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Walking in Our Woods with the Mass Audubon Society

 

A sunny spot in the woods – overstory and understory, no midstory

I’ve always known we have many different types of bird habitat here at the End of the Road. We have fields that surround our house and the garden. We have a wetland and a pond. Mostly we have woods, about 35 or so acres, surrounding the house, fields, and wetlands.

I have walked in our woods. I have taken grandchildren up the lane, part of the old road to Rowe that was discontinued decades ago. The tree-lined lane runs between two fields and then into the woods. The grandchildren and I would clear what’s left of the road of sticks, and tree seedlings. We’d look at bugs under rotting felled trees and under stones. We talk and enjoy the shade, or complain about the mosquitoes and decide it was time to go home

Sometimes we’d cross the field and go into the western woods and down to the stream that marks the border of our land. I never spent much time thinking about the different character of the woods. They were just ‘the woods.’

My view of our woods changed last Monday when I went through the woods with Stu Watson from the Mass Audubon Society and three neighbors who are very knowledgeable about birds. Watson was there to walk through our fields and woods and tell us how we could make these different habitats more bird friendly. He showed me how to look at my woods with new eyes.

First we walked across the field and learned that in order to protect birds like woodcock and ruffed grouse who nest there, we should not give those fields their annual mowing until the very end of July or beginning of August. Other birds like whippoorwills and tree sparrows like this habitat.

My husband Henry pointed out that some of our white pines had started to encroach on the field. Watson explained that was a good thing. Transitions are important for birds. A field should not stop suddenly at the edge of a woodland. There should be some shrubby transition. There will come a time when that transition will turn into woods, so it needs to be monitored and managed. I never knew that Mass Audubon Society knew so much about trees, in addition to birds.

Watson also suggested that areas around old apple trees in the field be cleared to make the soft mast (fallen fruit) more available to the birds and other wildlife.

From the field we stepped into a stand of white pine. The ground was covered with pine needles and there was very little undergrowth. This is not ideal. Taking down a few trees would allow more sun to enter, and then allow pine regeneration. Birds would welcome the new growth.

Over-, mid-, and understory in the woods

The ideal is to have tall overstory trees, then have a midstory of trees and shrubs between 5-30 feet, and then an understory of ferns, and other low growing plants and groundcovers. This is exactly the structure we gardeners copy when we plant a mixed border of small trees, shrubs and  underplanted with flowers or groundcovers.

Wolf Tree

We moved through the pine woods which rather abruptly changed into a hardwood stand. In the transition area there was pine regeneration because there was more sun, and there were ferns and maple seedlings. I even learned a new maple variety, striped maple, which has large three lobed leaves. This was a much better area for birds because it provided more protective cover and more forage. It also provided several wolf trees, enormous old dead trees that provide a bug smorgasbord for bug eaters, and cavities for birds and other small wildlife to live in. I was happy to see tiny oak seedlings. I don’t know how acorns got into our woods, but oaks support over 500  wildlife species. I want oak trees.

Oak seedling

Walking was more difficult in this area, but Watson repeated several times. “Bad walking means good habitat.”

The third stand was mixed white pine and hardwoods like white ash, black cherry, red maple, and white birch. This section had been logged but there was a well developed midstory. There was very little understory growth, but there was lots of debris on the ground caused by storm damage. Again, thinning needs to be done to allow more sun and thus encourage regeneration.

Watson was very pleased with our various habitats, and the good health of our woods. He gave us his suggestions for improving the habitat. When we re-read our forest management plan prepared by our forester Scott Sylvester with new eyes, we realized that he had anticipated all of Watson’s suggestions ten years ago.

We expected Stu from the Mass Audubon Society to be knowledgeable about birds but then we found out that Scott Sylvester, who is passionate about birds, is one of the organizers of this collaboration between the Mass Audubon Society, the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Franklin Land Trust, a collaboration that mirrors those in Vermont and New Hampshire. The goal is to keep forest bird habitat intact. By the way, it will also make forest land productive for the owner, allowing for selective cutting.

Northern New England is a ‘breeding bird factory” Watson said. Seventy to 90 species of birds nest and breed in this area, and this habitat is crucial to “keeping common birds common.”

This is a pilot program. We were glad to learn about it when it was launched on Mother’s Day with a walk for interested people through the Betty Maitland Memorial Forest in Heath. The program will help woodland owners to look at their property in a way that is not only beneficial to them, but to beautiful birds as well.

For more information about this new Mass Audubon Society program email Stu Watson at swatson@massaudubon.org or Matt Kamm at mkamm@massaudubon.org.

Between the Rows   June 15, 2013

Don’t forget, you still have time to win a free copy of my book, The Roses at the End of the Road. Leave a comment here by midnight Sunday, June 23 and I’ll announce the winner on Monday. You can also  buy copies on sale, or a Kindle edition. All info is here.

 

Franklin Land Trust – Wildlands, Woodlands, and Farmlands

Our precious woodlands surround our house - beyond the fields

We are big fans of the Franklin Land Trust and have supported them in our own small way over the years – including being a part of their Farm and Garden Tour last year. We join in celebrating their 25th anniversary, 25 years of protecting our precious land.  We also celebrate the programs they put on for the public  like this:

THURSDAY, March 10, 2012, 12-3 pm, the Franklin Land Trust will offer a special event in conjunction with their year-long 25th anniversary celebration. Wildlands, Woodlands, and Farmlands: the Past and Future of New England Forests and Farming with Brian Donahue takes place at the Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Ave A, Turners Falls. Join in a broad-ranging lecture and discussion about the future of the New England landscape.  FREE. Advance registration required.  Co-sponsored by the Conway School Graduate Program in Sustainable Landscape Planning & Design. Contact 413.625.9151 x108 or lalvord@franklinlandtrust.orgto register.

Even if you cannot make this excellent program, the Great Falls Discovery Center is a wonderful place to visit – with children or alone. There are beautiful dioramas of the different habitats of the Connecticut Watershed – and you can look out at the canal and the old factories that tell of the rich industrial history of the area.

Turkeys in the woods - they are everywhere in the woods

The Rose Viewing – FAQs

Rosa glauca

To me the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour this weekend was really an extended Rose Viewing. Hundreds of people visited the garden, and many of visitors had the same questions. Some asked “What is that plant on the Rose Walk?”  Well, it’s a rose. I understand why some people were confused. The foliage is very unusual, and the tiny flowers don’t look much like Roses, but it is indeed an ancient rose. When I bought it 27 years ago it was called Rosa rubrifolia, but now it is listed as Rosa glauca in catalogs. It is the foliage and the graceful shape of the shrub that make it a stunning rose that always gets a lot of attention in the garden.

Prairie Harvest

“Where do you buy your roses?”  I have bought roses locally, but most of them have been purchased from mailorder nurseries. Passionate Nymphs Thigh came from Roses of Yesterday and Today which went out of business, but which one visitor said is now back. This year my roses came from Chamblee’s and from the Antique Rose Emporium. I have been very happy with these nurseries.

Ghislaine de Feligonde

“Do you have hybrid tea roses?” No, I do not.  Hybrid teas are too tender to thrive in Heath, or in Franklin County without a lot of babying.  “Do you provide winter protection?” No, I do not. I have had many fatalities over the years, but the roses that survive do so under their own steam. They are old heritage varieties like albas, tough rugosa hybrids, and cold hardy disease resistant varieties created by Dr.Griffith Buck. The rose above, Ghislaine de Feligonde, is a hybrid multiflora and in some gardens it would be a climber. Climbers in my garden seem to be discouraged by the weather; while they may bloom prettily, they never are vigorous enough to produce those long canes that can climb.

A very frequent question was about Japanese beetles. I do not have them. I put down Milky Spore Disease 28 years ago when I gnashed my teeth over the wretched things. Traps did not work. The Milky Spore Disease has. I’ve added more Milky Spore as the Rose Walk has grown. It is a little expensive but the disease, which only affects grubs, stays in the soil for decades.

Many people wanted to know the name of this peony.  I could not tell them. I can tell them that there are a number of similar peonies offered by the Klehm Song Sparrow Nursery which has been the source of many of my peonies. Just scroll through the online list and you will find many peonies, that bloom early, mid and late season. I have  chosen several mid and late season varieties so they will be in bloom at the same time as the roses.

“Are those new rose shoots?” Alas, no.  This is the Rose Bank, planted where a wicked blackberry patch grew when we bought the house. When we had the foundation repaired about four years ago the whole area was bulldozed, scraped and left a muddy mess. I thought the blackberries were gone for good. They are back. You can see them coming up through multiple layers of cardboard and wood chips. They loved all the rain last week. Every day I would go out and clip them back and the next day they would return. I haven’t given up yet.

The Annual Rose Viewing gives me a chance every year to talk about hardy roses – and to learn about how other people manage. It is a great event for sharing.

Rain Didn’t Deter the Crowds

Gentle Persuasion

Saturday dawned gray and misty. At 10 am those driving up to Heath for the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour found themselves driving through thick Shangi-La fog to the mythical land of Heath with its fields and forests, blueberries, maple syrup, its country gardens, its history, and of course, its roses.

The air and the grass were wet, flowers somewhat rain battered after a week of downpours, but enthusiastic gardeners came from across the state, from Connecticut and Vermont to admire and learn and enjoy the delights of a day in Heath.

Goldbusch rose

For the first time I got to show off the Rose Bank where the brand new yellow roses opened just in time. I planted these just this spring and I probably should not have let them bloom, but I did want visitors to be able to see what kind of a flower they had. Goldbusch, a Kordes hybrid, is disease resistant with a delicate flowers. ‘Gentle Persuasion’ a Buck hybrid is described like this, “The medium-large, ovoid-pointed lemon yellow tinted Spanish orange buds open to double (25-30 petals), cupped open, 4-inch blooms of lemon yellow overlaid with Mars orange, which age lighter. The blooms have a light, sweet fragrance and are borne in clusters of 1-5. The abundant, leathery, large, semi-glossy foliage is dark olive green and has good field tolerance to common foliar diseases. The thorns are tan and awl-like. The erect, bushy plants is vigorous and blooms from June to killing frost.” You can see my husband’s hand supporting the drenched blossom and get an idea of the large size and amazing color.

Sunday was drier and even busier than Saturday. By the end of the weekend I had met new neighbors, visited with old friends, arranged a couple of plant swaps, had many discussions about the efficiency of Milky Spore Disease in getting rid of Japanese beetles, and spent a few minutes in the Cottage Ornee with visitors to enjoy the rose scented breeze, and wet our whistles. I also promised to include my recipe for what I call my official Rose Viewing cookies, but which The Shaker Cookbook: Recipes and lore from the Valley of God’s Pleasure by Caroline Piercy and Arthur Tolove call Sister Lettie’s Sand Cakes.

1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 3 egg whites, 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup ground almonds.

Cream butter and sugar, til light and fluffy. Gradually beat in lemon and egg whites until batter is smooth and whites are fully incorporated.  Sift flour, salt and baking powder together, then add, with ground nuts, to batter gradually. Mixing fully after each addition.  Chill for 30-45 minutes.  After a slight kneading, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut into small squares. I always use a small heart cookie cutter.  Place on lightly greased baking pan. (I use a silicon mat) Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.

The cookies are easy to make and the secret to their appeal, I think, is their crispness, which is mainly due to the use of egg whites only.

Today it is Monday, the Rose Viewing/FLT Tour is only a memory.  Do I need to tell you that the sun is shining and warm?

 

Garden Open Today

Woodslawn Pink

What is a garden for?

It depends on the garden, of course.Vegetable gardens are for feeding us. Herb gardens are for bringing us extra savor and health. Meditation gardens are to give us moments of serenity. Ornamental gardens are to give us pleasure. But all gardens can be shared — doubling their pleasure and utility, of whatever sort.

Sometimes sharing our gardens can also support a noble project.  That is what will be happening in Heath and Charlemont on June 25 and 26 when the Franklin Land Trust holds its Annual Farm and Garden Tour.

The Franklin Land Trust is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help landowners and communities protect the farms, forests and other natural resources significant to the environmental quality, economy and rural character of our region. They do not own land, but work with farmers and residents to help them put their property into conservation or agricultural protection.

This year End of the Road Farm is being included on the tour, along with other beautiful, historic and productive properties in Heath and Charlemont. Fortunately for us the tour is being held on the last weekend in June which is when we would ordinarily hold our Annual Rose Viewing. This is the brief time of year our roses are in bloom and when our country garden is at its best.

We have been busy as can be weeding the flower and vegetable beds and mowing the lawns. I am a big supporter of less lawn, but unless you measure the amount of lawn against our 60 acres of field and woodland, we still have too much lawn to mow. We have been using various strategies to eliminate lawn beginning with planting groundcovers on unusable sections of lawn. We have also planted common thyme on the dryer, poorer sections of lawn where it thrives. A thyme lawn is a very British conceit that does not need frequent mowing. It’s very pretty when it’s blooming, but it doesn’t mind being mowed down whenever that is necessary or desired.

We are using daylilies on the steep bank in front of the house to eliminate mowing, but our newest project is the Rose Bank, adjacent to the Daylily Bank. The Rose Bank was begun in the spring of 2009 after a major rebuilding of our foundation. It is not totally covered with roses yet, but I have been amazed by the growth of “Pink Grootendorst,” “Therese Bugnet” and “Dart’s Dash”, three vigorous rugosas. Rugosas are tough disease-resistant roses with a variety of flower forms. The fragrant single blossoms of the familiar beach rose are just the beginning.

A delicate pink rose that was growing, but hidden in undergrowth, at the corner of the house when we arrived in 1979 continues to thrive, as do the double red Knockout roses, two old roses given to me by the Purington family at Woodslawn Farm in Colrain, “Hawkeye Belle,” a hardy pink Buck hybrid, and “Goldbusch” a spreading disease resistant yellow that promises repeat bloom.

Linda Campbell

Rugosas tend to spread, not always in predictable ways. When they spread it is possible to dig up some of the shoots as I have “Scabrosa” and “Linda Campbell” who also live on the Rose Bank now.

I’m honored to share my garden with visitors, and the Franklin Land Trust this year. It feels wonderful to be in the company of other skilled and enthusiastic gardeners. The witty Elsa Bakalar, our most famous gardener, is no longer with us, but the noted artist Scott Prior and his wife Nanny Vonnegut have maintained her gardens so that they remain lovely and welcoming. Prior will be at the garden on Sunday to take questions about gardens and art. His “Heath inspired” prints will be on sale with a portion of sales going to the FLT. The video Elsa Bakalar: Portrait of a Gardener, made by Ginny Sullivan some years ago, has been converted to a limited edition DVD, with all proceeds going to FLT.

Prior’s session is just one of several special events that have been added to this year’s tour schedule. Glass blowing demonstrations (with a portion of sales supporting FLT), walking tours of a blueberry farm with its own artistic connections, a talk by the distinguished Dr. Michael Coe about the history of Heath’s Fort Shirley and talks describing new approaches to maple farming are scheduled. The two Historical Society Museums in Heath Center will also be open.

A lunch buffet will be served in a beautiful barn in the midst of vegetable and flower gardens both days. Lunch must be reserved ahead of time, and will benefit the Friends of the Heath Free Public Library.

The Franklin Land Trust tour is always a special event with a chance to visit private gardens, each expressing the individuality and interests of the gardeners, and to gain new insights into the productivity of our land and the richness of our local history.  For full information about the tour and how to buy tickets logon to www.franklinlandtrust.org or call 413-625-9151.  ###

Between the Rows   June 18, 2011

And the Rains Came Down

The rains began Wednesday morning. Two and a half  inches by the end of the day. You all know what happens to peonies in pounding rains. They droop. Even those who are supported by wire rings.  Will they perk up before visitors come on the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour on Saturday and Sunday? Will the roses have any petals left? Another half inch yesterday – and showers promised for today.  No matter, the landscape is beautiful. If you haven’t gotten tickets yet, they will be on sale in Heath Center on Saturday morning.

The flowers will survive and vegetables are pouring onto farmstands and Farmers Markets.   Locally Grown the farm products guide prepared by CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) is available in print and information about the places you can buy fresh produce, and the restaurants and places that serve local food is on their website. If you are interested in supporting the work of CISA, promoting farms, providing training and support for farmers and more click here for membership information.

Alba Means More Than White

Rosa alba semi-plena

The word ‘alba’ means white, but there is a whole family of roses named alba – and not all of them are white. I’ll begin with Alba semi–plena which is white.  Mine grows in a shady spot which is not ideal. It is kind of leggy, but very pretty.

Madame Plantier

Mme Plantier is also white. Peter Beale says is ‘capable of climbing’ but definitely not in my garden.

Madame Legras de St. Germain

Mme Legras de St. Germain will not climb either in my garden, but she is a beautiful fragrant white.

Celestial

This is an ancient rose, robust and with a heavenly perfume. It is a big shrub in my garden.

Passionate Nymph's Thigh

Whether you want to call this rose that dates back to the 1400s (at least) Maiden’s Blush, La Virginale, Cuisse de Nymphe, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh or La Seduisante, everyone agrees this is a beautiful, tough, fragrant rose. This is the first rose I planted and it thrives right under the roof drip line. It suffers the battering of falling icicles every winter, and bows to the south, but remains healthy and floriferous.

Felicite Parmentier

Felicite Parmentier struggles in my garden in a wet spot. It does not really thrive, and I keep promising myself to move it, or get a new one for a better spot because it is a wonderfully delicate pink rose.

Queen of Denmark

In my garden the Queen of Denmark (Konegin von Danemark) grows on a tiny bush, three feet away from the plant I put in, but it has struggled so that I don’t dare try to move it. A sumptuous blossom.

Every day other sumptuous blossoms join the Queen. I hope they will be joined by many ‘tourists’ on the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour in Heath and Charlemont this weekend.  Click here for full ticket information.

 

Reinforcements on Duty

Daughter Diane

My eldest daughter, Diane, arrived with her middle daughter, Caitlin, and set to the clipping and weeding that Betsy couldn’t finish.  Now the Peony Bed is weeded and clipped, the Cottage Bed is clipped and the front of the house is neat because my husband came home early to do a final mowing before the promised rain falls. I was forced to stand straight and supervise. I am very fortunate to have such good daughters – and granddaughter.

Leda

In the meantime the Shed Bed, next to the chicken house, has come into full bloom. ‘Leda’ is more luxuriant than ever. Because of the crimson trim on the white petals ‘Leda’ is known as a painted damask.

Mary Rose

‘Mary Rose’ is one of David Austin’s early, hardy roses named after Henry VIII’s flag ship that was raised from the deep after 400 years – just when Austin needed a new rose name.

Mrs. Doreen Pike

Mrs. Doreen Pike worked for David Austin in the office. She must have been a great employee because he named this ever dependable rose ‘Mrs. Doreen Pike’ in her honor.

Belle Amour

There is a photo of ‘Belle Amour’ in Classic Roses by Peter Beales and for once my ‘Belle Amour’ looks just the the photo.  Beales says that while she is probably related to the Albas, she is listed in his book as a Damask because she is so thorny and the foliage has a slightly grey cast.

Caitlin and French Blue

While my husband finished the mowing, Caitlin put the finishing touches on the house, painting both doors with a new coat of French Blue. Blue doors are part of my French fantasy of being a housewife in Provence, cooking with fragrant herbs, gathering eggs warm from the hen, bottling up jams made with my own raspberries and feeling gratitude  for the riches of the earth.

Griffith Buck and His Hardy Roses

Applejack

Applejack is the first Griffith Buck hybrid I planted and it has thrived, greeting visitors at the top of our hill as they turn  to our house. It is a large graceful shrub.

Hawkeye Belle

Griffith Buck became a student at Iowa State College in 1946 after serving in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was in the horticulture program and after graduating with his Bachelor’s degree in 1948 and his Master’s in 1949, he went on to his Ph.D. in 1953. He spent his teaching career at Iowa State, and it is there that he began hybridizing roses.  He was determined to create cold hardy roses. You can find out about his career by clicking here.  Hawkeye Belle is now growing on our Rose Bank.

I have so few yellow roses, that I chose this Buck hybrid, Prairie Harvest, last spring. It came through the winter beautifully.

Carefree Beauty

Buck said it all when he named this large flowered rose Carefree Beauty.

My garden as well as other beautiful gardens and unique farms will be open for visitors on the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour this weekend. Click here for full ticket information.

Couldn’t Have Done It Without Them

Betsy with her clippers

On Monday I tripped over a hose and fell.  On Tuesday I hobbled to the doctor for X-rays to prove nothing was broken and that the titanium hip was hold firm. The doctor said, “No gardening – for two weeks!”  Talk about impossible. My husband has been out in  the garden every evening, and yesterday daughter Betsy arrived to put in a full day clipping the grass around the roses on the Rose Walk.  She did some other weeding, too.  Henry mowed and zipped and did every other necessary  thing. Things are looking good.

Unfortunately, there is a little more to do before the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour on Saturday. Fortunately, daughter Diane is on her way!  She will not be idle.

Mount Blanc rugosa

In the meantime, more roses are opening every day.

Sitka rugosa

I planted Sitka last spring and she is blooming for the first time. Beautifully.

Therese Bugnet rugosa

You can see I depend on these tough rugosas, but there is more to the Rose Walk and Rose Bank than rugosas. It’s just that the rugosa are the earliest bloomers. Stay tuned for more.