Many of us in Massachusetts, especially in Middlesex County, are familiar with the sights of apple orchards, and have even gone apple-picking. It’s a long-standing part of our agricultural heritage that we enjoy sharing with our children or friends. Although cranberries are found on our Thanksgiving tables as often as apple pie, fewer of us are familiar with the sights of cranberry bogs and harvesting. These are more common to those who visit Cape Cod, where many of the state’s cranberries are grown.
I read about a cranberry festival (possibly the last one) to be held at A.D. Makepeace, the largest grower of cranberries in the world. We made the trek to Wareham to visit the festival.
There are two methods of harvesting cranberries. Dry harvesting is done with a wide machine that resembles a mower. Rather than a rotary blade it has large moving teeth that rake the berries onto a conveyor that feeds into a box or burlap bag. This method of harvest is used for the fresh berries we can buy in grocery stores. The cranberry plants must be completely dry for this method.
We saw wet harvesting at the cranberry festival. Wet harvested berries account for about 90% of cranberries harvested. These berries are sent to processors to make juice, cranberry sauces and jellies, and sweetened dried cranberries.
For this process, the cranberry bogs are flooded the night before the harvest with as much as 18 inches of water. The following day, water reels (also called ‘egg beaters’) loosen the berries from the plants, and they float to the surface of the water. Wooden or plastic booms are used to corral the berries while workers also use broom or rake-like tools to move the boom or berries. Once the berries are corralled they are suctioned out of the bog and fed through a separator to remove leaves and twigs from the berries.
Although many cranberries are not grown organically, many of the farmers do use integrated pest management (IPM) practices. According to our tour guide, a young woman who is part of the family that owns A.D. Makepeace, simple economics encourages them to use as few pesticides as possible and to turn first to other methods of pest control. The winter moth, which is destructive to so many woody plants on Cape Cod, is also a major pest of the cranberry. This grower watches the brush lining their fields, and knows what plants are starting to leaf out when the larva are hatching. At that time, they flood their fields to kill the winter moth larva. Once that is accomplished, they drain the fields to allow the plants and their fruit to grow through the rest of the growing season. This is a less expensive and more environmentally sound way to control this damaging pest.
This year, our Thanksgiving table will include cranberry sauce and a cranberry-apple tart made with berries that we purchased at this festival. Understanding more about the harvesting process will enhance our enjoyment of these dishes.
Welcome to the President’s Corner
This will be an occasional column with assorted information which is hopefully useful to GGC members and members of the public browsing on our website. If you have ideas for topics or suggestions for the Garden Club, let me know.
Notes from Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts (GCFM) Events
I recently attended the Central North District gathering for member clubs, held at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury. The GCFM President and Officers encouraged clubs to take advantage of their schools covering Environmental Studies, Landscape Design, Flower Shows, and Gardening Design. There are also workshops on Civic Development and Horticulture Mornings.
Clubs were also given time to talk about their activities and promote upcoming events. Many clubs work on municipal gardens, similar to our club. Clubs also work on pollinator gardens, garden therapy, fairy gardens, a Halloween pumpkin wall, and a garden story walk. There are collaborations with Girl Scouts, community groups, and Meals on Wheels. Some clubs offer intergenerational programs, scholarships, and run fundraising events. There is a lot of creative and exciting work being done by Garden Clubs all around the state.
On October 24th I traveled to the Massachusetts Horticulture Society in Wellesley for the Fall GCFM Conference. Despite the weather being cold and rainy, the conference was very informative and included a close-up view and tour of their test gardens. The main speaker was Claudia Thompson of “Grow Native Massachusetts.” She spoke about Garden Clubs and Conservation: The Power to Lead – Changing the Paradigm in the 21st Century. More information about this topic may be found at grownativemass.org
There was also a presentation by Yvonne Capella, the Judges Council Chair, titled “Demystifying the Standard Flower Show.” Topics presented included how clubs can do floral design programs and make submissions to flower shows. It turns out there are many more categories than just flower arrangements. Other categories include petite designs, tableware displays, photography, educational displays, and more. If you are interested in finding out more about this, contact me.
Until next time,
Eight garden club members made a trip to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston on Thursday, October 18. We were lucky to enjoy a day that was chilly, but sunny – the best of fall weather in New England. We parked near the Hunnewell Visitor’s Center and made our way towards Bussey Hill, noting many interesting trees along the way.
One of the interesting trees we found was the Lavalle Cork Tree (Phellodendron amurense var lavallei.) This tree is native to East Asia and to North and Central Japan. Although not native to the United States, there are no reported instances of invasiveness in this country. It is hardy in zones 5 to 9. This species includes the oldest example at the Arboretum, planted September 14, 1874, as a seed from a tree in the Imperial Garden of St. Petersburg, Russia. This was only two years after the founding of the Arboretum. Another example standing next to it is a tree that was grafted on Nov 18, 1882 from a cutting taken from the original tree.
Some of the cork trees we saw had dropped their leaves, others had leaves that were turning from green to deep yellow. Some of the latter were very striking as they were also heavily laden with dark blue berries.
Submitted by Camilla
While planning for next year’s garden, you may want to consider using Agapanthus. Following is Camilla’s experience with them.
Agapanthus is native to South Africa, where it is practically a weed, and relatively indestructible where it has naturalized. But for us here in zone 5, growing them usually involves pots, and always winter protection. Agapanthus grows from rhizomes, and can be propagated by division, or by saving the seeds and growing them on. I have read that in the Cape Town region they will regrow even after the ground has been burned by fire.
Agapanthus is hardy in zones 6 to 10, grows from 1.5 to 4 feet high, and comes in blue, purple, and white.
In New England, Agapanthus enjoys full sun in summer and will give you brilliant blue flowers and strappy green leaves. It is a handsome way to punctuate a garden in its pot or to decorate a sunny patio, deck, or in our case, to surround a swimming pool.
My family were given eight huge Italian terracotta pots already stuffed with Agapanthus orientalis (synonym: Agapanthus praecox) when we took over the ownership and care of a neighbor’s swimming pool. We all loved them, and since blue was my husband’s favorite color he was happy to be their caregiver. Luckily, they seemed not to need much attention except to be watered regularly. Perhaps he should have fertilized them but it didn’t seem to matter.
Of course we were faced with what to do with them in the winter. The horticultural advice is to bring them inside to a sunny cool location, such as a 50º greenhouse, and water them very little, not adding fertilizer at all until spring. This was simply not possible for us, so every year in the late fall we loaded them one by one onto a dolly and wheeled each heavy pot into our barely heated 35º barn/garage. This room, which had been a stable, had only a few windows, so the light was quite limited. Here during the winter they were only watered once in a while, and generally quite neglected. In the spring when danger of frost had passed we brought them back outside, into the shade at first, so the new foliage wouldn’t burn. Over their winter’s rest quite a few leaves had died, so we had to clean these up (the way you do with daylilies or Siberian iris if you haven’t cut them back the past fall). This gave the new leaves room to grow. (Had we been able to keep them in a location with more light I believe more of the foliage would still have been alive.)
After many years they became so pot bound that we were unable to remove them without breaking the beautiful pots. We had been told that they liked to be pot bound, but clearly we should have divided them sooner. In the end I gave them away, pot and all. I wonder what became of them?
With this year’s garden season winding down, many of us are already making plans for next year’s garden. How can I better conquer the weeds? What garden areas need new plants? What wonderful plants have I seen that I must have? This post is meant to inspire those who are planning for next year. Watch for more articles over the fall and winter to inspire you for next year’s successful or experimental garden and garden-related field trips.
I have long been familiar with Podophyllum peltatum, our native Mayapple. I have seen it growing wild, in Arboretums, and in a variety of gardens. Mayapple can suffer in hot summers, either turning brown and drooping or going fully dormant. Their best season is spring, when they are a welcome addition in understory or shady plantings.
It was only this summer that I learned of non-native species included in the Podophyllum genus. I’ve since learned that some authorities place the non-natives in other genera. The sole Himalayan species, P. hexandrum, is also known as Sinopodophyllum hexandrum. All of the Chinese Mayapples are also known as Dysosma. Continue reading →