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.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The New Herb Garden

Great Beginnings. The site of the new herb garden has been cleared and yesterday afternoon Gary. Marineau, from Saybrook Stone, delivered a load of stone for the retaining wall which will level the ground above the old wall. He went to a quarry near Hebron for it, and handpicked the pieces to give us the best possible match to the stone in the existing walls and the foundation of the gallery.

Photo Notes - Top - the site of the new garden.
Centre - Gary Marineau unloading our stone.
Bottom - Marianne supervising, and looking pleased with the results.


Monday, October 11, 2010

About the Garden

Built in 1767, the General William Hart house is one of the earliest houses in Saybrook, the first settlement on the southern shore of Connecticut. The present Hart House Garden was designed to grow plants similar to what the Harts would have used during their residence, in the 18th Century. The herb beds are situated near the kitchen door and are being significantly expanded this month, a process we'll be documenting, in all its mess and mayhem. Working with Joan Wendler, we plan to plant more medicinal and dyeing plants and prepare hand cards with information on their use. These cards will be made available to garden visitors.  Elise Bischoff  has kept careful records and educational material on the herb garden for years and her notes are now a part of the garden archives.

Sally’s Garden, a fun spot for children, was planned and is maintained by Edna Haagansen, just one of our veteran gardeners always willing to share gardening advice with newcomers.
Perennial flowers known to the Hart family grow along the top and base of the Dingle (bowling green) walls.  Primula, Iris, Peonies, Asters, Foxglove, Chrysanthemums, and Lady’s Mantle, among others,  thrive here.
A woodland garden, designed and planted by Marianne Pfeiffer, borders the church driveway and contains shade loving native ferns and wildflowers under a canopy of Persimmon and Pine trees. Hepatica, Trillium, Wild Columbine and Virginia Bluebells bloom among twenty kinds of ferns, a glorious sight from earliest spring through to the end of May.
Check out the newly expanded Rose Garden containing antique, fragrant June bloomers. 
The Hart House Gardens are entering a new phase of expansion and upgrade, with an eye to creating a space with something to enjoy in all seasons, and to creating more opportunities for the community to share the many pleasures it has to offer.


Hart House Garden Blog

After a strenuous meeting over coffee and cake at Dagmar's Desserts we're pleased to announce the beginning of a new venture for the Hart House gardeners. From now on you'll be able to check this blog for updates on what's blooming, what's going on and what's being done. Stay tuned.