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Annuals for a Long Bloom Season

Annuals in the South Lawn Bed

Annuals in the South Lawn Bed

The Bridge of Flowers taught me that annuals are the easiest and most dependable way of insuring a flowery garden all season long. This spring I am concentrating on adding annuals that will be in full bloom for the Annual Rose Viewing. Of course, I do have perennials in bloom at that time, but this year I am determined to have a very flowery garden at the end of June, and then for the rest of the summer. I bought a number of annuals at the Bridge of Flowers plant sale Saturday, wonderful healthy plants from LaSalle’s in Whately.



This part of the garden doesn’t look great – yet.  This is the north end of the South Lawn Bed. A few years ago, I thought I found a way to work around my lack of design sense. What is more classic and more impossible to mess up than a blue and white garden? I planted Connecticut Yankee delphiums, Aconite, ‘Blue Paradise’ garden phlox, a short salvia, ‘Switzerland’ shasta daisies, a white filipendula, snow in summer (cerastium) and white cosmos.  That worked pretty well except I could not keep the grass out of the snow in summer. A couple of years ago I could not resist the beautiful yellow troillus from the Bridge of Flowers. A little accent of yellow in my blue and white garden. Perfect. Then the salvias were not doing well and I removed them. In their place I added a shaggy yellow yarrow.  Another yellow accent. I’m pretty sure I also added a native penstemon but I can’t seem to find it this spring, and I’m not sure of the color. Probably white.

Feliia blue daisy from Proven Winners

Felicia blue daisy from Proven Winners

To refresh this bed and make it more floriferous for a longer season I began by removing most of the white shasta daisy and all the snow in summer. I added this Proven Winners blue daisy with a yellow eye, a yellow marguerite daisy, and Euporbia ‘Diamond Frost, both also from Proven Winner. Blue and white and yellow! I also moved in  some purple pansies from an indoor holiday centerpiece. Pansies bloom longer than you might imagine here in Heath.

In the North Lawn Bed, a piece of blue Baptisia I planted a couple of years ago suddenly exploded, as did a patch of Fulda Glow’ sedum. They both covered a golden spoon chrysanthemum. I dug up the chrysanthemum without doing too much damage to the sedum or baptisa and added it, small as it was, to the blue and white and yellow garden. You will see more photos of this garden as the season progresses.

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.

Snowdrop Mystery

Forcing Snowdrops

















I have never forced snowdrops before, so I decided to experiment. Early in November I got my late order of bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  Some of them went in the  ground, but I potted up some tulips, my paper whites, and a few of the snowdrops. I left them all out  in the unheated Great Room. All of the indoor bulbs had sent up little shoots so just before Christmas I brought them into the slightly slightly warmer Sittling Room

The paperwhites came into bloom and have been blooming for a month now. However the snowdrop planting has grown in ways that I do not understand. As you can see, one snowdrop bulb sent up a shoot and a bud, which shuold bloom in a day or two, but you can see that the other bulbs have sent out much smaller shoots, and some have not sprouted  at all.

My question is this common to forced snowdrops? Or will this happen to snowdrops in the garden? It makes sense that they might wake up ast slightly different times. And I suppose that some bulbs might never wake up, but it wouldn’t be noticeable if it  were just a small percentage. Is it possible that I didn’t let them cool long enough?

The snowdrops I planted are in the northern end of the Lawn Beds. I will be able to see them from the house when they come into bloom. Right now I am only looking out at snow. No snowdrops. I do hope my indoor snowdrops will eventually bloom.

Has anyone else ever forced snowdrops? What was your experience?

Hydrangea in Winter


Limelight hydrangea blossom 1-7-13

Very pretty hydrangea blossom. But I don’t think it will count on Bloom Day.


Celebration Season – Eat Your Heart Out

Heath Gourmet Club

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

Wreath de Noel

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

Grand and great-granchildren

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

Son, grandson and great granddaughters

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

Walking in the Woods Towards a Christmas Wreath

Storm damage in the woods

On Saturday my husband and I walked up what we call The Lane, the remnants of the old road that once led all the way to the next town of Rowe. We walked up the hill between two fields and into the woods.  We have done some logging in the woods, but when we walk there these days the extensive number of trees and limbs that have been toppled and broken are due to the big ice storm in December of 2008, then Hurricane Irene that did  devasting damage throughout the county in 2011 and the recent Sandy storm this past October. It is amazing to think that we have had these three severe storms in less than five years, when we had nothing like them in the previous 25 years.

We picked our way through the fallen branches to a large plantation of princess pine. We carefully clipped off a few dozen plants without disturbing the roots so  this planting could continue to grow.  We also collected branches from the white pine trees that have begun encroaching on our northern field, and a single very large red pine in the same field. We were collecting these branches to make Christmas wreaths. I was all inspired to make more Christmas wreaths after my lesson at Chapleys with the Greenfield Garden Club.

I made a final small harvest of greens from the Lawn Bed. The fountain juniper, Goldthread chamaecyparis,  and even the holly bush gave up a few of their branches for wreaths. I spent esterday afternoon on the piazza enjoying the mild weather while I wired the greens onto forms. I’m not done yet, but I think I’ve made a good start on my Christmas wreaths. Ornaments and ribbon to come.

Homemade Christmas wreaths and me


What Comes After Thanksgiving? The First Snow

The Major and Rory

Thanksgiving Day dawned mild and sunny.  There was little left to do in the morning at daughter Betsy’s house so there was time for a stroll and for The Major and grandson Rory to have a tete a tete.

Thanksgiving crowd

Things got a lot busier at daughter Diane’s house, especially in the Thanksgiving kitchen. Cooks and kibbitzers gathered near the stove to be there when the turkey came out of the oven.

The Thanksgiving table

It is impossible to get everyone in the frame at the Thanksgiving table but all 15 of us were there. We couldn’t reach the Texas branch of the family who were in Pittsburg (?) with the Lawn family but a toast was drunk to family and friends, near and far.

Lawn Bed

Post Thanksgiving weather was cold, breezy and raw. This morning we woke to snow. The flurries are slight, the air is still, and the temeprature is up to 32 degrees, but the ground is covered.

Japanese lantern

We are poised for a peaceful moment, but time does not stand still.

Christmas wreath

The Christmas wreath is hung and the dance towards Christmas has begun. The halls must be decked, the oven fired up and beds prepared for guests.

Flax for Textiles, Oil, Nutrition and Paper

Rory with snake

Rory had to go home to reorganize for Boy Scout camp, but not before he caught this snake in the garden. He has such sharp eyes. I’ve seen a lot of snakes this summer, but none as pretty as this one.

Rory harvesting garlic

We keep Rory pretty busy with travels and projects – and chores. He began the garlic harvest and I finished today.

Rory the baker

Time with Granny and The Major is never complete without a couple of stints in the kitchen. Rory’s specialite de maison is Saumon en Papillote, but its always fun to make a few pans of  sugar cookies.

Flax growing at Historic Deerfield

One day The Major, Rory and I coaxed granddaughter Tricia to come with us to Historic Deerfield. We got a great tour of  the Wells-Thorne house, and a brief tour of the Stebbins house where I  worked as a tour guide for a few months in 1972. Or thereabouts. We went to the History Workshop where we saw flax growing.  We got to see how it got from being a plant in the soil, to fiber that could be used for weaving, sewing, rope, and paper.

Harvested flax

The second step is to harvest the flax.

Flax retting

Then the flax has to be  soaked in water for at least two weeks. This is called ‘retting’ which essentially means rotting, to loosen the outer fibers.

The retted flax then has to be dried. It is now ready for the work that gets done indoors. This display includes the equipment to ‘brake’ or break down those outer fibers, then ‘hetcheling’ which is kind of like carding wool,  to release the long flax fibers – known to us all as linen.

We are all familiar with linen tablecloths, towels, and clothes, but did you realized that linseed oil is from flax? And nowadays flax seed is recognized for its great nutritional value because it contains a high level of Omega-3.

The beginning of linen paper

The hands-on project  that is organized for visitors this summer is paper-making, using tow, the shorter pieces of flax fiber. Historic Deerfield Museum staff was on hand with all the supplies needed to help us make our own paper. Here Tricia has perfectly filled her frame with tow.

Tricia and Rory making linen paper

Tricia is taking the next step while Rory gets started.

Drying the paper

The  job begins with wet tow, which has to be dried. It took three blue towels to get out as much water as possible.

Removing the paper from the frame

Then the wet paper is knocked out of the frame. It only took a little encouragement.

Rory 'scutching'

It needs further drying. This step is called ‘scutching’  Afterwards the paper is laid out on trays to dry. Visitors who come the following day will get to use this handmade paper to make a little journal. We made our journals out of paper made the day before. A fair exchange all around.

This project will be continuing until August 30.  Historic Deerfield is a great place to take children. And adults.

It’s Summer – Viewing, Touring and Paddling

Irises at Fox Brook Iris Farm

It’s summer and I’ve been out viewing plants and gardens and then relaxing at a local pond. Summer doesn’t get any more perfect than this.

Japanese Iris

I went to the Annual Japanese Iris Show in Shelburne Falls and got to see the best and most beautiful examples of Japanese Iris grown in the area. Japanese iris are the last iris to bloom in our area. After seeing this display of irises, I had to run over to Fox Brook Iris Farm and, of course, I came home with two generous clumps of a gorgeous white iris named Hakuroku-Ten. Right now it is planted in front of the house where I can keep it well watered. That’s what Japanese iris demand – good watering.

Hawley Garden Tour feature

Then, I visited two of the gardens that are on the Sons and Daughters of Hawley Annual Artisans and Garden Tour scheduled for July 14. The McCarthy garden has sun, shade, water, grasses, and delightful art objects like this beautiful birdhouse. This is a garden that has recovered amazingly from the disastrous storm Irene last August. Summer time in Hawley is full of delights.

Sea Foam roses

The Hoffman/Pope gardens have sun and shade, too. More roses than I remembered.  Formal evergreen structures.

Heirloom tomato collection

And a beautiful vegetable garden. Where the hoe and the hose are in frequent use. This incredible plantation of heirloom tomatoes has inspired me to stop by their house often in August. They can’t possibly use all those tomatoes!

For more information about tickets and the tour call Rainey McCarthy 339-5347, Melanie Poudrier 337-4903, or Pam Shrimpton 339-4091. .


Henry paddling

We also spent Sunday afternoon with friends at a local pond, noshing, talking, paddling, talking, swimming, talking and more noshing. Shade and a breeze. Summer perfection.


After a weekend  like that we are glad to see the  sunset, close up the chickens, and settle down with the Sunday New York Times before trickling off to bed.

Rugosas – Blooming Early and Beautifully

Belle Poitvine

The hardy rugosas are so cheering, blooming early and beautifully as they do. Belle Poitvine suffered a lot of winter damage as did several of the other rugosas. I don’t think it was simply the weather which was very mild, but the age of the shrub. Like any living creature a rugosa has a life span, but it also has babies. More on that later.

Blanc Double de Coubert

Like Belle Poitvine, Blanc Double de Coubert, is only about two feet tall this spring, but there will be blooms. You can see the heavy ribbed foliage clearly in these photos. Many rugosas are easy roses to identify because the foliage is so distinctive. And resistant to disease. It stays beautiful all season.

Mount Blanc

Mount Blanc had so much winterkill that my husband feared nothing might be left. The mystery of removing dead stems is that when they are gone the bush looks larger than it did before. Mount Blanc is actually about half as large, but it remains tall, unlike the Blanc Double de Coubert and Belle Poitvine roses.

Therese Bugnet

I planted Therese Bugnet on the new Rose Bank last spring and she is doing very well. Hardly any winterkill. The Rose Bank is somewhat protected from winter winds which is an advantage.

Pink Grootendorst

Pink Grootendorst, right next to Therese Bugnet also came through the winter without suffering very much. This rugosa has the familiar foliage, but the sprays of flowers almost look more like dianthus with pinked edges than roses.

I will talk about the other types of roses as they come into bloom. But, don’t forget. The Annual Rose Viewing is Sunday, June 24 from 1-4 pm.