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Fourth of July – Red, White and Blue in Bloom

Red Meideland roses

Red roses.

Red and White Meideland roses

Red and white roses.

Mothlight hydrangea

White Mothlight hydrangea.

Switzerland shasta daisies

White Switzerland shasta daisies.

Connecticut Yankee delphiniums

Blue Connecticut Yankee delphiniums. Falling over, but unbowed.

For more Wordlessness this Independence Day Wednesday click here.

Annual Rose Viewing a Success

The Rose Walk on June 24 7 am

The Annual Rose Viewing was a success! The weather was perfect. The roses were in uproarious bloom. The guests were entranced.

Viewers of the roses - courtesy of Adrienne Cremins

I got to speak to many of the guests, and then they got to wander down the Rose Walk by themselves. All the roses are labelled. The air was filled with fragrance. Adrienne, an old friend, took this great photo.

Rachel's Rose

I think Rachel was possibly the biggest attraction this year, blooming  at the top of the Rose Walk where she was moved after we had to remove her from the spot where the Cottage Ornee foundation border was placed. Then, magically she reappeared because a root had been left behind. She is the grande dame of the garden – twice over.


Rachel was tangled in Ispahan that was so laden with such long canes of roses than it totally hid Sitka, a rugosa I planted last year.

Book Signing! courtesy of Lilin Tseng

I did sell a few copies of The Roses at the End of the Road. I was especially happy to sign a copy for my Bridge of Flowers Committee colleague Lynda Leitner who has been such a good friend to me while we organized the annual Plant Sale. Actually she is a good friend on many counts. Lilin, a anew friend, too this photo of me with Lynda who is dreaming about the roses in her own garden.

de la Grifferai

Some of the roses are beginning to fade, but they are beautiful at every stage.

Now I have to start paying attention to the vegetable garden. The weeds are thriving and the rabbits haven’t eaten everything. AND our cat Frank just caught a rabbit. Maybe he is finally understanding that cats and rabbits are mortal enemies. My grandsons told me that.

Weekend of Plants and Memorials

The Ladue Family on the Bridge of Flowers

This Mother’s Day weekend was filled with flowers, and memorials. The Ladue family, Kimberly, Troy and Lisa, visited the Bridge of Flowers and presented the Bridge committee with a donation that will help keep the Bridge in bloom. Their mother, Margaret Oliver Ladue was a flower lover and (among other things) worked in the gardens of an assisted living home. Through their family foundation, her children are able to support their mother’s interests in education with an annual scholarship and by supporting other organizations that reflect their mother’s interests. For more about the work of the foundation you can click here.

Edie Gerry, Buckland Library Trustee

I was also happy to attend the planting of an American Elm tree at the Buckland Public Library in memory of John Powell, a Buckland native whose final work for the town was the help he gave the Library with its new addition to make it energy efficient. I treasure my memories of John when he visited the library and we tried to figure out which books of his favorite authors he had not read, and his memories of the town in earlier days. Just this past week the Library received notice that it was awarded Silver Leed Certification.

Caitlin, Diane and Tricia

My Mother’s Day was filled with so much lively family that there was hardly time to take photographs. My gift was hours of labor in the gardens. Mowing, digging, planting, fence building – and the opening of the Cottage Ornee. I did one picture of daughter Diane with her two daughters as they prepared to leave, with potted plants for their gardens. For all of them including, daughter Betsy,  and grandsons Rory, Tynan, and Ryan (teenagers getting ready to drive!),not to mention the ones who could not be here, Philip, Chris, Kate, Greg, Anthony and Drew, I am truly grateful.

Mother’s Day – The Family is Coming

Sargent crabapple

Mother’s Day has arrived and children and grandchildren are on their way.

April Showers and May Basket

May Basket

I awoke to a delicious soft rain – and a beautiful May Basket. Pansies, grape hyacinths and chocolate. I wonder who is celebrating May Day with me.

Sunday Night – Drama, Delicious, Drama

Jupiter, Moon, Venus

Liz and Lilin

Dumplings AKA jiaozi

Lilin stirring jiazo, jiaozi - delicious


More drama!

Our Christmas Trees

Christmas tree 2011

Many family Christmas memories revolve around the Christmas tree. These stories rarely have to do with the magnificence of the tree. In fact, Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree may be our culture’s most famous Christmas tree, standing for the true meaning of the season.

We have many family stories about our Christmas trees beginning with our first Christmas in Greenfield in 1971.  I was a single mother of five children when I came to town. Our life had changed and so had many of the family routines and rituals.

As a gift, a new friend invited me and the children out to the Heath wilderness (as yet totally unknown to us) for a picturesque outing to cut down our own tree. There had been snow and frigid weather, but that afternoon was relatively warm and sunny, a perfect day for a holiday outing.  The boys had disappeared, but the three girls aged 7, 9, and 10, and I set off with our friend caroling and laughing.

We got to Heath and started trekking through the woods. Unfortunately, though our friend was kind, he didn’t know much about Christmas trees, or even about the woodlot he drove us to. We found nothing resembling our fantasy Christmas tree. Even worse, the sun had softened the snow crust and the going was hard.  Kathy, at 7, was floundering and falling in the deep snow. Everyone was getting colder and wetter as the sun hid itself.  I decided that the next tree we saw would be the perfect tree. No arguments allowed. We cut it down, dragged it out to the road, and lashed it to the car. The car heater conked out and we were exhausted. There were no carols or happy chatter on the way home.

Happily, Henry, the man I had recently met and  would eventually marry, met us at the door. While I got the girls into hot baths and their warm nighties, Henry set up the tree. The trunk was crooked and it took lots of  guy wiring to hold it stable. The sparse branches started to drop their needles almost immediately and my two sons just hooted in derision when they finally made their appearance.

I said the tree gave us lots of scope for ornaments. Unfortunately, somehow, in the move from Connecticut, all the Christmas ornaments disappeared, including all those my children had made in school over the years. There was no money for a treeful of ornaments, so we all sat around the table to make lots of big construction paper decorations, some of which still go on the tree every year.

That was our first Christmas tree with Henry. In 1975 we moved to New York City to live in his ancestral apartment. One year there we had a magical tree. A friend came in with presents and an angel he had made for the tree top. He gave it a casual toss across the room – and it landed gently, and perfectly, just where it should.

After four years in the city we moved to Heath.  The boys were out on their own so only the three girls made the move with us the day after Thanksgiving.

This time it was easy to cut down our own tree. It was growing right in front of the kitchen window, blocking the light and the view. It was big and beautiful and shapely. It was also a blue spruce, with stiff branches and the prickliest needles. It nearly killed us to get it cut down and into the house, fighting us every inch of the way.

From our elderly neighbor Mabel Vreeland we learned about snowbelts, and over time we planted a triple row of evergreens, tiny seedlings, purchased from the Conservation Service, along our road.  Our plan was to over -plant so that we could thin the snowbreak by taking out a Christmas tree every year. And that is what we have done. No longer do we trek through unfamiliar woods, but just down over our field. We don’t pay much attention to the snowbelt and sometimes the trees are small, sometimes tall, sometimes quite odd, but we can always say we planted them and grew them ourselves.

This year we have what I think of as a dancing tree. The trunk twists first one way and then the other. The branches go up on one side and down on the other.  If it were a Jules Feiffer cartoon character it would be dancing an ode to the solstice. There is lots of scope for ornaments.

No matter what the Christmas tree looks like – and when we spent a year in Beijing it was a potted osmanthus decorated with shiny ribbon and a handful of sequined ornaments – to me the evergreen tree (even the osmanthus) is the place where we gather with beloved family and friends to celebrate the generosity of the season.  And I don’t refer to all the shopping at the mall, but to the thought and kindnesses that we render each other throughout the season, the care we take of others when we make donations to the Food Bank or Warm the Children, and the prayers we utter for peace on earth, good will toward men.

Between the Rows   December 24, 2011

Christmas Joys and . . .

Son Philip, me, grandaugher Tracy with her daughters Lola and Bella

What is any big family celebration without a few tears. Alas, although Bella loves looking at photos of herself, she does not like knowing the camera is pointed at her. It is not often we get four generations together. What a gift. Tears and all.

Great Granny and Bella

Reading Aloud is one of my great pleasures – on any day of the year. I was happy to introduce Bella, oblivious to the camera now, to one of the great children’s book authors and illustrators in Massachusetts – Jan Brett. We had a good time looking at the wonderfully detailed illustrations in Daisy Comes Home.

We were thrilled that granddaughter Tracy and her family were visiting from Florida, and that they will be moving back to our area this year. The best gift of all.

Yesterday’s extravaganza was Chapter Two of Christmas 2011. We spent Christmas Eve with dear friends, Christmas Day with son Chris and his lady Michelle, and Chapter Three is scheduled for Thursday when we go east to celebrate with our two daughters, their children, and even a reprise of Philip’s branch.  I hope your Christmas cheer is lingering, too.

My Ornamented Life – Part 4

During our two different years in Beijing, China, Henry and I were untethered from all our usual responsibilities and routines. This was sometimes exciting, and sometimes unnerving as we learned about the 5000 years of Chinese history and culture, made wonderful friends from around the world, ate great food, and saw amazing sights.

Monkey King and Pigsy

We learned about the great Chinese classic, Journey to the West, and read the children’s version. We also met a five year old American boy who was living at the Friendship Hotel with his parents. Papa was teaching constitutional law! The boy loved Money King and had memorized the whole children’s version – all 36 volumes. He knew of all about Monkey’s mischief and valor, all his magic powers including his magic cudgel that Monkey kept behind his ear when it wasn’t needed. Monkey was travelling with his three companions, the (Buddhist) Monk, Friar Sand,  and Pigsy who can never totally control his appetites, at the Buddha’s request to bring the sutras back to China from the west. They have many exciting adventures along the way – and learn many lessons.

We were told that we could not begin to understand China until we had read the three great classics, Outlaws of the Marsh, Dream of Red Chamber, and Journey to the West.

Do you have ornaments, or books,  from any of your travels?

My Ornamented Life – Part 3

The Rooster crows, but the Hen delivers

One year my boss at Greenfield Community College gave me this ornament. I thought he was giving me a compliment, but no. He was merely acknowledging my flock of chickens and the eggs I brought to give out at work.

Have you even been given ornaments at work? Were they compliments?

We have lots of other chicken ornaments on our tree. I think chickens are cheerful, domestic and productive. I emulate the chicken.