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Vertical Vegetables and Houseplant Care

Vertical Vegetables

Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space by AmyAndrychowicz

Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space by Amy Andrychowicz ($24.95 Cool Springs Press) is a new book that will be valuable for all vegetable gardeners who never have enough room. As I read the book I saw ways space could be saved at the same time that creative techniques would also add new beauty to the garden. This book would be a great holiday gift for those who garden in limited space.

Most of us have some experience with the various supports that are used in the garden. What are the ways to support vertical vegetables? Trellises are great for vining plants and staking is used for vegetables that don’t twine. Nowadays there are also cages that circle and support a plant like tomatoes. Andrychowicz also talks about the ways plants can be trained on vertical supports. She goes beyond and describes the ways that the many varieties of container gardening can be used vertically.

The list continues with vertical vegetable plantings on teepees, pergolas, arches, obelisks, A-frames and lean-tos, words not always used for supporting floppy plants. One of the latest ideas in limited space gardening is the hanging garden. The kind of vertical supports you need will depend on the plants you want to grow with regard to strength, height, and access to the harvest. Happily, vertical supports can be made of many materials, wood, wire, and pipes, depending on the strength needed and your budget.

The next section of the book expands on the kind of supports that specific vegetables need from peas and beans, to grapes and hardy kiwis, to melons and then non-climbing plants like lettuce! I was surprised to see that strawberries could be grown in a hanging garden.

Of course, gardeners must always consider how to fertilize, control weeds, disease and insects and Andychowicz has advice on those issues as well.

Amy Andrychowicz has been busy at her desk as well as in her garden. She created the Get Busy Gardening website where she has been blogging for nearly10 years. The website is full of information about plant propagation, houseplant care, projects for the garden and more.

Complete Houseplant Survival Manual

Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant

While some gardeners struggle with limited space, some gardeners, and some of our friends who have never gardened, have no outdoor space at all. The gift of a flowering plant is especially delightful and welcome at this time of the year when the days are so short. The problem is that while welcoming a blooming orchid, or cyclamen or poinsettia the recipient might enjoy it, and then weep when it shrivels up and dies. I have always thought that a book about houseplants should accompany the gift of a plant.

There are many reasons that a houseplant might wilt and fail. Perhaps the amount of light was wrong, too much or too little. Perhaps the plant received too much or too little water. Perhaps the temperature was too high or too low. These are all problems that can be easily corrected if the plant recipient is given some basic information.

In fact, I think giving plants to a relative or friend you should to take into consideration the type of living space, how much heat there is at night and during the day. Also think about window alignment; will there be south or north light, or east or west.

There are many books that could accompany the gift of a plant. I like the encyclopedic Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Know-how for Keeping (Not Killing!) more than 160 Indoor Plants by Barbara Pleasant (Storey $24.95.) Not all houseplants bloom, even part of the year, but a bit of grape ivy, a fern, or a variegated creeping fig can also bring a whiff of the natural world into the house.

In addition to a photo and a page of specific information about the needs of a plant, Pleasant has a section on general houseplant care. She gives great information about containers, pruning, repotting and dealing with specific pests that are likely to make a try at your beautiful plant.

Pleasant has written other books for the novice and is an experienced gardener. Check out The Home Grown Pantry.  

Indestructible Houseplant

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

          If a big book like Pleasant’s is Too Much, for the recipient Tovah Martin’s The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow (Timber Press $22.95) might be the perfect alternative. Martin takes us on a tour of tough plants from African violets to the ZZ (Zamioculocas zamiifolia) plant.

This book has wonderful photographs of plants and containers. Martin’s advice about care includes light needs, temperature tolerations and growth rate. She also gives good advice about creative and beautiful ways to pot up a plant.

Tovah Martin has written other prize winning books about houseplants including The Unexpected Houseplant

I don’t know about you, but I have to confess that when I am buying gifts for my nearest and dearest, I often have trouble keeping my own desires under control. Perhaps you’ll find a houseplant for yourself while choosing one for a friend or relative. Perhaps you’ll want to splurge on a little book for yourself, too.  Happy holidays!

Between the Rows  November 24, 2018

Living Walls for Sustainability at Harvard University

Living Walls Harvard University

Living walls frame the Arcade at the new Richard A. & Susan F. Smith Campus Center features. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

During our most recent trip to Harvard Square we admired the living walls at the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center. There we were introduced to Harvard’s Sustainability Plan which includes buildings and open areas for a healthier and more sustainable campus community. We saw this plan in stunning action. This building was formerly known as the Holyoke Center, but the first three stories of the domineering ten story building has been redesigned to open up the space to the city outside, to bring light inside, and to make those spaces welcoming for groups, for socializing, and for study. Apparently it is now necessary for Harvard itself to provide socializing and organizing space for students because venues around Harvard Square have become so expensive.

The open angles and stairways, and the outdoor balcony with greenery are beautiful and welcoming, but we marveled at the living walls. When you walk into the building you find yourself surrounded on both sides by two-story high walls of greenery. It’s all very well to think fondly of the halls of ivy of our great learning institutions, but one expects those ivy covered walls to be outside the building. A team from Plant Wall Design created a felt and soil medium to hold over 12,000 plants. The 19 plant species were carefully chosen because of their hardiness in these circumstances and include several philodendron species, creeping fig, rabbit foot fern, maidenhair fern, peperomia and others. They are fed hydroponically with nutrients, and water coming from the Campus Center’s roof.  Lighting is provided by special LED lights. The array of shades of green and varied textures is really wonderful.

The plants serve the function of cleaning the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen. They also provide some humidity. Beyond the benefits of clean air for the students, the designers at Plant Wall Design must have considered the benefits of biophilia. Some scientists have concluded that gazing at an image of a natural scene will relax the brain. Some have said that being in nature lightens your mood and makes you more productive. Some say we have an inborn need to maintain connections with nature. To this end Michael Van Valkenburg Associates (Van Valkenburg also designed the wonderful wooded Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum) created an ‘open air vitrine’ forest in the middle of the building. A vitrine is a glass display case; the Campus Center’s vitrine puts a green forest on display.

Forest in a glass vitrine

A vitrine filled with trees frames the Arcade at the new Richard A. & Susan F. Smith Campus Center features. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

I commend Harvard for their Sustainability Plan which is about more than the living walls. They have made greater use of their open spaces. We were delighted to walk through Harvard Yard in the gloaming, to see all kinds of groups on cheerfully painted chairs visiting under the shade trees, and picnicking on the lawn. We bought supper from the food trucks on a plaza complete with a large fountain that resembled a rocky splash pad – where children were frolicking. Our connections to each other are surely as important as our connections to nature.

living wall plants

My son Chris and I on elevated walkway to see living wall plants closeup

Harvard’s living walls are not unique. We learned that the Boston Science Museum also has interior green walls designed by Ambius. When we visited Quebec City a number of years ago we saw one exterior wall of a large building covered with greenery, much like Harvard’s interior walls. The goal again was to provide clean air and to lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Many people with small gardens can also include more greenery by using one wall hung system or another. I’ve seen home made drainpipe plantings for home gardens, but a few clicks through Amazon will reveal a world of felt systems for indoors or outdoor gardens, as well and wood and plastic systems. You may also find some systems at your local garden center.

The growing interest in providing plants to purify the air and lower carbon dioxide shows me that people are reacting to climate change and thinking about the benefits of plants to us individually, and to our planet. The importance of street trees in our towns and cities is appreciated and valued more every day. Early this month Greenfield and Montague announced that they had received a gift of 1,000 trees to be planted over the next three years. The grant from the U.S. Forest Service will allow the Franklin Land Trust to work with the Greenfield’s Tree Committee and Montague’s Tree Advisory Committee, and with their departments of public works to plant trees where they are needed, on public land, along streets, and where residents want trees, including replacing dead or dying trees. Planting will begin in the spring of 2019.

Planting a tree will mean cleaner air, cooling shade in the summer, and control over storm water runoff. If you would like to have a tree, call the Greenfield DPW at 413-772-1528, if you live in Montague call the Montague DPW at 413-863 2054. ###

Between the Rows  November 17, 2018

Cider Days and Biodynamic agriculture

Mike Biltonen Cider Days

During Cider DaysMike Biltonen explained to an eager audience the basics of biodynamic agriculture

The 24th Annual Franklin County Cider Days came with splashes and torrents of rain, but those who love hard cider, and sweet cider and apples too, drew visitors from far and wide. I spoke to a young man who explained he and his friends who own an apple orchard in Pennyslvania came to see what is happening in the cider world. He said Cider Days is the epicenter of all the latest news about cider and apple orchards.

I started with a stop at the Peckville Orchard store to buy apples. The first Cider Days program I attended was up on Peckville Road at the West County Cidery. Mike Biltonen, who has bachelor and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech and Cornell, spoke about The Promise of Biodynamics: The Reality and Spirit of Nature. I knew nothing about biodynamics in agriculture except for stories about the giant vegetables grown at Findhorn in Scotland decades ago, although those stories are now more accepted as myth.

Biltonen did not tell us Findhorn stories, he began with Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) an Austrian philosopher and social reformer, who sought to find a synthesis between spirituality and science. Among his projects was the founding of the Waldorf Schools and biodynamic agriculture. Biltonen admitted that biodynamic practices can sound a little ‘woo-woo’ but when you considered the efficacy of herbal medicine it was easier to think that herbal remedies could also be used on plants with good results.

The woo-woo comes from Steiner’s belief in the effect of the energies of the cosmos and the astral space beyond the planets, as well as energies around us. “Now we are moving into a biointensive era out of necessity. Over the decades since WWII agricultural systems have become more mechanical and non-organic. There is more use of chemical spraying and fertilizers. . .  It can take five to seven years of biodynamic practices to re-energize the land and make it fertile again,” Biltonen said.

Biodynamic agriculture uses specific cures. Cow manure is packed into cow horns and buried for about 18 months to compost. Yarrow, German chamomile, stinging nettles and other herbs are used in potions that will cure particular problems with insects or disease. I did not understand how you can have enough cow horns or enough herb harvests to make this system work, but Biltonen said that it was better to think of the use of biodynamic preparations is like effectively using the small doses of homeopathic medicines.

An hour talk about a subject like biodynamic agriculture gives one just a taste of a big subject. Biltonen said there were very few biodynamic orchards, but he is working to increase their healthy number. For more information about Biltonen and his work as a technical agriculture advisor check out www.usaappleleaf.com.

Cider Days

Cider Days Talks at Shelburne-Buckland Community Center

Of course, there were many other events. I stopped in Shelburne Buckland Community Center where Claude Jolicoeur gave a talk about Central Asia – Travels to the Birthplace of Apples.  And you thought apples were the original all American fruit! A bunch of cider makers gave tastings there. Sue Chadwick, who taught me how to make a really good apple pie, was selling apple pies, and John Bunker of Maine who wrote a great book Not Far From the Tree about antique apples in his town of Palermo was giving a talk at the Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery.

Clarkdale Cider Days

Taste testing pears and apples on Cider Days at Clarkdale

Tasting events, of ciders alone, and of ciders with other delectable items sold out fast. There were workshops on making cider, cider vinegar, caring for backyard apple trees and much more. I went down to Clarkdale to taste their apples and pears. I had already bought a big bag of Clarkdale’s Pie Mix, and after tasting a few new apples, I bought a bag of crispy Gold Rush apples and was thrilled to find that it was now pear cider season. Last year I learned that I can freeze pear – or apple – cider as long as I pour out some so the container won’t burst.

Amy Traverso, senior food editor at Yankee magazine and author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, which I have found very useful in all seasons, was on hand to share some apple cooking hacks at Clarkdale, too.

Oesco demonstration at Cider Days

Andy Dulude and Sukie Kindwall demonstrating OESCO fruit masher

While at Clarkdale I got to see the demonstration of OESCO’s commercial cider press. There are two parts to making cider. First you have to smash up the apples, or whatever fruit you are using, and then you have to press the juice out of the mash. OESCO manufactures the fruit masher, but the fruit press, of different sizes, is imported from France. Sukie Kindwall and Andy Dulude were on duty making cider right before our eyes, giving credit to Ben Clark for making up boxes of carefully chosen cider apple varieties.

Cider Days

Sukie and Andy enjoyed Cider Days – the rain meant nothing

Of course, coming and going to Shelburne Falls I had to go past all the excitements at Hager’s Farm Store and the annual pumpkin smash. Actually there is almost always something exciting going on at Hager’s. The Farm Store is a great example of a big farm family moving on with the times – and enjoying great success!

I am already marking my calendar for Cider Days 2019 – November 2-3!

Between the Rows  November 10, 2018

UMass and Landscape Design

schreiber, Thurber and Davidsohn

Steve Schreiber, Jane Thurber and Mike Davidsohn (L-R)

Professor Steve Schreiber, Jane Thurber, Lecturer, and Michael Davidsohn, Senior Lecturer, from the University of Massachusetts Architecture and Landscape Design Programs gave me a lesson in design. All three continue their practice as well as teaching. To teach me they invited me to a house in Amherst where Schreiber had designed and overseen completion of an addition to an 1890s house, and Thurber and Davidsohn built a new sustainable landscape.

Schreiber’s handsome design connected spaces in the original house with the addition, resulting in interior spaces that look larger, and that allow a wider view. “The goal is to live compactly, and yet expansively,” Schreiber said.

The exterior of Schreiber’s addition took into account of the slope of the property, and the need to manage rainfall from the roof.

UMass design before

Umass design – Amherst driveway before work gegan

The Town of Amherst has rules about how much impervious paving a house lot can have. Permeable surfaces are vital as we think about the environment, the need to refresh the aquifer, and to moderate heat. This house had a long wide paved driveway that ran from the street to the garage in back of the house and set in the middle of the lawn. Thurber and Davidsohn knew their first task was to remove about half of the driveway, including the paving that continued along one side of the garage.

Thurber and Davidsohn also used this site to hold a design studio for a dozen Umass students who came to view,  to measure and come up with their own designs and models of the space, keeping in mind the attributes of the space, and requirements of the design. Such on-site projects are an important part of a student’s learning.

UMass design

UMass design for shortened driveway with stone path and plantings

I understood the need to remove paving and admired the new entry to the backyard, a laid stone path, bordered by wide planting beds. More plants will be added to the bearberry ground cover. The young amelanchier trees (serviceberry) on the left side lead to a simple wood and wire fence designed and built by Davidsohn and Kevin Hartzel. Raised beds for blueberries and vegetables now run alongside the garage replacing the paving. A stone path was built to the garage door. Careful grading in front of the garage now keeps out rainwater.

A raised bed contained by a stone wall and planted with grasses hides the concrete foundation of the addition. A long stone path runs the width of the 60 foot yard with an expanded space for a patio.

UMass design

UMass design – swales to capture and manage water – soon to be planted with water loving plants

A drainpipe from the roof of the addition has been designed to capture most of the rainfall from the roof. The drainpipe goes under the stonewall and stone path; water is released into a swale along this side of the garage. At the other end of the garage is a drainpipe that releases water into a continuation of the swale that goes across the yard where it meets a swale that handles water from a basement sump pump. Standing on the patio, looking over the lawn, there is little sense of a swale, just of interesting water loving plants that mark three edges of the grass lawn.

Thurber and I stood on the larger rectangle of the two strategically planted lawns and she explained, “We don’t talk about filling up space. We want to have edges.”

UMass design

UMass design – green lawns seen from entry into backyard

Davidsohn followed up saying, “There is always mass and void. We have to figure out where the spaces are. That’s important. We wanted to give the residents a sense of space.”

From the lawn we looked up towards the house. I could see that the intensity of the design was around the house. The aim was to make the garage in the lawn as invisible as possible.

I was trying to keep up with words like mass and void used in a new ways. I asked Davidsohn what he meant when he talked about the things he built. “What do you mean built,” I asked. “Do you mean you chose the stones and laid them out?”

UMass design

UMass design – stone patio in process

He replied that was exactly what he meant. “Kevin Hartzel and I built the landscape. Kevin is a landscape contractor, with a two year certificate from Stockbridge. That’s how I started my career. As a landscape contractor. For this job I chose the stones, flat and round, and the two of us laid the stones, planted the plants, and dug the swales.”

UMass design

UMass design – patio completed

I was fascinated to learn that Stockbridge began with two year programs 200 years ago, and continues to have a few certificate programs today.

Finally we went to the front of the house to see what was created there this past summer. Originally there was a narrow cement walkway to the street. You had to walk across the lawn when you parked in the driveway. Now there is a graceful three part stone path from the driveway to a large anchor stone in front of the porch steps and on to the other side of the house. The cement path was replaced by a continuation of the stone path.  Jane Thurber and I looked at the path from the street. “It claims the house from the street, but it is also welcoming,” she said.

Umass design

UMass design – Tripart stone path

I was grateful for the chance to spend a morning with Schreiber, Thurber and Davidsohn, gaining insight into what it takes to create a design that is sustainable, practical and lovely.###

Between the Rows  November 3, 2018

Who Chose the Names for Flowers in My Garden?

Passionate Nymphs Thigh

Passionate Nymphs’s Thigh named by the Empress Josephine

Who chose the names of flowers in my garden? I have found they often have an old and interesting history.  The names of the roses I have grown remind us of the person who did the naming – or at least of memorable people. In my Heath rose garden I grew Madame Hardy, a rose bred in 1832 by Alexandre Hardy who named it for his wife.

The first rose I planted in Heath was named Passionate Nymphs Thigh. I could not resist that name. This rose was named by the Empress Josephine whose country house, Chateau de la Malmaison, had the perfect acreage for the large gardens she was to plant. Roses were her favorite of all the usual and exotic plants in her garden. Apparently she enjoyed giving imaginative names to her plants. She chose Cuisse de Nymph Emue, which translated literally means Thigh of an Aroused Nymph and proved scandalous enough in some quarters that it also came to be called Maiden’s Blush. During Napoleon’s wars there was always an order to allow packages from the English nurseryman, Kennedy, to come through the blockades. Napoleon himself often sent Josephine roses from his campaigns. Her garden ultimately included 200 different roses.

Fantin Latour painting

One of Fantin-Latour’s paintings of roses

It is the great British rose breeder David Austin who named a rose for the celebrated Constance Spry (1886-1960) the British florist and educator who changed the way we all arrange our bouquets. Austin honored many other ladies – and gentlemen – of the horticultural world, including Gertrude Jekyll, and Graham Thomas, and characters from literature like Sweet Juliet and Brother Cadfael. Clearly it pays to be a plant breeder, and have the right to commemorate friends or famous people of history.

Lawrence Johnston (1871-1958) was American born but after attending the University of Cambridge in England he became a naturalized British citizen. He joined the British military and fought in the Second Boer War and later World War 1. His mother bought a 300 acre estate named Hidcote Manor. Johnston joined his widowed mother after the war and spent the next forty years collecting plants, hunting for plants in such places as the alps and the Andes, and designing gardens with wonderful plant combinations. After 1930 the gardens became more and more well known for their individualistic beauty and plants. He named a number of the flowers in his garden for Hidcote including Hidcote lavender, Hidcote Gold rose, Hidcote Beauty fuchsia and others.

Griffith Buck Folksinger rose

Griffith Buck Folksinger rose

We in the U.S. had our own wonderful rose breeder Dr. Griffith Buck (1915-1991) who fought in WWII and then enrolled at the University of Iowa. He stayed on there as a professor for the rest of his professional life. He hybridized 80 roses and his goal was to make them cold hardy to -20 degrees and strong enough that they would not need pesticides or fungicides.

Applejack rose

Griffith Buck Applejack rose

Several Buck roses are among the Earth-Kind collection of trouble free hardy roses. Living in Heath I needed hardy roses and the large pink Applejack rose greeted our guests as they made the turn to the front of our house. It was one of the first roses planted, and was still going strong with little attention 35 years later when we moved to Greenfield where I am now growing the beautiful fragrant pale peach Folksinger Buck rose. Buck chose many names that reflected  the Midwest, from Prairie Star, Winter Sunset, Hawkeye Belle and Earth Song.

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck Rose

Breeders at the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas bred an amazing cerise red rose that blooms into November! They chose to name it after Thomas Affleck, a 19th century nurseryman who had a nursery just down the road from their operation. I grew this rose in Heath where its vigor amazed us, and I am growing another Thomas Affleck here in Greenfield because it is so beautiful, so carefree and still blooming in late October.

Here in Franklin County we are not far from the Olallie Daylily Gardens in South Newfane. Many of the daylilies there were hybridized by Dr. George Darrow (1889-1983) whose long career for the USDA was as a geneticist. He concentrated on small fruits and berries. At least one of the plants he worked with was the blueberry. He was not only honored by having a blueberry named after him, Darrow (which can be purchased at Nourse Farm), he also helped start the Pick Your Own berry movement.

Olallie Lass daylily

Olallie Lass – Darrow hybrid

In his retirement Darrow began hybridizing daylilies. The names he chose for his successes all began with “Olallie” which was the name of a west coast native American tribe. Loosely translated it was Place Where Berries Are Found. He thought Olallie would be the perfect name for his farm. Maryland Olallie Farm came into being first with berries, but the daylilies he created bore names like Olallie Lass, Ollalie Harvest and Ollalie Light Hearted. Some of the Olallie daylilies are named after family and friends. Now it is grandson Christopher Darrow who owns the amazing Olallie Daylily Farm, and has hybridized 125 new Olallie daylilies.

Christopher Darrow always has new hybrids coming along, and he has suggested that some of us might like to name a day lily ourselves.  Check out the website. Wouldn’t your sweetheart like a unique daylily with her/his name?

Between the Rows  October 27, 2018

Autumn Assessment – Failures and Hopes

Autumn assessment - deluges of rain

The most obvious autumn assessment was the amount of damage done by heavy summer rainfalls

This is the season when we begin the autumn assessment of our garden season – the weather, our schedules, our successes, the failures and the not-quite-what-I- expecteds. I went into spring chores with joy and high expectations, but there was a disaster – the weather.

Spring took a long time coming but by April 1 there were primroses budding. There were occasional snowfalls, but we did not have as wet a garden as we had had the past two years. We were full of anticipation as we planted some vegetables at the edge of the (usually) driest flower beds, and enjoyed pruning bushes that had grown so lushly. Remember, we were just going into our fourth year of gardening in Greenfield.

I had been sent a book to write about in this column titled Strawbale Solutions by Joel Karsten. I had tried to grow some vegetables in a couple of straw bales some years ago with no more knowledge than that it took a straw bale and a plant start. That experiment was not a success.

Strawbale Solutions gave very specific directions in preparing straw bales for planting so I thought I could not go wrong. I bought three beautiful straw bales from the Farmer’s Coop on High Street, and was assured that these bales were herbicide free. I also bought high nitrogen lawn fertilizer, as directed.

On May 9th I began conditioning the bales, which mean spreading the proper amount of fertilizer on top of the bales and watering it in. I followed the schedule in the book for 12 days, and then I was ready to spread some soil over the top of the bales and planted green bean seeds and kept them watered as directed.

The idea is that the conditioned straw bales will start decomposing on the inside, making compost that will provide the seeds and plant starts with nutrition to grow and flourish. The bales will need to be kept watered because they are porous and need to be kept damp.

Failed straw bales

Assessment? Failed strawbales

Long story short – the straw bales were a brilliant failure. I certainly cannot lay that failure on Joel Karsten. I have to confess that while I did keep the bales watered, I did not always do this with warm water which was a strong recommendation. Karsten explained that cold water right out of the hose did not encourage the growth of the bacteria that needed warmth to provide nourishment for the seeds or plants.

It is also possible that the bales simply did not get enough sun. I knew they would not get morning sun, but I thought the afternoon summer sun would be more than adequate. Maybe not.

The upshot was that I never harvested any beans, although there were a few sad looking specimens on the wire fence support. And it is just now that a little cherry tomato plant I put in has started producing ripe tomatoes.

I take full responsibility for the failure of the strawbales. I do not take responsibility for the death of the beautiful weeping cherry, the pagoda dogwood, and the suffering of the calycanthus and lindera benzoin shrubs.

Lindera benzoin

Lindera benzoin might have a chance at life in 2019

The trees drowned and the shrubs struggle to survive. Heavy rains in July and into August were the culprit. The cherry and the dogwood have already been removed. We’ll wait and see if there is any spark of life in the Lindera benzoin and calycanthus for next spring.

Not all of the plants that seemed happy have bloomed. No striking red crocosmia. Still no bloom on the Sheffield daisies which are usually such cheerful late bloomers. (Since I wrote this the Sheffies and happily blooming ignoring the frigid nights.)

winterberries

Winterberries are swamp plants and love the rain

Still, not everything was a failure. That is the joy of a richly diverse garden. The primroses loved the swampy summer as did the dappled willow, the elderberries, the winterberries, the button bush, the yellow twig dogwood and the river birches. Scaveola, a lovely low blue annual next to the yellow twig dogwood spent a blooming summer singing out, “Look at me! I’m swimming!”

All the rain which was such a problem in my garden which has serious known drainage problems, was just what other gardens needed. There are two public gardens in town which thrived during the rainy summer.

The renovation of the Energy Park gardens by a group of volunteers, Wisty Rorbacher, Judy Draper, Nancy Hazard, Linda Smith and Nancy Patteson continued this summer. The soil there is sandy, and there is no easy way to provide regular watering, so the many and heavy rains were a real benefit to the plantings there. This garden is designed to focus on native plants that will support pollinators in every season.

The second public garden located on Pleasant Street is a new garden, a part of the landscaping around the new John Zon Community Center. Again, it is a group of volunteers that created this garden under the direction of Nancee Bershof and Tom Sullivan who also promote the planting of pollinator gardens. That garden began with generous loads of soil and compost from Martin’s Farm.

A beautiful and productive garden depends on good soil, rain and sun. If only we could order up the proper amounts of each every year.  How did your garden grow this year?

Between The Rows  October 20, 2018

UMass Extension Garden Calendar for 2019

UMass Extension Garden Calendar

Umass Extension Garden Calendar

Every year the UMass Extension creates a beautiful and useful calendar to teach, advise and remind us of our duties and opportunities all year long.

COST: $14bulk pricing is available on orders of 10 copies or more.
Shipping is FREE on orders of 9 or fewer calendars – FREE SHIPPING ENDS NOV 1!

FOR IMAGES IN THE CALENDAR, details, and ordering info, go to umassgardencalendar.org.

The 2019 UMass Garden Calendar features the use of tomography to identify internal decay in trees.
Many people also love the daily tips and find the daily sunrise/sunset times highly useful!

These calendars always make a great gift for the gardeners in our circle. They will be available until Christmas – but after Nov 1, there will be a shipping charge.  You might one for yourself, too.

She Sheds Style and Upcycling Projects – No Idle Hands Here

She Sheds

She Sheds like this one exhibit a very individual style. Two books, She Sheds Style and Upcycling Outdoors, have very different takes on creating stylish garden sheds and launching other projects for the garden.

Every garden is unique because every gardener has different desires. Some gardeners want vegetable gardens, some want lots of flowers, some want art and glamour, and some want a practical fixture.

Upcycling Outdoors

Upcycling Outdoors by Max Murdo

Max Murdo is a gardener, and a thrifty handy man. He likes taking throwaways and then “conceptualizing an idea, researching, developing, making prototypes and finally displaying the finished product in all its glory …” He loves designing all kinds of things for the garden from simple but handsome hanging planters to a three door potting shed and an array of hanging lights. In his book Upcycling Outdoors – 20 Creative Garden Projects Made from Reclaimed Materials (Jacqui Small $29.95) Murdo provides clear how-to photos, showing each step along the way.

Some of the pictured products are easy to put together, and require inexpensive materials, even if they are not to be found in the depths of the cellar or garden shed. I could easily image making a suitcase planter because while I don’t have any old suitcases of my own, I have seen them in thrift shops for very little. This project takes nothing more than an old suitcase, four legs, some plastic, and your own creativity for painting.

Other projects may very well take a weekend like the three door potting shed. Out here in our rural part of the world it might be possible to pick up something like three doors at our transfer stations.

The pleasure Murdo finds in these projects is the joy of working outdoors, the satisfaction of not putting more trash in our dumps, the delight in creating a piece of art and the thrill of learning new skills. I would find all those pleasures as well, but I have to add I would like to be doing bigger projects with a partner. Fortunately, my husband is always willing when I look at him with smile and say, “I’ve got an Idea!”

The scope of the projects in this book ranges from easy like the plastic gutter hanging planter to more difficult like the bicycle wheel fire pit. You will be lured from one project to another, and the clarity of the photos and directions give confidence.

Max Murdo has many strings to his bow and has shared his creativity and skills on television, at the Chelsea Flower Show, and won design awards. His work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions.

She Sheds Style

She Sheds Style

She Sheds Style: Make Your Space Your Own by Erika Kotite (Cool Springs Press $25) is specifically devoted to sheds for the lady of the house. Ever since I visited a display of inspired and ingenious garden sheds at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in 2010 I have thought how wonderful it would be to have a shed that has more functions than for storing garden tools and equipment.

Women are still looking for a room of their own and Erika Kotite’s book about She Shed Style describes the many ways a small shed can provide private space for sewing, painting, reading or socializing. Nowadays we have the advantage of the availability of prefab wooden sheds of various sizes, and Kotite suggests ways these can be taken from a standard to an original style. She also shows different ways that an existing shed can be refurbished, or rebuilt, sometimes using salvaged windows and other materials.

While there is practical information and advice about building a she shed, the emphasis in the book is about style. Kotite’s she sheds range in style from elegant, cozy, shabby chic, and austere modernity and the whimsical. I was fascinated with the idea of weaving a Wild Vine She Shed built on an artfully painted wooden platform, with another painted canvas cover. Kotite really imagines many styles.

Besides instances of styles, the great benefit of the book is the directions given for various projects which would be valuable in many places beyond a shed. Do you want a herringbone brick floor? Do you want to learn a variety of decorative paint techniques? Do you want to plant an espalier?

Kotite has many ideas about using space, and about working with color. I found the lesson that explained color, its hues, tints, tones and shades helpful in explaining why some colors go together beautifully and effectively and others don’t.

Kotite has been the editor for Romantic Homes and Victorian  Homes and she has been featured in Architectural Digest, Oprah.com, NBC’s Today Show and other TV programs, as well as magazine and newspaper articles.

Now that autumn is well upon us, and our days in the garden this year is limited it is pleasant to be able to sit in our warm houses and think about next year. What do we want to change or add to our gardens? What can we do without spending too much money? Upcycling Outdoors and She Sheds Style certainly provide food for creative thought.

Gift giving is almost upon us and these well illustrated books make wonderful presents for those who like taking on creative projects little or large. ###

Between the Rows   October 13, 2018

Scheduled Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – October 2018

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

On this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day here in western Massachusetts I am ready to celebrate annuals – and others – who have survived the rains of this summer. Look at this sunny nasturtium – a volunteer from last year who swam happily this year through the summer.

Zinnias

Zinnias and

Marigolds

Marigolds

are always stalwart and shining.  The bees love them and are grateful for their long season. There are a couple of other other potted (nameless) annuals that also keep us cheerful.

Scaveola

Scaveola

This cheerful annual in front of the yellow twig dogwood found out it knew how to swim.

Geum

Geum

This geum, blooming next to the scaveola must have been inspired – enough to put out a couple of new blossoms.

Joe Pye Weed

Variegated Joe Pye Weed

This variegated Joe Pye weed is in full bloom – finally.

"The Fairy" rose

“The Fairy” Rose

The Fairy” rose will stand in for the other roses still putting out occasional blooms. “The Fairy” is just tough and remarkable.

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas

The three hydrangeas are in full glorious bloom, but they are bowed low by all  the heavy rains.

Red Winterberry

Red Winterberry

Though not strictly in bloom, the red (and gold) winterberries have really enjoyed all the rain. We are swamp plants, you know, they remind us.

I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the wonderful Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Visit Carol and see what else is in bloom over this great land.

Sunderland School Gardens – Education and Delight

school gardens

Sunderland School gardens – early in the season

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
Gonna mulch it deep and low
Gonna make it fertile ground”

By David Mallett

School gardens can be classed as one of the special classrooms in a school, offering fertile ground for children’s learning. In a school garden students of every age can learn to observe, learn about plant growth, about insects, about the life to be found in healthy soil, and much more. A school garden provides the first practical science lessons.

Sunderland Elementary School has had a small garden for the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. For some years these young children have been able to get their hands dirty and learn to use their eyes as plants are transformed from a tiny shoot to a flower or carrot. However, when they graduated from kindergarten they lost their garden and the fun and learning they had there.

That loss was corrected. Early in the spring of 2017 Flora Cox, Amanda Berg, Darrel Beymer and Molly Wickline, who all work at the school in various capacities formed a garden committee.

Flora Cox said “The garden gave us a wonderful opportunity to teach science in a playful and natural way. We looked for earthworms, wooly bears, grubs, insects; talked about weeds and learned how to pull them out; plant our own produce like kale and carrots and learn how to harvest them and of course eat them. But once the kids graduated from Kindergarten, there was really no carryover to the upper grades.”

Cox said they made a beginning in the spring of 2017. “We staked out a plot in the back playground, removed the sod, and had each grade plant their own crop. They started their seeds indoors and planted them outside. Some seeds like carrots and potatoes were direct sown. Everyone loved doing it. Some vegetables were harvested by children in the summer program. Others like potatoes were harvested in October and cooked and eaten in the first grade classroom by the former kindergartners, now first graders, who had planted them.”

Success must build on success. This year the Sunderland community got involved. J. M. Pasiecnik, a local farmer in Whately, the Sunderland PTO ,

Deerfield Pharmacy, Sugarloaf Nursery, and Cowl’s Lumber provided the funding to buy the wood, screws, and chicken wire for the garden. Warner Brothers Construction donated 12 yards of soil while Atlas Farms and Riverland Farm donated plants. Other donors supplied trowels, gloves.

 Jeff Hubbard and his tractor removed the sod and leveled the site. The garden raised beds and fences were built by the garden committee members Cox, Berg, Beymer and Wickline with a big assist from Vinnie Cabriotti, a parent, and Douglas Cox, a horticulture professor at UMass.

The 6th graders got into the act, too. Cox said “Mrs. Von Flatern’s 6th grade class made 3-D models of our garden from my scaled landscape design and also calculated a hypothetical supply list, a great real life math application which they loved.

Darrel Beymer, Flora Cox, Amanda Berg and Molly Wickline, l-r

Last week I got to meet the garden committee and see the garden myself. Amanda Berg introduced me to Darrel Beymer and Molly Wickline and Flora Cox and gave me a tour of the garden that was built beyond the wonderful playground. Several children who were still at school for the after school schedule followed us into the garden. There were cherry tomatoes to eat, and even kale leaves to nibble.

Cox told me that the garden lent itself to nibbling, but children and parents who stopped by the school during the summer to water (not often necessary this past summer) and weed, were able to take home a vegetable or two for dinner. “I was also surprised at the way the first graders ate that kale,” Cox said.

Gardens are always a work in process. These students are observing and learning how the soil can be improved, and what crops would be best to grow next year. There is always next year.

When we left the vegetable garden we made a stop at the large pollinator garden which is a Monarch Way Station. This big wild looking garden has plants that bees and butterflies like including butterfly bushes, coneflowers, milkweed and Joe Pye weed. The children are learning about the importance of these insects, and what they need.

School gardens

Sunderland school gardens Monarch Way Station

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this school garden, and I am happy to report that there are other school gardens where students of all ages learn to follow the cycles of the seasons, life cycles of insects and plants. Four Corners School in Greenfield continues the school garden they’ve had for about five years and involves all the children. I know of at least ten other school gardens.

Amy Donovan of the Franklin County Waste Management District has put 30 vermiculture bins in school classrooms so children can see how worms live and how they make compost for the garden.

The Hawlemont School has created a whole curriculum around agriculture called Hawlemont, Agriculture and You (HAY). They now have a barn for goats and sheep, a hen house, a greenhouse and gardens! Beyond classes children learn more agricultural skills in the afterschool 4-H clubs.

A garden offers lessons in science, in close observation, but also in counting and calculating, reading and recording. Inch by inch our children grow and grow.###

Between the Rows   October 6, 2018