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Between the Rows

Between the Rows: Welcome to the gardens

Welcome! Welcome seems to be the theme at one of the gardens on the Greenfield Garden Club Tour, which will be held on Saturday, July 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This beautiful garden on a challenging slope in Gill has several garden rooms, from the small sunny garden with its fountain and pool surrounded by astilbes, ornamental grasses and bright coreopsis, to the woodland garden with its gravel paths and colorful mushroom ornaments. Each garden has its own welcome sign and its own seating. This gardener knows it’s all very well to invite a person into the garden, but there must be a place to sit and visit, or to meditate, depending on one’s mood.

This garden with such a variety of moods and welcomes is only one of the nine gardens, mostly in Greenfield, that will be welcoming visitors on the tour. I have visited a couple of the gardens on previous tours and I am interested to see how they have changed over the years. If a garden is anything, it is change.

One garden has had to change because storms have decreed the removal of two large trees. Where there was shade there is now sun. The garden has also changed because of changes in the gardener’s energies and interests. More native plants and less lawn.

One Greenfield garden is a veritable Eden of fruit trees, including figs! Another garden illustrates how much can be done in a short (in gardener’s terms) period of time. In just three years, this garden has turned a tangle of invasives into productive fruit and vegetable gardens, as well as a small pond to provide wildlife habitat and hardy native woodland plants.

It is interesting to me to see how many of these gardeners are interested in sustainability. They are looking to sustain their own health by producing their own food, while they are also sustaining the health of our environment by eliminating lawns that can use so many resources.

One garden is planned as a pollinator’s paradise. In addition to planting a few vegetables as well as apples, rhubarb and an assortment of berries, the garden is filled with Echinacea, sundrops, New England asters, sunflowers, red clover and many other flowers that attract those important pollinators, native bees and beautiful butterflies.

In addition to these nine idea-filled gardens, the Greenfield Club Garden Tour will offer complimentary refreshments and a lottery where you might win a moss garden, a hypertufa trough or other prize. Tickets are $12 and are available at the Trap Plain Garden at the corner of Federal and Silver streets. Tickets will be available from
9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the day of the tour. The rain date is July 7, but only in the event of a washout.

Proceeds from the garden tour go to fund the club’s civic projects, especially grants for school gardens.

Don’t worry about the ants

While I was preparing for my own garden party, the work crew, daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters spent considerable time weeding the Peony Bed. Reactions to the ants crawling on the fat peony buds ranged from “Eeeeeuw!” to “What are the ants doing, (great) Granny?”

This is a common question. Ants do not seem to be anyone’s favorites insect. In fact, when faced with most insects, many non-gardeners, and some inexperienced gardeners, tend to react with a yell for the bug killer. This is often unnecessary, especially when it comes to ants on peony buds. As it happens, peony buds have an exterior scale that exudes a sweet nutritious nectar and the ants are just chowing down. They are neither hurting, nor helping the peonies in any way. However, the ants are so fond of this nectar that they can ward off other insects that might cause damage to the bud.

When the peonies open, there is no more nectar and the ants abandon the plant. Don’t worry about the ants and definitely, don’t run for some poison.

We are organic gardeners and do not use any poisons in the garden. We don’t use weed killers or bug killers — well, except for wasps nests right next to the door. That means our lawn is a flowery mead and not fine turf. I was horrified to read that after applying some lawn fertilizer/herbicide, or walking on that treated lawn, you should remove your shoes before coming into the house. All summer. I prefer the flowery mead and see no need for the extra work that fine turf requires.

As for bugs, we don’t seem to have serious problems with bugs here at the End of the Road. Once, long ago, while chatting with my next door neighbor, we watched my five very young children climb out of their low, ground-floor bedroom window to play in the yard when they were supposed to be taking naps. She just sighed and said that God protected drunks and fools. I don’t drink, so you can see where that left me.

I put down milky spore disease nearly 30 years ago and now have only a handful of Japanese beetles every year. Maybe it is because our garden is so isolated. Maybe I am just lucky. Maybe I am still under the Almighty’s protection.

Many mysteries in the garden. I have always said so.

Readers can leave comments at Pat Leuchtman’s Web site: www.commonweeder.com. Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980.

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