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Tovah Martin and Terrariums

Tovah Martin

Tovah Martin photo by Kindra Clineff

Tovah Martin, gardener and author, has devoted a good part of her life to houseplants. Most of us have a limited view of what houseplants we might put on our windowsills, but when she found herself working at the wonderful Logee’s Greenhouse in Connecticut she fell in love with the hundreds of houseplant varieties put into her care.

Over the years Martin has written books like Well-Clad Windowsills: Houseplants for Four Exposures, The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home; The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow; and The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature. Her knowledge about the needs and benefits of various houseplants, as well as their beauty, sometimes sculptural and sometimes romantic, is encyclopedic, and her prose is a delight touched with humor.

As a part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Greenfield Garden Club, the Club is bringing the notable and charming Tovah Martin to Greenfield on Sunday afternoon, June 5 to give a lecture on terrariums, followed by a book signing, and then a terrarium making workshop. This event will be held at the gracious Brandt House on Highland Avenue.

Martin looks at terrariums as a practical way to have a whimsical or calming snippet of nature at hand, no matter what kind of houseplant space you might have. When I spoke to Martin I asked when she became an expert on terrariums. “I’ve made terrariums my whole adult life. Actually even before that. And now I give workshops for every age group from Brownie troops to senior citizens,” she said.

Terrariums are always a popular type of garden from the charming berry bowls filled with a bit of American teaberry with its shiny petite foliage and red berries, to fish tanks turned into a woodland scene. “Terrariums are the smallest landscape you’ll ever have to design,” Martin said. Participants in her workshop should bring their own container but other terrarium materials will be provided. “Almost any glass can be used for a terrarium,” she said. She added that she has a pretty good eye and is frugal so she is a regular at Goodwill stores. No glass container is too humble, large wide mouth mason jars work just as well.

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin

“Everyone should have nature by their side and terrariums make it easier. Terrariums are self watering, they almost grow on auto-pilot. Terrarium plants get the humidity they need, especially in the winter when our houses are so dry from the heating systems,” she said.

In her workshop she will demonstrate, and guide participants in the making of a terrarium that includes soil and plants, using surprising tools and giving useful tips. She will cover the basics of construction, and care from every angle including watering and light sources. Terrariums should not be placed in the sun, which is one reason they are such a good solution for the house that does not have much in the way of sunny windows, or possibly an office with limited light.

Beyond the closed terrarium that I am familiar with Martin points out that a terrarium is also an ideal environment for handling cuttings and making new plants, or for starting seeds. She said not all terrariums need to be closed and that even an open terrarium environment can help conserve moisture and will keep a plant happy with less work.

Extra pleasures on June 5: Michael Nix will be providing music, Kestrel of Northampton will be selling terrarium plants and supplies, and the World Eye will be selling books. Tickets are available at World Eye Books or can be ordered by calling Jean Wall at 773-9069. The cost of the lecture is $25 and $50 for the lecture and the workshop. Garden Club members get a discount of $20 and $40. For more information log on to the Greenfield Garden Club’s website http://www.thegreenfieldgardenclub.org/special-events.html

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It is Plant Sale Season. Today the Bridge of Flowers is having their annual plant sale that will include shrubs, annuals and perennials; many are divisions of plants on the Bridge. There will be a great variety from asters to peonies to violets. Master Gardeners will be on hand to do soil testing. The sale will be held on the TrinityChurch’s Baptist Lot on Main Street in ShelburneFalls from 9 am to noon, rain or shine. All profits benefit the Bridge.

Next Saturday, May 21 is the Garden Club of Amherst’s plant sale under the tent on the Common next to the Farmer’s Market from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm. Profits benefit conservation efforts and a scholarship fund.

On Saturday, May 28 The Greenfield Garden Club will hold its annual Extravagaza on the lawn of St James Episcopal Church on Federal Street from 9 am to 2 pm. In addition to plants donated by club members there will be a tag/book sale, a bake sale and face painting for the kids. Rain or shine. Profits benefit the grant program for area schools.

Between the Rows   May 14, 2016

 

Augustine Henry – Plant Hunter

With all the attention being given to the importance of native plants in our domestic landscape, one can only wonder where all the non-natives, otherwise known as exotics, came from. If you look at plant names, sometimes including the full scientific name, you will get a hint. Many of the plants discovered in countries like China will have the name of the plant hunter included.

Those who are familiar with Kerria with its sprays of golden pompoms may not realize that it is named for the Scottish plant collector William Kerr (1879-1914) or that the Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) was named for Charles Sprague Sargent, the  first director of the Arnold Arboretum (1872-1927).

Sargent also sponsored many plant hunters like the British Ernest H. Wilson, soon known as Chinese Wilson, who travelled around the world to find new plants and send seeds and cuttings back to the Arnold Arboretum.

Lilium henryi

Lilium henryi

A number of years ago a friend gave us a large white clematis named Clematis henryi. The gift was in honor of my husband Henry. I subsequently planted two lilies, the golden Lilium henryi, and a White henryi, both with gracefully recurved petals.  It did not occur to me until recently to wonder who was the henryi.

Augustine Henry was Irish (1857-1930) and after earning a medical degree from Queens College in Galway, a friend suggested he go to work for British Customs in China. He passed the necessary exams and studied to gain a working knowledge of Chinese. An impressive accomplishment in itself. He left for China in 1881. For nearly 20 years he worked in Yunnan, Hubei, Shanghai and Formosa, banishing the hours of isolation and boredom by exploring the local landscape and woodlands.

Lilium white henryi

Lilium white henryi

What began as a time filling hobby became a passion. Though not a botanist he realized there were many unusual plants he had never seen before. In 1884 he sent a letter to the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew offering to send specimens back if he thought they would be useful. By 1885 he was thoroughly engrossed in finding new plants, and finding out as much about them as possible, their Chinese names and local uses, especially of plants used medicinally.

He was aided in the beginnings of his studies and plant collecting with advice from Henry Hance, a leading expert on Chinese flora and British vice-consul in Canton.

Some plant hunting had been done in China earlier, but with very little that resulted in getting plants or seeds back to England. Augustine Henry could only collect plants when he was not working but between November 1884 and February 1889 he discovered about 500 species that were new to scientists in the western world. This included 25 new genera.  I can only imagine the trouble he would have had trying to reconcile European scientific names with the Chinese names for plants.

In a letter to a friend from student days, Evelyn Gleeson, he confesses to trouble collecting colorful flowering plants, because his own interest was in the variety of foliage forms. He particularly disliked chrysanthemums because he found the foliage so ugly, but he did love all the roses. His rose discoveries are particularly important to me because it is the China rose that gave ever-blooming genes to the west.

One of the great botanical searches in China was for Davidia involucrata, the dove tree or handkerchief tree. Henry had found a single tree but was not able to collect seed. When E.H. Wilson arrived Henry gave him as much information as he had. Wilson did eventually find the site of Henry’s Davidia, but it has been cut down. Fortunately he found other Davidia trees nearby and was able to send seeds back to England. Actually, Henry did find a different form of the handkerchief tree: D. involucrata var. vilmoriniana, which has grayer leaves than the tree first described by Father Armand David in 1871.  Although D. involucrata is more widely available, Henry’s tree is more likely to be found as a mature specimen in Britain, owing to its greater hardiness.

Of course, out of the over 15,000 specimens of over 5,000 species that Augustine Henry collected, only a few are propagated for garden use today. There are the very popular henryi lilies, but there is also Lonicera henryi, clematis henryi and the blue flowered rhododendron augustinii. This rhododendron is notable because it is lime-tolerant, and has been used to hybridize new blue rhodies.

During his years in China Henry met many other men who were botantists like Chinese Wilson, as well as those who were, like him, intelligent and skilled amateurs. Like gardeners everywhere they shared information and plants.

Perhaps, remembering his love of foliage, it is not surprising that when Henry returned to England he decided to begin a career in forestry. He went to study at the FrenchSchool of Forestry at Nancy but left to work with Henry J. Elwes to work on a book about trees cultivated in Ireland and Great Britain. Then in 1907 he began teaching at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 1913 for the Royal College of Science in Dublin to become their first professor of forestry.

Henry’s first wife died of tuberculosis in 1894. He married Alice Brunton in 1908. It was she who organized the 10,000 tree specimens in his private collection which became the Augustine Henry Forestry Herbarium in the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin.

I like thinking about Augustine Henry launching himself into a life in a totally different country and culture, finding discovery, excitement and pleasure in a new passion that brought so many new plants to our notice, and made us all so much richer.

Between the Rows   January 30, 2016

Ernest Henry Wilson – Chinese Wilson – Plant Hunter

 

Photo courtesy of Arnold Arboretum © President and Fellows of Harvard College. Arnold Arboretum Archives.

Photo courtesy of Arnold Arboretum © President and Fellows of Harvard College. Arnold Arboretum Archives.

Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930) later known as Chinese Wilson, was British and as a young man he worked in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. In 1898 James Veitch of the Veitch and Sons nursery asked Kew for a likely young man to send to China to find and bring back plants for the nursery. Wilson was recommended and chosen. For his first trip to China his assignment was to find and bring home seeds of the dove tree, Davidia involucrata. On his way to China he stopped at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston with a letter of introduction to Director Charles Sprague Sargent to learn the best ways to ship plants and seeds safely.

That meeting was the beginning of a long relationship with Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum. Sargent insisted that Wilson carry with him a large format field camera. The Arboretum now owns thousands of the photographs Wilson took in China.

On that first trip to China he met Augustine Henry who found the location of the dove tree as first described by Father Armand David in 1871. Henry described the location to Wilson as best he could, but the tree Henry had found had been chopped down. Fortunately, during the third year of  this trip Wilson was able to return to that area and found other younger dove trees and was able to send seeds back to Veitch. By the time he returned to England  two years collecting hundreds of species of plants, as well as hundreds of herbarium samples which he brought back to England in 1902.

He continued to work for Veitch and made a second trip to China under their auspices. In 1906 he made his third trip to China under the auspices of the Arnold Arboretum. It was on this trip that there was a landslide that crushed his leg. He made a splint out of his camera tripod and was carried for three days to a hospital. He recovered, but ever after had a limp that he called his lily limp because the Lilium regale, the Easter lily, was his great find on that trip.

By his own count Wilson brought back 25 rose species from China. This is particular interest to rose gardeners today because native Chinese roses have the ever blooming. gene.

He made a fourth trip for the Arboretum and later, in 1914 he began a study of Japanese plants including conifers, Kurume azaleas and Japanese cherries.

Wilson went on other travels, but in 1927, after Sargent’s death, he became Keeper of the Arnold Arboretum. His career was cut short when he and his wife were killed in an automobile accident in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Without plant hunters like these over the centuries, and continuing today, the flowers and plants available to us would be greatly limited. We are fortunate to be able to reap the benefits of their adventure and their passion.

Made in the Shade Garden

Julie Abranson

Julie Abramson

Julie Abramson now lives with a graceful shade garden, but it was not always so. Like so many of us, Julie never had much interest in her mother’s garden when she was young, but over the years she has tended three very different gardens of her own. Her first garden in Albany was cheerful. “I was inexperienced, but this garden was very floriferous. I knew nothing about trees and shrubs,” she told me as we sat admiring her very green garden filled with trees and shrubs in Northampton.

Her second garden was on a hillside with a cascade of plants including a cottonwood tree that filled the air with cotton-y fluff when it was the tree’s time to carry seeds off to produce more cottonwood trees.

I was especially interested in this, her third garden, because it is a mostly a shade garden. Julie moved to her Northampton house 12 years ago and began her garden a year later by removing 25 trees. Even so, this half acre garden grows beneath the shade of maples and conifers, and smaller sculptural trees like the pagoda dogwood.

As I struggle with creating a garden design, I asked Julie for her advice. She explained that there are certain principles that can guide plant selection and placement. “Repetition, and echoing or contrasting of foliage types are basic rules. I look for relationships between the plants, looking for arrangements that please me,” she said. “Respond to the site. My garden turns out to be a series of large triangles dictated by the landscape.”

As we walked around the house and into the gardens, she pointed out examples of these principles. The sunniest garden on the gentle south slope has shrubbery including Little Devil ninebark, arctic willow and spirea which give weight to the repetition of garlic chives, nepeta and blue caryopteris. A boulder adds to that weight and the natural feel of this garden.

Pieris, Leuchothoe and geranium

Foundation planting: Pieris, Leuchothoe and geranium

Julie edited the foundation planting she inherited to make it less dense and more interesting by layering. One section starts with tall pieris that blooms in the spring, and in front of that is the graceful broadleaf evergreen leucothoe which also blooms in the spring. Hugging the ground is geranium macrorrhizum with its paler foliage. These layers contrast different foliage forms, textures and color.

I loved the long daylily border on the sunny side of the house which was ending its bloom season. Julie told me a secret. This border has an early bloom season when the daffodils planted  in and among the daylilies bloom. After bloom the daffodil foliage gets lost in the early daylily foliage and the gardener never needs to endure browning straggle, or worry about cutting back the foliage too early depriving the bulbs of new energy.

Of course, it was the shade garden that was of particular interest to me.  It is the shade garden that Julie admires from her study, the dining room and the screened porch. This is a more natural woodland garden planted with many natives and other shade-loving plants. Earlier in the season there is more color when shrubs like fragrant clethera and perennials like astilbe, heucherella and others are in bloom.

Right now the garden is mostly green. “I am a collector and have many different plants, but I also like calmness. I try to integrate the two sides of who I am with two sides of the garden.” She pointed out that the entry to the shade garden is a kind of tapestry where one groundcover blends into another. “This is a calm way to taper the garden,” she said.

Julie confesses to a love of mounding plants like the caryopteris and garlic chives in the sunny garden and arctic willow, hostas and heucherellas in the shade garden. There is a repetition of burgundy, and green and white foliage. “The mounds are distinct but they relate to each other. Your eye keeps moving because you can see a repeat of color or form just beyond,” she said.

Shade Garden Path

Shade garden path

She has curving paths edged by mass plantings of ajuga, hostas and bergenia that keep leading the eye along. There is a sense of movement. “The curve makes me very happy,” she said.

She struggles with the dry, root-y soil. Her first year she spread 6 inches of compost and planted in that, which is not recommended practice, but she said it worked well for her.

Julie has a simple routine for maintaining the garden. In the spring she gives her garden a thorough weeding. Then, with some help, she spreads a layer of compost over the whole garden, followed by spreading layer of wood chip mulch, again with some help. After the mulch is applied she considers the main work of the garden done. In the fall she edits the garden, dividing, removing or adding plants. “It is not just the garden itself, but the whole process of gardening that gives me pleasure,” she said.

Our style, our approach, to our gardens carries through from the way we choose and arrange our plants to the way we care for it. Although Julie gives great thought and care to the arrangements of plants the effect is of unstudied grace. Gardeners are very generous and share knowledge and experience, as well as plants, but somehow no two gardens are ever the same.

I came away from Julie Abramson’s garden with new ideas and examples of how to arrange the plants in my new garden, but we can both be confident that my garden will not be a copy of hers.

Between the Rows September 5, 2015

Franklin Land Trust Garden Tour – June 27

Ruah Donnelly

Ruah Donnelly

Ruah Donnelly’s house overlooks a wooded ravine, a tapestry of shades of green and shifting light. There is not a flower in sight. Donnelly says that over her years as a gardener she has experienced a growing struggle between wanting art in the garden and wanting to conserve the landscape. While she thinks conservation is winning the battle, any visitor to this garden and landscape will see no struggle, only beauty.

Donnelly’s garden is only one of the unique private gardens, and farms, on the Franklin Land Trust Garden Tour that is open to visitors on Saturday, June 27 from 10 am – 4 pm.

For the past 15 years Donnelly has been gardening on what is considered the site of the oldest farm in Conway. She loves the New England landscape where she has spent most of her life, and has dedicated great energy to its beauty by serving on the boards of TowerHillBotanical Garden, the New England Wildflower Society and the Franklin Land Trust. When she began planning the Conway landscape she said, “I wanted to figure this out. I didn’t want it to look like New Jersey. I wanted to let nature have something to say, without too much pruning, or too many flowers.” She also said that at this time of her life she needed to make it sustainable. She cannot be out in the garden doing everything all the time.

Calycanthus floridus

Calycanthus floridus

Donnelly’s garden is essentially a woodland garden. There is the Grove, a stand of trees that has grown up around the cellar hole of the original house. It has been ‘edited’ so that you can see the form of the trees and stroll through the grove which is underplanted thousands of daffodils that have naturalized and bloom in the spring, as well as native groundcovers like epimediums, and ferns. One of the striking shrubs growing beneath the trees is a large Calycanthus floridus which has graceful lax limbs and fragrant, wine red fragrant flowers that are responsible for its common name sweetshrub.

There is art in the grove as well a very large black and yellow container holding shining yellow begonias. “Yellow is an accent in the grove, and points up the beauty of all the green.”’

Ornamental yellow begonias

Ornamental yellow begonias in The Grove

Even so, beyond the desire for some ornamental plantings, “What makes me happy is the deeper question, of finding ways to make the landscape more beautiful in ways that are good for the land. I want to bring out the best in the woodland; that is something beyond my own pleasure,” she said.

Donnelly took me on a long walk across a lawn that edges an unmowed field that hides the road, through the Grove on paths that allow you to see the plants, across more lawn to an old barn surrounded by lilacs and peonies and other old fashioned plants, past ancient apple trees, to a planting of new apple trees. We walked towards another woodland at the edge of the ravine. Some of the trees had been pruned recently and the branches and limbs were chipped to make a mulch. That wood chip mulch will eventually rot and provide nourishment for the soil. This sounds a lot like “let the carbon stay where it falls”, which I have mentioned before.

We sat beneath the trees on one of the well placed benches, and watched the large swath of hay scented ferns, bowing in the breeze like waves on the sea. But still more sections of the garden were urging us onward. We wandered back towards the house, under the silverbell tree where we were surrounded by fragrance, admired the espaliered star magnolia behind an herb garden, and on toward more magnolias.

I did not realize that so many magnolias were hardy in our area but Donnelly explained that many native species are hardier than the more ornamental hybrids that have been developed.

Donnelly has written two books, The Adventurous Gardener: Where to find the best plants in New England and The Adventurous Gardener: Where to find the best plants in New York and New Jersey, about interesting nurseries that sell natives and other interesting, less common plants. The books are somewhat outdated, as nurseries have gone out of business, but you can find the books online and many nurseries, like Andrews Greenhouse in Amherst are still going strong. One nursery she recommended is the Broken Arrow nursery in Hamden, Connecticut which specializes in mountain laurels, and other unusual plants like the sweetshrub. Also she reminded me that Nasami Farm in Whately, the propagating wing of the New England Wildflower Society, is now open every weekend, all season long, and offers many native flowers, shrubs and trees

There are other treats in Donnelly’s garden: a vegetable, herb, and flower potager surrounded by a wattle fence, and a hedge made of living basket willows woven together. There is also a Witches’ Walk, a woodland allee of witch hazels, something you will not see anywhere else. I love the way gardeners find a way to share their sense of humor as well as their gardens.

This year the Franklin County Land Trust Garden Tour is featuring gardens and farms in Ashfield and Conway. Tickets, $15 for members, and $20 for non-members, may be purchased any weekday at the FLT office at 5 Mechanic Street, ShelburneFalls or on the morning of the event at the Ashfield Farmer’s Market, Ashfield Town Common. Lunch tickets for an additional $15 are available with a reservation. The FLT website, www.franklinlandtrust.org has more information about the Land Trust mission, and about the tour. For still more information  e-mail or call Mary with questions: mlsabourin@franklinlandtrust.org or 413.625.9151

Between the Rows  June 13, 2015

Forbes Library Garden Tour – June 13, 2015

Virginia and Rob Rechtschaffen

Virginia and Rob Rechtschaffen

Virginia Rechtschaffen has always loved trees. She and her husband Rob even once owned a house in Belchertown that came complete with an orchard. Lots of trees. For the past 20 years she and Rob have lived in Northampton and accomplished something I would have thought impossible. Their in-town garden is embraced by a ring of large trees with a heart of sunshine at its center. How did they do it?

Virginia said when they moved into the house she felt she needed some help with a Plan. They hired a designer, but in the end they only used the design for the front of the house which is lovely in its simplicity. A boxwood hedge borders the sidewalk marking off the private space around the house. A trident maple which will grow to about 35 feet is surrounded by groundcovers like epimediums and pulmonaria, and geranium macrorrhizum. All of these bloom in early spring. Virginia said she loved the delicate flowers of each, and the spotted foliage of the pulmoniaria.

Entry garden in Northampton

Entry garden in Northampton

A lamp post is surrounded by white Siberian irises, just beginning to bloom when I visited. The lush foliage of the groundcovers and the elegance of the irises point out that even familiar plants can make a beautiful statement when planted en masse.

There was also a large old sugar maple in front of the house which had to be removed, but it was replaced last week with a young Katsura tree, just in time for the Forbes Library Garden Tour on Saturday, June 13.

Another striking element of the front garden is the placement of several large stones, nestled among the plantings. There is a subtle art in knowing how to arrange stones in a garden so that they look like they belong, and give a sense of timelessness to the garden.

Blooming shrubs including rhododendrons and azaleas hug the house. A grassy walk between the house and a shrub border lead to the back garden. When I visited the garden was filled with birds that came to the birdbath and to peck away at bugs in areas of soil, left uncovered and unplanted just for them.

The garden is all curves, beds holding trees like the Acer triflorium which produces small spring flowers in clusters of three, accounting for its name as three flowered maple. It also has handsome exfoliating bark and good autumn color. The golden rain tree showers its flower petals to the ground accounting for its common name. Both these trees grow to between 20 and 30 feet tall, which some count as small trees, but which are large in a small garden.

Still, around the very edges of the property are shrubs and really large trees like a Katsura they planted in 1996 and a tall weeping conifer.

Full Moon Japanese maple

Full Moon Japanese maple at entry to firepit area

The Rechtschaffens have several different Japanese maples. Full Moon, which indeed has the shape of a full moon, stands opposite the golden rain tree at the entry of the social area, a firepit and chairs where the Rechtschaffens frequently enjoy solitude or friends around the fire.

They chose the plants and designed arrangement of these garden beds themselves because the plans created by the designers were too formal and symmetrical. That formality did not reflect the way they live or the way they look at the natural world.

As we looked at the clusters of winged maple seeds, properly called samaras, but often called helicopters or whirlybirds, Virginia said, “Even the smallest things in the garden are beautiful.

Those of us who attend garden tours are always looking to spend a day in beautiful spaces and to learn about techniques and plants we might use in our own gardens. Host gardeners also have their own desires. “What I would like is that when people leave our garden they will want to go a plant a tree in their garden,” Virginia said. I think she will very well get her desire.

The Rechtschaffen’s garden is just one of six beautiful and unique gardens on the Friends of the Forbes Library Annual Garden Tour on Saturday, June 13 from 10 am – 3 pm, rain or shine. Advance tickets are available for $15 at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennial Farm, Cooper’s Corner, HadleyGardenCenter, North Country Landscapes and State Street Fruit Store. Tickets on Saturday will be $20. Tickets come with a map for this self guided tour. There will be descriptions and guides at each garden to answer questions

The Roses at the End of the Road – on Sale

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road is a collection of essays written about our life at the End of the Road. We found our way to Heath in 1979 and located a tumbledown farmhouse at the end of a town road. My husband checked that fact many times. What people think is our driveway is nearly a quarter mile of town road, plowed and maintained by the town. After the big snowstorm in 1982 when the town plow, and the town bucket loader broke down trying to remove the drifted snow off the road so that we could leave the hill, we planted a snowbreak. I figure we and the town are about even on this one. No more broken machinery. Other adventures include tales of neighbors, our daughter’s wedding, the night lightning struck – and what we learned about roses and gardens during our two years in Beijing.

I began the commonweeder blog in December seven years ago. Now, during the month of December I sell The Roses at the End of the Road for only $12 with free shipping. for full ordering information click here. If you can’t wait to read the book it is also available as a Kindle version on Amazon.com for $3.95. This is a great gift for rose lovers, and those who enjoy tales of living in a small town.

Susan Valentine – Translucent Flower Paintings

Susan Valentine – Hosta blossom

Before she began painting flowers Susan Valentine was a gardener.

“Focusing on what each plant needs and what it produces if it gets what it needs was what I thought about most of my waking hours. Painting their portraits came very naturally out of that process,” she said when I asked how she came to paint these translucent blossoms.
Flowers have always been a popular subject for painters. They are varied in color and form – and they sit still.  Susan’s flowers are often large and glamorous, with light shining through the petals and foliage. For me the way she handles light, in her flower portraits or landscapes, is what I find most amazing and delightful

Susan Valentine’s hydrangea

Susan Valentine’s paintings, including these two, are currently on display at Hope and Olive Restaurant in Greenfield until the end of April. There will be a reception on April 20 from 3-5 pm.

In addition she will be exhibiting at the Northampton Coop Bank in Amherst.This is a group show that includes work by  Sandy Walsh, Karen Chapman, Mari Rovang, Phil Schuster and Marti Olmstead. This exhibit will also run through April.

Finally, her work will be exhibited at the Greenfield Community College Student Art Show that will be up from April 17 through May 9.  This show is always great fun. I love knowing our community is so rich in talented and skilled people. For more about Susan, her life and work, click here, to read an article written by Mary McClintock for The Recorder. Both images here courtesy of SusanValentine.

 

Peter Kukielski and the Sustainable Rose

Peter Kukielski

The April 2014 issue of Fine Gardening magazine has an article by Peter Kukielski, former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden titled Easy Picture Perfect Roses.  Peter knows all about ‘Easy’ roses because during his tenure at that garden he ripped out 200 or so of the roses in the garden that needed pesticides and fungicides to survive and then replaced them with 693 roses that did not need that kind of care and pampering.

I met Peter in early November 2009 when he gave me a tour of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. Even at that time of the year many roses were in bloom and a number of  volunteers were busy making evaluations of each rose to decide whether it was worthy of remaining in the garden. There is a great article in the NYTimes here that describes that process. I wrote about my visit with Peter Kukielski  here and here. He is not only a brilliant rosarian, he is the most charming and good humored of men.

Since we met Peter, along with Pat Shanley and Gene Waering edited a fascinating book The Sustainable Rose Garden which covers many aspects of rose growing by 40 contributors, including Peter himself, and Stephen Scanniello of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and president of the  Heritage Rose Society. He is now working on his own book Roses Without Chemicals. I can’t wait for it to become available.

‘Applejack’ a Griffith Buck hybrid

My Rose Walk  began with hardy roses which include the Griffith Buck hybrids. It also includes rugosas, albas, another roses that can tolerate the winds and winter of our Heath hill. Many of them also turn out to be disease and pest resistant.  ‘The Fairy,’ a polyantha, is on the Earth Kind rose list, which is something Peter taught me about. I have added other Earth Kind roses like ‘Belinda’s Dream’ and Double Knock Outs. In his Fine Gardening article Peter lists other easy care roses like the luscious ‘Cinderella Fairy Tale’ and the rich golden ‘Tequila.’ Do you think I will be able to resist adding a new rose to the garden this year?  I don’t think so either.

‘The Fairy’ Earth Kind rose closeup

I will be talking about The Sustainable Rose at the little e at the Franklin County Fairgrounds on April 26 and 27. I’ll only be there one day – not sure which yet. Lots of rose photos. I hope to see you there. I’ll be channeling Peter Kukielski, my hero.

Parsley, Eryngium and the American Horticultural Society

 

Eryngium ‘Blue Sapphire’

One of the benefits of membership in the American Horticultural Society is the arrival of The American Gardener every other month. This month the cover photo was of an Eryngium or sea holly, and the amazing news that this is a relative of parsley. This isn’t exactly one of  the weird and wonderful facts I love to collect, but I certainly found it unexpected. The delightful and informative article by Barbara Perry Lawton catalogs a number of other umbelliferae. like angelica which can grow to 8 feet with lime green domed umbles, sweet cicely, an anise flavored herb  which prefers some shade, unlike most herbs, astrantia, and golden Alexanders

After admiring the sea hollies on the Bridge of Flowers for a couple of years I added the striking ‘Blue Sapphire’ to my garden this year and I love it. I had never thought of it as an umbelliferae, but the center of this flower is an umbel. “The characteristic inflorescence shared by family members is called an umbel. . .  umbels are composed of multiple florets that fadiate from a single spot at the end of a main stem, giving the inflorescence an umbrella like appearance.”  Queen Anne’s lace is another perfect and familiar example of this family.

In the article Lawton, author of Parsleys, Fennels and Queen Anne’s Lace, published by Timber Press, tells the story of the notable British gardener Miss Ellen Willmott (1858-1934) who was known for the magnificent gardens at Warley Place.  Miss Willmott loved the Eryngium giganteum so much that she took to dropping seeds of this plant in other gardens when she visited. Soon people were calling it Miss Willmott’s ghost.  I always enjoyed the idea of Miss Willmott surreptitiously spreading this plant she loved so much. Because of her gardens she won many awards, and had several plants named in her honor. I own a white Miss Willmott lilac. Alas, she spent her whole great fortune on her gardens and became more and more eccentric.  By the time of her death was living in only three rooms of her great home.