When news of the impending arrival of Tropical Storm Irene hit the airwaves last August, West Hawley residents Lorraine and Jerry McCarthy quickly packed up their car and dashed to their house on Long Island to batten down the hatches. However, the storm bypassed Long Island and hit Hawley with ferocious energy, destroying roads, flooding the Chickley River, and leaving the McCarthy’s land with up to three feet of silt and sand in two large areas of the gardens. This garden is one of the beautiful gardens on the Annual Hawley Artisan and Garden Tour scheduled for Saturday, July 14.
The gardens did not always exist. When the McCarthys visited Shelburne Falls in 1976, they sought out the Bridge of Flowers and were so delighted and impressed they decided they wanted to live nearby. They immediately walked into Massamont Realty across the street and were sent to a ‘camp’ in West Hawley. The ‘camp’ was actually an old farmhouse surrounded by wild overgrown weeds and brush. It did not take long to close the deal. “We just wanted a rural home,” Lorraine said.
Then Lorraine, who was a teacher and could spend her summers in Hawley, and her husband set to work clearing and planning planting. The garden grew bit by bit, and concentrated on summer bloomers like daylilies, that need little care and put on a magnificent display when they are in residence. “Our philosophy is about the survival of the fittest. What comes back stays and we don’t worry about the plants that die.”
Jerry was just as enthusiastic a planner and planter. As manager of a cemetery, with a part-time landscape business, Jerry’s expertise was in trees. When I visited I was immediately struck by the collection of beautiful evergreens and areas of dappled shade.
The McCarthy’s garden is a strolling garden, with wide paths that lead from one large bed and planting to another. In addition to the daylilies, there are irises and other perennials, as well as annuals in beautiful containers. A collection of ornamental grasses barely escaped the flooding waters that came down the road and divided into two rivers that left the house and most of the garden untouched.
Jerry said they had to get in a backhoe to remove the silt and sand so they could replant damaged areas last fall.
In addition to the plantings in sun and shade, the garden has delightful accents of sculptures and other ornaments.
On the other side of town, in East Hawley, Earl Pope and Mary Kay Hoffman have also been gardening for decades. Earl is the vegetable gardener who delights in growing artichokes, heritage tomatoes, and cucumbers for Mary Kay’s famous pickles.. Having recently retired from his architecture firm, Juster, Pope, Frazier, he has even more time to cultivate this amazingly productive small vegetable garden. Berries, too.
Mary Kay’s garden is on a slightly different scale with perennial borders hundreds of feet long, punctuated by formal plantings of evergreens. Shade and sun play their part in this garden as well, beginning with a shady border that stars a variety of hostas and taller Aruncus, or goatsbeard, whose feathery white spires glow in the shade.
Of course, I love the array of roses beginning with an energetic William Baffin climber that clambers over an arch, one of the few structures to suffer from Irene’s onslaught. There is The Fairy, tough, dependable and so pretty in pink, and its white counterpart Sea Foam, both of which will bloom most of the summer. Other roses remain unnamed, but are no less lovely.
Daylilies play their part in the sunny borders. I think there is no more carefree plant in New England, hardy, disease free, and encompassing many forms and a fabulous array of colors.
One of the simple elements in Mary Kay’s garden that inspired me during another garden tour some years ago was a small purple leaved shrub. Mary Kay was surprised that I did not recognize the Cotinus, or smokebush. “But it is so small,” I cried.
“I cut it back hard every spring,” she said. This was not only inspiration because I do love that dark foliage, but education, because I had no idea it could be kept small with hard pruning. I like the foliage, but I do not like the ‘smokes.’ I now have a small smokeless (mostly) Cotinus in my own garden, but I realize I have to work harder to be more ruthless with my spring pruning.
Inspiration and education are what I am looking for when I go on a garden tour. Gardeners have so many unique passions and skills. Of course, I am full of appreciation for the generosity of gardeners who are so willing to share their creativity and labors with others, often for a good cause. This tour will benefit the Sons and Daughters of Hawley Building Fund.
The theme of this year’s Hawley tour on Saturday, July 14 is A Stroll Through Our Past and Our Present.. In addition to the tour of gardens, there will be tours of the town cemeteries, and an exhibit of photographs documenting damage done by storms in 1938, 1987 and 2011. A ticket and map will be available for a $10 donation . A special lunch will be served overlooking the Ray and Melanaie Poudrier’s garden for a donation of $10. For more information about tickets and the tour call Rainey McCarthy 339-5347, Melanie Poudrier 337-4903 or Pam Shrimpton 339-4091
Between the Rows July 7, 2012