, but I did buy and plant a new one. This pink polyantha is loaded with sprays of little frilly pink flowers, and she loves Greenfield.

I cannot grow many other roses now because roses do not like wet feet. Our yard is very wet, and floods in winter and spring. The roses I have are planted in the limited dry area.

Local nurseries understandably have a limited selection of roses. I have bought most of my roses from nurseries like Chamblee’s Rose Nursery, Antique Rose Emporium, and Roses of Yesterday and Today.

For those who are interested in roses and want to find hardy disease resistant varieties I want to recommend the book Roses Without Chemicals by Peter Kukielski. I met Kukielski a number of years ago when he was the curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. He knows about lush, gorgeous roses!

Between the Rows  June 22, 2019

Garden Conservancy and Open Days for Gardeners

Garden Conservancy Open Days in Petersham

“The mission of the Garden Conservancy is to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public.” That is the simple mission of the Garden Conservancy. In practice, it means providing financial support to protect selected American gardens chosen for their beauty and significance.

There are a number of these beautiful historic gardens not too far from us. Ashintully in Tyringham is the only one in Massachusetts. It is the creation of John McLennan, Jr., a classical musician and composer. He and his wife Katherine spent 30 years designing a garden that includes fountains and bridges, stone stairways, forests and flowers, places to admire panoramic views, and places to sit in the shade of great trees and enjoy the breeze. McLennan gave the Garden Conservancy a large part of the estate before his death in 1996. The gardens are open only Wednesday and Saturday 1-5 PM.

Since I spent part of my young life in Vermont I am very glad that the Garden Conservancy has chosen to support Justin Morrill’s garden in Stafford, Vermont. He served in Congress as a Representative and then as a Senator. He wrote the Morrill Land Grant Acts that were signed by Abraham Lincoln. These acts established federal funding for public colleges in every state. As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts I am very grateful for this gift. There are now 105 other institutions of every flavor including state universities and agricultural colleges.

Morrill (1810-1898) designed his own gardens with serpentine pathways, graceful flower beds and beautiful trees including an orchard.

The historic house is open for tours from May 25 through October 13, Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Tours are conducted on the hour. Admission is $6.00. Self guided tours of the garden are free to everyone during open hours.

Bloedel Reserve

Bloedel Reserve – the Japanese Garden

One of the most beautiful landscape gardens I have ever visited, the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington, is supported by the Garden Conservancy. On 150 acres there are natural woodlands as well as beautifully pruned trees in the Japanese Gardens. Of course, there are also brilliant flower gardens, a quiet reflecting pool and green vistas.  My whole experience was of serenity, beauty, mist and rain.

Of course with a substantial list of beautiful gardens financially supported by the Garden Conservancy the question is how do they do it?


Garden Conservancy Open Days – Hellebores

The answer is finding skilled and congenial gardeners, asking them to open their gardens for one day. The Garden Conservancy website includes information about all of this year’s Open Days gardens organized by state and month. Usually several gardens in a single area will be listed together. You can enjoy a whole day of visiting a variety of unique gardens.

Rorer and Buell Gardens

Garden Conservancy

Buell Rock Garden and Greenhouse for succulents

Last weekend I visited two Open Days gardens in Petersham. I went to the Rorer and Buell Garden first. It has a welcoming garden in front of the house. Here are shades of green  hostas, primroses, epimediums, and even a climbing  hydrangea scrambling up a majestic tree.

Around the house were rock gardens, and stone troughs. The family makes good use of all our New England stone. In addition there were flower beds, lots of peonies, and vegetable beds. Blueberry bushes, too. No one at the Buell house is going to go hungry.

A wide path was mown across and around the meadow. The invitation is to a hill crowned with large stones and a tranquil view. There was a stone bench that allowed you to ponder the woodlands in one direction, or take in the serenity of the mown fields in the other direction.

When I strolled back to the house, I stopped to peek into the attached substantial low greenhouse. It was filled with all manner of succulents.

The Lockhart and O’Donnell Garden

Koi Pond

Koi Pond in the Lockhart Garden

The Bruce Lockhart and Helen O’Donnell garden is only about five minutes away. The approach is through the woods. I knew I had arrived when I saw the lush hedge of hobblebush viburnam at the edge of the road. These viburnams were the backdrop of the shady, graceful Woodland Walk . Here blooms columbine, hellebores, bloodroot, hostas, foam flowers and peonies.

In comparison, other flower beds were planted in geometric squares. One of those squares was a comfortable gazebo that looked over a koi pond. There are fields and woodlands beyond as  well as an orchard complete with bee hives.

We are always learning when we visit other gardens. The Lockhart garden tour included a Digging Deeper talk. Lockhart explained that after a new septic field was installed he was left with a little hill. His response was to plant that hill with all manner of pollinator plants and grasses to create a Meadow Garden with mown paths for strolling through it. Not everything on his planting list was in bloom. We saw camassia, alliums, and grasses. The goldenrod, liatris, perovskia, veronicas, salvias, and coneflowers will come into bloom later.

Log on to for information about Open Days which continue into the fall.

Between the Rows   June 15, 2019

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – June 15, 2019


Rose viewing from the dining room table, Purple Rain, Thomas Affleck, Folksinger

After long wet and cold months we may finally celebrate the arrival of official spring on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day here in Greenfield, Massachusetts. All of a sudden the budded roses burst into bloom, and before the weekend is over I think even more roses will be blooming.

Paprika landscape rose

Oso Easy Paprika landscape rose

Paprika is  one of the two low growing landscape roses in the garden. Peach Drift is the other. Both were eager to welcome the spring.

siberian iris

White siberian iris

Siberian irises are blooming here and there in the garden. They are among the water tolerant plants that we count on. Now for a walk through the garden.

Mountain laurel

Mountain Laurel beginning to bloom. May Apples and barren strawberry are no longer in  bloom

Japanese primroses

Japanese primroses are a little hard to see under the Norway spruce and behind ferns, but they love that swamp.


Goatsbeard at the back of the hugel reaches for sun, and hides a runaway Japanese primrose.


One of two honeysuckles are blooming and climbing.

I love Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for inventing this wonderful way of seeing what is in bloom across our great nation.

Woodslawn Farm and National Dairy Month

Woodslawn Farm cows in the meadow

Woodslawn Farm cows in the meadow

June is National Dairy Month. I could not think of a better person to celebrate it with than Bob Purington. Purington is the eighth child of the late Herb Purington and his wife Barbara. He is also a member of the seventh generation to tend the Woodslawn Farm, founded in 1784 in Colrain. This 385 acre landscape includes woodlots, fields for corn and hay, and pasturage for about 75 cows, each one with a name.  For over 200 years Purington’s family has provided milk for for the community – and beyond.

Woodslawn Farm contented cows

Woodslawn Farm contented cows in the free movement barn

I visited Purington in early May when the cows were not yet able to go out to pasture. He gave me a tour of the barns. I could see things had changed a lot since I helped feed my Vermont uncle’s cows back in 1950. First of all there is no barn for the milking cows. At least, not as I know barns which included four walls, windows and doors. Woodslawn Farm cows have a free-movement barn. They are not locked in stanchions during the day; they can walk around, snack on their feed, and take a nap on nice bedding. This open air barn is their home summer and winter. Their metabolism and heavy coat keeps them warm enough as long as they are protected from winter winds.

The old barn, the kind I was familiar with, still exists and shelters pregnant cows towards the end of their time, as well as the young calves. It also houses the 5000 bales of hay that will help get the cows through a long winter.

There are no heavy milking cans to lug around in this modern set up. Purington said his progressive father installed a new type of equipment in the 1960. He took me to the milk house which is a large separate room with several milking machines. Six stations make it possible to milk six cows at a time. The cows walk in and take their place at a station, wait patiently for the milking machines to be attached. The milk runs through hoses and is sent to the milk tank. Then the cow strolls off and other cows take her place. Needless to say the farmer is still very busy hooking and un-hooking the cow and making sure the milk is properly being pumped into the tank.

Cows are milked in early morning and early evening. It takes about two hours to feed and milk, and clean up each time. Cows now produce more milk than they did in 1950s due to genetic improvements as well as changes in their diet. We have all seen those large white bundles at the edge of hayfields. This is haylage, made of high moisture grass that is very nutritious, a part the cows diet in season.

I admired the pregnant cows, and the very young calves in the barn. Calving goes on all year long. All cows get the services of a person who performs artificial insemination.

Bob Purington and the free movement cow barn

Herb Purington had the help of seven sons and five daughters during his decades of farming, and of course, his wife. Bob Purington has five children, and of course, his wife Joyce at his side. One son lives on the west coast, but two sons and two daughters live nearby, with seven grandchildren. It is his son-in-law, George Gutierrez, married to his daughter Alison, who works everyday with Bob. However, everyone joins in when there is work to do. Farming requires more work than most of us consider when we are buying our gallons of milk.

The day we spoke Bob was busy checking and fixing the fences. The cows are allowed to leave the barn during the day as soon as the grass is tall enough. Purington has about a dozen different pastures for rotational grazing. This means moving the PVC plastic stakes and fencing around.  “Our fences along the road are made of wood because that looks nicer, Purington told me. I thought that was sweet gift to those who drove past.

The cows are now out in the fields. Purington said they are so happy to get out onto pasture. They romp and kick up their heels, so happy with fresh feed and more room to roam.

Feeding the cows requires many fields for hay and corn. There is 70 acres manured and given over to corn for silage because those fields are too wet for pasture.

“When we were kids we only got two hay cuttings. Now we get three cuttings and even four on some fields,” Purington said. “We usually plant corn before hay, planting around May 15. We’ve been using a no-till planter for about 15 years. It not only conserves CO2 it doesn’t dig up all the stones. A big improvement over using a moldboard plow. “The harvested corn will turn into silage.

“Once the corn is planted it is time for the first hay cutting which will be completed by July 4. This chopped hay will go into the silo. Then we start all over. The second and third cuttings will go in the square bales and put in the barn. Often there is a fourth growth and we put the cows out to pasture on that field. Cows can often be out on pasture into November,” Purington said.

When I asked Purington what his favorite job on the farm was he hesitated. Finally he said, “I enjoy the work of every season. I enjoy putting up the fences, and putting the cows out in the spring. What is important is keeping this a farm, and keeping the land open.

When I think about the family energy and work input on a farm I think a single celebratory month a year is a modest thank you. I am glad to be reminded of how much we owe our farmers.  After all, no farmers, no farm, no future.  Thank you, Bob!

Between the Rows   June 8, 2019

Friends of the Forbes Library Garden Tour – June 8, 2019

flamingos marching

Flamingos marching and wandering

The Friends of the Forbes Library Garden Tour ushers in the garden tour season in our part of the world. The seven gardens on this year’s tour (I’m counting four neighboring community garden plots as one garden) offer many different styles and features that make each garden unique.

I cannot say that I was surprised by the number of gardens that are filled with plants that will support our pollinators, from the bees and bats to butterflies and birds. We are all learning that we are in need of protecting and supporting those creatures which have been declining in numbers. Also, I am just now beginning to understand the many ways that plants are pollinated and the interrelatedness of plants and creatures.

This year’s Forbes Library Garden Tour will feature gardens with wonderful and unusual trees, collections of sculptures, secret paths, vegetable gardens, and delicious places to sit and share a meal. Styles range from English cottage gardens to woodland gardens. There is inspiration for everyone.

I was delighted to visit Steve and Harriet Rogers’ garden and had to laugh as I drove up and saw the pink flamingos marching around the house and garden. One flamingo even managed to get herself ensconced in the peach tree. She wasn’t alone. Other unexpected creatures managed to find a tree hugging spot as well.


Just how did this flamingo fly into the peach tree?

I walked to the back of the garden towards \ a beautiful sun sculpture created by Al Davies on the garage wall, sharing space with a large and lush rhododendron. Fortunately that rhodie did not suffer any of the winter kill that damaged so many.

Sun sculpture by Al Davies

Sun sculpture by Al Davies, fabulous rhodie, and whimsical settee

Harriet invited me to sit with her in a whimsical metal settee in the shade of a silver birch. This is the Sun Garden on a rectangular plot between the Rogers’ house and their neighbors’ driveway. We had a good view of most the garden with its edibles and fancies.  I was immediately taken by the fruit trees, two apples and a peach tree. They were artfully pruned and I thought very sculptural. Harriet said the trees are very productive and they use most of the fruit themselves. She has a system for slicing apples and drying them overnight. She also uses a juicer to make cider.

As we sat looking at the trees, the planting beds and the planting containers I soon became able to pick out the sculptures of suns, birds, a dog and other less definable constructions. Steve is a metalsmith. His work, along with other artists including Tom Torrens, Pat Simon, Bob Woo, and many others working in a variety of media, is on display in this amazing garden. Steve will have more work on display the day of the Tour, including his paintings.

Harriet told me there wasn’t a lot of planning involved in their garden. There are strawberries and blueberries. The raspberries share space with the peas. Broccoli and peppers grow in containers. I was fascinated by the arrangement of a container set on top of another shiny (and slippery) container. “This arrangement is very important. The skunks and other creatures can’t climb up the slippery container to get inside the planted container,” Harriet said. In another area were radishes, bush beans, tomatoes, squash, and an arugula that seeds itself every year.

I was enchanted by the Tea Garden, filled with flowers. Now daffodils and tulips are in season, but it was the addition of tea pots and tea cups, sometimes on view and sometimes tucked away among the flowers, that gave it a special charm.

Tea pot in a tea garden. What did you expect?

The narrow garden on the other side of the house is the Shade Garden. Harriet’s mother passed away recently and Harriet brought many of her mother’s plants to the Shade Garden. Here in the quiet and cool, she pointed out lilies of the valley, columbine, trillium, and hellebores. This garden holds memories as well as the delights of the spring garden.

The value and joy of the garden tours that will be held over the summer, in many communities, is the pleasure of talking to creative and knowledgeable gardeners who happily share their creativity and knowledge. It is all very well to read and learn from beautifully illustrated garden books, but there is nothing like seeing unusual plants, new- to-you arrangements, and picking up tips like putting a plant container on top of another slippery container. I would never have thought of that by myself.

Steve and harriet

Steve and Harriet at the end of a gardening day

The 26th Forbes Library Garden Tour is scheduled for Saturday, June 8, 2019 from 10 am – 3 pm. Rain or Shine! Tickets are available in advance: $15 at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennial Farm, Cooper’s Corner, Hadley Garden Center, North Country Landscapes & Garden Center and State Street Fruit Store.
Day of the tour: $20 at Forbes Library only.

Raffle display and tickets for sale at Forbes Library until June 8 and on the day of the tour, at one of the gardens. Raffle items include compost, gift certificates, landscape consultation & gardening supplies. Raffle: 2 tickets/$5, 5 tickets/$10, or 12 ticket/$20.  All proceeds fund books, equipment, and programs for Forbes Library

Book Reviews – “Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal”

“Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal,” said John Muir known as the father of national parks. The three books I’ve written about this week surely prove the truth of his words.Three book reviews follow.

Attracting Birds, Butterflies and other Backyard Wildlife

Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife

Every day, in the newspaper or on the evening TV news, there seems to be a story about the continuing extinction of one million creatures and plants. The United Nations just released a report about nature’s dangerous decline and the unprecedented species extinction rates that are accelerating. It is hard to comprehend what this means to us. It’s hard to worry so much. After all, didn’t The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe begin with “Don’t Panic.”

And yet. And yet the Guide talks about the ‘interconnectedness of all things.’ There is proof that our declining biodiversity is dangerous for all of us humans. Is there anything we can do in our small part of the world? My own answer has to be yes.  And the National Wildlife Federation’s new book, Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and other Backyard Wildlife by David Mizejewski (24.99) tells us some of the things we can do to protect our environment.

Here in Greenfield we have been talking a lot about supporting pollinators which includes many species from bees, butterflies, many other insects like hoverflies, and wasps, as well as birds and bats. Mazejewski’s book provides us with information to support all the creatures in our area. He can teach us how to “act locally” as we “think globally.”

Mizjewski begins by telling us how to begin, and goes on to explain the food web, the importance of water in the garden for creatures, how to provide cover for creatures so they can hide from predators, and providing places for birds to raise their young. The importance of using native plants is stressed.

There is a great list of nectar plants for pollinators (which will also provide pollen) including butterflies. I appreciated the information about bird feed which includes grapefruit and orange slices that can hang on trees.

           Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds

Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds

As a former librarian I love and recognize the necessity for libraries, including little free libraries. My Texas grandson’s Eagle Scout project was designing and overseeing the building of a little free library several years ago. He was at the forefront of starting this delightful and generous way of sharing books while creating a charming landscape element. Little Free Libraries and Tiny Sheds: 12 Miniature Structures You Can Build by Philip Schmidt and the Little Free Library (Cool Springs Press $24.99) will give you instructions on making your own Little Free Library.

Tod H. Boll, the founder of the Little Free Library Foundation, built the first little free library in memory of his mother, a lifelong reader and educator. He built that first little free library and was amazed at the way his neighbors who stopped to look at the books enjoyed conversations with their neighbors in ways they had not before. That was the beginning of his idea, an idea that became a plan to inspire literacy and community.  After he gave away 30 little free libraries in 2010 the idea began to grow. There are now more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries around the world. Some of them are in Greenfield!

Some owners of the little free libraries used them for books, sometimes concentrating on children’s books so to encourage children to read. Some added seed packets to share, or non-perishable food for those who might be in need. Owners have found many ways to build and decorate these little structures.

The book gives detailed lists of equipment and materials needed, and clear construction information. Each one is unique. Some simple and elegant, some brilliant and colorful. Needless to say my attention was captured by the Flower Box. The idea of blooming flowers above a collection of books that might encourage the blooming of ideas of the readers was very appealing. My only quibble is that the actual flower box element was not deep enough, but it is easily altered to give plant roots more room.

The Gardener Says


The Gardener Says

 The Gardener Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom ($15.95) compiled and edited by Nina Pick makes it clear that working in the garden is not simply labor. It is a place to find happiness. At least that is what John Muir, the father of national parks must have been thinking when he said “Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal.”

The poet Walt Whitman was a very down to earth poet. He spoke with exuberance. “Behold this compost! Behold it well!” That is certainly what I do when I get another load of compost for my Greenfield garden. Karel Capek, Hungarian author, gardener and humorist is of a similar mind. He said “If a gardener were to go to the garden of Eden he would sniff intoxicatedly and say, ‘There’s humus here, by God!’”

We don’t always know where we are going or what we are doing in the garden. Mirabel Osler , English author and garden designer said, “It is no doubt that gardening sparks off harebrained ideas.”  Ask my husband. He’ll concur. Canadian author Margaret Atwood simply said, “Gardening is not a rational activity.”

The Gardener Says is a gift that will amuse and delight anyone on your list. You’ll enjoy it too.###