Gardens Are More Than Plants

  • Post published:06/29/2010
  • Post comments:4 Comments
Kousa Dogwood - Bonifaz garden

It takes more than plants to make a garden. First, it takes time.

Deirdre Bonifaz  and her husband Cristobal moved to Conway in 1985. For Deirdre it was a return to a part of the world she knew as a youngster. In the 1950s her father had moved the family from New York to a West Whately farm, to be closer to the soil and the essentials of life. ‘He was a man ahead of his time,” Deirdre said thinking of all the back to the landers who would  come to this area a decade and more later.

After graduating from high school she went off to college – and continued traveling  after her marriage to Cristobal.  Her husband’s work as a lawyer took him to many exotic places; her first child was born in Ethiopia.

By the time she and her husband bought their old house in Conway she had satisfied all her wanderlust. The house had been built by an apothecary in the 18th century, but had other owners including a farmer who built a large dairy barn behind the house. The barn was in serious disrepair and in spite of their heroic efforts to restore it the barn came down in 1995.

The gardens became more expansive at that difficult time for Bonifaz. At the same time they were taking down the barn, her mother was dying.  When the last of the barn debris was taken away she was left with the stone barn foundation. Here she planned a Walled Garden and dedicated it to the memory of her mother.

The second thing a garden needs is love.  Over the years, as the gardens grew, other memorial plantings were added. Bonifaz’s garden is a living testament to the love for family. The most notable is the Walled Garden with its magnificent roses.

Possibly Jens Munk rose by Mr. Bonifaz’s office

Nina Newington, a skilled and knowledgeable gardener with a specialty in roses, was still living in our area in the 90s. She worked with Bonifaz to plant hardy antique roses in the protection of the barn foundation walls. Newington liked the roses from Pickering Nursery in Canada because they were so sturdy.  There was never any trouble ordering and having the roses cross the border.

I know that William Baffin is a vigorous climber, but I have never seen anything like the exuberant growth of the one in this garden. “Nina had me put up a support to hold it because she knew it would be needed,” Bonifaz said.  The support is made of sturdy timbers about six feet tall in a kind of pergola that hold the rose bush that climbs over the foundation wall to a height of at least ten feet.

When I asked her how she cared for the roses to get such vigor and growth she said, “I don’t fertilize except to put three or four shovelfuls of good compost around the base of each rose in the fall. In the spring I spread it around the bush.”  She then allowed as how she did fertilize The Fairy during the summer, but not the other roses.

Other roses in the Walled Garden include Madame Alfred Carriere, a large white climber, Madame Hardy another white with a beautiful green button ‘eye’,  the pale pink New Dawn climber and Goldfinch, all white and gold.

A third element necessary for a beautiful garden is variety, which Bonifaz and her husband have provided in their plantings of fruit trees, blooming trees, shrubs, perennials, and built structures.

Bonifaz says she spends a lot of time on the beautifully laid brick patio at the end of the new barn/garage that houses her husband’s legal office. There, surrounded by lilacs, Salvia ‘May Night’, irises, lady’s mantle and other perennials she, her husband, and guests can enjoy meals and talk.

I was taken with the pergola supporting more roses, and the new rustic supports for tomato plants.

Herb Garden

Perhaps thinking of the apothecary who built the house, and all apothecaries who used medicinal plants, Bonifaz has planted a small fenced herb garden laid out with geometric beds that is as useful as it is beautiful. “I was inspired by a medieval garden I saw,” she said.

The Bonifaz garden is just one of the gardens that will inspire visitors on the 22nd Annual Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden tour on Saturday and Sunday, June 26 and 27. The event will include six private gardens, five unique farms, two studios, one of which is a fascinating woodworking studio, and the Boyden One Room Schoolhouse in Conway.   The event runs from 10:00 to 4:00 each day.  This year the tour centers on Conway and West Whately. For full information about tickets logon to or call Linda Alvord at (413) 625-9151 or email

Tomato supports

Between the Rows  June 19, 2010

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Lisa at Greenbow

    Since I can’t join you for the tour I am glad you put some pictures here for us to see. This place is beautiful. I would love to see the walled garden. I am picturing it in my mind.

  2. Flaneur

    Your postings are always wonderful, but for some reason I slowed down a bit to appreciate this one just a bit more… it was lovely and well worth the sustained pause. Very wisely you underscored that a good garden is not just plants but generous amounts of time and love. To think that gardeners can nurture a garden and a happy marriage too! What delightful work.

  3. Pat

    Lisa – Out here in the country we gardeners can always put the stone foundation of a barn to good use.
    Flaneur – Gardens are about hope and devotion – essential for happy marriages. Our daughter celebrated her 16th wedding anniversary this past weekend. the ceremony was performed among the roses.

  4. When you put some love to it, they bloom with color! I like the garden arrangement, very neat!

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