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Who Were the First Immigrants? British Now Known as Americans!

 

Immigrant Cookbok

The Immigrant Cookbook

Squanto, of the Pautuxet tribe, was a part of my childhood Thanksgivings. Squanto (Tisquantum) was captured by English explorers in 1605 and spent a number of years in England and learned to speak English. He also found his way back to the Plymouth Bay area in 1619 and learned that his own tribe had all died from disease.

Massasoit, the sachem of the Wampanoags, and Samoset who had learned a bit of English from fishermen, decided that they needed Squanto to meet with the Pilgrims who had landed. This was a good thing for the Pilgrims who were grateful for this interpreter, who, among other things, could teach them about using fish as fertilizer in the poor soil. and about unfamiliar crops like corn, beans and squash.

There must have been a feeling of great satisfaction at the success of their first harvest. The Pilgrims gave thanks and praise to God, and joined the Wampanogs and Squanto in a feast in the fall of 1621.This gathering is what we now consider the first Thanksgiving.

There were wild turkeys in New England and that first Thanksgiving meal may have included turkey. Certainly by the time Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 turkey was well-established as the celebratory bird.

The Pilgrims were the first successful immigrants to New England. Over time other immigrants arrived bringing delicious foods and recipes with them.

Think of those who came to the colonies in the 1700s – Germans, Scotch-Irish, French, and prisoners from England who were transported for their crimes. In the 1800s the Potato Famine brought millions of Irish, as well as Eastern Europeans, especially Poles, Jews fleeing massacres taking place, and Italians. Those immigrants brought their skills and energy to build and expand our country. That changed in 1924.

Although the Chinese had been immigrating to the U.S. since the California gold rush the Asian Exclusion Act and National Origins Act of 1924 prevented them from immigrating as well as greatly limiting Greeks, Jews, Italians, Poles and Slavs. It was not until President Johnson signed the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act into law that limits on nationality were ended.

Our country has benefited in many ways. I am the granddaughter of Italian and Swedish immigrants. They came and prospered, as did their children and grandchildren.

As we approach Thanksgiving I give thanks to those immigrants who came here sharing their skills and knowledge to make our country what it is today.

Petroula Balis, co-owner of the Village Pizza in Greenfield, MA

Petroula Balis, co-owner of the Village Pizza

In 1971 when I came to Greenfield the Village Pizza was the only restaurant owned by immigrants. The Balis brothers from Greece began their business more than 50 years ago. Now Chris, Betty and Petroula Balis are still in business on Bank Row making stunning Greek pizzas, and other delicious items on their menu.

The Korean restaurant Manna House is right across the street from Village Pizza, but Hyun Soon Lee has only owned this restaurant for 16 years. I have had wonderful soups there, as well as other dishes including a gratifying squash pancake.

Korean specialties, Noodle Soup and Squash Pancake

Noodle Soup and a Squash Pancake at Manna House – Korean specialties

Nowadays there are several other restaurants in Greenfield that were started by immigrants. Hattapon and Thai Blue Ginger have great Thai food, Namaste has spicy Indian food, and the China Gourmet has delicious Chinese food.

Without immigrants we wouldn’t have paella, kung pao chicken, perogis, enchiladas or hot dogs.

In addition to international restaurants we have to thank other immigrants for creating successful food businesses in the U.S. David Tran was born in Vietnam and was one of the over 3,000 refugees on the Taiwanese freighter Huey Fong leaving Vietnam in 1978. His family food business was named after that freighter. Siracha is the hot sauce  he created to please his own palate as well as that of other south Asian refugees. Now it is a staple for us all.

Baskin and Robbins ice cream was started by a Polish and Russian family; the owners of Goya, the largest Hispanic-owned company in the United States, emigrated from Spain, and Chobani yogurt was started by a Greek.

I found a cookbook on my doorstep the other day, The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes that Make America Great. In this beautiful book professional cooks who were immigrants themselves or children of immigrants are sharing their recipes from soups to pickles and desserts.

Hari Nayak was born in India and is now a chef, a cookbook author and restaurant consultant. I was quite taken with his recipe for Lentil and Spinach soup.

Didem Hosgel grew up in Turkey but found her way to Boston in 2001 where she went to work at the Oleana Restaurant, but is now the chef de cuisine at the Sofra Bakery. She has a satisfying recipe for Kurus (a combination of potato and bulgur patties) with Spoon Salad. Beautiful.

This Thanksgiving I am giving special thanks for all those from every corner of the world who have given us the most delicious foods every day.###

Between the Rows   November 23, 2019

Half-Hour Allotments and The Artist’s Garden – Book Reviews

Half-Hour Allotment

The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz

With the gift giving season drawing near I want to spread the word about new books that would please gardeners of every sort. In my house books are the one gift we know will delight.

The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz

When The Half-Hour Allotment book showed up in my mailbox I was delighted to think of a system that would teach me to work an allotted half-hour at a time. How understanding such a system would be for those gardeners among us who might not be in our first youth any longer.

But then, as I sat down to read the book with its beautiful photographs of vegetables and gardens that included flowers for bouquets, and ways to prepare the  soil, I realized the book had a British publisher and the allotments being talked about were the garden spaces away from the house. After the original shock of wondering how this would translate for American gardeners, I knew that was not an issue. We can allot a part of our own yard for use as a vegetable garden. And like the author of this book we can also think of allotting ourselves a half hour schedule so that we do not overtax ourselves.

The British have ever more popular allotment gardens and here in the United States we have ever more popular community gardens, both sharing the same principles. Our climates may be different, and the gardening schedule more extended in England, but the basics of gardening thoughtfully and efficiently are the same. The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz (Francis Lincoln Limited $20) is useful to young, and not-so-young gardeners in the US and Britain.

Gardeners begin wisely when they begin by choosing their favorite vegetables and calculating how much space can be given to each. A small garden needs to make use of space on the ground, and space in the air for beans, peas and other crops that are happy to climb. There is a section that suggests the sufficient number of plants for each vegetable. For example, four courgette (squash) plants might be all you need, but 20 broccoli plants might be more sensible for the family. I thought this was wonderful advice.

Individual sheds are very common on British allotments. Leendertz gives suggestions on what necessities to put in your shed including a folding camping chair, a pair of old shoes, and an old hat and jacket as well as basic planting tools. I suspect American community gardeners also stop to chat and visit between the rows.

This engaging book provides excellent gardening instructions, but it also gives a delightful view of gardeners in a different clime and slightly different culture. Read, enjoy and learn.

The Artist’s Garden by Jackie Bennett

Artist's Garden

The Artist’s Garden by Jackie Bennett

The Artist’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired Our Greatest Painters by Jackie Bennett (White Lion Publishing $40.00) is also a British book. It is lushly illustrated with paintings of gardens and people in their gardens, with photographs of acclaimed artists’ houses and their gardens. The first section of the book is titled The Artist at Home and at Work with a list of artists beginning with Leonardo daVinci and moving on to Peter Paul Rubens, Paul Cezanne, Henri Le Sidanier and others concluding with Salvador Dali. The stories of their careers are fascinating. Cezanne’s father bankrolled him for many years. Every year he was turned down by the jury of the Paris Salon. Though other artists admired his work, he never had his own one man show until he was 56. In 1938 eighteen of Max Liebermann’s paintings were sent to London for an exhibit supporting Germany’s so-called ‘degenerate art.’

I confess I was not familiar with every artist. Fortunately, generous biographical information is included with every display of artist, gardens, and paintings.

The second section is given over to The Artist’s Community, about the work and lives of artists like Monet with his friends from Berthe Morrisot and the Seine artists; William Morris and his circle; the Skagen painters of Denmark; the New England Impressionists; the German Expressionists; and the Charlston artists that included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and the rest of the Bloomsbury Group.

The color illustrations give us examples of many painting styles. Renoir’s Impressionist paintings included the exciting streets of Paris and the leisures of the countryside. Kahlo blended the styles of Mexico and Europe with her own symbolisms. William Morris found designs in nature. Each artist found a unique way of seeing the world.

Sketched maps of each garden help the reader get a better understanding of the layout of the gardens. Some are very carefully and neatly laid out, while others take a more riotous approach. If the artist is lucky there can be wild, flowery spaces, as well as carefully designed layouts of trees, water and architectural elements. There is also a timeline for each artist, or group of artists, biographical information, and information about the gardens today. It does not seem that any of the artists captured in this book led solitary lives in a north-facing atelier.

I felt the richness of the book which gave such expansive views of the artists’ work, their lives and friendships. Many of the painters inspired each other. Readers like me will feel inspired when we look at our own gardens, finding some detail we can copy or play with, just like the painters did. ###

Between the Rows   November 16, 2019

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – November 15, 2019

Yellow twig dogwood

Yellow Twig Dogwood – doesn’t need to bloom

On this Bloom Day I don’t have any blooms, but I do have color. For the past week we have looked out at a hard frost. Beautiful in its own way. However we do have color. Somehow the yellow twig dogwood never photographs as accurately as my eyes when I look out my kitchen window and see the sun shining on what is a more chartreuse dogwood than its name suggests. It is because of its brilliant color that I planted it where I could  admire it all winter long.

Golden winterberry

Golden winterberry

The golden winterberry, a native ilex (holly) does not photograph well either. Why doesn’t my camera see what I see?

Red winterberry

Red winterberry

The red winterberry is willing to be quite a showoff when the camera comes out.  I have a second red winterberry as well. The single male winterberry in the garden very quietly goes about his business making sure  the ladies of every color look their best at this time of the year. The birds are happy as well.

English holly

English holly

The English holly in front of the house was bequeathed to us by the former residents. She produces plenty of foliage and color to harvest for Christmas decorations. The male quietly sits on the other side of the porch. He is small and very shy.

Perhaps I will have blooms in December, but I doubt it. The Christmas cacti do not look promising.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Garden for giving us a chance to share the blooms and color in our gardens, no matter where we live in  this great country

Climate Change Rally Right in Greenfield – September 20, 2019

Just Not Cool!

Just Not Cool – Our fifth grade friend protested at the Climate Change Rally

The Climate Change Rally in Greenfield brought many children, inspired by young Greta Thunmberg, to the Greenfield Common on Friday, September 20. The Children and the Adults were all protesting. Our climate is dangerously changing and there are protests this day all around the globe.

Fifth graders’ Mother protests

Protestors of every age

If not us

If not us

Change the Laws

Students from local schools protested

Students from local schools protested

High School Students

Some Students went to Boston to participate in the Youth Climate Strike

Students Protesting Climate Change – There is no Planet B

Students protesting Climate Change

Young and old Protest

What can we all do?  Vote!  Learn about ways you can stop global warming.

We can’t leave it all up to Greta.

Industrial Hemp Uses

Cousins Debbie, Tammy and Heidi in their hemp field

Everybody is talking about hemp. When we recently attended a family gathering in Vermont we talked to three of my young cousins, Heidi, Tammy, and Debby who had planted hemp. A change in the Vermont laws now makes it legal to plant hemp. Four hundred and fifty or so farms are now doing just that. Dairy farming is not as profitable as it was, and hemp is now in demand. Please remember, industrial hemp does not contain THC, the compound in marijuana that makes you get high.

My cousins got their start with a friend who gave them about 1900 baby cannabis plants in the spring. They had rototilled one and a half fertile acres of the old family farm. Then they set to planting in early May. There had been rain and their soil had good drainage.

The plants were very tiny with a tiny root base. They said each of them used a teaspoon for putting them in the ground. My cousins have day jobs and so it took three weekends to get them all planted, carefully providing at least six feet of space between each plant which can reach a height of eight feet.

Closeup of hemp plant

Closeup of hemp plant in Vermont

There is more to raising hemp than getting tiny plants in the ground. At some point the hemp plants will decide if they want to be male or female. They have no gender when the seeds sprout unless they have been feminized. My cousins did invest in paying for enough femininized hemp to fill two rows.

I got in touch with Professor Heather Darby at the University of Vermont and she explained feminizing. “Young plants are sprayed with colloidal silver, and this triggers them to produce “male flowers” that only produce female pollen. Hence, if this crosses with the female flowers you should end up with female seeds,” she said in an email.

Professor Darby said she did not know of any Vermont production companies that treated hemp for anything other than CBD oil.

My cousins did know it is only the female buds that can make CBD oil which has medicinal uses.  All male buds have to be removed. If the male buds are allowed to open and spread their pollen, the male pollen will infect all the females and ruin them – no CBD oil.

This is a real learning experience for them – and many others in Vermont and other states.

Last week I was on my way through Buckland to Goshen and was stunned to see three big fields of hemp plants. I used to buy great corn from a farm on Route 112, and corn is still available. However, two fields on either side of the farmhouse, and a third field  surrounding the Wilder Homestead are filled with industrial hemp plants. This is a much more serious operation, than my cousins have. It is an indication of the increasing interest in hemp.

Hemp field in Buckland

Hemp field in Buckland

For myself, I am interested in hemp being grown for more reasons than CBD oil. It is the fibers of the plant that can be used in many ways, for textiles, paper, insulation, biodegradable plastics, and bio-fuel to name a few. Forbes Magazine said 25,000 products can be made from hemp.

Industrial hemp has an environmental benefit in that it can be grown in every state of our nation. In addition last December President Trump signed a Farm Bill that removes hemp from the Controlled Substances list, and redefines it as an agricultural product.

Cotton requires southern weather, more water, more fertilizer and pesticides per acre than hemp. Hemp requires much less water, grows very quickly and uses minimal soil nutrients. Hemp roots aerate the soil, leaving it rich for future crops. It can produce 1500 pounds of fiber per acre, whereas cotton will only produce 500 pounds per acre!

Since growing marijuana and industrial hemp has been illegal since 1937 there is a lag in how quickly production machines can be put in place. This is particularly true for hemp because people have forgotten its advantages, However change is coming.

Carl Lehrburg of PureHemp Technology in Fort Lupton, Colorado said “Most of the hemp plant is underutilized and wasted today in the U.S.” His company is developing traditional hemp stalk processing equipment that separates long and short fibers from the tough stem for processing into pulp, sugars and lignins, a process called “decorticating.” Processing hemp in the CCR (countercurrent reactor) results in the production of pulp as one product, and the extract liquor is further refined into lignin and sugar co-products. I like to think his company is only one among many.

Hemp fiber can be a little scratchy but it is often used with other fibers like cotton. Some companies like Patagonia are using hemp with other fibers like cotton and polyester.  Levi Strauss and Company, has a new line of Outerknown clothing made of what they call cottonized’ hemp, another combination of hemp and cotton.

Hemp has only been legal for a couple of years, but already there are 115 licensed growers and processors in Massachusetts. I can almost see the hemp clothes I want.

Between the Rows   September 14, 2019

Green Man Has Watched Over the Green World for Eons

The Green Man of myth

The Green Man

Many of us have seen an image of the Green Man, his face made of hawthorn leaves and acorns, symbols of fertility. Many of us have no idea of why such an image might exist. And yet this ancient symbol was found in cultures older than the Roman empire, expressions of birth and death. The carving of a Green Man in what is now Iraq may date from as early as 300 BCE (Before the Common Era).

There are many images of the Green Man, sometimes solemn, sometimes smiling, and sometimes grimacing and biting on a branch. Many of these images are to be found in early Christian churches, a reminder of the cycle of life.

The images and beliefs in the power of the Green Man indicate that the human race recognized its dependence on nature in those ancient times. Many of us in these modern days are still, or again, realizing the importance of caring for Nature.

Celt Grant grew up with legends of the Green Man from his Scottish father. Grant’s father grew up in the North Pacific forests of Canada and was devoted to his Scottish heritage. He even named his children to reflect that heritage. I met Celt, but his siblings are named Scott and Gael.

Celt Grant

Celt Grant

“My father had milking cows, but mainly he was a woodworker and kept his own woodshop.  We all became woodworkers,” Grant said, adding that he is also a woodworker, and spent many years working as a preservation contractor.

“I’ve known about the Green Man since I was a teenager.  He is the guardian of the forests and gardens. A benign force.  He is very well known in Britain and Europe,” Grant said. Today his retirement house in Bernardston has Green Man images on the walls, a reminder of his Scottish heritage.

But clearly small Green Man plaques were not enough. A spring windstorm last year took down a large maple tree in his front yard. “What was left of the tree dried out over the year. The bark peeled off. I looked around for someone who could carve a Green Man out of the part of the trunk that was left.

“I found a woman in Royalston, Sue O’Sullivan, otherwise known as Chainsaw Sue.  When she finished with her chain saw I painted the leaves and finished his face.”

I could not help admiring this congenial looking Green Man with his shining beard who watched over the hedges and flower beds at the edge of the green lawn.

Of course, many of us may be familiar with the experience of making a wonderful change in our gardens and then realizing that now it needs something more. “I began to rethink this whole front garden.  I’m thinking about building a very low stone wall around the Green Man and planting a ground cover – maybe Waldsteinia,” he said.

After admiring the Green Man from every angle Grant showed me the way to the gardens behind the house.  I was startled to realize that the house sat on top of a high hill with a steep drop to the lawns and gardens below. A graceful stone stairway led past the terraced plantings to the right and a dense planting of vinca to the left. From the stairway I could see a handsome shed, and a lush fenced vegetable garden.

View of the Folly, vegetable garden and shed from the deck

Grant said when he bought his house six years ago the back yard was full of farm junk and a dead elm tree. I could hardly take in the transformation.

Grant showed me the brick seating area that he calls his Folly. He seemed amused as I tried to figure out the use of the device set on a pedestal. “It is an Aeolian harp, a wind harp” he said with a smile. Then he confessed that it took more wind than was produced in that spot to really make much music. The harp, the pedestal, and the circular white seating were all picked up at the Brimfield Antique Flea Market – and other places. He told me the spring and fall Brimfield Markets were enjoyable, but I should never go to the summer Brimfield Market. Too Hot!

Terraces and Trellises

Looking up the hill at Terraces and Trellises

The Aeolian harp might have been a disappointment, but not the view of the back of the house. A long deck was high above the three terraces. It provided the necessary anchor for five trellises from the deck to the highest terrace. Grant explained that he was working to discover the best plants for those trellises. The clematis was doing very well but the others less so. Shade is the problem, but also an opportunity. At least that is the way I try to face a problem in the garden.

Grant and I share an appreciation for Martin’s Compost Farm soil. The soil there is stony and not very fertile. He needed good soil for his vegetable garden, and to create the terraces. My problem was flooding, but we are both grateful for Martin’s Compost Farm.

When it was time to leave I spent a few silent minutes communing with the Green Man. I thought of the cycles of a garden year, and the cycles of life. I also thought about the cycles of nature. I thought we should not take the benign powers of the Green Man for granted.

Between the Rows   August 3, 2019

Review and View from the Office on July 29, 2019 Renew in Process

view from the office

January 25, 2019 View from the office

I have not been keeping up with my monthly view from “the office.” My plan was to keep track of the weather, and the growth and changes in the garden. When we bought out house the view was very much like this, so we knew there was a lot of wet in the backyard. We are still learning how very wet and flooding it can be.

March 1, 2019 view from the office

We did not welcome snow in March.

April 13, 2019 Snow is gone,

We were glad to watch the flooding drying out, but it is still wet. By the end of the month we were able to get more compo-soil, 4 yards, and begin  building up the raised beds. It was clear they needed to be higher.

June 6, 2019 Spring looks wonderful

The new elevations of the planting beds  are not  to clear, but we did raise them There are not too many flowers, but we are very happy to welcome spring.

July 14, 2019 stop gap plantings

The center bed and northern bed needed to be redone because the fall, winter and spring downed many plants including my beautiful weeping cherry and pagoda dogwood. I am thinking of making a least the center bed into a cutting garden with some annuals. I’ll get started early next year.

July 29, 2019 July is ending

It amazes me how much things can change in just a couple of weeks. We have had to do some watering, and  hope for more rain and a less blistering August.

 

Beverly Duncan and Her Books

Beverly Duncan Botanical artist

Beverly Duncan, Botanical artist in her studio

“Ever since I officially retired from Mohawk Regional High School, I’ve just exploded with new ideas,” Beverly Duncan said as she gave me a tour of her studio in Ashfield. One wall  is covered with framed botanical paintings that she had done in the past. Other paintings-in-progress were pinned to a bulletin board; other smaller paintings of flower blossoms were pinned to a different bulletin board. Surrounded by these works, finished and unfinished, she told me about recent events, and unfinished plans.

Since her arrival in western Massachusetts many years ago, she has focused on drawing plants. First intrigued by wild edibles she soon enlarged her focus to drawing and painting the flowers around her. She hardly had to go beyond her own gardens and the nearby woodlands. The attention she pays to what is sprouting, blooming, ripening, and going into dormancy, as well as the insects that arrive over the seasons, is transformed into delicate paintings. “As I observe, sketch and paint, I am always learning more about the interconnectedness of the natural world,” she said.

Her love of flowers and greenery are put to a different use during the summers. For some years she has worked with Gloria Pacosa, a dear friend and neighbor, who operates Gloriosa & Co, an event venue. Pacosa has large gardens to supply the flowers and plants for the weddings, bat and bar mitzvahs and all the other celebratory events that mark our lives. That means working in the gardens and gathering an abundance of flowers and greens to make unique bouquets for each occasion. She has the pleasure of adding to the joy of the celebratory occasions of our lives.

Early last spring Duncan and Pacosa decided to treat themselves to a trip to Belgium. They attended a workshop run by a commune-owned chateau. “Every day for a week we made bouquets with flowers that showed off the new trends in design, and in flower color, which were in the dark range. Some of arrangements were very stylized, not looking like bridal bouquets or lush arrangements at all. We also got to work with silk ribbons that were dyed, and sometimes shredded. Everything was photographed at the end of the day.

“We also had time to travel around and explore, including a wonderful walk through the forest among the bluebells. It was inspiring. Luxurious learning.”

Refreshed and inspired Duncan returned home to continue her projects with new energy.

Flower a day project

Beverly Duncan – A tiny sample of the Flower-a-Day project

“I love working in small places,” Duncan told me. She brought out two tiny boxes of her paint-a-flower-every-day project. Each box was filled with 2×2 inch flower or foliage paintings, labeled on the reverse side.  Another box held tiny accordion books, each devoted to a single flower.

Grape Hyacinth book

Accordion book devoted to the Grape Hyacinth

Then Duncan showed me the SEEDS project. These 5×5 inch books are each devoted to a single tree or shrub. She created a standard progression of the development of a plant and seed on the vertical pages. “I tell the story of my relationship with the tree. Then I paint the details of the tree from early spring budding. Everything is dated so the time of the progression is clear. Another page will show the summer leaf. That is the way most of us identify a tree, by its leaf. On other pages I show the fruit development, and change in color of the leaf. The winter page painting shows identifying characteristics of the branch and bud.”

SEEDS project

SEEDS project

We looked through the SEEDS book about Staghorn Sumac. Duncan paints the parts of the plant in clear detail. She also names the part of the sumac. I might call the slightly fuzzy red things on the end of an autumnal sumac branch a ‘flower,’ Duncan properly calls them the mature seeds, or fruits, of the sumac, which are called “bobs.”  She goes further to explain that ‘bobs’ are actually clusters of drupes. Then she explains, with another little image on the page, that a drupe is a closed fruit with exocarp and mesocarp and endocarp layers that enclose the ovary.

I had a little trouble understanding the anatomy of a sumac drupe. However, her drawing made me look up some additional information. I learned that apricots, cherries, and other stone fruits are drupes because they have a fleshy covering around the pit that can be opened to reveal the actual seed. Some nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios are drupes, while other nuts like acorns and chestnuts are in the family of ‘true’ nuts.

Staghorn Sumac SEEDS book

Staghorn Sumac SEEDS book

The goal is to reproduce these books, and have boxed sets holding five or six little books that can be sold. I am looking forward to that day.

The SEEDS project is very different from her earlier works, in the size of the paintings. These little books also allow her to express her reactions and feelings about plants. Her intent is very different from her approach to larger botanical works like the New England Winter Branches paintings which won an award 2014 Royal Horticultural Exhibit in London, or the Impressions of Woody Plants Exhibit at the Arnold Arboretum last summer.

Duncan has an agent in New York City who sells her paintings there, but she does occasionally hold Open Studio Days when her paintings are available for public view and sale. She also teaches botanical painting as the Hill Institute in Florence, Massachusetts.

Between the Rows   March 2, 2019

Fragrant Flowers for the Garden

Lilac tree blossoms

Lilac TREE blossoms in Spring, exceedingly fragrant

My new low maintenance, pollinator garden is full of fragrant flowers that bloom over the course of the season. I confess I did not choose these flowers on purpose. However I am really happy that so many fragrant plants have additional benefits. My fragrant flowers require little care and welcome pollinators.

Some fragrances, like lilac, take me back to my early childhood on a Vermont farm. When we moved to Heath in 1979 there were already old fragrant lilacs in place, but I added the gorgeous fragrant Beauty of Moscow lilac with it double white flowers touched with pink. I also added the deep purple lilac, Yankee Doodle, so I could have some range of color. Lilacs are not only beautiful and fragrant, they are dependable. Think of all those lilacs still growing on abandoned farmsteads.

Beauty of Moscow double lilac

Beauty of Moscow, double pink to white lilacs

All my shrub lilacs are Syringa vulgaris. There are a number of other species including the small Miss Kim, S. pubescens subsp. patula, as well as the Chinese lilac, S. chinensis, with pinky-purple blossoms and the small Boomerang lilac, S. x ‘Penda’ which blooms twice a year.

When we bought our Greenfield house, we found a very different and unexpected lilac. We have a lilac tree. It is a syringa tree, not an overgrown lilac bush. The tree is covered with large lacy white flowers and a fragrance that surprises and mystifies the people who walk by in June. People tend not to look up at the trees when the air is perfumed. The fragrant air remains a mystery to many. Still, I have noticed that there are other lilac trees in the area, and an apartment building near us has planted several lilac trees on the grounds.  The fragrance is not exactly like the lilac bush, but it is wonderful.

In the shade of our lilac tree we also got a Pieris japonica, sometimes called Lily of the Valley shrub. It is evergreen and produces cascades of small white flowers in May. It is not very fussy. I prune away the spent blossoms and any straggly branches in the late spring. That is the limit of my care. In our yard I do not need to worry about having sufficiently acid soil.

Pieris japonica

Fragrant Pieris japonica

In a slightly sunnier part of our front yard I planted Deutzia, a small shrub that I’m hoping will not grow more than two feet tall, but will give me the promised four foot spread. In the spring there are sprays of tiny white fragrant flowers which last two or three weeks.

Last fall I planted a daffodil border in front of the low growing evergreens. I was late in my planning so I didn’t have many choices of daffodil. For those who think ahead there are some especially fragrant daffodils. Narcissus “Actaea” is a white daff with a golden cup trimmed with red. This is a simple old variety that I love and always have in my garden. Narcissus “Carlton” is a big golden daff with a large fringed cup and great fragrance. It is also a good spreader, if you want to have more and more gold. Narcissus “Replete” is a glamorous and fragrant double daff with pinky-coral ruffles in the center and double white petals behind.

In my sunny South Border, I did specifically plant Korean spice viburnam. Anyone who has spent any time at Greenfield Community College in late spring will be familiar with the fragrance that perfumes the air at that season. The point is made that if you can plant several of a fragrant plant, you will not have to stick your nose in the blossoms to revel in its perfume.

Calycanths, Carolina summersweet

Calycanthus, Carolina summersweet

In the backyard garden I have planted Clethra, also known as summersweet and Calycanthus, called Carolina allspice.  Clethra is probably more familiar with its upright, white or pink panicles of fragrant white flowers. In my garden it is very happy to get some shade and a moist, heavy soil. Calycanthus has very unusual deep wine red, or even brown blossoms, that last from April to June. When the flowers finish they are replaced with brownish seed capsules that will last all winter.

There are fragrant annuals like heliotrope and flowering tobacco. I am planning to try planting stocks, Matthiola Incana, in my garden this summer. Stocks are about two and a half feet tall and bloom in a large range of color from white to yellow and shades of pink and red. Their scented flowers bloom in the evening. They are very tender and sensitive to frost. They can be seeded when frost is no longer a danger, or started indoors to be transplanted outdoors when it is reliably warm.

I am not very good with houseplants, especially in the summer when I prefer my flowers outside. However, I’d love to have a blooming gardenia in the house, or in a carefully chosen spot outdoors when the weather is fine. Scent is so evocative. I remember the days when I was about 15 and could take the train into New York City by myself to see a Broadway show. Back then you could buy a gardenia corsage on the street corner for fifty cents. Those fragrant gardenias on my shoulder were a great way to make me feel adult and sophisticated. Now, when I smell gardenias, I am carried back to my walk from Grand Central up to 42nd Street, finding my theater for Teahouse of the August Moon or Auntie Mame. I can still feel sophisticated and ready for a show.

 

Between the Rows  February 23, 2019

 

How to Create Winter Interest in the Garden

Red winterberries

Red native winterberries, Ilex verticillata, are the colorful stars in my winter garden

If we do not think winter gardens are very interesting, we need to change our view. We can choose trees and shrubs that will create winter interest. We can add color and texture and create an engaging view from our window.

When we planned our new Greenfield garden, I was thinking about low maintenance, plants for pollinators, and tolerance for spring floods. It was by pure luck that I now see some of those plants double their appeal by providing winter interest through color and texture. To begin, I have three dogwood shrub cultivars. These shrubs are very tolerant of the cold and of periods of flooding. They are sometimes suggested for rain gardens.

I think my osier dogwood may be Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’ because it matches a catalog description. It is quite tall, about 8 feet, with twigs in surprising shades of orange, yellow and red. I also have the more familiar red twig dogwood. a deep wine red, but I have lost the name of this particular cultivar. Other cultivars like Arctic Fire and Siberica are brighter, clearer reds. I do know that my yellow twig dogwood is named Flaviramea and sings out its bright color in the winter sun.

Flaviramea has particularly pleased me, sited as it is in the middle of the garden where I can see it from my kitchen windows. The golden green glow in the sun is cheering. I do have to prune it to keep low branches from rooting in the soil and sending out new plants. In my wet garden this is a vigorous and happy plant. All the dogwoods have small flowers in the spring and white berries in late summer.

Equally happy in my wet garden are the winterberries. The winterberry, Ilex verticillata, is a native holly. I have two red winterberry shrubs, and one with golden berries. These are not only bright and pretty, birds like the berries. It is important to remember that winterberries are dioecious. This means the male and female flowers are on separate plants. To get berries I need to have female and male plants. The male plant is virile, pollinating up to ten nearby female plants, but it is smaller and less showy.

English holly

A female English holly, Ilex aquifolium, thrives in front of our house

I also have two healthy English hollies, Ilex aquifolium, in front of the house, a male and a larger female loaded with berries. They came with the house so I don’t know their cultivar names, but some of these English holly hybrids come with names like Blue Princess and Blue Prince. I enjoy pruning the berry laden branches for Christmas decorations in the house.

Hawthorn Berries

“Berry” loaded hawthorn brance on one of the six hawthorns in the Energy Park

If I had room I would love to have a hawthorn tree, Crateagus, which will grow to about 25 to 35 feet with an equal spread.  Crateagus viridis is a native hawthorn with showy white flowers in the spring and red fruits called pomes in the fall and winter. Unlike many other hawthorns, C. viridis Winter King does not have large sharp spines, making them easier to prune and care for. This tree will attract butterflies in the spring and summer, and birds in the fall and winter. I think birds are an important element of winter interest. You can see six berried hawthorns at the Energy Park.

Flowering crabapples are a delightful sight in the spring and there are dozens of cultivars. Sugar Tyme is a good size for a small garden, reaching a height of about 18 feet with a 15 foot spread. It is highly disease resistant and has pale pink buds that open to white flowers. Its benefit to the winter garden is that it holds its little red crabapples well through the winter. Other small crabapples include Donald Wyman and Callaway which both have white spring blossoms. Adams has double pink blossoms. All have been praised for their hardiness and disease resistance, by horticulturists like Michael Dirr. They  are decorative, and provide food for wintering birds. I must point out that crabapples are not as amenable to flooding as the winterberries and river birches.

Tree bark, as well as berries can provide winter interest. We have planted two clumps of river birch, Betula nigra, which will grow to about 40 feet tall. They are known to thrive in wet, heavy clay soils, and don’t mind flooding which makes them perfect rain garden plants. There are flowers and catkins in the spring, but we planted them because of their beautiful exfoliating bark.  It is the texture and pale color of the bark that appeals to me.

Another tree noted for its exfoliating bark is the paperbark maple, Acer griseum. The foliage gives good red fall color in the northeast but it is the color and shagginess of its reddish-brown exfoliating bark that is stunning in the snowy landscape. The bark ranges in color from a rich coppery shade to darker cinnamon that peels away in large curls that remain on the tree. I saw a number of these trees planted in the beautiful Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Museum in Boston. They are small upright trees that will reach a height of 20 to 30 feet.

The sun is shining today, and the air is mild but snow will come and I will find loveliness in my garden.

Between the Rows  January 5, 2019