Get Growing, tips from Master Gardener Cheryl B. Wilson: A genius for place

Friday, August 29, 2014
Naumkeag, the Stockbridge estate featured earlier this month in a Valley Gardens column, is the centerpiece for a Thursday event at the Jones Library in Amherst. At 6:30 p.m. the library will show “Fletcher Steele’s Naumkeag: A Playground of the Imagination,” a film about the gardens of the estate, includes interviews with Robin Karson, founding director of the Library of American Landscape History, who is also author of the definitive biography of Steele. Karson was a consultant for the renovation of the Naumkeag gardens.

The Thursday event will also be the official opening for the photography exhibit “A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era.” A reception will follow the film screening and the public is invited.

Naumkeag was the most important landscape designed by Fletcher Steele between 1926 and 1958. The gardens are currently undergoing a $3 million renovation that will be completed next summer. Among the features are the iconic Blue Steps leading through a grove of white birches from the mansion to the lower level cutting garden.

Contemporary photographs by Carol Betsch of seven well-known gardens are included in the exhibition. Among the other gardens are Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., designed by Beatrix Farrand; Stan Hywet in Akron, Ohio, designed by Warren Manning; Gwinn in Cleveland, Ohio, with designs by Manning, Charles Platt and Ellen Shipman; Winterthur in Delaware by Marian Coffin; Ford House in Michigan by Jens Jensen; and Val Verde in California by Lockwood de Forest.

The original panel exhibition was developed in 2000 at the time of the publication of a book by the same title by Karson and Betsch. The photographer is managing editor of the University of Massachusetts Press. They researched hundreds of estate gardens, created between 1905 and 1950, and chose seven for the book and exhibition. The new version of the exhibition was created this spring especially for display at libraries, botanic gardens and university galleries. It debuted at UMass earlier this year and is about to embark on a national tour.

ROOT CELLARS AND CROP STORAGE: Before you harvest those carrots, pumpkins and winter squash, learn how to store the vegetables over the winter during a root cellar workshop, Sunday, 2-5 p.m., at the Bullitt Reservation, 332 Bullitt Road, Ashfield. Fee is $5. For more information call 628-4485, ext. 1.

SOIL EXPERT FROM AUSTRALIA: Christine Jones, a scientist from Australia who specializes in soil carbons, will speak Tuesday in Hadley under the auspices of NOFA. The event will be at Immanuel Lutheran Church, beginning at 9 a.m. The lecture will be followed by a tour of Simple Gifts Farm in North Amherst. Fee is $54. For details, go to www.nofamass.org/events/type/farming. Jones also has a website, www.amazingcarbon.com.

PLANT SWAP: The twice-monthly Belchertown Plant Swap is Tuesday, 6 p.m., 253 Warren Wright Road. This is the next-to-the-last swap of the year. The final date is Sept. 16. Regular participants are looking for brugmansia, cardinal flower, Clematis ‘Mrs. Bosworth’, white currant bushes, dinner plate dahlia, ‘Carol Mackie’ daphne, daylilies, delphinium, maidenhair fern, Helenium ‘Lollipop’, Hosta ‘Blue Daddy’ and Montauk daisy. Fee is $1. For more information, call 253-5041.

SOIL TESTING: Volunteers with the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association will test garden soil for acidity level (pH) and answer home gardeners’ questions every Saturday in September, beginning Sept. 6, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Amherst Farmers Market. A donation of $1 per sample is requested. Directions for how to take a soil sample are at www.wmmga.org.

TREE INVENTORY: A Northampton citizens’ group supported by US Forest Service and Massachusetts Department of Conservation Resources, will undertake an all-volunteer inventory of Northampton’s public shade trees on Sept. 13, in order to attain a snapshot of Northampton’s trees and quantify their benefits. Organizers Lilly Lombard and Laura Hilberg are seeking up to 40 volunteers for the effort. Because Northampton lacks an official tree warden to monitor the city’s trees and undertake new plantings, volunteers will use special i-Tree software on smart phones and tablets to record a scientific sampling of the species, health and size of Northampton’s public shade trees. The day will begin with breakfast and training, after which volunteers will divide into groups and get to work. Volunteers must be able to walk up to 3 miles. Possession of a smart phone, tablet, and/or tree-identification skills are a plus, but are not required. To volunteer, contact Lombard at jollyforager@gmail.com, or 207-5899.

Contact Cheryl B. Wilson at valleygardens@comcast.net.