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Just Roots Community Farm


Meryl LaTronica at Just Roots

Meryl LaTronica planting at Just Roots

Meryl LaTronica found her way to Just Roots Community Farm slowly. When she graduated from college and considered her future she realized that farming might be her calling. “Farming felt like such a great combination of outdoor physical work and working with land & nature, but also doing work that is about serving and connecting people.  The people plus plants life has always felt like the most amazing balance, getting to work every day under the beautiful sky, but side by side with other people and for people.”

For over fifteen years now she has worked as a production farmer and educator in the eastern part of the state, and then helped create and manage Powisset Farm in Dover for Trustees of Reservations. All her interests and skills are being put to work for the Just Roots Farm.

Some of us may remember that when the Davis Street School was demolished to make way for a new community center, the Pleasant Street Gardeners lost their garden plots. That was a heart-breaking consequence, but the gardeners were determined to get community garden space back. They petitioned the town for a new space; the ultimate decision was to site this new garden on farmland that had once held the Greenfield Poor Farm.

In 1849 the farm was owned by Justin Root who sold it to the town for the Poor Farm. The name Just Roots is a nod to the history of the land, but also a statement about what kind of farm it would be in the future as it planned to make good healthy food available to everyone, including those with low incomes.

Last week I met Meryl LaTronica, the official Director of Farm Operations, at the old red barn and saw the setup for the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Nowadays they have 240 CSA members who get to choose how they want to fill their order. One hundred and forty of those shares are for low income customers. “We are always looking for creative ways that people can pay. They can use SNAP. We like to give people options,” she said.

Bicycle operated root washer

Bicycle operated root washer at Just Roots Farm

I saw the equipment used for cleaning the vegetables. The most fascinating piece of equipment was the bicycle powered root washer that cleaned beets, daikon radishes and other roots.

Two small greenhouses and a 95 foot long hoop house filled with still ripening tomatoes stand near the 60 Community Gardens. Gardeners who don’t have garden space can get a 20 by 20 foot plot. The herbs, squash, beans and lots of flowers riotously fill their plots.

Reemay covered rows

Reemay covered rows in to foil flea beetles

Beyond these structures are the seven acres of production fields. I was amazed to see that there were new plantings. LaTronica said they want to get the most food they can from the land. “This is the last planting for the year. We like to get these seedlings in the ground by September 1, but all the rain this summer upset our schedule. Still, we keep planting greens, celery, lettuce, fall carrots and other vegetables that don’t need a long season. Maybe we’ll get a harvest, and maybe not, but we have to try. Right now we are harvesting about every other day,” she said.

We walked past leeks, potatoes and sweet potatoes. “I like growing sweet potatoes because it sends out such pretty flowering vines,” LaTronica said.

I wondered why so many rows were covered with white reemay, a very light row cover. She said this has been a terrible year for flea beetles on the brassicas and the reemay is the answer.

My tour led us to a large area planted with buckwheat, a good cover crop that that will be cut down. The virtue of buckwheat is that it very efficiently smothers weeds, and adds nutrients when tilled into the soil.

It was wonderful to see all this great production, but this farm is about more than the vegetables. It is about people. “We go out to people when we hold our Farmer’s Market in the alley next to Green Fields Market, and at the Saturday Farmer’s Market,” LaTronica said. “But we also want to bring people to the farm. They come here to put together their CSA shares.” For a small extra fee, CSA members can also make use of the pick-your-own garden. That garden includes a few vegetable varieties and enormous number of trellised cherry tomato plants, and flowers.  Gardeners do not live by vegetables alone. “

Just Roots sells produce at Green Fields Co-op, but they donate food to the Center for Self Reliance, and the Stone Soup Café. Last year LaTronica estimates that about 10,000 pounds of produce was donated to the community.

Some Community garden plots also made use of Reemay

I volunteer Four Corners Elementary School so I already knew about the School Snack Market. Every week Just Roots brings vegetables to the school and each class comes and the children taste what has been brought. Then they go to the research station where they can give their opinion of the different vegetables. I can just imagine the importance these children feel as they make their report. Then they move on to the Snack Station and choose a healthy snack to take back to their classroom.

I asked LaTronica if she ever thought about the farm’s history as a Poor Farm. “Oh yes, I do think about the people  who lived here,” she said. “I can hear them whispering to me.”

I like to think those whispering spirits are rejoicing that the farm is poor no more.

Between the Rows  September 15, 2018

Spring Blooming Bulbs Need Fall Planting

Spring blooming narcissus

Unnamed narcissus  was one of the spring blooming bulbs in my garden. All daffodils are in the Narcissus family

There is a world of spring blooming bulbs to plant in the fall. Daffodils immediately come to mind, but we don’t often think about the various forms and colors these flowers take. Think of the choices; you can plant large cup daffs in pale shades of lemon or pure white, but with frilled cups in shades of pink or orange. Precocious a particularly showy daffodil with icy white petals and a coral pink and very curly flat cup blooms mid spring.

If the large cup division is too flashy for your taste, you can first look at the small cup daffodils. They can surprise with a brilliant orange cup like Barrett Browning that blooms early to mid spring. Or you can choose Dallas and enjoy white serenity with a small frilly white cup that blooms late.

Double daffodils can go from the heirloom Albus Plenus Odoatus, so ruffly white that it  almost looks and smells like a gardenia and blooms in late spring. Another late bloomer is Delnashaugh, white with large overlapping petals surrounding apricot pink inner segments.

There is also a large family of miniature daffodils some of which are only three inches tall. Fragrant yellow Tiny Bubbles is four inches tall with recurved petals and blooms mid spring. Rip Van Winkle is almost out of  the miniature category because it can grow between five to eight inches. It looks like exploding yellow fireworks and blooms early-mid spring.


Poeticus daffodil

In the past I grew the poeticus daffodil which is a very old daff. I liked it because it was a heritage variety but also because it was just so simple, plain and elegant. At the same time I also love the Van Sion daff which was growing on our Heath property when we moved there. It was not plain or elegant, but I liked the wild explosion of golden petals that sometimes included many green petals. A friend thought it was the ugliest daffodil ever, but I disagreed.

A very different, and much less common spring blooming bulb is camassia, a member of the lily family. I have not grown camassia but the Brent and Becky catalog says it “tolerates damp meadows and pond edges as well as heavy clay soil.” I might have to give it a try.

Camassia florets

Camassia florets closeup

Camassia bloom late spring into early summer with three foot spikes of starry flowers in shades of white, blue and purple. Camassia attracts pollinators, but is deer and squirrel resistant. It likes sun but can take some shade.

One white variety, C. leichtlinii ‘Sacajewea’ is so named because Sacajewea helped feed Lewis and Clark this ‘quamash’ bulb which kept them alive when on the Weippe Prairie in Idaho. This was an important food for the Indians, but Lewis said it did his stomach little good.

When we look at large purple alliums it is hard to remember these grow from bulbs. The different varieties, from six inches tall to three feet or more bloom over a long season and help bridge the spring bloomers to the summer bloomers. They need sun and a well drained fertile soil.

Allium gigantium

Allium giganteum on Bridge of Flowers

The purple Globemaster allium always gets a lot of attention. The flower head has dense florets and can be a foot across on a three foot stem! Even though these alliums are large they should be planted in groups in order to make a real statement. Globemaster will bloom from late May into June. White Giant and A. christophii, also known as Stars of Persia, are of similar size but their blossoms consist of loosely arranged florets. A. christophii blooms in early summer. Its amethyst florets have a lovely metallic sheen on a two foot stem. White Giant blooms in late spring on a nearly four foot stem.

I have grown the unique A. siculum bugaricum with its numerous and graceful pendulous florets in shades of green, purple and white on 32 inch stems.

Petite Jeanine has airy and sunny yellow blossoms that bloom in early summer on 12 inch stems. Allim flavum has pendulous lemon yellow flowers on 10 inch stems. Allium oreophilum is only six inches tall but the loosely arranged pink florets work well, as do other small alliums, at the front of the border or in rock gardens.

Perhaps it is the tulip that can give us the widest range of color from icy white like the Clearwater early single tulip to the nearly black fringed Vincent van Gogh. In the past I rarely planted tulips because they are not dependable repeaters. However, in the limited  sunny (relatively speaking) and rich soil spot that is my tree strip garden I think a few tulips would brighten things up in May. I am willing to make a small investment.

Scarlet tulips

This spring blooming bulb is a brilliant, but unnamed tulip

For this experiment I want something bright and flashy like Flaming Parrot all red, yellow and white. Orca, a brilliant ruffled orange would really wake me up in early spring. Foxy Foxtrot with ruffled shades of apricot, yellow peach and orange is also tempting.

Bulbs give us the ability to enter spring with calm elegance or a brilliant splash. Our bulbs can surprise us all at once or they can amaze us with brilliance over a long season.

The options are endless and illustrated catalogs like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, John Scheepers, Old House Gardens, Odyssey Bulbs and others will offer you a world of spring color.

Spring blooming tulips

Spring blooming tulips

Between the Rows  September 8, 2018

Water an Essential Element – Vital in Every Garden

essential water

Water – an essential element in every garden

According to all the garden books I read early on water is an essential element in every garden. Then there were photos of ponds and streams, rivulets and all manner of water. I could not imagine how I would ever get essential water in my garden. I have gotten bird baths, and now I have a garden that floods. However, others have found a myriad of ways to include essential water features.  This little waterfall is part of a handmade pond. The waterfall itself is not only constructed it has been tuned by carefully arranging the fall and the depth of the water to provide a musical note.  Here are a few photos of the ways that gardeners have created essential water features.

Handmade pond

Handmade pond

Another smaller pond makes use of local stone at  the edge  of a woodland.

essential water

A small water feature in a small garden

Sometimes there is very little room, but even a pot with some papyrus or elephant ears adds that essential quality to a small garden.

esssential water

Water – Japanese style

A  corner of this garden in the shade makes use of a Japanese water feature.

waterlilies in a small pond

Waterlilies in a small pond

Water provides an opportunity for whole new families of plants.

Essential water

Essential water at Clark Art Museum

The Clark Art Museum saw the beauty of water and built a large water feature with shallow waterfalls and a way to circulate the water to help with heat and cooling in the new building.

Smith waterfall

There are smaller public water features, like this one at the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College. Here one can sit in the shade and enjoy the serenity that water often provides.

How many ways have you seen gardeners put water features in their gardens?

Asters, Chrysanthemums, Dahlias – Autumn Glory

Autumn Glory

Autumn Glory – Chrysanthemums and dahlias on the Bridge of Flowers

Autumn glory begins to glow in September. I’m thinking about the ACDs of the autumnal garden – asters, chrysanthemums and dahlias. There is a lot of bloom left in the garden year. The wonderful thing about asters, chrysanthemums and dahlias is that they come in so many sizes, forms and colors. One hardly knows where to begin.

Autumn glory comes in many sizes. I have three asters in my garden. There is a tall New York (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii)  aster at the back of the South Border. It is now a large clump, over five feet tall, with sprays of tiny white flowers held high on wiry slim stems with narrow smooth leaves. If I ever had the name of this plant it is long gone. Bees and other pollinators love it. It began blooming a week or so ago, and will continue through September and beyond.

‘Alma Potschke’ is a New England aster (S.novae-angliae). It has more substantial foliage and grows between three and four feet. The rosy red flowers have bright yellow centers. It likes rich soils, but is water tolerant and would be happy in a rain garden. This is a delightfully cheerful and showy addition to the autumnal garden.

Autumn glory Blue woods aster

Blue Woods aster

My Woods Blue aster (S.cordifolium) grows low and spreads well making it a great ground cover. As its name indicates it is a shade of blue, but there are also purple and pink low growing asters.  It will be blooming soon.

All asters like a lot of sun and a rich soil. They will increase! They will also attract bees and butterflies. I rarely think to do it, but in the spring, before the end of June, you can pinch back the plant guaranteeing even more flowers. They are very hardy.

Chrysanthemums  are a major aspect of autumn glory. Mums are another large family with varied sizes and forms. At this time of the year you can find pots of nicely formed mum clumps at supermarkets as well as garden centers. You can pop these in the ground, keep them watered, and you will have color through the autumn.

If you want more than color you can turn to catalogs like King’s Mums and Bluestone Perennials. Both of these outfits provide images of the full range of color and forms. They are both an eye opening and inspiring resource, but you have to begin early in the growing season.

Autumn Glory spoon chrysanthemums

Spoon Chrysanthemums

For a while in Heath I grew spoon and quilled chrysanthemums. Each petal of the spoon mum opened up into a spoon shape. Quilled petals are a more complete tube. There are more and more spoon mum forms. One of the most popular seems to be Matchsticks which has tubular yellow petals that open to a fiery red spoon at the end. Very dramatic. My own spoon mums did not provide drama, but they did provide enjoyable variety.

There are many chrysanthemum forms that are familiar from the airy spider mums, little pom pom mums and great big mums to wear as a corsage at college football games. I grow a mum that I am very fond of even though it looks like a daisy, and carries the nickname Sheffield daisy. It does indeed look like a daisy with pink petals and a golden center. The foliage is definitely mum foliage. This is a languid plant, lounging gracefully in its bed. While it increases amazingly every year it blooms late and keeps going until it is shut down by a heavy frost. If you live locally you’ll be able to see it among the Energy Park flower beds.

Sheffield daissies

Sheffield daisies are really in the chrysanthemum family

Chrysanthemums also offer special gardens an opportunity to show off. I am a regular attendee at the Smith College Chrysanthemum Show. This year the Show opens on November 3 and continues through November 18. On display will be many chrysanthemum forms, as well as arrangements like the traditional chrysanthemum cascade.  Hybrids created by the students will also be on display; you will have an opportunity to vote on your favorite.

Chrysanthemums are not quite as dependably hardy in our area as asters, but they should do well most of the time.

Like chrysanthemums, dahlias come in many forms from large dinner plate dahlias to tiny pom poms.  A six foot tall dahlia loaded with big red blossoms knows all about autumn glory. A walk across the Bridge of Flowers at this time of the year will show a large range of the dahlia family.

Unlike asters and mums, they grow from tubers that need to be dug up in the fall and stored in a cool dry spot until spring. If you have a suitable basement you will be able to store four or five new tubers, for the one you planted in the spring. Tubers can be planted early in the spring and get a head start on growing roots and foliage so that there is something substantial to plant when the weather is warm enough.

Tubers are available in the spring, but to get a sense of the range, browsing through the Swan Island or American Meadows catalogs will be a pleasant pastime. In our region it can help to start the dahlia tubers in a pot in April because they need warm soil and the new shoots shouldn’t be planted until the end of May when the soil is dependably warm. Whether you are choosing small dahlias that can spend their life in a pot or a tall garden dahlia they need rich, slightly acid soil. While they are just getting started they should not be over watered or the tubers will rot.

Pink dahlias

Pink dahlias on the Bridge of Flowers

There is a case to be made that now is the time to think about  mums and dahlias since 2019 early spring will the time to order and plant the more unusual varieties.

Between  the Rows   September 1, 2018

Rain Gardens Here and Everywhere

rain gardens

The John Zon Community Center boasts two rain gardens, one next to the other

Rain gardens are created to collect storm water runoff from house roofs, parking lots and other places. By catching this dirty runoff the garden can help protect streams and lakes from pollutants like lawn fertilizers and pesticides, fluids that leak from cars, and other harmful substances that wash off roofs and paved areas. Rain gardens also filter water and recharge the local aquifer while the plantings in a rain garden support pollinators, birds, butterflies and many useful insects.

By definition a rain garden is not a pond. Standing water will come and go. Chosen plants will tolerate a period of standing water, but they will also be happy when the garden is dry.

This summer I thought of my garden as a rain garden. Of course my garden gains that title by being flooded. Over 30 days we got 17 inches of rain. Because my garden has heavy clay soil that does not drain well, and a high water table the result is flooding. Even though I don’t have an official rain garden I began to wonder if there were any local rain gardens.

As I have been working with other volunteers to plant a meadow pollinator garden in front of the new John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street, I knew a rain garden had been planted in back of the building. The design of that garden gives it two halves, both similarly planted with plants that do not mind standing in water for a day or three.

The structure of a rain garden is quite simple. It is as wide and long as a site allows. The rules for the depth are fairly consistent. The University of Massachusetts Extension Service gives excellent instructions about creating a rain garden to catch runoff from your house roof.

“If the yard is fairly level, you can just dig out the bowl to the proper depth, which is 6 inches deep (other sites will suggest more depth and a gravel layer of a few inches on the bottom), or a couple of inches deeper if mulch will be used. If the yard is sloped, you may need to construct a small berm (mound) at the down-slope side of the garden to prevent the soil from washing away after a storm. Use the soil that was removed from the upslope side of the garden and add it to the down-slope side. The bottom of the garden should be fairly level to maintain the storage area inside the garden. Slope the edges of the garden, but do not make them too steep. Steep slopes tend to erode easily. Mulch or a ground cover will help to stabilize the soils.” For full information

rain garden with curb cuts

This rain garden extends across the width of the parking lot with curb cuts to allow runoff to reach the shallow bed

Another different sort of rain garden is at the foot of the parking lot between Chapman and School streets. That parking lot slants and rain water runs north, away from Main Street At the end of the parking lot is a curb, but cuts have been made so that water can run into a shallow ditch that acts as a rain garden. Water tolerant plants like joe pye weed, coneflowers and black eyed susans (weeds too) help absorb the runoff. A sign has been placed at the other end of the parking lot to explain the benefits of the tree strip and the trees, as well as the rain garden.

Rain Garden or Retention pond

Rains Garden or Retention Pond – take your pick

Those who pass the Franklin County Jail will have noticed what I used to call the swamp with cattails and other water loving plants in the area below the jail buildings. That area has changed since the new jail with its big parking lot was built. Now the swamp is confined behind a fence and piping has been installed. I spoke to Joe Fagan, Head of Maintenance, at the jail about the changes. He explained that there are catchment areas for runoff in the parking lot that allows sediment to settle. The water then continues through piping to the retention pond. Periodically that sediment is power vacuumed because eventually sediment sent to the pond would fill it, making it useless. There are also pipes that carry runoff from the jail roof to the retention pond.

In addition large pipes at the south end of the pond allow for overflow if there is really heavy rain. Preventing erosion is an important part of the water management system.

Last week I went to UMass to visit the new prize-winning John W. Olver Design Building for Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. The building was designed by the Boston architectural firm Leers Weinzapfel.

rain gardens

Rain gardens surround the Olver Design Building at UMass. This section is a catchment area.

The landscaping around the building was designed by Stimson Studio. Do not look for a neat lawn. A lush arrangement of trees, shrubs, and grasses surround the building to such an extent that it is just about impossible to see the shaping of the land in ways that manage rainfall and runoff.

rain gardens

Rain gardens on the other side of the building move runoff from the roof

The building has parking lots on two sides and sits on a slope. There is a catch basin at the low corner of the parking lot to the north of the building that pipes water into a shallow basin to the west of the building. Rainwater is collected on the roof of the Design Building and channeled off of the east side of the building into two sloped, linear channels called bioswales. The bioswales collect, cleanse, and infiltrate storm water naturally onsite, as opposed to conventional underground sewer systems. The sides and bottom of the bioswales are lined with native vegetation, soil, and rock to filter stormwater and remove harmful pollutants from surface runoff. For more information about this garden

We cannot always count on having adequate rainfall. Rain gardens provide a water conservation technique that recharges our local aquifer, helps protect the quality of our streams and rivers, and beautifies an area of our domestic landscape.

Between the Rows  August 25, 2018

Celebrating Local Farms – Farmer’s Markets

Just Roots Farmers Market

Just Roots includes a community farm growing food for sale as well as garden plots for local gardenter

By the time I learned about National Farmer’s Market Week it was too late to celebrate with the rest of the nation, but it reminded me of the changes in the ways farmers now market their crops, and affect the economy of our communities.

Agriculture has been important to our part of Massachusetts for decades. There were many dairy farms, but they were starting to close down when we moved to Heath in 1979. When we moved to Greenfield in 2015, there were no longer any dairy farms in Heath at all. While there are many fewer dairy farms, there are now more and larger vegetable farms, egg farms, meat farms, fruit farms and other farms that feed us fresh local food.

This transformation has been helped in multitudes of ways in our area by various organizations, as well as by new young farmers. One important event was the creation of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation in 1979, FCCDC. It offers business development education, access to capital, commercial office and manufacturing space. It is also home of the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center, which has grown over the years  and allows farmers to freeze a portion of their crops to sell during the winter. They can also create and cook up salsas, sauces, and other products. This value added capability is a benefit to the farm economy.

Some entrepreneurs who aren’t farmers have made use of local crops by creating products like pickles. Dan Rosenberg made his first batch of pickles for sale in 2001; in 2002 he began working with the FCCDC. By 2009 he moved the ever growing business to its own building right across the street from the FCCDC.

farmer's market

Sage Farm offers meat at the farmer’s market

Fourteen years after the FCCDC began CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, was formed. It celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Whether you know very much about CISA or not, I am sure everyone in our area is familiar with their Be A Local Hero posters and labels. CISA provides promotional and advertising material and technical and business training to farmers. This year 265 farms and landscape/garden centers, 64 restaurants, 43 retailers, 24 institutions, and 16 specialty producers joined together to raise awareness and sales of locally grown farm products. They also work with ten local farms to provide vegetable shares to low income seniors. This year they are serving 420 seniors.

Our communities have shown amazing growth in the development of local farms. Ryan Voiland started farming in Montague when he was in middle school. He sold his produce at a farmstand at his family’s house. In addition to acreage in Montague, Voiland and his workers now tend 50 acres of farmland in Granby. Some of their produce is sold in Boston and Worcester as well as locally.

Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox started their one acre Kitchen Garden Farm in 2006, but now they work 50 acres in Sunderland and sell their vegetables to restaurants and retail stores like Green Fields Coop.

farmers market

Small farm, Big Farmers Market stand

Maria Topitzer farms the Lyonsville Farm in Colrain. Her farm is quite small at this point but she sells about 250 varieties of vegetables at the Greenfield Farmers Market, and those who buy a CSA share can assemble their own choices. I think she will gain more acreage over time, as others have.

The invention of CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture, has helped new young farmers get started. Customers buy their Share of the harvest early in the spring. This helps farmers with their expenses at the beginning of the season. Once crops begin to ripen customers come and pick up their share once a week throughout the season.

Green Fields Co-Operative Market, has provided a local market for organic food from many of our local farms.

Many farms have set up farm stands right on site. Hager’s Farm Stand on Route 2 in Shelburne is quite an extravagant example of what a farm stand can be. The Hager family has been farming for seven generations and they now sell maple syrup, grass-fed beef, lunches and soups. Ice cream too. And they sometimes have great events that appeal to children.

Some farms stands have a few tables in the barn, and some have a single table by the road side. All those farm stands are a part of the agricultural economy. No one is going to be a millionaire, but we all have access to good fresh food.

Finally we get to our Farmers’ Markets. Greenfield’s Saturday Farmer’s Market brings many vendors together from Clarkdale Fruit Farm, to the small Lyonsville Farm, to the Just Roots Farm that includes food for sale, CSA shares at a discount for seniors and 60 community garden plots for individuals and organizations. I’ll have more information about Just Roots Farm soon.

Other towns have their Farmer’s Markets as well. We are all fortunate in our area to have local food available from so many outlets, including the big supermarkets that have seen the value of local food to their bottom line.

I may have missed the national celebration for Farmer’s Markets, but I am happy to celebrate the availability of delicious and nutritious local food, and the ways a portion of it is made available to those with low incomes every day. Bon Appétit to all. ###

Between the Rows  August 18, 2018


Planting Trees, Planting Love at Energy Park

Planting trees at the Energy Park

John Bottomley, Nancy Hazard and Mary Chicoine planting trees at the Energy Park

Planting trees is always a significant project. A couple of weeks ago I went over to the Energy Park at 7 a.m. for what I thought was a celebratory tree planting. I was surprised that there was no crowd; however Nancy Hazard, Mary Chicoine and John Bottomley, all of the Greenfield Tree Committee, were hard at work planting two tulip poplars and a disease resistant elm. It did not take a crowd to make this a celebratory occasion.

Tulip poplars, Liriodendron tulipifera, are not related to tulips or poplars; they are related to magnolias and are very large trees. They can grow to a height of over 100 feet, have a wide spread, produce cupped, fragrant flowers in the spring, and striking golden foliage in the fall. The Committee planted one of the tulip poplars, and the elm to the side of the stage because their large canopies will make afternoon shade for both the performers, and audiences at Energy Park Performances.

Dutch elm disease wiped out nearly all the elms in the country, but a few have survived and hybridizers have created some elms that are resistant to the disease. Elms are also large trees, and particularly notable for their graceful vase shape. The Energy Park is a wonderful location for these trees, because there is enough room to accommodate trees of this size.

The second tulip poplar has been planted in the shady woodland. sharing space with spring ephemerals and native plants that are attractive to pollinators.Tr

Tree roots need to be untangled, even cut, before planting

When planting trees it is vital to untangle the roots

These three trees were paid for in part by a donation by the Greenfield Garden Club which wished to memorialize three of their beloved members who recently passed away. Carol Doerpholz was a long time member of the Greenfield Garden Club. She supported the garden at Trap Plain, organized the Garden Club crafters at the club’s Fall Festival at Trap Plain, helped prepare Franklin County Fair exhibits and often opened her garden for the Garden Tours. Carol was always a hard worker and great friend!

Nancy Stone was a long time member and the Club’s support at the Chamber of Commerce.  She often donated original art for the Fall Festival raffles and opened her garden for the Garden Tours. She was a great supporter of the club.

Dolly Gagnon, was a member of the club and served as Vice President for many years. She assisted with publicity through her “Talk of the Town” column for the Recorder.

The Greenfield Tree Committee is a 501c3 under the umbrella of the Connecticut River Conservancy. Two weeks ago I would have wondered why the Committee is connected to the River Conservancy but the other night we were watching the TV program 10 That Changed America and saw the episode about 10 parks. Philadelphia is located between two rivers but it had no good drinking water in the 19th century. Robert Morris Copland designed a system that raised water to an underground reservoir that then gravity-fed water to the city. Fairmount Park was sited below that reservoir. Then, with Olmsted andVaux, Copland extended the park. More parkland was created by planting trees, more forests up river to protect the water. The relationship between trees and clean water was made clearer.

Of course, trees have other functions. They play a part in combating climate change including breathing in and storing CO2 and breathing out oxygen, as well as cooling our cities. They provide a canopy and habitat for wildlife including birds, provide wood for fuel and for furniture, help prevent soil erosion, and mask unpleasant views and mufflle sounds in the city as well as many more benefits.

Watering halfway through the tree planting is important

The Greenfield Tree Committee has a social side as well. When they go into  their planting trees mode they create parties. Earlier this spring, working with Boy Scouts and neighbors on Orchard Street, Crescent Street and Spring Terrace, they planted 25 trees, oaks, maples and tulip poplars.

The Tree Committee’s new and on-going project is working with Greenfield, Montague and the Franklin County Technical School, using a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to create a tree nursery at the Tech School. This will give students new knowledge and professional skills about planting trees, caring for trees, and will provide towns with affordable trees beginning five years from now.

The tulip poplar has been planted watered, and mulched. A water bag will come soon.

Massachusetts poet, teacher and author Lucy Larcom (1824-1893) wrote a poem that captures the gifts a tree bestows beyond ameliorating climate change and helping keep our water clean. The title is basic and clear – Plant a Tree. I am giving the first two lines of four stanzas.

“He who plants a tree – He plants a hope.

He who plants a tree – He plants a joy;

He who plants a tree – He plants peace.

He who plants a tree – He plants love.“

I think we can all understand that hope for future pleasures and joy follow the planting of a tree, just as we have all experienced peace beneath summer shade. When we plant a tree we know that benefits will come to those who follow us, those who are beloved. Hope, joy, peace and love are the gifts that the Greenfield Tree Committee intends for all who spend time at the Energy Park, as along every newly tree lined street.

Between the Rows   August 11, 2018

Water Gardens on Bloom Day – August 2018

bloom day

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day waterworks

On this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day the big event is water and more water. Just to give you the full force you  can see  how deep the water is right in front of the garden shed at the back of the garden. This is the worst spot, and it is the beginning of the lake the garden has become.

Black eyed susans

Black eyed susans in the bed nearest the back door

One of my hose guard wine bottles in ready to float away.


Thalictrum aka meadow rue

Meadow rue has such tiny delicate flowers it doesn’t photograph very well, at least not for me, but I love it and don’t want to leave it off the Bloom Day list.

Cardinal Flower, daylilies 'altissima' and joe pye weed

Cardinal Flower, daylilies ‘altissima’ and joe pye weed

Beyond the joe pye weed is  the dappled willow – thriving in the flood – but it confuses the photo.

Joe pye weed

A different joe pye weed

This joe pye weed grows on the other side of the garden, next to a lavender Monarda fistulosa that is too weary and laid down to be photographed.

Honeysuckle and morning glories

Honeysuckle and morning glories

Set against the south fence the honeysuckle and Grandpa Ott morning glories don’t suffer very much.

Hydrangeas, phlox, roses

Hydrangeas, phlox, roses

These hydrangeas, phlox and roses are growing in the South Border, the driest part of the garden. the closer you get to the back garden, the wetter it gets.

Flowery hellstrip (tree strip) in front of the house

Flowery hellstrip (tree strip) in front of the house

I can give a nice Bloom Day hooray when we get to the hellsrip – echinacea, yarrow, still a couple of daylilies, Centaurea montana, and bee balms.  The rain has given rise to many many weeds.

Bloom day

A final Bloom Day view

On  this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day I give thanks for plants like the blacked susans and to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who hosts a day when we can all share the delights and challenges of our gardens.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Entry to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Gardeners plant flower gardens in their backyards, but Mother Nature loves to plant flower gardens along the highways and by-ways. I am often surprised by how many flowers thrive in sandy soil and survive the salting of roads in winter. I drive around town and I see familiar flowers in Mother Nature’s gardens like orange daylilies, blue chicory and Queen Anne ’s lace.

While I enjoy roadside gardens, it was Lady Bird Johnson who took the appeal and usefulness of these gardens to a whole new level. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson promoted the passing of the Highway Beautification Act, but this legislation, more informally known as Lady Bird’s Bill because of her promoting the idea of beautiful highways, changed the landscape as new national highways were being established in every direction in those years. As far as I can tell that bill and all its many subsequent amendments mostly had to do with placement of advertising billboards and junk yards.

Engleman Daisy at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Engleman daisy at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

I can well imagine Mrs. Johnson being happy to have those eyesores removed, but it is also clear to me from my own memories of those days that she thought beauty in the form of flowers, along the highways, and everywhere else, could make the world better and people happier. She once wrote in her diary,”The subject of Beautification is like a tangled skein of wool, the threads are interwoven—recreation and pollution and mental health and the crime rate and rapid transit and highway beautification and the war on poverty and parks … everything leads to something else.”

Because of her belief in the power of beauty in 1982 Mrs. Johnson and the actress Helen Hayes created a wildflower center in East Austin with the goal of restoring the beauties of the landscape and preserving all the native wildflowers of that area and throughout our whole country.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Blanket Flower at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

I am very happy to say that Lady Bird Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford in 1977. The citation for her medal read: “One of America’s great First Ladies, she claimed her own place in the hearts and history of the American people. In councils of power or in homes of the poor, she made government human with her unique compassion and her grace, warmth and wisdom. Her leadership transformed the American landscape and preserved its natural beauty as a national treasure.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has grown over the years and is now operated by the University of Texas at Austin. I got to visit the Wildflower Center during my Texas trip early this spring. I visited my daughter and her family, and then toured gardens with 94 other garden bloggers. I spent about half an hour among the Wildflower Center gardens snapping photos of native Texas area flowers as fast as possible because the weather was threatening and it did not take long for the skies to open. Torrential rains fell. Along with my sister garden bloggers I ran to the Wildflower Center gift shop where we spent the next hour looking at books about Texas wildflowers, earrings in the shape of honeybees or butterflies, jars of honey (would we have to give them up at the airport as possible bomb material?), beflowered socks and hats and scarves, dishes with flower designs, flowered umbrellas and just about every other flower item you can imagine.

During my brief time in the gardens I was happy to see that the flower beds included lots of labels. While many of the plants would not grow in New England, many of them would be perfectly happy in Massachusetts: bee balm, coreopsis, gaillardia (blanket flower), gayfeather (liatris), fleabane and others.

Our tour bus drove us through the continuing rain to our next garden. We all paid particular attention to the medians and verges along the highway this time as we looked at the native plants growing among the grasses in these unmown spaces. This is the kind of beauty that Lady Bird Johnson was hoping for as highway beautification. At least that is my memory.

Lady Bird Johnson thought highways could have flowery meadows on the verges and median

I am disappointed that we don’t have that kind of beautification along our Massachusetts highways. I understand that we don’t want invasive plants like knotweed pulling down our sound barriers, or tall plants dangerously interfering with sight lines. However, many perennial native plants and grasses are not very tall. Neither are they invasive, although they will return again the following year. In addition, I would think money could be saved by having an annual autumn mowing, instead of multiple mowings that certainly keep the I-91 median very neat.

Even without highway “gardens” we are fortunate in our rural area to enjoy Mother Nature’s gardens as we drive along our lesser highways. Great banks of Queen Anne’s Lace grow along the roads providing a really great show. At this time of year they are often joined by drifts of goldenrod, both of them attracting hoards of bees and other insects who are collecting pollen and nectar. We don’t have to drive far to see and enjoy these gardens, especially in summer and fall.###

Between the Rows   August 4, 2018

Torrential Rainfall, Backyard Flood, Watery Paths

torrential rainfall

Rain gauge measures torrential rainfall

The torrential rainfall began late in the day. It was not constant, but when we woke up this morning the rain gauge very clearly said another 2 and 3/4 inches of rain had fallen. There has never been a summer quite like this with temperatures in the 90s and many heavy rainfalls.

Results of torrential rainfalls

Results of torrential rainfalls

This photo shows the ankle deep water in the widest path to the back of the garden and the shed. The very large shrub in  the middle of the photo is a red twig dogwood and it has thrived in the rains. The Lindera benzoil, planted to attract Swallowtail butterflies, does not appear to have minded the rain too much. Neither has the raspberry patch just beyond the dogwood, although I will say the crop has been limited, partly because the berries rot so quickly with all the wet.

Central watery path

Central watery path

I walked through this watery path in my bare feet. Blue jeans rolled up. Last weekend we took friends on a tour of the garden. Everyone had to wear boots, or go barefoot. We were walking in last week’s torrential rainfall that day.

Another watery path

Another watery path

Can you tell I am trying to show you the full force of the effect of rain in my garden?

Hose guards

Hose guards are partially submerged

My homemade wine bottle hose guards are well submerged.  Because we knew the back yard was wet when we bought the house, we did create raised beds with yards and yards of compost, compo-soil and compo-mulch from our wonderful nearby Martin’s Compost Farm. Now when we have torrential rains the planting beds look like islands in a lake.

Southwest corner of the garden

The southwest  corner of the garden is probably the wettest part of the garden. The winding gravel path was intended to help handle rainfall. It helps, but it does not eliminate standing water as you can see. The water on the left side of the photo continues past the swamp pinks, past the raspberry patch and the redtwig dogwood. Which you have already seen.

Path and shed

Garden shed and reflections

We love our little garden shed. Aren’t the reflections in the ‘lake’ pretty?

We knew we were getting a wet garden when we bought our house. We planned accordingly. Here is a list of water tolerant – and sometimes water-loving – plants we chose.

Water-loving: Red twig dogwood, yellow twig dogwood, osier dogwood, pagoda dogwood, summersweetwinterberry,  dappled willow, elderberry,  buttonbush, Japanese primroses, river birch

Water tolerant: Daylilies, turtlehead, Siberian irises, Culver’s root,  bog rosemary, cardinal flowermeadow rueobedient plant, Joe Pye weed.

It was fortunate we knew this was a wet site, with an underground river and heavy clay soil. Happily there are lots of beautiful water loving plants to fill a wet garden.