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Spring Garden Chores – At Last for the Monday Record

Succulents back outside

Finally, I have been able to start my spring garden chores. The temperature got up to 50 degrees yesterday and there was some sun. I raked the front lawn and beds, including the Daylily Bank. I can never decide whether it is good or bad to cut down daylily foliage in  the fall, but whatever I thought, I didn’t do it last year.  Fortunately, a steel rake is all it takes to pull out most of the dead foliage.

The succulents wintered inside in the unheated Great Room. I knew the succulents  were hardy (mostly) but I wasn’t sure about the hypertufa troughs. You can see one hypertufa trough is already broken. I didn’t make the bottom thick enough. I’m ready to  try again this year. The flower pot that looks empty holds a mass of black stemmed Ashfield mint that I pulled up by accident – with my steel rake – and decided to pot up. The mint runs all over the place, and I thought I’d worry less about pulling it up if I always had some in a pot.

Primroses have come through the winter

I have had a clump of lovely yellow primroses from the supermarket blooming here for years. Last year I added different primroses that I bought at the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale, scheduled for Saturday, May 17 this year, and they have all come through. You can bet I’ll be at the sale again this year to get more bargains. Annuals, too.

View From My Bedroom Window – March 2014

March 1, 2014

The view from my bedroom window on March 1 was snow covered and cold. 5 degrees at 7 a.m.

March 9, 2014

March 9 and the view wasn’t much different. 20 degrees at 7 a.m. but daytime temps haven’t gotten much above freezing. Because it is so cold the snow is not melting.

March 26, 2014

No reason to take more photos. It remains cold and the view doesn’t change much. 22 degrees at 7 a.m. and windy.

March 31, 2014

30 degrees at 7 a.m. but it didn’t get much warmer in the afternoon. Still the snow is beginning to melt. This has been one of the coldest months of March in years. The maple sugar people are not very happy. However, the south bank in front of the house is all melted, the path to the henhouse is clear and I can feel spring’s arrival. Her very slow arrival.

I have hopes that my April record of the weather, and the view from my bedroom window will see a great deal of green change.


First Day of Spring – Just for the Record

March 20, 2014 9 am

It snowed and rained last night. As the first day of spring dawned the plow came through, but mostly they were sanding the road because things were a bit icy outside. The temperature was already 34 degrees – and climbing. More showers.

The Cottage Ornee is Spring sun

The rain stopped!  Only the roofs are dripping, dripping. The sun came out and raised the temperature to 45 degrees. The snow will melt some today. I am not discouraged because I know it could always be worse. This is what the first day of spring looked like last year.

March 19, 2013

A foot of snow fell during the night – and it wasn’t the last snow fall of the year. Last year The Bridge of Flowers opened on schedule on April 1, but then closed again because of another snowfall. But I’m sure that won’t happen this year. Will it?

Cooking Lessons Over the Years

Rory in 2009 cooking lesson over the years

As a liberated  woman I have made sure that my grandsons have had a few cooking lessons over the years. Rory was 13 when this photo was taken, but it is not his first lesson. Perfect scrambled eggs was probably an early lesson, but by 2009 he had moved along to the perfect omlette.

Rory with Saumon en papillote 2010

Saumon en papillote, a Julia Child recipe, amazingly simple, but a dish with dash, has become Rory’s specialite.

Rory’s pickles for the Heath Fair 2010

I cannot begin to tell you how many blue ribbons this family has won at the Heath Fair in August.

Rory and more pickles for the 2011 Heath Fair

We made a lot more things for the Fair than pickles. Cookies are also always on the list.

Rory with cookies 2012

I told you he made cookies!

Rory making real caramel corn 2013

Making real caramel is quite an operation, but he is up to it.  When we are cooking for the Heath Fair, the rule is that  I can instruct and advise, but I cannot touch anything. That rule has carried over into all our lessons.

Tynan making cookies 2008

Rory’s younger brother followed in his brother’s footsteps.

Tynan kneading his bread 2009

I bake a lot of bread. It is fun to do. I tell all the children that they have to think about all the people who will enjoy their cooking while they work. That love gets cooked right into the dish.

Tynan with his raspberry jam. 2010

If you have a raspberry patch, you must make raspberry jam, and Tynan did.

Tynan at the Art Garden in 2011

I know Tynan did some baking every year, but there does not seem to be a photographic record. However, creativity comes in all forms – many of them are found at the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.

Drew and Anthony 2009

Because Anthony and his younger brother Drew live in Texas we got them both at the same time in the summer. Less cooking, more field work like picking raspberries.

Anthony and Drew at the Hawley kiln 2011

Of course, we take all the boys touring locally at historic sites like the Hawley kiln, and art sites like MassMoCa. There is lots to do at the End of the Road and all around western Massachusetts. I think these boys have gotten fewer cooking lessons, but they are Boy Scouts. They need to cook around the campfire.

Bella and French toast in 2013

The boys are getting ‘old.’ They’ve got jobs and less time for cooking lessons and frolicking. Fortunately, we have Bella, a great-granddaughter, who has moved close enough to start her cooking lessons.

View From the Bedroom Window – January 2014

The View From My Bedroom Window January 5, 2014

This is my post for the View from the Bedroom Window for the  month of January. A continuing record.  By January 5 we  had 10 inches of snow and temperatures of  minus 10 degrees last night.  A Polar Vortex is promised  in the next couple of days.

January 13, 2014

On Monday, January 6 it was rainy and foggy and 50 degrees. The Polar Vortex arrived on Tuesday, January 7 with temperatures of minus 18 and WIND. The trek to the henhouse was bitter. I had to wrap my face in scarf.  But then  the weather became milder. On January 11 it was warm enough, 38 degrees, for pouring rain! The snow is nearly gone.

January 19, 2014

On January 18 it snowed and snowed. About six inches. This morning the temperature was 21 degrees at 8 am. Beautiful, mild day as the sun came out.

January 26, 2014

January 26 and temperatures hover at Zero at dawn.  Bright sun, brisk breezes; it is cold!  As the old saying goes, the cold grows stronger as the days grow longer. Last night’s snow showers freshened the landscape.

January is over, but I am hoping for a lot more snow. Precipitation is what we need.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Garden Planning IV – Review and Renew


Redvein Enkianthus

            Before I end my discussion about garden planning, I want to add a few words about the view from the house, or more specifically, the view from a window.

            We spend time in the garden working, and time socializing in the garden, but we can also enjoy the garden when we are inside the house. Do you have a kitchen or dining table by a window that looks into the garden? When you look up from your newspaper or book, do you look across the room from your reading chair and out a window?

            Our dining table is right by a large window looking out at the Lawn Beds, and across the lawn to an ancient apple tree. The field beyond that is bordered by trees with hills in the far distance. This is an expansive view of the garden and the landscape beyond. A more intimate view is from my reading chair back towards the tractor shed which is hung with the lovely white, green and pink foliage of a hardy kiwi vine, fronted with several pink rose bushes, and an edging of annual blue salvia. It is such a pleasure to look that this Shed Bed garden, that as disorderly as I often am, I try to keep this area neat.

            What would you like to look at from your reading chair, or from your table? Flowers? Birds flitting and settling on a feeder? A burbling fountain set beneath a flowering tree? I have been told that the sound of water will attract birds to the garden even more surely than a well stocked feeder.

            What kind of garden tableau would please you? It only takes a little planning to create a view that will give you immense pleasure.           

           I hope I have not led anyone to believe that garden planning is ever done once and for all time. When a garden plan is implemented unforeseen obstacles may arise, as may unforeseen opportunities. We must never let a beautiful plan get in the way of a beautiful result. A plan must always be flexible.

        Even after a garden plan is beautifully in place, enjoyed by the gardener, and admired by visitors, time will bring change and alterations will be required. We all know this, or come to know it after only two or three years of a gardening career. I remember a time after I planted my first perennials under the late Elsa Bakalar’s tutelage, when she came to visit and looked at the garden. She suggested, gently, that it was time to divide the yarrow and bee balm.

         “What?” I couldn’t believe it. I thought the whole point of perennials was you put them in place, cared for them and they were perennially there, no more thought or work required. It was a simple lesson, and is relearned when plants need to be divided because the clump gets too big, or when a plant grows taller, wider or more vigorously than expected or planned, or when you realize that a particular plant like plume poppy has spread itself all through the garden.

Plume poppies, Macleaya cordata, which is not really a poppy at all, looked beautiful in my garden. Plume poppies are tall, up to eight feet, with large slivery blue scalloped leaves, and plumey blossoms. They increase by sending out new rhizomes. They are stunning, but to say they grow vigorously is an understatement. That kind of growth was not part of my plan, and I ripped them out. Gardening Goes Wild takes a different view of the plume poppy.

Redvein Enkianthus – nevermore

This past fall I cut a redvein Enkianthus shrub down to little nubbins. Years ago I planted this shrub in the middle of the North Lawn Bed because it was described as growing gracefully tall, producing little bell-like flowers in June, and good fall color. It is disease and pest resistant, not fussy about soil, or dry weather. It sounds like a wonderful plant, and in many ways it is.

When I chose Enkianthus I somehow did not take in the fact that it was a very slow grower. That was my mistake. And I found the little bell-like flowers very small indeed. Both of those disappointments would not have mattered if it took the graceful form promised – layered branches spreading out three or four feet from the center of the plant. Mine grew into a widening dense column, with no grace at all.

            I made another mistake. I did not take into consideration the growth of the other plants around it, the ginkgo trees, the weeping hemlock, also very slow growing, and the fast growing low junipers. The whole area was too crowded, something had to go; I chose the Enkianthus. Now there is breathing room.

            Calculating how big and how fast plants will grow is not always easy. We can research a plant, read the nursery label and make our best judgment, but we will not always be right. Then something has to go. Sometimes we will simply not like a plant after we have seen it in our garden, and sometimes a plant will not like our garden, dying a miserable death. Either way, the plant leaves the garden, and we have to come up with a new choice, if not a new plan.

            Garden planning is never done. How can it be? Time brings change to our garden, we are always learning about new plants, and visiting inspiring gardens. Keep planning. Keep gardening.

Between the Rows   January 25, 2014

Garden Planning III – Mixed Borders and Rock Gardens


A corner of my mixed border

        Garden Planning takes a new direction after you have decided how much time you have, what activities you want to enjoy in the garden, and what the garden needs in terms of soil improvement. You will also have decided whether you want a strictly ornamental garden, or if you want to include edibles.

            In urban and suburban settings the first consideration is the front yard. Most front yards begin with a lawn, and perhaps some shrubby foundation plantings. This is fine as far as they go, but often those foundation plantings are placed in a narrow bed, with little other interest.

            The lawn requires regular mowing, and while I never fertilize or use herbicides on my flowery mead, many people over-apply these chemicals which can pollute our waterways every time rains wash those chemicals off the lawn. What are the alternatives?

            The first might be to enlarge and broaden the beds around the house that would allow room for a small tree or two, possibly a witch hazel that would bring the earliest spring bloom, as well as the shrubs, and some flowers. You could create a long season of bloom by including spring blooming bulbs, perennials, and some annuals that will bloom all summer. This arrangement is called a mixed border, and it is an arrangement that can be used to mark lot boundaries, or to separate spaces in the garden. I have two gently curving mixed borders in my front lawn. They separate lawn areas, cut down on lawn (their original purpose) and have become greatly admired by visitors to the garden.

            My mixed borders were begun in 1999. That is an easy date to remember because of the ages of our five grandsons. We had a big family visit during which the five boys between ages three and one each planted a gingko tree. They needed (a lot) of help, of course. We chose the ginkgos in honor of the time we spent living and working in Beijing. The gingkos were planted at the edges of the prepared beds. The North Bed is about 25 feet long, and the South Bed is about 15 feet long. Both are about 10 feet at their widest.

            The three gingkos in the North Bed survived, but only one in the South Bed. Therefore we later planted a weeping birch in the South Bed. In the middle-ish section we planted low junipers – too many as it turned out. When you are beginning with such a large space it is hard to remember how big plants will grow.

            At the beginning the beds didn’t look like much. The plants were small and annuals can only do so much. There was a lot of mulch.

            Over time other shrubs were added, two hollies, male and female, a weeping cherry, a tree peony, two cotoneasters (different varieties), two The Fairy roses, a Mothlight hydrangea which has grown very large, and an array of perennials like astilbe, garden phlox, Echinacea, Northern sea oats, salvia, delphinium, aconite, Shasta daisy and a few annuals along the edges. Herbs like parsley, sage, and chives can also be a pretty and useful addition.

            All these years later I have well filled in borders with trees that are gaining in height and throwing some welcome shade, lush shrubs, and an array of perennials that will need dividing again this spring. I actually wish I had made the beds wider, and will probably do a little tweaking to make that happen in the spring.

            This is a planting scheme that can work at the edges of a yard. I love the idea of a shady woodland with spring bulbs and a native groundcover like tiarella separating two houses on an urban street. I might be harking back to the narrow shady woodland in front of my parents’ first house, providing a veil of shelter from the road.        


Lawn reduction – rock gardens

 One stunning garden I visited last year turned the front yard into a beautiful low maintenance garden by using stone, a lot of stone, a graceful tree, native groundcovers, and a few shrubs and flowers. The owner said she had been on a mission to eradicate lawn for 40 years. Her front lawn was reduced to a path that meandered between the foundation plantings and the rock garden, leading from the driveway, around the house to a welcoming screened room. This garden gives pleasure to all the neighbors, as well as the gardener.

Another view

            Another important way to reduce lawn is to increase social space. I love screened porches and summer houses of all forms because I like to be sheltered from the sun – and the bugs. Decks and patios are common ways of providing social space, and also take a multitude of forms. One important consideration when creating a patio is to make it out of pervious paving. Rain run off is a municipal problem. We can help our town and our own landscape by keeping rain where it falls.

            Lawn reduction and mixed borders are ideas to consider whether you are a new gardener or an experienced gardener who needs to cut back.

            Next week, to conclude this series, I’ll talk about periodic re-visioning, and since we do not weed all winter, the view from the window.

           Beetween the Rows  January 18, 2014


Mystery Melt – and the Solution?

Mystery Melt

What is a mystery melt? Yesterday morning we had snow showers, and cold temperatures all afternoon.  When I went out to the henhouse I noticed this mystery melt  that ran from the top of the slope towards our wellhead.

Mystery Melt

I  thought it was so strange to have such a clearly demarked area when the cold temperatures kept the veil of snow intact everywhere else.

We have a lot of water on  our hill with intermittent streams that have created paths of water/damp loving sedges in our  fields. There is a dug well up in the field, a 30 foot dug well lined with stone (an artful marvel of engineering) in back of the house near our drilled well, and a shallow dug well in the North Lawn Bed. The Sunken Garden is nearly a swimming pool from spring into mid-summer. Water comes coursing into our basement – and out through a conduit and onto the road. Water everywhere.

Thinking about all the water on our  hill showed I was on the right track. When I showed this to my husband Henry at the end of the day, he didn’t think it was a river or stream, but a spring not far below the surface. The area has always been wet. Then when we had work done on our foundation a few years ago our construction guy was moving soil around behind the house. Henry pointed out that the shape of this melt looked a lot like a bulldozer scrape. The spring was then just a little closer to the surface.

It’s possible. What do you think.

View from the Bedroom Window – December 2013

December 8, 2013

December 8 – The view from the bedroom window has been varied all this month. Temperatures ranged  from a windy zero degrees on December 17,  but on December 8 it was mild with a mere dusting of snow.

December 15, 2013

December 15 – Three or 4 inches of snow on the 13th and another 10 inches on the 14th.  We barely made it home after Gourmet Club that  night, the road was unplowed and the snow was still falling thickly.


December 22, 2013

December 22 – Yesterday and today temperatures in the 50’s. Showers. The snow is melting fast.

Christmas Day in the Morning

No snow. Just the sparkle of heavy frost in the dawn light.


For more (almost) Wordlessness on Wednesday click here. 

A Heath Calendar for 2014 – Some Flowers

Cottage Ornee in January

My Heath Calendar cannot begin with flowers. The only flowers at the End of the Road are a few Christmas cactus blooms and a wonderful pink cyclamen.

‘Possum in the compost

February is still cold and snowy. This ‘possum found shelter and a snack in the compost bin next to the hen house.

Mt. Holyoke College primroses

March and still no blooms in Heath. Still the Talcott Greenhouse at Mt. Holyoke College and the Lyman Plant House at Smith College are full of bloom and hope at their big March plant shows.


Finally, April brings snowdrops down in the orchard.

Boule de Neige rhododendron

May brings the rhododendrons.


Peony ‘Kansas’

Early June and the peonies bloom.

Ghislaine de Feligonde

The Heath Calendar must include a double June listing. In late June and the roses come into their own. So beautifully, so  briefly. Hence the Annual Rose Viewing on the last Sunday in June. It never rains on the last Sunday in June. Really.

Mothlight hydrangea

July and the Mothlight hydrangea begins to bloom and will be magnificent into the fall.

Gaillardia or Helenium

August hot and sunny. Hot colors in the garden. Gaillardia or Helenium?  Not sure.


September and berries are beginning to appear. Here are two different cotoneasters – all tangled up.

Sheffield Daisies

October and the late blooming Sheffield daisies are blooming like crazy.



November and  the larch, a deciduous conifer, has turned golden. The needles will soon fall.

Holly ‘Blue Princess’

December and our holly ‘Blue Princess’ is in full berry. And so the Heath Calendar has come full circle with wind and rough weather – and ready to begin again.