Between the Rows: Annual Hawley Garden Tour to feature flowers and foliage on both sides of town

  • Kim Fitzroy turned a rotting log into a unique container for hostas in her Hawley garden. For The Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Kim Fitzroy’s garden is just one of the gardens and art displays on the Hawley Garden Tour on Saturday, June 30. For The Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Kim Fitzroy’s garden consists of graceful garden beds with trees, groundcovers and perennials, especially hostas. For The Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • One old birch in Kim Fitzroy’s Hawley garden has taken on its own persona. For The Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

For the Recorder
Monday, June 25, 2018

It’s June and I am looking forward to the Hawley Garden Tour on June 30. Kim Fitzroy will host just one of the gardens on this special tour. She set her garden at the base of a sunny hill, but created “her own bit of heaven” in the shade.

Fitzroy began planting her garden about 15 years ago. Except for two old birches, there were no trees, but now a thornless honey locust, four sumacs, a magnolia and two Japanese maples preside over several graceful curving beds.

“It took two years and I had achieved my vision,” she said. This does not mean she has finished planting!

She pointed out the differences in the foliage of the trees.

“I’m all about texture,” she said.

I then realized that she made use of the different textures not only in the trees, but in the low junipers, the perennial flowers and hostas.

“I love hostas and I have about a hundred,” Fitzroy said.

Her hosta collection does present a wide range of color and form.

I admired the unique rotted log container planted with a hosta. She showed me the small dry stream bed and gardens that made use of rocks from the Chickley River. She shook her head and told me she regretted filling in the old stone cellar hole that was there when she bought the house 35 years ago.

“It would have made a really good feature,” she said with a sigh.

We wandered around the beds and Fitzroy reminisced about the people who have left their mark on the garden. She thought of the birches of her childhood, and her grandfather who loved them, of Dick Demaris who dragged a handsome stone from the river for her, of Marlin Newlan who rototilled the garden named after him, and others who presented her with old tools that have been transformed into garden art. They all tell the tale of her life in that spot.

We sat for a while in the shade of the trees and talked about the garden, about the annoyance of powdery mildew on the garden phlox, about plants that have not survived the winters, and plans for new plantings. She looked around and said, “Every day I am thankful for where I live.”

Hawley has an interesting geography in that the east and west do not meet each other. With that in mind, the Sons and Daughters of Hawley have arranged the tour so that the five West Hawley gardens will be open from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, June 30. A delicious but optional lunch will be served for $12 in East Hawley at the Poudrier garden. The two East Hawley gardens will be open from 1:30 until 4 p.m. Tickets for the tour, both east and west, are $10. Please contact Melanie Poudrier at 413-339-5347, Rainey McCarthy at 413-339-4903 or Pamela Shrimpton at 413-339-4091 for tickets, maps and further information.

More than gardens

In addition to visiting the gardens, there are two exhibits. Paintings of Hawley over the years will be on display at the West Hawley church, while a quilt display will be held at the East Hawley church. Tinky Weisblat will be on hand in West Hawley to talk about rhubarb — and her new rhubarb cookbook.

There is nothing like a garden tour, or garden visitors to make one re-evaluate one’s own garden. I recently had a friend visit and he looked at my pretty yellow wood poppies as they were going to seed and he asked why on earth I had that plant in my garden. The fact that I like wood poppies did not hold much importance for him.

“But they just spread everywhere,” he said.

And he was right. The original plant had increased in size, and this spring it sent out another clump to bloom. That seemed manageable, but when I looked a little more closely, I could see that there were now hundreds of babies around both wood poppy clumps. I did a major weeding of babies, and took out at least half of the mature plants. This explosion of plants was not what I expected.

I went to the online native plant database provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for more info. Stylophorum diphyllum, wood poppy or celandine poppy, is native to the U.S., but there is a European species that is more aggressive. Did I end up with the European species?

My visiting friend shook his head even more vigorously as he looked at the plants I had been calling golden alexanders, Zizia aurea. They are not Zizia. The leaves and flowers are not those of the golden alexanders. This clump of plants had grown and grown. What a great groundcover, I thought. But it was not only spreading by roots, it was sending puffy seeds everywhere. Last week, I pulled them out and stuffed them into garbage bags. I do not want these in my compost pile because it may not get hot enough to kill all those seeds.

We make mistakes in our gardens. Sometimes the mistake is not entirely our fault, as when plants we buy are mislabeled, or because generous friends don’t know how dangerous their pass-alongs are. When the truth is revealed, we just have to concentrate on the possibility of planting something new that is safe and really beautiful. I think I will move my Japanese primroses to the hugel where we can admire them. Their flat foliage will make a good groundcover after bloom season has ended.

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening since 1980. Readers can leave comments at her website: www.commonweeder.com.