A Search for Shade

  • Post published:07/10/2010
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Still some shade in the McGuane garden

Gardens can change overnight, as many people learned after the great May storm that took down so many large trees.  Those who had treasured their trees for the serene shade they provided, and the cooling they often brought to the house, found themselves in a new situation that could not soon be remedied.

Marty and Jan McGuane’s cool shady garden became a hot sunny garden  less dramatically, but with the same result. “We had a beautiful and very large Star magnolia that we planted on our seventh wedding anniversary. It developed canker a couple of years ago. We pruned off affected parts, but last fall the whole tree had to come down. Then we were on a quest for a new tree,” Jan McGuane said.

“The magnolia provided screening and shade. It is so hot in our yard now,” McGuane said, explaining what they looked for in a new tree. They wanted shade, but they also wanted flowers in the spring and good color in the fall. After discussing many flowering trees they settled on a Japanese Kousa dogwood. Kousas are not susceptible to the diseases that afflict Cornus florida, the familiar dogwood  that blooms early in the spring before the foliage appears.

The Kousa dogwood blooms later than Cornus florida when the tree has already leafed out. The flowers, which are actually long lasting bracts, are pointed instead of being rounded. It has deep reddish fall color and its fruits that resemble raspberries are quickly eaten by birds.

It was a job to take down the large magnolia. McGuane explained that roots are much harder than the rest of the tree and it was another big job to grind them out.. I did not know this about roots, but could see that it made sense. Roots of a large tree need strength to hold that tree in the ground.  This spring the McGuanes planted the six foot Kousa that is doing very well in the same spot.

McGuane's stone wall and path

During the time the tree was failing the McGuanes undertook another project that took two years to complete – the building of a curved stone wall for a ‘raised bed’ and a graceful stone walkway.

Working with six tons of Goshen stone for the walkway was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. At the time Marty was not able to heft the stone because of broken shoulders, but Jan said he had a much better idea of how the stone should be arranged.. “He would chose the stone and indicate how it should be sited in the path. I was the labor, but between the two of us we had a better result than either could have alone. I really like the curves in the garden, the path and the stone wall.”

The curving stone wall is located where there was a small deck.  Last fall planting the garden inside the wall was completed. Bulbs, a variety of sedums and heucheras have settled in nicely. A small shallow metal birdbath ornamented with a dragonfly sits on the wall. “I like ornaments in the garden,” McGuane said. “They are fun, and the dragonfly is a symbol of the Franklin County Hospice; Marty is on the Board.”

There are many curves in the McGuane garden. The back border which started out as a Moon Garden with white plants, curves and draws the eye when they sit out on the deck in evenings. There is a white Cornus florida, honeysuckle and a white Queen of the Prairie (filipendula), scented nicotiana, and pale variegated foliage plants.

There is a round fire pit and round table. “Marty likes to grill and we enjoy sitting out here eating and talking with friends,” McGuane said.

Jan's favorite garden spot

As much as she enjoys the spaces for friends and socializing, she said her favorite spot is in a corner of the garden where she has placed a chair made for her by a friend on a patch of  bluestone she laid herself. She planted a ninebark behind the chair to create a bit of seclusion and included a water bowl as a very small water feature. “I am happy just sitting there,” she said.  We gardeners don’t do enough sitting in our gardens, and we should always provide an enticement that will encourage us to sit and admire the day and our own work.

The McGuane garden is an urban garden, and is relatively small and yet it provides room for solitude and sociability. Sociability will be the order of the day on Saturday,  July 10 from 9 am to 4 pm when the McGuane garden will be one of several private gardens on the Greenfield Garden Club Tour. Tickets and maps for this self guided tour will be available at the Club’s Trap Plain Garden at the intersection of Silver and Federal Streets.

This year the Greenfield Historical Society is participating in the Tour, offering refreshments and opening their exhibits about Mary P. Wells. Wells, the author of the Boy Captive of Deerfield and other historical novels for children, was also the founder of the Greenfield Garden Club!

This tour is one of the major fundraisers for the Garden Club, along with the May plant and garden sale. The Club funds horticultural school projects, town beautification projects, and educational talks, tours, and craft nights as well as a newsletter for its members every month. If you are interested in joining the Club contact President Debran Brocklesby at 413-648-5227.

Between the Rows  July 3, 2010

Don’t forget the Daylily Sales today or the Hawley Garden tour!

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