Between the Rows: Community keeps bridge in bloom

  • There are several azaleas on the Bridge of Flowers that provide a lot of welcome color after the gray winter. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • A bleeding heart plant glows in the bit of sun that hits the shady woodland garden on the Shelburne side of the Bridge of Flowers. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Forget-Me-Nots seen on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman


For the Recorder
Sunday, May 13, 2018

While on my recent weekend of touring amazing gardens in Texas, I found that three of my fellow tourists from New York and Rhode Island had visited the Bridge of Flowers. Not only did my new friends appreciate the beauty of the bridge in joyous bloom, they admired the way the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club, and their Bridge of Flowers subcommittee, have cared for the bridge, and enlisted the support of a wide community to create a beautiful space that has brought visitors from around the world. I remember one day I was on the bridge and, to my amusement and delight, I don’t think I heard one word of English! The bridge is famous!

Last June, Carol Delorenzo, the head gardener, on behalf of the bridge, received the Bee Spaces award, created by the Franklin County Beekeepers and the Second Congregational Church. Former governor Deval Patrick presented the beautiful plaque made by Molly Cantor, which now lives on the fence by the Garden House.

It was Lorenzo L. Langstroth, who served as minister of the Second Congregational Church in the 1840s, who was the man who “discovered” bee space. We now often refer to the moveable frame wooden hives used by beekeepers as Langstroth hives. The secret Langstroth discovered was that bees can work in a space between ⅜ inch and ¼ inch, which is 5/16 of an inch. If there is more space than this between frames, the bees will create extra comb that will make storing and using honey and pollen difficult. If there is less space, the bees will fill it up with propolis.

Propolis is sometimes called bee glue. It is used to seal up drafty cracks in the hive, and even to enclose dead mice that have crept inside. The bees act to protect the hive from pathogens. For this reason, it is sometimes called bee penicillin.

Bees gather tree resins from sap and leaf buds. Back in the hive, these resins are mixed with wax, honey and enzymes from the bees’ stomachs creating an important anti-bacterial substance that can keep the bees safe and healthy.

A beehive is a busy place. Worker bees are busy gathering nectar and pollen, storing honey and pollen, feeding the brood and themselves, and making royal jelly.

Royal jelly is the single food of the queen bee, and she needs to be royally fed as she lays approximately 1,500 eggs a day and keeps the hive strong.

The Bridge of Flowers has its own optimal spaces to consider, as do bees and beekeepers. Delorenzo tends to the health of the garden, which means removing perennials that have frozen over the winter or lost their vigor.

Sometimes she removes plants because newer varieties have caught her attention. She also chooses all the annuals that are so vital to keeping the bridge in bloom all season.

We gardeners know that there are always new, bright annuals to try out. Delorenzo has an eye and she always knows how to use all the new plants that go in every year. No gardener wants her garden to look exactly the same every year.

Some perennials have to be removed because they have increased and can no longer fit in their allotted space. Local gardeners usually have plants to divide and thin out, and are happy to give them to a new home, and in this case, happy that they help support the Bridge of Flowers. This will add up to over 1,000 plants.

The Blossom Brigade is a hardy group of volunteers who meet twice a week all season long to keep the bridge looking its best. But at this time of the year, most of their energy is spent potting up plant divisions for the plant sale. This year, they were helped by a group of students from the Academy of Charlemont as part of their community service.

The Bridge Plant Sale will also include annuals from LaSalle Florists and Greenhouses, woodland plants from Hillside Nursery in Shelburne, special native plants from Polly French, and special perennials from Baystate Perennial Farm. There will be coffee and treats to help customers keep up their strength while shopping.

Once again, there will be an array of vendors offering books, glass flowers and bees, as well as bird baths and bee baths. I can’t wait to see the bee baths.

The sale is the single fundraising event of the year. Proceeds support the necessary buying of plants, the yards of compost and mulch, and less lovely necessities like repairs to the lights and the irrigation system. Compost and mulch are vital to the health of this organic garden, and every year there seems to be the need for some repair.

On Monday, the bridge will be featured on Channel 22 around noon.

But the big event for the week is the sale held on the Baptist Lot across from the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center on Saturday, May 19. The sale begins at 9 a.m. and ends at noon. Gardeners often start assessing the plants ahead of time, deciding which they most desire. It is all very well to make these assessments, but picking up a plant and holding it until the starting bell is rung is forbidden.

See you at the plant sale. Don’t be late.

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