Thirty members of our club enjoyed touring some of Groton’s agricultural locations on September tenth. We began with a visit to Silveus Christmas Tree Plantation. Owner Carl Flowers spoke about how he started to grow Christmas trees rather than following his original plan of becoming a vegetable farmer. He also told us of the work that he and other farmers did more than 30 years ago to change the Commonwealth’s inheritance tax laws so that agricultural land may be taxed at an alternate, and usually lower, value based on its farm use. As farming has a very small profit margin this important change makes it financially possible for land to remain in use for farming.
Carl explained that the harvest season for Christmas trees is short, and the planning for each years harvest takes many years. That planning is easily thrown off track by many factors. A year of unexpectedly high sales leaves less inventory to grow for the following season. Drought can delay the trees reaching harvestable size. Pests and diseases can disfigure trees so they are not saleable for use as Christmas trees.
Wishing we had more time to ask questions about the Christmas tree business and the history of Silveus plantation, we had to proceed to our next stop at Joe Twomey’s chrysanthemum growing operation. Joe explained how he starts with tiny plugs in the spring and grows them into large, bushy plants by the early fall when gardeners want some fresh color in their gardens and planters. This process includes potting into larger containers, constant watering and fertilizing, and pinching back the plants around Mothers Day and again before the middle of July.
Most chrysanthemums grown today are perenially hardy and will return in gardens. These plants emerge later in the spring than many other plants, so it is important to mark them or remember where they are planted, and not disturb the roots when cleaning or planting in the early spring. Following these steps allows us to enjoy our favorite ‘mums for many years.
Our third stop was the Lindemer’s heirloom apple orchard, Whitney Farmstead. Owner Chris, a former club member, showed us around the orchard – naming and describing the various apples they grow. Many of them have interesting names, including Roxbury Russet, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Wealthy, and Blue Pearmain (a favorite of Henry Thoreau) are just a few.
To conclude this part of the tour, Chris treated us to a tasting of apples from her orchard. Many of us found our favorite in ‘Mother’ – a very flavorful and sweet apple.
Fourth on our list was a visit to Gilson’s Herb Lyceum where Cathy Gilson explained the business model that allows them to make a living from their farm. As with many small farms, they need to look beyond their farming activities for economic stability. The Herb Lyceum was among the earliest of Farm-to-Table dining spots, originally started by teenager Will Gilson who was exploring the idea of becoming a chef. He has recently returned to cooking for the Friday and Saturday evening dinners that attract diners from far outside of Groton. Beautiful landscaping by Dave Gilson has also turned this location into a desirable wedding venue. The Gilsons also rent land a mile or so away, where they grow herbs and vegetables to sell at an onsite stand and at farmers markets.
After this last farm stop, our group proceeded to the Groton Grange, where George Moore told us the history of the Grange and how it is still a vital part of our community by providing talks about farming issues and being a center for community activities such as dances and guitar lessons. Of particular interest was his talk about the recent successful inclusion of Groton in the “Right To Farm” act which gives farmers a legal standing against nuisance law suits against them.
This was an informative start to our club year. For some of us it was a discovery of the existence of these farming operations. For all of us it was an education about the complexities facing today’s farmers.
A particular joy of July in Massachusetts is that it brings an abundance of daylilies for our summer admiration.
Members recently attended a six-stop tour featuring engaging daylilies from members’ yards, and from the Carol Wheeler Memorial Park in West Groton.
Laura S., Alan D., Donna N., Kim N., and Wendy G. all shared the beauty of their daylilies, and of their knowledge, with other members. They recited names, lineage, and characteristics of various daylilies, as well as expounding on other plants in their yards.
Daylilies were available for tagging in Laura S.’s yard, for later purchase.
To view more photos of the daylily tour, click here.
A couple of weeks ago, after a hot day’s weeding session at Carol Wheeler Park, in West Groton, one of our work crew invited the rest of us to enjoy a cold drink and snacks in her yard. I had never seen Effie’s garden before, but had heard it praised by other members of our club, so I was glad to join the group. The cold water, raspberries and watermelon were welcome after our hard work, but I was especially glad to see this garden in person.
Most of this yard is in shade, and the gardener has made clever use of her existing light, the plants that came with the house, plants she has added, and decorative accents to create a beautiful and relaxing garden.
At the back of her garden, in a spot that receives more sun that some places in the garden, is a large concrete structure covered with moss and succulents. I was surprised to learn that this is the cover to a septic system. This is a clever way to make an eyesore into something lovely!
In key spots throughout the garden, decorative objects lightened dark areas and provided contrast with the mostly green plants. In one bed with hosta, geranium and other shade lovers under a lilac, the effect of light was enhanced by the placement of a glass globe. This globe captured the existing light and reflected it onto the plants.
In another spot a birdbath is placed in just the right place to add depth to this garden bed. Another glass ornament, this one in red, adds a splash of color in the foreground and also catches a little light. Another bed nearby (not pictured) has the remains of a ‘Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick’ (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’.) This dead and leafless tree is still intact, and adds a sense of structure to this garden.
Visiting a shade garden was a welcome respite after working in the morning’s heat. It was also a reminder that I would be wise to make creative use of the shady spots in my own garden.
Club members recently visited former member Karen H.’s thoughtfully designed and maintained courtyard gardens in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In her approximately half-acre lot, Karen has arranged many trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals around brick patios, pathways, and a private sitting area with two tables. The grounds are all enclosed by either black metal, or wood, fencing, to maintain privacy.
There are emerald green arborvitae, ‘Miss Kim’ lilacs, ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas, and ‘Bridal Veil’ spirea. The Geranium macrorhizzum, ‘Bevins Beauty,’ is used as a groundcover under the ‘Jane’ magnolia and one of two ‘Donald Wyman’ crabapple trees. In addition to ‘May Night’ salvia, there is ‘Caradonna’ salvia, ‘New Dimension’ rose salvia, and ‘Bumbleberry’ salvia. ‘Purple Sensation’ allium and a huge golden-leaved ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart both shout their presence. Peonies, forget-me-nots, heuchera, and large white feathery Persicaria polymorphus all also grace the property. There is a clematis against the shed/garage called ‘H.F. Young Queen of the Vines’, and one against a fence called ‘Empress’.
Karen elevated the garden design to another level of artistry, adding a seaside feel by pruning a boxwood in the shape of a whale, and adding blue forget-me-nots in the shape of the spout.
Although the property is surrounded by neighboring houses close by, it has a secluded feel created by the gardens, fences, trees, shrubs, arbors, and doorways. The use of decorations also makes the gardens feel like their own small world, set apart from the rest of the neighborhood. The owner used birdbaths, open spheres, and stone animals and planters to add interest and charm to her gardens.
Club members gathered recently at our annual luncheon, celebrating the accomplishments of 2018-2019. The club is 96 years old now, with an ever-increasing number of works that enhance our community’s gardens, parks, and memorials
During her Annual Report, President Lisa Murray shared a story from the Club’s archives, and gave some facts and figures about this year’s activities. The Plant Sale chairs announced the results of our biggest fundraiser, the May Plant Sale.
We shared a unique menu at the historic Groton School, before we broke for our summer recess.