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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

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.###

How Seeds of Solidarity Began and Three Forms of No-Till Farming

Seeds of Solidarity Farm

One of the Garlic Fields at Seeds of Solidarity Farm

In 1996 Ricky Baruch and Deb Habib got the biggest Christmas present they might ever receive. On December 28 they officially became the owners of a piece of rocky land in Orange. They were about to plant their own farm.

I first met Baruch and Habib in early May of 2009 when I visited Seeds of Solidarity farm. Even though they had been farming for 13 years the land still looked rough and rocky. However, they had built six greenhouses for a variety of greens that they sold, planted a field of garlic, and built a house. It was the field of garlic that especially amazed me. Garlic shoots were coming up through rotting cardboard and hay mulch.

Baruch and Habib have always been concerned about the environment and determined to live as lightly on the land as possible. Farming with cardboard is their answer. They do not plow or use other machinery to prepare the poor soil on their land. They get lots of large pieces of cardboard from a local furniture store, then cover the cardboard with six inches of rich compost from Diemand Farm. Garlic cloves are planted and covered with mulch hay in October.  Spring brings the beginnings of healthy growth.

Greenhouses use cardboard too

Greenhouses make early greens possible for sale

Cardboard was the beginning of their no-till farming. I had understood no-till farming to mean leaving the crop residues on a harvested field over the winter. In the spring that field would not be plowed. Seeds would be planted right in the soil covered with decaying plants. On my recent visit to Seeds of Solidarity Farm I stopped to admire sprouting garlic in the mulched field. But there were also field sections of what seemed to be a cover crop, another section was covered with a huge tarpaulin, and still another section was covered with mulch hay. I did not understand what I was looking at. I was about to get a lesson in no-till farming.

“There are three techniques for no-till gardening. There is the cardboard technique, the tarps technique, and the cover crop technique. They all build organic matter, promote beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizal fungi, reduce weeds, and conserve water and labor,” Baruch said. He went on to explain that one way he handled his cover crop was to ‘crimp’ the plants with a rake. This means he will kill the plants at the root. The plants just lie down and then he plants through the cover crop into the soil using a dibble, a little wooden tool for garlic seed planting.

Ricky Baruch

Ricky Baruch showing off the rich soil beneath hay mulch

He also explained that the large tarp covering a part of the field is a ‘silage tarp’ the name for a really heavy duty tarp that covers the cover crop or weeds. The tarp creates a warm moist environment that kills weeds in three or four weeks giving the farmer a clean planting bed. This technique is also called occultation because it makes use of the dark environment. While the tarp is killing weeds, the warmth it creates is making it possible for worms and other organisms to break down that organic matter.

Baruch explained that these no-till techniques cut down on cultivating chores. “This way we are working with nature, not fighting it. We have to think about what we are doing, and why we are doing it. This way we have a closer relationship with the earth, and that is what I want.”

Habib pointed out that what they want to do is make good food available to everyone whether they have land or containers. “The only tools Ricky has could pretty much fit in a five gallon bucket. Plus his wheelbarrow and shovel, of course,”

Seeds of Solidarity signs

Inspiring signs are everywhere

As the three of us walked down the hill to the greenhouses filled with salad greens we passed different shrines. These have been built by the Seeds of Leadership (SOL) program for teens, or interns, or others. Many colorfully painted signs quote great people of the past. The intention is always to teach and inspire,” Habib said.

Seeds of Solidarity Farm has become much more than a farm. They created the Seeds of Solidarity non-profit. Habib is the one who writes the grants to fund farm-to-school programs as well as other projects. The two of them work with Greenfield Community College and teach a one credit course in gardening at the Franklin County Jail several times a year. The amount of their community work is amazing. Happily they have just written an inspiring and delightful book, Making Love While Farming: Field Guide to a Life of Passion and Purpose which you can order on-line through Levellers Press( or you can buy a hard copy. Wonderful stories and photographs.

Making Love While Farming

Making Love While Farming: Field Guide to a Life of Passion and Purpose

On Saturday May 25 you can also visit Seeds for Solidarity Farm for a free tour from 10-11:30 am, and bring a lunch if you wish. In the afternoon there is a No-Till for Life Workshop. Ricky will teach regenerative, soil building techniques for low maintenance, highly productive gardens. “Treating the soil as sacred results in nourishing food, mitigates impacts of climate change, and inspires a deeper relationship with that which sustains life.” $35-$50 sliding scale fee. Please email to register.

A final note: Baruch and Habib are among the founders of the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival which will be held on September 28 and 29 this year.

Between the Rows   May 18, 2019

MAY 25, 2019 is also the day of the Greenfield Garden Club Extravaganza Plant Sale at  the John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street in Greenfield from 8:30 am – 12:30 pm. Plants Large and Small for every garden.

Greenfield Garden Club – Lots to Love and Work For

Greenfield Garden Club

Greenfield Garden Club reinvigorated and taking on new tasks

When asked what they loved about the Greenfield Garden Club, the gardeners who attended the Annual Meeting at the John Zon Community Center last month had a lot of answers. They called out that they loved meeting other gardeners, learning from other gardeners, sharing plants, socializing and going on trips together. Club members liked learning more about the environment and how our gardens benefit the environment. They also loved giving gardening grants to local schools, and making the community more beautiful. They loved the wreath making workshop in November and the December holiday party.

It was clear that there is a lot to love about the Greenfield Garden Club in this iteration. They did not want the club to disband. We thanked Phyllis Labanowski for helping us remember what we love about the garden club and what we want to keep.

At the meeting last month we acknowledged that it is impossible for a very few club members to handle and organize all the business of the club. At the Annual Meeting on March 17 we were ready to sign up and spread responsibilities. Although change cannot be brought about with one meeting, everyone acknowledges that it is important for members to share responsibilities, and ideas.

Last week Laura Schlaikjer and I met to talk about upcoming plans. Schlaikjer, past and newly re-elected president, said she vividly remembers the first annual meeting she attended because she won the table centerpiece. That was the first time she had received such a treat. Somehow that joy transformed her from a simple member to being the treasurer. Eventually, following in the footsteps of Margareta Athey, Jan McGuane (as she was then), Richard Willard, McGuane again, and Deb Brocklesby, Schlaikjer accepted the presidency.

At the Annual Meeting we once again chose Schlaikjer as president, but this year we are going to be more helpful. Our first big event, in our newly reinvigorated club is the Extravaganza which will be held on May 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. at the John Zon Community Center. This is always a great event that gives us all a chance to share plant divisions and make some money for the club.

Those who are not members of the club may not be aware that most of the money raised each year goes to fund the grants we give to schools for their school gardens. Members know the garden is a wonderful place to learn about science and beauty. We want to encourage children to learn how to observe the growth of plants, and the delicious flavors of fresh vegetables.

I have served on the grant committee and learned how carefully the members consider the educational and health benefits of the items that teachers request for their students and gardens. It is always an enjoyable meeting, held in Taylor’s Tavern with a nice dinner (we all pay for our own meal) and talk about gardens and plants – as well as deliberating over the grant requests.

It has always been a goal of the Greenfield Garden Club to do what it can to beautify the community. This year, once again, the Garden Club will plant several barrels with colorful plants to place on Main Street where store owners will take responsibility to care for them.airy

Greenfield Garden Club Fairy House Exhibit

Fairy House Display at the FC Fair – appealed to the judges and to the children

The Franklin County Fair has welcomed the exhibits the Garden Club creates at the back door of the Roundhouse. Recently, the Fairy Houses display won First Prize, Best in Show and the Cushman award. “We always have so much fun putting these exhibits together, and are always thinking of ways to interest children,” Schlaikjer said.

I think it is easy to see a thousand enjoyable ways to work with club members on a project without feeling overburdened.

Members and potential new members can turn to the Garden Club website to see dates of meetings and other upcoming events. On May 16, in lieu of a regular meeting, club members will visit the Bridge of Flowers and talk to Bridge volunteers about the flowers and how the Bridge is managed. In June club members will take a tour of Just Roots, its fields and community gardens. This non-profit organization, beginning its seventh year, is devoted to making healthy food available to all.

The July meeting will be a pot-luck dinner at the home of Marsha Stone and Norm Hirschfeld. Besides sharing good food and fun, the club will vote on our new by-laws. New members, and others interested in joining the Garden Club are welcome to come to a meeting and sign up. Check out the website.

We may also start talking about a 2020 garden tour. You do not have to be a member to have your garden included on the tour. I know I am already thinking about how I can perk up my garden this year and make it neater, as well as more colorful or more peaceful or more productive or more . . . I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I am hoping I might be chosen for the tour. The Club’s garden tours are always enjoyable, instructive, and encouraging. Wouldn’t you like to show your garden?

The reinvigorated Greenfield Garden Club is ready for the Extravaganza Plant sale May 25 at the John Zon Community Center at the corner of Pleasant and Davis Streets at 8:30 am – 12:30 pm. Hope to see you there.

Between the Rows    May 11, 2019

Bridge of Flowers – 90th Anniversary and Plant Sale

Bridge of Flowers

Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Fall, Massachusetts

In 1908 a new trolley bridge started bringing milk, cotton products and passengers from Colrain to Shelburne Falls. In 1929 the trolley was no longer needed and the bridge became the Bridge of Flowers. The transformation began when Antoinette Burnham looked at the neglected bridge and thought that surely a bridge that could grow so many weeds, could grow flowers instead. That was the beginning of the conversion from industry to garden.

Julius Blassberg bought the bridge and then gave the newly formed Shelburne Falls Women’s Club a five year lease. Ultimately the Bridge was sold to the Shelburne Falls Fire District because of the water main that is located below what had been the trolley tracks. The Women’s Club set up a committee, and the community joined in the amazing transformation. Businesses and individuals donated money, skills and labor. It takes a village to create a treasure!

Bridge of Flowers

Bridge of Flowers entrance on Shelburne Side. The Bridge didn’t always look like this.

Thirty-six years ago the Bridge needed a major restoration. The community created Bridge of Flowers Preservation, Inc. Do you know what happens when there is such an undertaking? Money needs to be raised, and every single plant on the Bridge needs to be removed.

The women and men of the town raised that money, then dug up all the plants and tended them for a year in their gardens until they could be replanted. This is a special kind of devotion. In the spring of 1984 they were replanted along with new plants. There are new plants every year, of course, because you cannot have never-ending bloom without annuals.

There have been disasters to endure. Remember Hurricane Irene that did so much damage throughout our area in August of 2011? Shelburne Falls had flooding, and I know of one building that was pulled off its moorings and floated down the street. The raging Deerfield River slammed into the Bridge of Flowers and splashed over the flower beds for hours. (This video does not show the splashing, but you get the idea When the storm quieted and the sun came out the Blossom Brigade and many friends were on hand with shovels to clear as much silt off the plants and pathway as possible. New plants were added to fill empty spots. The Bridge of Flowers was not to be vanquished!

goldheart bleeding heart

A goldheart bleeding heart – glowing in the spring

As the Bridge of Flowers committee looks back on 90 years of care they can take satisfaction in the growing beauty of the Bridge and the growing number of tourists who come to celebrate its glory. It is hard to count the number of visitors to the Bridge but a look through the Visitor’s Pages at both ends of the Bridge suggest that in recent years more than 40,000 people visit every year. Some visitors are from Massachusetts, others come on tour buses from far away places. In addition to admiring the Bridge they might enjoy a meal at Hearty Eats or the West End Pub. They might buy some sweets at Mo’s delicious Fudge Factor, or a painting or pair of earrings at the Shelburne Arts Cooperative. There are many ways to buy a memento of a day at the Bridge of Flowers.

Needless to say, it takes a lot of work to care for a garden, especially a garden that needs to be at its best from April 1 to October 30. Carol DeLorenzo is the current Head Gardener. She has designed and organized the plantings for the past 20 years, making sure that the pathway is always lined, one might say crowded, with blooming plants. Each year it is a little different. She is assisted by Elliston Bingham. Both are assisted by the Blossom Brigade, the women who volunteer at the Bridge twice a week, on Wednesday evenings, and Friday mornings.

At this time of the year the Blossom Bridge is especially busy preparing for the Annual Plant sale. It is the nature of healthy plants to grow bigger and bigger. Many plants on the Bridge need to be divided every year, just as we gardeners need to divide our flowers every year or two.

DeLorenzo digs and organizes all the plants to be divided. The volunteers then pott them up. Gardeners like me can dig up our own large clumps and bring them to the Bridge for the volunteers skillfully pot them up in good soil. The potted plants are then taken to Lynda Leitner’s house where she waters and cares for them until the afternoon before the sale. That afternoon many volunteers and vehicles bring the potted plants to the Baptist Lot to be organized and arranged. It is a sight to see!

Bridge of Flowers

BOF Plant Sale – Plants and goodies

This year the plant sale is scheduled for Saturday, May 18 and will begin promptly at 9 a.m. Buyers may look and make their own decisions about what they want most, but no touching until the bell rings and the sale begins!

The plant sale is a festive event. In addition to all the beautiful plants to buy, coffee and sweets will help keep your energy up. The Buckland Board of Health will have information about ticks, and the Master Gardeners will offer soil tests. Garden related art, gardening aprons, and plant and herb starts will also be available.

There will be another big event this year. In September the Bridge of Flowers will celebrate its 90th anniversary. Ninety years of creating beauty, building community, and spreading joy to visitors from near and far is something to celebrate!


Do you need to clean or sharpen your garden tools? You are invited to a workshop to benefit the Erving Public Library Building Fund on Saturday, May 18 at Dry Brook Garden, 105 Old State Road, Erving. The cost is $20. Bring up to five garden hand tools (no power tools). Coffee, refreshments and a bucket of gardening goodies included.

Registration required by May 15. Register by calling the library at 413-423-3348. Space is limited.

Between the Rows   May 4, 2019

Invasive Plants – Beauty and Destruction

Invasive plants can be beautiful but they are also destructive. Gardeners are becoming more aware of the dangers of invasive plants, as well as the benefits of pollinator plants. We are now realizing there is more to designing our gardens than aesthetics. We have to consider our environment, how plants and wildlife interact.

One of the most common and often used invasive shrubs is Burning bush, Euonymus alatas. It is popular for its beautiful red foliage in the fall. As pretty as these shrubs are, they set so much seed that they quickly force out other plants.  At the same time there are a number of other shrubs that can provide similar color and benefit.


Fothergilla on the Bridge of Flowers

The large Fothergilla major can grow as tall as six feet with an even wider spread. A dwarf version, F. gardenia, will grow about two to four feet tall with a three to four foot spread. Fothergillas have attractive bottle-brush flowers in the spring, and foliage that turns shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. The Fothergilla on the Bridge of Flowers always attracts a lot of attention for its unusual flowers. It is a hardy, trouble free shrub.

Other substitutes for burning bush are chokeberry, enkianthus, highbush blueberry, Virginia sweetspire, and American cranberry bush viburnam.

We don’t often think of trees being invasive, but the Norway maple outcompetes sugar maples in woodland. It also has such a dense canopy that its shades out and reduces wildflower diversity. There are alternatives. The red maple and sugar maple have similar golden foliage in the fall. The red oak has deep red foliage in the fall. There is no need ever to plant a Norway maple.

Some Norway maples have deep purple foliage, but substitutes include crabapples; be sure to look for disease resistant cultivars. European beech and redbuds, also have deep red autumnal foliage.

Virginia sweetspire

Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica in the autumn

Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii, is used as hedging, but I have never understood why it is popular. All those thorns! It is another invasive plant that has a number of alternatives to its color, its berries and form.  Some weigela and ninebark cultivars provide purple foliage while others provide yellow autumnal leaves. Virginia sweetspire and highbush blueberries provide red autumnal color. Deutzia gracilis and Potentilla fruticosa are small rounded shrubs that bloom, respectively, in spring and summer.

European barberry is also an invasive shrub, often used as hedging. Weigela, ninebark, bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), inkberry and Virginia sweetspire are all possible alternatives.

I have a Rhus aromatica in my garden. This is a very low-growing sumac that can spread to six or eight feet across. The foliage turns yellow and red in the fall. It has very few problems and tolerates my wet garden even though it is said to prefer well-drained soil. I like it because it provides quiet interest for my garden which has so many larger shrubs.

Rusty willow (Salix atrocinerea) grows to about 40 feet and Gray willow (S. cinerea) only grows to a shrubby 15-20 feet, but both are vigorously taking over wetlands in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Their seeds are distributed by the wind, and they easily hybridize with other willows. This means they can make our native willows extinct.

The invasive trees and shrubs I have mentioned are all forbidden in Massachusetts, and there are alternatives for all of them. It is pretty easy to cut down these trees or dig up and get rid of these invasive shrubs.  Other invasives are not so easily removed, but efforts must and are being employed.

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife – photo courtesy of Neponset River Watershed Association

Purple loosestrife is a lovely plant that was accidentally brought to the U.S. from Europe. It is often seen along roadsides where it is damp or swampy. The damage of this plant, and others, is that it overcomes native plants and reduces needed food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds and other wildlife.

When I see a few purple loosestrife plants growing along a damp roadside it is easy to stop and pull them out. A large stand along a highway wetland is a different story. In the 1980s researchers went to Europe to look for insects that might prey on this plant. Out of the 120 species they studied they found three that fed on purple loosestrife. They did not feed on other plants.

Galerucella calmariensis and Galerucella pusilla  are two of the species that have been imported and used to eradicate purple loosestrife in Rhode Island and Connecticut with good results, especially in sunny areas. The number of these insects is increasing and the research is continuing.

I mention this Integrated Pest Management Technique to remind us all that there are many ways to eliminate invasive species other than hitting them with strong pesticides.

Massachusetts has a long list of invasive and soon to be invasive plants which you can find listed at Some of these plants will be familiar like yellow iris, and phragmites which grow in wet locations and oriental bittersweet that drapes itself over trees. Others like Euphorbia esula L. (Leafy spurge) are not familiar but equally dangerous. ###

Between the Rows   April 27, 2019

Earth Day 2019 – Pollinator Pathways & PV Squared

Pollinator flowers

Many pollinator flowers attract bees and butterflies

Forty-nine years ago Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, looked at the disastrous 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, and thought that more attention needed to be paid to environmental problems. Thus he planned an Earth Day ‘national teach-in on the environment. He chose Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman, and Denis Hayes from Harvard to work with him creating this event. To make use of the energy of the young the date of April 22, during college vacations, was chosen.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans, young and old, took to the streets and auditoriums to speak about the environmental problems they faced. I was at a rally in West Hartford that day. Where were you?

By the end of that year the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been created and the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts had been passed by Congress.

In 1990 Earth Day went global, and 200 million people in 141 countries participated. Today more than one billion people celebrate Earth Day and look for ways to protect our environment.

Locally, we have Nancy Hazard who has worked with many others to create Greening Greenfield ( working for a more resilient and sustainable community. In 2010 Greenfield was among the first Massachusetts communities to be awarded the Green Community designation.

The Greening Greenfield website lists many ways that we can lower our energy costs, and the programs that will help us make use of solar energy on our homes.


One environmental problem is the loss of many species of birds, animals and other creatures. Greening Greenfield has invited Tom Sullivan, the owner of Pollinators, to talk about a Pollinator Corridor. On his recent trip to Ireland he was inspired by their countrywide pollinator plan which supports pollinators that are vital to food production. He now has a vision of creating a pollinator corridor  in Greenfield. It  would begin at the pollinator garden he and Nancee Bershoff designed in front of the Zon Center and planted with the help of many volunteers to the Energy Park. To celebrate Earth Day h will speak at the John Zon Community Center on Saturday, April 20, from 1-4 p.m.


Another Greening Greenfield Earth Day event is a discussion of Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming edited by Paul Hawken to be held on Monday, June 3, 2019 at the Greenfield Library. This is an amazing book that devotes two pages to each of the 100 challenges that would reduce global warming.

Some of those challenges quickly come to mind: composting, heat pumps, mass transit, green roofs and more. Some are surprising. Think of Managed Grazing that by 2050 could result in 16.34 gigatons of reduced CO2, at the net cost of $50.5 billion and with $735.3 billion in net savings! I saw this system used on the Sidehill Farm some years ago and I saw the value to the cows, and to the improved  soil and forage, but did not recognize the benefit to the environment.

Readers can choose the fields they are most interested in so the book is not intimidating. Hazard said “This is an opportunity for collective learning. We learn what is sustainable together.” She added that the book is available through our library system.


PV Squared

Owner-workers and workers at PV Squared

I called PV Squared to find out the impact of their work. The company was founded in 2002 by four owner-workers; today they have 44 workers, with 29 owner-workers. There are many ways to define sustainability. PV Square has always created sustainable, living wage jobs and worked to strengthen the local economy.

I spoke to Anna Manello who said “Since 2002, the electricity generated from all of the solar systems we’ve installed is 54,812,000 kW hours of electricity, which is equivalent to an estimated 38,760 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide!”  Another way of thinking about it is 4,361,467 gallons of gasoline used or 4,942,423,440 smart phones recharged.

Manello also told me that they have worked with Habitat for Humanity, installing solar systems on eight local projects including houses on Deerfield Street. Four more projects are in the offing. Their work with Habitat not only sequesters CO2, it provides a sustainable home for a family.

There are other organizations that make our area more sustainable. Just Roots supplies organically grown food that provides food security for many families. They just installed a 9.1 kW array of solar panels for sustainability.

Greenfield Community College teaches an array of classes that include concepts and principles in ecology including ecosystems, population, food production, energy, pollution, technology, and resource depletion.

Community Involved with Sustaining Agriculture  (CISA)  helps farmers with the business of farming. It also partners with others like the University of Massachusetts Extension Service to teach sustainable agricultural practices.

Earth Day is a day to recognize the challenges to our environment, and to encourage the ways we can each work every day to protect our environment.

Between the Rows   April 20, 2019