Two Gardens on the Whately Garden Tour – June 15

  • Post published:06/14/2013
  • Post comments:2 Comments


Patio pond at Nicole & Joe Pietraszkiewicz’s garden

The Garden Tour Season is well begun. Next Saturday, June 15, the Whately Garden Tour sponsored by the Historical Society includes 5 five diverse Whately gardens that will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. rain or shine. There are woodland gardens, gardens that reflect other cultures, cottage gardens and gardens that welcome all kinds of wildlife.

A Garden for Family and Friends

Joe and Nicole Pietraszkiewicz

Last week I visited Nicole and Joe Pietraszkiewicz  who bought a newly built house set in the woods 35 years ago.  Nowadays, that house sits amid lawns and bowers, with a sunny deck, and a stone patio that includes a tiny pond edged with plants. Nicole said “ We didn’t know what we were doing when we moved here. We had no grand plan for the garden; it just developed.”

For many years the couple was busy with their three daughters and all their activities and did not spend too much time thinking about gardens. However, almost immediately after moving, there was a storm that brought a tree down on their boat, and grazed the house. It was clear that trees needed to be removed.

Trees were cleared slowly and shade gave way to sun for lawns and flowers. The deck and large stone patio are surrounded by flower beds. This is the summer garden, planted with all manner of sun loving perennials, garden phlox, liatris, campanulas, columbine, bleeding heart, cranesbills, bee balm and more. There are interesting grasses, and shrubs that enclose the patio.

I was particularly taken by the fragrant Olympia lilac, that blooms later than other lilacs in a shade of deep purple. Other flowering shrubs include a magnificent Rose of Sharon, and butterfly bushes.

“It all developed slowly,” Nicole said. “All trial and error.” She never thought it would be fun, but as we left the summer garden through one of the two arches twined with clematis that Joe built, and into the autumn garden, it was clear that she has indeed had fun. She smiled and said, “I have ideas and then Joe makes them come true.” A small hesitation before she added, “Of course, he has some ideas of his own, too.” She also made sure to give him credit for all the stone work, and the pond that includes a pump, exactly like the one at her grandparents’ house when she was a girl.

This is a wonderful garden, clearly built for sociability, for enjoying friends, and family, most especially including six grandchildren.

 A Garden for Butterflies

Bill and Joe’s planting in a stone outcropping

Another garden on the Whately Garden Tour has a different terrain and a different approach.  Bill Brenner and Joe Wysinski are both veterinarians and both are fascinated by the natural world. Their garden moves down a rocky slope to a stream and pergola.

Brenner is a past president and current editor of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club ( and their garden is planted with flowers that attract and support butterflies. He explained that they even allow the ‘weed’ lamb’s quarters in the garden because it is a host plant for the sooty wing black skipper.

In addition to the lamb’s quarters they grow columbine, bee balm, trumpet honeysuckle, agastache, 25 species of salvia, turtlehead, Echinacea, coreopsis, liatris, queen of the prairie, ox eye daisies and zinnias. Violets are grown because they are a host plant for the endangered silver-bordered fritillary. It would be impossible to name all the useful plants in this very floriferous garden. Even the stone outcroppings provide a place for low plantings.

The garden also includes trees and shrubs left by the previous owners. Blueberry bushes and apple trees feed them as well as all the pollinators.

Butterflies are not the only pollinators that make use of this rich garden. Brenner and Wysinski have identified at least a half dozen species of bumblee bee that visit the garden, including mason bees and cuckoo bees. “We try to identify them, just because it’s fun,” Brenner said.

Their passion for butterflies has led them to caring for all pollinators, those that are beautiful, and those that are barely visible.  They use no sprays or chemicals in their garden. For them the garden is all about sustaining life.

For me garden tours are all about the pleasure of seeing how many ways people approach their landscapes, and the many kinds of plants that can be used to create different effects and moods. Garden tours provide two of my favorite things, new information and inspiration. Both will be on offer in Whately June 15th.

Tickets for the Whately Garden Tour can be reserved by calling Barbara Drollette at 413-665-4818. They are also available at Lasalle Florists and Bay State Perennial Farm, Whately( $12 in advance, $15 day-of-tour). Ticket holders will receive a 10% discount on plant purchases at Lasalle’s and Bay State on the day-of-tour. The Whately Historical Society Museum at the Milk Bottle, 218 Chestnut Plain, will be open on June 15, 10-3pm for ticket sales and viewing of exhibits.

A Warning About Impatiens

I also want to pass on a warning. All spring I have been hearing about a disease that is killing impatiens. These plants are still available in garden centers and they may be fine, but gardeners should know there is a risk. I was in touch with Tina Smith, UMass Extension Floriculture Specialist, and this is what she told me. “Impatiens Downy Mildew is a new disease in home gardens that kills garden impatiens. Although impatiens may be free from disease when you plant them, the plants can become infected by disease spores that spread on wind currents or from overwintering spores in the ground from infected plants last year. There is no control for this disease once plants are infected. No other plants are susceptible, however all impatiens walleriana are susceptible, which includes double impatiens, seed, vegetative, hanging baskets and hybrids with I. walleriana such as  ‘Fusion’ series. It will also infect wild impatiens (Jewel weed). Gardeners are encouraged to plant alternative shade plants such as New Guinea impatiens, begonias, lobelia, torenia and coleus. New Guinea impatiens (Impatienshawkeri) and SunPatiens® are not affected.” For a fact sheet with pictures see “Impatiens Downy Mildew in Home Gardens” at


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Lisa at Greenbow

    You are so lucky to live in an area that has garden tours. It looks like so much fun.

  2. Donna

    The garden is beautiful with all the groundcovers and masonry work. Very textural and and much interest. Our area has a whole summer of garden tours and it is nice they occur in other places too. It really is a trend catching on big.

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