Fairy House Tour 2013

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Saturday, September 21st, dawned bright, beautiful, and wonderful for touring fairy house real estate in Portsmouth.  Fairies large and small came out in droves to survey the latest in fairy houses from simple one room dwellings to three story wonders. These were displayed across the grounds of Strawbery Banke, the Governor Langdon House, Prescott Park, and Peirce Island.

This fairy house extravaganza is in its ninth year and features imaginative creations from students at various local area schools as well as local artists, florists, local garden clubs, businesses and families.


It is the world’s largest fairy house tour, started by the Friends of the South End and inspired by Tracy Kane’s Fairy House Series.  It attracts more than 4,000 families and fairies each year.


Proceeds from the ticket sales and sponsorships are donated to the nonprofit organizations, schools, and civic groups that participate in the tour.  More than $150,000 has been funneled back into the community since the tour began in 2004.

 Tracy was at Strawbery Bank to sign books and talk to fans.  There were also performances by the Southern New Hampshire Dance Theatre and the NH Theatre Project at the Prescott Park Arts Festival stage and the Langdon House grove.  The dance theatre presented excerpts from “Fairy Houses – the Ballet” while the theatre group dramatized parts of the book Forest Secrets by Tracy Kane. Fairy visitors were invited to build their own fairy house and village on Peirce Island.

Fairy houses are made from natural materials that can found in the woods, seashore, meadows, gardens.  They can be made of branches, bark, stones, shells, feathers, flowers, pine cones and any other things found in nature.

You can find more info on Tracy Kane and her books.

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Garden Tours for the Season at the Fells Ends on a Glorious Day – Sunday, August 11, 2013

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I couldn’t have picked a more wonderful day to visit The Fells even if it wasn’t the last day of the garden tours for the season.  It is certainly easier getting to the Fells now than it was in 1891 when John Hay bought 1,000 acres of farmland to create his lakeside estate In Newbury, New Hampshire.

In those days, you traveled by train to the Lake Sunapee and then took a steamboat to the estate (if you’d been invited).  But given the unspoiled landscape and beautiful vistas, I’m sure that was a wonderful start to a relaxing summer retreat after living in Washington D.C as the Hay family did most of the year.  It was the exclusive enclave of the Hay family who frequently invited relatives and friends to stay with them during the summer season.  Even now traveling by car, there isn’t much in the way of development as you come into to Newbury and you can imagine what it must have been like back then.


John Milton Hay, born in 1838 to a rural Illinois doctor and his wife Clara, graduated from Brown University and became the assistant private secretary to Abraham Lincoln.  He had actually known Lincoln when he was growing up since his uncle’s the law office was next to Lincoln’s before he became president. As one of his private secretaries, he became very close to the president and was at his deathbed after the assassination.  After Lincoln’s death, he co-authored a multivolume biography of Lincoln with fellow Lincoln secretary John Nicolay.  He went on to serve as ambassador to Great Britain and then Secretary of State under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

When Hay died in 1905, the estate passed on to his son Clarence, a noted Harvard-trained archaeologist, and his wife Alice Appleton Hay.  Clarence had an avid interest in horticulture and garden design, and with Alice, transformed the estate into what the Fells is today.  The original cottage was remodeled into a stately Colonial Revival-inspired home, a design popular at the time that the Hays extended into the design of the gardens.  Because the 1800s saw the rapid development of industry and growth of cities, there was a longing for what was perceived as the more simple, slower-paced life style of the past.  The idea of the Colonial Revival design was to recreate this feeling of an unspoiled rural landscape and life style of an earlier time.  Of course, only the wealthy had the means, staff, and time to create and enjoy such retreats.

The word “fells” is from Old Norse meaning mountain.  For John Hay, it was a reference to the rocky upland meadows of his ancestral home in Scotland.


Clarence, upon inheriting the Fells, turned the rocky pastures into extensive formal gardens. He had taken classes with Frederick Law Olmsted (landscape architect of Central Park and considered to be the father of American landscape architecture) and his son Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

The Old Garden

In 1909, he created an Italianate-style walled garden, now known as the Old Garden.  Clarence would arrive at the estate before his family so he could ready the vegetable and perennial gardens.  Because the staff were busy getting the main house ready for the season, he lived in a log cabin until the family arrived.  This garden, which is historically accurate to the 1930′s, had become overgrown and was redone a few years ago.  Clarence took meticulous notes of everything he did in the garden including what plants were grown, when they were planted, and how they fared.  This has helped the staff at the Fells enormously.

There is a stone pedestal in the garden that used to hold a bust of Pan.  It went missing I think in the 20′s or 30′s when teenagers would often sneak on to the estate to picnic.  It is believed they may have thrown the bust into Lake Sunapee as a prank, where it may be lying at the bottom to this day.  Clarence would often sit on the veranda with a shot gun supposedly to shoot squirrels and the like, but also to scare off trespassers on the property as well.

The Perennial Garden

In 1924, he started construction on a 100-foot-long stone wall that provided a venue for a perennial border, which features to this day iris, delphinium, hollyhocks, phlox, as well as a complement of colorful annuals and biennials.  This was designed by both Clarence and Alice.  Once again, it was restored and maintained by going through documents and photos for historical accuracy, including the color scheme of the garden, which consisted of purple, pink, white, and yellow plants.  Agapanthus grow in pots on the stone wall (these are copies of the originals, which were disintegrating).









Rose Terrace

A rose terrace garden was also built at this time.  Designed by Clarence, it was Alice’s pride and joy and was often used to entertain guests.  When you enter this garden, you are greeted by beautiful purple liseanthus, which are foot high annuals resembling open roses. I appreciated the effort the gardening staff took to include this plant as it is not easy to start and is rather sensitive to temperature as I discovered when I considered growing this myself.  Alice liked to plant different annuals each year for variation.


Fountain in the Stone Wall

The garden also features a stone wall with an elegant fountain built into it, reflecting the couple’s interest in European garden design.  This is actually part of a zero-gravity water system designed by Clarence.   The fountain is fed by water from a stream that flows underground from across Route 3A and into into the Rock Garden.  This was Clarence’s pride and joy that he designed and built between 1929 and 1935.  Rock gardens were popular in the 20′s and 30′s.  There are only a few left in New England that are open to the public and the Fells is one of them (I visited one at Blithewold in Rhode Island last year).

Series of Ponds Feeding the Rock Garden

The water from the zero-gravity system flows into a series of ponds that lead to the woods.  The faucets near the water gardens keep the ponds fed.





The Heather Bed

Clarence started the Heather Bed in 1931 and survived many decades until 2005 when three days of an intense cold followed by three days of 90 degree temperatures killed 95% of the bed.  It was replaced in 2007-2008 with 20 varieties of heather with generous help from the Morton Foundation and volunteer assistance from the Northeast Heather Society.

The Rhododendron Walk

The Rhododendron Walk was created in 1920 and provides a nice height transition from the woods to the gardens.  The rhododendrons are the original ones that Clarence planted and have white or pink blossoms.  He transplanted them from the woods to the estate.

Honeymoon Cottage

The Rhododendron Walk leads to the Honeymoon Cottage, which was built in 1914.  At that time, John and Clara were still living in the main house and Alice did not want to live with her in-laws.  Just as the house was being finished, however, Clara died and Clarence and Alice moved into the main house anyway.  Guests were allowed to stay in the cottage, but it fell into disrepair over the years and has been closed to the public.  But Joe Thompson, who is the current landscape director at the Fells and with whom I spoke, said he’s spearheading the renovation of the Honeymoon Cottage that he hopes will be done in a year or two.  It’s one of several improvement and restoration projects he has planned for the estate.  However, one of the difficulties in getting these projects done is finding volunteers because of the Fells’ remote location.

Teddy Roosevelt

Yes, Teddy Roosevelt slept here and they have his bedroom in the main house just as it was when he was there (or close to it).  Apparently, wherever he visited and it was suitable, he would plant a tree.  In the case of the Fells, it was a sugar maple.

Ghost Stories

Stories about the ghosts at the Fells main house have circulated for years.  Each person who comes to reside at the house during the summer can often recount their own paranormal experiences.  The stories  seem to center around the servants who worked there and members of the family, Alice in particular. College  interns who come for the summer have their own tales.

The intern who led the garden tour, Austin, is from Iowa State University and is studying horticulture.  He and the other interns live in what was the once the servants quarters.  Apparently, they can often hear the sounds of someone sweeping.  Also, Alice liked to play the piano and would haunt that area.  Austin was playing her piano one evening when he distinctly felt a presence sitting next to him.  In fact, the air around the piano area was noticeably colder and warmed as soon as he started walking back to to the servants area.  Alice and Clarence often sat together as she played.  While Austin played, the piano bench actually moved!

The nice thing about having interns lead tours each summer is they bring their own impressions of the Fells including ghost stories.  So the tours will vary according to who is leading the tour.

About Alice

Alice was a strong-willed person.  She was exacting but fair with servants and really expected things to happen in a timely manner, even in war time.  During World War II, she had ordered a vase from Europe.  Unfortunately, the boat it was on was torpedoed.  Amazingly, the vase eventually washed ashore in England.  It was recovered and sent to Alice.  She was upset, nonetheless, because it was late!

Tours and Events

While the garden tours ended for the season on August 11th, the house tours, which are conducted Wednesday through Sunday, continue until September 1st; after that the house is only open on weekends, with for tours continuing until October 14th. Currently, in the main house there is an exhibit about the special relationship between Lincoln and John Hay, which includes historical images, records, and objects.

I highly recommend going as the house tours provide interesting historical facts and stories about the estate and the family.  The gardens are also open to the public and there is staff on hand to answer questions.  There are also seasonal events, such as:

Calling All Cameras: Autumn Ramble
Saturday, September 21, 10am-noon (Rain cancels)

Photograph the autumn faces of The Fells along woods trails, open fields, gardens and lakeshore. Discover trees and shrubs with the brightest foliage, including wild plum, blueberry and black gum. Co-led by Tammis Coffin, Coordinator, John Hay Ecology Center and Larry Harper of Portrait Design Photography. Designed for outdoor lovers of all ages who are passionate about photography and want to contribute seasonal photographs of The Fells for use in our publications. Fells Members free, nonmembers pay site admission. No registration required. Meets at The Fells Welcome Kiosk. Made possible with support from the Creekmore and Adele Faith Charitable Foundation.

Holiday House Tour
Saturday-Sunday, December 7-8, 10am-3pm

Tour six fabulous residences all decked out for the holidays in the picturesque town of New London, NH and get inspired! We have selected the crème de la crème of private homes for our 2013 Holiday House Tour. You will be thrilled with each and every one—from architecture to décor, young to antique, we promise you will be awestruck. The distinctive individuality of each home, music of the season, the scent of freshly cut pine boughs and twinkle of lights makes for a most unforgettable tour. Open for touring over two days, December 7-8, proceeds from this popular fundraiser benefit the beautiful Fells gardens. Advance tickets $20, through 5pm December 6, available online, at select retailers and at The Fells. Tickets day of tour $25—at Tour Headquarters—where you can shop our Holiday Boutique, brimming with unique one-of-a-kind gifts from the finest local artisans.

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Rhododendron State Park July 12, 3013

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With a friend, I visited Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire on Friday, July 12th. I had visited this park with my family back in 2006 and managed to catch the rhododendrons in glorious full bloom. Not so this visit. Most of the bushes had either bloomed and faded or hadn’t bloomed yet. It was before the heat wave so at least it was a pleasant hike through the woods on their well-maintained trails. If you live locally, it’s easy to stop in for a short hike with trails that are fairly level, shaded, and well marked.
I took pictures that day with the idea that I would return the following week to see more in bloom. But alas the report last week from the Rhododendron State Park indicated that the heat wave had caused a sudden blooming that quickly died away, leaving a sorry sight. Unfortunately, I lost the photos of our trip in 2006; so maybe next year I’ll catch the blooms. It’s the luck of the draw where this park is concerned.
Visit the park’s website to see photos of the park in bloom and for trail info as well as to sign up for the Rhododendron State Park report. Maybe next year you’ll have better luck than I did this year!

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Annual Garden Tour Offers Insider’s Peek

Lana Westcott of Lana Westcott Events asked me to post this news release about the Kennebunks Garden Tour on July 13, 2013.

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (June 27, 2013) – Guests planning to attend the annual Private Gardens of the Kennebunks Tour on Saturday, July 13 from 10AM to 4PM should plan to buy their tickets before July 1.  That’s the deadline for taking advantage of the early bird discounted ticket price of $25.  Attendees will have the opportunity to tour nine of the most intriguing gardens in the Kennebunks. The Tour will also feature gardening expert Paul Parent. Guests will have the opportunity to engage in discussions with Paul speak on a variety of garden topics.

Details of the gardens are being kept under wraps. “All of the gardens have their own unique stories and are sure to inspire,” notes Pianka. Volunteer docents will be available at each location to welcome guests, offer refreshments and help answer questions about each property.  One of the properties is part of an historical location, along the river. Another is part of a private school, where children learn the value of gardening, growing one’s own food and eating healthy. Another will feature a fairies’ garden.

The self-guided tour is scheduled for Saturday, July 13th from 10am to 4pm. Attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets online at www.privategardens.eventbrite.com.  Advance tickets are $25 until July 1, and $30 after that date. Tickets are available at Marlow’s, Focal Point Garden Center, Kids Free to Grow office and Carrots & Co. Itinerary guidebooks and maps are available only on the day of the Tour and can be picked up at any of the aforementioned locations.

All proceeds benefit Kids Free to Grow.  Event sponsors are Kennebunk Savings Bank, Digital Research, Focal Point Garden Center, the Wells HS Basketball Team and SoldonBetsy.com.

To volunteer, or for more details and tickets, call 207-985-5975 or visit KidsFreeToGrow.org

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Scarborough Garden Tour

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It was once again a beautiful day in a string of days we have been fortunate to enjoy these past few months.  My teenage son, who just got his driver’s license this spring, drove me to Scarborough, which is situated along a beautiful stretch of the Maine coastline.

I thought Scarborough would be a small town.   But in fact it’s quite extensive and, therefore, the gardens were a bit more far flung than I had expected.  We forgot to bring our GPS and we spent a lot of time just trying to find the gardens.  We saw seven of the ten gardens on display before we decided to head to the beach in Ogunquit and have a rest before our journey home to New Hampshire.

These seven gardens were created by the homeowners themselves who demonstrated their creativity, ingenuity, and hard work in creating scenes of beauty throughout their properties.

Garden #1 on Winnocks Neck Road called the Webber Linden Garden is situated on a stunning piece of land looking out over a salt marsh leading to the sea.  It features a 200 year old farmhouse lovingly restored with additions that complement the architecture.  A walk around of the property reveals garden areas that feature perennials such as lilies, blue iris, fragrant peonies, lilacs, and phlox as well as trees including a Chinese Empress with huge leaves and a Black Walnut Ginko Biloba.  Scattered throughout the gardens are a wide variety of interesting birdhouses as well as a lovely stone house and gardening shed.

Garden #2 on Bornheimer Place owned by Mary-Jane and George Aube has beds all around the house and the garden has become a sanctuary for many birds including bluebirds, cardinals, finches, eastern phoebes, and woodpeckers.  Their two most challenging conditions are the marine clay and wetlands.  They keep their lawn and gardens free of chemicals to solve various problems.

Garden #3 on Frederick Thompson Drive owned by Kay and Russ Doucette designed and created their garden areas that include lilies, coneflowers, irises, phlox, peonies, and various grasses and other perennials.  Russ handles the lawn work while Kay takes care of the gardens which also includes a vegetable garden.  To keep the color going all summer long, Kay grows a large variety of annuals in her greenhouse.  Her favorite plants to grow from seed are Disco Belle hibiscus and Summer Poinsettia amaranthus, which complement each other beautifully.

Garden #4 on Ironclad Road owned by Noreen Savage and her husband was twenty years in the making with beds throughout the front and back yards.  They have wild blueberry bushes in the backyard along with a corner garden with many hostas, catmint, and astilbe.  Noreen’s husband created the small pond with stones, which is surrounded by a variety of perennials and a water fountain.  A stone wall surrounds the deck with lavender, hostas, and a corner blue hydrangea.  The pool is surrounded by large hostas.  The beautiful smoke bush along the side of the garage has grown quite large.

Garden #5 on Old Colony Lane is owned by Nancy Kelleher whose  ”working woman’s garden” she created while she had a rather hectic job.  Now that she is retired she continues to add to her garden, which focuses on native plants as much as possible and uses no pesticides.  Nancy has something blooming from April with Helleborus, Epimedium, Pasque Flower and pansies to late fall with Autumn clematis and hibiscus bush.  She recommends that gardeners apply farm composted manure right after spring clean up, followed by dark mulch and strong edging.  She keeps plants that have to be deadheaded to a minimum so she has more time to sit back and enjoy her garden with her dog and grandkids.

Garden #8 on Maple Avenue owned by Ron and Donna Forest was an amazing experience starting from the road.  I walked down a long curving driveway through a lightly wooded area and emerged to see their lovely house nestled in the midst of sunshine that shone through the trees.  Every inch of this fabulous property has been meticulously landscaped with a wide variety of trees, bushes, and plants that thrive in the shade including 18 varieties of Japanese Maples.  The path around the house is accented by two dramatic gazebos and two potting sheds.

As I was leaving, I met Donna Forest who told me the history of her property.  They built the house around 1990 when it was solid woods.  She and her husband have spent the past twenty years selectively clearing the woods and slowly designing and creating the landscaped areas that circle the house and lead to the driveway.  Donna, who has no training in landscape design, designed the entire landscape herself, which looks as if was done professionally. While she did read gardening books and consulted local nurseries, it’s evident that Donna has a natural eye for design.  I’ve seen enough properties on garden tours over the past several years to appreciate just how special this property is and all the work that went into it.  As it is for most gardeners, it’s a work of love with plenty of sweat equity.

Garden #7 on Cumberland Way is owned by Richard and Elaine Chase.  The landscape in the back of the house features an impressive waterfall area.  They cleared the hillside here of 25 tall pine trees.  Richard designed and built the 30 foot waterfall that flows into a curving path of rocks leading to the bottom of the hill.  Surrounding this area and along the side of the house, are plantings of hostas, grasses, lilies, iris, coneflowers, daisies and coralbells as well as annuals.  Richard had no previous experience of building waterfalls, but like Donna Forest consulted local nurseries and slowly built this landscape that is not only beautiful but offers a respite from the outside world with the soothing sound of flowing water.

The Scarborough Garden Club did a wonderful job with this garden tour.  They had members at each garden alongside the owners to guide visitors and provide background information.  They covered every detail including aprons with their garden tour logo for their members, directional signs to guide visitors to each garden, and wristbands as entry tickets, which I haven’t seen before.  Scarborough is a community that is into gardening and I am sure each year there is a variety of new gardens to enjoy.

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Saving the Honey Bees

Tony LelukTony Leluk is on a crusade.  He wants to help people understand what honey bees do for us and what we can do to restore their numbers and to protect them.  Tony and his wife Diane own Little Beehive Farm in Holliston, Massachusetts.  He travels all over New England to enlighten people on the importance of honey bees to pollination.  He held the rapt attention of members of the Manchester New Hampshire Garden Club at the Manchester Public Library where they hold their monthly meetings.

Tony started his presentation with a fascinating short video showing images of bees getting nectar from flowers and pollinating plants.  To view the full TED presentation, go to  http://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_the_hidden_beauty_of_pollination.html . To see a short clip of honeybee pollination, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CdoBCEEpz4.

The Bee Crisis

Eight years ago, honey bees started dying off in great numbers primarily because of what is known as colony collapse disorder.  There are several theories as to the cause.  One is that the nectar that the bees were bringing back to the hive was tainted with pesticides and consequently was killing the bees. Agriculture relies on the use of pesticides, which are nicotine-based, along with herbicides and GMO seeds to yield larger crops. These pesticides, which are made by the Monsanto and Bayer Corporations, last 12 years in the ground.

There is now a nationwide movement to use local farms that don’t use pesticides for our food supply.

Another reason for colony collapse may be the increase in diseases in bees as well as pests, such as the varroa destructor mite.  You could say the crisis began in 1987 when the varroa destructor mite attacked the honey bees and decimated their hives.  Beekeepers and farmers used chemicals to kill the mites, but the mites have since become resistant to the pesticide.

Other reasons for colony collapse include malnutrition from limited plant diversity, lack of genetic biodiversity, and toxins in the environment.  For more information on colony collapse disorder, you can view the video “Banishing of the Bees” at http://www.vanishingbees.com/ as well as a list of causes at http://insects.about.com/od/antsbeeswasps/tp/CausesofCCD.htm.

Did you know that bees pollinate 1/4 of the food we eat?

So crops must be pollinated to produce food. Each year 2,000 to 80,000 hives are put on trucks and brought first to the south to pollinate crops.  They are then trucked to farms across the country to pollinate various crops worth billions of dollars, such as almonds in California, cranberries in Wisconsin, and then back east to pollinate blueberries in Maine.  While this is addresses the problem of pollinating crops, in time it weakens the bees because it is not a natural way for them to live.

What Can We Do?

So part of Tony’s crusade is to motivate farmers, gardeners, and anyone else concerned about the supply of honey bees to take up beekeeping or help support local farms by purchasing honey from them.  He recommended watching the Michael Pollen movie, “Queen of the Sun.”  This documentary shows exquisite scenes of bees in their hives and pollinating flowers.  It interviews beekeepers from around the world from Illinois to Italy to New Zealand and even to the rooftops of Manhattan.  It urges us to not only be aware of the problem, but tells us what we can do about it.

Tony pointed out that while one beekeeper with a hive of 60,000 bees can’t make much of an impact, 60,000 beekeepers with one hive each can make a significant difference.  So how can we as gardeners make a difference?

  • Stop using pesticides and herbicides in our gardens and on our lawns.  The internet has all sorts of information on nontoxic ways to control insects and weeds.  As for your lawn, the bees love crabgrass, dandelions, and clover, which is a nitrogen fixer that is good for your lawn.
  • Don’t spray for mosquitoes.
  • Grow flowers that attract bees such as borage, echium, and goldenrod.
  • Shop at farmers markets.
  • Buy local honey.
  • Try beekeeping.

Because of public awareness of the problem, there has been resurgence in the number of beekeepers in this country.

Did you know that beekeepers in general get better vegetables and berries from their gardens?

And feral bees are coming back.  These are European honey bees that can be found in holes in the sides of trees and stumps as well as in between walls in old barns or houses – anyplace that provides protection from the elements. Or they may build a free-hanging nest high up in a tree in warm climates (the hive wouldn’t survive the winter in a cold climate like New England).

There are about 4,000 species of bees in the US, with 3000 species in Massachusetts.  There used to be 45 different types of bumblebees in the US, now there are only 5.

In Europe and America, the species managed by beekeepers is the Western honey bee, which has several subspecies such as the Italian bee, European dark bee, and the Carniolan honey bee.

Honey Bees

There are three castes of honey bee in a colony or hive: the queen, the workers, and the drones.

castes of bees





Queen bee:

  • Has a longer abdomen and shorter wings than the other bees
  • Lays about 2000 eggs in a day and is normally the only breeding female in the colony
  • Starts as a normal worker egg, but is fed a larger amount of royal jelly than a normal worker bee, resulting in very different growth and metamorphosis
  • Influences the colony by producing and disseminating a variety of pheromones or “queen substances.”  One of these chemicals prevents the female worker bees from laying eggs.  The pheromones also mark her territory.
  • All of the worker bees and drone bees are her offspring.
  • Has only one mating flight in which she mates with up to 30 drones from other hives (not her own), who then die afterwards.
  • Has life span of 5 to 7 years.

Worker bees:

  • Are female and are from a fertilized egg.
  • Have a 45 day life span.
  • In the first 21 days, they are very busy:
    • cleaning the cells
    • feeding other bees as well as eggs, larvae, and pupa
    • receiving honey and pollen from field bees as well as foraging for pollen themselves
    • making wax to build cells
    • guarding the entrance to the hive

Drone bees:

  • Are male and are from unfertilized eggs
  • Have a 60 day life span
  • Are twice the size of the worker bees
  • Other than eating, their only function is to mate with the queen
  • When queen raising is over and the weather gets cold, they are driven out of the hive to die

Although there can be up to 100,000 bees in a hive, less than 1% are drones.  There is a 2 to 3 mile radius around the hive in which the bees operate.

Bee Hives

Beekeeping, or apiculture, which has evolved over the centuries, is the management of honey bees, which live in large colonies of up to 100,000 bees.

Twig Skeps or Hives

Evidence of beekeeping goes as far back as 2422 BCE in Egypt and can also be found in prehistoric and ancient Greece, Israel, ancient China, and the Mayan peninsula.  Evidence includes hives made of straw or twigs (skeps) and unbaked clay as well as equipment such as smoking pots and honey extractors. Beekeeping was an advanced industry providing income from honey and wax even as far back as 3000 years ago in ancient Israel.  In ancient Greece and Rome, beekeeping was documented by writers such as Aristotle and Virgil.  And you can see hieroglyphics of honey production in the tombs of ancient Egypt.

In medieval times, abbeys and monasteries were centers of beekeeping where beeswax was used to make candles and honey was used to make mead.

For thousands of years, honey was originally collected from wild hives in trees and rocks.  But to get the honey, the hives were destroyed and new ones were sought. So it wasn’t a very efficient system long term.

Langstroth Hives

The 18th century saw the move to a movable comb hive, which was perfected by Lorenzo Langstroth in America in the 19th century.  This consisted of a rectangular hive box with a series of wooden frames that were spaced 1/4 to 3/8″ apart.  This is known as the bee space, which bees do not block with wax and use to move about the hive.  So the bees build parallel honeycombs in the box that do not touch each other or the walls.  This way the beekeeper can slide any frame out for inspection or harvest honey without harming the bees or the comb, which contains the eggs, larvae, and pupae.  Variations of this system are used today throughout Europe and the United States.

Langstroth Frame


Beekeepers wear protective clothing including gloves, a hooded suit or hat and veil with a long-sleeved shirt that are all light colored. Don’t wear black because the bees often go to objects with this color to sting.

Other equipment includes a bee smoker which generates cool smoke to calm bees and to mask alarm pheromones released by guard bees.  This makes it easier for beekeepers to open the hive and work without triggering a defensive reaction.

Honeycombs in the hive are created mostly by young bees who create cells from wax that they secrete.  One or two of the cells are queen cells in the center of the face of the comb; the queen from one of the cells will supersede the old queen who either dies naturally or is killed off.  This is the method used most by beekeepers rather than swarming where many queen cells are created and another hive is created in the hollow of a tree or rock crevices.  The entire swarm moves to the new hive stocked with honey from the old hive.

How Do Bees Make Honey? 

Bee Collecting Nectar



The bees:

  1. Get nectar from flowers such as clovers, berry bushes, fruit tree blossoms, garden flowers.  It is almost 80% water with some complex sugars.  Bees use their long tubelike tongues to suck the nectar out of the flowers and store it in their “honey stomach,” which is separate from their regular stomach.
  2. Must get nectar from 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs. When the honey stomach is full, it weighs nearly as much as the bee (70 mg.).
  3. Return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees who suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouth.
  4. “Chew” the nectar for a half hour during which time enzymes break the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars to make it more digestible for the bees and make it less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive.
  5. Spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making the syrup thicker.  Bees fan their wings to quicken the process.
  6. When the honey is thick enough, the bees seal off the cell with a plug of wax.  It is stored until eaten.  A colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey in a year.

You can see this process in the YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7cX2cjFunw.

In the commercial beehive, the most common being the Langstroth hive, the honey is collected in the honey supers, which are the frames hung in the hive.  The bees build the honeycomb on these frames.  When the honeycomb is full, the bees cap the comb with the beeswax.

Did you know that one beehive can produce up to 100 lbs. of honey? One frame produces 3 to 4 lbs. of honey.  The honey is 25% moisture and needs ventilation to reduce the moisture to 18%.

The color of the honey is determined by the plants that the bees feed on.  So a witch hazel plant produces light colored honey where as goldenrod produces a dark amber honey.

There are also special brood chambers in the hive where the eggs, larvae, and pupa develop.

Benefits of Honey

Tony says only buy local honey and don’t cook it.  Honey contains powerful antioxidants with antiseptic and antibacterial properties.  Its medicinal benefits have been have been used for centuries.  Some remedies include:

  • A teaspoon of honey a day for arthritis.
  • If you put honey on a bandaid, it produces peroxide when exposed to air – very cleansing.
  • For a sore throat, eat honey to coat the throat; combine with lemon, cinnamon, or milk, vinegar, white tea.

Honey bees are also used to treat arthritis, which is known as “bee string therapy.”  There are practitioners who specialize in this.

For more benefits, go to http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/lindsey-duncan-nd-cn/honey-s-unknown-benefits.

To get started beekeeping, see www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/diy-backyard-beekeeping-47031701#slide-1, which gives an overview of the process.

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Your Garden Shouldn’t Make You Crazy: Presentation by C.L. Fornari – April 2, 2013

The Colonial Garden Club of Hollis was treated to a lively presentation by gardening expert C.L. Fornari on ways to keep your garden from driving you crazy by making smart decisions about plant choices, placement, and care.  C.L. is known as the Gardening Lady and is host of Gardenline that is streamed online through WXTK radio out of Cape Cod.  She consults on landscaping on Cape Cod as well as garden weddings throughout the Northeast.  She has written several highly regarded books on Cape Cod gardens and presents frequently to a wide variety of groups.  Her website www.GardenLady.com provides more information on her services as well as gardening advice.

C.L. started the talk with how difficult it can be to help someone about a plant problem when it’s not clear what the plant is.  She had a woman ask about her Japanese fern that was very tall.  The ferns C.L. had were not tall, so she didn’t know what the customer was talking about.  However, later through another customer, she realized the woman was referring to the FernLeaf Japanese Maple that can grow to 8 feet and whose leaves turn orange or red in the fall.  What a difference a few words can make.  If you don’t know the name of your plant, bringing a photo would help.

Choosing a Style of Garden

New American Garden Style

When first planning a garden, It’s important to choose a style of garden that:

  • Goes with the style of your house
  • Has plants that are compatible to the area being planted, and
  •  Is in keeping with the time you have to spend on it

Keep in mind that an informal garden that has a mix of perennials, shrubs, and trees allows you to easily replace a plant that has died whereas a formal knot garden will look odd when a boxwood dies.  The new American Garden style that is popular now is a combination of perennials, annuals, vegetables, and shrubs.


  • Be careful of plants that can take over a garden such as ribbon grass.  One indication of a plant that will be dominant is if its roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot when you buy it.  It’s okay to have them as long as they are in a container in the garden or on the deck.
  • Don’t plant perennials in clay pots because they crack when the bottom of the container, which is on the ground, is cool while the upper part is warm from the sun.  Place the pot on three little blocks of wood in the winter so it is off the ground.  The plants in pots need to be hardy two zones colder than where you are (so if you are in Zone 5, the plant needs to be hardy in Zone 3).  If it’s not hardy in two zones colder, store in the garage or basement in winter.
  • Only put soil in pots – no rocks or shards on the bottom!  That’s a habit I don’t seem to be able to kick.
  • Be sure to make a map of your bulbs so in the fall you’ll know where to plant the muscari and grape hyacinth so it comes up next to the daffodils in the spring.

Using the Plants’ Characteristics For Your Benefit

For example, plant hosta, which break dormancy only when it’s warm, near daffodils which come up early in spring.  The hosta foliage hides the drooping leaves of the daffodils when the daffodils are done blooming.

Choosing the Right Plants For the Right Location

Geranium Macrorrhizum

Match the plants to the soil conditions. For example, if your soil is shallow and dry, try planting  succulents.  For a flower garden, try including weed smothering plants, such as Hakonachloa macra, Aster divaricatus, and Geranium macrorrhizum, which is also deer-resistant.  Plants for wet places include Juncus effuses, variegated red twig dogwood, and Primula japonica.  For dry places, try Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’, Achillia ‘Pineapple Mango’, and Pysocarpus ‘Summer Wine.’  These can tolerate up to six weeks without rain or watering.

A perennial that looks good throughout the season is Calamintha, which is a boxwood that flowers in late July and continues until frost; the bees love it.  Two varieties are ‘White Cloud’ and ‘Elfin Purple.’

An effective ground cover, which is also good in wet places, is Green-and-Gold chrysogonum with star-shaped yellow flowers.

Green-and-Gold Chrysogonum

For a cutting garden, include the perennial campanula bernice and dianthus barbatus (sweet william) along with dahlias, asters, and zinnias.  Also consider lysimachia punctate, also known as yellow loosestrife and circle flower.





Campanula Bernice

For screening, the tendency is to use arborvitae.  The problem is when one of the arborvitae dies and you have to replace it.  The arborvitae are then no longer the same size.  A better solution is to have a variety of plants as a screen so when you have to replace one, it’s not so noticeable.



Planting Trees

Sometimes doing too much can actually hurt instead of help.  When planting a new tree, you want it to have the best start and so you heavily amend soil in the area around the tree.  However, this can cause the area around the tree to sink.  This is because the tree wants its roots to stay in the enriched soil rather than spread, causing it to have a reduced root system.  Instead, when planting a tree, make the hole only as deep as the ball of the tree and put the original soil back in place.  You can place organic matter on the top surface to amend the soil from the top down.

When staking a new tree, only leave the support on for the first year.  To leave it on longer denies the tree the ability to stand in the wind.  It’s the movement of wind that helps a tree to create a strong root system.  Roots grow in the top twelve inches of soil and grow out horizontally. Also, remove any rope, wire baskets, or burlap around the base of the tree or root ball.  Otherwise, they can strangle the tree.  Burlap is generally treated with copper so it doesn’t break down.

Other Tips

C.L. says, “Gardening constantly gives us the opportunity to get over ourselves!”

  • Do not attempt to control plant growth – let plants find their way as they do in nature.  To avoid weeds, plant thickly.
  • Automatic irrigation systems often waste water because they come on at the wrong times such as when it’s raining.  This can cause lawn disease.  Instead, use a manual system and a rain gauge.  If the area gets one inch of rain in a week, don’t water.  Otherwise, use the irrigation system.  Be sure to check the rain gauge frequently.
  • Best location for hydrangeas is where it gets morning sum and afternoon shade.  Mulch helps to retains moisture.  Hydrangeas lose moisture in the sun causing the big leaves and flowers to flop; but if they recover by dusk, they’re fine. Otherwise, water as needed.  When pruning, cut dead wood only.
  • To control voles, use a regulation mouse trap baited with potato.
  • For Japanese beetles, make up a concoction of hot pepper wax or cayenne with cloves of raw garlic and strain it.  Spray it on plants before there’s a beetle problem.  Irrigation systems can aggravate the problem because of the damp soil.
  • For powdery mildew on peonies, minaria, and phlox, cut the plants to the ground.
  • Leaf spot doesn’t kill; water in the morning, once a week.
  • Cut down peonies in August and plant the annual snow alyssum, which blossoms from mid- summer through the fall and spreads to cover a wide area.

Finally, C.L. says to “go into the garden with a mood of celebration!”

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Hurry! See the Hanging Nasturtiums at the Gardner Museum Before It’s Too Late!

Just a quick heads up about the Hanging Nasturtiums exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. This is an annual celebration of Isabella’s birthday, which is April 14, and started in 1904 shortly after the museum opened in the Fenway area of the Back Bay in Boston. Nasturtiums were her favorite flower.

I went to the exhibit yesterday, Thursday, April 4th, and it was well worth the trip. On three sides of the Italianate Courtyard, orange nasturtium vines hang from the third floor balconies and complement beautifully the flowers that adorn the ground floor garden below including: purple hyacinths, yellow daffodils, dark blue cineraria, orange-and-lemon flowered Clivia miniata, and pale yellow azaleas. Sunlight filtering through the glass roof also highlights the lush green foliage of the other tropical plants and trees of the courtyard as well as Greek statuary. It’s a sight to behold.

The museum, meant to emulate an Italian palazzo, was built to Isabella’s specifications and houses the extensive collection of fine art and antiques that she and her late husband Jack collected in the latter half of the 19th century on their extensive travels to Europe and Asia. All of the collections were placed in the rooms of the museum by Isabella personally; she stipulated in her will that everything remain exactly as she had arranged them.

For a description and overview of the museum, see the Public Gardens section of this website.

When I spoke with the museum employees, they said the exhibit would go to about the middle of April or when the flowers expire. It may be gone by the end of next week. So don’t delay! If you can’t make it this year, make a note on your calendar to see it next year.

Also, no photography is allowed.

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Planning & Planting for a Great Presentation

With the snow rapidly melting (well, it was before today!), we can perhaps see our property with fresh eyes and realize it could do with a bit of a lift.  We may not have the time or resources to tackle a full-scale make-over.  But the fact is we don’t have to.  We can zero in on one part of the yard; maybe the part that faces the road and give it “curb appeal.”

At the Milford Garden Club meeting on Monday, July 11th, Lynda Zukas of Churchill Gardens in Exeter, New Hampshire led us through the process of assessing the demands of our time and the needs of our property to come up with a plan that is well thought out, but not too overwhelming to execute.  Lynda has been at Churchill Gardens since 1989 and is their Annuals Manager and Container Designer as well as doing some marketing.  Like many small businesses, she says she wears many hats.  She has a degree in horticulture from the University of New Hampshire.

Churchill Gardens, which is fifty years old, is currently owned by David and Diana Kirkpatrick, who is also an artist.  They have five growing greenhouses and host special events such as the Spring Open House on March 23 & 24 (hopefully, the snow will have melted somewhat) as well as an Easter Egg Hunt on the day before Easter, March 30th.

Lynda says you can create an oasis no matter the location using interesting colors, textures, and multiseasonal interest for your business, home, or public areas such as traffic islands.

Evaluating Your Garden Needs

First, determine the style you want based on the style of the business or home – Is it Colonial or Contemporary?  Look through gardening books, website, and magazines such as Fine Gardening for ideas and advice.

Second, determine the light and watering needs of the area:

  • How much sun and shade does it get?
    Full sun is when the area gets more than six hours of sun.  If it gets shade, is it all day or part of the day?
  • Does it have sandy or clay soil?
    It’s vital to have good soil to start with.  You need rich, organic matter with compost for moisture retention.  With all the composters available, it’s fairly easy to make your own using kitchen scraps and plant refuse from the garden.
  • Is there water nearby?
    If the area gets intense sun in the morning, it may need watering by noon.

Third, be honest with yourself about your time and resources:

  • How much time and effort are you willing to put in?
  • How much time are you willing to put in for maintenance?There are plenty of low-maintenance plants available that require little care.  If you have the time and interest, there’s no end to the possibilities.  In either case, consider the following:
    • Color – this is very subjective; you can use paint chips or crayons to play with color schemes; if the area is in front, be sure to coordinate with the color of the front door or house.  Green is a calming color – you can play with different shades and textures.
    • Size – the area doesn’t have to be large – a 10 x 10 space is fine.  You can put a container garden in the middle of a small green space.

Fourth, take pictures of the area at different times of the day and from different angles.  Lynda says, “pictures tell the truth” and can allow you to notice details that might otherwise escape your notice, such as what’s behind the area.  Also, it’s helpful to take pictures of other gardens (such as on a garden tour!) to get ideas of what you can do with your area.

Fifth, put your ideas on paper and take measurements so you can draw the exact shape and dimensions of the area for plant placement.

Sixth, as you select plants for the area, think of what you want from a plant:

  • What is a particular plant going to do?
  • Is it a focal point or a filler?
  • Is it an annual or perennial?  Does it have four season interest?
  • Even though you like the plant, will it actually work in this area?

New Varieties of Perennials

Some new varieties of plants are longer blooming, have fall color and interest, and have a better overall form.  Plants to consider:

- Boomerang Lilac, which blooms in May and then reblooms in July and into September
- Blue Muffin Vibernum, which has blue berries and dark foliage
- Summer Wine Physocarpus, which offers foliage and form in winter.  Effective in a mass planting with hydrangeas.

Hydrangeas now come in a wide range of colors and styles:

- Incrediball Hydrangea has a massive, sturdier stem with large white blooms that turn to green at the end of its cycle
- Limelight Hydrangea complements nearby colorful plants
- Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea comes in various shades of pink; it blooms in the spring and reblooms in the fall

Roses and hydrangeas planted in mass can add drama to curb side area.

For a low maintenance area or one located in a difficult area such as the side of a hill, consider the following tough perennials:

- Echinaceas, which now come in yellows and oranges as well as the traditional pink
- Sedums, which come in lots of colors and textures; good for holding a banking on a hill; however, voles do like to eat the roots.
- Hostas, the variety Empress Woo will be full size in just a few years.
- Grasses, which you can use as fillers or as a back drop or as a fence with a neighbor.  Available in a variety of colors and textures, they make for a low maintenance garden with high visual impact.  While they suffer from few diseases or insects, they need at least a half day of sun.


For a low maintenance border, start small and add plants gradually aiming for simplicity.  Plant in clusters of 3′s and 5′s.  Keep plants that need deadheading and pruning together.  If you don’t like to deadhead, pick plants that don’t require it such as astilbe, false indigo, or Joe Pye Weed.

For a mixed border, provide all season interest with evergreens such as conifer.  Use classic plants as the bones of the garden such as daylilies, hosta, perennial salvia, and daisies.  Add perennial geraniums, portulaca rose, low growing sedum, basket of gold, and alyssum, all  of which are fairly hardy.  A lime green leafed plant such as the spirea bush Goldmound, makes the colors of the surrounding plants “pop.”

For a herbs & vegetable border, raised beds, trellises, and bush varieties of plants allow you to grow quite a few plants in a small area while at the same time being attractive.  I saw examples of this “edible landscaping” at the Munjoy Hill garden tour in Portland, Maine where the houses had very limited space but the owners were imaginative in how it was used.  Herbs and vegetables were artfully mixed in with flowers.  Lynda cautioned to be aware of the different fertilizer needs of vegetables and flowers.

For borders with annuals, planting in masses can provide a great impact of color.  In the past five years, I’ve noticed a considerable increase in the variety of high-quality annuals such as Proven Winners.  They last a lot longer than the standard variety that we’re used to, especially in petunias, such as Suptertunia and Wave Petunia. Even though they are more expensive, in the long run they save you money because you need fewer of them and they last throughout the season as opposed to petering out in August.

New for 2013 are:

  • Lemon Slice Superbells
  • Frosty Knight Lobularia, an “alyssum on steroids” says Lynda
  • Picasso in Pink Supertunia, which is drought resistant as is lantana, geranium, scaevola, verbena, and sweet potato vine in lime green; don’t forget that Supertunias are hungry and thirsty
  • Cleome Senorita Rosalita

Plant these in large beds using just a few plants.  A repeat of color can draw the eye through the garden to the front door or to the back of the house.

For front yard appeal no matter the type of border, you want the area to feel cozy.  Add a bench along the path.  Use plants of different heights and textures.

Containers and Window Boxes

With these you can use them on their own or to complement a garden border.  They can add height and interest as well as a focal point to a garden or a sitting area.  By switching out plants from spring to fall, you can add seasonal interest to a garden.

In the summer, you can use house plants such as caladium, ivy, ferns, and palms in containers on the porch.  For window boxes, Lynda suggests caladium, new guinea impatiens, fern, and begonias.

I have had particular success with tuberous begonias.  I start the bulbs indoors in large pots near a sunny window in April and then transfer them to the window box at the end of May where they come into full bloom by late June and continue blooming until well into September and October.  They have height and great color.  In the fall, I then let the plants dry out indoors on newspaper.  I then transfer them to a large plastic covered container filled with peat moss and store in the basement where they stay until the next year.  I have saved a great deal of money by using bulbs instead of buying new plants each year.  For early color, I plant scaevola, alyssum, and ivy as a trailing plant in front.

Fall and Winter

Plants for a fall container or window box include mums, ornamental cabbage and kale, cool tolerant annuals.  If you use fall pansies, the plant comes up again in the spring for early color.

For winter, plant a classic container with greens and berries.  But be sure to remove them when they are spent.

Throughout the season, take pictures of what worked.  Note what didn’t.  Go through gardening magazines, books, and websites as well as seed catalogs for ideas for next year.

Last Note

Lynda made us aware of a recent problem with impatiens (but not New Guinea impatiens or Sunpatiens).  A downy mildew disease has come up from Florida; the mildew likes high humidity and cooler nights.  You can treat the area with fungicide.  Since it gets into the soil, do not plant there the following year.  Lynda said many nurseries including Churchill Gardens no longer sell them.

They also don’t sell Oriental lilies because of a ladybug infestation.

Replacements for both are begonias, coleus, torenia, lobelia, browalia, New Guinea Impatiens, and Sunpatiens.

Finally, do not put diseased plants in the compost!  Bag it and dispose.

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Rosemary Verey: the Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener by Barbara Paul Robinson

On Saturday, in a quiet theater room away from the busy Camellia Show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, Barbara Paul Robinson shared her memories of Rosemary Verey whom she referred to as “my teacher, mentor, and friend.” Barbara is a partner in the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton in Manhattan. She took a sabbatical to write this biography of Rosemary Verey, the first book written about Verey since her death in 2001.

So who was Rosemary Verey? Until this book, I didn’t know about her, but she is quite renowned in the gardening world. She was a self-taught garden landscape designer famous for her laburnum walk at her garden at Barnsley House, in the Cotswolds. The image has appeared in many calendars, magazines, and books; Barbara uses it on the cover of this biography.

Barnsley House
Rosemary Verey came to gardening late in life and, in fact, had no interest when her husband’s parents gave them Barnsley House in 1951. What gardens there were she had grassed over so her four kids had more room to play. Also, in post war Britain it was hard to find people to maintain the large gardens. Around 1960, her husband, David, an architectural historian, decided to build a garden and wanted to consult with Percy Cane, a horticultural writer and garden designer. It’s at that point that Verey decided she wanted to design the garden herself and spent the 1960′s learning all she could about plants and gardens. Having studied maths and economics at London University before she married, she was able to apply her mathematical ability to garden design.

Since Barnsley House sits on only four acres, Verey adapted what she read or saw of large estate gardens in the Arts and Crafts style of the Edwardian-era to fit in a much smaller space. And this is what made Verey’s ideas accessible to the garden loving public. Although she came from an aristocratic background, she was very down-to-earth and practical and explained ideas in such a way that others felt they could emulate what she had done.

When she opened her Barnsley House garden in 1970 to the public, I’m not sure she expected it to be as popular as it was. Over 30,000 people a year visited her garden until her death in 2001.

Verey wrote her first book at age 62, The Englishwoman’s Garden, in 1980. She went on to write over twenty more books, most notably The Art of Planting and The American Man’s Garden.



Potager and Knot Gardens
Her most influential garden was the potager, a kitchen garden adapted from the one at the Chateau de Villandry in the Loire Valley in France. The sections of the garden are enclosed by clipped boxwood. In Wilmington, Delaware, the Sanford Garden is one of Verey’s potager gardens. Stairs allow you descend into the garden and appreciate the geometric design from above as well as views of the unspoiled landscape in the distance.

In her book Classic Garden Design, she described how to recreate garden features of the past, such as knot gardens with sundials and statuary. Through research, she discovered that the knots were ribbons of boxwood that wove over and under each other to create more interesting patterns than we traditionally associate with knot gardens. In this way, she brought new life to a centuries old idea.

She also was very innovative in her ideas about gardens in winter, which she discussed in her book The Garden in Winter. She felt a garden should look wonderful no matter the season, taking advantage of the form and color of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and plants in the winter landscape as well as stone structures, concentrating on design rather than flowers.

Although she had her own ideas for gardens, she was not averse to copying other’s ideas and advised Barbara ”to always carry a notebook” to capture those ideas.

Coming Into Her Own
In 1984, her husband died, leaving her with a mass of debt. So she was compelled to keep working, which was fortunate for the gardening world. She continued to write books and design gardens.

As part of a book and lecture tour, she visited the United States. She instantly felt an affinity for the American people, who loved her ideas and made her quite popular. According to Barbara, Rosemary “had an amazing personality and was full of enthusiasm. Her philosophy was that it is a sin to be dull!”

After visiting the U.S., she wrote The American Woman’s Garden and came several times a year thereafter to lecture and fulfill garden commissions.

Helen Mirren, who was in the movie Greenfingers (2000) about a gardening competition, met Verey and said she was the most intimidating person she had ever met. Given Mirren’s personality, that’s saying something!

However, Barbara said that she was generally known as the “Great Encourager” with one of her favorite sayings being “Just get on with it!”

At her garden at Barnsley House, the borders were densely planted in mostly soft tone plants such as alliums, geraniums, campanulas, clematis, and aquilegia. Barbara noted that Verey believed in “planting in layers” so the garden would look beautiful all season long. To do this, she ripped out plants when they were done blooming replacing them with others that would soon be in bloom. She would do this several times each season – editing and selecting – until her vision was complete. This to me was very reminiscent of Gertrude Jekyll who pioneered and advanced the idea of the cottage garden on a grand scale. However, Jekyll lived in the Victorian and Edwardian eras when there was plenty of inexpensive labor to fulfill her vision.

Because of the time and expense required to maintain the gardens, many Verey gardens have suffered a similar fate as the Jekyll gardens, falling into disrepair or being scaled back considerably. Unfortunately, Verey left no provisions for continuing her garden at Barnsley House. It’s had an up and down history since then and is currently a luxury hotel that is trying to revive the garden – an ornamental vegetable garden and potager.

Prince Charles and Elton John
Two of Verey’s most famous clients became friends of hers – Prince Charles, whose home Highgrove is near Barnsley House, and Elton John. Prince Charles, who commissioned her to design some of the gardens at Highgrove, helped secure an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her. Barbara said that although Verey and Prince Charles had a falling out for time, they became friends again before her death.

Elton John, the flamboyant entertainer, appealed to Verey’s sense of fun. Apparently, she loved a good party and was often the last to leave, according to Barbara. It’s not something you would guess of a woman who with her pearls, floral dresses, and coiffed hair looks every bit the proper English lady that she was. She smoked and enjoyed her drink, but not to excess. She even had an affair in the seventies with an architect who may have had an influence on her gardens at Barnsley House. Barbara, who worked for Verey for a month as an apprentice in the early 1990′s, said that while she could be charming, she was also very opinionated and did not hesitate to make her views known. You did not cross her lightly.

You can see Verey with Elton John touring the gardens she created for him on YouTube’s Elton John’s Gardens with Rosemary Verey that was filmed in 1996.

Rosemary Verey’s Legacy
So what is Rosemary Verey’s legacy? Her designs are traditional and are in stark contrast to those of Modernist designers such as Dan Pearson and Christopher Bradley-Hole who became popular in the nineties. The fact is trends come and go and they each leave their mark and influence on those that follow. And I think that’s where Rosemary Verey stands. She brought the Arts and Crafts style garden of the Edwardian-era into the modern age, adding her own ideas along the way and making it something gardeners everywhere felt they could emulate and make their own. Her books and garden designs will continue to inspire and move garden design forward, constantly changing and evolving. Given Verey’s strong character, personality, and verve, I’m sure she wouldn’t have it any other way.

I look forward to reading Barbara Paul Robinson’s book and learning more about this fascinating garden designer and personality.

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