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Early Spring Bloomers Bring Promise of the Flowering Season

Snowdrops in mid-April

Snowdrops in Heath in mid-April

When do spring bloomers begin? Punxitawny Phil did not see his shadow this morning. Hooray! An early spring is on its way, and I am looking forward to more bright sun and the beginnings of spring blooming perennials.

I’ve enjoyed brilliant sunlight shining on my yellow twig dogwood, but I know there will be more snow, more cold and more days before I can think about getting down on my knees in the garden. Because I am always so eager for spring flowers I have managed to have a number of early bloomers to cheer and encourage me.

The earliest bloomer I had in Heath was the snowdrop. I had planted a few in what I called the Orchard, four apple trees set in the grass at the end of my Rose Walk.  Every year more and more snow drops spread in the grass. Snowdrops grow from small bulbs and should be planted in the fall. However, I have been known to dig up a clump of blooming snowdrops and move a clump “in the green” and plant them where I wanted them to continue spreading.

I think grape hyacinths, Muscari, are even more vigorous spreaders than snowdrops. In the fall of 2017 I planted a bunch of bulbs in the flower bed that is the view from my Greenfield kitchen window. I wanted to see flowers in the spring as early as possible. I had wonderful bloom in the spring of 2018. As expected the flowers died and so did the foliage. They bloomed again beautifully in 2019, and had spread quit a bit. Then in the fall when I was weeding, I noticed little green shoots.  What were they? They were quite scattered. I had no idea what they were, and wondered if it was some noxious weed I should be pulling. I did pull up a couple of shoots and realized I was pulling up little bulbs. As it turns out, grape hyacinths that have been in the ground for at least a year, will then and thereafter send up shoots every fall and last through the winter until the flowers come into bloom. I always say there are many mysteries in the garden.

Double bloodroot

Double Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is another very early spring bloomer. Visitors to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls will see double bloodroots blooming by the first of May. Bloodroot flowers are a brilliant white with large, deeply cleft leaves 12 inches high. The single variety has a golden center and the double variety has a full pompom of white petals.

These bright white flowers got the name bloodroot from the red sap of the rhizomes. That sap has some medicinal uses, but I  wouldn’t try any of them. It is also used as a natural red or orange dye.


Trillium – three petals, three sepals and three leaves

Another bright white flower is the trillium. Trilliums are native plants that grow in the shade in wooded areas. It is an elegant flower with its three petals, three sepals and three leaves. If you are walking through the woods and come across a trillium, you should never pick it and never dig it up. They spread by rhizomes which will make a thick mat. Digging them up will cut that mat of rhizomes and kill the plant. Fortunately, there are now special nurseries which sell trilliums. Hillside Nursery in Shelburne specializes in growing and selling special native plants. They sell most of their plants, including trillium, in the fall when conditions are most amenable for survival. Check their website .

I first loved the epimedium’s heart-shaped foliage, which I noticed growing under trees and shrubs in friends’ gardens. Then I loved the delicate blooms in various shades of white, yellow, pink, and purple. I now have more than a dozen epimediums growing and spreading in my front garden. A large swathe of these plants is beautiful when they are in and out of bloom. I have dug up sections to let them spread in other spots, and I have shared divisions with other gardeners which is always a pleasure.

Garden Visions Epimediums in Templeton has the largest collection of epimediums in the U.S. I have gotten some of my plants from them. They have Open Nursery Days on May 1 to May 18, from 10 am to 4 pm. Rain or shine. Epimediums look very delicate but in fact they are sturdy and long-lived.

Fringed Bleeding Hearts

Fringed Bleeding Hearts

The cover of my new American Gardener magazine featured bleeding hearts. The article that accompanied photogphs of the bleeding hearts surprised me because I did not realize there were so many varieties. There are bleeding hearts with white flowers, bleeding hearts with pink flowers and golden foliage, pink flowers with familiar green foliage and small pink fringed bleeding hearts with a feathery foliage and 18 other varieties.

When we first saw soon-to-be-our house in Greenfield I was thrilled to see the fringed bleeding hearts (Dicentra exima) growing up against the house foundation. They are delicate and sweet and happy in the sun.

After we had been living in the house for a couple of years, adding more and more soil to make raised beds for my plantings, I planted the Goldheart bleeding heart with its gold foliage. This plant gets sun for part of the day, but it also gets a lot of shade and still thrives.

What early bloomers do you have? Crocus?  Or other perennials like mine?


Primroses bloom early as well.  I thank Foster’s Maket for these.

Between the Rows  February 8, 2020

Best and New Plants for the Garden in 2020

Perennial Plant of 2020

Best Perennial  –  Aralia ‘Sun King’ PPA Perennial Plant Of The Year

The New Year is well begun. New plants will be available at every nursery this spring.  The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) chooses and honors one plant every year. This year they chose the ‘Sun King’ Aralia as its Plant of the Year. Another name for Aralia is spikenard, or nard suggesting a long and ancient history. When ground up its roots can produce a fragrant and beneficial oil.

Centuries ago the Egyptians stored the fragrant oil, the Hebrews used it as incense, and it appears in the Bible in the Song of Solomon, chapters 1:12 and 4:13. Sometimes it is referred to as frankincense, but the oil is still used today as a balm and in the perfume industry.

Today the golden foliage of ‘Sun King’ will brighten a shady garden location. It grows in a clump and in late summer into the fall it sends up two foot tall spikes with small white flowers. It can grow to between three to six feet tall in rich, moist soil that is well drained. That suggests necessary attention to the difference between moist and well-drained. It is a plant that can naturalize.

The PPA chooses a special plant every year. In 2019 they chose the Stachys ‘Hummelo.’ This a hardy plant that needs what we call full sun, which is at least six hours a day. Unlike the ‘Sun King’ it needs well drained soil that requires water when needed. Again, we need to pay attention, at least until we know how plants act in our own gardens.

Some of us may be familiar with the variety of Stachys like lamb’s ears with the gray wooly foliage. ‘Hummelo’ is very different with a clump of bright green foliage and spikes of magenta flowers that attract pollinators. When in full flower it can be two feet tall. This is a trouble free plant that will put on a great show when massed. Over time it will make a good ground cover.




Terra Nova is a nursery that hybridizes plants with concentration on coral bells, Heuchera. They are available at most garden centers. I went to their online catalog and found their  new Plant of the Year is Heuchera Grande ‘Amethyst.’ This large leaf H. villarosa hybrid has large purple foliage which explains the name Amethyst. The summer blooming flowers on tall stems are pink. This lusty plant has a spread of 30 inches. It will grow in sun or shade.

This year Terra Nova has a substantial list of ten new plant offerings from heucheras, heucherellas which combine the attributes of heuchera and tiarella, plectranthus, sedum, and a veronica. A visit to the website will provide beautiful images of each plant, and growing information. Visit their website for full information about all their plants.




Hydrangea Ruby Slippers

Proven Winners hydrangea ‘Ruby Slippers

Proven Winners (PW) is a nursery whose plants are also found in just about every local garden center. Like Terra Nova, they have a number of new plants for 2020. PW is offering 21 new perennials from four yarrows in shades of amethyst, white, peach and bright golden sunshine. Yarrows (Achillea) are great plants for attracting pollinators.

They are offering two bright coneflowers (Echinacea) in shades of orange and yellow which will attract more bees and butterflies.  Other new arrivals are two heart-leafed brunneras, two beautiful pink rose mallows, two 16 inch phlox, three stonecrops, a white salvia, a frilly pink daylily with a wine-red heart, a rich purple speedwell “Purple Profusion.” They are also offering a delicate fern-leafed bleeding heart (Dicentra) only 16 inches tall and named “Pink Diamonds.”

The Proven Winners website provides information about plant care, pollinators, the mysteries of hydrangeas and many other useful topics. Check out 



Geum “Werner Arends’

Monrovia doesn’t name new plant offerings, but my own stroll through their online catalog showed me some plants I would love to add to my garden.

I already have a geum that I bought at a plant sale. It is a low growing plant that sends up strong 10 inch stems holding up little orange flowers with gold centers and blooms over much of the summer and attracts butterflies. The new Monrovia catalog shows Geum coccineum ‘Werner Arends’ with its semi-double flowers above the familiar lobed foliage.

Another colorful perennial is a beardtongue, Penstemon barbatus ‘Rondo’ which grows floriferous stems one to two feet tall in shades of pink, red and purple. Bees and hummingbirds love this plant which has a long summer bloom season

Monrovia has a great website that lists more than 1800 perennials, 241 ground covers, and 100 shrubs. The page for each plant gives information about size, blooming time, needs for water and sun and more.

My husband may think there is no room for more plants in our garden, but I know better. We have opened up more plant space, and there is a garden tour this summer. I want to be ready!  ###

Between the Rows  February 1, 2020

Applause for Annuals


Geraniums come in many colors. These were on display at the Lyman Greenhouse

Every year new flowers show up in the catalogs and garden centers. These new plants may get us thinking about ways we can design our plantings, help us find flowers that will thrive in challenging situations, or help support pollinators. I will list a few of these new annual flower varieties that I found particularly appealing.

The first place I check to see what is new is the All America Plant Selections website. Many of us have noticed the little red, white and blue logo on some seed packets denoting that they are AAS Selections, plant varieties that have been tested in gardens across the country to find flowers and vegetables that can be grown in home gardens successfully.

Geraniums are a common and beloved flower that blooms in pots and hanging baskets all summer long. A new geranium (or more properly pelargonium) varieties is Brocade Fire. The AAS has named this mounding plant with its splotched lime green foliage and unusual bright orange blossoms a national winner which means it will thrive anywhere in the US. Geraniums love the sun but Brocade Fire is tolerant of less than full sun and promises to take a fair amount of shade. Although I always think of geraniums as container plants, they can certainly be planted in the ground where you can worry less about watering. The secret to growing container plants successfully is a good schedule of generous watering and fertilizing. You will still need to remove spent blossoms of the geraniums.

The Salvia Summer Jewel Series has been winning the AAS award every time the series comes out with a new color, Summer Jewel Red in 2011, Summer Jewel Pink in 2012, Summer Jewel White in 2015 and now Summer Jewel Lavender. What all of these Summer Jewels have in common is their appeal to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. They are about 20 inches high and need full sun. Perfect for bedding borders, or containers.


Cosmos come in shades of pink as well as white

Cosmos are one of those wonderful annuals that will bloom all summer long and into the fall requiring no particular care. There are several varieties in shades of pink and white with various petal forms. This year a new cosmos is Casanova, a dwarf that blooms in white, red, pink and pale violet with very compact growth for a very long season from spring to frost. Another new dwarf cosmos is Xanthos which is unusual because of its creamy yellow color. Both of these varieties will not be more than about 20 inches tall, are happy in containers, and like all cosmos will attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Gardeners who have shade will be very familiar with wild impatiens with white blossoms or shades of pink and white. Now there is the Sunpatiens , a cross between the wild New Guinea impatiens and the wild variety. Sunpatiens do not need shade and thrive in full sun, even in hot and humid climates. They come in three growth habits: Compact which is 18-24 inches tall; Spreading with a mounding habit about 30 inches tall; and Vigorous which has a vase shape up to about 3 feet tall. The new Sunpatiens Spreading Clear Orange has striking color for three season bloom in all kinds of weather until frost. They have good resistance to downy mildew which has recently been a problem for the more familiar pastel impatiens.

I love morning glories like the classic Heavenly Blue. My old Grandpa Ott with its deep purple blossoms self seeded itself for years and gladdened my heart well into the fall. This year Ipomea Split Second has come on the scene with her “peony-like blooms” of a heavenly pink and I don’t think I can resist.  I never even knew there were double morning glories. I am planning to order my seeds right away because these luscious flowers are expected to be very popular.

Split Second has the vining habit you expect, climbing up to six feet and while it welcomes a good well drained soil, it can tolerate some drought and some damp.

Its name, Split Second, is a hint that this is a very early blooming variety. It can be planted in a container or hanging basket, as well as in the ground. Wherever you plant it be sure to give it sufficient support.


Begonias growing is part shade.

Once I was at a garden writers conference at the end of the summer in California and we got to see some of the new plants that would be available in the spring. Everyone was asking “What is that flower cascading over the hanging pots?” It was Begonia boliviensis with graceful blossom-laden stems overflowing their pots. These bell-like begonia blossoms are quite simple, unlike lush tuberous begonias or even the delicate shade-loving wax begonias. Bees and hummingbirds love it. It will bloom all summer and into the fall, but a touch of frost means the end.

Although begonias generally prefer shade, B. boliviensis San Francisco is a great plant for hanging baskets because it is more tolerant of sunnier spots, although some shade would be ideal. Hanging on my front porch perhaps?

Annuals are an important element in almost every garden providing masses of color over a long season. Many of these no longer need constant deadheading to keep blooming.


Review of the First Month of the Year – January 2020

The snowy back yard on January 1, 2020

My New Year’s Resolution is to keep a better record of the weather, and the changes in the garden over 2020. We enter the year with a snow covered garden.

The front garden melting

By January 12, 2020 the back and front gardens are melting, melting, melting.

A typical flood scene

Of course, snow will melt, but we did not expect so much melting this quickly by January 17, 2020 Note the flooding on the north side of the garden.

Pruned sycamores on January 20, 2020

Although there had been more snow, the town workers went around pruning trees and protecting our power wires. Our 100 year old sycamore is on the left.

February 1, 2010

I forgot to take a picture on January 31, but there was little change on the first day of February. The weather has been mild with temperatures in the 30s and 40s. No flooding is visible. And as I write this I can announce that Punxatawny Phil has promised an early spring.  The temperature at this moment is 43 degrees.

Houseplants Come In All Shapes and Sizes


One of my first houseplants, this abutilon bloomed in January in 2009. It does not live in my Greenfield house.

Houseplants have never been a big part of my life. When I moved to a big old house on Grinnell Street with my five children in 1971 I had never grown houseplants. I had hardly grown any plants at all. However you may remember that in 1971 organic gardening and the value of gardening was all the rage. I was ready to join the crowd.

The house had a large sunny living room. I had not brought a lot of living room furniture with me to this wonderful house, but I had brought dreams of beautiful plants. Of which I knew nothing, but I was ready to learn.

Do you remember those hippie days when hanging plants were supported by macramé plant holders at every other window? I hung an airy delicate asparagus fern, and a more sturdy Swedish ivy plant (Plectranthus) in front of my big sunny windows, Below them was a makeshift table covered with a Christmas cactus, an aloe, a peace lily (Spathiphyllum), and a prayer plant (Maranta). I even had a small rubber plant sitting on the floor, but I don’t remember how I ever acquired such an unusual (to me) plant. We called this area The Jungle.

I did have a tiny vegetable garden outside those big windows, and began my life as a gardener. However, we took a step back when we all moved from Greenfield, to a brief year in Maine. We had chickens and pigs and a vegetable garden there, but no houseplants. Then it was on to five years in New York City. No gardening at all. Not even a hanging asparagus plant.

When we moved to Heath we quickly set up a too-large vegetable garden. There was very little time for flowers or house plants. I soon learned there is always time and space for flowers, indeed they are needed, but aside from a Christmas cactus and an abutilon, there were no good spaces in our house for a houseplant jungle.

Life in Greenfield in a small house gave us a small yard sufficient for an ornamental garden with blooming shrubs, perennials and annuals. But that small house does not have satisfactory windows for blooming houseplants. In the contest between furniture or plants, I am afraid furniture won.

Recently I hung a cheerful hanging asparagus fern at the sunny window in my so-called office. I also have two non-blooming Christmas cactus, a begonia, and an aloe, but if I had my druthers and beautiful big windows and windowsills I would welcome many more houseplants.

I’d choose striped spider plants, sometimes called airplane plant. The plant in its pot will grow be between one to two feet, but the cascade of stems with baby plants will be two or three feet long. NASA has done tests and says this is one of the best air cleansing plants around as is the Peace Lily (Spathephyllum). The succulent Aloe vera also cleanses the air and is useful if you get a sunburn or scrape on your skin. I always have an aloe in the house.

Sticks on fire, Euphorbia tirucalli, is a plant I have always admired. The green version is called pencil cactus which gives you an idea of its shape. The hybrid red-orange color of the sticks is very dramatic. This cactus needs sun for the fiery color to develop.

I have always like the shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana). It  has little white blossoms and bracts that resemble pink shrimp – if you just use your imagination. To insure blooming this plant needs medium to bright light. It will grow between one to three feet. Careful watering is important.

Christmas cactus

Edward’s Christmas cactus is more lush than any I have ever grown

There are many more plants on my wish list and a visit to my friend Edward Maeder’s house is always inspiring. His house has a large sunny front room filled with plants in the winter. Dozens of plants are cuddling through the cold season in that room, including a giant wine-colored begonia, many un-named (to me) hanging plants, and a large fragrant lemon geranium to name only a very few. There is even a 7 foot rubber tree!

Sago pine

Two stages of the Sago Pine

In the living room is a Christmas cactus with more blooms than I have every seen on one plant. He also has several small tropical sago ferns by the window. They are small now but will continue growing outside in good weather. The varieties of houseplants Maeder has is stunning.

If you are considering adding houseplants there are things to keep in mind. You will need suitably sized pots with good drainage. Ever larger pots will be needed for repotting. They are necessary because roots will grow and become potbound.

Potting soil needs to be chosen carefully. Does the plant need fast draining soil? Will a basic potting mix be sufficient? Do plants like African violets or succulents need a specific mix?

Careful watering is essential. Try to have a watering schedule appropriate to the nature of the plant.

Potted plants need to be fertilized from time to time. Sometimes this is a seasonal task. Sometimes a plant will look a bit peaked, suggesting it is time for a pick-me-up.

Needless to say, plants need grooming. They need a shower bath from time to time. Drooping leaves and dead flowers need to be removed. They need to be checked for mealy bugs and aphids.

Do you have houseplants? I’d love to hear about them.

Between the Rows  January 18, 2020

Winter Reading Suggestions From the Files

Bringing Nature Home book

Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy.

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy

One of the best books in my collection is Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas W. Tallamy (Timber Press $27.95). Dr. Tallamy, a professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, explains the importance of native plants in even in a small suburban garden.

In an area that is as open and wooded as ours we may not be aware that there is more to the need for natives than concern about invasive species that upset an ecosystem.  Native plants need to be available for native insects to eat so native birds can eat them.  We all want those birds!  According to Tallamy a balanced ecosystem needs more insects. It is when the balance of the system is disrupted that problems arise.

The subject is a big one, but the book is a page turner. Tallamy engagingly speaks out of his professional knowledge and his experiences in his own backyard.

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

We all know that Abraham Lincoln grew up motherless from the age of nine, but I certainly never knew that it was white snakeroot (Eupatoreum rugosum) that killed his mother in1818. Nancy Hanks, her aunt, uncle and several other residents of Little Pigeon Creek in Indiana all succumbed to milk sickness. While people were able to connect the illness and deaths to the milk they drank, they did not understand that the milk was deadly because of the snakeroot that the cows ate.

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

White snakeroot, whose flowers somewhat resemble Queen Anne’s Lace, can still be found throughout North America. Because tremetol, the toxic element remains active even when dry, it is dangerous in hayfields and pastures to this day.

Stewart has many other stories about familiar poisonous plants like aconite, curare, one of the several arrow poisons, nightshade, opium poppies, and poison hemlock. Even with these plants she has found weird and amazing histories like the fact that Nazi scientists “found aconite useful as an ingredient for poisoned bullets,”

In our own region there was a great panic just a few years ago about giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) that resembles a giant Queen Anne’s Lace plant. Giant hogweed is a member of a phototoxic plant family, whose sap becomes poisonous when exposed to sunlight. Damage from the sap will blister painfully and look like a severe burn.

She also catalogs many plants that are not as familiar like khat (Catha edulis), a shrub that grows in Ethiopia and Kenya. In the United States it is categorized as a Schedule 1 narcotic, as is marijuana. According to Stewart “Khat played a small but pivotal role in the 1993 battle of Mogadishu in which two American Black Hawk helicopters were shot down. Gun-toting Somalian men stuffed khat leaves into their cheeks and raced around Mogadishu with a jittery high that lasted until late into the night.”

Girl Waits With Gun

Girl Waits With Gun – Just for fun about the intrepid Constance Kopp and her sisters. Lots is true!

The information is useful, and fascinating, but Stewart has a way with words. This is no dry manual of 221 toxic plants. Her method is to wander through history, myth, legend and literature as well as science as she describes what is known of these plants.

Wicked Plants is a small and handsome volume with a poison green cover and browning pages that look as if it had resided on a witch’s shelf for the past century or two. The beautiful copperplate etchings are by Briony Morrow-Cribbs who lives in Brattleboro. Stewart points out that Briony is also the name of a wicked plant that can cause vomiting, dizziness and even respiratory failure.

Not too many plants in Girl Waits with Gun, or any of the other books in the series – except when the ‘girls’ go to war. Amy Stewart is a great researcher!

Feeding the Birds and the Native Plant Trust

Native Plant News

Native Plant News from the Native Plant Trust

I love watching the birds in my garden. Which is not to say that I know them by name or type. When I look at the birds outside my window I see big birds and little birds. I see blue jays and robins, just about the only birds I can identify. I can also identify hummingbirds because the only hummingbird I am likely to see is the ruby throated hummingbird. I can hear the woodpeckers. I enjoy having all these birds in my garden.      Even so, I do not provide bird feeders, not even during the winter. I am not ready to battle the many squirrels that live in my garden. I did make a try. I bought a Plexiglas feeder that would stick to my window. This is the way I thought I could finally see the shapes of beaks and the feather markings clearly enough to name a bird, with the help of a guide book.

And what happened? We stuck the feeder to the window, added lovely black oil sunflower seed and sat by the window to see who would come.

A squirrel came and within minutes it had managed to get from the feeding platform to inside the seed space. That was the beginning and end of our bird feeder experiment.

I do provide plants that will go to seed and will feed the birds. Some of the plants that attract and feed the birds in my garden are very familiar.

The list of seed bearing flowers begins with dandelions in the spring and goes through the summer and fall with cosmos, zinnias, black-eyed susans, asters, coreopsis, blanket flowers, sunflowers, sedums and many others. All of these flowers will also make the bees happy. Bees come to these flowers to sip the nectar and collect the pollen. They leave the seeds to the birds.

In addition to flowers that produce seeds for the birds, I also plant berries. I have elderberries and winterberries. I can tell you those elderberries disappear really fast in the summer. I have two tall American cranberry viburnums; they only look like cranberries but the birds still enjoy them.  I also grow raspberries. Oddly, birds are not very interested in raspberries. Blueberries are another story.

Since I have two river birches, a willow, a huge Norway spruce and neighboring maple and oak trees, I know there are many insects that live in those trees. Birds eat lots of insects, especially in the spring when they need to feed their hatchlings. Entomology Professor Doug Tallamy said “Insects are extraordinarily high in protein: They have up to twice as much protein, pound for pound, as does beef.” That seems amazing, but it explains how birds survive even though they expend so much energy flying.

Even though I do provide for the birds, even a little birdbath that I clean and fill throughout good weather, I have felt a bit guilty in the winter because I don’t put out bird feeders. Then, the other day I received my Native Plant News from the Native Plant Trust with an article on Feeding Birds: An Eco-Gardener’s Approach by Christopher Leahy. He worked at Massachusetts Audubon for 45 years and knows his birds. He said that guilt was not necessary and neither were the birdfeeders. He did acknowledge that having a bird feeder will attract birds, and will provide pleasure to those who like watching the birds.

Leahy went on to say that feeding the birds, and creating a whole industry, did not exist before the 1930s. “Birds are extraordinarily well-adapted for finding the kind of food they require and are vastly better equipped than our species for living outdoors in abominable weather, due to the highly effective insulation system called plumage and an exquisitely sensitive metabolism.”

He suggested getting familiar with 50 of the birds most likely to visit your garden. Then become familiar with their favorite foods and nesting sites. He also suggested that we should encourage the presence of insects and such things as spiders, centipedes and creatures of leaf litter. Don’t use pesticides and don’t let the garden get too tidy.

As you will have noticed I have not mentioned the New England Wildflower Society. That is what I called this organization for many years. However the organization had four names before it chose Native Plant Trust, a name very true to Society for the Protection of Native Plants chosen by its founders in 1900.

The Native Plant Trust’s website provides wonderful information about native plants. Its Go Botany project makes it possible for gardeners, or people who just like hiking through wild areas, to identify and learn about unfamiliar plants.

There are also tip sheets on available plants sold by the Native Plant Trust as well caring for various kinds of plants. There are also workshops and seminars during the year.

I am a happy member but I was surprised and delighted to learn that the Trust has other native plant sanctuaries in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, in addition to Massachusetts’s Garden in the Woods in Framingham. I am ready to do some travelling this summer.

For more information about the Native Plant Trust check out their comprehensive website ###

Between the Rows   January 11, 2020

January 2020 Snow, Floods and Parsley


The View of Snow from the office window

On the first day of January 2020 there is a view of foot or more of snow all around the house Frigid.

River Birches

River Birches look beautiful in the snow.

Snow covering the low conifers in front of the house

Snow followed by flood

Snow followed by flood

Temperatures slowly rose to 60 degrees. Snow melting and leaving a flood on the north side of the garden all the way  to  the house.

Snow in front of the house on January 12, 2020

There is still a little snow in front of  the house because this is a very shady area. But even here  the warm temperatures melted much of the snow.


1-12-20 Parsley

Winter returns  1-16-20

The weather has been so mild that this southern area where I have herbs growing has protected the parsley. The fallen leaves helped.   On January 15, the sun keeps shining, temperatures in the 40’s, but over night winter returned.

Trees and Bees and More

Central Park NYC

Trees and bees provide beauty at New York’s Central Park which was designed to provide pleasure for city dwellers – and the bees

It seems like the whole town of Greenfield has been making New Year’s Resolutions to work energetically with trees and plants to make this a more beautiful and more environmentally sensitive town.

The Greenfield Tree Committee has been at work since it was founded in 1998 by Carolyn MacLellan. In 2002 Greenfield was designated as a “Tree City” by the Arbor Day Foundation, a distinction renewed every year since.

Nancy Hazard has been involved with the Tree Committee for years. She told me they received a new grant from the US Forest Service last year that is giving the town 800 new trees. Already 210 have been planted. Two hundred more will be planted each year in 2020 and 2021.

Hazard was part of the Town’s plan to turn the land at the end of Miles Street into a Park. The Energy Park was born with planting schemes that would concentrate on native plants.

Trees including sycamore, river birches, a sycamore, sassafras, maples, redbuds and hawthorns with beautiful red berries in fall and winter have been in place for many years. Over the past few years the Energy Park has been undergoing renovations, soil enrichments and replantings.

John Bottomley, Nancy Hazard, Mary Chicoine

John Bottomley, Nancy Hazard, Mary Chicoine

Hazard told me that she had an Aha! Moment. She suddenly realized that trees provided many services to the environment in addition to shade, reducing heat and controlling rain water runoff. Trees provide food and nesting places for birds, food for insects, food for caterpillars, and even pollen and nectar for the bees. This year Hazard, Mary Chicoine and John Bottomley, all of the Greenfield Tree Committee. planted two tulip poplars and a disease resistant elm which certainly provide those services.

I had not realized before that trees require pollination as well as the flowers in our gardens. The species that rely on insects (mostly bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, and moths), birds, and bats, tend to have fragrant or showy flowers.

I was surprised to learn that Massachusetts is the third most densely populated state, but it is the 8th most forested state with 62% forest cover. All those trees sequester carbon. They are an important weapon in fighting global warming. I am grateful to those around the state, and especially in our rural area who have maintained woodland and street ‘forests.’

Trees are one way to care for our environment, but flowers are another way. Volunteers for the Energy Park have worked for years to keep the park filled with native plants. Some are early spring ephemerals like blue cohosh, bloodroot, jack in the pulpit, trillium and others. As the season progresses there are more and larger flowers like turtlehead, coreopsis, bee balm, black-eyed susan, cardinal flower and joe pye weed. All of these native flowers, and many others, provide pollen and nectar for the bees, food for caterpillars. Plant labels made by Wisty Rorabacher  are very helpful.

Brookie sculpture

Susan Worgaftik and Brookie

Happily there are other gardens in town that support our important creatures. Susan Worgaftik works with volunteers at the small River Works Park. Pollinator friendly flowers dance right under the Brookie sculpture on Deerfield Street. The park is surrounded by trees busy sequestering carbon.

Nancee Bershof and Tom Sullivan worked with volunteers and designed a beautiful and functional meadow garden on Pleasant Street in front of the John Zon Community Center. For two years now the garden has bloomed with tiarella and lady’s mantle in the spring and with all manner of bigger native plants like liatris, bee balm, yarrow, culver’s root, amsonia, jacob’s ladder, butterfly milkweed,  as well as joe pye weed and asters in the fall. This is not a comprehensive list. Be sure to visit this wonderful teaching garden, and follow the path through it. Identification labels make it easy to learn about the plants.

Behind the John Zon Community Center is a long rain garden filled with plants that tolerate being wet, as well as benefitting the birds and the bees.

In addition the Community Garden, next to the rain garden, will have new gardeners this spring. Last year a tool shed was installed, complete with tools from the old shed.  Rabbi Andrea Cohen- Kiener, Dorothea Sotirios and the Working Group of gardeners kept the project moving. Soil amendments were added to the poor soil. This past summer the soil improvement work continued. Rye was planted and cut down before it went to seed. Clover, vetch, peas, oats, and sorghum were also added. Visiting chickens and ducks spent a couple of months living on that space and added their own soil enrichments.

A new project has begun on Fiske Street. Amy McMahon of Mesa Verde and Claire Chang of the Solar shop are supporting Wisty Rorabacher and Sadie Miller in replanting the weedy bank at the edge of the parking lot. With the help of The DPW a plan to rebuild the retaining wall is now in place. I’m keeping my eye on this new project. You can be sure the bees and birds, butterflies and bats will all be considered.

This New Year I will be looking for more ways to make my garden useful to the environment. Maybe you will too. ###

Between the Rows   January 4, 2020

Emily Dickinson and Cherry Ingram – Different Passions

Emily Dickinson (1830-1883) and Collingwood Cherry Ingram (1880-1981) were both gardeners, but lived at different times with very different gardens. Two new books, Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell(Timber Press $24.95) and Sakura Obsession: The Incredible Story of The Planthunter Who Saved Japan’s Cherry Blossoms by Naoko Abe (Knopf  $27.95) take us into different worlds.

We who live so close to Emily Dickinson’s home may be familiar with Dickinson’s poetry which included plants and flowers, but we may not know very much about her Amherst gardens. In a revision of an earlier book McDowell shares the history of the Homestead where Dickinson spent most of her life with her parents and sister Lavinia, as well as The Evergreens next door where her brother Austin, his wife Susan and their children lived.

Having set the scene she lays out the seasons of the year in Dickinson’s garden. I used to imagine the pale waiflike Emily wandering and whispering in the halls of her home – except when she was writing poems at the desk by her bedroom window. McDowell paints a very different picture. Her young Emily wandered in the woods with the huge dog, Carlo, her father gave her. As often as not she and Carlo came home muddy, but carrying wildflowers that she pressed and put in her own herbarium.

Through the seasons, McDowell includes Emily’s poems, photographs of herbarium  pages and delicate drawings and paintings of flowers by Orra White Hitchcock and others. We get a view of Emily not only through her poetry, but through her letters. Happily some letters have been found and collected providing more insights into her thoughts and view of the world.

Many of the poems describing the seasons of the year are included from the spring pansy: “I’m the little Heart’s Ease!/I don’t care for pouting skies!/If the buttery delay/Can I, therefore, stay away?” and continuing until winter when “There is a certain Slant of light,/Winter Afternoons – / That oppresses like the Heft/of Cathedral tunes.”

The book ends with the Visiting a Poet’s Garden chapter. It includes brief information about those who lived in the house after the Dickinsons, and the restoration of the house, which now would look very familiar to all the Dickinsons. There is also an informative list of all of Emily’s plants. Notes about each plant accompany information about the herbarium and poems listed for each flower.

The book is an absolute treasure trove. I can’t wait for spring and another visit to the Dickinson Homestead. It has been a while since I was there last. Thank you Marta McDowell!


Emily Dickinson was very much a homebody. British Collingwood Ingram was devoted to cherry trees and travelled to Japan, visiting cherry tree groves around ancient temples. He often requested scions of the various sakura (as the tree was named in Japan) and sent them to his own gardens in England.

By the time he visited Japan little attention was being paid to the sakura trees. There was general confusion about the names of the varieties and little realization that the diversity of the trees was declining. Fortunately, after WWI Ingram studied Japanese trees, especially the sakura and became expert. In 1926 he travelled to Japan and became involved with the Cherry Association , meeting many Japanese experts. He met Seisaku Funatsu, a member of the Association who had noticed the decline of the Sakura, caused in part by pollution from factories and motor cars. Other Japanese sakura experts also recognized the problem and worked with Ingram.

One of the trees that was rescued and became popular is the wild cherry, now known as the Sargent cherry tree which is now popular in the US.

Ingram began sending scions back to his English garden and had them grafted onto his own cherry rootstocks. This worked very well. Two of the cherries in his garden were already extinct in Japan. He continued his determination to learn all he could, and collect as many varieties as possible, bringing them back to his own garden so that he could return them to Japan.

Author Naoko Abe also provides brief descriptions in the shift in the culture of the Japanese. Japan made efforts to catch up with the west, desired to abolish the class system and send all children to school, but it was not easily done. Abe does not ignore the move toward militarization and the Second World War.

The history of Ingram and his sakura did not end with his death. The current Duke of Gloucester is a Patron of the Japan Society and has arranged to plant 6500 of three Japanese sakura varieties in the United Kingdom’s parks, gardens and schools to celebrate Japan’s relationship with the UK. This is a legacy from the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2020.

Both books share the fascinating stories of two very different people, both of whom have made a mark on our world today.


Still time to buy a floral calendar for 2020 with beauty and information from the UMass Extension Service. Go to Cost is $14.

Between the Rows  December 21, 2019