Keith Gamage, fireman and gardener, gave me the inspiration I needed to finish the plan for our new garden in Greenfield. We had only lived in town for a year. While we did have some ideas about what we wanted, my husband and I hadn’t fully figured out how to arrange things. Gamage’s garden on the Greenfield Garden Club’s 2016 Garden Tour solved our problem.
Gamage has a house and garden very similar in size to the house and garden we have. The house is to one side of the lot, and the garden begins right at the sidewalk, or street, in Gamage’s case. When I first stood in front of Gamage’s garden I took my time to understand what I was looking at. There were trees and shrubs. There were hostas. There were different curving beds, marked and surrounded by stones. There was even a small pond where frogs sometimes lived.
In 1994, Gamage moved into the house surrounded by lawn with just a couple of trees. He had never gardened but he started looking at plant catalogs and thought he would do “a little gardening.” That was the beginning. Over the years he has developed certain passions. Early on he visited John O’Briens Nursery in Granby, Connecticut. “He has lots of hostas and I like the hosta names. Since then I’ve planted 360 different varieties of hostas, big and small, solid colors, stripes. Once I was clearing up space and I found a big patch of roots under a rock. I took the roots home and planted them to see what it was – hostas!” Clearly, hostas are very strong plants.
He also has nine Japanese maples arranged in different sites around the house. They come in a variety of sizes and forms, but he loves them all.
What particularly appealed to me were the curving paths through the garden. I rarely knew what was coming next. Gamage said, “I watched Paul James, the TV Garden Guy on HGTV, and he said there were no straight lines in nature. That’s why I have curving planting beds and paths.”
As we walked along the path he told me that he had to take down a shagbark hickory tree, but that he kept a tall sumac, pruned high, because robins eat the berries in the winter. We passed a couple of evergreens and Gamage said that robins ate berries on those trees as well. His viburnams, sometimes called highbush cranberries, are very tall, but he prunes them high to make is possible to walk along the path. The red fall berries are for the birds. He has planted several Amelanchier, serviceberry trees, because the berries really appeal to cedar waxwings. And I know there are few things more exciting that watching a flock of cedar waxwings land in a serviceberry.
Gamage also grows flowering shrubs and plants, like the beautiful Rose of Sharon, that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
He told me he does move plants from time to time, but he is always thinking about the wildlife in his garden. He wanted a pond for the birds and after he built it he found he also gained a few frogs from time to time. That is one of the things I like about gardens, there are always extra delights and surprises.
Gamage has built places to sit and admire the gardens, and have picnic meals with friends. There is a circular gazebo at the very back of the garden, a picnic table, and he built a wooden patio attached to the back of the house. Then, because there are no straight lines in nature he planted a curving plant bed attached to the patio.
Whenever I talk to gardeners we almost always talk about our soil. My soil is wet and claylike. Gamage said his soil is also very clay-like. When doing new plantings he digs out the clay soil and fills the holes with good soil from Martin’s Farm. He also makes use of all his leaves by using them as mulch which becomes compost over time.
We all need tool sheds. Gamage has built a little shed in the corner of his lot, next to his compost pile. “I built my shed and put goofy things on it. Also the habitat sign welcoming birds.”
Gamage does have other interests. He loves stones and keeps his eye open for interesting stones that will decorate the garden. He chooses them for their shapes, their coloring or some special quality. Some beautiful stones are mossy. He pointed out one stone that seemed to show a profile, and another was placed in and out of the ground to look like a shark fin.
Since his retirement three years ago, he has another interest – riding his motorcycle. Even so the garden remains beautiful and inspirational.
(All photos were by Keith Gamage, who has many skills)
Between the Rows October 6, 2020