150601 Lucille's Columbine

My circumstances haven’t allowed me to garden at the house in Enfield at all for almost 2 years.  It’s just one of those things I’ve had to let go (to some extent).  The gardens all need to be dug up, cleaned up, replanted – not unlike what happened in Rowe last year.

There is a perennial bed as you drive up our driveway into the back yard that is divided down the middle with a chain link fence.  More than a dozen years ago my elderly neighbor, Lucille, tended a perennial garden on the other side of the fence.  Her gardening style was very similar to mine and we would spend time almost every day working in our gardens and swapping war stories over the fence.  We each grew different things but in the summer our gardens melded together into a huge, beautiful space.

A couple of years into our shared garden experience Lucille passed away during the winter.  It was a sad time anticipating what spring would mean for a gardener whose other gardening half would be missing.  The space was so large I knew that I would just have to let it go.  Her daughter was not a gardener.  She appreciated the beauty of the garden but did not have the patience or the knowledge to maintain what was there.

That spring, about this time the weeds were running rampant on the other side of the fence but in my garden columbine was blossoming all over the place.  I’d never planted them, they’d volunteered.  Lucille’s had jumped the fence and decided it was where it wanted to be. We all know this happens in perennial beds, plants seem to move themselves around until they are comfortable where they are.

I was in Enfield this past Tuesday.  My perennial bed sort of looks like Lucille’s did the year after her death.  Overgrown, saplings of all sorts springing up everywhere.  I got out my lopping shears and cut them all down – knee-deep in familiar but overshadowed plants.  I piled high the remains of my clippings to be moved to our mulching space, such as it is, next to the barn.  I gathered the piles and walked to the mulch pile and was delighted to see Lucille’s columbine blossoming away on the edge of the pile.  It’s been over 12 years since Lucille saw her columbine.

I give a lot of things away from my garden, and have over many years.  I don’t remember who I’ve given things to.  It always seems like an act of desperation finding homes for things that are overgrown but I know to be beautiful.  I love the plants in some of my gardens because they remind me of the people I have received them from – today I realized there are people who probably think of me when things bloom.  How nice.

A Burning Question

140807 Hummingbird Feeder

This is driving me a little crazy. The little yellow things on the ground normally cover the nectar holes on this hummingbird feeder.  I have three feeders around my yard.  Every day something has pulled these things off and they are lying on the ground as shown.  The feeder is about 3 feet off of the ground.  Any ideas what might be doing this?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Gas Plant

Gas Plant


When I walked the dogs this morning in Enfield there were so many different birds singing away in our back yard I was amazed.  There were cardinals, robins, nuthatches and even a yellow bellied sapsucker.  I love spring.  I was looking for a photograph of one of my gardens in Enfield and failed to find one but happened upon this photo of my gas plant which is popping out of the ground right now.

I have moved this plant three times despite all of the nay sayers and books saying how difficult they are to transplant.  The first time I acquired it the move was made under the cloak of darkness (well, maybe moonlight).  We lived on a dead end road at the time, there were only three houses on my side of the street – on the other side was an abandoned garden center.  We were friends with the owners niece and I spent many hours photographing my girls in that area.  It was beautiful, just a bit overgrown.  Each spring I would walk down and look at the gas plant as it came up and visit it while it blossomed.  The  Gas Plant’s (Dictamnus albus ‘Purpureus’)  flowers give off a flammable gas, which is the source of its common name. It has a wonderful heavy, sweet fragrance.  I have never tried lighting it on fire.

The owner of the property where the gas plant lived died and his widow sold it to someone that subdivided it into building lots.  They cut down the trees that were hundreds of years old to make way for as many crackerbox ranches that could fit in what little acreage there was.  One night, after the bulldozers were starting to do their work I put my spade in my wheelbarrow and walked down to the bed where that gas plant was living and dug it up.  Mind you this was no small plant, it was work and I really was trying to do this unnoticed.  After struggling to get it into the wheelbarrow I filled in around it with some of the soil that was around the plant, I figured with more soil it might not be too shocked.  I wheeled it back to my yard and the next morning I planted it in a special spot in the garden.

We were renting the house my garden was in at the time.  The loss of the wooded areas that surrounded that house made us look for a house to buy that was in a neighborhood that was old and established.  I never wanted to feel that kind of loss again.  We moved a couple of years later in the spring and I once again dug up my gas plant and put it into the garden where it is now.  It’s been there for 15 years and apparently the haphazardly way I transplanted it the second time didn’t really phase it.

For the past couple of years I’ve thought about transplanting it to Rowe.  I’ve been scouting out spots to put it.  Sheltered but sunny.  I may have finally found the spot for it to go in my newest garden.  The info says it’s slow to establish.  I may divide it and leave half in Enfield and bring the other to Rowe, sort of having a backup plan.  I’d hate to lose it, we’ve been through so much together.

Thrive Where You’re Planted

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During the Blizzard of ’78 my sister was in the hospital for some emergency surgery.  Her later to be mother-in-law sent her a pot of daffodils – there were a dozen in the pot as I recall.  Once they had died back they were planted in a border garden around the patio.  Over the years they have naturalized to the point of hundreds.  They are all over New England at this point.  Everywhere I have had a garden they are now too numerous to count.  They have been given away to friends and family in  MA, VT, NH and CT.  They are now in full bloom in Enfield, around the front of the house, along the driveway, in the perennial garden in the back yard.  They are scattered all down the bank going into the back forty in Rowe.  These amuse me most of all.  For years my mother’s mulch pile was over that bank.  There was a stone wall there many years ago and it was completely grown in with trees.  She would dig up things that she no longer wanted or bulbs were perhaps pulled along with the weeds – over the bank they would all go.

I have planted many plants in a perennial garden only to watch them migrate to where they really want to be.  They will self seed in a sunnier or wetter spot and the original will die back.  It’s no use trying to get them to grow where you want them to, they just grow where they are happy.  That’s how I feel at times about being caught between Enfield and Rowe, suburban and rural, noisy and quiet.  I just want to be where it’s sunny and quiet.  Then I think about those daffodils. They speak volumes about thriving where you are.  It doesn’t mattered the soil type, the sunlight, the moisture – they all seem to like where they are and continue to multiply year after year.  In my head I know that’s how it should be – thrive where you are – but some days (especially sunny spring ones) I just want to be in a quiet spot.  Maybe transplanting daffodils.

Happy Earth Day – go dig in the dirt!

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