Friday, June 28, 2013

Axe Murderers and Serial Killers-The Prequel

Last week I attended the 10th annual gathering of a group of garden friends who I fondly refer to as "the axe murderers and serial killers I met on the internet".  Officially the weekend was scheduled to begin on Long Island, NY last Wednesday but my adventurous friend Brenda decided to take a chance on an extended tour and arrived in Hartford from Indiana the Friday before.  The extra days gave us plenty of time to get around to the homes and gardens of other group members in southern New England.  And boy did we get around!  Like it or not, here we come...

On Saturday morning we made our way to Grafton, MA.  Two members of our group live within walking distance of each other in this quiet former mill town just southeast of Worcester.  Little did we know but a full day of activities had been lined up for our garden touring pleasure.

First stop: Mapel Plants.  John Mapel owns a garden design/maintenance firm located in Grafton.  For a month or so every spring he sells plants from a small greenhouse on a property which is also his home.  After cleaning him out of a bit of inventory, we took a quick look at his personal garden.  Below is a picture of the water feature and courtyard located just outside the front door of his very charming cottage.

From Mapel Plants we next visited Brigham Hill Farm, a local estate garden also located in Grafton.  What a place!  Acres of well maintained gardens and beautiful vistas.  On July 20th, Brigham Hill Farm will be open as part of the Garden Conservancy Worcester Area Open Days.  If you happen to be in the area, it's definitely worth a look-see.

No gardencentric trip to central Massachusetts would be complete without a trip to Tower Hill Botanic Garden.  In January I posted about the conservatories at Tower Hill HERE.  By June the party has totally moved outside.  Unfortunately (probably due to our unusually wet, cool spring this year) most of the tropicals had not yet been placed in the outdoor beds and containers.  However, it was a gorgeous day to eat lunch on the newly renovated outdoor terrace in Twigs Cafe and stroll the outdoor garden areas.

Back in Grafton, we got a rare glimpse of our friend, Denise's garden.  Unlike the many of us who shamelessly flaunt our gardens through a variety of online venues, Denise is much more restrained.  Maybe she's just up to her ass in alligators and doesn't have time for garden pursuits.  Whatever the reason, she has a naturalized area of lupines in one of her gardens that rivals any I've seen by the roadsides in northern New England.  Lupine season was coming to an end but I wish I'd gotten a better picture.


After a short stroll down a side street and we arrive at Lisa's.  Lisa had gone ahead to prepare a dessert of fresh berries with creme fraiche to enjoy on her deck.  In addition to growing tropicals and designing container combos, Lisa also enjoys creating interesting garden vignettes.  Oh, and in her spare time, she casts and paints beautiful concrete leaves.

After the hour or so drive home, Brenda and I toasted the opening of the big fountain on my patio with Dark 'n Stormys.  Only eight more days of this frivolity to go...

On Sunday we set out for orchard country in South Glastonbury to enjoy breakfast with a view at Rose's Berry Farm.  Food is just OK but breakfast is only served on Sundays from June through October on an outdoor covered deck.  For something different, it's worth the trip. 

After breakfast I actually got to spend a much needed hour or two spiffing up my own garden.  Then it was off for a visit and garden tour at friends, Monique and Les.  On the way we stopped at a Garden Conservancy Open Day garden.  I took no pictures at the open garden but I took plenty at Monique and Les's.  Last fall I posted about their garden HERE.  This time I remembered my real camera.

Always the consummate hosts, Monique and Les treated us to a luscious alfresco meal on their deck.  Good friends, food, wine and gardens.  It doesn't get much better than that.  Seven more days of frivolity to go...

Monday morning came early.  We were off to coastal southern Maine for a visit to friend Liz at "The Compound".  The Compound is a beautiful piece of property located on a scenic shore road.

Liz is an extremely talented and accomplished seamstress who after working for others many years recently decided to go into business for herself.  A lifetime resident of New England (like me), Liz sports a rather dry sense of humor (also like me).  After a tour of her gardens and woodland, we were treated to a delicious and lavish lunch on the lawn, peek at her home studio and a stroll across the road to some of the finest views on earth.

Disclaimer: No Idyllers was harmed in the taking of this picture.

Time with Liz passed in a flash.  Our next stop was in Nashua, NH at friend, Deanne's where we would be treated to yet another fabulous meal and spend the night.  Among other things, Deanne is an incredibly talented photographer.  My pictures will never do her garden justice.  For a better feel, check out her blog, Fortnam Gardens.  If you're in the area, Deanne's garden will be open through the Garden Conservancy Open Days the weekend of July 13-14.  I plan to be a docent in Deanne's garden on that Saturday.

Could there only be six more days of this frivolity to go?

Tuesday was my day.  Friend Kathy (Gardenbook) arrived from Napa and I hosted a kickoff party.  As luck would have it, a couple of hours before my party it rained harder than I've seen it rain in many years.  As I watched rivers run across the patio and mulch float out of my garden beds and onto the lawn, I knew I would have to activate Plan B and move the party indoors.  Although I was disappointed, everyone appeared to have a great time which is really what matters.  Maybe next time I plan a garden party it won't rain but if history is any indication I'm screwed.

If you made it to the end of this post, I applaud your persistence.  Obviously there is more to come but this just seemed like the natural breaking point.

To close I just want to say how fortunate I feel to have become a part of a group of such amazing people, some who have become my closest friends.  Our love of gardening brought us together and has kept us together but the friendships forged through the years transcend beyond the garden.  May you all be as lucky with any axe murderers and serial killers you happen to meet online.

Only five more days of frivolity to go...


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's Idyllunion Time Again!

Next week is my annual get together with on-line garden friends from all over the US and Canada.  You can read some background on the event HERE.  If you follow this blog you may remember the fabulous time we enjoyed last year gallivanting around gardens in Oregon and Washington.  Below is a highlight of the places we visited.

The Oregon Garden and Resort

Dancing Oaks Nursery
Linda Cochran's Garden
Danger Garden!
Cistus Nursery
Terra Nova
Joy Creek
Bellevue Botanical Garden
The Dunn Gardens
Dragonfly Farms Nursery
Little and Lewis
Far Reaches Farm
For our 10th annual gathering we are heading to Long Island, NY where we will no doubt dash madly over hill and dale visiting the usual mix of public and private gardens.  Also on the agenda is a tour Landcraft Environments, a premier wholesale grower of tropical plants and a detour to NYC to see the Highline and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  Long Island is relatively close to me but I'm not fond of crowds and traffic and rarely venture anywhere near the metro NYC area.  Every place we visit on this trip will be a first for me, including the much anticipated High Line.

A houseguest arrives from out of state on Friday in advance of the official festivities.  In the time between Friday and when we travel to New York I will be carting her around to the homes and gardens of a few of our long time group members.  We will be visiting friend's gardens in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.  On the night before we leave, another guest arrives from the left coast and I will be hosting a small garden party at my house.

Because she's just that way, Mother Nature has done her best to conspire against progress in the garden.  Two out of the past three weekends have been crappy on the weather front.  On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we broke a record for the lowest high temperature.  Last weekend came at the tail end of a heat wave.  This past Friday we received four inches of rain overnight early into Saturday.  It rained again last night and this afternoon it must have rained buckets here because I have gullies and washouts in just about every backyard garden area.

In a frenzy that I will freely admit is self imposed, I've been out straight in the garden trying to get everything put together in advance of the onslaught and ensuing frivolity.  The twenty hours I spent in the garden over the past weekend playing catch up were not enough.  As a result, I still have four or five yards of mulch languishing in my driveway, lots of weeding and dead heading to do, and cleaning of both out and indoor rooms. With no hope of getting the front gardens company ready in time, I think my best course of action will be to rope them off with crime scene tape.

On the flea bag front, both residents have required trips to the vet in the past week.  Poor Nick spent one night in the ER and one night at his regular vet hooked up to IVs.  Fortunately every body and every thing seems to be on the mend now except my finances.  Nothing busts the budget faster than a trip to the ER vet.

Despite all the brouhaha and weather calamities, I'm happy with the direction the garden is headed.  As plants fill in and the containers get going I imagine it will only get better.  Now if I can just keep the Hooved Minions of Satan at bay...

You lookin' at ME?