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Down Memory Lane at the End of the Road

View from the Bedroom Window

View from the Bedroom Window in June

As I begin planting new gardens in Greenfield, I have been reminiscing about the adventures we’ve had with gardens at the End of the Road. When we moved here in November of 1979 I must confess to having very little garden experience. In 1972-3 I had a very tiny vegetable garden at my Grinnell Street House. Then we moved to North Berwick, Maine and in the spring of 1975 I planted a large vegetable garden there.

            I was in a manic mood in 1975. I was unhappily teaching 6th grade and found great pleasure in the garden, the chicks we bought and the two piglets named Supper and Dinner. The garden was too big and my skills were minimal. Our old neighbor, Mr. Leslie, once chatted with my husband while I planted carrots. “I never saw anyone broadcast carrot seed,” he said with amazement. Henry just shook his head.

            A change in plans put an end to that garden before the harvest and we moved to New York City, where Henry’s ancestral apartment did have a shady backyard garden. No vegetables, and I paid very little attention to it

            The move to Heath filled me with big plans and dreams for a vegetable garden, a root cellar, and canning marathons. In the spring of 1980 we hired Louis Pazmino to come over with his tractor to come and plow up a very big vegetable garden. It only took that one year of picking potato bugs and watching half the garden become enveloped in weeds for me to be ready to rethink the plan.  Henry shook his head, and I agreed a smaller garden would be wise.

            I also began working at GreenfieldCommunity College where I met our famous neighbor Elsa Bakalar, perennial gardener extraordinaire. I, who had never thought about flowers beyond marigolds, zinnias, and The Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose, suddenly started planning and planting a perennial border at the edge of the big front lawn. I filled it with strong growers like plume poppy and feverfew from Elsa’s garden and local plant swaps. Henry shook his head while he watched me try to keep up with weeding the perennial border, the vegetable garden and the beginnings of the Rose Walk.

By the time we left for our year in Beijing in 1989 the border had grown to 90 x 8 feet.     When we returned to Heath the spring of 1990 the perennial border was officially lost. As gardeners we learn that a garden is a delicate ephemeral thing. It is always changing, and cannot survive a year of neglect. We worked to revive the vegetable garden, and plant more rose bushes and then took a break to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends and barbecue. The day was enervating, very hot, still and humid. We were happy to fall into our bed that night.

            At 2 in the morning a violent thunderstorm woke us and the smell of smoke moved us into action. Lightning had struck the big old barn across from the house and was burning. Lightning had also struck the telephone pole and knocked out the phone. Henry drove down to our neighbor, leaning on the horn all the way, to call the fire department.

            The volunteer firemen immediately sprayed the house which was already beginning to smoke. It took the rest of the night to put the fire out, but the house was saved. Nearby trees, and roses were singed but they survived. We were left with three stone barn foundation walls.

            The perennial border was gone, but now we had the beginnings of a SunkenGarden which was never a part of any plan. With the help of tons of autumn leaves we turned that space into a vegetable garden filled with cold compost leaf beds according to the Larry Leitner method. In 1994 our daughter was married in front of the by-then more familiar raised beds for vegetables.

            I planted David Austin Roses along the north wall of the Sunken Garden, forgetting that the plow dumped a lot of snow over the edge of the Garden. The roses were too tender and did not survive two Heath winters, or the plowed snow. The rest of the garden, even with raised beds proved to be too wet for vegetables. Only the Sargent crab, planted in the middle of the space survives.

            In 1991, while the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings provided conversation over the hammers and beams, our family gathering spent the Columbus Day weekend working on a new shed. That shed provided space for a rose filled Shed Bed.

Shed and Rose Bed

Shed and Rose Bed

 

            It was also at that year (I think) that I went on a Franklin Land Trust garden tour and visited Walt Cudnohufsky’s garden where I was taken with is use of native plants, but especially by a little grove of trees that casually divided a lawn. While our Lawn Beds do not resemble Cudnohufsky’s grove, it was the inspiration for the Lawn Beds which define spaces in our lawn, and they remain successful elements in our landscape.

            There have been other changes. Troubles with my hip led to a very tiny vegetable garden, the building of the Cottage Ornee and friendship with Jerry Sternstein, rhododendron expert, led to rhododendron plantings. The building of the arbor in front of the house led to an extended Herb Bed.

Cottage Ornee and Rhodies

Cottage Ornee and rhodies

            In our 35 years here at the End of the Road, one thing has followed another. There was never a master plan. My husband has often watched me, and shaken his head, but he is always willing to fall in with the latest plan.

            Now we are in the process of planting a new garden, one that is more limited in scope. And we are older, no longer looking ahead at what seems like endless years ahead of us. This time we thought we should have a master plan. Our good fortune is that, by chance, I was given the opportunity to ‘test’ noted landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy’s new Home Outside Palette App for IOS and Android phones and tablets. In addition, they asked me to use and review their other services which included two custom designs. The timing was perfect and I agreed.

            Next week I will start talking about our experiences with the Home Outside Palette.

Between the Rows   July 4, 2015

Garden-pedia by Paula Bennett and Maria Zampini

Garden-pedia

Garden-pedia by Paula Bennett and Maria Zampini

With all the bad weather I’ve been happy to sit by the woodstove and read two new books from St. Lynn’s Press. Garden-pedia: An A to Z Guide to Gardening Terms by Paula Bennett and Maria Zampini ($16.95 paperback) is an excellent book for the novice gardener. There are so many terms that arise even in catalogs and other places that can confuse and confound. Writers and speakers may be trying to write or speak plainly, but sometimes assume prior knowledge. I should ask experienced gardeners how they felt the first time they ran into high tunnel, or nativar, or panicle.

In fact, I was very happy to go through Garden-pedia and see clearer ways of explaining or describing these particular three terms. I had never heard of high tunnels a decade or so ago until I was talking to a farmer who told me he had put his whole raspberry operation under high tunnels. Nowadays high tunnels, “a crop growing system that is structured somewhat between a greenhouse and row covers,” are more common. There are always new terms to describe new practices and it can take a while to catch up.

I knew about cultivars, a particular cultivated variety of a plant like Heuchera ‘Fireworks’ but what was a nativar?  A nativar is a cultivar or hybrid created from a native plant. For example, Ilex verticillata, winterberry, is native to the American northeast, but when you go to the nursery to buy one you will find ‘Red Sprite,’ ‘Jim Dandy’ and ‘Apollo.’ These are nativars. I was interested that Bennett and Zampini do explain that there is some debate about whether nativars give all the benefits of a plain native. We will each have to make our own decision about how purist we will be in growing the natives that will support our local food web. Where I live now, in the midst of fields and woods full of natives, I don’t worry about including nativars, or even exotics, plants that came from elsewhere to my garden. But that may change.

Bennett and Zampini clearly explain 300 gardening and horticultural terms from Abiotic to Zone but they say they are happy to hear of other terms that are not included for the next edition of the book. Do you think the term ‘food web’ needs an explanation?

Bennett took many of the clear photographs that are really all you need when trying to understand leaf patterns or the structure of a panicle. There is an excellent index and a list of resources: books, websites, plant organizations and societies, and databases. Of course, as a New Englander I wish they could have included the New England Wildflower Society with its Go Botany website which can help all  of us explore, identify and learn about  our native plants.

Cool Flowers

Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler

Cool Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy Long-Blooming Hardy Annual Flowers Using Cool Weather Techniques by Lisa Mason Siegler ($17.95 hardcover) is another small book with a lot of information!

Lisa Ziegler is a flower farmer, growing and selling cut flowers to florists and at farmers markets. She lives in Virginia on her husband’s old family farm, a farm now devoted to colorful flowers. Her book gives careful instruction on sowing seeds directly outdoors in fall, as well as in spring. Most of us will find seed starting indoors in the spring the most likely to work for us.

After a brief discussion of when to plant seeds indoors and out, Ziegler gives specific instructions for planting seeds of 30 particular hardy annuals from the familiar bachelor’s buttons and sweet peas to the less familiar False Queen Anne’s Lace.

Many hardy annuals can be started indoors six to eight weeks before you could put them outdoors. In my garden that means I could start seeds indoors in mid-March. I remember Elsa Bakalar starting snapdragon seeds at the very end of February. She had a homemade arrangement of shelves with low hanging grow-lights that enabled her to keep the seedlings growing sturdily for ten weeks.

Elsa did not use heat pads underneath her planting trays, but that is a technique we have available to us. Heat mats helps seeds germinate more quickly and dependably, but once the seeds have sent up shoots the heat mat should be removed. The seedlings now need good light for 16 hours a day. It is the long day under the lights that will give you strong transplants. I’m sure most of us have had experience with long leggy seedlings reaching for the sun.

Ziegler gives full instructions from seeding plants indoors, fertilizing, and hardening off the young transplants to prepare them for going into the ground. Once planted outdoors, she mulches, and then covers them with a floating row cover to protect them from the wind and any surprises in the winter weather. She finishes with advice for maintaining the garden all season long.

I was inspired by Ziegler’s plan for a 3×10 foot cutting bed for five flowers that would provide more bouquets over a long season than you ever imagined possible. Think of how all your neighbors would love you bouquets. The magic of a cutting garden is that the more you harvest the more flowers will come into bloom.

Garden-pedia and Cool Flowers will appeal to two different audiences; one of them might be just right for you.

Between the Rows   February 14, 2015

Thinking About Our Gardens

 

Thomas Affleck Rose

Thomas Affleck Rose

As I‘ve worked  to put my gardens to bed this fall I’ve also been thinking about gardens and how they came to take this form, and how any garden takes form.

Some people plan a garden in one fell swoop. Or have someone do it for them. But I think for most of us we begin slowly and one step follows another. Which is a good thing because we learn about our site, and about ourselves as we move through the seasons.

Still there are some basic things to think about when we plan, or plan again.

First we have to consider the site. Do we have a lot of room or a confined space? Where is the sun on the site? Where is the shade? How does the shade move over the course of the season as the sun’s course across the sky changes? Is the soil sandy, or clay? Is it very dry or damp?  Does the site slope and is it exposed to wind? The answer to each of these questions will help determine how to proceed. The answers will guide us as we search for the right plant for the right spot.

The second consideration is how each gardener will use the garden. We each have different desires and needs. I’ve needed a vegetable garden, but I’ve also wanted flower gardens. I want to be comfortable in my solitude, but I also enjoy eating outside, and entertaining friends in the garden. I like to stroll through the garden, but some like to admire the garden landscape from a deck or from inside the house.

Beyond the practical ways we use the garden, I think we have to examine how we want to feel in the garden. Do we want to feel sheltered? Do we want to feel we are in a private woodland? Or do we want to feel like a Jane Austen character strolling through the estate shrubberies with a dear friend?  What is your fantasy?

One element of your fantasy might be a season of constantly blooming flowers. This will mean gaining knowledge of the many beautiful annuals that can bloom from spring well into the fall.  On the other hand, you might have a fantasy of a serene green garden where it is the shades of green and foliage textures that please.

For myself, my mostly-achieved fantasy is that of a mixed border. It did not happen all at once. Inspired by my mentor Elsa Bakalar I once tended a 90 foot long perennial border. Many perennials were gifts from Elsa, and many were bought with careless enthusiasm when I saw them at the garden center. I could not maintain such a garden for long.

It was only about 16 years ago that we planned The Lawn Beds. These are mixed borders, which is to say in each bed I have evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Because the shrubs take up more room than flowers, these generous beds are much less labor intensive than that 90 foot long border. I still have perennials which will bloom for three or four weeks in their season, but there is room for annuals that will give me bloom all summer long.

Ghislaine de Feligonde whose orange-apricot buds open to cream

Ghislaine de Feligonde whose orange-apricot buds open to cream

Of course, I have The Rose Walk. This began as my fantasy of growing lush fragrant old roses. Thirty two years ago I planted the first two roses in the middle of the lawn. I don’t know why I chose that spot. Those two roses ultimately forced the creation of the Rose Walk. I have mourned (briefly) the roses that did not survive, and enjoyed adding new roses every year. I loved my early summer morning walks along the Rose Walk thinking of the centuries that roses have bloomed on this earth, and the ladies that have cared for and enjoyed them in their modest farm gardens or on great estates. The Annual Rose Viewing., our annual garden party was a further natural outgrowth. The Rose Walk is proof that a complete plan is not necessary to begin.

A garden will inevitably attract wildlife.  Some wildlife like deer are not welcome, and it behooves us to be aware that some plants are very inviting to deer and rabbits, and others less so. Lists of these are available. I never plant hostas because of deer, but thought my herb garden was safe because they would not dare to come so close to the house. I was wrong. They tramped across the Daylily Bank (totally unnecessary) to eat the parsley in the herb bed.

Other wildlife, birds, bees and other pollinators like butterflies are very welcome. Birdwatchers have told me that the sound of moving water is the most dependable draw for birds. The burble of a fountain, especially if it is near some sheltering plants is especially inviting.

Pollinators are attracted by the many plants that are native to our area. Bee balm, asters, rudbeckia, and even our fields of goldenrod attract the pollinators that will keep our vegetables and fruit trees productive.

Finally, when planting we have to remember those basic considerations like allowing for growth. A small shrub in a small pot bought at the garden center will not stay small. When planting allow for that growth, how wide and how tall will it be in three years?  Or five years?

Soil needs annual attention with applications of compost, and mulch. Where will the compost pile go?

One very important question is how much time can the gardener realistically expect to devote to garden chores?

Are you thinking about your garden this fall? How might it change? How does it need to change? We gardeners must always be thinking. ###

Container Gardening – Annuals in a Pot

Mixed annuals in  container“Container gardening is such hard work!” a friend said to me the other day. Work I thought?  A lot of thought which is in itself a lot of work, but I didn’t think that is what she meant. I soon learned that the work she had taken on was lugging  a heavy watering can to the end of a long country driveway to water a hanging basket. That is work! And it has to be done because container plants must be watered every day.

I do my container gardening right in front of the house with a few pots on the Welcoming Platform and the paved entry path. I can’t forget the containers since they are right in front of me, and a spigot and watering cans are always handy and at the ready.  What is hard for me is thinking about an interesting arrangement of plants for a single container. Pots of geraniums and petunias will never lose their classic charm, but now there are books and magazines urging one on to complex and seasonal arrangements.

I will not say I dismiss complex arrangements, but so far I am sticking with some old favorite annuals that will bloom  all summer, asking only that I keep them watered. I want my containers to give a flowery welcome to those who visit me – and indeed to myself when I come home at the end of a busy day touring around on errands or pleasure.

Visiting a garden center or nursery can be totally overwhelming. There are annuals for shade, for sun and hanging baskets. I bought some annuals at the Bridge of Flowers plant sale with the intent of planting a mixed container with an interesting and new-to-me Cuphea ‘Tiny Mice’ with its small but intensely red and purple blossoms, combined with Superbells ‘Trailing Blue’ which is really purple, and a silvery helichrysum ‘Icicles.’

I’ve planted a blue ceramic pot with a pink geranium, blue lobelia and white superbells. A good traditional combo and very pretty.

When planting a container there are a couple of things to remember. It is important to use potting soil, which is not really soil at all. This light mixture allows the plants roots to grow. Garden soil in a pot will soon bake into a very inhospitable home for plant roots.

Potting soils can be enriched with fertilizer, or not. Either way it is important to remember that flowering plants need to be fertilized on a regular basis all season long. There are many commercial fertilizers for blooming plants and they will have their own directions. All will say a dilute watering with the fertilizer weekly will work nicely. The necessary daily watering will always be washing out some of the fertilizer which is why it needs to be replenished regularly. Don’t forget to water daily. Containers dry out rapidly. Terra cotta flower pots dry out especially fast, but while plastic and resin pots hold water longer, the plants are using that water and respiring into the hot summer air. They get thirsty.

Because I am leaving room to grow there is bare soil in the cuphea pot so I am filling in bare spots with moss from my lawn. That gives the pot a finished look at this early stage in the arrangement’s life. This is a trick I learned from Gloria Pacosa who is a  great gardener and flower arranger, but I have to say she does recommend putting more plants in a pot than I can usually bring myself to do.

Petunias - root bound and unboard

Petunias – root bound and unboard

Annuals started in greenhouses early will have a pretty healthy root system by the time they arrive at the nursery. In fact, many of them will be root bound, twisted around and around their little planting pot or cell. Before I remove plants from their pots I always water them well. Then when I remove them, I break those tightly bound roots apart. I am gentle, but the torn roots will make new growth once they are put in more soil in the container. Tearing those roots apart will help get the plant off to a good start.

Breaking the roots apart is necessary whether you are putting plants in a container or in the ground. I remember the late Elsa Bakalar giving a lesson in raking a cultivator  through root bound roots of a plant she bought at a season end nursery sale. Loosening the roots is the first step to revitalizing the plant.

Because potting soil is an expense, those who use large containers for plants that don’t need all that root room have come up with some tricks. One trick was to use the plastic peanuts that come as packing material. I have tried that, but found I had a mess to deal with the following year when I wanted to reuse the pot but needed to put in new potting soil.

The trick I have found most useful is to use some of the light plastic planting trays for vegetable starts or annuals. They add no weight, but do take up some room, saving a little on potting soil.

Container plantings can be charming or exotic, full of colorful foliage or colorful flowers. They can be near the house, or exclamation points in the garden. It is all a matter of taste and desire.

How Tea Changed the World

 

Chinese tea for two

I never imagined that tea changed the world. In my world, tea was served endlessly in the English novels I love, but tea did not become a regular part of my life until I met Elsa Bakalar in 1980. With Elsa I could imagine myself living in one of those English village novels where tea was served up with gossip, or to survive shock with milk and sugar. Now I have a collection of tea pots – and a collection of teas – black,China, green, white and Indian. Tea has changed my world, but how could it be that tea changed the whole world?

While weeding out my bookshelves, to make room for new books, I found a nearly forgotten volume, Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Changed the World by Henry Hobhouse. Hobhouse explains how quinine, a cure for malaria, opened Asia and Africa to colonial expansion, and allowed the population ofIndiato increase sevenfold. With sugar came slavery. Cotton also fueled the growth of slavery, but also, our Civil War, and what the poet William Blake called the ‘dark satanic mills’ of the textile industry inEngland. Those mills brought no prosperity to the workers. The potato brought an explosion of population toIreland, then a famine and great immigration to theUnited States.

And then there is tea. It could be said that tea, or at least the tea tax, was the beginning of our revolutionary war. The Boston Tea Party was held in December of 1773. In fact the Declaration of Independence specifically mentions King George’s “tyrannical acts” which include the tax on tea.

But tea was changing the world long before the 18th century. The Chinese were drinking an infusion of Camellia sinensis leaves as early as 2737 BCE. According to legend, the mythical hero Shen Nong, brought agriculture to the Chinese people so they would not starve. He also brought them knowledge of medicinal plants including tea.  When one thinks about how tea drinking traveled around the world it is good to remember that water supplies throughout the ages were not always dependably clean. Boiled water is necessary for tea making, so it is a dependably healthy drink.

The English were great drinkers of tea beginning in the late seventeenth century. However, the Chinese were not terribly interested in selling their tea, and certainly not for the paper money the East India Company offered. They wanted copper, silver and gold.

As the demand grew for tea, the East India Company found an answer in another plant (not one of Hobson’s five), the poppy which grew inIndia. Opium had been banned inChina, but through a circuitous sales route and smugglers, the East India Company earned the hard currency that the Chinese demanded. This ultimately resulted in the two Opium Wars in 1839-42 and 1856-60. The Chinese lost.

Tea production has spread over the years. The British brought tea cultivation toIndia. The wild tea growing there was not C. sinensis, but C. Assamica. Today if you buy tea from a big importer like the Upton Tea Company you will see teas organized by China teas and Assam teas. I am reminded of all the times the grande dame in my English novels asks her guest “China or Indian?” as she sits with her tea pots, ready to pour.

They Upton Tea Company offers 480 types of tea, black, green, white, oolong and Pu-erh. The differences are in the way it is processed. Black teas are harvested and oxidized to change the color, flavor and chemical composition of the tea leaves. Oolong teas are partially oxidized, and green teas are not oxidized at all. A cup of Chinese green tea is probably the same cup of tea the mythical Shen Nong might have brewed up for himself. Pu-erh teas fromYunnan province inChina are doubly oxidized and have a strong flavor. It is sometimes sold in brick shaped blocks instead of as loose leaves.

Tea requires a wet and warm climate, a deep rich soil with lots of humus, and a pH between 5–5.5 which explains why it is grown in Myanmar, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, the Philippines and parts of Africa, and Latin America as well as India and China. Another element that is needed is cheap labor to harvest the ‘tiny little tea laves’ by hand.

We visited our daughter Betsy in Kenya where she was serving in the Peace Corps in 1989 and made a tourist trip to Mrs. Mitchell’s tea farm. The 80 year old Mrs. Mitchell (she was celebrating her birthday when we visited) was definitely a grande dame. As a young man her father had been one of the first to start a tea plantation in Kenya. She had a spiel to give and did not welcome questions, but she said the interest in mechanizing the tea harvest was a very bad idea because it would put the tea pickers out of work, and un-employment in Kenya was already very high.

During our time in China we became aware of the gourmet aspects of the various teas, but we were more familiar with the Nescafe jars that workers carried with them all day. They put in their tea leaves in the morning and then kept refilling the jar as they drank it and as the opportunity for more boiling water presented itself.

Tea has a long and colorful history. When I have my afternoon cuppa I join with the witty British cleric Sydney Smith (1771-1845) in saying “I am so glad I was not born before tea!

Between the Rows   March 8, 2014

Garden Planning IV – Review and Renew

 

Redvein Enkianthus

            Before I end my discussion about garden planning, I want to add a few words about the view from the house, or more specifically, the view from a window.

            We spend time in the garden working, and time socializing in the garden, but we can also enjoy the garden when we are inside the house. Do you have a kitchen or dining table by a window that looks into the garden? When you look up from your newspaper or book, do you look across the room from your reading chair and out a window?

            Our dining table is right by a large window looking out at the Lawn Beds, and across the lawn to an ancient apple tree. The field beyond that is bordered by trees with hills in the far distance. This is an expansive view of the garden and the landscape beyond. A more intimate view is from my reading chair back towards the tractor shed which is hung with the lovely white, green and pink foliage of a hardy kiwi vine, fronted with several pink rose bushes, and an edging of annual blue salvia. It is such a pleasure to look that this Shed Bed garden, that as disorderly as I often am, I try to keep this area neat.

            What would you like to look at from your reading chair, or from your table? Flowers? Birds flitting and settling on a feeder? A burbling fountain set beneath a flowering tree? I have been told that the sound of water will attract birds to the garden even more surely than a well stocked feeder.

            What kind of garden tableau would please you? It only takes a little planning to create a view that will give you immense pleasure.           

           I hope I have not led anyone to believe that garden planning is ever done once and for all time. When a garden plan is implemented unforeseen obstacles may arise, as may unforeseen opportunities. We must never let a beautiful plan get in the way of a beautiful result. A plan must always be flexible.

        Even after a garden plan is beautifully in place, enjoyed by the gardener, and admired by visitors, time will bring change and alterations will be required. We all know this, or come to know it after only two or three years of a gardening career. I remember a time after I planted my first perennials under the late Elsa Bakalar’s tutelage, when she came to visit and looked at the garden. She suggested, gently, that it was time to divide the yarrow and bee balm.

         “What?” I couldn’t believe it. I thought the whole point of perennials was you put them in place, cared for them and they were perennially there, no more thought or work required. It was a simple lesson, and is relearned when plants need to be divided because the clump gets too big, or when a plant grows taller, wider or more vigorously than expected or planned, or when you realize that a particular plant like plume poppy has spread itself all through the garden.

Plume poppies, Macleaya cordata, which is not really a poppy at all, looked beautiful in my garden. Plume poppies are tall, up to eight feet, with large slivery blue scalloped leaves, and plumey blossoms. They increase by sending out new rhizomes. They are stunning, but to say they grow vigorously is an understatement. That kind of growth was not part of my plan, and I ripped them out. Gardening Goes Wild takes a different view of the plume poppy.

Redvein Enkianthus – nevermore

This past fall I cut a redvein Enkianthus shrub down to little nubbins. Years ago I planted this shrub in the middle of the North Lawn Bed because it was described as growing gracefully tall, producing little bell-like flowers in June, and good fall color. It is disease and pest resistant, not fussy about soil, or dry weather. It sounds like a wonderful plant, and in many ways it is.

When I chose Enkianthus I somehow did not take in the fact that it was a very slow grower. That was my mistake. And I found the little bell-like flowers very small indeed. Both of those disappointments would not have mattered if it took the graceful form promised – layered branches spreading out three or four feet from the center of the plant. Mine grew into a widening dense column, with no grace at all.

            I made another mistake. I did not take into consideration the growth of the other plants around it, the ginkgo trees, the weeping hemlock, also very slow growing, and the fast growing low junipers. The whole area was too crowded, something had to go; I chose the Enkianthus. Now there is breathing room.

            Calculating how big and how fast plants will grow is not always easy. We can research a plant, read the nursery label and make our best judgment, but we will not always be right. Then something has to go. Sometimes we will simply not like a plant after we have seen it in our garden, and sometimes a plant will not like our garden, dying a miserable death. Either way, the plant leaves the garden, and we have to come up with a new choice, if not a new plan.

            Garden planning is never done. How can it be? Time brings change to our garden, we are always learning about new plants, and visiting inspiring gardens. Keep planning. Keep gardening.

Between the Rows   January 25, 2014

Giveaway to Celebrate Six Years of Blogging

Seeing Flowers

Six years of blogging and I’m celebrating with a Giveaway. It hardly seems possible. Six years of documenting my garden, mostly, but also family events. Because of my blog I have met gardeners from around the country at Flings.  All you have to do to meet some of them is click on the Buffa10 badge on the right side of the page.

Over these six years and 1,406 posts I have learned that gardeners have a wide range of interests.  My post about bee balm remains my most popular for another year. Did I insert some SEO magic inadvertantly? Is it because it reviews the lesson Elsa Bakalar gave me about color? I don’t think I will ever know. This year hydrangeas and heritage wheat also won a big audience.

Timber Press is helping me celebrate my blogoversary.  They will Giveaway a copy of their beautiful book  Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers with amazing photography by Robert Llewellyn, and written by Teri Dunn Chace. I wrote about Seeing Flowers here,  but I cannot say too many times what a stunning book this is, providing us with a closeup view of  each blossom, a view we could never get in real life. There are all manner of fascinating facts, some of which are sure to put a plant on your must have list. For example, did you know that the milky latex sap of euphorbias is toxic and will cause stomach upset? This means deer won’t eat them. A whole new family of plants is newly attractive to me!

Along with Seeing Flowers I will giveaway a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, which is the story of how we got to the End of the Road, the roses and life we found here.  Kathy Purdy, who was so generous with technical advice when I began blogging, writes Cold Climate Gardening and posted a review here. All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight on December 12. It would be lovely if you would tell me the name of your favorite flower.  Especially if you have a favorite rose. I will choose comment at random and announce the winner of the Giveaway on Friday, December 13.

 

Beaver Lodge on NESEA Green Buildings Open House Tour

Marie Stella

“I’m a designer. I’ve always been absorbed by fashion, interior and landscape design,” Marie Stella said when she began my tour of Beaver Lodge in Ashfield. Her current and ongoing design project is the landscape surrounding her beautiful house which has been give a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. This is very unusual for a residence.

LEED designations require that materials be as local as possible, that recycled materials be used when possible. For example, at Beaver Lodge floors are made with wood from trees removed from the site. Stella touched on many other examples as we walked.

Since her house has been designed with energy efficiency and environmental concerns in mind, it is no surprise that the limited domestic landscape shares these design constraints. The garden is designed on permaculture principles with a large emphasis on edibles.

Front view of Beaver Lodge

The first notable aspect of the garden that stretches to the south, in front of the house is the absence of lawn. In the center are large raised vegetable beds, with perennial crops like asparagus, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries and dwarf fruit trees along the eastern border. A small new collection of shitake mushroom logs rests in the shade of the woods.

The western border includes a grapevine covered arbor furnished with a rustic table and benches to provide a shady resting space,. Closer to the house a wild garden filled with native pollinator plants nestles against the broad Ashfield stone terrace that is the transition between the garden and the house. Instead of grass, woodchips carpet the ground. This relatively small cultivated space is held in the embrace of a mixed woodland.

To the north of the house is an old beaver pond which gives its name to Stella’s model house and landscape. In addition to being a designer, Stella is a teacher, and she has designed Beaver Lodge as a teaching tool,. She gives classes at the Landscape Institute at Boston Architecture College, and online.

She did not begin her career as a teacher, and gardening was only an avocation.  However, 25 years or so ago, when her children were young, she took a couple of Elsa Bakalar’s garden classes at her house here in Heath. She found those so inspiring she was led to a course in plant materials at the Radcliff Institute in Boston. That was so engaging that she went on to complete the certification program, and then another one.

During those Radcliff classes she realized a new future was waiting for her. She could combine her earlier background as a historian with her interest in the landscape. She liked writing. Soon she was writing and lecturing about landscape history. She organized and led garden tours to Japan and Italy.

As fascinated as she has been with the history of the landscape, she began to look towards the future, and so came about the construction of Beaver Lodge which will be part of the free NESEA Green Buildings Open House Tour.

Water retention pond

Of course, Stella realizes that if you have a vegetable garden it must be watered. I was very impressed with the systems she has in place to supply adequate water to the edible gardens. At one end of the house the rain gutters bring water to a large stone retention pond that serves an important function, but is also beautiful since it is constructed of stone blasted from construction of the house. A pump brings water up to the vegetable garden when it is needed. She has added a bit of whimsy as well. She has created a small fountain that uses water from the retention pond, and then brings it back to the pond down a created stream bed.

Bubbling fountain

Marie Stella’s greenhouse

Since I visited last in 2009, Stella has added a small greenhouse that incorporates a cold frame and makes use of recycled windows. The greenhouse will give her a chance to get seedlings started early. Inside the greenhouse is a 550 gallon food grade plastic cistern that collects rain from the gutters at the end of then, and then pipes it into the garden.

She also has a root cellar where she can overwinter bulbs and tubers. The constraint for other uses is that snow build up in often prevents access during the winter.

Shakespeare once penned the line “Sermons in stones and good in everything . . .” Those who study and visit Beaver Lodge will find encyclopedias of  good knowledge in this living lesson book.

For information on visiting Beaver Lodge and all the sites on the Green Buildings Open House Tour on Saturday, October 5 you can go to the NESEA (Northeast Sustainable Energy Association) website, www.NESEA.org, and click on the Green Buildings Open House button. There you will be able to put in your own zip code and the distance you are willing to drive. Over 200 houses are on the tour in the whole northeast from Maine to Pennsylvania, but 37 house are within 30 miles of Greenfield. Several are in Greenfield itself with others in Montague, Colrain, Northfield, and South Deerfield, in addition to Beaver Lodge. The website will give you information about each house and it’s green elements, along with cost, benefits, and suppliers. The tour is free, but you should sign up.

Just browsing the Open House website will give you a lot of information and ideas. The owner of an historic house in Montague will be giving a talk from 10am-noon “about how we successfully survived a Deep Energy Retrofit with our marriage AND our historic windows intact!”

Between the Rows   September 28k 2013

It Never Rains on the Rose Viewing

‘Belle Poitvine’ rugosa

It has never rained on the Rose Viewing, and I think I can claim it did not rain yesterday either. The Rose Viewing is from 1-4 pm. At 3:45 yesterday there were a few drops of rain, but then no more. The guests who were here at that time strolled into the Cottage Ornee where we stayed and chatted, ate the last few cookies, and strawberry sorbet that one of the guests brought, until Sunday afternoon exhaustion set in and the young set thought it was time for supper. Farewells at 5:15 and heavy rainfall at 5:25. I am going to claim an unbroken record.

Daughter Betsy was here to pick up her 15 year old, Tynan, who had been spending time with us, and practicing his hiking with a 40 pound pack on his back in preparation for his 12 day trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. I was  fortunate to have her here to keep the lemonade punch bow filled, and to handle book sales. I really enjoy meeting the people who buy my book and inscribing it to them, but of course I am always glad to know that it sells at our local bookstore and through Kindle.

‘Thomas Affleck’

Thomas Affleck, a hybrid created at the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas may have been the star of  the day. He stands near where most people parked their cars and made quite a statement. This rose, although created in Texas, has made himself perfectly at home on our Massachusetts hill, elevation 1700 feet. He begins blooming in mid-June and continues through October, although with diminished energy. He is not bothered by blackspot or any other disease, even in this very rainy spring. I have never detected the promised fragrance, but yesterday’s visitors did a lot of sniffing and said there is a subtle fragrance. My sniffer’s powers ares clearly declining.

‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’

Ghislaine de Feligonde was another rose that attracted a lot of attention. The golden buds are the first beauty, and then the shifting delicate colors of the blossoms. She is listed as a climber, but so far, in my garden, she is getting more vigorous, but is showing no tendency to climb. Others in Heath have had similar experiences. Our climate seems to control growth. The late beloved Elsa Bakalar always told the story about her visiting British brother who asked the variety of the single rose in her garden. “How can you not recognize ‘Queen Elizabeth?” she asked indignantly. His response, “Oh, I didn’t know  there was a dwarf variety.”

I have tried to grow the magnificent Austin rose, ‘Abraham Darby’ but been unsuccessful. The winters were too much for him. When I gave one to my daughter who lives in central Massachusetts, it grew lushly up the side of her porch. A true climber with no trouble.

‘Quietness’

‘Quietness’ was also much admired, for its elegant form. This Griffith Buck hybrid has also been classified as an Earth Kind rose, meaning it is tough and trouble free. It has proved so in my garden.

So what comes after the Rose Viewing?  Weeding the vegetable garden! It has been ignored during preparations for the Rose Viewing and the rain has called up all manner of weeds. But not today. It is raining. Again.

Rose Month Sale of The Roses at the End of the Road

 

My Book

June is Rose Month and I haven’t celebrated at all – so far – but I will begin the celebration with a Special Sale Price for The Roses at the End of the Road. For all orders I receive  by June 30 the cost will be $12 with no tax or shipping charge. Click here for ordering information

The Roses at the End of the is not a how-to book although I do include some basic information. The most basic information I give is to choose roses for your garden that are disease resistant and hardy. Hardy in the sense that the roses don’t need a lot of fussing. I have never had time for fussing with any plant, not even a rose. The book will introduce you to my neighbors and the adventures we have in our gardens.  There is Elsa Bakalar whose husband was willing to take his rifle and go to any lengths to preserve her garden from invaders, 85 year old Mabel who was  willing to round up the cows on my lawn and Rachel who invited me to dig a rose that has proved to have as much stamina as all the old farm wives in town, women I can only hope to emulate.

I never expected to be known as The Rose Lady, but the roses at the end of the road brought me so much pleasure, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to share that pleasure with my neighbors and friends. We had a wedding among the roses – just what daughter Kate dreamed of the day I planted my first rose. The Rose Walk has been my invitation to talk to garden clubs and others about the pleasures to be found in the garden. I even got to speak at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society last year. What an honor! And what fun to talk with all those enthusiastic gardeners.

I will also be offering a free copy of the  book, in a drawing on June 24. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and tell me about your roses – or why you don’t  grow roses.  All comments must be left by midnight on June 23. On the morning of June 24 a winner will be chosen at random. Once I have the winner’s address the book will go out, inscribed as the winner wishes.

June is Rose Month, and here at the End of the Road we are celebrating.  Don’t forget, The Annual Rose Viewing will be held on Sunday, June 30 from 1-4 pm and I hope those in the area will join us on the Rose Walk, and in the Cottage Ornee for cookies and lemonade.

Applejack, will greet you first at the Rose Viewing