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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – August 15, 2020

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and Thomas Affleck

It is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and although it has been a very hot and dry summer Thomas Affleck is never bothered very much. He is into his second bloom season and doing very well. Some roses are sending out a few blossoms, but they  dry up rapidly.

Coral Drift rose

The Coral Drift  rose is making a midsummer comeback but Paprika is not.

Hydrangeas and more

Fire Light is one of my  three  hydrangeas which include Lime Light and Angel Blush. Fire Light and Lime Light do not  get their  colors until late in  the season, but they are beautiful and pollinator attracting as  soon as they bloom. You can also see that a red Knock Out and  (if you look really hard) a fading  Zaide rose, and a blooming honeysuckle vine in this spot.

Black Eyed Susans

It has not been a good year for the daylilies but the black-eyed Susans have not minded the head. Neither have the pink anemones, ‘Robutissima’ which have just started to bloom on the left.

Native Joe Pye weed and bee

This Joe Pye weed grows on one side of my garden. On  the other side of the garden is a Joe Pye weed with variegated foliage. Both of them attract bees and other insects.

Wave Petunias

Because our garden was on a Garden Tour this summer I bought a couple of trays of  white Wave petunias in the spring. I planted most of them in 6 pots, and put three petunia pots at each end of the hugel wall. Then  I had two little petunia plants left over and stuck them on the bank of the hugel. The potted petunias did really well. I watered them daily and occasionally gave them a liquid fertilizer. The other petunias grew slowly in the soil. But about a week ago the potted petunias really started to fail, while the petunias in the hugel bed are doing great. Does that show the value of good soil? Or does it mean I didn’t take good enough  care of my potted plants? Sigh.


Lobelia or Cardinal Flower

I love lobelia. I never grew lobelia before we moved to Greenfield. Now it is one of my favorite flowers. It does spread and I will have two or three to  give away  this fall. Needless to say, this is another pollinator plant.


Here are some of the Zinnias in my so-called Cutting Bed. There are some Cosmos as well. My garden is really buzzing at this time of the year.

Swamp Hibiscus

We added this Swamp Hibiscus moscheutos this spring. Even though it has been dryer than usual, it has thrived in a barely damp spot and produced several blossoms. It sits next to a tall elderberry bush – and will grow quite tall itself. Needless to say, it attracts pollinators, too.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for creating Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  All of us garden bloggers have been able to share our garden  across our great land, but in foreign countries as well.

Alphabet for Pollinators – H is for Hellebore


Hellebores in mid-April on the Bridge of Flowers

H is for Hellebores. This spring  the time came for me to add hellebores to my garden. I had  the perfect new space – a new wooden fence  that made  two new planting beds. One side provided  sunny space for new roses, and a shady side for epimediums and hellebores.

A friend’s hellebore on April 10,2020

A friend invited me to see her hellebores, of which this is  one. It is inspiring to think about adding hellebores to the new planting bed.

A friend’s Hellebores still blooming on June 2,  2020

Hellebores welcome the shade and are still blooming in June,

My new hellebores on June 2, 2020

Here  is my new shade garden bed with (L-R) epimediums, astilbe, my new hellebore, another astilbe, and a hint of another non-blooming hellebore. There are two more hellebores to the left. Of course, you will also be noticing lots of violets by the fence  too. This bed still needs lots of organizing, but it will look very fine next spring. I think.

Hellebores are not fussy. They do like soil that is enriched with organic compost, The soil should be neutral; it does not like acidity. Water when there is a dry spell.

I am pay attention to advice about pruning from  “The best time for pruning a hellebore plant is late winter or early spring, just as soon as the new growth begins to appear. This new growth should come straight up out of the ground as little stalks. These stalks should still be surrounded by a ring of last year’s big leaves. The old leaves may very well be damaged from the winter’s cold and looking a little rough around the edges. As soon as the new growth appears, these old leaves can be cut away, slicing them right at the base. If your old foliage is undamaged and still looks good, it’s not necessary to prune them right away, but once the new grow starts to leaf out, you’ll want to make way for them by removing the old growth. If you leave the old growth for too long, it’ll become entangled with the new growth and much harder to trim away.”

Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour Continues

This Madonna was waiting for Amy and David Moscaritolo when they moved into this property 6 years ago.

Amy Moscaritolo

Amy Moscaritolo

Amy Moscaritolo

It impossible to show you all the garden tour gardens at once, so we continue today with three very different gardens.

My husband and I visited Amy and David Moscaritolo’s garden after the official tour day. We turned off the road and onto an iron bridge to cross over a small river that used to be used for ice production.

Amy greeted us and we chatted in the shade admiring the graceful expanse of lawn with a giant chestnut tree in the center providing blissful shade. The tree was surrounded by a bed of hostas and other plants.  Amy is a lover of hostas!

Amy and David moved into this house six years ago. The house already had good bones, Amy said. Previous owners had provided the great chestnut trees, the ginkgos, and plantings around a Madonna which had been left by a previous owner.


Crocosmia known for its flaming flowers and welcoming pollinators

Garden beds of all kinds encircle the house. We walked towards the side of the house to see many pollinator plants that would make nectar for the bee hives higher on the hill. One of the stunning pollinator plants was the flaming red crocosmia which attracts hummingbirds and butterflies as well as bees.

the plant name was found

We walked around the front of the house with  flower beds holding such delicate plants as Houttuynia cordata, also known by pretty names like rainbow plant, and less lovely names as fish wort and fish leaf. Hard to imagine how such a delicate plant can have such unpleasant names. (I have since been told that this lovely flowers is aggressive and invasive.)

One of the shrubs Amy is most pleased with is the delicate blue lacecap hydrangeas, but I found it difficult to pick any single flower to be a favorite.

Lacecap hydrangea

Lacecap hydrangea

It was a joy to hear the stories about plants – gifts given and received from friends and relatives over the years. Though the garden is relatively new to the Moscaritolos, it already has a loving history.

Polly Hillman

Polly Hillman

Polly and Doug Hillman’s gardens begin when you get out of the car. The front of the house is embellished with brilliant potted flowers, a cheerful welcome. The Hillmans took us around the house to a bed surrounding their fenced swimming pool devoted to daylilies and pollinator plants. I was amazed by the lush white, and purple liatris plants. Mine are quite sad right now. Polly suggested that they need more sun than I was giving them.

Other brilliant pollinator plants including coneflowers, black-eyed susans, and phlox wound around the fence attracting butterflies and bees of every sort.

Beyond those gardens was a large bed filled with daylilies in every shade from tender pastel to rich brilliant shades of gold and red. These are Polly’s love. The daylilies were acquired here and there. Her neighbor had a 150 foot long bed of daylilies. She said when she walked by, she would deadhead the blossoms. Her neighbor then made sure some of his daylilies wandered into her gardens. Some came from nurseries like the Ollalie Daylily farm in Vermont.

These daylilies are just a hint of the daylily bed

Beautiful catalpa trees with more daylilies, phlox and hostas

Then we strolled to another large bed in the shade of majestic catalpa trees. We must never dismiss the value of trees in our gardens. There were more daylilies and phlox, as well as an array of hostas.

Annette Kilminster

Annette Kilminster in her shade garden

The last garden on the tour belonged to Annette Kilminster. The lofty old trees in her neighborhood were impressive. Some of those trees helped to make shade for Annette’s back garden, serene and quiet. Annette has also planted trees choosing  redbuds, a weeping willow and a crabapple. The garden itself is a graceful ribbon of perennials and shrubs around the perimeters. “There are no square corners,” she said.

Annette said her most essential perennials were the hostas. “The garden is too shady for colorful plants. Since I cannot paint with color, I have to paint with shades of green and gold. Light and dark.”

Annette’s garden shines in shades of green and gold in her shade

Beside the hostas she has planted an array of shade loving heucheras, coral bells. The foliage in these plants ranges in a variety of shades from almost black to red and rosy to brilliant lime.

Shrubs can also provide color. “I look for shrubs that are shades of yellow,” she said as we admired a lovely golden spirea.

Riotous color on the deck

While the garden relies on subtle shades of green and gold, Annette’s deck is in another class. Riotous color in pots.

Annette explained that the garden was years in the making. For 18 years she has been choosing cheerful shrubs and flowers for the front of her house and created serenity within the walls of her fence.

Annette has a delicious sense of humor – building this community around an oversize birdhouse built by her son.

I am happy to provide this tour for those who could not attend themselves. The Greenfield Garden Club was very happy to see such a good turnout. The Club’s purpose in holding its garden tours, and the Extravaganza plant sale in the spring, is to raise money for horticultural projects for local schools. In  the past the money raised has gone to pay for projects ranging from sheds, to tools for small hands and irrigation supplies.  We hope to see everyone at next year’s events, when we hope the world will be healthy again.###

Between the Rows  August 1, 2020


Lessons from the Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour

The Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour has come and gone. This was a wonderful event – even though we all had to be aware of Covid 19. We all wore our masks, including the very youngest set who had some fun on the curves of our strolling garden. Social distancing was quite well followed. There was a holiday feel about the day and I am grateful that the Greenfield Garden Club gave us this day of pleasure.

The wonderful thing about gardens is that every single one is different. The tour gave us 10 gardens, each unique, each offering something to learn.

Dotty Janke’s Garden

Dotty Janke

Dotty Janke

Dotty Janke bought her Greenfield house in 2002. She knew she wanted a beautiful garden, but wasn’t sure how to go about gardening in a 5B climate zone. She began her education by attending workshops and lectures. She read books. Hardy Trees and Shrubs by Michael Dirr, Wildflowers by William Cullina and The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DeSabato-Aust are books that cover a lot of ground for all gardeners, novice or experienced.

She had the invasive Norway maples removed and replaced them with beautiful river birch, stewartia,  amelanchier (serviceberry) and other trees and shrubs. One side of her house is a long bank designed as a shade garden with azaleas, low bush blueberry, mayapple and ground covers like lady’s mantle with its bright green foliage and flowers.

I walked along the paths through the garden with Janke, past the burbling solar fountain til we got to a special bed that included vegetables, kale and tomatoes, with pollinator flowers. This is a reminder that we should never limit ourselves to standard arrangements. Even a small garden can include edibles as well as well as ornamentals.

Flowers and veggies in one bed – a great combo.

A gardener welcomes a rest in the shade

Mary Chicoine and Glen Ayers Garden

I have visited the Mary Chicoine-Glen Ayers garden before, but like all gardens it is ever changing. At the entry of the garden is a riot of blooming pollinator plants, coneflower, native bee balm, Culver’s root and more flowers than I can possibly name. Then we come to the serious vegetable beds. I have never seen such a beautifully organized vegetable garden. Some tomatoes climbed up twine, some lived in a plastic tunnel. Some vegetables grew in neat rows out in the sun.

Vegetables outdoors and in the hoop house

In addition there are strawberry beds, and blueberry bushes inside a wire tunnel. I thought that was a genius idea. I fought with nets for years in my blueberry patch up in Heath.

Some vegetables grow in rows outside

I asked Chicoine what they did with all those vegetables. Did they eat them all themselves, or did they give them away?  She said, “We preserve a lot of food for the winter months – canning, freezing, drying and dehydrating. We make pasta sauces, salsas, pestos, ratatouille, pickles of all sorts, jams and jellies, and dehydrate or freeze tomatoes, peppers, beans, berries, greens, etc. And we still have a lot to share as well.”

A pond in the shade for tranquility

What an inspiration! And yet, as industrious as they are, there two small ponds, and places to sit and relax in the sun. And in the shade.

Ilene Stahl’s Garden

Entry through kiwi-draped cedar lattice arbors

Ilene Stahl’s garden had surprises, too. Lilacs, azaleas and shade loving perennials bedeck and welcome visitors in front of the house. To the side of the house are beautiful kiwi draped cedar lattice arbors that mark the entrances to the main garden. Just inside one entry is a large and graceful Japanese threadleaf maple that almost fills one garden bed. Opposite that beautiful maple, and next to the door of the house, is a bed that includes herbs, flowers and vegetables Some plants are put in the cobalt blue ceramic pots that Stahl loves. This is a handy spot for the cook, who likes flowers on her dining table.

Ilene Stahl by her beautiful shady fountain



Shrubs in shades of green and gold hug the sunroom. Then a path took me further into the shade and a beautiful bubbling pond. The pond was built with the help of David Sund. I liked the cobalt blue ceramic stool (not shown) where one could sit and enjoy the gentle splash of the little waterfall. Stahl and I chatted and laughed in the shade to the music of the waterfall.

Flowers, herbs and vegetables by the back door

Peggy Pucina and Clara Lopez

Peggy Pucino and Clara Lopez have an amazing garden filled with a riotous mixture of flowers, vegetables and fruits. I was particularly enchanted by some really old fashioned pink hollyhocks. Some vegetables grow in circles, while others are set in straight lines. There are so many ways to organize a garden for ease of harvesting, or just for fun.

A merry-go-round vegetable bed

One large section of the garden includes perennial edibles like asparagus and berries. Nobody in this house is going to go hungry.

Peggy Puchino and Clara Lopez


This year’s Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour was possibly the most well attended ever. On one hand everyone knows we have to stay away from crowds. On the other hand we all want to see a little more of the world than our back yards. We want to see different scenery, and maybe even different people. We want to see new colors and shapes. We want to have fun!

Next week I’ll give you a trip through three more of the tour gardens.

Between the Rows   July 25, 2020

“Read Until Your Heart Stops” – Book Reviews

Vegetable Gardeners Handbook

Vegetable Gardeners Handbook

Over the weekend I visited some fabulous gardens, and you will be hearing more about them soon. What surprised me about many of these gardens was the amount of vegetable gardening going on in our town. I saw small vegetable gardens, big vegetable gardens, pretty vegetable gardens, and vegetable gardens in hoop houses. Wow!

I also have a very small vegetable garden this year, only 10 x 8 feet. This garden was prompted by the pandemic which has given me time on my hands. I am familiar with vegetable gardens after life in Heath, but after six years being away from vegetable gardens I have forgotten some of the important tasks.

After having harvested some mesclun, bok choi, and bibb lettuce I am now at a loss of what to do with those empty spaces and lots of summer and vegetable season left.

Fortunately I now have the Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook (Yankee Publishing $14.95) to help me through the rest of the growing season. There is information for new gardeners, and information about different kinds of growing spaces from beds on top of the ground, strawbale gardens, no-till beds, and many kinds of container gardens. There are also pages designed to help you keep records of your seed starting, plant companions, herbs planted, disease and pest records, fertilizing records, seed saving records and more. An important section on Growing Concerns give us tips on fighting diseases and pests as well as crop rotation and indoor gardening. Those Old Farmers haven’t forgotten anything.

The rest of the book is devoted to information about growing 30 vegetables from asparagus to turnips. I’m paying particular attention to the When to Plant pages. I have harvested lettuces, bok choi and peas. With bare spaces in my tiny garden I am now calculating when I can begin a second planting. I see possibilities of harvesting carrots which can stand the first frosts, beets and beet greens, and Swiss chard, as well as my potted tomatoes.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook is an excellent and useful book for a new gardener, and for a gardener like myself who needs to brush up.

Farmer's Almanac for Kids

Farmer’s Almanac for Kids

I have also been reading the Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids ($9.95) which will give lots of pleasure to kids and adults. The book begins with interesting facts about each month of the year. Did you know that January 19 is National Popcorn  Day or that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on  the moon July 20, 1969 and left only two and a half hours later after exploring, or that August 4 is Coast Guard Day?

This Almanac has great information about the planet Uranus, what it would be like if you could go right through the center of the earth to China, and everything you want to know about the bald eagle. I never knew that bald eagles have about 7000 feathers, and love to catch fish and eat them.

Of course, there are things for kids to do in this book. There are recipes for refrigerator pickles, yogurt, butter, ricotta cheese, and, in the winter, snow ice cream. There are games, goats, chickens, wild animals, and weather mysteries. There are also stories about inspiring kids!

As a former librarian, and a sometimes reader to first graders, I want to add that bright and engaging books like this benefit children by keeping them reading. With the world in turmoil we don’t even know if our children will be in school this fall. Maybe they will be in television-school where all their lessons will come through the TV/computer. School this September will very likely not be anything like school last September, but nobody knows yet what it will be like. Providing encouragement to children to read, and to learn about our amazing world is a great gift.

While I was the Buckland Library librarian I read to children at the Buckland recreation summer day camp every Friday at noon while the children had their lunch. Children from 5 to 12 attended so it was tricky choosing engaging books for all, but I found that picture books about male and female sports heroes, folk tales, facts about creatures of the deep, and insects interested just about everyone.

Reading to the campers was a great joy. I decided we needed a ritual to end the time we had together and I made up a closing motto – whatever you do keep reading! I made the kids shout it out. That motto was transformed when I was reading to a Buckland- Shelburne school classroom. I was preparing to leave after reading a Chinese Monkey King story when one of the third graders looked hurt that I hadn’t asked them to give the motto. Of course I asked her to give it to us. She then got worried but slowly said “ Read . . . until. . . your heart stops.” The teacher and I laughed, but the motto was transformed . Cynthia Fisher’s beautiful mosaic at the Buckland Library clearly states Read Until Your Heart Stops!

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed all our lives. Happily we can obey all the rules, and turn to our gardens and our books for pleasure and learning.###

Between the Rows  July 18, 2020

History of Our Semi-Natural Garden

Stroll garden path

My husband Henry on a stroll path preparing for garden tour

The Greenfield Garden Club is holding its Garden Tour today July 12 – and my garden is one of the ten that will be showing off all kinds of flowers, shrubbery, and trees.  I am very excited, and I have been thinking about whether a garden is a natural thing. Or is it a construction?

Our small garden is celebrating its fifth birthday. This was a very new experience for us. In Heath we had acres and acres. In 1980 I was passionate about vegetables. We plowed up a too-big vegetable garden and thus began our adventure of joyfully making mistakes. We planted here, we planted there. We planted everywhere we had a plant and an empty spot. We looked beyond our garden, such as it was, to the wild fields that circled us. This was no longer a natural space, but neither was it skillfully contrived.

In May of 2015 this is where the garden began. We have not yet learned the full extent of flooding

Our backyard in Greenfield, was not large, about 66 by 80 feet. The minute we signed the documents that made the house ours, we started planning what we wanted to do with that blank space. First we took into account the limits of the space, and my age. I was 75 and no longer gung ho about spending hours and hours trying to make a welcoming and beautiful space. My husband made his demand that he would never mow another lawn.

I was beyond putting plants here and there, but unsure of how to make a plan. Happily I had recently been on a Garden Bloggers Tour and met Julie Moir Messervy, a skilled and wonderful garden designer whose business was just starting to have an on-line arm. She asked me if I would like her to use my garden as an example. Yes! I said. I gave her lots of information about the site and our desires, and limitations. She gave us The Plan.

We took the plan out in the backyard and looked around. We looked at the plan. We looked at the expanse of grass. We gasped.

We laughed. We went back in the house and had tea and cookies. This was going to take work, even with a professional plan. To let our neighbors know we were friendly gardeners we created a flowery hell-strip for  the pollinators.

In 2016 we were understanding the breadth of flooding

We could never complete our plan in one season, but we began by planting three panicle hydrangeas, a lilac and seven roses, and plants we brought from Heath. The South Shrub Border was begun.  We also planted a River birch. Shade was needed.

By the end of 2016 we could see the beginnings of the essential beds that would give us our Stroll Garden.

By the end of 2016 we also knew a lot about the drawbacks of our garden. It was very wet. The soil was dense. A neighbor told us our yard, and others on our side of the street, were at the edge of the Pray Brickworks. That explained why a shovelful of our soil looked like wet cement. We have been helping keep Martin’s Compost Farm in business ever since we got our first load of compo-soil in 2015.

Hugel logs are in place

One year after beginning beds are planted, and the hugel logs are in place

We were using Julie Moir Messervy’s plan to a great degree. However, because we were not knowledgeable about the site ourselves we never told her about the quality of the soil and the regular floods. We met those challenges by making raised beds. We also begged all our Heath friends for old logs. We decided a hugel would help manage the water.

Hugel is a permaculture term. First we had a low stone wall built. We took all those collected logs and put them at the wet back of the yard. Then we covered those logs with eight yards of Martin’s soil. Those logs do soak up the water in that wet space. We then planted ground covers and small shrubs on our hugel.

stroll garden in June 2019

June 2019 and the stroll garden is nearly done.

The grass in front of the hugel was not handsome. It looked forgotten. Our friend Walt Cudnohufsky suggested a pea stone ‘patio.’ With a garden table and umbrella we now feel very cosmopolitan.

In May 2020 we can see the peastone patio, table and umbrella.  Time to plant annuals.

Spring would not be spring if new plants weren’t added. This year we added five new roses, Lady of Shallot, Gruss an Aachen, Quietness, Carefree Beauty. I have already mislaid  the name  of the fifth rose. No matter. We now have a mini-rose walk.

The raised beds got larger and larger, planted with shrubs and perennials that would attract pollinators and birds. In some sense we can now say the garden is finished. Of course, a garden is never finished. There is a saying about garden plants, the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. We are in the leaping stage. Riotous growth! Pruning! Some plants need to be divided and moved. Some plants need to be removed.

Our garden is not natural. But like any natural landscape it changes from year to year because of wind, weather and plant growth or decline. Because we love Mother Nature we have included many native plants, the kind of plants that will support the butterflies, bees and other insects, and birds that are a part of the natural world.

We are looking forward to sharing our garden on the Greenfield Garden Club Tour today. Masks and social distancing are in order. Tickets, $10,  including the map are being sold at the John Zon Community Center from 9:30 to 1 p.m. Tour ends at 4 p.m.###

Between the Rows  July 11, 2020

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – July 15, 2020


Delphiniums  on Bloom Day

I don’t know how we got to July already this year, but here we are at Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on July 15, 2020. These two delphiniums are the last standing plants, helped  a little bit by the wiggly stakes. If you are going to grow delphiniums you need stakes and pray for gentle rains, not torrents. That is  a  wonderful Lonicera, honeysuckle, behind the delphiniums.

Coreopsis, coneflowers and Blue Paradise phlox

Coreopsis, echinacea and Blue Paradise phlox

Here we are with three kinds of flower living happily with each other.

Aesclepius, physostogeia, and zinnias

Aesclepius, zinnias, and obedient plant

I’m always happy to see a neighborhood of friendly plants. Pretty soon the cardinal flowers will be joining them.

Pink daylilies

Pink daylilies

I have lots of daylilies in bloom and I will not show all of them. I like having all the different colors and forms as well as the fact that some of them are bloom into the fall.

Orange daylily

Orange daylily – don’t ask me about names for any of the daylilies.

frilly daylily

Another frilly daylily



The raspberries aren’t bloomers, but I am  so happy with my raspberry patch. I have picked almost a quart every day for the past five days. Delicious!  I wish I knew the names of the varieties. Long forgotten. Thank you Nourse berry farm.

And thank you Carol over at May Dreams Gardens. With Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day you have  given us all the gift of visiting beautiful gardens  across the country every month.



Cecropia Moth – Largest Native Moth in North America

female Cecropia moth

Female Cecropia moth

The Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour has been postponed to Sunday, July 12, 2020 due to the weather. Tickets and maps for the tour, $10, are available Sunday morning from 8:30am  to 1 pm at the John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street. Ten beautiful gardens will be on display. Hope to see you  there  with  your masks. Social distancing required.

The importance of pollinators in our own gardens, and in public gardens like those at the Energy Park and the John Zon Community Center cannot be over estimated. Pollinators are vital to a healthy environment. However, I am now learning about a beautiful moth, Hyalophora cecropia, that is not a pollinator.

The Cecropia moth is the largest native moth in North America. It is a member of the giant silk moth Saturniidae family. They get their name from the silkiness of their cocoons. Like many creatures they are endangered; it is important that we all become aware of the importance of protecting native creatures, and plants.

Cecropia eggs

This year’s Cecropia eggs

I was introduced to these beautiful moths by my friend Susan. She has an expert, Cecropia-loving friend who mailed her approximately 25 Cecropia eggs in late May of 2019. Most of those eggs hatched and the tiny caterpillars began the cycle of eating apple leaves from a tree in Susan’s yard and growing through five stages of development called instars.  I was fascinated when Susan told me Cecropia caterpillars are called ‘gregarious’. “Sometimes three to five caterpillars may feed closely on the underside of a leaf.  They seem to seek each other, to be close to each other,” she said.

Cecropia caterpillars

Cecropia caterpillars are sometimes ‘gregarious’

She invited me to visit with my husband this June. We started at the wood, screen and hardware cloth box that her son made. The box was built to keep the caterpillars safe from predators. We saw several branches with cocoons that were attached to the inside of the box. I was confused because I thought the cocoons were dried leaves because of their irregular shape and  color. They had been there all winter. The Cecropia moths were hatching, a few every day – first the males, mostly, and then the females. Male moths emerge in the morning and early afternoon and by dusk are ready to take flight. One cocoon had just hatched and we saw the new Cecropia moth pumping up its wings.

Cecropia caterpillars

Two Cecropia caterpillars at two stages, instars, of development

Susan explained that in the fall Cecropias go into the cocoon phase which is called diaphase. Inside the cocoon, which is constructed to hold on a thin branch or other support. A change occurs that morphs the caterpillar in a pupa. The cocoon, which has three layers, protects the future moth from the brutal temperature and weather (winds and ice) of winter!

One cocoon had just hatched and we saw the new Cecropia moth. I had never seen a Cecropia which has such beautiful and unusual coloring of white and gray and reddish brown.  I was surprised by how fuzzy it seemed.

One pair of Cecropia moths are mating while another female is waiting below. Look closely to see their body parts touching.

Then we went to her special hardware cloth mating cage and saw a female moth. Susan said the females are docile. “They will emerge from the cocoon, pump up their wings, and wait patiently for a male, sometimes for more than a day.” The female moth’s pheromones, emanating from a retractable protrusion at the end of her abdomen during the dark hours from dusk to dawn, attract a male who fertilizes her eggs. Males have large antennae that sense pheromones. Males usually arrive near dusk or before dawn. When they arrive they connect onto a female for up to 24 hours and then they will leave.”

This Cecropia moth died in its cocoon.

By mid-August, each caterpillar reaches a point where it finishes eating plant material and starts to construct a cocoon from which it will emerge as a moth the following  spring. The sole purpose of the adult stage is to mate and lay eggs. Adult moths cannot eat, so if a bird doesn’t scoop them up, they will die within two weeks.

Susan is very aware of her surroundings, the plants she tends and the creatures that visit her garden. She does not use chemicals of any kind. She mentioned that other caterpillars, such as black swallowtails, may be found on parsley and dill in the garden, but they do little damage and should not be killed. I understand her reminder. Swallowtail butterflies are so beautiful that I have always been willing to share my parsley and dill with their caterpillar form.

Since people are becoming more interested in pollinator plants and pollinator insects I think we will become more aware of the benefits and the beauty that that many insects bring to our gardens, and to our environment.


Cecropia moth, 3rd instar

Third instar – the caterpillar is shedding it’s skin and eating it.

Cecropia caterpillars

Cecropia caterpillars

Photo of the Cecropia moth with a clear view of its body

Between the Rows  July 4, 2020

Prepared for Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour Sunday, July 12

Folksinger Rose

Folksinger, a Dr. Griffith Buck rose

The Garden Tour has been postponed to Sunday, July 12. It is almost time for the Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour. My garden is one of ten that will be on display.  My garden has roses, just beginning to enjoy their second blooming.  I wish I could tell the Fairy rose buds from those that need to be deadheaded.

Red and yellow daylily

Currently nameless, this red and yellow daylily is ready for the tour

I love daylilies because they have such a long bloom season. I have daylilies with lots of different colors and forms.

Aesclepius tuberosa

Aesclelpius tuberosa – milkweed

Aescleipius tuberosa is just one of the plants that attract pollinators like bees and other insects.

Phlox is a quintessential garden flower. I love  this shade of blue.

The Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour will be held Sunday, July 12.  Tickets, $10. The ticket is a map with directions to the ten gardens that will be available at the John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street at 8:30 am until 1 pm. The tour will end at 4 pm. The tour is being held be held on Sunday. Masks and social distancing essential.

Writing Wild and Braiding Sweetgrass – Book Reviews

Writing Wild by Kathryn AAlto

Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World by Kathryn Aalto

WRITING WILD by Kathryn Aalto

Writing Wild is the thrilling and inviting title of Kathryn Aalto’s book about 25 Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World (Timber Press $24.95). She begins with Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of poet William Wordsworth, who succinctly described herself as a “mountaineer, diarist, poet.”

This first section sets up the design of the book. First there is a bit of unexpected (in many cases) biography focusing in some way on the natural world, then an additional list of women who have similar interests. Wordsworth called herself a mountaineer; other mountain lovers were British Dorothy Pilley (1894-1986), Helen Mort who is described as “a dazzling British poet” who has won many awards; and the more familiar Cheryl Strayed who wrote Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.                       

Other writers come at the natural world in different ways, some familiar and some not. Susan Fenimore Cooper beat Henry David Thoreau by four years in writing the first  book of American nature in 1850. That book, Rural Hours, has recently been incorporated in a book of her writing, Susan Fenimore Cooper: New Essays on “Rural Hours” and Other Works. Surprisingly, that book is published and for sale in England.

I am familiar with many of the women portrayed including Rachel Carson, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, Rebecca Solnit, and Andrea Wulf. I love Wulf’s engaging books, The Brother Gardeners, and The Founding Gardeners: the Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation. The founding gardeners are our first four presidents.

I was not familiar with Carolyn Merchant, ecofeminist philosopher and science historian. I was not familiar with Lauret Savoy who lives nearby and teaches at Mount Holyoke College. Her book is Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape.

I was not familiar with Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botananist and professor of plant ecology whose new book Braiding Sweetgrass was just published. But more about that later. I will be learning more about all these fascinating women.

Writing Wild is just full of tempting bits of poetry, of literary biographies, and travel essays. I suspect it will send many readers back to the bookshelves to read Elizabeth Rush’s book Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, or Helen MacDonald’s book H is for Hawk.

Just as these women have gone from insight to insight, to new understandings, we are going to be sent from writer to writer.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

In fact, I went from this book to Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed editions ($18. paper) by Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist and professor of plant ecology. She is the SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology. She is also the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

Like many of her indigenous people, Kimmerer did not grow up speaking the Potawatomi language, or learning all the stories of the plants that her people used in so many ways. Now she is able to share the stories with us, stories about the reciprocity between plants and people.

Her love of plants began when she was just a child. She filled shoeboxes of seeds and pressed leaves for identification. She was looking to identify plants and their habitats. She thought she was ready when she applied for the forestry department at college. There she learned that what she knew about plants, was not what the college wanted her to know. And so she studied the college way, earned a PhD and began to work at the college. But she came to learn more through her own curiosity, the stories of her people, and the ways that plants work with each other.

Kimmerer shares her stories with us, and gives whole new views of what plants give, and what the plants need from us.

I am entranced by the stories she tells us about why and how the Maples gave the people sap to turn to sugar, to keep them from starving in the early spring. I am as stunned to learn that sweetgrass survives better if it is harvested, while leaving half. If people think they need to leave whole patches without taking any harvest, that sweetgrass will fail. Gifts of nature are given in many ways, and we need to learn to understand what is required in turn, if we are going to make our world healthy.

Kimmerer explains some of the mysteries of plants, the gifts they give us and what we owe. She gives us scientific facts, but it is almost like reading poetry. The Allegiance to Gratitude chapter has given me a lot to think about as I work in my garden, and in my everyday life.

Every page of this book brings us to intriguing lessons of how the natural world works. We need those lessons as our planet is becoming warmer, as storms become more violent, as the air has become polluted, as water needs more protections.

Kimmerer is an amazing teacher who is much needed, and it is a joy to be her student.

Between the Rows   June 17, 2020