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Korean Bellflower – Beware – Invasive Mystery

Japanese Bellflower


This flower showed up mysteriously in my garden. A Facebook appeal has identified it as Korean Bellflower, Campanula takesimana. The warning is that it is invasive, but I have found it for sale from several nurseries on line. Only one Canadian company noted that it was a strong grower and needed to be kept in bounds. I also checked Google images so I think I have a good ID, even though there is not total agreement about how invasive it might be.  However, I am playing it safe. I dug it all up. The roots had spread into other plants and I did have to sacrifice a ‘Blue Paradise’ phlox and part of this lady’s mantle when removing it. I kept in mind that it is best to  clean out past the margins to make sure all the roots are gone.

I will probably plant an annual in the fairly large bare spot that is left. I don’t want to put any other perennials in peril. With just an annual there I’ll be able to keep close watch for more shoots of the Korean bellflower.

Has anyone else ever had this kind of problem?  Finding an invasive plant mysteriously appear in the garden.?

Let’s Eat the Invasive Species

Scientific American September 2013

‘How (and why) to Eat Invasive Species by chef Bun Lai in the new issue of Scientific American proposes an answer to the economic damage ($120 billion a year) that invasive species cause. Eat them. Eat the wild boar, the lionfish and Japanese knotweed. Turn them into thin-sliced hot meat drizzled with ginger, garlic,roasted sesame and sauvignon blanc soy sauce, or thinly sliced raw lionfish sprinkled with lime juice, seven kinds of crushed peppers, roasted seaweed flakes, toasted sesame seeds and sea salt, and lemonade made by blending knotweed shoots (that taste kind of like Granny Smith apples) with fresh stevia leaves, fresh kefir lime leaves, lemon juice, and mineral water over ice!

Bun Lai is not the first to make this suggestion. In the July 2013 issue of The Atlantic Nancy Matsumoto wrote: “More and more people are trying hard to prove they do. The Corvallis, Oregon-based Institute for Applied Ecology’s (IAE) Eradication by Mastication program includes an annual invasive species cook-off and a published cookbook called The Joy of Cooking Invasives: A Culinary Guide to Biocontrol (kudzu quiche! nutria eggrolls!). The program will hold a workshop this summer on how to dig, process, and cook up the highly invasive purple varnish clam. Tom Kaye, executive director of IAE, made one of three prize-winning entries at last year’s cook-off: battered, deep-fried Cajun bullfrog legs. Second place went to popcorn English house sparrow drumsticks. Despite their poor labor-to-meat ratio, Kaye says, “they were tasty.” Third prize went to nutria prepared three ways, including pulled-pork style and made into sausages.”

Back on July 9, 2011 the New York Times ran an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal titled Answer for Invasive Species-Put it on a Plant and Eat It. She quotes “Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?”

A whole website Eat the Invaders is devoted helping us find, prepare and eat invasive species from the lamb’s quarters weed to the nutria, otherwise known as river rat. This is a fascinating website with information about invaders, recipes and links to all kinds of resources like the Center for Invasive and Aquatic Plants and run by Notre Dame graduate students. They also note that the classic Larousse Gastronomique cookbook, first published in 1938 and last revised in 1988 –  ” [is] fabulous!  For the invasivore, there’s a nice little entry on the Burgundian way with the rat. And, of course, all those North American invasive weeds are in there.”

Could you be an Invasivore?

BTW – I cannot help telling your to take a look at this latest issue of Scientific American –  if only to look at the various covers. I had a terrible time choosing between the yellow, orange, and red covers. Not only was the background cover different the tiny pictures of various foods and equipment that make up the spoon graphic were also different. Which cover had more of my favorite foods? I finally chose the yellow cover that included watermelon. Hey, it’s summer.


I is for Invasive Iris on A to Z Blogger Challenge

Iris pseudacorus

I is for Invasive Iris on the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Ihe iris in question here is the yellow flag, Iris pseudacorus, which I planted at the edge of our Frog Pond nearly 20 years ago. It didn’t actually succeed there, which is amazing, but before it died it sent seeds up to our Sunken Garden which is very wet. I have been trying to destroy this plant for years, letting the little grandsons loose with clippers and choppers and anything else they chose. We have mowed it down again. We have tried digging it out. All to  no avail. I guess you could say we have it under control since we no longer allow it to bloom The lesson is, do not buy the yellow flag at a nursery. Do not allow any neighbor or friend to give you a clump. This is an official Invasive Plant.

It is pretty. I’ll give you that, and it is the plant that inspired the Fleur de Lis, so familiar to lovers of all  things French. I loved the story about one of the Louis, who was forced to make a strategic retreat during some battle or other. When he got to a river he and his army thought they were doomed until they saw a place there the yellow flag was  blooming and knew that the river was shallow there and they could all gallop across. In gratitude he make the iris, the Fleur de Lis, the symbol of France.  When I tried to find a citation for this story I discovered that there are many stories about the fleur de lis and that this iconic symbol has been used back to the days of antiquity. One story says it is a symbol of the tears Eve shed when she was banished from the Garden of Eden.

In our neighborhood there was a large beaver pond with thousands of yellow flags growing around the edges. It was a beautiful sight, but very dangerous. That enormous plantation no longer exists because the beaver dam broke, doing a lot of damage down stream. The beavers gave up and never rebuilt. Without those lovely wet edges the yellow flags all died.

I have not given up trying to get rid of of my invasive iris, but I will persevere

To see what else begins with I today, click here..

Bringing Nature Home at the Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium

Dr. Douglas Tallamy

Dr. Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, was the keynote speaker at the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners Spring Symposium last week. His talk focused on the need for more insects to make our gardens – and the world – healthier and more ecologically balanced. “A mere 1 % [of all insects] interact with humans in negative ways. The other 99 % pollinate plants, return the nutrients tied up in dead plants and animals to the soil, keep populations of insect herbivores in check, aerate and enrich the soil, and as I keep stressing, provide food either directly or indirectly for most other animals,” Tallamy writes in his book and illustrated in his talk.

Bringing Nature Home


His enlightening talk covered a lot of ground, but two ideas made a particular impression on me. The first was the idea of the environmental carrying capacity of our local landscape, and ultimately of the whole earth. The term carrying capacity refers to the amount of resources needed to sustain a certain population. It is easy to understand that a given population of insects, or birds or whatever, will decline when the food they require decreases.

So, what happens when, for example, the emerald ash borer, which is a threat inMassachusettsright now, were to kill all the ash trees? Forty-four insect species rely on the ash tree to survive. No ash trees; no more 44 insect species. And that means reduced food for the creatures who depend on those insects so their populations will decline as well. Insects are the very bottom of the food chain and we usually do not consider how important they are to the wildlife that we enjoy. At least, that is true for me.

Tallamy said many people ask him why insects can’t eat some other tree or plant? He explains that over thousands of years plants and insects have evolved together. The insects’ digestive systems have adapted/evolved to digest the particular chemicals in a plant’s foliage. They cannot immediately adapt to a new plant. That is one of the reasons that invasive plants can take over. The food web of insects, birds and wildlife cannot keep the invading plants in check.

The second idea Tallamy put forth is that not all native plants are equal. Some plants support many more species of wildlife than others. This was an eye opener for me. I have been talking about the benefits of native plants for a long time, but this idea never occurred to me. As you might expect, trees are the most productive in having what it takes to support many insects and birds. Trees are big. But even here, some trees are more productive than others. In his book, and on his website,, Tallamy lists the 22 of the best woody plants beginning with oaks that support 534 species, down to the chestnut which supports 125 species. Black cherries, maples and willows are also highly productive.

If we don’t have the room to plant an oak or two, we might be able to fit in a crabapple or some blueberries. We can plant asters, morning glories and lupines in our ornamental gardens. We can not only marvel at and admire the lupine meadows that some people in our area have cultivated, we can thank them for supporting 33 species of wildlife.

Those lupine meadows also remind up that birds and other pollinators need clumps of productive native plants. Their eyesight is not always good so they need big clumps of a useful plant to catch their attention. Tallamy pointed out that 80% of our food crops are pollinated by animals. It is clear that supporting that wildlife is very important in our area where there is a growing number of farms.

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.

Suburban yards can play an enormous part in restoring the health of our ecosystem. A whole neighborhood that includes a substantial number of native trees, shrubs and other plants can make a significant impact.

I am so grateful to the Western Massachusetts Gardeners for bringing us this excellent program that included Ellen Sousa of Spencer and the author of The Green Garden, as well as workshops on making compost, hypertufa containers and bentwood trellises that not only make our gardens healthful and productive, but beautiful as well.

Their Spring Symposium is their big educational effort of the year, and there are two more Symposia coming up on April 6 in Holyokeand April 13 in Lenox. Check their website for complete details. However, they hold soil testing events, phone and email hotlines where you can get your questions answered, and lots of question answers right on the website. They even have a speakers bureau that can send a speaker to your club, or class, or other organization. If this is of interest to you send an email to for more information.

Now I am wondering how many of us will find a place to plant an oak. Or a crabapple.

Between  the Rows –  March 23, 2013

Variegated Plants for Shade

Variegated hostas in Bruce Cannon’s garden

Some people think that the palette of plants for deep shade provide little visual diversity in color and texture but this is not true. Variegated plants can alter that perception.

First I have to say that there are all kinds of shade, from the deepest shade that you would find in a coniferous woodland, to the gay dappled shade or high shade beneath deciduous trees. It is important to remember that if you want flowers in your shade, it will usually have to be a light shade. This can be achieved by limbing up tall deciduous trees so that more sun can penetrate the ground.

This year and last, the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) named two variegated spring bloomers as the Plant of the Year. Last year they chose Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost with its silvery leaves veined with green and small blue spring flowers that dance above the foliage. Many people, me included, often confuse brunneras with forget-me-nots. They both bloom in the spring and have little blue flowers, but the brunneras have larger leaves and the flowers can be as much as 18 inches tall. It tolerates some sun, but is perfectly happy in full shade.

This year the PPA has chosen Polygonatum odoratum Variegatum as its plant of the year. This variety of  the delicately fragrant Solomon’s Seal grows gracefully between18 to 24 inches tall and the slim 3 to 4 inch long leaves have cool white margins. In the spring there are creamy bell-like flowers at each leaf axil. Like the brunneras, Solomon Seals need full to partial shade. If the location is moist so much the better. It will tolerate a drier site if it is kept well watered during the first year.

Another spring bloomer I love is the variegated pulmonaria with its green foliage splattered with white. High Contrast is a new variety that produces purple buds that open to pink and mature to blue flowers. It is that pink and blue combination that has always intrigued and pleased me.

Last year I grew caladiums in pots in the shade surrounding our Cottage Ornee. I chose the richly shaded Florida Sunrise. The large green leaves have a red heart and veins. I seem incapable of resisting any shade of red. The potted caladiums did very well, but as the summer progressed I wished I had chosen Candidum Sr. that had large white leaves and sharp green veins, or ‘Moonlight’ that has smaller leaves but is almost pure white. The white foliage would have been more dramatic from a distance. Or I could have compromised and chosen Cranberry Star  with its white leaves, green veining and reddish splotches.

Hostas are a wonderful large family that provide many shades of variegation. The low and wide growing June was the Hosta of the Year in 2001 and I can understand why it remains popular. It has a bright golden center with two shades of green at the edges. For the color to develop to the fullest it needs some dappled sun, but it will tolerate a deeper shade as well.

Minuteman hosta has very white margins that would brighten a shady corner. It produces lavender flowers and will do well in a container or in the garden.

I love garden phlox and I saw that Bluestone Perennials has a new phlox named Shockwave that has deep green foliage with yellow margins. The flowers are a lavender pink with white centers. Phlox paniculata love the sun, but I think the effect of this variegation would really make for a glowing planting.

Shrubs can also have interesting variegated foliage. Beautyberry is a shrub that always attracts a lot of attention when the pink flowers of summer become stunning purple berries in the fall. Callicarpa japonica Snow Storm also has foliage that is almost white when it first unfurls, then begins to develop a green spatter, and is finally a dark green. That’s a lot of excitement for a single shrub that will not grow much more than three feet tall and spread gracefully.

One word of warning. I know that bishops weed, Aegopodium, beautiful and variegated as it is, is an invasive plant. It is sometimes still sold, and we should all be wary at nurseries as well as plant swaps and sales.

Variegated foliage is one way to add color and texture to our gardens, and the hybridizers are providing us with more opportunities to add this element to our gardens.


All of us are paying more and more attention to our beautiful rural landscape, to the ways it is used for farming and forestry, and for our own recreation. A committee in Shelburne has just sent a survey to every household to collect information that will be used to create an Open Space Recreation Action Plan. The town has so many assets, and so many possibilities in different areas from farming to recreation that the committee needs thoughtful responses from everyone, especially young people who will be affected by the changes in town for many years. While each household has received a survey, every individual can fill out the survey on-line at This is an important opportunity for people to make their concerns and desires known.

Between the Rows   January 5, 2013

Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium

Sue Reed, Keynote Speaker at her drawing table

The days are longer and the sun is brighter, so even though snow lies deep on the ground we know that spring is coming.  That means that the annual Master Gardeners Spring Symposium held on Saturday, March 19 at Frontier Regional High School is coming up, too..

This year I am presenting a slide show of Elsa Bakalar’s perennial gardens in all their glory. Elsa passed away last year, but her memory remains green for many of us. Her gardens remain an inspiration, especially knowing that she achieved those magnificent blooms and sturdy plants organically. Compost was her secret.

Elsa’s garden was certainly extraordinary, a perfect garden to be included in this year’s theme Gardening Beyond the Ordinary.

This year’s keynote speaker Sue Reed, landscape architect and author of “Energy Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden”,  will talk about the ways we can all design our domestic landscapes to be sustainable and beautiful.

Reed’s book covers some familiar ways that we are used to thinking about saving energy through our plantings. I have known that windbreaks can help cut down on heating bills in the winter and that deciduous trees can help keep a house cool in the summer, cutting down on cooling bills. The trick is knowing just how and where to arrange these plantings.

Sometimes the energy Reed talks about saving is human energy. Minimizing lawn areas that have to be mowed is an energy saving project that my husband heartily endorses. If not lawn, then what? Reed talks about trees and shrubs, and even vegetable gardens, that can be grown instead of lawn. Generously sized paths and patios can be attractive design elements as well as being welcoming spaces that can be used. Ground covers can be used in areas that are not hospitable to lawn grasses, or that are not needed for social activities.

Minimizing lawn areas not only save human energy, they benefit the environment. People tend to use unnecessary amounts of fertilizers and herbicides that take energy to manufacture, and then cause problems with toxic run-off into our sewers and waterways.

Reed’s book is a comprehensive guide to creating an energy saving landscape that protects the environment and is beautiful, giving us pleasure for many years.

All of the 14 workshop sessions, will give practical information. Ryan Voiland who is in the process of moving his amazingly productive Red Fire Farm from Granby back to his home town of Montague, will talk about using cover crops in the garden; Jonathan Bates of Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery will talk about creating edible landscapes for beauty and food in the morning, and mushrooms in the afternoon. Everyone attending the mushroom workshop will go home with a log inoculated with shitake mushrooms and the promise of homegrown mushrooms later in the season.

Ed Sourdiffe, Master Gardener will once again give his always popular workshop about Easy Gardening and Simple Organic Methods for Organic Gardeners, and Wes Autio, UMass professor of pomology will reveal the secrets of pruning.

A father and daughter team, Ron and Jennifer Kujawksi will also talk about getting more out of your vegetable garden including ways to prioritize your crop selection and ways to use your space more efficiently.

Master gardener John Barry will present his talk about the importance of growing native shrubs in the morning and the afternoon.  Nowadays even people who live on suburban lots are realizing the important part they can play in maintaining the local food web, supporting local birds, butterflies, and all the little creatures that may be less beautiful and less noticeable, but just as important to our environment.

Denise Lemay and Mary Ellen Warchol of Stockbridge Herbs will once again be on hand to prepare and hand out treats. In the morning they will discuss – and share – gluten free dishes; in the afternoon they’ll be whipping up all manner of classic and special salad dressings. Spring is salad season and these ladies will prepare us.

Allison Bell and Maida Goodwin, Plant Conservation volunteers will talk about Grace Greylock Niles who wrote Bog-Trotting for orchids in 1904, and was a part of the conservation movement in the early 20th century.

One kind of unusual garden that is becoming more and more popular is a “green roof”. Michael Keeney of Treefrog Landscapes will talk about the challenges and benefits of growing plants on your roof, and how to choose suitable plants.

Needless to say I am looking forward to Everything’s Coming Up Roses – tried and True Roses for Western Massachusetts presented by Tracey Putnam Culver who works at the Smith College Botanical Gardens.

The only problem with the Spring Symposium is knowing that you can only choose two of these great workshops. Very difficult.

The Master Gardeners Spring Symposium runs from 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday, March 19.  The cost for the whole program is $30, or $15 to attend only the keynote talk.  A delicious lunch for $7.50 is also available. It is advisable to sign up early.

For more information logon to or contact Bridget Heller at or 665-8662.  ###

Today, March 5, the Spring Bulb Show opens and runs til March 20. Hours are 10 am – 4 pm. Click here for more information.

Between the Rows        February 26, 2011

Native Alternatives to Invasives

Purple loosestrife along a Heath roadside

“Invasive species have the potential to completely alter habitats, disrupt natural cycles of disturbance and succession, and most importantly, greatly decrease overall biodiversity, pushing rare species to the brink of extinction. Many ecologists now feel that invasive species represent the greatest current and future threat to native plant and animal species worldwide, greater even than human population growth, land development and pollution.” William Cullina of the New England Wildflower Society

We do not have to travel far to see the power of invasive plants. Look at local wetlands filled with the plumy spikes of purple loosetrife. Drive along I-91 coming into Greenfield from the south in the fall and see all the Oriental bittersweet climbing trees along the highway. See the acres of Japanese knotweed blooming in the fall along the roadsides.

Where and how did these exotic invasives get their start? This simple question has a multifaceted answer.

Over the past 300 years non-native plants have found their way to North America in a variety of ways. Some have come accidentally. Agricultural weeds have come in grain shipments, or in the ballast of early ships. Others have been introduced by horticulturists, and even the government.

As recently as 25 years ago I ordered several Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellaata) shrubs from the Conservation district. They grew well for several years, but eventually died, probably because of the competition by the wild grape vines I am always fighting.  They died, but it took me a while to notice that they had seeded all over the sloping field to the east of the planting. I assume this is one of those un-intended consequences that befall all of us from time to time – but it is making a lot of work for us now.

Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is a shrub that can still be found at nurseries even though it is on the invasive list of plants in Massachusetts. The brilliant red fall foliage and its dependability are the reasons for its popularity.

So what can gardeners do? We choose plants like burning bush and purple loosetrife because of their beauty and because they suit our site.

First, gardeners have to educate themselves about which plants must be avoided. They can check the list on the New England Wildflower Society website, This site will not only list invasive plants, it will suggest native plants that provide many of the same attributes.  For myself, I have never really liked burning bush, and my highbush blueberries give the same red fall foliage – and blueberries.

Other alternatives to burning bush include Cotinus obovatus, the American smoketree. Many people plant this large shrub because they like the plumey ‘smokes’ in the fall. The deep red color is there all season long. Sweetspire, Itea virginica, is a smaller shrub if you have less space, and Clethra alnifolia, summersweet, gives you wonderfully fragrant flowers in summer as well as autumnal color.

Loosestrife in Buffalo hellstrip

This summer I was in Buffalo to get a preview of the fantastic Buffalo Garden Walk tour. One of the ‘hell-strips’ that my colleagues exclaimed over included purple loosestrife, half of us not recognizing it among the mixed planting of phlox, echinaceas and other perennials. It is a beautiful plant but so dangerous. Alternatives of Lythrum salicaria and L. virgatum, include Gayfeather, Liatris pynostachya and Filipendula rubra otherwise known as Queen of the Prairie which is a good strong grower, but not invasive. If you have a wet site swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata with its clusters of pale to deep rose on tall stems might be an answer.

The climbing tree in front of the Buckland Library is a Norway maple. This has been identified as such an invasive species that many public gardens and parks like Central Park in New York City have cut down all their Norway maples. It was planted to give children a good climbing tree. With the new library addition and new landscape that tree will need to be removed, but I suspect it will be replaced – and this time with a non-invasive climbing tree. I have been told that mulberry trees (and there are fruitless varieties) are good for climbing, as are apple trees.  There are a lot of apple trees in Buckland orchards, so this might be an appropriate tree – especially if someone volunteers to prune it during its youth to accommodate young climbers.

Other good native trees for the domestic landscape include Yellowwood (Cladastrus kentukea) which has flowers in spring and golden fall color, several birches, river birch as well as paper and sweet birch. Crabapples and mountain ash feed the birds.

In his excellent book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in our Gardens, which I cannot recommend too highly, Douglas W. Tallamy makes the point that even suburban gardeners play an important part in providing food and shelter for the wildlife that we welcome into our gardens, and maintaining a healthy balanced ecosystem.

That sounds reasonable – and easy, but we have to provide food that native wildlife find edible. We also need to pay attention to feeding all stages of these creatures’ lives. Butterfly larvae need to eat too.

Using native plants does not limit us to a few uninteresting varieties, but we will need to be aware of their importance, and then educate ourselves. There are many resources on the Internet and at your library and bookstore. In addition to Tallamy’s book the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has an excellent small book Native Alternatiaves for Invasive Plants.  Happy reading.

Between the Rows  August 28, 2010

Obligations at the Edge

As I prepare for the new year I have been thinking about the importance of conservation, about preserving the best of what we have for the benefit of the next generations.  Today I am posting a piece I wrote three years ago after talking to an inspiring conservationist and speaker.  My inspiration is a gaggle of grandchildren, two of whom love to play in the old apple tree in our field, home and pantry to birds – and porcupines.

Even those of us who live in Greenfield or any one of the village centers where we have pretty yards and gardens, know we are very close to a wilder world. It is not all wilderness, of course. There are fields and farms, as well as the riversides and mountains. Sometimes we take all that loveliness for granted, but sometimes, when we read about zoning issues in the newspaper, we remember that there are pressures on this beautiful landscape.

The Conway School of Landscape Design is known for the excellence of its academic graduate program, but also for its sustainable design principles which reach out into the local community through student projects for individuals and towns. As part of their larger educational mission, CSLD organizes a series of free lectures every fall. On October 16, Frances Clark will speak at the Conway Elementary School about our ‘Obligations at the Edge’.

I was happy to have the chance to speak to Clark, who after a career in botanical gardens, and serving as President of the New England Wildflower Society, now works as a freelance botanist. She often works for the state and municipalities making inventories of conservation land. “I come up with a list of native plants, give descriptions of the land, and make recommendations on how to manage the properties. I suggest the best public uses of land, the kinds of interpretive signs to install, and where to lay trails so they don’t disrupt important plant populations,” she said.

When talking about our area Clark says the ecology of the region has been ‘resilient’. The first wave of change was from wilderness to agriculture. Now we are facing the major impact of housing and businesses. Clark asks the question, “If maintaining the natural landscape is a value, how do we minimize the effects of that development?”

Her first answer is that we should not build densely. But if you live in an established suburban neighborhood there are things you can do to preserve biodiversity, and the ecological integrity of your land. For example, she says that barrier fences like stockade fences that reach down to the ground can impede the movement of wildlife like turtles and salamanders. I have to admit that this downside to fences is one I had never considered before.

She talks about avoiding poisonous pesticides and herbicides, and even about the dangers of bright lights. Bug zappers may comfort us, but Clark want us to remember that bugs provide sustenance for birds and bats.

She also cautions about feeding wildlife including birds. “My husband and I feed the birds in the winter and it is a great joy to watch them. But as soon as bears start coming out of hibernation, we put the feeders away. At that time of the year birds have more food. Besides, providing water, even in winter, is as good a way to attract birds. Instead of bird feeders, plant viburnam, dogwoods, blueberries and other plants to feed the birds.”

I don’t live in a suburban neighborhood anymore, nor do I live at the edge of conservation land, but I do feel an obligation to the land and to the future. There are some principles of conservation biology that are very easy for me to practice.

Clark says, ”Nature likes it messy. Keep messy edges. Grass seeds for the sparrows. Dead trees attract woodpeckers. Big dead trees provide food, but also den sites.”

Anyone who visits End of the Road Farm knows we have lots of messy edges. Our only fences are old barbed wire fences. We have hedgerows that provide shelter and food for birds. Our pond, built as a fire pond, certainly attracts wildlife.

Over the 25 years we have lived here we have seen a great change in the amount of wildlife. Wild turkeys are a common sight. I used to tell deer hunters that there were no deer; now there are substantial numbers. We have even seen a bear or two.

One of the conservation issues we have become more aware of is the damage done by invasive species like purple loosestrife and bittersweet. We pulled out the autumn olive that we got years ago from the conservation district, and are now going around to find the seedlings that planted themselves. We are also battling hops and yellow flags. My young grandson Rory had a great time chopping down the yellow flags that appeared in the very wet Sunken Garden this summer, checking them daily to see if the plant was recovering and needed more whacking back.

In the end, for me, conservation is about leaving at least a little part of the world in better shape than I found it. I have grandchildren and just last week my first great-granddaughter was born. I want to leave them with a world that is healthy and beautiful. I treasure the walks the children and I have taken through the woods, noting bear and tiger trees, as well as the wolf trees that I explained provided food and shelter for birds and animals. The woods and fields, so various in their moods and textures always delight. This is what I want to endure.

Between the Rows  October  2006

Falling – Gently

After a chilly, even cold, week we are now enjoying a sunny warm spell.  Autumn begins tomorrow but the fall into the golden season is now a gentle one. I am looking forward to a mild week because there is a lot to do in the garden.

In spite of the chill, I did get to observe the eradication of the Mile-a-Minute vine in Greenfield, and visit some other gardens last week.

Mile-a-Minute vine

Mile-a-Minute vine

I cannot stress how dangerous this invasive weed is. Seeds that look like little blueberries are ripening right now. The little barbs are vicious! If you find this plant growing in your neighborhood email our state botanist at
Dahlia - giant

Dahlia - giant

While I was visiting the Purington family at Woodslawn Farm I got to admire  some maginificent flowers like this giant pink dahlia. It’s about 6 feet tall and the blossom is more than 8 inches across.



I know about balsam evergreens, of course, but this balsam flower was new to me. It was just one of the many flowers in a garden that allows Barbara Purington to keep the house filled with gorgeous bouquets.



There is always a lot to admire at Tony Palumbo and Mike Collins’ garden. The Greenfield Garden Club visited and were in high admiration mode. Tony showed us his long tall zinnia border which I loved, hibiscus, an exulting hydrangea and a secret garden with a splashing fountain.  Tony and Mike have planted  wonderful trees over the years. My favorite is the Katsura with its heart shaped leaves.



Of course, there was this stunning magnolia tree that looked so exotic and tropical, but Tony said it is a native variety he bought at Nasami farm.

After visiting gorgeous gardens it is time to come back to earth.

Lasagne garden

Lasagne garden

Under the warm Sunday sun it was a joy to work in the garden.  My husband mowed and cleared the tansy, goldenrod and mint filled area between two of my ‘new’ wood chip paths.  (You can see the wood chips on either side of the cardboard.)  I don’t know quite why we never got that area covered. Once Henry cleared the space I put down some unfinished compost and covered that with lots of cardboard, two and three layers deep.  Then more chips.  Last year, when I was making the Potager, I put compost on top of the cardboard, but right now I don’t have enough to cover such a large area. My plan for this year is to let chips cover the cardboard until it is spring planting time.  Then I will push aside the chips to make winter squash hills. I’ll break through the rotting cardboard, pile on some compost and rotted manure and plant the squash seed.  Over the summer the squash vines will cover the wood chips which will continue to cover this area. My theory is that this will be a weed control and in the spring of 2011 I”ll be ble to put in vegetables that need more attention.  Remember, worms love living under cardboard so they’ll be adding their castings to the soil this fall, and in the spring as soon as it begins to warm up. 



Before we leave the Potager I have to show off my Zinfandel sweet peas from Renee’s Garden. Because of the poor soil in this spot, and the bad spring weather they got off to a slow start. They also had to fight the tansy that kept coming through the cardboard. In spite of all my weeding they are still fighting the tansy, but they have won.  They are climbing on the metal crib ends I found at the Transfer Station, part of my White Things strategy for keeping away the deer, and my desire to do as much Reusing before I got to Recycling.

Mile-A-Minute is too fast

Mile-a-Minute vine

Mile-a-Minute vine

Mile-a-Minute vine is the latest threat on the invasive plants front. This nasty vine has moved up from the mid-Atlantic states and is now well established in Connecticut. Massachusetts residents should be on the lookout for this fast growing vine, up to six inches a day! It has arrowhead leaves and nearly invisible but really treacherous barbs. It flowers in August and starts setting seed which begins to ripen right about now.

Mile-a-Minute seed

Mile-a-Minute seed

The seed is small and blue, just like a low bush blueberry. Though small, it has vital strength and can remain viable in the soil for 7 years.

I got to meet Bryan Connolly (L), our state botanist  who works with the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, when he came to Greenfield on Thursday, with Chris Buelow (R) , also with NHESP, to rip out a small patch of Mile-a-Minute vine. This patch was reported by an alert Greenfield resident who knows his weeds!  Bryan and Chris were joined by a crew of Conservation Volunteers (wearing good leather gloves as protection from those barbs) from the New EnglandWildflower Society; they made quick work of the task. Bryan will return in the spring  to check the site, and spray an herbicide, if necessary.

Bryan explained that Mile-a-Minute vine is an annual, but it self-seeds readily. Birds can spread the seeds, but he said most often the vine is spread unknowingly by humans who get seeds stuck in the soles of their shoes, or trucks pick up seeds and transport them on their tires.  Sometimes the vine grows into a hayfield and it spreads all over the farm.  Bryan and Chris carefully gathered all the seeds which they will burn. They are too dangerous even to put in an herbarium.  Foliage will be sent to the University of Connecticut, UMass and Harvard for their herbarium collections.

If you should come across this plant, which needs only sun and ordinary soil to thrive, email Bryan at            You will have done a good deed.  Remember, the barbs are  an important clue in identifying this plant.