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Wildflower Wednesday – October 28, 2020 – Winterberries and More

Winterberries, Ilex verticillata

Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, is clearly not a wildflower. It is a native plant that is known as a swamp plant which means it is very happy in our garden. It does not need full sun which is another blessing. The thing to remember is  that winterberries are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Only fertilized female flowers will produce the attractive red berries that are the signature of the species. The white spring blossoms are very  tiny and do not make a splash the way the berries do.

To make sure you get the berries you will need a male winterberry, and the nurseries all know that. Fortunately you do not need a male winterberries for every female. The male has enough energy of pollen to serve 10 females  as long as they are within reasonable space of each other. I have three female winterberries and one male. My neighbor is very happy that my male also serves her single female.

Sheffield daisies, sheffies     Chrysanthemum ‘Hillside Sheffield Pink’

I can’t tell if Chrysanthemum (aka Dendranthema) ‘Sheffield Pink’ is a native, but it qualifies as an antique variety. It blooms very late, which makes it particularly welcome. It is quite sprawly, at least in my garden, but it does not bloom until mid-September in my western Massachusetts garden, and it is the single perennial now growing in my garden. The asters, and boltonia have closed up leaving only a few zinnias and cosmos. And an occasional rose.

It is that time of year when I am really about ready to call it a day – except I still have a very few daffodil bulbs to get in the ground. I couldn’t quite decide where to plant these – and then the rains come. But I will get them in the ground and I  will be ready for spring!

Pleasure and Value of Street Trees – Helped by the Tree Committee

Greenfield Tree Committee at Work

Saturday, October 3rd was an exciting day for tree lovers. Word had gone out from the Greenfield Tree Committee inviting people to join the tree planting party at Lunt Field starting at 8:30 a.m. My husband and I dawdled over our Saturday breakfast and then got in the car with bucket and spades. We arrived at 10 a.m. and realized that most of the work was done.  How could this happen?

When I spoke to Mary Chicoine after the event she explained that because of Covid-19, the Tree Committee realized they needed a bigger, airier space for the annual community tree planting. Usually they would go door to door in a neighborhood asking people if they would like to participate in the tree planting, but that was not possible this year. She also pointed out that existing trees on the Lunt site are old trees and it was a benefit to add new young trees.

“The Department of Public Works was a huge help this year,” Chicoine said. “We couldn’t have worked so quickly without them. They brought equipment that took bites out of the soil where the new trees would be planted. That made the digging and planting much easier. Mike Duclos of the DPW also works with the town Minor Leagues and he was happy to be able to help site the trees so they wouldn’t interfere with the sightlines while games were going on.”

Sean Pollock and his daughter Maple, finishing up the tree planting

I spoke with Sean Pollock who planted a tree with his young daughter Maple. They live right across the street from Lunt Field and Maple picked a tree that they could watch grow. Pollock told me that Maple and her older sister Ruby had visions of climbing that tree as they both grew up. During the week Pollock works for Terracorps, a non-profit that, among other things, is involved with conserving land and trees. It looks like his daughters are already at work caring for their tree.

Tara  Kurland  and Seth Mellen of Greenfield along with Shiloh and Adah dug in to do their part at Lunt Field.

Nancy Hazard is another person who has been working with the Tree Committee for years. She has organized neighborhood tree plantings. I have watched the growth of newly planted trees on Davis and Birch Streets and other neighborhoods as well as at the Energy Park. She is one of several volunteers who plant and weed, and care for the plantings there. That group emphasizes the importance of native plants that will support birds and pollinators.

John Bottomley, Nancy Hazard and Mary Chicoine planting trees in Energy Park in 2018

Last week Hazard stopped by my house to dig up some black-eyed susans (natives) for her gardens. As we chatted she said I really should talk to Desiree Narango, who is a post doctoral at UMass.

I reached Narango and was fascinated by her interdisciplinary work.  She looks at land that is altered by people in farmland, urban forests and residential yards. She said her ultimate goal “is to find data-driven conservation solutions for land managers to help preserve biodiversity in a rapidly changing world.”

Chickadee with green caterpillar

When we chose plants for our new Greenfield garden, we were very aware of the need for native plants that would support pollinators, bees and many other insects. I confess I did not give too much thought to the needs of birds. We have many squirrels in our yard and I was not going to set up bird feeders. Narango pointed out that birds only eat seeds at a certain season, but birds really need insects and caterpillars all year. In the spring when birds are mating and hatching fledglings, they need high protein and calories. The spring diet will include insects, spiders, and caterpillars. Narango does a lot of research with chickadees, our State Bird.

Narango said an important reason for having native trees and shrubs in the garden is to support all the birds who are flying south for the winter. They need sufficient food to give them the strength for that long flight. She also said that Massachusetts is right in that flight path.

In our garden we planted river birches, red-twig and yellow-twig dogwoods, and elderberries to support birds, but we did not think the benefit was very important. Narango has changed our view. We also have two large Viburnam trilobum.  We call them highbush cranberries so you get an idea of the benefit they supply. Narango said viburnams were ‘an awesome tri-fecta’ of support. Viburnams  supply flowers in the spring for the pollinators, caterpillars for the butterflies, as well as insects and berries for fall and winter food for the birds.

We chose the native trees and shrubs that we did because we knew they provided benefits for wild creatures, although our knowledge was not very deep. Other trees with benefits were given to us. Our southern neighbor has three huge oak trees in her garden. Oak trees supply many benefits like nesting sites, acorns, food, including caterpillars and bugs for birds, pollen and nectar for bees.

Our northern neighbor has a large maple that shades a section of our garden. This tree provides the same benefits as the oaks.

A huge American sycamore lives in front of our house on the tree belt. Prickery balls filled with seeds hang from high branches in the fall. Several songbirds like juncos and finches eat those seeds.

I have a lot to learn about trees, and the reasons they are important to the creatures in our world, and the health of our environment. I am eager to continue learning.

Between the Rows  October 20, 2020

Our Last Roses of Summer – Still Blooming for a While

Griffith Buck Folksinger rose, with Thomas Affleck in the background.

My flower gardening did not seriously begin until we moved to Heath and I began with roses. That might seem odd, but as we prepared to leave Manhattan in November of 1979 I read Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine S. White, who was married to E.B. White, one of my favorite authors. The first chapter is titled A Romp in the Catalogues. The artistic image that went along with that chapter is “Roses of Yesterday and Today – Old fashioned – Rare – Unusual.” Will Tillotson’s Roses live in Watsonville, California, and though dubious about the different weather in California and Heath I sent for the catalog.

There was something about our final gray days among the towers of New York and the descriptions of roses like this:

“Old Blush. China (1795) 4-5 feet, spreading. Not only the ‘Last Rose of Summer’ as immortalized by the Poet Moore, but also the first and in between, for this China rose literally never stops. A semi-double ‘fluttering assemblage of pink petals’ giving an impression of airiness and gaiety.” Another book I bought has photographs of glamorous roses with names like Leda (the girl who was ravished by Zeus in Yeat’s poem); Ispahan as in Iran; and Camaieux with its candy cane stripes of pink, white and red. I was ready for roses.

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, a very sturdy rose

I spent our first winter at the End of the Road looking through the Roses of Yesterday and Today catalog and made our first purchase, the Cuisse de Nymph or Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, a tender shade of pink. We planted it right by the front door in May. This was a mistake but it took us a while to figure that out. How long would it take you to understand that a rose bush sitting right under the roof line is going to suffer as ice melts, and melts several times a winter in Heath. Oh, well! The Passionate Nymph showed her durability as she lived and bloomed next to the front door for 35 years.

Over those years we planted a Rose Walk, with roses on both sides of a path that led to our orchard, plums and apples. One summer day our Heath Gourmet Club was meeting at our house. We gave a tour of a very short Rose Walk and one of the gourmets suggested that we give a tour of the Rose Walk every year. And so we did. The Rose Walk got longer and longer as we added modern Griffith Buck roses, David Austin roses and Farmgirl roses, dug from friend’s gardens. The final Rose Walk party in 2015 was a rainy day, the first time ever for this event, but rose lovers were undeterred.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose, bred at the Antique Rose Emporium

The spring we bought our Greenfield house we immediately started planting roses. First we planted two new-to-us Kordes roses, Zaide, a big pink rose, and a creamy white Lion’s Fairy Tale. We also planted the familiar-to-us Thomas Affleck rose, a seven foot tall shrub with large deep pink roses that blooms well into October; and the Griffith Buck slightly golden Folksinger.

We also planted two tall and familiar roses against some fencing along the North Border, Fantin-Latour and Alchemist. This was a mistake. There was not much sun under our neighbor’s beautiful and enormous maple tree. I had not taken that tree into consideration. Last year we pruned down those two rose bushes and planted them in front of our new wood fence that ran between the South Border and the Herb Bed. They did not look promising, but they are growing. The Alchemist did give us golden yellow blooms, but while producing foliage Fantin-Latour is still thinking about whether to bloom or not. To make sure there was something else against that fence we added the pink Brother Cadfael rose. I love Brother Cadfael books, and the beautiful roses did bloom.

Brother Cadfael rose

Brother Cadfael rose, David Austin rose

During the winter I considered this L-shape of a rose garden. We needed to add more. More catalog reading. More choices.

I did make choices. Gruss an Aachen is a polyantha in shades of pink and peach, and we believe not very tall, so we have planted it between the Alchemist and Fantin-Latour. It did give us two blossoms this summer. Patience is the gardener’s creed.

Most of the Herb Bed is gone and now replaced by the Buck roses Quietness and Carefree Beauty. Even though this year’s dry summer has been difficult for all our plants, both gave us a few blooms. According to the David Austin catalog the Lady of Shallot is an orange-gold rose that would certainly be a jolt between the very pink Carefree Beauty and very quiet and pale Quietness, but our Lady is currently blooming in pale pastel.

Our Rose Walk addition is new and I am sure that the colors will change and deepen as the plants gather more energy.

It will not take long to stroll down our new Rose Walk, but when we have looked our fill we can stroll past the river birches, the red twig dogwood, the bee balm and the raspberry patch, and sit under the umbrella and enjoy the richness of our garden. We bought a house and a lawn. Now we have a house, a Rose Walk, and surrounding beauty. ###

Between the Rows October  13, 2020

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – October 15, 2020

Alma Potchke, aster, bowing low and weary after heavy rains

On this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, a number of flowers like the Alma Potchke aster are beaten down by 24 hours of rain, often heavy rains. Even so we are enjoying Alma Potchke and other flowers and celebrating that much needed rain.

Red winterberries, are beautiful and attractive to many birds.

Golden winterberries, equally appealing to birds

I love the winterberries because they provide so much lasting color as other plants fade away and prepare  for their winter sleep.

The Fire Light hydrangea, gets deeper red color every day.

The other two hydrangeas, Lime Light and Angel’s Blush are also blooming – and will  continue to give us a little color until winter.

Sheffield daisies, otherwise known as Sheffies

Sheffies are a wonderful plant. While in bud they just lie around until you they will never bloom – and yet as  October begins they finally wake up and bloom for at least a month, when nothing else is blooming in my garden.

Brother Cadfael rose

We planted the Brother Cadfael rose this spring. With such a dry summer it has grown slowly, even with watering, but we get a special bloom as an autumnal gift.

Griffith Buck Folksinger rose, with Thomas Affleck in the background.

I can only get a few of  these roses in a single photo, but there are a number of Folksingers and the virile Thomas Affleck blooming.   Other roses that have a few blooms are The Fairy, Knockout Red, and Purple Rain. I treasure them all, but the season is nearly done.

Zinnias!

And finally, zinnias in bloom and quite rowdy. How lucky we are.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for giving us all the chance to show off our gardens and share the fun we all have. https://www.maydreamsgardens.com/

Keith Gamage in His Garden of Curves with Welcome to Wildlife

Notice the curves around the gazebo, as well as tree and shrub beds

Keith Gamage, fireman and gardener, gave me the inspiration I needed to finish the plan for our new garden in Greenfield. We had only lived in town for a year. While we did have some ideas about what we wanted, my husband and I hadn’t fully figured out how to arrange things. Gamage’s garden on the Greenfield Garden Club’s 2016 Garden Tour solved our problem.

Gamage has a house and garden very similar in size to the house and garden we have. The house is to one side of the lot, and the garden begins right at the sidewalk, or street, in Gamage’s case. When I first stood in front of Gamage’s  garden I took my time to understand what I was looking at. There were trees and shrubs. There were hostas. There were different curving beds, marked and surrounded by stones. There was even a small pond where frogs sometimes lived.

In 1994, Gamage moved into the house surrounded by lawn with just a couple of trees. He had never gardened but he started looking at plant catalogs and thought he would do “a little gardening.” That was the beginning. Over the years he has developed certain passions. Early on he visited John O’Briens Nursery in Granby, Connecticut.  “He has lots of hostas and I like the hosta names.  Since then I’ve planted 360 different varieties of hostas, big and small, solid colors, stripes.  Once I was clearing up space and I found a big patch of roots under a rock. I took the roots home and planted them to see what it was – hostas!” Clearly, hostas are very strong plants.

He also has nine Japanese maples arranged in different sites around the house. They come in a variety of sizes and forms, but he loves them all.

What particularly appealed to me were the curving paths through the garden.  I rarely knew what was coming next. Gamage said, “I watched Paul James, the TV Garden Guy on HGTV, and he said there were no straight lines in nature. That’s why I have curving planting beds and paths.”

Curves and a Japanese maple from a different angle

As we walked along the path he told me that he had to take down a shagbark hickory tree, but that he kept a tall sumac, pruned high, because robins eat the berries in the winter. We passed a couple of evergreens and Gamage said that robins ate berries on those trees as well. His viburnams, sometimes called highbush cranberries, are very tall, but he prunes them high to make is possible to walk along the path. The red fall berries are for the birds. He has planted several Amelanchier, serviceberry trees, because the berries really appeal to cedar waxwings. And I know there are few things more exciting that watching a flock of cedar waxwings land in a serviceberry.

Gamage  also grows flowering shrubs and plants, like the beautiful Rose of Sharon, that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

He told me he does move plants from time to time, but he is always thinking about the wildlife in his garden. He wanted a pond for the birds and after he built it he found he also gained a few frogs from time to time. That is one of the things I like about gardens, there are always extra delights and surprises.

Gamage has built places to sit and admire the gardens, and have picnic meals with friends. There is a circular gazebo at the very back of the garden, a picnic table, and he built a wooden patio attached to the back of the house. Then, because there are no straight lines in nature he planted a curving plant bed attached to the patio.

Whenever I talk to gardeners we almost always talk about our soil. My soil is wet and claylike. Gamage said his soil is also very clay-like. When doing new plantings he digs out the clay soil and fills the holes with good soil from Martin’s Farm. He also makes use of all his leaves by using them as mulch which becomes compost over time.

We all need tool sheds. Gamage has built a little shed in the corner of his lot, next to his compost pile. “I built my shed and put goofy things on it.  Also the habitat sign welcoming birds.”

Gamage found and set this Stone in the soil because it resembles a shark fin.

Gamage does have other interests. He loves stones and keeps his eye open for interesting stones that will decorate the garden.   He chooses them for their shapes, their coloring or some special quality. Some beautiful stones are mossy. He pointed out one stone that seemed to show a profile, and another was placed in and out of the ground to look like a shark fin.

Since his retirement three years ago, he has another interest – riding his motorcycle.  Even so the garden remains beautiful and inspirational.

Keith Gamage on his motorcycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(All photos were by Keith Gamage, who has many skills)

Between the Rows   October 6, 2020

Louise Glück- Winner of Nobel Prize – My Brush with Fame

Louise Glück (pronounced Glick) who taught poetry for twenty years at Williams College in

The Wild Iris – by Louise Glück

Williamstown Massachusetts was just awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.  As it happens, my husband went to work at Williams in 1990 in the computer systems part of the Development Office, and not long  after, I became the Librarian at the 1914 Library. That was a very special library filled with textbooks that financial aid students could use for their courses.

Working in a library, and doubly so in an academic library, is always an education. Besides getting to read the books that interested me on slow days, I was asked to interview some of the faculty and write for the Williams Alumni Review including Professor Heather Williams who had just been awarded the 1993 MacArthur Fellowship for study of bird biology. I was fascinated by her work.

Then I was happy to get the assignment to interview Professor Louise Glück, who had won several awards and had just won the Pulitzer Prize (1992) for her book The Wild Iris, her sixth book. She said that book was written in a heat of inspiration, which was unusual for her.

I was nervous about our meeting, but we had a congenial visit. I learned of her epilepsy, and also the pleasure she had that being driven back and forth to the college by one of her former students, instead of taking long bus rides.

She told me what she wanted her students “to learn to labor, because it is the habits of labor that encourage inspiration. You owe your material attentive effort. Once something is on paper you can use your mind, your conscious, your unconscious, everything you’ve got. I teach them to have patience and fortitude in the silent times – to tough it out.”

I bought my copy of The Wild Iris after meeting her. It has been read, and re-read for understanding and pleasure. There are three voices in these poems, Lawrence Rabb, a fellow poet and Williams professor said. “There are three voices that work back and forth, the voice of  god, the voices of the flowers, and the voices of the gardener. It is a lyrical and meditative work, rich and complicated.”

My brush with fame was brief, but I continue to get pleasure from the poems. I am a gardener.

Many of the plants have their say, beginning with the wild iris, Speech is also given to the snowdrops, the trillium and the violets and others. I am a gardener and one of my close companions is Witchgrass.

Something

comes into the world unwelcome

calling disorder, disorder –

 

If you hate me so much

don’t bother to give me

a name; do you need

one more slur

in your language, another

way to blame

one tribe for everything –

 

as we both know,

if you worship

one god you only need

one enemy –

 

I’m not the enemy.

only a ruse to ignore

what you see happening

right here in  this bed,

a little paradigm

of failure. One of your precious flowers

dies here  almost every day

and you can’t rest until

you attack the cause, meaning

 

whatever is left, whatever

happens to be sturdier

than your personal passion –

 

It was not meant

to last forever in the real world.

but why admit that, when you can go on

doing what you always do,

mourning and laying blame,

always the two together.

 

I don’t need your praise

to survive. I was here first,

before you were here, before

you ever planted a garden.

And I’ll be here when only the sun and moon

are left, and the sea, and the wide field.

I will constitute the field.

Now, when I read this poem today, I not only feel the witchgrass’s righteousness, I feel what is waiting for our whole planet.

We send our congratulations to Louise Glück, poet and teacher.

The Autumn Garden Surprises with Color Through October

“Alma Potchke” aster – multi-stemmed with abundant flower clusters

Autumn gardens hold surprising shades of color. Right now we gardeners have slipped into autumn and are looking at the new aspects of our gardens. My roses are nearly finished, but there is still a color riot in the garden. Here is a list of the colorful blooms (and berries) that are blossoming right now and will continue well into October.

First there are asters! I think the crowded blue blossoms with very fine foliage growing on the hugel is a Woods aster, but I’m not sure. I also have it growing on the hell-strip in front of the house. I mistook them as two different blue asters because the flowers on the hugel are a floppy foot tall, while the flowers on the hell-strip are on firm stems and three feet tall. Very mysterious. Perhaps the difference in size has to do with the soil, or the amount of sun they each receive.

Wood’s Blue asters – I think. Whatever they are, they are great autuman bloomers

Second is a tall, six foot white aster with tiny white flowers and very fine foliage is an unnamed variety. I can tell you that the bees and other insects think these asters are welcoming. They don’t care whether I know plant names; all those creatures just care about nectar and pollen.

Thirdly is my very glamorous aster Alma Potschke,  a beautiful shade of deep pink. She does not increase in size the way my other asters do. Alma Potschke is a lady. She increases in size a little bit every year, as ladies are wont to do, but she is very well behaved.

Needless to say there are many asters in many sizes and colors, shades of blue, purple, pink and white. They do prefer lots of sun. The asters in my garden and many others will bloom well through the fall.

White boltonia, “Snowbank” with a few energetic zinnia

Boltonia, either Snow Bank or Pink Beauty, are very special plants. They grow in a clump to five feet tall on very firm stems and will be strutting until late fall. In the fall they are completely covered with small aster-like blossoms, and with bees and butterflies. They are the most floriferous plants you can imagine.

Sheffies, more properly known as Sheffield daisies even though this is a chrysanthemum

We are all familiar with the pots of colorful chrysanthemums in front of the supermarkets.  The pink Sheffield daisy is not  among  them, but it is actually a chrysanthemum and one of my favorites. It is about 20 to 30 inches tall but usually flopping and covering the ground when other plants have called it a day.

Dahlias are a big family with flowers that bloom from white to rich shades of orange, red and purple. The flowers come in many forms and sizes from small blossoms that resemble daisies, to dinnerplate dahlias that will need sturdy stakes as they grow five feet tall.

Dahlias do not grow from seed. They grow from tubers and do not live through winters. When gardeners dig up dahlias in the fall they will find their one tuber is now three or four tubers.

This LimeLight hydrangea is getting a slight pink blush

Hydrangeas are big and glorious autumnal shrubs. Many hydrangeas change color over the seasons, as do many trees. I have three large hydrangeas, LimeLight which slowly turns a pale green, FireLight shades from white into red, and Angel’s Blush, has large airy blossoms that segue into pale shades of pink. I like panicle hydrangeas because they take so little work, just pruning in the early spring.

Sedums are plants that bloom in the fall. The fleshy foliage comes in shades of green, blue, deep red and gold. In September the flowers begin to make themselves known. Again they come in many colors. They are trouble free plants, increasing slightly every year. I’ve grown pink Autumn Joy which is a standard and dependable for years.

Ilex verticillata, or winterberry, loves water. It is a swamp plant

Ilex verticillata is one way of saying winterberries. Winterberries have tiny flowers, almost invisible to my old eyes. What they lose in pretty flowers, they make up in bright red, or golden berries. I am happy that winterberries are swamp plants so they are perfect for damp gardens like mine. As I write the winterberries are almost in full rich color. They are beautiful, and the birds will thank you. Just remember that to have berries which appear on female plants, you will need a lusty male. The male is able to take care of ten females. They don’t have to all be in your garden. Pollinating creatures will check out the neighbors when they find your winterberries.

Christmas holly in front of our house

Ilex aquifolium, is the English holly. The stiff deep green foliage with three or five sharp spines on each side and shiny red berries is one of the iconic Christmas plants. I was delighted that former residents of our house gave us the gift of an English holly, right in front of our house. It is already covered with brilliant red berries. I can make my own handsome Christmas swag for our front door every year.

Zinnias, lots of color, sizes and forms

Right now my cutting garden is a riot of color with zinnias in different shades, different forms and different sizes. I love the Cut and Come Again zinnias. These are flowers that need very little attention. We did occasionally water the zinnias, and other plants because the weather has been so dry. But zinnias are very tolerant of difficulties.

The days are getting shorter and darker, but we can have color in our gardens for quite a while.

Between the Rows  September 29, 2020

View from the Window, October 1 – Autumn Begins

View from the Window – Three of the four paths leading to the hugel

The view from the window is my way of keeping track of  the garden growth and changes, as well as the changes in  the weather from year to year. Rain yesterday knocked  down  some of the flowers making the three paths look narrower than they are. In our garden all paths lead to the garden shed, the gravel sitting  area with a patio table, umbrella and chairs. This is a sociable area. I love the umbrella.

Seating available under the umbrella

Our ‘patio’ along with the umbrella and table make a comfortable and safe space for “social distancing” during the pandemic.

South Path to garden shed

The South Path is wider than  the others with river birches to  the right, and red twig dogwood and raspberry plants against the south fence, which  you cannot see because of the deep  shade this time of the morning.  You can see that with the heavy rains the other night the leaves are really beginning to fall.

Alma Potchke aster and FireLight hydrangea in South Border

The South Border is the first place we began  our garden in 2015. It is quite lush now. Many of the blooms are on the edge of our neighbor’s driveway, but we get to see them through the foliage, especially the hydrangeas.

White boltonia and colorful zinnias

The boltonia, which also comes in pink, has just begun to bloom in the last week or so. The Zinnias just never give up. I have had many zinnia bouquets in the house.

Asters and Krisha on the hugel

These lavender asters may be Wood’s Blue, or not. Whatever they are they bloom late in the season, starting in mid-September, and last until hard frost. You might notice that Krishna in the background has lost his flute, but I like to think he is still creating joy in my garden.