Between the Rows: Mary Lyon Church Garden Tour
Garden tour season continues! The Mary Lyon Church garden tour is scheduled for Saturday, July 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes seven gardens in Buckland and two gardens in West Hawley.
I had the good fortune to visit Shirley Scott and Joe Giard’s garden ahead of time. This has one of the most challenging sites I have ever seen for a garden. The main challenge of her site has been the very steep slope to the left of the house. This grassy slope with its interruptions of ledge has become the Slope Garden, with a series of beds of strong growing plants like daylilies, tall New England asters and miscanthus grasses. Stairs have been cut into the hill, but visitors will probably prefer to begin by strolling through the gardens on the shady side of the house.
Scott says the garden has fulfilled her childhood dream of having water lilies and her vision of a garden filled with wildlife.
That wildlife needed a very close look when she was giving me a tour of the Welcoming Bed at the entry to the property. This bed is filled with chrysanthemums, tiger lilies, foxglove, yellow loosestrife (not the invasive purple variety) iris, black eyed susans, peonies and sedums. There is also milkweed, blooming at this time of the year and providing nectar for many butterflies that were dancing through the garden.
At one point, we stopped because we saw some filmy fibers on one of the tall sedum plants. A very close look showed that this film enclosed hundreds of very tiny baby spiders. A closer look showed us that a large spider was on a nearby leaf. Could it have been the mama? We’ll never know, but it was a very exciting moment when we could watch a certain kind of wildlife being lived in the garden.
Of course, Scott explained they have larger wildlife enjoying the garden: all manner of birds, bears, bobcats, coyotes and turtles.
If you walk first through the shade gardens, you’ll come to the newest of Scott’s three water gardens, a kind of shallow, stepped fountain on a gentle slope. This area is where Scott places her bird feeders. The large trees provide shelter for the birds and the sound of water attracts them. She explained the water feature is still being refined and she reminded me that the garden is all a work in progress. This is a concept that she does not need to explain to any experienced gardener.
In back of the house and outbuildings is Giard’s fenced vegetable garden, where he has made unique use of a TV antenna and automobile tires. It always pays to look around the house and garage before you go out and buy new garden equipment.
The water gardens are one of the most inspiring aspects of this garden, each one different. Soon you come to the first one she designed and made by herself. This small pool is surrounded by stones that can accommodate a small metal table and chairs. Here she can enjoy the sound of the water and a view of her water lilies. “When it was first installed, I sat there and thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.
It is also from this spot at the bottom of the Slope Garden that you can look into the faces of all those blooming sun lovers.
The second water garden is much larger and more ambitious with beautiful stone work. Giard brought all the Goshen stone down the slope to a sunny flat site. Chapley Gardens in Deerfield installed this garden with a recirculation pump and filtration system. In addition to the musical waterfall and more water lilies, there is an adjoining bog garden and a collection of daylilies that will be in full bloom at the time of the tour.
This large garden is artfully arranged so that different views can be admired from various vantage points. Perhaps the most delightful view is from the small shaded gazebo at the top of the slope, which gives a panoramic view of the Welcoming Garden, the Slope Garden beds and the large Water Garden.
I love visiting other gardens because I love seeing the ways a gardener’s dreams take form. Scott is an “Ashfield girl” and she has brought favorite plants from her mother, grandmother and friends into the garden where her childhood dream of a water lily pond has become a reality. This is a garden of memory and dreams.
Scott’s garden is just one of the beautiful gardens on the tour, which includes a secret garden, a labyrinth, a farm and gardens around historic buildings in Buckland. A farm and a multi-faceted array of perennial gardens are located in West Hawley. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Tickets are available by calling Cyndie Stetson at 339-4231 or Lisa Turner at 339-4319. Tickets will also be on sale at the Mary Lyon Church on the morning of July 19. Tickets are $10 and there will be a luncheon served at the Mary Lyon Church for an additional $10. Reservations should be made ahead of time for the lunch. All profits benefit the church.
Pat Leuchtman, who is The Recorder’s garden columnist, has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980. Readers can leave comments at her Web site: www.commonweeder.com.