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Many Ways of Looking at the New Year

 

A new day, a new year dawning

            New Year’s resolutions. The beginning of a New Year always has something of the seductive about it, no matter how dismissive we try to be, or how skeptical we think we have become.

            I look at the blankness of the calendar’s pages, matching the blankness of the winter landscape and think about the ways I will fill the days of the new year, fill my days in the garden.

            The older I get the unhappier I get with dichotomies, old or new, plain or fancy, dark or bright, good or bad. The older I get the more I see that we live in a continuum. We are always moving from one place to another.

Movement is irresistible and inevitable, but the movement is not always forward as in old to new. In the gardening world we see this in the tack of garden catalog promotions. They trumpet the New. Bigger! Better! Improved! There is the continuum, bigger, better and improved over the old varieties.

            At the same time the old varieties, open pollinated varieties, heirloom varieties have come back into fashion and are once again New! The old flower varieties are again recognize for their charm, loveliness and fragrance, and old vegetable varieties appreciated for their flavor or hardiness or special suitability for a particular circumstance.  They are also appreciated for their value in maintaining a diverse gene pool from whence new varieties will be born.

            As I’ve considered the continuum I’ve asked people whether they have any new year’s resolutions. I’ve gotten an earful.

            “More light!” One gardener said she and her husband had been working on their house and gardens for nearly two decades. They suddenly realized the sheltering woods around their house had grown so tall and dense that they shut out the sun. “I used to cringe at every tree that was cut down anywhere, but no more.  The garden needs the sun.” And my friend assured me that lots of trees are left.”

            This was a reminder to me that we have to be aware of how growth or depredation in our gardens creates the need to react to and work with those changes, whether it is trees that grow up and throw deep shade or old trees that blow down in storms resulting in unexpected sun.

            Two other gardeners, one man and one woman, said their resolution was to get better equipment. Maybe a new tractor! Maybe just a new lawnmower. Both recognized the value of good sturdy tools and the necessity of caring for these tools and creating proper storage.  I have my own resolution to create better storage for my tools and supplies.

Dahlias

            “More dahlias!” Now there is a resolution that touches my heart. Aside from the fact that dahlias need to be dug in the fall and stored properly all winter, they don’t require a lot of care. In the end you can even treat the tubers as annuals. In the late summer they start a long season of bloom. Dahlias come in so many sizes and flower forms that there is a variety for every type of gardener and garden aesthetic.  For me there is something about the big bold splashy vividly colored dahlias that really appeals. I’ve heard people call dahlias (surely only some dahlias) vulgar.  I just think those glorious big irrepressible blossoms are great fun.

            “We need to improve our soil.” This from my own son Chris who has never paid a lot of attention to the garden.  Now he has a house that came with a yard of mossy compacted soil. Last year he put in a sod lawn, a mass of white rhododendrons, a holly hedge and a collection of shrubs around the house. Although he did take my advice about careful planting and compost, not everything has thrived. He is learning (the continuum again) that soil improvement is not a task you do once. It must continue throughout the life of a garden.

            The custom of making new year’s resolutions gives us a ritual for looking at our past experience, in the garden and elsewhere. It also gives us a chance to think about new and interesting things we have seen during the year and to think about ways that we can incorporate some of those ideas in our own gardens.

            Sometimes a review of the changes in our lives, children being born, children growing, children leaving, can affect the time we have for our gardens, or the kind of gardens we want to have.

            Sometimes our interests change. With the easier availability of locally grown delicious vegetables the passion for a vegetable garden might wane, but a passion for dahlias might take its place.

            Sometimes there is a change in our own health or strength and that compels a change in the scope of our gardens. The new year gives us a chance to consider the changes in our life and spurs us to think about shifting our efforts.

            We toss around the words old and new, good and bad easily. But in the garden, as in life, it is movement along the continuum that keeps us balanced and happy.

            I wish you all happiness in the garden all the new year long.

This first appeared in The Recorder in December 2004 BTC – Before the Commonweeder – and repeated in 2010.

 

Good Reading Roundup for 2013 – Part One

This is my first Reading Roundup. Over the year I have ‘reviewed’ a number of books, any of which would make an excellent holiday gift. Good reading is one of my favorites gifts to give, and to receive.  Over the next couple of days I’ll be giving a note about each of them again, with a link to the original post. All but one of the books were sent to me by the publisher and you may note a very positive note in all of them. This is because I only ‘review’ books that I think are useful and engaging, and in most cases beautiful. I have neither the time, nor space, nor inclination to spend time writing about books that I cannot recommend. Not every book is for everyone, but each of these worthy books will have a substantial audience. Click on the link for each to get the full review.

Taste, Memory

I did buy Taste, Memory: Lost Foods, Forgotten Flavors and Why They Matter by David Buchanan after I heard him speak at the Conway School of Landscape Design. David is a graduate of the CSLD, and his book about his growing passion for  heritage apples is a joy. “This book, with its tales of exciting searches for heritage apples, Buchanan’s own inventiveness, and cooperation between various groups of people and organizations, presents a wonderful vision of how our food system can shift. It is possible for us to eat better, for biodiversity to be protected, and for farmers and market gardeners to make a reasonable living.” This idea is also behind the Slow Food movement and The Ark of Taste which catalogs endangered foods

Taste, Memory also introduced me to John Bunker, David’s apple mentor and a great Maine character who has his own book, Not Far From the Tree about the old apples of Maine. You will never look at an apple in quite the same way again

No Mow Yards

Beautiful No Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives byEvelyn Hadden. Evelyn Hadden is a founder of Lawn Reform Coalition which aims to teach people about sustainable, healthier lawns. In Beautiful No-Mow Yards she proposes 50 alternatives to mowed grass lawns, offering solutions to cutting down on grass cutting in ways that are likely to appeal to every kind of gardener: new gardeners who are more interested in flowers or vegetables, experienced gardeners who are looking for new ways to garden, and environmentally concerned gardeners who want to cut down on the use of fossil fuels, herbicides and their own energy.

 

 

 Lawn Gone: Low Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yardby Pam Penick (Ten Speed Press)

Some of Penick’s chapter titles will tempt you to imagine a new yard of your own. For example: Ponds, pavilions, playspaces and other fun features and Designing and installing your hardscape, immediately set my mind buzzing. Other chapters indicate the sticky issues that gardeners may have to deal with like working with skeptical neighbors or homeowner’s association regulations or city codes.She also explains ways to eradicate lawn, and gives you the names of grass substitutes in the sedge and carex families.

 

Bringing Nature Home

Bringing Nature Home by Dr. Douglas Tallamy is a book I write about regularly. His argument for the use of native plants in our domestic landscape is ever more important and we think about land development. “Lately I have been talking about the benefits of reducing the size of our lawns. Tallamy said that 92% of landscape-able land is lawn, lawn which is a monoculture that does not support wildlife. He suggested that if we reduced the amount of lawn in theUnited Statesby half we would have 20 million acres that could be put to native trees and other native plants. This would certainly increase the carrying capacity of our neighborhoods and our nation.”

 

Latin for Gardeners

Latin for Gardeners: Over 3000 Plant Names Explained and Explored  by Lorraine Harrison is a beautifully illustrated book that is great fun to read even if you never took Latin in high school  and never got beyond Shakespeare’s “Et tu, Brute?” in English class. Beyond explaining the Latin words that make up proper botanical names, there are special sections of Plant Profiles, information about Plant Hunters like Sir Joseph Banks and Jane Colden and Marianne North, and Plant Themes like The Qualities of Plants. The book is also generously illustrated with colored botanical drawings of plants and their parts. This is definitely a book for browsing.

I’ll continue the roundup tomorrow. These books make great gifts for any holiday – or birthday.

 

Giveaway to Celebrate Six Years of Blogging

Seeing Flowers

Six years of blogging and I’m celebrating with a Giveaway. It hardly seems possible. Six years of documenting my garden, mostly, but also family events. Because of my blog I have met gardeners from around the country at Flings.  All you have to do to meet some of them is click on the Buffa10 badge on the right side of the page.

Over these six years and 1,406 posts I have learned that gardeners have a wide range of interests.  My post about bee balm remains my most popular for another year. Did I insert some SEO magic inadvertantly? Is it because it reviews the lesson Elsa Bakalar gave me about color? I don’t think I will ever know. This year hydrangeas and heritage wheat also won a big audience.

Timber Press is helping me celebrate my blogoversary.  They will Giveaway a copy of their beautiful book  Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers with amazing photography by Robert Llewellyn, and written by Teri Dunn Chace. I wrote about Seeing Flowers here,  but I cannot say too many times what a stunning book this is, providing us with a closeup view of  each blossom, a view we could never get in real life. There are all manner of fascinating facts, some of which are sure to put a plant on your must have list. For example, did you know that the milky latex sap of euphorbias is toxic and will cause stomach upset? This means deer won’t eat them. A whole new family of plants is newly attractive to me!

Along with Seeing Flowers I will giveaway a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, which is the story of how we got to the End of the Road, the roses and life we found here.  Kathy Purdy, who was so generous with technical advice when I began blogging, writes Cold Climate Gardening and posted a review here. All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight on December 12. It would be lovely if you would tell me the name of your favorite flower.  Especially if you have a favorite rose. I will choose comment at random and announce the winner of the Giveaway on Friday, December 13.

 

Halloween in Heath

Welcome to Heath Halloween

Because we are such a rural, spread-out town children can’t easily go trick or treating  from house to house. A Tailgate Halloween in the town center was planned, but the rain called for an instant revision. The community hall was quickly turned into Trick or Treat Central and the youngest children, baby pumpkins and kittens, arrived first, followed later by the older kids who had a map of all the houses in town where the Trick or Treat light was on.

Fortune-telling

Even the witches needed to have their fortune told before going on to the main event. Candy!  Also apple cider and donuts.

Candy – all you can carry

This is the only night when the grown-ups urge children to take more candy. Go on. You can have another handful!

Gypsy storyteller

For some there were scary stories! Bats in the library, terrified bunnies, scared siblings. Max and Ruby – what are you doing?

Ghouls and witches

All the ghouls, witches, kittens, spiders, frogs, French knights, gorillas, elephants, Princess brides, and fishermen of all ages in town turned out for a sweetly ghastly celebration.

The Wedding – Emily & Nick Begin

Wedding tent

The Wedding Tent is ready.

Family and friends

Family and friends are assembling.

Emily and Nick

Emily and Nick join hands. The wedding ceremony is beautiful.

The bride and guests

The bride is hugging everyone. Everyone is hugging the bride. The cameras are rolling.

Photographers everywhere

Everyone had a camera and everyone was snapping away. Here is Christina photographing me photographing her. We are all wanting to capture this moment forever. I was reminded of a song from the delightful, satirical musical Little Mary Sunshine.  I was mis-remembering some of the lyrics of Every Little Nothing,  sung by the wise old woman character. My ‘ revised’ lyrics fit my mood.  Every little moment means a precious little moment/if we make it gay.   Every little moment means a precious little moment/but it cannot stay.   For every little moment has its moment/then it flies away.   Every little moment means a precious little moment/take it while you may.

Admiring family

Many branches of the family have gathered to admire the beautiful couple.

Cousins

Do you imagine they might be thinking of future weddings?

Wedding cake moment

An important wedding ritual. The wedding cake. The bride and groom fed each other daintily. Thank heaven.

Time to dance

Then let the dancing begin. Conga!

The Bride and Groom

The golden afternoon was drawing to a close, but the bride and groom walked across the meadow, perhaps thinking of all the precious little moments that await them, even as these fly away.

For more (almost) wordlessness this Wednesday, click here.

Work Crew for The Annual Rose Viewing Arrives

Husband Henry, granddaughter Tracy and daughter Diane

A sizeable  work crew showed up to help prepare for the Annual Rose Viewing,  but it was impossible to get a photo of them all  working together. Diane directed the weeding of the Peony Bed that was in great need. Henry took direction as well as the girls. Eveyone felt the 90 degree heat.

Granddaughters and sister, Caitlin and Tricia

Granddaughters Caitlin and Tricia couldn’t even spare time to look up from their labors.

Great granddaughters Lola and Bella

I directed the shed clean up. Lola and Bella were ready to take up this job. Collecting all the nursery pots and categorizing them.

I’ve never seen pots so well categorized. By size.

Cake in the Cottage Ornee

Time to catch some breezes, and celebrate in the Cottage Ornee. Lola was 4 in May,  and Diane will be ? in two weeks. Cake and birthday books! The Little Yellow Trolley Car by Marie Bartlett and All Creatures Great and Small by Ashley Bryan for Lola. The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman for Diane. Diane’s book has three wonderful sisters in it, and Lola’s books include local history and the beauty of our world.

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh

And the roses continue to open. Peonies, too. All is nearly ready for the Annual Rose Viewing on Sunday, June 30, 1-4 pm.

 

Rose Month Sale of The Roses at the End of the Road

 

My Book

June is Rose Month and I haven’t celebrated at all – so far – but I will begin the celebration with a Special Sale Price for The Roses at the End of the Road. For all orders I receive  by June 30 the cost will be $12 with no tax or shipping charge. Click here for ordering information

The Roses at the End of the is not a how-to book although I do include some basic information. The most basic information I give is to choose roses for your garden that are disease resistant and hardy. Hardy in the sense that the roses don’t need a lot of fussing. I have never had time for fussing with any plant, not even a rose. The book will introduce you to my neighbors and the adventures we have in our gardens.  There is Elsa Bakalar whose husband was willing to take his rifle and go to any lengths to preserve her garden from invaders, 85 year old Mabel who was  willing to round up the cows on my lawn and Rachel who invited me to dig a rose that has proved to have as much stamina as all the old farm wives in town, women I can only hope to emulate.

I never expected to be known as The Rose Lady, but the roses at the end of the road brought me so much pleasure, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to share that pleasure with my neighbors and friends. We had a wedding among the roses – just what daughter Kate dreamed of the day I planted my first rose. The Rose Walk has been my invitation to talk to garden clubs and others about the pleasures to be found in the garden. I even got to speak at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society last year. What an honor! And what fun to talk with all those enthusiastic gardeners.

I will also be offering a free copy of the  book, in a drawing on June 24. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and tell me about your roses – or why you don’t  grow roses.  All comments must be left by midnight on June 23. On the morning of June 24 a winner will be chosen at random. Once I have the winner’s address the book will go out, inscribed as the winner wishes.

June is Rose Month, and here at the End of the Road we are celebrating.  Don’t forget, The Annual Rose Viewing will be held on Sunday, June 30 from 1-4 pm and I hope those in the area will join us on the Rose Walk, and in the Cottage Ornee for cookies and lemonade.

Applejack, will greet you first at the Rose Viewing

 

 

Celebration Season – Eat Your Heart Out

Heath Gourmet Club

Celebration Season this year has been quite lengthy. We had one rowdy family Christmas on December 22, but then a quiet adult Christmas  on December 25 with only one child and his lady, and a dear friend who always joins us for Christmas dinner. On December 29 the Heath Gourmet Club celebrated Christmas with a theme of Looks Like a Wreath to Me! Nearly every course was wreath-like. My savarin pans came in handy for the main course which was grape leaf covered rice and beef, with roasted cauliflower in the center and braised kale with colorful dice peppers surrounding it. My Green celebration bread was a big hit. Gourmet Club has been serving ourselves for over 31 years! Wonderful food with never a single failure, and friendship.

Wreath de Noel

The finale was not a Buche de Noel but a Wreath de Noel with lots of fabulous chocolate ganache, pistachio marzipan (home made) and topped off with a fondant ribbon.

Grand and great-granchildren

Yesterday, we drove throught the nearly 20 inches of snow that the last two days have brought for a final family Christmas. The eating continued with some of the Butternut Squash soup I made for Gourmet Club, and delicious pumpkin pie. The children all agreed that pumpkin is a vegetable and they were very happy to eat their vegetables.  It is impossible to get all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren together anytime except in the summer, but we had a very nice showing. They even stopped moving long enough for a posed photo.

Son, grandson and great granddaughters

There were a few quiet moments. Reading Aloud. Lola, the youngest, got a new copy of Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. Happy reading. Happy day. Happy family. And a happy new year beginning tomorrow

Garden Books for the Young

Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn Galbraith

I’ve written  about a number of garden books for  the young over the past year. They are not how-to books although there are books that do lead a child  into  the garden with real instructions. My friend Kathryn Galbraith wrote Planting the Wild Garden and turned science into poetry. She reveals all the ways that Mother Nature spreads seeds over the landscape using the wind and rain, and hot sun that makes seed pods burst. The rivers and streams carry seeds long distances, and animals move sticky seeds from here to there and the birds drop seeds in their own inimitable way. Even we humans carry seeds when they stick to our sweaters and socks.  Wendy Anderson Halperin created the beautiful delicate and accurate illustrations.

Kathryn takes a different tack in Arbor Day Square, the story of a family that was part of the pioneer move westward, building towns where there had only been grass and woods before. The young girl in the story knows that trees have more value than utility, they are  for beauty too. As the story unfolds it is clear that trees are also about building community. A tender story that we can all identify with today. The illustrations by Cyd Moore are as bright and cheerful as a quilt.

 

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

For the very youngest potential gardeners Lois Ehlert has given us a board book that teaches colors and the rainbow sequence while showing bold stylized flowers.

When my five children were small the happiest part of my day was bedtime (so often the case for us busy mothers) when the children were bathed and in their jammies, and we could all sit down, and slow down, together to read. A whole wold of wonderful children’s books opened up for me and them at the same time.  Then we acquired 9 grandchildren and when they visit we have moved on from my reading to them, to evenings of Reading Aloud when we all read to each other, and sometimes we even invite other guests to join us. We even have two great-granddaughters now. I have not had many opportunities to read to them, but as a new kindergarten student Bella is already to read aloud to us!

While I cannot claim that my book, The Roses at the End of the Road is suitable for bedtime reading for the young, it does work very well for us older gardeners. Right now, for those who buy it directly from me, I am offering a sale price of $12 and free shipping until the Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 6. It is also on sale at the Kindle Store for $3.95.

The Roses at the End of the Road

With these suggestions come my wishes for a happy Christmas and a year filled with happy hours of reading, about plants, and gardens, and gardeners, and every fascinating thing out in our beautiful world.

 

 

 

 

More Christmas Gifts for the Gardener

 

Red pots at Shelburne Farm and Garden

I’m not saying gardeners are greedy, but it is true that it is easy to choose Christimas gifts for gardeners. When I wander through Shelburne Farm and Garden or Greenfield Farmers Coop I have all I can do hold myself in check. There are so many bright and sturdy items that will please and be useful to both novice and expert gardeners.

The Shelburne Farm and Garden Center has a wonderful collection of pots. So many of us are growing flowers and other plants in pots that a handsome pot is almost always a good choice. Two matching Christmas red pots, different sizes, really caught my eye, priced at $20 and $30.

The glove rack is a temptation. Gloves are always wearing out. MUD gloves are a particular favorite, some made with the wonderfully flexible nitrile, while others are heavier for jobs that require greater protection. Both types cost $10.

There are so many great gift choices from an array of bird baths, ceramic and metal, in the $70 t0 $90 range as well as a great collection of bird feeders and sacks of bird seed from $22 to $60. I was particularly struck by the  Bird Nester ($19), a wire cage filled with cottony fibers that is available for birds when they are building their nests. It made me think of Patricia Machlachlan’s tender children’s book, Sarah, Plain and Tall, where older sister Anna is cutting young Caleb’s hair, and sets out his curls for the birds to use in their nests.

On my way out of the store I couldn’t help picking up a few bulbs that were on sale and will be used for forcing. The Greenfield Farmers Coop also has bags of bulbs for sale right as you talk into the store. It might be too late to get bulbs in the ground, but there is plenty of time to force them. A great gift would be bulbs for forcing along with a bag of soil mix and a handsome pot. You could plant the bulbs yourself, or pass it on as a DIY project.

The Coop has a large array of tools. Good quality pruners like the Corona bypass pruner for $30 and the Corona needle nose thinning shears at $24 would make any gardener happy – though I hope that experienced gardeners long ago learned the benefits of quality tools and already have their own favorites. Although, if they had a second good tool they might be able to work with a companion.

I was particularly taken with the small, bright red, fixed tine shrub rake at $13. I have seen the Flower Brigade ladies using similar little rakes as they tended to their clean up chores on the Bridge of Flowers and saw how efficiently and gently they worked in the borders.

Tubtrugs at Farmers Cooperative in Greenfield

I loved the display of colorful Tubtrugs in sizes of three and a half to ten gallons. These light, strong flexible containers will hold a lot of weeds, or compost, or what you will, in the garden and around the house. I can imagine a wonderful gift of a bright Tubtrug filled with bags of Espoma fertilizer, seed starting mix, twine, Bag Balm and other small necessary and consumable garden items. Prices range from $9-$27 depending on size.

Compost makings are the result of every meal preparation. A bowl by the sink will serve, but not as handsomely as the lidded one, or one and a half gallon Compost Keepers ($27-$39), in stainless steel or ceramic.

As useful as these practical items are and as welcome as they will be, one could take a different tack to gift buying for the gardener. Luxury!

J.H. Sherburne has a new wing to her portraiture and frame shop in Shelburne Falls called Serious Whimsies for the Garden and Home. I do buy my own tools and consumables when necessary, but I never buy luxurious gifts for my garden like the stone rabbit and hedgehog sculptures for $80 and $30.  There is a wonderful big dancing angel planter for $90, but many more modestly priced planters like the stone bowl ($29) with a frog sitting on the edge. This could be planted with a bit of sedum or succulents for a really carefree bit of elegant whimsy.

Birch Bark Baskets at J H Sherburne’s Serious Whimsies

I also liked the birchbark baskets and containers that are perfect for holding holiday greens and decorations. The large flat basket ($30) would work as a handsome wreath substitute on the front door filled with greens. Smaller baskets, round and square, cost $9-$19. You can even buy silk flowers and greenery to fill them if you wish.

Siver jewelry at J H Sherburne’s Serious Whimsies

Of course, some of us might like to luxuriate in our gardens by wearing beautiful garden inspired jewelry. Sherburne has a small curated collection of delicate silver pins, a dragonfly ($50), a fern frond ($36) and a gold and silver sunflower bracelet ($100).

Though small, the shop is a treasure trove of whimsical delights. A fancy soap is shaped like a heavily frosted cupcake and the scented candles come in little milkbottles.

There are many ways to shop for gifts. Sometimes you know just what that special person in your life wants or needs. Sometimes you just want to surprise and delight which can take thought. Sometimes you have no clue. All these shops can provide you with a gift certificate – and gift certificates always make my eyes light up.

A final note – J H Sherburne is also noted for her portraiture including portraits of pets, or of pets with their owners.

Portrait by J H Sherburne

Between the Rows     December 8, 2012