Monday, December 13, 2010

Suddenly it's Winter

Last week we had night temperatures in the single and teen numbers! What a shock! Poor Old Blush has not been protected, the Liberty Bank mums were just planted in our boxes and are not yet acclimated, our mulching plans are on hold and Andy rushed from his easy chair to the garden to winterize our water system. However our Christmas wreath making project went into full gear. Sherry, Sheila, Linda and I cut carloads of greens and set up workshops first in the gallery, later in Sheila's dining room, anywhere warm. Sheila's little blue parrot urged us on with scolds and twitters and exhortations of "step up" until we produced and sold 28 wreaths and earned $700. for the garden. Shall we order perennials, herbs and shrubs in spring?  Step up!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tea and Treasures

Yesterday's 'Tea and Treasures' event was well attended and a lot of fun. Besides the beautiful tea laid out in the old kitchen and enjoyed in the parlour and front room, there was a holiday boutique in the gallery, full of a wide variety of treasures - Christmas decorations, including a set of collectible carollers, a Pakistani tribal rug, jewellery, the sweetest little Penny Bright doll with all her outfits and accessories, some lovely watercolours, glass, china, and much more. While everyone else was either shopping or imbibing, Sherry Eldridge was giving a wreath-making demonstration, and the end results sold, to the eventual benefit of the Hart House Garden, as quickly as they were made. Meanwhile, out in the cold, one little yellow iris was bravely blooming.
The shop will be open during the Old Saybrook stroll and the Wassail Event.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November Continued

I’m looking at our last blog and seeing that big pile of topsoil west of our new herb garden layout.
That big pile, 2 ½ yards , has long since disappeared. It was spread over much of the new herb garden as well as over some sunken areas of Flavia’s beds. The herb garden beds are now raised and surrounded by soldier bricks. Some of the paths are sodded and over-seeded, the rest will have to wait for spring. Three brains are wheeling with ideas for what household herbs will be planted in these new beds for the edification of next year’s visitors.
Two beautiful, comfortable garden chairs arrived in the garden, a surprise gift from a generous, anonymous member. We heard several benches comprise the rest of the gift. What a pleasure to relax in the sun on a warm, wooden seat after some hours of labor.
Last Saturday a troop of strong and energetic boy scouts arrived and under Linda’s direction performed a much needed fall clean-up, pruning, cutting, raking, hauling, and carrying, stomping smooth our thick pine-needled paths and even driving Pippin into ecstasy with their masculine skillfulness at stick throwing. Thanks guys! We hope you will come again next year.
Members of the committee responsible for preparing the Hart House for the Christmas season were also in the garden on Saturday, cutting greens for decoration.
And this Thanksgiving week Sherry, Sheila and I are busily making Christmas wreaths to be sold at the various member and public events at the Hart House between now and Christmas. Money earned can help stock our herb garden.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still Working

A good many days have passed since our last entry, but not because we have been inactive. We have had some rain, some snow, wind and frost, but have made good progress with Linda’s herb garden. Our longed-for load of top soil finally arrived allowing us to level the area, lay out the beds once again, raise their level and edge them with bricks. Only one bed to finish and portions of the paths to sod. Next spring herbs will be growing here and Linda will lecture.
Our persimmon trees have been dropping some of their sticky fruit over the wild flower paths and garden, but their leaves never turned the lovely gold we saw in other years, frost and wind destroyed the display.
Old Blush smiles with a few pink hopeful buds; mums, both the short compact kinds and tall lanky ones defy the changing season here and there; Edna’s garden still glows with its scarlet pineapple sage, gold nasturtiums and white chrysanthemums.
Yes, winter is on its way but for those of us who love nature, gardening, and the seasons there is plenty to enjoy and do.
And if we get cold working there is always the coffee shop across the street.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Raised Beds

A beautiful morning, if a little on the nippy side. Andrew arrived with his tools, and had the ends of the raised beds all pre-drilled and ready to go. In fairly short order we had two long boxes sitting on a length of landscape cloth, waiting for our delivery of soil to arrive. We won't fill them to the top as we want to leave some head room. When we cover the beds with plastic to give the plants a little protection from the cold we don't want to be squashing them.

Now that the leaves are starting to fall the hawthorn in front of Hart House is flaunting its berries, very red against the shrivelling foliage.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Odd Jobs

I can't say the results of today's work in the garden were exciting, but at least they were steps on the way to something worthwhile. We cleared the ground and laid landscape cloth behind the shed in readiness for the raised nursery beds, which Andrew Pfeiffer will assemble tomorrow. There will be two beds, each eight feet by three, and they'll be an immense help in wintering over new plants, and starting seedlings in the spring. Afterwards Marianne worked on laying sod on the grass paths of the new herb garden. We also mulched the new boxwood bushes, which have a satisfying tidy look now.
Sherry Eldridge brought us three monkshood a few days ago - a slightly darker, brighter version than the one already in the garden, and a nice complement to it. They were still looking good after last night's frost, and will be wonderful next autumn, with all the new mums. The tulip tree in the wildflower garden was like a shower of gold in the late afternoon sun, against a sky even bluer than the monkshood.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tea and Apples

This afternoon a good sized group gathered in the old kitchen of Hart House to watch a demonstration of the traditional skills involved in making the most of a seasonal staple. Nina Garrett showed us how to begin with a few pounds of grounders, or seconds from the farm stand, or even a large bag of grocery store apples, and make applesauce. Using a hotplate and her mother's chinois she produced a lovely unsweetened, unspiced base that could be modified to suit your own taste. Once the sauce was finished she demonstrated how the liquid drained off in the process could be made into jelly, and how some of the sauce could be preserved as apple butter - a form of jam, and nothing at all to do with butter. While she was working she told how the cores and peels of whatever fruit you were using for pies, fruit salads or any other dish that called for sliced fruit, could also be boiled up for jelly. And when you're all finished you can pour boiling water over the remains and steep a nice apple drink. Also on offer was the secret of a tempting recipe called 'compost jelly.' While the apple jelly simmered towards its setting point tea was served in the dining room, with cake, frost on the pumpkin mini muffins, and a variety of scones, all perfect for spreading with apple preserves.

Outside in the garden the recent rain had produced a crop of impressive mushrooms in the wildflower garden, perfectly presenting three stages of maturity - ripe perfection, the open form of the first decline, and the shrivelled decay that sets in only a day or two later.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Old Blush

My Chinese rose, Old Blush, rewarded me with a pink blossom and three buds today. I thought I had killed her with kindness as she had lost all her leaves over the summer. Old Blush bequeathed her gene for summer-long bloom to all modern roses after emigrating to Europe from China in 1751. She does not like our winters so we bundle her up from Christmas to spring. Meanwhile she blooms.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Laying out the Herb Garden

A beautiful autumn day, and some progress made in laying out the herb garden. We measured, and re-measured, and marked the outline of the beds with landscape paint, then cut the sod out of the places we wanted for planting. One end is unfinished as we need about two more yards of topsoil to fill in the ground and heap the planting surface into the mounded shapes appropriate to the period. Any good sod was laid out on the paths, in case we decide we want them done in grass. Grass paths make sense, as they're easily maintained and cost nothing to install, besides integrating the herb garden and the surrounding lawn, but gravel or brick looks more formal. We'll see.

The late chrysanthemums are all open and strutting their stuff, adding a fresh note to the look and smell of the late season garden. Frank stopped on his walk to tell us about all the children who used to visit the garden as part of the education programs sponsored by the Historical Society and we were happy to be able to report that our incoming president is working on a revival of those programs, and the new herb garden will play an important role in them.

Someone else came by to follow up on a conversation she'd had with Marianne about the perennial yellow foxglove growing in the shady parts of the garden, by buying a plant for her own garden. One should do it, as they spread generously, without ever becoming a problem.

I suppose we should feel guilty, as we took our tired, dirty selves over to Tissa's -Whose great idea was it to put a coffee and ice cream shop across the street? - and had coffee and some wonderful chocolate mousse cake, and pumpkin cheescake, both made by the proprietress.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Level Ground

The topsoil was delivered yesterday afternoon, allowing the ground behind the new wall to be levelled and prepared for laying out the herb garden. There isn't much to be seen yet, just a few pieces of string and some stakes, but it's a start.
The late chrysanthemums are beginning to bloom, providing a pale, open contrast to the tight shapes and bright colours of the earlier mums.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Marianne had the boxwood all lined up and ready to go, and in spite of the threat of rain, and then a good wetting in the last few minutes of work, Linda and I planted them along the top of the dingle wall, and one on either side of the front door of Hart House. They look elegant already.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The New Wall

We finished the wall this afternoon and Marianne has it all nicely backfilled. Now we're just waiting for a load of fill to level the ground behind it before we begin preparing the new herb garden. Thursday we'll plant a row of boxwood along the top of the old wall, in the three foot strip we left for that purpose. The bushes will extend from the corner of the dingle behind Flavia's garden, to the far corner of the gallery, and provide a nice formal element, and a little badly needed winter interest. We already have baby box balls next to the archive door, on the outside corners of the beds on either side of the grass ramp and on either side of the steps, for a little continuity of design.
The late chrysanthemums are just beginning to bloom in Sally's (really Edna's)garden, the zinnias are still contributing their splashy colour and the red stems of a heritage chard seem designed to compliment the incredible red flowers on the pineapple sage. It's a wonderful time to be in the garden.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Roses and Pine needles

Marchesa Bochella, our transplanted Old Rose, has a single wonderfully fragrant blossom and a bud to open another day. The scent wafted twenty feet uphill. What a pleasure. Will these be the last roses of summer?
Truman Jones, volunteer in the Congregational Church garden, is refurbishing our wild flower garden paths with a soft and scented carpet of pine needles. A neighborly recycling work in progress. Thank you, Truman.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The New Wall

Yesterday Gary Marineau and his son, Tristan, stopped by to check on our progress and offer a few tips. They seemed to think the wall would stand up, which was good to hear. Today, in tremendous wind, we managed to get a fair amount done. Marianne has one end backfilled with a soil and sand mix, in preparation for planting creeping thyme or something else that will nestle itself in and around the capstones.

The garden is looking wonderful. There's a monkshood blooming amongst the chysanthemums in Flavia's garden, that just sings. We need a dozen more of them.


The New Wall

I'm a little behind already. Here we are the day after the stone was delivered - assessing the situation, and starting to build. Marianne is digging the trench for the first course.