What is a garden for?
It depends on the garden, of course.Vegetable gardens are for feeding us. Herb gardens are for bringing us extra savor and health. Meditation gardens are to give us moments of serenity. Ornamental gardens are to give us pleasure. But all gardens can be shared — doubling their pleasure and utility, of whatever sort.
Sometimes sharing our gardens can also support a noble project. That is what will be happening in Heath and Charlemont on June 25 and 26 when the Franklin Land Trust holds its Annual Farm and Garden Tour.
The Franklin Land Trust is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help landowners and communities protect the farms, forests and other natural resources significant to the environmental quality, economy and rural character of our region. They do not own land, but work with farmers and residents to help them put their property into conservation or agricultural protection.
This year End of the Road Farm is being included on the tour, along with other beautiful, historic and productive properties in Heath and Charlemont. Fortunately for us the tour is being held on the last weekend in June which is when we would ordinarily hold our Annual Rose Viewing. This is the brief time of year our roses are in bloom and when our country garden is at its best.
We have been busy as can be weeding the flower and vegetable beds and mowing the lawns. I am a big supporter of less lawn, but unless you measure the amount of lawn against our 60 acres of field and woodland, we still have too much lawn to mow. We have been using various strategies to eliminate lawn beginning with planting groundcovers on unusable sections of lawn. We have also planted common thyme on the dryer, poorer sections of lawn where it thrives. A thyme lawn is a very British conceit that does not need frequent mowing. It’s very pretty when it’s blooming, but it doesn’t mind being mowed down whenever that is necessary or desired.
We are using daylilies on the steep bank in front of the house to eliminate mowing, but our newest project is the Rose Bank, adjacent to the Daylily Bank. The Rose Bank was begun in the spring of 2009 after a major rebuilding of our foundation. It is not totally covered with roses yet, but I have been amazed by the growth of “Pink Grootendorst,” “Therese Bugnet” and “Dart’s Dash”, three vigorous rugosas. Rugosas are tough disease-resistant roses with a variety of flower forms. The fragrant single blossoms of the familiar beach rose are just the beginning.
A delicate pink rose that was growing, but hidden in undergrowth, at the corner of the house when we arrived in 1979 continues to thrive, as do the double red Knockout roses, two old roses given to me by the Purington family at Woodslawn Farm in Colrain, “Hawkeye Belle,” a hardy pink Buck hybrid, and “Goldbusch” a spreading disease resistant yellow that promises repeat bloom.
Rugosas tend to spread, not always in predictable ways. When they spread it is possible to dig up some of the shoots as I have “Scabrosa” and “Linda Campbell” who also live on the Rose Bank now.
I’m honored to share my garden with visitors, and the Franklin Land Trust this year. It feels wonderful to be in the company of other skilled and enthusiastic gardeners. The witty Elsa Bakalar, our most famous gardener, is no longer with us, but the noted artist Scott Prior and his wife Nanny Vonnegut have maintained her gardens so that they remain lovely and welcoming. Prior will be at the garden on Sunday to take questions about gardens and art. His “Heath inspired” prints will be on sale with a portion of sales going to the FLT. The video Elsa Bakalar: Portrait of a Gardener, made by Ginny Sullivan some years ago, has been converted to a limited edition DVD, with all proceeds going to FLT.
Prior’s session is just one of several special events that have been added to this year’s tour schedule. Glass blowing demonstrations (with a portion of sales supporting FLT), walking tours of a blueberry farm with its own artistic connections, a talk by the distinguished Dr. Michael Coe about the history of Heath’s Fort Shirley and talks describing new approaches to maple farming are scheduled. The two Historical Society Museums in Heath Center will also be open.
A lunch buffet will be served in a beautiful barn in the midst of vegetable and flower gardens both days. Lunch must be reserved ahead of time, and will benefit the Friends of the Heath Free Public Library.
The Franklin Land Trust tour is always a special event with a chance to visit private gardens, each expressing the individuality and interests of the gardeners, and to gain new insights into the productivity of our land and the richness of our local history. For full information about the tour and how to buy tickets logon to www.franklinlandtrust.org or call 413-625-9151.
Between the Rows June 11, 2011